Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Tiger

My father was a thoughtful gentleman. Not so much thoughtful as in, “Oh, that was thoughtful of you” but more thoughtful as in pondering, reflecting. I don’t think he would have ever called it meditating – that’s too close to something he’d consider borderline un-Christian or more likely, un-Baptist. In his mind and in his world there was little, if any, difference.

But as he aged, I saw him become even more reflective and quiet. There was a time I would have thought that impossible.

Two times, in particular, I saw his heart grow heavy and sad at the state of the world and the condition of his fallen heroes.

He used to lie on his bed on Saturday afternoons and listen to the LSU Tigers on the radio. I still see the scene. There was a Zenith radio beside the bed, the size of a small microwave oven. The sound was rich and full even from an AM broadcast of college football. I don’t ever remember hearing music come from that radio, come to think of it, only talk.

One of his football heroes from those LSU days was a guy named Billy Cannon. You can google his name and find out the details of his life, but it will suffice for the sake of this writing to tell you that Billy Cannon, after his days as a college football star, went on to enjoy a successful professional career as a dentist. In those days, as is the case for so many retired athletes today, their on-field prowess helped provide financial security for them and their families as their celebrity followed them into the real world.

Somewhere in the early 80s, Dr. Cannon found himself in debt and decided the best way out was to take to counterfeiting. Found buried in the back yard of a home he owned was an ice chest filled with fake $100 bills. The total was 50 Million dollars. Dr. Cannon went away for a while.

My father was devastated.

Dad wasn’t the type to go on some verbal tirade to further berate one already publicly shamed. But I could tell, and I remember this vividly all these years later, he was so very saddened and disappointed that someone he admired had turned so dark.

The same thing happened in 1988 when evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, after being so zealous to point out the flaws and failures of fellow ministers of the Faith, fell under investigation for solicitation of prostitutes in New Orleans. The charge was, at first, denied but later, Rev. Swaggart confessed to his deeds from a pulpit drenched in his own television tears.

Mr. Swaggart, along with his cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis of Rock and Roll fame from the 50s, Mickey Gilley of Urban Cowboy fame, grew up around Ferriday, Louisiana – not 30 miles from our back door. I guess the proximity alone put us in some strange alignment with the Swaggart/Lewis/Gilly clan. I can’t think of anything else we really had in common. We were staunch southern Baptist and the Swaggarts, to us at least, were outrageous Pentecostals.

Still, my father admired the sacred and eternal work of one Jimmy Swaggart. And I think he kind of liked the music, too. So, again, my father’s heart grew a little sadder at the public humiliation and failure of another he held in high esteem.

So here I am . . . at a point in my own life where, no matter how I stretch or define it, I can no longer consider myself young. Young at heart, maybe. Feeling better than I’ve felt in a long, long time with, what I think is, a pretty good outlook on the future. Here I am with a short list of people I admire - some for their ethics and their moral constitution, some for their strong convictions, some for their generosity in trying to make the world a better place with the money they’ve made.

And a few that have athletic ability I can only imagine. Some, with ability that is so over the top, my mortal imagination fails in trying to grasp it.

I play golf. So, yes, I’m awed by what I see Tiger Woods do on the golf course. I’ve seen it on television and I’ve watched him from a few feet away. Unless you’ve tried to play the game with any degree of expertise, only to see your skills come and go like a hurricane wind, it’s hard to appreciate the talent it takes to play well. I do appreciate it.

I, like most of the watching world, the hoards of voyeurs that wait for mankind to fall to the lowest common denominator, am saddened by what’s taken place in the life of this talented golfer. But surprised, no - and not inclined to wax theological at this point. There are plenty of on-line religious orators waiting to pounce with their most elementary and extremely obvious observations - looking for a voice or more important, a reader, a listener to satisfy a need for their own fifteen minutes of internet fame.

While the world keeps showing its darker side the more we learn of each other, the more difficult it is to keep a compassionate heart. Taking sides might seem valiant but it doesn’t seed gentleness of heart. Yes, I’m incensed by the flagrant disregard for values, for one’s family andfor the future of their two small children. I don’t know how Mrs. Woods could ever live in that environment with anything remotely resembling trust. Decisions have their own inherent rewards and very specific consequences. We do, indeed, finally reap what we sow. The secrets will come out. .

