Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Original “Gandy”

Allow me to share the story about "Gandy", my grandfather.  

He is Robert Henry Roberts, my Mother’s father, who was born in a different century, in the year 1898.  Imagine the drastic changes he experienced during his lifetime: from lamp oil to electricity, from horse, mule, and oxen to automobiles.  My momma has an old photograph of him on his horse all dressed up like a stud…he was once a handsome cuss and I highly suspect had his wild days like most all of us boys had before we had to become men.

He came from a hard time in the Deep South, the very poor still recovering from a war that destroyed our institutions and where thousands died of starvation and many lived in utter poverty.  Think about this: if my grandfather was born in 1898 (he was one of 13 children, one of which died within a year of his birth, a true family tragedy, the grief of which could easily have destroyed his family, but instead it thrived) then his father, being about 35 at the time of my grandfather’s birth, was born right around the end of the War Between the States in 1865.  What his early life was like (my great grandfather), we have no written description, but according to Gandy, he was a school teacher and an upstanding member of the small Vienna, Louisiana, community (5 miles north of Ruston where I hope to be laid to rest one day).

His father, my great, great grandfather, was a doctor trained in Philadelphia and became the first physician in Lincoln Parish, Louisiana.  I tell you this because people today do not value their family heritage as they should – the old ways, taught me as a child to respect and honor all my elders.  It was the strong Scotch-Irish Christian value system of the community that held our war-torn descendants together as families.

 By the time of my Gandy’s 20th birthday every Southerner became a patriot of the United States of America in the cause of WWI.  Of course there are still some so-called southerners today who discredit the cause they claim to defend, but they are the 1% haters of a south that never existed before the war.  Those people were unacceptable to my grandfather’s community, they are not true Southerners. A warm gentle, generous, and hospitable people laid the groundwork of our heritage, not what they teach about us in the history books of today.

Probably because I was young, I completely adored my Gandy.  He was a hunched-up little old man to the world around him, but to me he was my hero of heroes.

He used to greet me exclaiming "there's my grandbaby, I am so proud of you" and would then proceed to tell the whole room "Old Gandy loves all his grandbabies"  He had us four, plus my two Roberts cousins and he loved us all very much.  But somehow, as a child will do, I just knew he loved me more than all his other grandchildren - he just had to - there was NOTHING more that I loved to do than just spend time with him and most often, follow him around his little farm on Farmerville highway. I loved to work all day with him in his gardens (and hoeing a big garden in 100 temperatures is hard work for a child). He had two of the most beautiful gardens in that part of the country. When we spent the night with him and Mammie, I loved to get up at 5:30 on Saturday mornings to feed his chickens and do the chores. When he was gone (he passed on to eternity when I was 18), I just couldn’t see the point of getting up that early and have never been an early riser since. 

One day, he and I were out and about in old downtown Ruston where everybody walked and shopped.  I followed him into the old Ruston Hardware (a wonderful old general store where you could buy everything a man could want or need – I can smell the place even now) and as we were walking down the aisle a large framed black man walked up to my Gandy and they hugged each other’s neck and shared a warm embrace.  I was maybe 6 or 8 years old and remember how it shocked me, not in a bad way, but I was surprised given the racial animosities of the day (this occurred right in the dead middle of the civil rights movement and there was a great tension between the races).  My Gandy stood right there in that aisle and made a point to tell me that this man was his best friend as a child and they had been dear friends ever since.  I am convinced that incident was not a coincidence - it was intentional lesson on my Gandy’s part to demonstrate to me that All Men Are Created Equal and God loves all His creatures, regardless of the color of their skin;  they are all precious in His sight.

Since that day I have tried to live up to that standard, and though there have been times in my life when I allowed my anger toward worldly injustices to stray that path, I seek with my whole heart to show favor to no man, regardless of his race or standing in society.  That old man, my Gandy, taught me that in so many ways and I will forever be grateful.

