Category Archives: Faith

Remembering my friend

Darren plays guitar for our band, The Grenadines, at a show in The Colony in 2006.

Darren plays guitar for our band, The Grenadines, at a show in The Colony in 2006.

My co-worker, bandmate and close friend passed away almost a week ago. Today we held his memorial service at a local church, which was filled with his family, friends, fellow educators, and many students – past and present. I was asked by his sweet wife to speak on his behalf and to play the harmonica. I stayed up until nearly 2 a.m. writing and practicing “Amazing Grace.” Though it was strange to play solo without my buddy by my side on his guitar, I asked my friends and family for prayer, and the Lord delivered. These are the words I shared today for my dear friend and for my hurting co-workers, bandmates, and our students.

Before I share some memories and thoughts about my friend Darren Ryan, I want to share something else with you.

Like many people in this room, I experienced a flood of emotions when I got the news. I was sad, angry, confused, distressed, and mostly stunned. It didn’t make any sense that my friend Darren was gone.

Here’s what has encouraged my heart the past few days. I hope it encourages you.

Though I don’t have any answers, and I don’t think God promises us answers, I do believe he promises us peace. I find this promise in scriptures like Philippians 4:7 which talks of a peace that surpasses understanding to those who trust in Him. Jesus talks about this peace in John when he says, “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives… Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

The passage that I’ve thought on the most has been in Psalm 107. We are told “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress… For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”

I believe these promises are for you and me, especially in times like this. Are you troubled? Cry out to the Lord. He’s not bothered by your doubt or shame. He knows, and his response is love and grace and mercy. He’s rich with it. And He’s longing to pour it out. So ask him.

Mr. Ryan prayed hard over me when I was unconscious in a hospital bed in Denton more than two years ago, as did many others. My family told me stories later of his fervor in prayer and how it blessed them in those desperate moments. God heard those prayers. So I don’t think he’d have any problem with me asking you to plead with God for peace in moments like this.

Darren Ryan has been my dear friend for the better part of the last ten years. We were colleagues and bandmates. We bonded over good food, bad puns, and great music. I want to speak briefly to a few groups of folks here who knew Darren.

Darren poses in our old school building on the last day for us to be inside before it was demolished to make way for the new building. He was a student himself in this old building, class of 1983.

Darren poses in our old school building on the last day for us to be inside before it was demolished to make way for the new building. He was a student himself in this old building, class of 1983.

To my bandmates in the Grenadines and anybody who ever came to hear us play, I’m so glad for you and for music. Because that was my entry point to bonding with Darren and getting to see his beautiful spirit and loyal friendship for all it was. Darren had a habit of wearing sunglasses on stage when he played, even indoors. I know it’s because he got a touch of stage fright before our performances. But all that melted away when he started to make those Fender guitars moan and wail, and a smile as wide as these Texas skies would stretch across his face. Occasionally, he’d turn himself over to the music completely – it was usually late in the evening – during a performance of Mustang Sally or Play that Funky Music or Fire by Jimi Hendrix, and he’d go completely off-script on a solo – and we’d follow him. I’d throw a glance back at Eddie on the drums, he’d shrug and smile back. Darren was in a good place, lost to the music.

To my fellow faculty and staff members at LHS, I know well how much love you have for your own, and how much more for someone as beloved as Darren. I know you’ve already gone out of your way to care for and support Pam and his family, just from the way I’ve experienced it as his friend. Here’s what I’ll remember about Darren as a colleague. How much he cared about doing what we do so well. How he always got to school early, was always going the extra mile to prepare for his classes and support his fellow teachers, especially those in his department. And how he did it all with that 100 watt smile and signature sense of humor… I’ll miss bumping into him in the hallways or the faculty workroom where he always called me Dr. Hale, and I always called him Dr. Ryan. It’s impossible to measure how much LHS meant to him.  Which brings me to the last group…

His students… past and present. I knew when I was gathering my thoughts for this moment that you would show up here by the boatload… and I was right. I know this because, like many of his friends, I remember so many times out and about in Lewisville with Darren when we were interrupted by “Mr. Ryan! Mr. Ryan!” So many former students would come out of the woodwork to speak with him, and I swear, hand to God, that Darren would remember the names of practically every one. He’d remember details too… or even the fact that he had their brother or sister in class as well. You loved him. And he loved you too. You must know that. He rooted hard for all of you. He was a role model to me in that sense. I asked my students time and time again to tell me what their hardest class in high school, and almost every time I’d hear AP Psych with Mr. Ryan. Then I’d ask the same students who their favorite high school teacher was, and without hesitation, they’d say Mr. Ryan. You could not have paid him a higher compliment. Truly. I mean that.

