Sunday Afternoons

Sometimes I wonder if people who don’t go to church on Sundays still take a Sunday afternoon nap. My parents always took a Sunday afternoon nap between church services. When I was little kid, I didn’t fully appreciate this practice. Instead of napping, I would read the Sunday comic page. Or that was always the first thing I did instead of napping. The Sunday comics were special because they were in color, and many of the strips followed a different story line on Sunday. Some comics only appeared on Sunday, like Prince Valiant. Which I read religiously even though I always felt like I started in medias res and that the only way to get the back story and fully understand what was going on was to have started following the comic back in 1937. But the artwork was good so I toughed it out while Mom and Dad settled in for their nap.

We had to be quiet during the nap, or at least until they fell asleep. Being quiet meant not stomping around or yelling. You can only read the comics for so long and then they are done and you have to look at all of the photographs and read the captions in the various articles until you find something that might be interesting. Then you could read the whole article, or until you got lost in all of the Balkan names. The 90s offered us a lot of good news content. Kosovo, Princess Diana, Monica Lewinski, Elian Gonzalez. Even world events get boring after awhile and I’d go find something else to do, but the newspaper ritual continued as long as I lived at home.

When I started playing guitar I would go back to the church on Sunday afternoons and hang out with Jacob, a friend who was also learning to play guitar. Perhaps that’s misleading, he was learning, he already new how. He was a gifted musician. If it hadn’t have been for him, I probably wouldn’t have started playing guitar. Initially I wanted to play the bass. But Jacob got a bass before I did, so I got a guitar.

He was always saying, “Go get your guitar.”

We’d meet back at the church after lunch and hang out until the next service. I suppose the statute of limitations has expired so I don’t mind telling you that we raided the Sunday School refrigerator and snack cabinet quite a few times. I don’t think they missed that forgotten vanilla ice cream though.

We would spend the afternoon all of the guitar riffs that we new and some of the ones that we didn’t and we couldn’t tell the two apart. It was great fun. I still kind of do the same thing now at band rehearsal. We just don’t raid the Sunday School snack cupboard. And we are practicing church songs that we are going to sing for the evening service, and not trying to perfect Lynyrd Skynyrd licks.

Jacob was notorious about waiting until I had just finally got handle on a rock’n’roll guitar lick enough to make it remotely recognizable when he would suddenly say, “Sir?” while looking toward the front door of the church. It never failed to scare the daylights out of me.

On rare occasions, probably due to impending weather, we would help Pop haul hay on a Sunday afternoon. There was always a tangible unspoken urgency to hurry through the chore in order to make it to church in time for the six o’clock service.

Appreciation for a Sunday afternoon nap comes with maturity. Just like having a steady job comes with maturity. Perhaps the shiftless can enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap, but they didn’t earn it.

There are a lot of differing opinions on the art of a Sunday afternoon nap. Clothes or pajamas? Recliner or bed? Post nap shower or no? I’m a pajama-bed-shower man myself. But sometimes the nap is so good you just have to get up and get to band practice and hope for the best.

“That was a good nap huh?” Adam will say if I ever skip the post-nap shower.

“Yes. How’d you know?”

“You got that nap hair going on. Hehehe.”

I don’t always get a Sunday afternoon nap these days because we have a one year old who can’t entertain herself by reading the Sunday comics yet. But as soon as she can read, I’m taking a Sunday afternoon nap.

Mind Your Manners

One of my favorite things about a being a parent is having someone to listen to my accumulated trivia. Lately, I have reached the point in parenthood where my children are beginning to pose questions that sometimes stress my intellect. For instance, “Dad, what is manners?”

I usually try to give a clear and concise definitions.

“Well, manners are the principles that govern proper social behavior.” I replied.

I sat back in my chair and smiled, feeling satisfied with my quick thinking without consulting the dictionary.

A moment later the child asked, “Dad, what’s principles?”

This is what I mean by testing my intellect. I’m afraid their curiosity is about to outpace me. At any rate, I am going to attempt a more thorough answer to the original question, because some things require not only clarity, but elaboration.

Manners, best-beloved, are what my Mom and Dad taught me little by little and day by day about how to act around folks.

