Just over a week ago, I was in Ruston, LA doing a benefit concert at Louisiana Tech for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. I wrote a piece about it but left out an important part of one special thing that happened that night.
There was a very distinguished couple sitting in reserved seats on the front row. And it was a special occasion for them. They were celebrating their anniversary. I don’t remember the exact number but it was somewhere a few clicks north of 60 years!
Mr. and Mrs. Adams lived two houses down from us on School Street in our hometown of Wisner, LA. Guess what was across the street? I couldn’t make up horror stories about walking to school if I tried.
I went to school with a couple of the Adams Family. And I played in a band with Dennis and Gary Adams, my brother, Mike and another guy named Connie Moran. I was younger than all of them, so I was pretty jazzed when they invited me to join. I had a bent for lead guitar back then and I guess that’s what they were lacking. I remember overhearing my brother and the other guys talking, “Now we can have lead on Louie Louie!”
You remember Louie? If you didn’t hear it in the 60s, you probably heard it being belted out by a high school marching band under the Friday night lights somewhere in America. Nobody really remembers the words to Louie Louie but the melody was hard to forget. If it’s playing in your head right now, uh, sorry.
The Adams Family was one of two Catholic families in our little neck of the woods. Their church was in Winnsboro, a little larger town than ours fourteen miles to the north. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about the faith of this family and I probably didn’t give it much thought. I just knew that it was different. And I knew this – the dances our band played for at the Catholic Church would have never happened (that’s to say, they never did happen) at the First Baptist Church. Odd – I couldn’t go to dances but I could go play for other people to dance. Confusing.
Well, like I was saying, Mr. and Mrs. Adams were at the concert celebrating their anniversary. When I got word, via Facebook, that they wanted to come, I was surprised. I had no idea they would be interested. I can’t remember the last time I saw them or anyone from their family.
I found out the kids (all now grown with families of their own) had set it all up. They had gotten the tickets and the special seating secured, they arranged for the hotel and the restaurant. It was their way of making sure their parent’s anniversary was memorable.
It struck me as a huge display of genuine thoughtfulness. Talk about honoring your parents. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your folks.
Thoughtfulness is becoming a lost art. We find ourselves in an era of self-absorbed thoughtlessness. Not so much a mean spirited, aggressive neglect. Rather more a, “Huh? wow . . . the thought never crossed my mind” kind of culture.
All the techno luxuries were supposed to free us up. To do what?? To have more time to ourselves for ourselves?
I don’t want this to turn into one of those stories that throws rocks at modern advancements, but let’s face it. Most of them aren’t driving us toward each other. They’re driving us toward a more isolated existence that’s empty of real intimacy, real giving, sharing and real sacrifice.
I know some of you don’t agree with that and you put these tools to good use. I’ve gotten lots of email praising social media that’s helped you re-connect with old friends or schoolmates. That’s great! Just try to resist letting it replace real face time with those in your house, your family or your community.
I talked with Mr. and Mrs. Adams after the concert. They felt so blessed that their kids would plan such a thing. Mr. Adams is a quiet, dignified gentleman. That night in particular, he reminded me of my dad – dignity and humility. He told me how much he enjoyed the music. “Thank you for “Amazing Grace” he said.
I say that every day.
Wouldn’t you expect me to say this after every event, every concert? “It went great!”
When I ask my peers, “So how did it go last night?” it would be nice to hear, sometimes, “Ya know what? It just stunk! I stunk! I sounded bad. Nobody showed up. The sound was terrible. The air conditioning was out. Wild monkeys were running around the stage. Just not a very good night.”
But most times in answer to the question, we reply, “It went great!”
Monday night, at Louisiana Tech was . . . Uh . . . GREAT! And I mean it! No monkeys, great sound and lighting for the venue, a room that was full of college friends from years past, lots of family and friends from my hometown, an hour of pre-show reception with great food and refreshments. The only down side . . . just too little time to visit and catch up with everybody there.
The event was the grand opening of the new BCM building on the Tech campus. When I was there, it was called the BSU but I guess somebody finally got enough of all the acronym cracks and decided to re-name it the BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministries). I don’t know why. Heck, you can still get a BS degree from most any university in America. I know a lot of people that have them! And some that don’t but should be granted an honorary!
Anyway, even though the weather outside was frightful – cold and rainy – the spirit inside was tremendous. When the MC got up to introduce me, he changed course and asked a few people to stand up and tell a quick WW story. Thankfully, all that chose to stand and deliver, came up with good stories.