From Darren's Twitter. Graduation the Saturday before last.

From Darren’s Twitter. Graduation the Saturday before last.

Darren told me once years ago that he was considering leaving the teaching profession. I asked him what he thought that he might do. He didn’t have a clear answer. And he stayed on the job. The next year he was named campus Teacher of the Year. Have no doubt, that Mr. Ryan could have had any number of careers and been successful. He is one of the most capable, reliable, talented men I’ve ever known. But I believe God made him a teacher. And I see evidence of that in the pews here today. You are Darren Ryan’s legacy. And if he meant something to you, take that to heart and live your lives well. Live passionately and love others extravagantly. That’s what Mr. Ryan would’ve wanted.

Thank you.

The only place

Note: Before continuing, you should know that I don’t think of Jesus as a last resort and this is not a post to promote that kind of faith. I know He’s the only resort. I’ve been given some great encouragement in recent weeks and have done a lot of thinking on what it means to know Christ as your hope and treasure. But this is a post from the midst. When you find yourself surrounded and cut off and maybe a bit confused as to how you got here. I assume some of you can relate. Thanks for reading.

Sometimes I just freeze. It’s a psychological paralysis, but I often find it hard to do much physically in those moments.

Have you been there?

That moment where you’ve just watched your best efforts return empty. You did things right. You weighed all the options and you picked the course that you’re not only sure was the best, but it seemed to be the only one to take.

And yet… nothing. Not even nothing with a little confirmation of nothing, which would be better than just a vague sense of failure. Nothing without the benefit of feedback. No drawing board to which you can return. Like hitting a ball into darkness with no way to track the trajectory, to adjust, to try again on solid ground.

What are you left with in these moments? If our eyes are open and we’re honest, I’d say it’s probably the same stuff with which we began. And that’s not much.

And where are you left to turn? I’m sitting here in the middle of it right now. Frozen, except for these fingers across these keys. Working it out.

There’s only one place I can go. Only one place a man like me can plead. Christ. The Cross.

Jesus is the only person I know who can take all my insufficiency and make it work. More often than not, he makes abundance out of the minnows and crumbs I present as bread and fishes. A lot of times he does it when I don’t ask Him too. He’s THAT kind of good to me.

But I know He likes it more when I do ask. When I do acknowledge that need. He likes me at the end of my rope sometimes because He knows I’m less likely to get in His way there. Some of you will read this, unbelieving, and mock or think me simple or brainwashed. Some of you will think me simple for not having this post studded with theological vocabulary or some cacophony of buzzy church words.

I don’t have it all figured out. I just know that there’s no where else I can go. And I really believe that there’s no where else I should go.

I used to think the Christian life was all about having everything together so that you didn’t “need” Jesus. He’d be there, in case of emergencies. All you’d have to do is break the glass. But He’d really prefer it if you’d just handle this stuff yourself so He could be busy doing Lord knows what.

That’s bad theology. Foolish thinking. Worldly ambition. And it got me nowhere.

What does He want? Not my independent, pulled up by my bootstraps faith. I’m not that good to begin with. The best of us is not that good.

He wants me to need him every hour. Not because He’s needy. Because I am. I’m desperate and helpless and hopeless without Him and even though He’s God, I’ve a hard time believing he’s not exasperated by all my attempts to put off an air of “I’m fine” or “I got this.”

Because without Him, I’m not and I don’t.

But with Him… oh boy. My junior varsity faith has only gotten tastes of it. But I know that I’m far more than fine and scripture would call us “more than conquerors.” I’m not even sure what that looks like but I’m sure it’s doing better than “got this.” Because “got this” only sees one side of the coin, this life. But “more than conquerors” with Christ – we’re talking eternal perspective – sin, death, shame, fear.

So what I do? I pray. Passionately. Feebly. Whatever I’ve got in the tank. Minnows and crumbs. Sometimes I can’t even see the edges of this thing to have a clue of what I should really be asking for. But I put it down and bottle it up and toss it in the ocean of Him, to borrow a metaphor from David Wilcox. And after that, it’s got more to do with the ocean than with me. And this ocean can be trusted.