The point of this essay is to tell you why allowing myself to be called “Gandy” was so difficult and personal for me.  But after spending even just a little time with my first grandbaby, I have “set my hat” to do everything in my very limited ability to be a true “Gandy” to her – in honor of my Gandy, who taught me so much about life through laughter, gentleness, kindness, honor, and integrity.  He did so much for me in only 18 years.  I pray I am half the man.

In Honor of
Robert Henry Roberts
1898 - 1976

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rise Up Oh Men of God

One of my favorite hymns as a young man...such power in the words.

One of my favorite versions also includes Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus, another great hymn of our faith.

May God use these words to strengthen the souls of His people, especially the men of God:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Prayer

A Prayer for the Nation of the United States of America
And For the Saints of the Living and Triune God of Our Fathers
June 26, Year of Our Lord 2015

Forgive me oh Lord,
Oh Holy and Merciful Father,
For I above all men am a guilty sinner against You, A Holy and Just God.
It is only by Your Grace,
It is Only by Your Love,
Shown me through my Lord Jesus Christ
Your beloved Son.
Who was accused, suffered, and died the most miserable death man yet devised;
 A sinless Man,
Your sinless Man who Defeated Death
And sits even now at Your right Mighty Hand.
I was dark in my heart and in rebellion against You,
My work as filthy rags before You.
I lived in lawlessness, an island unto myself,
Calling evil good, and Good evil.
But Praise You, Almighty Father,
He shed His blood for me!
I was the Prodigal, the wandering sheep,
You searched me out, called me to You,
And welcomed me back with open Everlasting Arms.
How Sweet is Your Love in This,
Abba, Father.

My Prayer to You today, O Holy One,
Is to use me as Your witness, saved sinner that I be,
To shine Your Light to all men,
To run and not be weary
Toward the Cross and my Savior.
Strengthen Your saints Through the Work of Your Holy Spirit, Oh Lord,
Through prayer and supplication before You, 
Through Jesus the Son, as our Only Advocate and Friend.
Shield us from the evil power of this world, whom You have sorely defeated,
Through the discipline and study of Thy Word
And through the communion with Your Body, the Church.
Restore in me Oh Lord
A newness of heart that shows Your Love before all men.
To tell of Your infinite Mercy and Grace
Revealed in the sacrifice of Your Only Beloved Son,
That whomsoever would believe in Him
Shall be granted by You: Everlasting Life!
I bring before You now the desire of my heart – please give me Your words.
Have mercy on Your people, Lord,
Bind and Seal us in Your righteous Hand.
Let us speak and live daily, boldly to Your Glory.
Loving all Your children,
Forgiving even our enemies,
Praying for them fervently,
With all sincereness, for their spiritual well-being.
Loving them as You so loved us,
Use us Your humble servants to light the path to Your Son,
To be the salt with great flavor and distinction.
To show mercy and kindness
To All men.
Grant us Your Wisdom
On where You require us to draw a line in the sand of this life,
Humbling ourselves
Before You and all men.
Make us like Christ:
Firm in conviction
Loving so deeply for the souls of Your people,
Calling out for repentance of sin like Your prophets of old,
while living as You taught us to live.
Teach me to teach the Truth, as revealed in the Son, from the highest hills.
Convict our hearts when we fail You, Dear Father.
You are Truth.
You are Life and You alone,
Through Christ alone,
By Grace alone,
Through faith alone,
By Your Word alone.
Turn our nation back to You Oh God of our Fathers,
That we may rejoice in Your Truth until Your Son comes in Glory.
I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, Your Son.

Friday, March 15, 2013


My daughter asked me a while back "What do you believe in?".

It got me thinking - not about what I believe in, but about whether or not it really matters what I believe.  Reality is reality, facts are facts, truth is truth - right?  So if what I believe conflicts with those concrete things, does it really matter what I believe?

Yes, it matters.

