Friday, June 25, 2021

Anniversary Present

38 years ago today at 7:20 AM, Caroline and I were making final preparations for our wedding ceremony.  The night before, our families had gathered at the Rankin House in Columbus, GA to celebrate a successful wedding rehearsal.  My dad was the host, and I remember him saying, "Tonight, we will be having desert Russian-style - Wanavich" (one of each) - maybe the first dad-joke I can remember.  At the wedding, I remember Rick McNight, the organist, playing the most triumphant "Here comes the bride" that I had ever heard, and seeing Caroline at the end of the aisle brought tears to my eyes.  The ceremony proceeded as planned, with the reception following in the church fellowship hall.  We made our way to Atlanta to spend the night before flying to Nassau for our honeymoon.  The rest, shall we say, is history.  Today, at 7:26AM, we wait in anticipation for our daughter, Lizzy, to bring our 7th grandchild into the world.  We aren't allowed inside the hospital today, but we are on alert and plan to meet her on Sunday.  God has blessed us tremendously, and today, I think Him for bringing Caroline into my life.  Happy Anniversary, Caroline.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Son's tribute

This week is Father's Day.  I hope I get celebrated and have a chance to celebrate my son and son-in-law.  My dad died 18 years ago.  I miss him.  I can't think of a better tribute than to post what I said at his memorial service.  I hope you have a chance to celebrate some dads this Sunday.

One of my first memories of my dad was when he took me to try out for a stage production of the Music Man at the Springer Theatre in Columbus.  He was cast as Ali Hakim and I as Winthrop, the 10-year old with a lisp.  I had no idea at the time how that day would shape my life by initiating my love for the performing arts.  One of my favorite photographs is of me and my dad after our last performance.  I remember the pride of standing there with him after the show greeting family and friends who had seen the performance.  My father wanted to be with me.


In the play, I was supposed to play the trumpet.  I remember the anticipation of getting the instrument that would serve as my prop for the play, just as the character, Winthrop, anticipated the arrival of the Wells Fargo Wagon in River City.  It was then that I decided I would really learn to play the trumpet when I got into the sixth grade and it was in sixth grade that I made eyes at the flute player, sitting across the band room, who 10 years later became my wife.  I remember the joy I felt standing at the front of St. Paul Methodist Church, as the doors opened and Rick McKnight began playing the most triumphant version of the Wedding march that you have ever heard as Caroline walked the aisle. Dad was my best man.


My father wanted to be with me.


Shortly thereafter, very shortly thereafter, I remember the joy of seeing Dad holding our newborn Michael in his arms and three years later, Elizabeth. 


My father wanted to be with me.


Another place I remember Dad taking me when I was young was to First Presbyterian Church.  I don’t want to paint a picture of the whole family sitting together listening attentively and singing joyfully.  I’m sure Mom and Dad were, but I was in the balcony throwing paper airplanes over the rail.  I don’t remember it being a particularly spiritual experience.  However, while at First Pres., I became close to the youth pastor, Eli Whiddon, who took us every year to Camp Kolomoki in South Georgia for a week each summer.  It was on one of those trips that I accepted Jesus as my lord and savior.  I was far from being an angel, but at that moment, I was a child of God.


6 years ago, my son, Michael found a new church for our family and Caroline and I had the opportunity to bring music back into our life.  All of us became involved in the church orchestra and two years ago, I was responsible for a patriotic music program that required quite a bit of planning.  I remember keeping Mom and Dad posted on the plans hoping that they would attend and feeling disappointed that they hadn’t committed to being there.  10 minutes before the performance began, Caroline called me to the lobby of the sanctuary as I was trying to make last minute preparations and there stood Mom and Dad.  They had worked with Caroline to surprise me. 


My father wanted to be with me.


Another memory I have of my dad was something he said every day to my Mom.  Before he would leave for work, he would say “Pat, is there anything I can do for you today?”  I never remember her having anything for him,  - and I remember being surprised that he continued to ask her the question even though she never had anything for him to do.  She had already taken care of everything.  However, his example of putting her first created a model for my marriage which I strive for, but fall short of every day.  But despite my failure, I am able to say that I know I will love Caroline forever.


Over the past six weeks, Dad and I talked about things that we had never talked about before.  We held hands for hours at a time.  The love that I felt pouring from him was most certainly a gift from God.  I can still see the look of excitement on his face as we arrived to spend time with him. 


My father wanted to be with me.


Last Tuesday I was with a group of friends and I shared with them the experience that I had been through with Dad.  One of the guys approached me after the meeting and told me how much he appreciated what I had said, and told me that it had encouraged him to start a conversation with a loved one that he had been putting off.  I asked if it was his Mom or his Dad, and he told me, “Its not my mom or dad, its my wife”.  It was then that I understood more fully the power of the holy spirit that is within each person who knows Christ as the Son of God.


My father wants to be with me, and I with him.


While my words today are very personal, they are not original.  They have been laid out for all of us for thousands of years.

Happy Father's Day

Friday, June 11, 2021


Abraham is instructed by God to present his only son, Isaac, as a living sacrifice to demonstrate Abraham's obedience.  Abraham tells Isaac that they are going to Moriah to make a sacrifice, carrying the wood for the fire along with them.  Isaac asks, "I see the wood for the fire, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice."  Abraham answered, "God will provide that."  When they arrived at Moriah, Abraham bound Isaac and laid him on the altar."  An angel of the Lord called out to Abraham, "Do not lay a hand on that boy.  Now that I see you wouldn't withhold your only son, I know that you fear God."  Abraham called the place Jehovah-Jireh which means "On the mountain of the Lord it shall be provided".   Abraham's near sacrifice of his only son foreshadows God's sacrifice of His only son, Jesus.  The name Jehovah-Jireh is used for God to remind us that He will provide all we need and more than we can imagine.  Take 10 minutes and join Elevation Worship for their declaration of this amazing promise from God.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Performance Identity

This week, Naomi Osaka, the number 2 women's tennis player in the world, withdrew from the French Open Tennis Tournament due to concerns with her mental health.  She had announced earlier that she would not be participating in post-match player interviews, which are mandatory when participating in the tournament.  Initially, she was fined for taking that position, but when the story erupted in the press, she elected to withdraw altogether.   The pressure that came along with the pointed questions from the press was too much for her to handle.  My heart hurts for her.  Her fierce competitive nature on the court contrasts sharply with her quiet demeanor off-court.  I can only imagine that an athlete performing at that level may feel that her whole person is defined by her results on the court.  I don't know how prevalent this is with other athletes, but Baylor University thought it was important enough to establish the Faith and Sports Institute.  The institute is a team of coaches, athletes, chaplains and scholars who provide education and formative practices for Christian leaders in sports.  Click here for a short video introduction and more information.  A little closer to home, I have been thinking about how I can help our grandkids in sports not feel trapped by a performance identity.  I want to encourage them to participate in sports, and encourage them to excellence, but every step of the way, remind them that their identity is not defined by their performance on the field.  It is defined by the love from their family and the love God has for each one of them, and when the time is right, by their personal decision to be adopted into the family of Christ.