I love the story in the Gospels where Jesus has just given a hard-to-understand teaching on communion – but they just don’t get it. How can they? It’s thick with symbolism of events that haven’t yet come to pass. Many of the people following Jesus find it offensive and leave until it’s just Him and the Twelve.

And He asks them, Are you going to abandon me too?

And Peter (God love him) answers.

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Sometimes I confess I don’t know much more than that. But it has been enough in the past. And I trust it will be today as well.

Walking the line between faith and fear

I had a talk with a close confidant yesterday, and we spent most of the discussion about the contrast of faith and fear. We talked about how those two concepts are opposites of each other and how deep self-deception can run when fueled by fear. I don’t have time to go into more detail now, and I’m still fleshing out all my thoughts on the subject, but it was a very enlightening conversation.

And it reminded me of the song below by the Old Crow Medicine Show. Not sure if I know the exact sentiment behind this song, but I love to play it on repeat when I’m driving or just working around the house. It’s a slow tune with a weary end-of-the-trail quality to the lyrics, but there’s hope beneath it all. I think that’s my favorite sort of song.

Yes, this is my first post of 2011. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. I just haven’t been exactly sure about how to say it. More to come…

We’re all in this together – Old Crow Medicine Show

Well my friends, I see your face so clearly
Little bit tired, little worn through the years
You sound nervous, you seem alone
I hardly recognize your voice on the telephone

In between I remember
Just before bound-up, broken-down
We drive out to the edge of the highway
Follow that lonesome dead-end roadside south

(Chorus:)
We’re all in this thing together
Walkin’ the line between faith and fear
This life don’t last forever
When you cry I taste the salt in your tears

Well my friend, let’s put this thing together
And walk the path with worn-out feet of trial
‘Cause if you wanted we can go home forever
Give up your jaded ways, spell your name to God

(Chorus)
We’re all in this thing together
Walkin’ the line between faith and fear
This life don’t last forever
When you cry I taste the salt in your tears

All the hour there’s a picture in a mirror
Fancy shoes to grace our feet
All there is is a slow road to freedom
Heaven above and the devil beneath

(Chorus)

We’re all in this thing together
Walkin’ the line between faith and fear
This life don’t last forever
When you cry I taste the salt in your tears

When the idea of authority is shattered…

I enjoy reading, though I don’t read novels nearly as often as I should. I really enjoy a well-turned word and phrase, but even more, I love the authors who can take a really difficult, abstract subject and make it easy to understand. I’m much better with the short and simple. It’s the same for photography. I love complex compositions, but I don’t seem to have an eye for them myself.

A few nights ago, I started the first chapter of All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I’d never read this World War I novel written from the perspective of a group of German soldiers. Other people I’ve spoken to have vague recollections of this book being assigned in the 9th or 10th grade. It would have been completely wasted on me at that age.

I chose to start it a little late in the evening… and fell asleep. I picked it up again the other day and was really impacted by the following passage.

I think Remarque is doing what Roy Peter Clark calls “climbing the ladder of abstraction,” but I could be wrong. The context: the soldiers have just mentioned that someone in their group received mail from their old schoolmaster, Kantorek. He was the one who really pushed them to “do their duty” and enlist to serve in the war. Even Behm, the one student to resist, eventually conceded to Kantorek’s appeal to his masculinity and bravery.

Strange to say, Behm was one of the first to fall. He got hit in the eye during an attack, and we left him lying for dead. We couldn’t bring him with us, because we had to come back helter-skelter. In the afternoon suddenly we heard him call, and saw him crawling about in No Man’s Land. He had only been knocked unconscious. Because he could not see, and was mad with pain, he failed to keep under cover, and so was shot down before anyone could go and fetch him.

Naturally we couldn’t blame Kantorek for this. Where would the world be if one brought every man to book? There were thousands of Kantoreks, all of whom were convinced that they were acting for the best– in a way that cost them nothing.

And that is why they let us down so badly.

For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture, of progress– to the future. We often made fun of them and played jokes on them, but in our hearts we trusted them. The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs. They surpassed us only in phrases and in cleverness. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces.

While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that we were no mutineers, no deserters, no cowards– they were very free with all these expressions. We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through.

On one hand, this makes me think of my role as a teacher. It makes me give more consideration to the words I say to my students, the charges I give them. They are listening even when I think they aren’t. I’m always surprised at the things I’ve said that resonate with them years later.

