Morning Person

Are you a morning person or do you drink coffee? What is your routine?

I haven’t always been a morning person. Mom would often have to summon me by my full name to get out of bed for school. I have always been a breakfast person though. Maybe some morning people are born, but I believe that more often something makes you into a morning person.

I think I started being a morning person when I was working at Parks & Recreation and I had to be at the school by 6:30am. I was forced to be awake by the feeling of responsibility of running the before school recreation program, knowing that a couple dozen parents were depending on me to be there. But after a while, I just started enjoying being up that early.

There is something special about being awake before the sun comes up. The air smells and feels different in the morning. The atmosphere isn’t clouded with traffic and it is easier to think.

There is a difference between being a morning person and having to be at work early in the morning. If you have ever worked early in the morning you will understand what I mean. Morning people usually have a routine that happens before they even think about going to work. This baffles non-morning people. A morning person’s routine might consist of running a six miles, working in the garden, or even laundry.

Although there is something therapeutic about a morning routine, what I like most about the mornings is the morning sunlight. The kitchen in the house I grew up in faced due East. I can still see the light pouring through the window onto the kitchen table. That’s where much of the human interaction in our home happened. These days I enjoy seeing the sunlight peak over the horizon as I ride my bike through the backroads around my house.

I could tell you about it. I could even show you pictures. But it is really something that you have to experience for yourself. Maybe it will make you into a morning person.

Marriage

It is significant that Jesus began his ministry at a wedding.

I recently had someone ask me some honest questions about marriage. There were several questions, but this one carried the essence of them all:

“What is in it for me?”

In the current hedonistic, godless culture that Hollywood has been so successful in helping to create, this question does not seem irrational. There are tax benefits in some instances for not being married. The 20th century Feminist movement that challenged gender roles has now ushered in the gender identity crisis which has further convoluted the very idea of marriage. To ask “What is in marriage for me?” today, as selfish as it sounds, is a sincere question; and it needs an answer.

In order to answer this question properly, we have to define what marriage is. Marriage is the God ordained union between one man and one woman. The marriage contract precedes all human government and even the church. You could say that marriage is the only thing that survived the fall of man: a remnant of paradise.

Marriage comes with the great responsibility and commission from God to be fruitful and multiply. It is God’s intent for marriage, and especially the role of women, to sustain human life on Earth.

Marriage is also a metaphor for God’s relationship with the church. The Old Testament book Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, is dedicated entirely to this purpose. In the New Testament the church is portrayed as the Bride of Christ.

It is significant that Jesus began his ministry at a wedding.

What is in marriage for me also depends on your values. Do you value trust, commitment, and companionship? If these things are more important to you than tax breaks then you are starting to understand marriage. Do you value life? Do you value your children having a stable home, or are you ok with someone else raising your children? Do you value the other person? If you truly value a significant other there is no higher degree of commitment and love than marriage.

The Bible has an interesting term for misplaced value: unnatural affection. People who are inhibited by unnatural affection will not see any value in marriage.

Lastly, we must address the selfish nature of the question, What is in it for me? Marriage is one of the most selfless commitments that someone can take. I would argue that selfishness is the root cause of many marriage failures.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27

Marriage requires so much more than many are willing to pay. How expensive is giving yourself?

The same question that was asked by my friend in regard to marriage also applies to The Church. There is only one church, that’s the one that Jesus gave himself for. That church is holy and without blemish. Just like the many contracts that fall short of marriage-open marriages, friends with benefits, partnerships, and such like-there are a myriad of places that try to offer some sort of perverted substitute relationship with God that do not meet the high standard God places for His Church.

My relationship with God and my relationship with my wife are the two most important things in my life. These relationships provide the context for dealing with every other thing in the cosmos. My answer to the question what is in it (marriage) for me? Everything.

On Time

The art of time management is a very grown up thing. It is ultimately what distinguishes us as adults.

I suppose I have the same self awareness as I did in my earliest memories. But lately I’ve been feeling very grown up.