– Keep your elbows off the table

– Say ma’am and sir

– Keep your feet off the table

– Don’t talk with your mouth full

– Don’t interrupt someone

– Hold the door open for a lady

– Stand up and let a lady or an elder take your chair

– Don’t invite yourself anywhere

– Don’t cuss

– Use your blinker

– Cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze, or yawn

– Don’t smack (chewing with mouth open)

– Don’t ask someone how much money they make

– Don’t ask someone how much they paid for something

– Wipe your feet

– Don’t wear a hat indoors, unless you are a lady and the hat is classy

– Don’t yell inside

– Answer when someone speaks to you

– Don’t stare

– Don’t pick your nose

– Don’t take the last piece of chicken

– Don’t scratch

– Don’t spit

– Don’t reach over someone’s plate

– Don’t grab or snatch

– Don’t talk about gross things at the dinner table

– Don’t tell dirty jokes

– Don’t laugh at dirty jokes

Now this is not an exhaustive list, best-beloved, and we’ll add things as we come to them, but we have to start somewhere. If you follow these guidelines, when you come something you are unsure about you’ll probably make the right decision. Just do what your Mother would do and you’ll be ok.

The Google Reviews I Haven’t Left

Here are a few bad reviews that I didn’t leave, but wanted to.

I only leave five star Google reviews. If a restaurant or business isn’t worth a five star review they certainly aren’t worth my time to give them a lower rating. While some people might “Cause a scene” as my Dad would say, I try to avoid confrontation. If service or the experience is bad, I just won’t go back. Which is part of the reason why I only really like to go eat at about three places, Hamburger Heaven, Taquiera Las Cebollitas, and you guessed it, Chick Fil A.

Hamburger Heaven, my favorite restaurant.

But sometimes I get worked up enough to want to say something. Here are a few bad reviews that I didn’t leave, but wanted to.

Three Star Grocery Store

At best this place is a compromise. People don’t shop here because this is a great grocery store, but rather to avoid going to town. Unless you are getting a rotisserie chicken-which are pretty good- or it is an absolute emergency I would avoid trying to shop here. They also picked the worst possible music to play too loud, which always puts me in a foul mood. How am I supposed to find the pectin while some grown man is whining and mumbling-I’ll not call it singing-about his feelings?

Two Star Home Improvement

The only thing this place has going for it is that there is no other competition in town. Which is a shame, because our town would benefit from having options. In theory having competition would make the current store sure up their customer service. More than likely though all these workers would just jump ship to the new store because they look pretty miserable now.

Two Star Home Cooking Restaurant

The pandemic has not been kind to this restaurant. The problem with chain restaurants is many decisions that should be made locally are made in some corporate office a thousand miles away, or in this case 167 miles away. The last time I ate here I’m glad we had a gift card, because I would have been mad if I would have had to pay for rock hard mashed potatoes.

Four Star Italian Restaurant

I really wanted to leave a five star review because my food was excellent. But there is more to a restaurant than good food, and unfortunately the service fell short. The teenage waiter was friendly enough, but frankly he forgot about us and we waited a long time for our check. Which made me wonder why we waited a long time to be seated.

Perhaps I’m turning into a cranky old man who fusses about paying first class money for second class service. Kind of like my dad. As a kid I remember thinking he was making a big deal about something trivial, but now I begin to understand his frustration.

We perpetuate the decline of quality when we continue to accept lesser quality at the same price. If I have a bad service experience at a restaurant but still go back, I’m likely to have another bad service experience the next time and the restaurant will think that I’m ok with it. Or I could just start leaving bad reviews.

You Are My Brother

What constitutes a brother? The same hair style? The same color eyes? The same likes and dislikes?

by Perry Wells

I grew up in a small country home. I would like to emphasize the word small. It was four rooms and that was not four bedrooms by today’s standard. I had a brother who was a year younger than me. My other brother is fourteen years younger than me. My mom gave him to me for my fourteenth birthday and I have been bearing children since then.

I have had a brother for as long as I can remember. I did not choose my brother, he just came along.

What constitutes a brother? The same hair style? The same color eyes? The same likes and dislikes? No. A brother has the same father and mother. Everyday my dad worked and came home in time for the evening meal. He had a problem in that he thought he owned our little house and the inhabitants who resided in it. He insisted that we all be at the supper table when he came home. This did not mean in close proximity to the table, but seated at the table.

After supper we had to give him an account of the activities of the day, which mostly consisted of school and chores. Farming was an all day job and performing chores could last into half of the night.

Our mother won every fight my brother and I had. She would settle all of the differences we had before my dad came home. It was important to her. She knew he was coming home and everything needed to be taken care of before he arrived. You can believe me when I say we did not want to bother dad with the differences we had encountered!

Now that I am grown and on my own and paster a wonderful church with wonderful people, I have a new set of brothers and sisters. We all have the same Father, who is Jesus Christ. We have the same Mother, which is the Church. And we have all be baptized into One Body, which means we all share the same last name. We need to settle our differences with our Mother as the mediator before our Father comes home. By the way, our Father is due any minute!

You are my brother. Is everything right between us? If I have wronged you, I am sorry. If you have done wronged against me, I forgive you.

We are all brothers, I love you, keep up the good work!

