Tag Archives: Southern Baptist

A lifetime of New Year’s Eve deja vu

Half-way through December, when it came time for me to resume my NaNoWriMo novel, to catch up on roughly 873 unread emails and blogs that I follow, and to breathe new, consistent life into Jackson’s Journal, I had a high-level meeting with myself and decided to extend my “down” time another 16 days.

Enough. I’m breaking the huddle, getting back in the game, shaking the dust off any other cliches that refer to getting the rust out of my routine. I’m pumped. In fact, I’m going to blog every single day of 2013. Or not.

First, I’m taking stock of the greatest blessing of my life. My bride (Kelly) and I did some calculating tonight and determined that since 1974, we’ve been together every single New Year’s Eve except one. Folks, that’s 38 NY Eves.


I love the story of Dec. 31, 1974. Kelly and her family and 36 other people — 41 in all — were at the green duplex in Belle, Mo., at Eighth and Shockley, a place that I prefer to remember as “Little Fenway,” on account of the house was the left field fence for the greatest Wiffle ball field ever known.

But it wasn’t wintertime Wiffle ball that drew a crowd.

It was a fish fry.

Dad was the pastor of the fledgling Faith Baptist Church, and as best I can remember, the evening started with a fine Southern Baptist tradition, the New Year’s Eve Watch-Night Service. Or maybe the evening didn’t start at the church, which was located in the former but brown recluse spider-infested Dahms Hardware Store in Main Street/Alvarado Avenue/Highway 28 in downtown Belle.

My Little Black Book of Great Adventures — aka, my childhood diary — recounts the important details, including the reference to brown recluse spider-infestation, but also the party in the house at Little Fenway. At one point earlier in the evening, someone — either my dad, Robert Thompson or Clifford McDaniel — had a wild-hair idea about having a fish fry. Robert had a freezer full of gigged Gasconade River fish and Clifford possessed the world’s all-time greatest hush puppy recipe. (It might have been the other way around; the Little Black Book of Great Adventures doesn’t provide clarification).

Someone brought a massive iron kettle and a grand fire was sparked on the bare spot normally reserved for second base. There was fish, hush puppies, drinks (absolutely non-intoxicating beverages, of course), pie, slaw, and, for the younger set, an unofficial yet also traditional activity of Southern Baptist teens and pre-teens: spin-the-bottle. (Not sure if it was this event or a future gathering where the spin-the-bottle experience came to an abrupt end when the bottle pointed to me and my sister, Kathy).

At the height of the NY Eve Fish Fry of ’74, we had 55 people in our house. At one point I retreated to my room — a chemistry lab and railroad-killed mammal dissection facility — to jot down my thoughts. I refer now to the Little Black Book of Great Adventures:

“It is 10:40 PM, Dec. 31, 1974. New Year’s Eve. It was a good year to me and I especially wan to thank God for leading me to a good year in science. He led me to all my specimens and stuff.” (Ed. note: living less than 100 feet from the Rock Island rail line also provided me an ample supply of biological diversity).

More about the year, recapping my thanks to my parents for letting me collect so much “stuff” and thanking my friends for helping me collec the “stuff.” (Ed. note: we had most of an entire but unassembled adult deer skeleton hauled into my room/lab before my mom drew a line on the amount of “stuff” I could have in my room/lab).

Finally, this:

“I joined a taxidermy school and I have come to a greater scientific knowledge. I am going out now to join the rest of the party. There are still 41 people hear at our house.” (Ed. note: Correctly spelled “knowledge,” but misspelled “hear.”)

Now let me fast-forward three years to New Year’s Eve 1977, back in the green duplex at Eighth and Shockley after moving back from Jefferson City, where I spent THE loneliest, saddest year of my life the previous year. My year-end recap included, “In mid-October, my parents got a divorce” and my sister, Sharon, visiting from Japan where she and bro-in-law Navy man Michael were stationed, had lost her babies (twin boys). And then this: “I am very much in love with Kelly Drewel, who I’ve been going with for 13 months.”

Finally, follow me back to (or is it “forward to?”) NY Eve 2012, where I’m making the resolution to finish the novels “Dixieland” and “Chasing the Devil” in 2013, with at least one of them published by year’s end.

And then I laugh as I glance again at the Little Black Book of Great Adventures and find this:

“Lately, I’ve been writing quite a bit. In the past I’ve started a few books that I never have finished, and I’ve got several ideas for books, stories and songs. I have written about 25 stories, 15 songs and started about 5 books. It takes time to write, so I think I’ll put aside more time to write.”