Perhaps it’s is because I have a mortgage now. A death pledge to pay a lot of money plus interest. There was a time when I would roll my eyes at stuffy grown ups who didn’t know how to loosen up and have fun. Now I wonder when silly young people are going to quit wasting time and get serious about life. I think there is a keener awareness of time that comes with age and gives older people the ability to be sharp and direct with words. I haven’t reached that point yet, but I can see it in the distance.

A lot things that adults have to do are not enjoyable, which is why a lot of people are reluctant to become adults. People who do not choose to evade responsibility are grown up. Responsibility often looks like a father working to provide for a family, a mother taking care of a home, a child taking care of a pet or a toy.

I think the main reason that I am feeling so grown up lately is because I am keenly aware that I cannot do everything that I would like simply because of time.

One of the greatest things about being a grown up is being a master of your own time. One could argue that working a job does not make one a master of their own time. I suppose that may be the case for many people, but I tend to look at time as currency that I can trade for resources to support my family.

The art of time management is a very grown up thing. It is ultimately what distinguishes us as adults. Time is the ultimate responsibility. How someone spends their time defines them. If you don’t believe this ask someone who is doing time.

How we treat time perhaps is more telling of our character than how we spend time. One could hardly deny that the irascible, impatient, reckless driver forcing his way through traffic like a Bull of Bashan has a concept of his own time, but a total disregard for the time, and indeed the life, of others. These people are bound by time, not masters of it. Frankly, they are not grown up.

There is chronological time, which is what most of us think about when we think of time. You can measure chronological time with the steady predictable ticking of a clock. We can think of this kind of time horizontally, like a timeline. And there is kairological time, which cannot be measured with a clock and could be thought of vertically. Heaven often operates on kairological time.

Jesus spoke of “The times and the seasons.” Chronos and Kairos. Acts 1:7

Kairological time is manifest when an unpredictable event comes and unapologetically crashes into chronological time. The birth of Jesus Christ, The Crucifixion, The Resurrection, and The Day of Pentecost are the most significant kairological events in the history of mankind. But kairological events are not limited to these. Every time the Word of God is preached there is potential for a kairological moment. Every time someone is filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost is a kairological moment.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. II Timothy 4:2.

Instant in season and out of season: Kairos and Chronos.

It is simpler to get a handle on chronological time. The whole world operates on chronological time. And how we handle it defines us as humans. But there is much less awareness of kairological time. The entire Cosmos operates on Kairological time. And how we handle it defines us as spiritual beings.

Between Books

There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with giving up on a book.

Sarah can always tell when I start reading a new book that is really good because I’ll stay up past 9:30pm. There is nothing quite like a book that really captivates you. You’ll find yourself thinking about the characters and plot even when you’re not reading. When you finally do finish it there is a bit of sadness because it is over. Then you have to hope that the next book your pick up is as good, but you never know. Sometimes you feel obligated to press on through an uninteresting book. You try to press on, but when a book is boring there is no motivation to read, and instead of staying up to read you close the book and go to sleep. There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with giving up on a book. When you finally make the decision to ditch a bad book you run the risk of going through this whole process again. This is what I call being stuck between books.

I guess now is as good of a time as any to confess that I am a bibliophile. I don’t just love to read, I love books. A book case is the first thing you see when you walk into my home. I love the smell of a century old book. I love the feel and color of old paper with words that were mechanically printed with ink and typeset. My parents bought books not only to read, but to display.

When a book is really good it becomes a part of our family language: an integral part of how we express ourselves.

Being between books demands a decision. We can either reach back for old books that we’ve already read (and there are some books that should be re-read) or we reach forward for the unknown of a new, hoping that we will chance upon a story that will become a part of us. Or we can stop reading.

In a larger sense, we can compare our lives to a series of books. There is romance, love, horror, tragedy, adventure, mystery. There is one exception though, you can’t really re-live any of these books. You cannot start over, but you can start new. And there is still a possibility of getting caught between books.

