Adversity, Bible

Big Tom

This coming Saturday my nephews, our family, our friends, and I celebrate the life of my Brother Tom. Our loss on March 26th was heavens gain. A few days before he left, I was reminded of something I learned from him…

“As I sit here at Tom’s bedside watching him sleep comfortably, I’m reminded of a family reunion on our Mom’s side. All the aunts and uncles were there except Aunt Peggie (we were all reunited with her many many years later). The gathering was held at Grandma Alpha’s and her latest husband Emory. They had a small farm somewhere in the outback of Idaho. Among the many incredible memories is one of both love and pain. While it never needed any help remaining seered in my memory, our Uncle Chuck kept it alive for everyone else as he would regale us with it absolutely everytime we had the pleasure of visiting either by phone or in person.

All the dad’s and boys were camped out one night in a big tent (in fact, I think it was actually an old white parachute, however I’m reaching the downward years of memory so I’m more than willing to be corrected on this little tid-bit of the story). Of course, there were all the usual suspects in that testosterone fueled environment…boys, teen males, and men on vacation. So there’s no need telling what it sounded and looked like…mayhem was afoot should suffice as a descriptive picture.

However, the hour finally approached when the dads finally obeyed the hollers from the moms in the house, “Paul, Chuck, Ed, John, get those boys settled down. It’s time for some sleep!” It took awhile, but sure enough the grunts, shouts, belches, woops, yee-haws, and laughs began to subside. I, on the other hand, was in rare form. Big Brother, Tom, joined Dad and the uncles in giving me increasing demands to pipe down. Nothing doing.

Through out the years Uncle Chuck held us all spellbound over and over with his telling of the tall tale that grew a little taller with each telling. It always concluded with Chuck’s final line and his acting out the scene…

“Then Tom reached the end of his rope and said, ‘Rick, if I told you once, I told you a thousand times…wham!!!!'”…as he acted out Tom’s blood producing punch to my nose.

Now as fond memories go this should rate rather low on the Human Fondness Scale, but oh nay nay. It’s one of my greatest childhood memories. Here’s why…it has come to represent for me the balanced dance of two unlikely partners…pain and love. Tom meant well. He loved me. Still does. I knew it then. I know it even better now. He knew I was well on my way to Dad’s end game. Much more shenanigans on my part were bound to arouse the flames of the old sarge. It was time for me to invite sleep into my disposition. Sure, there would be some crying as Tom carried me into the house to assist Mom in cleaning up my bloody nose, but there would also be some sweet brotherly reconciliation as he brought me back to the overnight camp out. Pain and love…like the Lord offers…the same Lord we read of in the Bible: “Who the Lord loves he also disciplines.” Hebrews 12:6

And now, now my brother’s love continues to instruct through the pain. He sleeps and I admire him all the more as I reflect upon his life time of overwhelming patience and compassion. He has offered them to everyone he has ever known…and I love him for it no matter the agony I feel now nor the grief which is to come.

Sleep well, Tom. Please wake up again. I have more to learn.”

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Bible, Life's Moments

Brewer Road

Brewer Road. Douglas County. Georgia.

My sister married into a large family that came from Brewer Road.

The last name of that family is Camp. The family is even bigger these days. Included in the family is Jeff, my nephew.

Living so far away we do not get the opportunity to know one another very well. My loss.

However, a little less than a month ago, Jeff and his Mom, my sister Barbara, came to the great northwest for a short visit. The visit was prompted by the death of my other sister, Floria. Now, okay, not the best circumstances for a visit, but still the visit was sweet. I learned a few things on account of that visit. Barbara is a great Mom. Jeff is a great son. And I’m positive I can say the same kind of thing about the rest of that Georgia family.

Jeff could not contain himself. While I have met his wife, Amanda, only once (and that on their wedding day), and have never met his beautiful little girl, McKoy, I feel as though I know them well. Jeff simply spilled and gushed tid-bits and news regarding both of them. If Jeff has ever hit a home run, shot game while it was on the move, succeeded at business beyond the expectations of others, or any other way gained some small town fame, I would not know. He didn’t talk about himself. He talked about others.