We each live in our own reality, a reality that we often make for ourselves or one that those around us make for us.  Think on it: our parents make our reality when we are children, our nation makes our parents reality, our nation's reality is engraved in the history of time, and mankind's reality is created by God. But if our reality is different than God's created one, we are out of sync with true reality and we are out of sync with truth.

We are what we believe, we really are.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Kite

In our youth, life seems to revolve around us through events.  Those events - later, often lost in the shadows of our memories - in so many ways, mold us.  They become a part of who we are, and perhaps more importantly - who we become.  Looking back on them can be of great value to our present and our future, if we search for the deeper lessons found in them.  The lessons are always there, always.

The Kite

The kite itself was quite nondescript - I really don't even remember it having any markings - I think it was red.  It was not like the high tech, acrobatic kites of today.  Even in its day, it would have been considered a simple, ordinary kite - a bossa wood cross covered with crepe paper.  It was probably bought for a quarter at Simpson's store.  Regardless, there was no way this kite was likely to go far, as kites go.

The kite was likely purchased from the proceeds we saved returning old "coke" bottles for the refund - they paid two cents apiece back then - a fortune.  We had no idea we were some of the earliest recyclers.  We just knew if you could find them they were free (and it didn't involve stealing, so it was honest work in our minds) and a single bottle could buy two pieces of bubblegum with a corny cartoon in the wrapper.  For a while the refund-bottle trade was so lucrative with us that we thought we would become wealthy bottle barons.  Sure, there were kids who "cheated" and talked their mom or a neighbor out of their empties, but we looked down on that practice - there was no adventure involved; it was much more respected and glorious to be the explorer of a previously undiscovered throw-away-zone.  You know - places like the Interstate highway median, or along an old dirt road.  

It was the kite's tail that was so different  - distinctly long and heavy - made of a worn out white bed sheet torn into strips and tied together with "granny knots".  I had no idea why such a scrawny kite needed a 10-12 foot tail (I was only ten or so at the time and completely unschooled in aerodynamics), but Charlie kept us tying on more strips, and when Charlie gave orders they were obeyed.  Charlie was probably 14 and he was the street leader, our boss.  

It was a windy day in early spring, 1966 or '67, perhaps.  In those days, small town kids in the South had run of the town - we were kings, on bicycles.  And the obvious place to fly the highest kite was only a mile or so down the road where all the piney woods had been cleared in preparation for building the new Louisiana Tech football stadium, track, and practice fields.  The site was strategic for two reasons: no trees to get tangled in; and high visibility to the general public (after all, what good was the world record kite flight unless everybody witnessed it?).

For such a flight, great lengths of twine were needed – we started with probably three or four balls.  (I am not sure now how much twine is on a ball, but it had to be at least 100 yards – just a guess of course, they probably don’t make cotton twine balls like that anymore).  Naturally, Charlie was the kite pilot, and he commanded a ready crew consisting of me, my older brother, and the two soon-to-be-infamous Causey brothers.  

It took several tries and a lot of running to get her into the air – that tail was a real problem, it was just so heavy.  But the wind was strong and steady, and giving up was not an option.  With firm and knowledgeable commands from our captain we ran our lungs out and finally set her soaring.

For a long while, Charlie remained at the helm, not allowing any of us little kids to control her.  At first he worked at it - letting her reel off line when the wind pulled, pulling back when there was too much slack, preventing a lethal dive.  It wasn't long before that little kite was flying high over the open field - and Charlie started screaming: "More string"!  Frankly, I do not remember where we got it, but somehow we put our hands on several more balls of twine.  Enough so that little kite was flying more than several hundred feet high and well past the Illinois Central railroad track which was at least a quarter mile away.  And more twine was on the way as bike wheels churned.

At some point I guess Charlie bored of holding her, because we all eventually got a chance to fly her.  When my turn came I was ready.  Even now, I can still feel the power and tremendous responsibility of holding on to that little kite.  It was like being at the helm of a great sailing ship blowing on the sea - tugging, swaying, yearning to break free - with only me to hold her steady from certain doom.