In life it is sometimes hard to tell when one book ends and another begins, which can make for dangerous transition traps. Thankfully, early on these lines are drawn more clearly for us. We go from Kindergarten to first grade and so on; each school year a new volume in the library of life. Once we graduate we lose the preset beginnings and endings that school provided for us yearly from age five until whenever we stopped our schooling. Because of this, we can all too easily forget the feeling of beginning anew once we become adults, and many people feel the pressure to somehow to make forty year run until retirement with no new fresh starts. In short, it is quite difficult for people to affect a new positive change in their lives-or even recognize a when a change is necessary- without help from an outside force.

As a result people get caught between books in life. Or worse, they continue re-reading a bad book hoping in vain to finish with a different ending, or without a concept of ever finishing. To use Bible language, these people are drifting aimlessly through life “having no hope.”

The basic message of Christianity is repentance. Or making a complete new start with the understanding that the routine that I was in before is no longer an option. It takes a lot of guts to make a new start like that. Jesus Christ said it best:

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it.

Luke 16:16

John came preaching “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What an offensive word: Repent. It is still as offensive today as it was then. No one wants to hear that they are doing anything-much less that they are living and thinking-wrong. But the message of Christianity has not changed since the birthday of the church in the book of Acts, and the preaching of the repentance still pricks people in their hearts, or cuts them to their hearts. This kind of preaching demands a decision.

There are many people who see what this kind of change requires and are unwilling to pay that kind of price, and they go away sorrowfully like the rich young ruler.

In fact a lot of “churches” have long ago quit preaching any semblance of conversion, because they also have quit preaching repentance in an effort to be less offensive. These assemblies, or congregations-I’ll not call them churches-offer no hope to people who desperately need a new start.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. I Corinthians 5:17

So, what have you been reading?

Dan Theo Wells, 1935-2021

Ology is often translated as the study of. It is from the root word logos, word in Greek. It is more accurately translated as what can be said of.

Theology- that which can be said about God.
Psychology- that which can be said about the mind.

What can be said about Dan Theo Wells?

We must first establish his identity. Who is Dan Theo Wells?

He is a man of many titles: Bub, Slim, Pop. I suppose that some of my cousins could say that they lost Uncle Bub, Uncle Slim, and Uncle Dan and elicit treble condolences from sympathetic friends.

But when the roll was called in the Army only one name was read out, Dan Theo Wells. After a moments hesitation, Slim and Bub both stepped forth.

I knew him as Pop. My paternal grandfather. And really the only grandfather I knew. Tinker Reynolds- or Brant Douglas Reynolds, both one and the same- died when I was only two years old.

Most people knew Pop as Slim. But unless you were one of my cousins from Chicago, it only sounds right if you say it with a Southern accent. For anyone who struggles with a Southern accent, when in doubt make the vowel a diphthong: Slee-um.

Pop was incredibly economic in his elocutionary endeavors. I have ridden from Sterrett to Irondale and back with Pop and said fewer than three sentences.

Throughout my life, Pop was not a church-going man. I used to screw up the courage to invite him to church from time to time.

“Pop, you ought to come to church with us tonight.”

“I know son.” He would sigh.

I remember reading James 1:27 as a teenager and immediately thinking about Pop.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
‭‭James‬ ‭1:27‬ ‭KJV‬‬

In part, Pop was a deeply religious man. He always kept a substantial garden. Perhaps it may seem a small thing to many, but he grew it to share. I guess you could say that he visited the widow of Tinker Reynolds in her affliction. Among many others.

Pop was also a man of principle. Pop never allowed alcohol at any of the barbecues he hosted. In his way, he more than once warned his employees in the hay business-Zach and me- about the dangers of alcohol.

“I took one drink when I was young and it tasted like horse ?¡$ś.”

I always thought that sounded pretty dangerous.

I think that because he was a man of principle he had an excellent reputation in his community. Integrity doesn’t require wealth or education, integrity requires character. Pop had character.