And then I listed some belated resolutions for getting that done: limit television; get my homework done at school; stick with something.

The date: Feb. 8, 1978.

The more things change …

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, National Novel Writing Month 2012, Nature & Animals, Old Time Religion, WIPs

Touched by an angel

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

I was once touched by an angel. It was June 11, 2004.

Did I lose you there? Let me back up a bit.

Some might say that I take the biggest risk of the week on Wednesday with Jackson’s Journal. I’m aware that Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting doesn’t appeal to everyone, although I usually do keep it “safe” with mostly nostalgic reminisces of my youth. Today will be different — much “heavier,” spiritually speaking. No tongue-in-cheek, eye-rolling descriptions of the parts of my faith journey that I now cling to.

Last Wednesday’s post, “Mountain-top moments,” was written with today’s post in mind. I’ve had mountain-top spiritual moments. And whatever the opposite of that is … I’ve been there, too. Back in March 2004 as I battled a period of extreme spiritual darkness, a friend suggested a very odd thing: Write myself a letter from God.

And so I sat on a chilly, wind-blown hill in the middle of nowhere, just minutes before sunset, with pen and paper in hand. What would God say to me?

“I love you.

You are My child.

Just let Me love you.

Nothing is too big for Me.

Just let Me love you.

You are My child.

I love you.”

I wrote those words as effortlessly as anything I’d ever written, as if moved by a force ‑ a presence ‑ much greater than myself. I shared that letter with no one.

Three months later, June 11, 2004, I was at the Crossover Christian Musical Festival at StoneRidge Amphitheater in Camdenton. With Sonic Flood singing “Here I Am to Worship,” scores of people transformed the front of the stage into an altar. The music continued, prayers were uttered, tears fell. But I felt like the only one hearing the song, with a silent, slow-motion sea of people around me.

And then someone touched my left shoulder.

I glanced behind me to see a young, short but stocky, 20-something man. His hand squeezed my shoulder. My ears were just inches from a booming speaker, yet the man’s soft, gentle voice was clear.

“I have a word from the Lord,” he said.

He spoke:

“I love you.

You are My child.

Just let Me love you.

Nothing is too big for Me.

Just let Me love you.

You are My child.

I love you.”

His hand slipped off my shoulder and I immediately turned around.

He was gone.

Take my hand now as we form a circle of grace. We’ll linger here a bit, overwhelmed by grace, as we listen to Here I Am to Worship. With apologies to Sonic Flood, this is Hillsong and Darlene Zschech performing.

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Filed under Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

Mountain-top moments

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Are you sitting down? You might want to.

I’ll wait.

I’m actually an ordained Southern Baptist minister.

I’ll wait for you to pick yourself up off the floor. I told you it might be best to sit for that news.

Although I haven’t “practiced” my pulpit skills for more than 10 years now, I do try to practice my faith in home, work and play, because that’s who I am even though I no longer tread the pastoral waters.

I’ve been wondering what the 2012 Jodie would say to the 2001 fire-and-brimstone Jodie. Probably something like, “Wow, you talked a lot about grace. Ever try showing any?”

My sister, Kathy, and I “played house” when we were little tykes, and I’ve used that experience as an analogy when I’ve seen city councils, school boards and other official entities just kind of go through the motions when it’s painfully obvious they’re clueless. I’ve seen numerous public bodies “play” board of aldermen or board of education or even State Senate and House of Representatives.

And not only have I witnessed people “play church,” I’ve perfected that charade myself. I know what it is to go through the motions, to sing the hymns, to say the prayers, to give the right answers to Bible study questions and to give the appearance of a fine little Christian Baptist. I learned by example. My first pastor — my father — taught me the importance of image.

On the other hand, I’ve been to the mountain top, spiritually speaking. I’ve personally learned and experienced the reality — not just the doctrine — of grace, and I think I know when my beliefs and faith are real and when they are just empty motions and emotions.

I’ve had some Hank Busche moments. Hank is the fictional pastor of the Ashton Community Church, a seemingly insignificant and divided group of believers at the epicenter of Frank Peretti’s 1986  novel, “This Present Darkness.” The book begins with two very tall visitors — both seven feet tall — entering the town of Ashton. Eventually they come to the church where Pastor Busche is kneeling in prayer. Alone.

It’s quickly evident that the visitors are angels and the description of sulfur-breathing, demonic beasts unsuccessfully trying to enter the church is vivid and inspiring. The two visitors enter, locate Hank Busche and watch and listen to his heart-rending prayer. As they stand over the kneeling prayer warrior, the room fills with white light that reveals floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall angels, while sentries with flaming swords stood outside.