Eventually, we could not even really see her - but an occasional glint from the sun and pull on the string confirmed she was still rising.  We should have been in awe of the kite, but being boys, we were more in awe of ourselves - proud of our accomplishment of flying a kite higher than anybody had ever flown one (it must have been some kind of world record, we supposed).  At some point, we became numbed of the feat and did not know what to do with her, so we just held on because there was nothing else to do.

Then it happened, with no warning, and little fanfare: somewhere along that long length of cheap cotton twine a break occurred - the line just went slack.  We lost sight of her quickly, as though she dissolved into the sky, never to be seen again.  There was brief discussion of going to find her, but the afternoon was waning so we mounted for home. Great stories of the feat were told upon our return, but only for a day or two - we had bigger adventures to attend, summer was coming.

I think back on that little kite and wonder:  How did she fly so high and not rip apart at those altitudes?  Where did her tether break, and why?  Where did she land and what became of her?

Some things I know for certain now.  That fragile little kite did not rip apart because of that ridiculously long and heavy tail - that was her anchor against the strong winds at high altitude.  What made her so difficult to become airborne also gave her the stability to remain in tact, and to fly higher.  Surviving turbulence requires a long, heavy tail - an anchor that steadies.  Life can be full of turbulence - broken relationships, sickness, financial collapse, loss of a loved one, inner turmoil, depression, personal disappointments, etc. etc.  To survive the turbulence of life in spiritual wholeness, we need a heavy anchor.  To fly higher in life we need a long tail -  one that will take us higher than we can imagine going.  Anchors and tails should be tied with "granny knots".  (Every Boy Scout knows that granny knots are difficult to untie, which is why the "square knot" is preferred for most uses).  May we anchor our lives, and those of our children, in Heaven, tied with the granny knot of Faith.

I also know this: it was not the wind that broke the little kite's string, it was the cumulative weight of all those balls of twine.  It was her own bondage that kept her from being free, and in the end it was the weight of that bond, broken, that released her.  How often we are bound by our own self-made tethers in life.  We spend years, sadly some even lifetimes, weaving the cords of our own bondage - chains of habits and sin that keep us from being free.  My prayer is that the weight of those bonds will cause breakage and bring freedom.  Whatever it is that brings bondage to your life, break it.  John 8:36.

I do not know the answer to my final question - there is no way for me to know where that kite landed, or even the journey she took to get there.  Perhaps that is the greatest lesson to be learned: we cannot know all the answers.  If I knew where I were to land in life, I might not choose to take the journey.  And if I do not take the journey, I miss the adventure.

Kites are amazing things.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Caught in the Middle

I am a middle child.  Actually, I am one of two "middle" children in a family of four kids.

To my older brother and "baby" sister: please know that I love you both, more than I am able to describe - you are both so different, and remarkable people that have shaped my life in so many ways.  You are well worthy to be looked to as wonderful examples of God's heavenly presence in the family here on earth.  I am honored and humbled to be your brother.

To my fellow "middle" colleague: You are a treasure, you have always been a treasure.  Maybe we share some of these thoughts.  Our lives are all voices - your voice is sweetness to my ears.  I hope you know that.

To all my other readers:

Please do not be put off by the style of this expository essay; it is written in the form of random thoughts and feelings.  Regardless of whether you are a "Middle" or not, you may learn something about yourself or someone whom you love in this post - at least that is my prayer.  And be patient, it is long.  Strangely, this piece was written for a friend and was not designed specifically for me, my brother, or sisters - but I hope they read it, and in so doing, sound the depths of my devotion for each of them.

Caught in the Middle

I have no remembrance of ever being a child alone - he was always there, first.  Since he came before me, I would never know what his young life was like before I arrived, I just know he existed on earth before me.  I can really only remember him from the age of five or six, and he was seven or eight years old by then.  I do not remember him being a nice fellow either - surely he resented me intruding in his singular love affair with Mom and Dad. How could he not?  Perhaps he was unhappy with himself or his life, or more likely, I was simply an easy and most appropriate target at which to aim his frustrations - regardless, it was only a temporary madness.  And I was occasionally the cause of my own pain, perhaps more often than not.  No regret or forgiveness is necessary between us now.