On the other hand, it makes me think of the nature of authority. We all reach that point where we realize that all of our teachers and mentors and guides are just men and women like us, subject to all the natural forces of this world and all the chaos and hurt and pain that a life here can hold. And when we see them as they are, fallible and feeble and flawed – just like us, our hope can be shattered. And that’s where I believe we reach a fork in the road, a point of decision.

One choice is to abandon hope in any kind of authority and fall into a life of self-reliance with trust placed in what you can reason from your own experiences.

The other is to acknowledge that the problem is not with hope itself, but where it’s been placed. To realize that there is “a greater insight and a more humane wisdom” though it’s not found in any human authority. That the only thing worthy of full trust, faith and hope in this world is the being who created it. To realize that even the people who believed and spread the message of the Creator were themselves not to be respected as the authority, but only as rough, imperfect signs to point to Him. Incidentally, it’s also when we do this, that we are able to see other people in a different light, without all the expectations that we had previously shackled them with… we see them as we should see ourselves, as creatures bearing our Creator’s resemblance. At this point, I think we become truly free to love them.

Faith and trust and hope in Christ is the other path, and it’s not an easy one to follow. It’s not even difficult. It’s impossible without divine assistance. But if we trust the words of Jesus in the Bible, then we can find that divine assistance there for the asking.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.       – Luke 11:9-10

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.     – Jeremiah 29:13

For, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”     – Romans 10:13

That’s the way I see it. Two paths you can take when the idea of authority is shattered. Trust in yourself. Or trust in Christ. I’ve tried to choose the latter. Partly because I’ve come to know Him, and partly because I know myself all too well.

I don’t do it perfectly, but that’s not the point. His perfection is demonstrated in my weakness and it’s taken me 33 years to realize what a beautiful thing that is.

All of this is a departure from the plot and theme of the novel, sure, but it’s where my mind was led.

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Thank God for Charles Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the prince of preachers

I was working late up at school, worn thin and bare by some recent circumstances and in need of some encouraging words. So I turned to an old friend, who despite having gone to his reward more than a century ago, has provided much uplifting advice for my soul over the past 10 years or so.

And sure enough, the killer combination of the Holy Spirit and Charles Haddon Spurgeon came through for me again.

I went to the words of Spurgeon found in his daily devotional Mornings and Evenings; then I went to the Lord in prayer.

It’s one of the things I admire most about the “prince of preachers,” how he consistently urges me to run toward the Prince of Peace. Thanks Charles… I look forward to meeting you on the streets of Glory and hugging you like my own brother.

Here was this evening’s entry (emphasis mine). I pray it guides you toward hope and reminds you that in this world of darkness, we have a great and piercing light.

“A very present help.”—Psalm 46:1.

Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell Him all thy grief? Has He not a sympathizing heart, and can He not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Art thou burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to Him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon Him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast “a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth.” What! wilt thou not go to Him, and ask Him to give thee of His abundance, when He has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with Him, and has made over all that He is and all that He has to be thine? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make a show-thing of Him, and not to use Him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on His shoulders, the more precious will He be to us.

“Let us be simple with Him, then,
Not backward, stiff, or cold,
As though our Bethlehem could be
What Sinai was of old.”

The Hard Part…

A little spiritual uplift courtesy of the great David Wilcox… like David, I like to think of this as a love song coming from up on high.

Favorite lyrics? There are two lines that really move me in this song.

You want a cool breeze to dance with your flame, a long lost lover who knows your true name, a secret garden beyond this shame, and it all comes down to this

and

You think your drowning hope will die in a sea without a shore, but I can drink that ocean dry and still come back for more

Thanks David for all the wonderful songs and music-as-therapy moments over the years…

The Hard Part by David Wilcox

I see the look that’s in your eyes
That says “I must keep most of me inside
‘Cause you’d never love me if I didn’t hide
the secrets of my heart”

Well I’m not here for the surface stuff
I just get bored with all that fluff
So show me the edges even if it’s rough
And let the real love start

You think your shame and deep disgrace
Are more than I can bear
But you can go to your darkest place
I will meet you there

And I’m strong enough to take it
And I know what you’ve been through
You’ve got a whole heart
Give me the hard part
I can love that too

You look at me with some surprise
And I see the doubt that’s in your eyes
Like something deep inside you cries
With a hunger to be known
Like a tiger born in a city zoo
There’s been no place for what’s inside of you
You try to live like the others do
And it leaves you so alone