But my desire to see justice served out to others stops short when the finger is pointed at me. I don’t want justice for myself. I want mercy. Don’t get me wrong. I like justice. I just don’t like it for me.

And so we pray always for a more tender heart and a tougher skin. That our hearts will break at the same things that break His and that our proverbial skin will protect us from the stings that are nothing more than annoying blips on life’s radar. That we’ll let mountains be mountains and molehills be molehills. Choose carefully your battles my friends and love with a love that is beyond human. We have that inside us.

Blessings to you all this Christmas!

Wayne Watson

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Late Show





We spent a few days in NYC last week. I always enjoy being there but don’t enjoy the trip to or from. Once on the ground, though, it’s an overwhelming buffet of things to do and see and places to go.


The week before we went, we got a call from the David Letterman show saying that our ticket request would be granted if I could answer one Late Show trivia question. It was a simple question “Dave’s announcer, Alan Colter . . . what color is his hair?” Easy – flaming red! So we were granted the two tickets for the show on Wednesday night.

Some of you are asking “Why would you want to see Letterman after the turkey-like revelations about his personal life and his reckless disregard for his wife - the mother of his son? I don’t know. I just wanted to see the show in person, wanted to hear Paul Schaffer and the CBS Orchestra and I wanted to see the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Just fyi….I remember seeing the show the night he confessed his DWI - dalliances with interns. He was criticized because the audience laughed during this very serious monologue about the attempted blackmail scheme and the indiscretions of his personal life. It was obvious that he was uncomfortable but made even more so by the laughter from the audience. The staff goes to unbelievable lengths two hours before hand to drive home this point…laugh at everything! There are no applause signs . . . you’re just instructed to laugh all the time and clap at any opportunity. They said this to us “If you’re on the fence about whether or not something is funny, laugh anyway.” I’m guessing the prep was the same night after night. The staff prepped the audience as usual, I’m sure, unaware that Mr. Letterman was going to come clean that particular night.

I remember watching the Ed Sullivan show when I was a kid. I was blown away the first time The Beatles performed in the USA on that show. I still remember Ed Sullivan saying, in a way that only he could . . . “The Beatles” which was followed by screaming from the audience that, pretty much, drowned out the music.

So I was particularly pumped that, somehow, we found ourselves sitting on the front row – literally propping our feet up on the stage during commercial breaks.

I’m not going to say what I’m about to say because it’s what you expect from me or because of the kind of things recently revealed about Mr. Letterman - Not so those that count themselves in the Christian Always Right (and never wrong about much of anything) can point their well-rehearsed fingers of condemnation at some poor soul.

(Poor Soul? When David Letterman signed on with CBS to do his show years ago, his salary was somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 million dollars a year! Alert the media – making a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy. I really don’t know how many more times I’m going to have to hear that, see examples of it, experience it before I really get it!)

Getting, finally, to the point – I suppose I’ve seen sadder people in my lifetime. They’re everywhere and it’s heartbreaking. But the most vivid and intense feeling we got from being a few feet from this show business legend is that he’s so very broken and sad. I’m very much aware, however, that I don’t know a whole lot about David Letterman and I want to point out how careful any of us should be at drawing conclusions with little bits of information. Lest any of us revert to the “Good, he’s getting what he deserves” scenario, let me remind you (and me….AGAIN), I don’t want what I deserve!!

We were told that Dave would come out a few minutes before the show and, if time allowed, he might take a question or two. Of course, that set us to asking each other, “What would you ask?” My first impulses were pretty dumb. But my wife said she would simply ask “Are you ok?” That says a lot about her for which, on this day in particular, I find myself extremely grateful.

During commercial breaks on the show we attended, Dave would take off his jacket and walk around the stage alone. Whatever energies he had to harness to interview the guests and keep the show going were put on pause. Then, when back on the air, “showtime.” I have to say, he’s brilliant at it!

There were so many things about the evening we enjoyed. The music was tremendous.

But it was another reminder of the beauty and simplicity of taking my faults and my failures to the Cross and leaving them there. This is why we want people to come to Christ. Not just for fire insurance, not just for eternal life, but for abundance, real joy and peace that passes understanding. I have a few new people on my prayer list.

And now for something completely different (or at least on a completely different subject).

Thanksgiving! Find a way to do it.