Firstborn are always prized, as they should be.  But taxes are due on receipt of great prizes - and strange as it may seem, the Firstborn must pay them.  Yet that seems just to me: with great blessings comes great responsibilities - responsibilities require toilsome times.  The gift of being Firstborn is not a free gift.  Few are found worthy of Firstborn status - he is one of those few.  How could I resent that?  How dare I not be grateful for it?  How foolish would it be for me not to look to him for leadership?

It has taken many years to learn the truth.  Looking up to him does not diminish me.  Valuing him does not make me less worthy.  In fact, as his wealth in wisdom grows, so grows mine also.  Has He not designed it so that the example of a Godly man inspires those around him?  It is rightfully so.  Yet I am heedfully reminded - he is a man nonetheless, defiled by imperfection, just as I.

The first I knew of her was that her spirit was sweeter than blooming honeysuckle on a warm and southern spring day.  Yet delicate, and like the primrose, often blooming only in the night - unseen by many, except by those of us watching.  For so many reasons, the world does not deserve such delicate beauty of the heart.  Harsh touches hurt deeply - petals dulled.  But true beauty, like gold, is not dimmed with time.  In fact, when gold is fired, it becomes more pure.  She has always been my friend.  She has always loved me.  She has always been loved.  But she has not, perhaps, always felt loved.

She and I communicate in deeper places, where words do not exist and are never heard - not because words are not of great value, but because they are unnecessary in those places.  She is my "middle" - the body's core of strength lies in the middle.  She would be greatly surprised to think of herself as strength, but she shouldn't be.  She is special, and not to me only.  Her name means "grace" or "favour" - I am graced with great favor to have her.

It took her many years to be heard above the din of her reputation - spoiled youngest child.  She is the only one I remember being born, remember Mom bringing home in a bundle.  She was a bundle, and now, in more mature ways she remains a bundle.  She is no longer "the baby", hasn't been for years, but she did mostly receive benefit of the doubt when she was young.  The rest sometimes resented her for that - we just did not know, we could not have known, could we?  When God touches a heart, He sets it on a path of true change.  This is to us His grandest gift, for no man, woman, or child alone can change another's heart, only God in his infinite grace can do that.

For many years now, she has unknowingly served as my touchstone - where I turn to seek renewal of my "better angels".  In her youth she was a talker, she could keep up with the best of them.  Now she speaks less, observes more, and sees with knowing eyes.  Life for her has taken dramatic turns, some would say tragic ones.  But she withstands the endless torrential storm of life, and with great dignity.  Who knew this "spoiled" little girl would be the one able to withstand the violence of the storm?  God knew - he picked her. The great King David of old was one of those "spoiled" youngest children.  God picked him too.

Sometimes I feel caught in the middle, invisible and surrounded by "greatness" - who wouldn't, with these people in my life?  Attempting to live up to others' expectations has always been one of my weaknesses.  In my ego, I always wanted to make them proud of me - to recognize and celebrate that I grew up to do something special too.  I asked wrong questions: what have I done, what have I accomplished that makes me worthy to be part of this family?  Why can't I be more like them - stronger, a better leader, more disciplined, more skilled, more successful, more confident of myself?  Why does my path seem less worthy?  Wrong questions, wrong assumptions.   What I was searching for was love of the purest kind.  Pride is not love - let me say that another way - Pride is not the same as love.  Pure love can exist without pride - God deemed it so.  Spoken from a father's perspective, I would add this:  I am proud of all my children, but not always proud of decisions they have made, actions they have taken, or the way they have acted.  I am proud of them because they are the fruit of my loins, because they are my children.  Nothing more.  Certainly they are all special and unique, certainly they have accomplished good things and take great pride in them, and certainly I enjoy their presence.  But none of that is essential to my loving them.  Further, their immaturity and bad decisions have disappointed me at times, yet I love them no less because of it.  Such is God's love for His children, but infinitely more pure.