I know you think that the heat of your pain
Is more than I can stand
Burn it all in one big flame
And I will hold it in my hand

I’m strong enough to take it
And I know what you’ve been through
You’ve got a whole heart
Give me the hard part
I can love that too

Now your eyes well up with tears
As desire mixes with you fears
After so many wounded years
Can you long for what you’ve missed
You want a cool breeze to dance with your flame
A long lost lover who knows your true name
A secret garden beyond this shame
And it all comes down to this

You think your drowning hope will die
In a sea without a shore
But I can drink that ocean dry
And still come back for more

I’m strong enough to take it
And I know what you’ve been through
You’ve got a whole heart
Give me the hard part
I can love that too

I’m strong enough to take it
And I know what you’ve been through
You’ve got a whole heart
Give me the hard part
I can love that too

You’ve got a whole heart
Give me the hard part
I can love that too

The prettiest Rose I’ve ever seen…

Safe in my brother's arms, little Edy Rose lets everybody know she's finally here.

We knew the day and time in advance. My sister-in-law Leslie was scheduled to deliver her second daughter by c-section on Thursday morning. The only concern was whether little Edy Rose, the babe in question, would cooperate with her mommy, daddy and the doctor’s plans. At 7:50 yesterday morning, my sister Casey sent me the first photos of my new sweet niece. Edy Rose was right on time! And for the second time in less than three years, I became an uncle. 

As I reflect on little Edy’s arrival, I can’t help but recall my thoughts when her sweet big sister Ava Grace was born in 2007. Most of the same feelings are there – there’s a little person a few hundred miles away in Fort Smith whom I’ve never met, only seen in pictures, and yet I wonder if I could ever love her more than I do now. 

But the truth that I’ve found is that yes, my love will grow into something more full and complete than it is now. It definitely has with Ava Grace, the way my heart melts when she says “Coe-wee” or when she lets me hug her or leans in for a sloppy kiss. And so it will grow with Edy Rose too. It will grow not because she’ll become more precious, but because as she grows, I’ll be better able to see God’s craftsmanship and blessing in her. 

I’ll see more of her mother and father and my parents, all whom I love deeply, and the traits my sister and I share with her. I’ll see all the similarities and differences between her and her big sister and how they’ll grow (with prayer and guidance) to celebrate both in their love for each other. 

Check out this little beauty!

When I reflected on Ava Grace’s birth, I reflected on the idea of fatherhood for myself. I said at the time that I didn’t know whether I’d ever be a father myself, but that I knew it required a lot of grace and trust. I knew I could stand on the grace, but still had a ways to go with the trust. 

In the past few months, the answer to that question for me is becoming clearer. And the trust is coming along nicely as well, thanks to the one who is always faithful. I can’t help but look at these pictures of Edy Rose with a swell of hope for the future. 

As I sit here listening to the same John Gorka album I was thinking about when Ava Grace was born, I have to quote another beautiful song, “Cypress Trees,” when I think of what I’m praying for this beautiful family of four. 

Maybe we will grow together 

like cypress trees in summer 

standing close and tall, green fingers in a row 

Maybe we will grow together like cypress trees. 

And that’s my prayer. That by God’s grace and Leslie and Graham’s faith and obedience, this branch of the Hale family will grow in love, a little grove of trees whose lives become intertwined and bonded, as they wave in the gentle breeze and grow strong and reach and stretch their green fingers under the cool of the rain and warmth of the sun. 

