Saturday, February 28, 2009

5 smooth stones (& other ramblings)

I'm back. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the blogosphere. First, let me apologize for missing last month. Between a very busy boys and girls basketball schedule and the stats and paperwork they generate, I just let the month get away from me. Sorry. I don't work well without some sort of structure, so from this point forward, I will have a new Hublog ready somewhere between the 15th and the 20th of every month. The Good Lord willing.

I've had a real problem picking a topic this time around. Not coming up with one, but rather picking one from the several I have been kicking around in my head. The most obvious one is the great girls varsity basketball season we've just completed. This was one of the best years for the girls in school history and be advised, this will be next month's topic.

Have you ever heard a song on the radio on the way to work or school in the morning and gone around all day singing or humming it? Sure you have. I do ideas like that. No matter how hard I try to ignore it or file it away for later, I can't shake it off. It's what my grandmother McCaleb used to call "getting a bee in your bonnet." You have to deal with it. The following is my "bee."

I was sitting in my recliner the other night watching first one thing and then another. As I was happily flipping along, I noticed a movie about to start called "The Valley of Elah." I knew it was an Iraq war story and that it starred Tommy Lee Jones, among others. As usual, I jumped the gun and assumed that it was just another liberal Hollywood anti-war propaganda piece. A whole lot of those left-coast folks haven't figured out that freedom isn't free. Far from it. Freedom, from time to time, requires the highest price a man and his nation can pay. That's the truth as I see it. Anyway. I decided to watch primarily because I admire Tommy Lee Jones' ability as an actor. Besides, his movies give me an opportunity to act, too. Tommy Lee pretends to be some new and interesting character and I pretend not to be bothered by the fact that he was Al Gore's roommate at Harvard and the probability that his politics are somewhere to the left of Helen Keller's. Ah yes, the illustrious Miss Keller. If Annie Sullivan had known what we know now, she may very well have held Helen's head instead of her hands under that spigot in Tuscumbia. Oh well, I digress.

Pretty early into the movie I realized that the valley of Elah is where David met the Philistine giant, Goliath. I stopped watching Tommy Lee and reached for my Bible and began to read. Wow! Double Wow! This is one of the greatest stories ever told. Each time I read and re-read it, I get that "10 feet tall and bulletproof and where's that grizzly bear you wanted me to spank with a flyflap?" feeling. It's remarkable. My mind kept going back to the 40th verse of I Samuel, Chapter 17 where David chose 5 smooth stones from the brook. Those words create an amazing picture, don't they? Here's a small young boy armed with a slingshot, about to face a man in combat who is roughly 5 feet taller than him, 400-500 pounds heavier than him and armed with the finest weapons available. And here's the kid, picking out smooth stones in the creek. Amazing. But it also made me wonder, if I were him, which 5 stones would I choose? How about you? Got 5 in mind?

I've thought a lot about this question. I'm about to give you my 5 choices to put in my pouch. Yours may be totally different. That doesn't really matter; what's important is that you make your picks and pack them close. You're going to need them.
Smooth Stone #1 - Courage
I firmly believe that everyone has courage somewhere inside them. It just takes the right set of circumstances and the right trigger to turn it loose. You've got the guts to do a lot of things you don't think you can do. The best example I can think of is the small middle-aged man who was splashing in the ocean with his kids and grandkids in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back. An 8-foot bull shark slipped up into the shallow water and nibbled on one of his grandkids. To make a long story short, grandpa grabbed the shark by the tail and dragged him onto the shore. When the cops and paramedics got there, he was straddling our friend the shark and pounding his head with a concrete block. There's a lot to be said for righteous rage. Don't sell yourself short.

Smooth Stone #2 - Faith
Our boy David was the king of faith. He not only strode out to meet Goliath with nothing but a slingshot, he was talking smack to him before he ever threw the rock! Check out I Samuel, Chapter 17, verse 46: "This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand and I will strike you and take your head from you." That wasn't just David talking--that was David's faith talking. That kind of faith will have you hunting bears with a yard broom. Make sure your faith is solid, identify your monsters and grab yourself a smooth rock. Good hunting.

Smooth Stone #3 - Basic Humanity
We're all in this together. None of us are going to get out of here alive. I'm far from being one of those tree-hugging, 'we are the world'-singing, kumbayah types. But really, shouldn't there be more things we share than things that pull us apart? Many years ago, Dr. M.L. King made a great observation: "An injustice to any man anywhere is an injustice to all men everywhere." That pretty much says it all. Think about it.

Smooth Stone #4 - Love
Love can knock down immovable barriers, make midnight as bright as noonday, make the worst day of your life a treasure, right any wrong, and make the most useless of lives truly meaningful. And as I once heard a man say, "If you don't love anybody but yourself, what good are you?" 'Nuff said.

Smooth Stone #5 - Hope
Hope is the fuel which runs your dreams. Hope keeps us going as human beings--hope for a better future, hope for a better life. Not just for youself, but for your family, your friends, your nation, the world. Never underestimate the power of hope. As long as you have hope, you have a chance. Without it, it's all over.
Like my old friend Forrest Gump, I am not a smart man. But there are things I instinctively know to be true. One of them is this. Somewhere down the line, we're all going to have to go face-to-face with our own Goliath. He's there waiting, I promise you. Oh, by the way, his name is probably not going to be Goliath. His name may be Death of a loved one, Divorce, Financial Ruin, Betrayal by a friend, Sickness, Accident, Injury, or Failure to achieve your dreams. The old foe has many names, many faces. So choose your stones wisely. Pack them in tight. Keep them close by you. Fight the good fight. Because he's out there, waiting, in the morning mist of a valley just over the horizon, out of sight. Don't forget your slingshot.

The Old Gray Lion

This month's recommended reading:
  1. The Bible, King James Version, I Samuel. This is magnificent, inspirational stuff.
  2. Rick Bragg (again), "Ava's Man" If you grew up poor in the South, this is required reading. It will make you proud.
This month's recommended movie: "Hoosiers" Yeah, I know most of you have already seen it but watch it again--it's that good. When the old country preacher bows his head and says, "and David put his hand in his pouch and brought forth a smooth stone," the fine hairs on your arms and the back of your neck will tingle and stand on end. If they don't, just go on down to Norwood's Funeral Home and turn yourself in. You're dead and don't know it. Take a pass on the "The Valley of Elah." It's just too rough to watch. It's about soldiers who act and talk like soldiers. Don't let kids anywhere near this movie.