I think I have learned to stop trying to live up to other's expectation of me, but it is a daily battle for most of us.  Freedom awaits those who can accomplish this feat.  Freedom to live without jealousies, without regret, without fear of disappointing others.  Love smothers fear - it literally suffocates it.  Perfect love strangles fear completely - never to rise again.  Perfect love is offered us - let us accept it through His Son.  Like a loving father, nothing further is required of me to gain His perfect love, only this: to become His child.  You must be born into His family - if you are, pride and fear vanish - all that is left is the warmth of His touch.

Life is not a Hollywood movie, it is not a Broadway play, it is not a bestselling novel.  Life is more of a history book, full of stories of great victories and bitter defeats.  Do not allow another to write your history book, take it with confidence as your own -confidence born from being an equal member of the greatest family.

I like being in the "middle" - it's a good place to be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Dad


This is a very personal post that I hesitated to share with you, but after praying on it I have decided that it should be posted for posterity sake.  My purpose of this blog is: 1) to share my heart with others in a hope that it may touch another; and 2) to give a gift to my children and grandchildren (some day, I hope) - the gift of sharing some of my thoughts and stories.  Sharing about my Dad's influence on my life seems to meet both objectives.  In addition, and just as importantly, I write this for my Dad.  Often (and for me), we do not or cannot verbalize certain things in our hearts - that is not necessarily a bad thing, unless we fail to find a way to express them.  For many reasons, I can express the deepest of those feelings only in my writing.

My Dad

I have never experienced a single day in my life, not even a single minute, without my Dad being a huge part of my life.  Easily, and without any doubt or hesitation, I can state for the record that my Dad has been the single greatest male influence in my life.  Understand this about me (in case you have not been paying attention at all) - I adored my grandfathers and my father-in-law, they were outstanding mentors and companions.  (Yes, companions - that's what grandfathers have the luxury and joy of doing).  But their influence on who I am as a man is dwarfed by my Dad's.

Think on it - how few of my generation and youngsters today have or will have the blessing of being able to make the statements above?  Praise God from Whom all blessing flow. Yet in stating it, I am humbled beyond description, for Dad has set the bar high.

I am 54 years of age, and I still ask my Dad for advice, and even more - I still go to my Dad for encouragement.  Let me restate and explain: I still go to my Dad for encouragement - he is 81 years old today and has not been in good health for a number of years now.  In fact, it is fair to say that my Dad has been afflicted with some very difficult and sometimes very painful ailments for several years now.  He has even lost his eyesight for a time.  I cannot even imagine what that must be like.  Something seems amiss in this - I am blessed with good health for now; should not my Dad be coming to Me for encouragement?  Like I said, he has set a high standard.

My Dad is not perfect.  But that is perfectly acceptable - only our heavenly Father is the Perfect Father.  There have been times when my Dad angered me, there have been times when he embarrassed me - but there has never been a time when my Dad disappointed me.  He has always been there for me, no matter what my need.  Even when I didn't, or thought that I didn't, need him, I always knew he was there for me.  Always, every day of my life.

My Dad will not be with me in the flesh one day - I know that and I dread the deep loneliness of it.  But this also I know: my Dad will still be there for me, always, every day, until I pass into our Father's Kingdom to be with him again.

But Dad would not want me talking of this - he would tell me that we must live every day seeking God's will for our lives and not waste a single day in worry or fear.  He would not approve of me praising him either - in his wisdom, he would tell me that I should focus on praising my heavenly Father.  He would be correct, of course, but I believe I am backed up by scripture on this one, Pops: "Honor Thy Father and Mother..."

I have not always honored my Father, and for that I am truly repentant.

I honor you, Dad.  I love you.