His wife.
His daughter.
His Mom.
His Dad.
His brother.
His extended family.
His co-workers.
Even the former sheriff of Douglas County (if you ever meet Jeff, you will want to ask about the Sheriff).

And it was all positive. And sometimes what he shared was priceless.

One of those stories took place on old Brewer Road. If you can recall the song by Brooks and Dunn, “Red Dirt Road,” then you’ll have a good picture of Brewer Road back in the day. Now for just a few moments allow yourself to transport back to the early 50’s. That’s right, right back in the middle of the last century. Picture for yourself an old, red dirt road stretching and winding its way through the pine trees, kudzu, scupanon vines, corn fields, and cabins with nothing but dirt for yards.

Now imagine a young man walking that old dirt road with nothing but a duffle bag hung over his shoulder. Mixed in his heart were the expectations of joy for returning home and the exasperation of pain for remembering war. His name is Ernie. He was coming home from Korea. Ernie was one of seven boys born to Fred and Manie Camp.

Imagine also a mom, dad, and six brothers standing, milling around, kicking the dust, chatting, longing, looking for him to round the curve and enter into sight. Early in the morning they gathered. Eagerly they waited. On that day they waited. Think about that…that day, for them, today, their day, his day…an epic day…a day they had contemplated and anticipated…time stood still on that day. It stood still the way you want time to stand still. It stood still with the joy of life not the humdrum of life. Time is like that. When you are focused on the event, the celebration, the glory and the hope, time is inconsequential. Ernie’s soon and coming return produced this kind of hope. It was more like an eternal moment than minutes and hours on a slow southern day.

And then it happened. No confusion. No mistake. Recognition was perfect. The son and brother came into sight. He ran. They ran. The dust of the old dirt road churned. Whoops and hollers from deep southern drawls sang their way through the dark corners of woods and swamps spreading the light of their joy. Young legs carried young men toward one another. Older legs of Mom and Dad trailed behind, not for want of enthusiasm, but simply for age. Six brothers reached their brother. The reunion would be spectacular. One brother plowed right through them. Ernie’s eyes were on Mother and Father. Yes he wanted to rejoin his brothers. He wanted to hug them. Talk with them. Catch up with them. But first…first came Mom and Dad. He ran into their arms. The son was home. The parents were content. The brothers watched. Deep satisfaction paved old Brewer Road. Beautiful. Incredible. Fantastic. I can imagine Mother Camp whispering in the ear of her returned son, “Well done. I’m so glad you are home.” I can also imagine his tears of joy.

As Jeff told me this story, his eyes also filled with joy…not tears of joy. Instead, his eyes were afire with joy. Genuine excitement moved him body and soul. He recalled his Uncle Don telling this story now enshrined in their family hall of fame. His Uncle Don—the preacher—loved this bit of family history. It reminded him of His Story. It reminded him of heaven.

Heaven, where time stands still with the event of God’s glory.

Heaven, where every reunion pales in the light of our union with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Heaven, where all the out-stretched arms of loved ones who have gone before must yet remain empty of our embrace as we thrill for the promise of the Everlasting Arms.

When one finally reaches the final destination, he or she does not run into the arms of anyone other than the most beloved. So, for a little while, can you allow yourself to be transported to your final destination? Does that destination look like the one described by Jeff and before him his Uncle Don? Does your destination sound and feel like this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21:1-6

Will your destination find time standing still with joy and expectation? Will the glory of the never-ending event of the presence of God satisfy all your longings? Will you run past all the others into the Everlasting Arms? Will you hear the Savior say, “Well done. I’m so glad you are home?” Will you?

There is a road.
There is an old dirt road.
It is paved with memories.
It’s called Brewer Road.
There is another road.
There is a long narrow road.
It is paved with life.
It’s called Salvation Road.

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