Around 2012 I think, Pop had an accident on an old Farm-All tractor. He started the tractor before he was fully seated and the tractor was already in gear. The sudden jerky motion threw him off balance and he fell off but his foot hung on one of the pedals and he was trapped in front of the engaged rear wheel. The tractor drug him a few feet until the barn post stopped the forward motion, but the huge tractor tire continued completely tear off his left quadriceps.

Nonna eventually heard him screaming and she ran out to the barn.

“Turn off the tractor!” He said.

It was the hand of God that Dennis Brasher-I think this is the right name, forgive me if I am wrong- happened to be driving by listening to the police scanner. He instinctively knew that the call was for Pop.

“Slim, I’m sorry this is going to hurt.” He said as he applied pressure to the gruesome wound. He kept his hands on what was left of Pop’s thigh for the whole ambulance ride to Birmingham. it is a testimony to Pop’s toughness that he remained conscious for the entire ordeal.

I honestly thought Pop was going to die then, so I got on an airplane and flew to Alabama from Virginia. But he was made of tougher stuff than I thought and lived another nine years out of spite I believe.

Time would fail me to recount a lifetime of fond memories of Pop. Perhaps the best thing that I can say about Pop, is that he had a good name. Even if few used it and even fewer knew it.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:1‬ ‭KJV‬‬

The last time I saw him coherent was October 27th. He and Nonna had soundly whipped COVID-19 much to my surprise and delight, but something had interfered with Pop’s Parkinson’s medicine and he had begun to hallucinate.

One moment he would be talking to me as clear as he was capable and the next moment he would just be talking to himself, or to whoever would listen about something that happened 40 years ago. Then he would be in the present 40 years ago, or perhaps in a dream.

But he knew who I was when I walked in.

“Is that Zane? Set me up.”

“I’m sorry you got to see me like this.” He said referring to the hospital bed.

“I’ve been worried about y’all’s sugar so I brought y’all some peach pies.”

We chatted for a little bit. Before Pop said, “Give me one of them pies.”

“The more I eat it, the better it gets.” He said with a grin

I must confess that this is not how I want to remember Pop. Sure the hat is there and those look like his hands. But I want to remember the Pop who hit a charging cow with a 2×4. And the Pop who lifted me with one hand into his Toyota pickup truck because I was too little to climb in by myself. And the Pop who brought me a cowboy hat one night after his trip to Tennessee. And the Pop who would bring all of us grandkids an Icee.

Dan Theo Wells

I want to remember this Pop. And I hope you do too.

I love you Pop.

Dan Theo “Slim” Wells, was born on April 16th 1935 to Daniel Webster Wells and Dovie Dunnaway Wells. He served the United States Army in the 3rd Armored Division from 1958-1960. He married Nola Mae Brasher. They had three children Perry Charles, Melvin Johnny, and Jason Theo.

Mr. Wells began working for Stockham Valves and Fittings shortly after his discharge from the Army. He retired from Stockham in the mid 1990s before the plant closed. During his time at Stockham he helped cast many of the valves for the Alaskan Pipeline.

Dan Theo Wells passed from this life in his home on November 12th, 2021.

What I Liked About My Dad

I got a message this week from one of the ladies at church.

Would you mind sharing with me what you liked about your dad, for Father’s Day presentation?

This is the answer I gave her.

I suppose I would be lying if I said I liked everything about my dad. There are the things that he and I share in common that I have to constantly keep in check and I wish I could change. But these kind of things, and more importantly how we deal with them, are a part of what makes up a person’s character. Thankfully, the shortcomings alone of a man are not what define him.

The characteristics that I admire most about my Dad are as follows:

Faithfulness

Most will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 20:6

I never wondered where my Dad was. He was faithful to his wife, his family, his church, and his God.

Love

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chaseneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24

Now that I am trying to raise my kids I can relate to the frustration Dad had trying to raise me. I realize now that the driving force behind everything he did was love.

Integrity

The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him. Proverbs 20:7

As an adult I realize now how rare integrity is.