Playing Church

My brother and I used to play church. He’d stand the toy box up on it’s side and use it as a pulpit. I would receive the offering, testify, and say amen whenever he was preaching. It was just me and the pastor for a long time. Eventually, after many prayer meetings, our church grew and our little sister Lindsay was able to help out with the music ministry. Pastor had his hands full with these two saints. He’d often have to tell us what to do and when to do it. “Alright Sister Lindsay, that’s enough singing. Brother Zane is going to come receive the offering now.

Sometimes we’d have revivals, and our cousins would come over. Zach would baptize anyone who wanted to baptized in the same toy box that was the pulpit. Sometimes he would baptize anyone who didn’t want to be baptized too. “No! No! I don’t want to be babatized!” our cousin Daniel protested.

“Hold your nose!” Zach said. ” I baptize you in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins!”

Church was, and still is, a big part of our lives, and our play reflected that. I’m getting to watch my kids play church now in very much the same way that we did yesterday when I was young. Miriam, ever the songbird, sings constantly. She won’t be bothered by not knowing the words, she’ll make up her own lyrics as she strums along on a hopelessly out of tune guitar.

Going to Aunt Lindsay’s

Going to Aunt Lindsay’s

Going to Aunt Lindsay’s in my soul!

She hasn’t realized that all music isn’t church music. And if she ever sees anyone singing on video, regardless the setting, she will comment, “That’s a different church.”

Wesley protests when something isn’t just so. “Miriam, you can’t sing that anymore. The conference is over!” He measures his weeks by the church days, hoping for Sunday School the most. From time to time we go to a “different” church for a special service or something like that. He is very concerned that the different church teaches the “whole Bible and not just part of it”, and he will ask me to make sure.

Wesley and Miriam on their way to church.

Really not much has changed as we’ve matured. We’re just not playing anymore, but actually doing it. I’ve traded my broom for a real guitar. Zach really never stopped preaching, and today pastors Christ Temple Pentecostal Church in Jena, Louisiana, although he doesn’t usually baptize people against their will. Lindsay never stopped singing, now she just knows the right words. I pray that my kids never stop either.

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Sleeping at Church

I usually went to sleep during the evening services.

I used to sprawl out on the front pew at church, use a stack of Sing Unto The Lord hymnals for a pillow and go to sleep. I would try to stay awake by finding faces in the wooden paneling and trim in the sanctuary, but that might have just made it worse. There was a lion, and two bearded old men in the wood grain of the door frame that led to the Sunday School classrooms. If you saw them once, you saw them every time. I’d also try to find characters in the carpet, or look at the map of the Middle East that hung behind the organ. But as a child, these were futile attempts to keep Old Man Nod from riding on my eyelids. I usually went to sleep during the evening services.

It’s one thing for a small child to sleep during the service, but another thing for a grown up to fall asleep at church. I’m sure it’s discouraging for a minister to look out at the congregation and see an adult nodding. My Uncle James was bad about sleeping during church. Or anywhere else for that matter. He fall asleep once at the red light. As dangerous as it may be to fall asleep at a red light, I don’t think anyone noticed. When he woke up he didn’t realize how long he’d been there, or how many green lights had come and gone. It was long enough for someone behind him to blow the horn. I’m sure he was embarrassed, but not too embarrassed to tell on himself so everyone else could have a good laugh. Southerners are considerate that way.

He was sleeping at church one Sunday and the pastor asked him to stand up and pray over the offering. Someone nudged him and said, “James, they need you to pray.” He stood up and dismissed them. Someone else told that on him, some things are too embarrassing to share yourself.

Testimony Service

Testimony service was time set aside in each church service intended to give the saints an opportunity to stand and share what the Lord had done for them during the week.

I grew up in the latter part of the 20th Century and as a result, I was able to experience a few things that didn’t carry over into the 21st Century. Things like reading the newspaper everyday, taking pictures on film, and handwriting letters to send in the mail to the girl that you met at youth camp. Some things from that era I fondly remember, like three liter Cokes, and some things I am grateful to leave behind like long distance phone bills and dial up internet. Then there are somethings that I remember with mixed emotions, like testimony service.

 

Devil In The Ditch

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been whooped for playing Devil In The Ditch. It was my favorite game to play at church. Now before you think that I’ve been involved in the occult, let me explain the rules of this sinister sounding game. If you walked out of the front door of our church, turned left and walked about twenty five feet, you would come upon a ditch running parallel with the road for the full length of the church property. This was “The Ditch”. At the back of the church property it was shallow and got deeper as it reached the front where it made a sharp angle in the fork of the road. At it’s deepest, the ditch was about three feet deep. The rules of the game were fairly simple, whoever was in the ditch was the devil, everyone else had to jump the ditch without being tagged by the devil. If you were tagged, you were the new devil.