From “This Present Darkness”

“And now the two men were brilliantly white, their former clothing transfigured by garments that seemed to burn with intensity. Their faces were bronzed and glowing, their eyes shone like fire, and each man wore a glistening golden belt from which hung a flashing sword. They placed their hands upon the shoulders of the young man and then, like a gracefully spreading canopy, silken, shimmering, nearly transparent membranes began to unfurl from their backs and shoulders and rise to meet and overlap above their heads, gently undulating in a spiritual wind.

Together they ministered peace to their young charge, and his many tears began to subside.”

I love the picture those words paint. The story is fiction, but the description of angels comforting and protecting a prayer warrior is one I’m sure I would have witnessed many times throughout my life had my eyes been able to see the spiritual, angelic realm. Over time I’ll tell you about some of the prayer warriors I’ve known and some that I’ve created, including Edna Mae Ferguson, the spiritual matriarch of Faithful Servants Assembly. It’s the little church in my fictional town of Silverdale, Kentucky, the setting for Chasing The Devil. With apologies to Peretti, Devil shares a few similarities with This Present Darkness, although the angels are unseen.

Now, let’s do this right, and end with a couple of songs.

Victory In Jesus  a la Gaither Homecoming crowd. I gotta tell you, I love classic rock, I love anything a cappella, and I love 70s and 80s pop (apparently I stopped listening to “modern” music around 1988). But THIS is my kind of music. Try not to be put off by the sheer “whiteness” of the Gaither crowd and if watching Bill Gaither sing makes you chuckle (although I don’t think he’s in this video), keep this in mind: if you’ve ever been part of a group (writers, singers, cupcake-bakers, whatever) and knew everyone else was far more talented, but you loved it anyway, well … that’s sort of Bill Gaither. It’s kind of like being on the B team and suddenly the A team asks you to suit up.

I’m a Bill Gaither fan, what can I say? Besides, he’s written some of the all-time classics.

And now a sacred rendition of the sacred classic, Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone),  live performance by Chris Tomlin. (Make sure your volume is turned up).


Filed under Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

Countdown to Kianna

We’re at 32 days and counting.

Grandparent-hood is just around the corner when Kianna Allene Brown finally matches faces with those voices that have been coddling and connecting with her the last several months. Despite the sleepless nights ahead and the overwhelming worry that comes with that first fever or rash, I’m sure Kianna’s mommy, Kishia — our first-born — will be MUCH more comfortable when she can also finally see her first baby’s face. I get all sloppy emotional just thinking about that first eye-to-eye contact.

It won’t be long, Kishia. Hang in there. Darnell, that cuddle with Kianna will be even more amazing that you’re now imagining.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna, #6:

Hard as I try, sometimes I just can’t think of something profound to say. After all, I think about you 23 hours and 59 minutes a day. (I do have to work and sleep some). I once heard a pastor tell a man that the best way to be a father was to love his children’s mother, and that the best way for a woman to be a mother was to love her husband.

Not sure if that will make sense to you anytime soon, but what it means is you’ve got incredible parents.

Wednesday night “prayer meeting”

I get a lot of mileage out of joking about Southern Baptist life, about the white-and-homogenous character of the churches I grew up in, and about some of the traditions and customs of growing up as a preacher’s kid.

I’m sure I went literally kicking and screaming at times, but I didn’t miss many services when I was growing up. There was Sunday morning Sunday School and then the worship service, and another dose Sunday evening with what we called Training Union (it was Sunday night Sunday School, except people wore blue jeans and neckties were rare), followed by Sunday night service. I’m not sure where and how the tradition of Wednesday night Prayer Meeting got started, but the mid-week service was more optional than the others.

Somewhere along the way I’ll explain what I loved about the Sunday night and mid-week prayer meeting services. Prayer meeting was what it sounds like. There was lots of praying. Wednesday night was the only time there was a “season of prayer,” where everyone who wanted to took a turn. Wednesday night attendance was sparse, but it was kind of like the varsity members of the church.

I’m going to revisit Wednesday night prayer meeting right here on Wednesdays, so I hope I don’t lose those of you who follow this blog religiously. (Pun intended).

One of the best memories of Sunday night and Wednesday night services was the music. Someone would break out the old Broadman hymnals and maybe the singing was a cappella. And sometimes, when I reached my teens years, I got to lead the singing. To this day I love old hymns as much as I love barbecue ribs.

Here’s an oldie, followed by a contemporary praise song. Click and sing along if you’d like. And let me know which hymns/songs you’d like to see me post.