Edy Rose’s Vital Statistics 

  • Weight – 7 lbs., 12 oz. (a tad bit bigger than big sis)
  • Vocal chords – By all accounts, in perfect working order (it runs in the family).
  • On her birthday, Jan. 21, the following people were born: King of France Charles V, also known as Charles the Wise (1338), Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (1824), French fashion designer Christian Dior (1905), German highwire acrobat Karl Wallenda (1905) founder of the famed Flying Wallendas who said “Life is being on the wire; everything else is waiting,” WWII hero Major Richard Winters (1918) who was a major character in HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” American actor and “Players’ Club” spokesman Telly Savalas (1922), longtime college basketball coach John Chaney (1932), American disc jockey Wolfman Jack (1938), Golf legend Jack Nicklaus (1940), Spanish tenor Placido Domingo (1941), Former Texas Rangers manager Johnny Oates (1946), “Carribean Queen” singer Billy Ocean (1950) – “Get outta my dreams, get into my car,” current Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (1950) and current Attorney General Eric Holder (1951), Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (1953), American artist Jeff Koons (1955) famous for his stainless steel baloon animals, actor Robby Benson (1956) who provided the voice of the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast,” actress Geena Davis (1956), NBA stars Hakeen Olajuwon and Detlef Schrempf (both 1963), Run-D.M.C. DJ Jam Master Jay (1965), actor Ken Leung (1970) who plays Miles on “LOST,” singer Cat Power (1972), and Spice Girl Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton (1976).
  • On her birthday, Jan. 21, the following people died: King Louis XVI of France (1793), Russian leader Vladimir Lenin (1924), writer George Orwell (1950) – author of “Animal Farm” and “1984,” film director Cecil B. DeMille (1959), singer Jackie “Mr. Excitement” Wilson (1984), Hall of fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer (1993), Elvis Presley’s manager Col. Tom Parker (1997), Hawaii Five-0 actor Jack Lord (1998), and singer Peggy Lee (2002).
  • Famous events on Jan. 21 – Louis XVI, former King of France, was executed during the French Revolution in 1793; future Confederate president Jefferson Davis resigned from the US Senate in 1861; Albania declared itself a republic in 1925; USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine was launched in 1954; Vietnam War Battle of Khe Sahn begins in 1968; commercial flights by the Concorde began in 1976; President Jimmy Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft evaders in 1977; Iran hostage crisis ended when American hostages were released after 444 days in 1981; and Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for his second term in 1985.
  • Jan. 21 is also Flag Day in Quebec, Grandmother’s day in Poland, and National Hug Day in the United States.
  • For more breaking Edy Rose and Ava Grace news, check out Leslie’s outstanding blog.

Year in review

Dear friends,

Even though I’m still at work, surrounded by papers to grade and e-mails to send, and lessons to plan, I still feel a definite excitement not just for the new year, or the next semester, but just life itself.

2009 ended well for me. I reconnected with an incredible woman through a series of circumstances that just don’t seem coincidental, and today marks one month since our second first meeting. I feel God is growing and stretching and shaping me in new ways as I discover, for the first time, what it’s like to really experience this kind of relationship. I’m thankful that Dani is a part of my life and I’m looking forward to getting to know her and her very cool son, Spencer, more and more.

It was also a very good year for my newspaper. My kids put together three top-notch issues, earned the Best of Show award at the state convention, and pulled in a slew of national awards for last year’s papers. I’m thankful to them for making me look so smart.

It was also a good time for family. Three different occasions this fall, either my brother, sister, Dad, or a combination of the three were able to come to Texas for a fun weekend. Whether it was “Screams” with Graham, UT-Baylor with the whole bunch, or UT-North Carolina hoops with Truman, I had a blast and reminded how blessed I am to have these bonds of love and friendship with my family, not to mention how rare it is that we all share the same faith.

But most important, I got to have an incredible time of revival during my Thanksgiving visit to my hometown. It was something that I prayed for with a pastor at The Village, and God definitely answered that prayer with abundant blessings. Even as I got the difficult news about the health problems of a spiritual mentor, the Lord turned it to good by awakening a spirit of prayer in me that I hadn’t known before. 

2009 was a good year. And 2010 is starting well. It just feels like a bit of reset in my life. There’s been so much starting and stopping and stalling and starting again over the past 32 years. And while I know the road ahead won’t be easy, I’m confident that it will be good.

My hope is in Christ and my prayer is to learn to trust and love and enjoy him more each day.

Wishing the same for you, Happy 2010!

-CWH

Blue Like Dems

Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, Searching For God Knows What, and Through Painted Deserts (which I reviewed briefly here) gave the benediction on the first night of the Democratic National Convention last Monday. In this interview with Christianity Today just before his prayer, he talks about how and why he, as an evangelical Christian, has found a place in the Democratic party as an Obama supporter. It’s interesting and worth watching to hear him verbalize his take on what a lot of people see as a union of contradictions.

A story by the Associated Press added that Miller said continued mockery of Christianity by some Democrats could eventually cause him to leave the party.

“I’d like to see Obama address that — say that voice is no longer welcome,” he said.

Don also has a new blog and I just skimmed the first post. Regardless of what you think about his political affilliations, I think you’ll get a laugh as he reveals all of the “personal e-mail correspondence” between himself and Senator Obama.

And for the record, I’m still firmly undecided.