Love for Truth

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches. Proverbs 24:3-4

Dad had a deep love for truth. He was always quoting Proverbs 23:23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

Communication


A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11

Dad may not have necessarily been a powerful orator, but he was an excellent communicator. A critic once accused Mark Twain’s work as water compared to the fine wine of higher literature, mark Twain replied, “But the people drink water.” Dad was a master at the art of conversation. He could talk to anybody.

Maybe this was more than she was wanting, but I have been thinking about Dad more than usual this week and I didn’t want to give her a generic answer.

These are some of the characteristics that I am striving to master in my own life. More importantly, I want to instill them in my children.

Caroling and Such

Merry Christmas

We used to go Christmas Caroling when I was a kid. A group of us from the church would pile into a trailer filled with hay, wrap up in blankets and drive all over the town surprising elderly people with a few Christmas Songs. It was a lot of fun.

Pop and Marion used to have a couple of Percheron horses, Hawk and Holly. Aside from the occasional parade, I think their sole purpose was to pull Santa Claus in a wagon around Vandiver and Sterrett. Santa Claus would hand out candy to children. If you still believe in Santa Claus I’d like to warn you to skip the next sentence. The last year they did this I’m pretty sure my brother had to be Santa Claus, and he was pretty sulky about it too.

I still like to sing Christmas Carols, without or without a hayride, or hot chocolate to burn your tongue. Every song is better when someone sings it with you. I’m fortunate to have a little songbird for a daughter. This year we sang together at the Christmas Concert at our church, Cornerstone Revival Center. I know my parents would’ve been proud. They’d have loved to be there holding Hollynn while they listening to Miriam lay that vibrato on thick.

I wish I could pull up to your house in a horse drawn wagon and sing you some Christmas Carols, but this is the best I could manage this year. Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

Pecans

Pecan pie may be what every pecan aspires to be.

I have two pecan trees in my yard. Hurricane Zeta knocked all of the pecans out at one time. They’re good pecans too. We picked up half a five gallon bucket just off the porch. I’ve tried to inspire the children to pick up pecans, but I don’t think they’ve caught the vision yet.

I grew up in the remnants of a pecan orchard. At one time there were probably thirty or forty trees behind our house and the next three neighbor’s houses. By the time I was a kid there were only about seven left. Over the years some of those pecan trees were blown down in different storms. We’d play on a fallen tree for days until someone came over with a chainsaw and hauled it away. Dad used a lot of that wood to grill and barbecue.

Very ofter Dad required us to pick up a five gallon bucket of pecans before we could go gallivanting around town with Jared and Creed. I can’t lie and say that picking up pecans is fun, or has ever been fun. But we did it. We would sell them to the local grocery store Smith’s, where I’m sure some grandmother would buy them, shell them, and make with them a delicious pecan pie. Nowadays we would have marketed them as handpicked, and it would’ve been true since we threw the pecans with wormholes into the kudzu patch.

Pecan pie may be what every pecan aspires to be. I used to think that it was the only pleasant way to eat a pecan. Fresh pecans cracked in your hands- take two pecans in on hand and squeeze with all your might until one of them cracks-have always had a slightly bitter taste to me. I still do it out of nostalgia though, and to impress my kids, but pecans are ingredients, not stand alone snacks.

Pecans need some love, or sugar as we say in the South, to really come alive. Candied pecans, praline pecans, cinnamon and sugar pecans-they all taste great even though I’d be hard pressed to tell you how to make them.

For all they’re bitterness, I still love pecans. It makes me think about being a kid. I also think pecans are pretty with their dark streaked shells and their orange to yellow meat inside. I like the smell of pecans, and the oily feel of the fresh meat.

I think I finally understand why Dad wanted us to pick the pecans up. The harvest was just laying on the ground, all we had to do was pick it up. As an adult, waste bothers me. So I’ve been picking up pecans when I get a chance. When I get an afternoon where I don’t have a deadline approaching I’m going to figure out how to make something sweet out of those bitter pecans.

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.