“He Leadeth Me,” sung by The Martins. If the key change at 2:25 doesn’t give you goose bumps, you’re not paying attention.


“Breathe,” from a live performance by Michael W. Smith.


If you get the urge, feel free to raise your hands in worship. Some Baptists do that nowadays. I do it. But if you did that back in the day during a Wednesday night prayer meeting, you’d probably get mentioned often during that “season of prayer.”

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Filed under Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

Countdown to Kianna!

Announcing ‘Baby Watch’

It’s official: “Baby Watch” is now under way or, as we’ll call it from here on, “Countdown to Kianna.”

Granddaughter Kianna Allene Brown is due in 38 days. If only Kishia’s doctor visit had been two days ago, then it would have been the Top 40 countdown. As a former preacher, I’d could really do a lot with that number 40. Forty days and 40 nights. Forty days of rain. Forty years of munching on manna. Forty days in the wilderness.

Yep, I was once a preacher.

That’s okay.

I’ll wait for you to get up off the floor.

Ready now?

We’re starting the “Countdown to Kianna” at Day 38 as a result of Kishia’s OB/GYN visit today. I got this text: “Doctor appointment was fine. Go back in two weeks.” Yaddi yadda, something about cervix, yaddi yadda, something about head position, ultrasound in two weeks,  and “not overly concerned with my symptoms,” and then this: “but doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to go ahead and pack the bag.”


And then I noticed I was getting all teary-eyed right there at the counter at the Grindstone HyVee Pharmacy. The pharmacy tech asked if I was OK, and I told her I was about to be a grandpa. I sort of sob-spoke it.

“Oh, that’s exciting,” she said, obviously aware that I had just gotten a text. “Is the baby on the way?”

“Yes,” I said, nodding and wiping away the inexplicable tears. “In about five weeks.”

Message #2 to Kianna …

I spent the first 40-plus years of my life missing the blessing of meeting and knowing peoples’ hearts because I had learned they were “icky”: Too fat, too gay, too tattooed, too poor, too not Southern Baptist, too liberal (means the same as “too not Southern Baptist”), too broken from addictions and pain, too uneducated, too off-key – simply too different from me.

It took your Grammy (that’s Mrs. Grandpa) almost all of 30 years to help me put away those labels.

My wish for you is to learn to embrace all the differences you’ll encounter and to appreciate the strengths in everyone, but to not be pulled down by their weaknesses. I heard a very smart man named Zig Ziglar once say that the key to loving everybody is to understand how everybody is superior to us in some way. Kinda deep stuff there, but I know you’ll be raised in such a way that by the time you understand what I just wrote, you’ll already know it.

Little Kianna, I can’t wait to see you! And I can’t wait for you to meet Mrs. Grandpa. She’s awesome. And I’ll let you know now that it’s okay if Mrs. Grandpa is your favorite … ‘cause she’s my favorite, too.

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Filed under Kianna Allene Brown

It was a great day to build a piano

Origami piano, from Baptist Hymnal, hymn 324, "We Would See Jesus." Saturday's paper-folding experiment. When I asked for origami instruction books for Christmas, I wasn't kidding.

And now for the rest of my 42 new year’s resolutions. (Parentheses mean it’s a repeat from 2011):
#23. Think. Filter. Speak.
#24. Sell 2 freelance articles. (This was No. 17 in 2011. I sold one).
#25. Avoid cliches, but keep thinking outside the box.
#26. Meet and interview a Holocaust survivor. (Related to #4, “Finish my novel ‘Gone’ “).
#27. Have 1,00o Twitter followers by year’s end. (350 to go).
#28. Take Kishia on a date. (30)
#29. Take Natasha on a date. (31)
#30. Take Darnell to a movie. (32)
#31. Give Kelly a monthly date night. Preferably with me, of course.
#32. See a bobcat in the wild. (34)
#33. Call Kishia once a week. With an option for a frequency less than “annoying.”
#34. Call Natasha once a week. See option listed above.
#35. Host a backyard campout for my buddies Bryson and Bryant.
#36. Kiss a duck. (35)
#37. Find and reassemble the nerdy journal I kept for every day of high school. (A work also known as “My Senior Drear.”)
#38. Repair the 18-55mm lens for my Canon Rebel digital camera. (My photo pals tell me that the lens rattling is not a good thing). Also: donations/contributions accepted to help make this resolution successful.
#39. Catch a king snake. Preferably a gentle prairie king snake. Speckled would be nice, too.
#40. Find an arrowhead.
#41. Become a “morning person.” (Don’t hold your breath on this one).
#42. Laugh at myself more than I laugh at others.

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Filed under Inspiration