Man, talk about evidence of time flying! The people facing me were testimonies of God’s grace and mercy, testimonies of His blessing. I think we all relived a little bit of our college days on Monday night.
I started out telling the audience there would be some “Acknowledgments and Apologies” throughout the night.
A few acknowledgments . . .
To my friend and, during my college days, as close to a mentor as I’d ever have, Dr. Ferrington. “Doc” we called him then and still do. Interesting, I’ve met lots of “Drs” over the years. Some earned their degrees and others were given honorary degrees. Funny, lots of the earned “Drs” couldn’t care less what you call them and lots of the honoraries really prefer, and sometimes firmly suggest that you address them as . . . Dr. Hmm. Well, with all due respect, I guess. What do I know? I’m not a doctor . . . but I’ve been to the doctor!!
Anyway, Doc and wife, Dottie (also a Dr! Geez, talk about a hard envelope to address) were in the audience Monday night. When a band in California offered me a position to play with them in my second year at Tech, it was Doc that talked me into staying in school. I’m so glad I did. Not just for the book stuff but the life stuff that college offered.
There were other acknowledgements and some that were, regrettably, left out. Mr. and Mrs. Ray Young from Wisner (and their children and grandchildren) were there. Dorothy Young takes care of my mom’s business affairs and lots of other stuff. I don’t know what we’d do without her. Mr. Ray was my first guitar hero. He had this beautiful Yamaha FG 300 acoustic that I loved! I eventually saved up and bought one and I wish I still had it. It was my first really good guitar.
And the list could go on and on.
Some apologies (some in fun and others . . . well). The most sincere apology was to no one in particular and to lots of people in general. “I was tight in college” I began. “Not tight as in cheap . . . heck, I’d spring for a pizza now and then, but tight as in tightly wound.” It embarrasses me to think of the people I probably turned off to a faith in Christ with my hyper spirituality and self-righteous, legalistic attitude. I wish I’d known a better definition of grace and mercy in those days. I received it well enough but just wasn’t real good at extending it. And it would be a long time, through some tough times ‘till I would learn that lesson. Oh well, we’re all being created in His image. Some of us are just on day 2 or 3 out of the 7 it’s gonna take to make us.
Many thanks to Lisa Trussel and everyone that made this event happen. I hope it was just the first of many good things that take place under the new roof.
Hope to see you on the road somewhere. 2011 is looking busy and I’m thankful to have so many doors opening. Thank you for your prayers!
So I’m going through my emails one day – I get mail from several different sites and try to stay on top of answering it all – and I got one on the waynewatson.com site from a guy named Sam in China. He wrote some very nice things about my work and mentioned one song in particular.
I get lots of requests/comments for and about old recordings and even a few people still looking for trax to sing to.
The song he wanted to hear had touched his life in the early 80s and he couldn’t find it anywhere. Well, that song along with the entire album (along with more than a few others) is simply out of print.
“New Lives for Old” was the title of my second album with Milk and Honey Records. And yes, I suspect it was available on LP and 8-track tape. On the cover, I was sitting at a table with a water pitcher and an orange. I was in the picture and it was my project and I’m still not sure of the significance of the orange. As far as the water pitcher goes, well, you know . . . people get thirsty.
I’ve been spending a lot of time, lately, putting stuff on the new waynewatson.com site and the other day, as I’m loading in some old recordings that I uncovered on a recent visit to my Mom’s house, I ran across the song that Sam from China asked about . . .“The Sacrifice.”
So, I sent a copy of the song to Sam and he was overwhelmed. He responded with joyful “Thank Yous” and I thought “well, that’s a nice end to the story.
A few days later, Wednesday before New Year’s, we went to the Texas Bowl game here in Houston. Baylor vs Illinois. My wife’s a Baylor grad and had lots of friends there. I’ve had some Baylor connections over the years myself.
One old friend from way back is a guy named Chris Womack. Chris and I haven’t really stayed in touch as both of us have been busy doing whatever it is we do. But Chris, I recently found out, is married to one of Megan’s Baylor friends. So at the game, we’re wondering if Chris and Susan are at the game. I pulled out trusty iphone and text Chris, “Are you at the game?”
As it’s been a long while since the Baylor Bears graced the stage at a post-season bowl game of any kind, lots of Baylor faithful found their way into Reliant Stadium that day.
“Yes!” he responded. “We’re in section _____.”
We were, literally one set of stairs away from them so we trotted down for a short hello.
I can’t remember the last time I saw Chris. It’s probably been twenty years or so. But this random incident was strange because of the email from China a few days before asking about the song “The Sacrifice.”
I wrote that song with Chris.