Sure, there are things I wish were better, things about the past I’d rather forget that, during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons seem to get amplified beyond a normal mental volume. But I pray you’ll all find a reason to say “thank You.”

My son, Neal and his wife and three sons spent the last few days in Louisiana with my brother, his children and my mom. I wanted to get there to simply be in the room with the representatives of four generations of Watson people but could not.

It did make me think about this though – for me and for you. How many more of these will we get? What if this were the last Thanksgiving? It’s time to set aside some of those pet grievances you’ve been feeding all your life, get over it, say “forgive me” or “I forgive you.” Or Something like that. You know what to say.

Let me tell you without burdening you with details – I almost didn’t make it to Thanksgiving this year and now that I understand how real and possible that is for all of us, it makes me want to embrace all things good - all the blessings and scream out loud “THANK YOU!”

Without being fatalistic or morbid, remember how brief life is, how easily it’s taken away and how precious is every moment. I know there’s heaviness in lots of hearts right now - economic pressures, job stress, family stress, political unrest, world hunger and poverty. On a more personal scale, we have friends that are wrestling with all kinds of sadness and disappointments.

And with all gentleness and all the compassion I can muster, I want to say I’m thankful for you all, for the troubles you’ve endured this year, the great victories and, most of all, the great hope for eternity that’s in us all.

Christ in me, the hope of Glory.

Blessings.

Wayne Watson

Thursday, October 22, 2009

U2

It’s been over a week since the show, so I guess I should say something about the U2 concert here in Houston. The emails I’ve gotten range from way far out to something similar to logical and mature in scope of opinion, etc.

It was an amazing spectacle! I’d never seen a stadium concert like this and I figured the chances of seeing a band this big wouldn’t go on forever. There’re only a couple other acts I would throw down cold hard $$$ to see.

Can you guess who they would be?

Reliant Stadium in Houston was packed! Out walks Mullin with his drum sticks in hand, major applause erupts – he starts to play. Adam Clayton strolls out toting his bass, audience roars as he joins the groove. Out walks The Edge. (Mr. Edge . . .I don’t know)
Must lead to some interesting conversations.

“Hello, I’d like to make a reservation for two for dinner.”

“Yes, what’s the name?”

“Edge.”

“Excuse me, did you say “Reg?”

“No, Edge.”

“Did you say you’re a vegetarian?”

“Never mind.”

or

“I need to see the doctor.”

“Are you a regular patient?”

“Yes, the name’s Edge.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have an Edge in our files.”

“Try, The Edge.”

“Got it.” “What time can you come in, Mr. Edge . . . or should I call you The?”




The Edge starts to play then a few seconds pass before Bono walks onto the platform. The place goes nuts! I was getting my hair cut today and there were two ladies speaking Spanish, talking about the concert. One that really wasn’t that into U2 (so, why the heck was she there???) was very confused when eighty thousand plus started chanting “Bono…Bono…Bono.” Seems “Bono” in Spanish means something akin to “Bonus.”

Over the years, I’ve watched Bono as he’s fronted this undeniably gigantic rock success story. I’ve heard lots of commentary. Opinions are like noses . . . most people have one. “He’s arrogant and cocky.” So on and so on. I don’t know about you, but if I walked onto a stage in front of eighty thousand - give or take a few thousand – every night, I’d probably be a little cocky, too.

Anyway, I didn’t sense that. But what difference does it make what I “sense.”

One comment that was sent to me – and I want to be respectful of everyone’s opinion and their right to have it – mentioned that they were under the impression that U2 was made up of Christians “until a member of the family went to the show and got drunk on the alcohol being served.” Listen, this is not a Sunday evening concert at your local church.
This is big time rock business. I would guess the powers that be at Reliant Stadium and U2 didn’t have late night negotiations over whether beer would be sold during the show. Everybody wants to make their money at these things. Heck, I paid $20 just to park! Like I said, I don’t do this often.

From what little I know about it, three of the four testify to being followers of Jesus.

So let’s just assume the best for a few.

Back to the alcohol thing. I’m assuming the people in question purchased their drinks because, during the little time I spent in line to buy a five-dollar bottle of H2O,
I didn’t see a single person get anything for free. So somebody’s got to take responsibility for their own decisions here. But in this culture, we’re always looking for somebody to blame. “Somebody’s got to be the bad guy, ‘cause it sure ain’t me!”