It was great fun. Part of the fun was knowing that you weren’t supposed to be playing in the ditch, namely because it was probably the most dangerous thing that we could have done. That’s the way with people, the more dangerous and risky, the more likely we’ll engage in it and call it fun. The other part of the fun was having to sneak to do it. Sneaking was pretty easy though, you know how parents get to talking to everybody after church. We had better chances of getting to play Devil In The Ditch if we didn’t stay inside and pester the adults. As long as we weren’t whining and interrupting conversations they didn’t miss us. It wouldn’t be until the first crybaby ran inside to complain to their parents that someone was cheating, or that they didn’t want to be the devil, or that they had sprained an ankle, that all of the parents would come barreling out of the air conditioned church into the sweltering heat to retrieve their miscreant children who had been busy ruining their Sunday clothes in the filthy ditch. Punishment would be doled out heartily to some children and sparingly to others, and it seems like not at all to some of the worst offenders.

As children we never gave a single thought to how dangerous this game was, we were only concerned about having fun. Since the ditch was about a foot from the road, any one of us could have been hit by a car. Although this was highly unlikely because there was hardly any traffic on that road. Aside from getting grass stains and mud all over our church clothes, we could have easily broken a limb as we tried to jump the ditch, which was quite wide in the deeper places. Fortunately, I don’t remember any major injuries sustained while engaging in this game.

After more than a decade in Youth Ministry, I’ve noticed that the thrill of the dangerous doesn’t go away as we get older. Now that we’re all grown, I doubt we are tempted to ruin our church clothes playing a silly game like Devil in the Ditch. But the games that we are tempted to play as adults basically all have the same concept as Devil in the Ditch. But the adult version is far more dangerous.

 

Nursing Homes

I was probably too young to go, but my parents were committed, so I went to everything.

I don’t remember whose idea it was to take small children to sing at the nursing home, probably some adult who did not take into consideration how terrifying elderly wheelchair bound people can be to a five year old child. I was probably too young to go, but my parents were committed, so I went to everything. The nursing home we chose was a dismal place. The residents looked completely defeated, the staff had a martial air about them and the whole facility gave you the feeling of complete hopelessness, more like a prison than a care facility. Perhaps the one we visited was simply outdated, but I’ve visited others as an adult and I get a similar feeling.

I was too young to read so I was only obligated to sing from memory. My brother Zach, and Corey Barber did not get off of the hook so easily, since they were capable of not only reading, but counting too, which enabled them to use the Sing Unto The Lord hymnal. Sis. Vivian, Corey’s grandmother sat at the piano with her back to us and called out the page numbers to the each hymn as she played. In our church, we hardly called a song by it’s name, but rather used it’s page number. “Please turn to page 315.” Page 315 was Jesus Hold My Hand. Page 94 was Amazing Grace. As Zach and Corey turned the right page, Sister Vivian would play  an intro on the piano, and by then we were ready to sing. I’m sure our mothers enjoyed it. I think the residents might have just enjoyed seeing some small children, even if they had trouble hearing us. I did not enjoy it. I wasn’t miserable, I just wanted to play.

It was during one of these fidgety moments, probably about the third song, that I decided to pinch Zach on the rear end. He whipped around mid chorus of I’ll Fly Away and gave me a mean look and probably would have hit me but everyone was watching. In the midst of all this the music and the singing never stopped. Mom came and grabbed me by the hand led me to the side of the makeshift auditorium. It was really more of a wheelchair parking lot. Barring this incident, the show kept right on going. As Mom focused on singing I wondered around on the fringe of a crowd.

As we were about to leave, Mom went up towards the front to do something, possibly sing and I was left alone in my seat. One of the residents, an elderly lady in a hospital bed, pointed to me with a crooked finger and said in a weak voice, “Come here to me little boy.” Rear end pinching aside, I was an obedient little boy and I went straight over to her and said, “Yes Ma’am.”

She took my hand and put it on the back of her neck and said, “Scratch here.”

I would like to pause here and give some advice. If you are ever in a strange place and an elderly lady in a hospital bed asks you to scratch her neck, don’t do it. It’s a trap.

No amount of preliminary lecture on my behavior could have prepared me for a situation like this. There I was, not even in Elementary School, in a nursing home, doing the very thing that my parents had spanked me for not doing, minding my elders. As I was scratching the lady’s neck, a nurse rushed over and took my hand away. “Don’t touch the patients.” She said firmly. I didn’t get a chance to explain myself as she led me to Mom.

I’m glad to report that during my subsequent visits to nursing homes over the past twenty five years I behaved myself much better, although a lot of time I still get that same dismal feeling. I will also add that unless you’re playing like Merle Travis or Chet Atkins, don’t bring your electric guitar to the nursing home.