I’ve only done co-writes with 4 or 5 people over the course of my 30 year career and Chris was one of the early ones. I remember writing “The Sacrifice” with him at my house in Baton Rouge. I listened to the song again the other night. It was a time when every line, every word meant something. We tried to make it all meaningful, not just fluff our way to a hooky chorus. I still like it.
You never know the impact of what you say, what you do or, in this case, what you write. It might last for decades as this song has. I can’t remember the last time “The Sacrifice” even entered my mind but here in the course of a few days, a guy in China is desperate to hear it, I find it and send it to him and, two days later after two decades have passed, I run into the co-writer.
I don’t know the meaning of things like this. You know? I’m entertained when I listen to the radio and hear a particular word at the very second I’m passing a sign with that same word. I don’t know what that means either.
I don’t know if God just gently nudges somebody in heaven and says “Hey, watch this” or if He just lets the world operate on His path and random things like this happen to give us something to talk about.
Anyhoo….It makes you think. And it makes you Thank.
Yesterday, we went to the Texas Bowl ( I’m sure it was some kind of “fruit or corn chip bowl or something but I just didn’t pay that much attention). My wife ran track at Baylor and my youngest son is a Baylor alum so, I suppose I felt some bit of Green and Gold Bear spirit rise up enough to get me out of the house on a very, ugly, rainy day here in Houston – One of those days that reminds me why God made television sets, fireplaces, and dry socks.
But it wasn’t just the game. The night before, we got together with some of Meg’s friends from school at a favorite Mexican eatery. They had invited us to come along to the Bowl game so, heck, why not? It’ll be fun!
And it was! Great hang and fellowship with friends.
Getting to the seats, well that was another story. But even though we were pretty much soaked (Where is that umbrella?) we enjoyed the chance to do something different during the holidays.
I couple of weeks ago, I’d heard there had already been 55, 000 tickets sold. This was Baylor’s first trip to a bowl game in a long, long time and there are lots of Bear fans in the Houston area. Apparently, a lot of those ticket holders decided to ride it out in a Barcalounger beside the aforementioned fireplace . . .dry socks and all.
On the upside, there were lots of empty seats so we could spread our group out. Ahh….$4 Pretzels, $13 Chicken Tenders.
Now to the game. You know . . . the football game . . . what we came to watch? Remember?
The Baylor team just looked terrible. After the first kickoff return and a series of plays that took the Bears down the field into Fighting Illini territory (Illini? . . . I scoured the sidelines the whole time and nary an Illini was spotted much less a fighting Illini). Then a turnover.The late great Don Meredith could have launched into the Willie Nelson classic “ Turn out the lights, the party’s over . . .”. It looked like the the Illinois coaches were calling the plays for the offense AND the defense!
On the subject of momentum in sports . . .
At this point in my aging process, I’m wary of turning into some “I remember back when . . . “ kind of sourpuss. So anything like I’m about to address gets filtered through process with such questions like “Is it just me or . . . “ or “Am I the only one that thinks something has gone terribly wrong here?” or “Am I crazy or are the players just standing around a lot?”
To me, the absolute worst thing about live sporting events (and I’ve seen a Superbowl, a couple of Monday Night Football games, the NBA and so forth) is the total lack of momentum. Yesterday, on more occasions than I could count, one team would make a great play, the crowd would go wild only to watch a little (heck, from where we were sitting they all looked little!) man in a red jacket walk out to the corner of the field and hold up his hands. Ladies and gentlemen, meet TV-timeout-guy.
The game has been pinned to the turf by television – a helmet to helmet collision leaving the Network standing looking down at Sport who just suffered a life-changing concussion! The television network and crew is not there to capture and present the event. They’re there to control the event, to manipulate it for commercial purposes. It’s less competition than commerce. When you’re home, watching on TV, you hardly notice because of the endless stream of clever commercials that fills the holes. (My fav is the etrade baby . . . how do they get him to talk like that???) But when you’re in the stands, the action stops, the players just stand around waiting for the little red man to spin his arms signaling the restart of play.
Something has gone wrong.
Listening to sports-talk radio in Houston a few months ago, the subject was how difficult it was becoming to get fans to go into the stadium before the kickoff. Seems the ticket holder is reluctant to leave their tailgate setup – many of them complete with oversized flat-screen TVs, sophisticated smokers and gas grills, gourmet meats and fixin’s and beverages bought at the local store, etc.
The first time I remember thinking that the tables were turning in the live sporting event world was at a NFL game in Chicago years ago. The Bears vs the Packers. Classic rivalry. At Soldier Field for crying out loud! It was very clear from the beginning that a lot of the people in the seats were not there to watch the game as much as they were there to (1) Be Seen (2) Be Able to tell friends “I was at the game” or (3) Separate themselves from a serious amount of disposable income or (4)see who could consume the most mead and still walk to the car.
I try not to worry. I know the Bible has lots to say about it. It doesn’t so much tell us the result of worry but in this heavily over-informed culture, we get the word about the effects of worry and stress. But I’m . . . uh . . . concerned about the world of the future. The world that will play host to my grandchildren and beyond. A world where we Tweet but don’t talk much, where we can have 5000 “friends” on Facebook but don’t know the names of the people across the street.
Geez….now I do sound like a sourpuss.
Whatever it takes, take a few swings in 2011 and fight back at the advancing polarizing scoundrels that, in their vicious but subtle ways, chip away at the core of what it means to be loving, caring, concerned, human beings. You can take a swing in love. Sometimes all you have to do is speak up or point out or suggest. God, by His Spirit in us, can provide the insight and the ability to change a few things if I just pay attention. And He can give me the grace to pull it off!
Now, if I could just kill a few more pigs and conquer the next level. Angry Birds! You rock!
Last night, I was invited by the Houston chapter of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) to come and sing at their annual Christmas service.
I have to admit, I was out of my comfort zone but after some of the things that have happened over the last several years, I’ve tried to go through most any door God opens for me. And he keeps opening lots of different kinds of doors .
The Montrose Street Reach meets in a parking lot behind a church off Montrose here in Houston. When I got there, I was aware there were all kinds of people already starting to gather. Some were volunteers there to help with food service and the passing out of gifts. But most in the crowd were homeless from the streets of that part of Houston. There were teenagers and there were senior citizens.
I played several songs for them, then launched into the requisite medley of Christmas carols. When I started to play “O Come Let Us Adore Him” the crowd sang like a choir! And they proceeded to sing at the top of their lungs through every single song. It was spectacular!
There was a rare sweetness in this gathering. I spoke a few quietly thought out words to them, tried my best to be honest (I told them there was no way I could related to most of the things they face every day and if they thought I was going to try and do that, well, it just wasn’t going to happen) and more importantly, tried to be gentle with them and let them know how loved they were.
I really enjoyed the evening and I really enjoy being part of a team effort like this. Lots of people doing . . . something! And each one, using their strengths to carry the message of the Babe in the Manger, grown to be our Savior, Suffering a humiliating public death on a cross, buried and raised to give all of us – wealthy, poor, healthy, sick, ignorant and wise – life that’s abundant and life that’s eternal.
I took a ride toward the northeastern part of Louisiana this past Tuesday. Haven’t been “home” for a while now.
I remember, and really can’t count the times, before he passed, that my dad said, “When ya gonna be able to come home, son?” To which I probably replied more often than not, “Dad, I am home.”
Well, to him, home was where he raised me and my brother…where he collected and treasured his family until, one by one, we left the nest.
I like the windshield time. Always have. The seven hours or so don’t really bother me. It’s filled with familiar sites and landmarks – and trees that are marking the years with their growth; growth unimpeded by the economic climate or which political party holds sway over the nation.
I usually get to my hometown around 4 PM. In time to take mom somewhere to dinner. Even though the choices are a little limited, the location or the fare isn’t really the issue, it’s the company and the talk.
After spending the night at my brother’s house, I took mom to breakfast, had more than a few laughs and then took care of some business for her. Usually, I take off for Houston later on the second day, but this time, I just hung around for a few more hours. “Urgent” takes on a different meaning when you’re aware of age and how quickly things can change without warning.
My dear friend here in Houston had made plans to fly to NYC on Thanksgiving Day with his wife and youngest daughter. His oldest lives in Manhattan and they were going to spend the holiday in the city together. On Monday before Thanksgiving, my friend’s father had a heart attack and on Wednesday, quadruple bypass surgery. The dad is 84. Obviously, all the plans changed. You just never know.
Without being morbid, I have the gentle reminder that our days are numbered. All of us. But as my mom goes on into her mid-eighties, I’m trying to be careful to not allow life’s trivia to distract me from important things. And not just what’s important to me – what’s important to her!
I have great respect for my mom . . . for her strength, for her faith and her unwavering devotion to those she loves.
The picture of her here was taken at my brother’s house on Thanksgiving and I have to say, the look on her face is just remarkable after all she’s been through. She looks like she’s about to jump out of an airplane or something. It makes me smile just to see her so happy.