The Book says there are none righteous, not one . . . and a whole bunch of other stuff along those lines that you probably don’t need me to point out.

Some others I’ve heard from were blown away by the fact that, late in the show, Bono (you know, the “bonus” guy) sang a verse of “Amazing Grace.” It was a nice rendition of the classic and a tremendous testimony. To hear eighty thousand singing along was cool, but they also sang at the top of their lungs to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Lookin’ For” and “It’s A Beautiful Day.”

It’s interesting to see the reaction of believers when some popular icon makes a proclamation of what we identify as Christian faith. “Oh,” we pine “he’s one of US.” That happened years ago when Bob Dylan made a couple of albums built around Christian lyrical content. “Saved” and “Slow Train Comin’” were interesting but nobody would claim them to be Dylan’s best work. But oh man, how we ran to claim Bob Dylan. BJ Thomas was another, back in the day, that had an experience with Christ only to be overwhelmed (and a little bewildered) by the faithful clamoring over his citizenship in the “us” culture of Jesus people.

If we’d been able to further identify or confirm the sincerity of their faith, we’d probably have drawn blood from one another over the question of whether they were charismatic, spirit-filled, conservative, fundamentalist, etc.

We all remember the fever pitch that surrounded Mel Gibson when he produced and released “The Passion of The Christ.” Not too long after the great success of this amazing film, too many of us cleared our proverbial spiritual throats as he was (and maybe still is) caught up in all kinds of personal firestorms. I just hope there’re some grownup Jesus people loving on Mel, BJ and Bob right now. Truth is, most of us are on the lookout for the next rock idol or movie star to sink our spiritual claws into and claim as our own.

The way I read It, we’re not our own . . . but were bought with a Price.

Why do you think we’re so bent in this direction? Is there not enough value in our own remarkable redemption that we have to validate it with the lives of others we declare to be on a higher level of human nobility?

Eternity will be the great equalizer so we might as well start practicing.

How can we get past this recurring behavior? How can we grow up?

Amazing Grace? It is sweet. It is timeless and indescribable. It has taken on a new, deeper definition to me in the last 5 years. And my deep thought of the day – “Get over yourself.”

Give Thanks.

Wayne Watson

P.S. Please pass this along to anyone you know that might like to read it, really, anyone you like. Anyone you don't like, anyone that you feel might benefit from reading it. thanks.....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Last Word?


Great responses to yesterdays post about Worship.

It’s a hot topic and I guess that’s good. But, wow, it’s emotional for a lot of you. I’ve gotten stories that range from peoples tremendous worship experiences to some who’ve been burned, cornered, verbally assaulted, hurt so much they’ve left the fellowship of church. All of us probably have heard stories of churches splitting over controversies concerning worship. So sad.

This forum is interesting and this web culture gives everyone a voice. But just because I’m writing something doesn’t mean it’s the final answer. I’m just sharing some of what I believe. I’m not able, and in some part unwilling, to expose all of my thoughts and beliefs on anything here in this very public vehicle.

I’m trying to refine an art in me that gets lost too easily . . . keeping my mouth shut and my opinions to myself.

The post I wrote about Andrew Jackson drew some interesting emails as well. Again, some readers conclude that I’ve poured out all of my opinions, all my conclusions and convictions about the subject of abuse of power in the presidency, the greatness of a particular official, the mistreatment of indigenous groups, or the taking of American lands. That’s simply not true. I know there’re many sides to a story. Does it make you feel better to embrace your side with no thought, no credence to the other? Me either. It makes me feel selfish and narrow. Lots of times, I feel strongly both ways! I trust in the power of the Spirit of God to guard my heart without letting me be overwhelmed or blindsided. He does it very well.


Truth is, my heart, on any number of subjects, gets tweaked everyday by the Spirit into, what I can only pray is His perspective. The older I get, the one prayer I pray most constantly is “Lord, help me get over this need to always be right.”

Someone mentioned, in a response to the worship subject that one of our problems is that we don’t want to be told what to do. That’s true in worship and in life. One of the obstacles all of us have to overcome when we read God’s Word is the objection to being told what to do. That’s what the Bible does . . . for our best . . . for our good. And because we’re flawed mortals, it’s tough to hear and sometimes tough to do.

So maybe the best move, this moment, is to breathe out. Say to God, “I’m sorry I rebel against what I know is your best for me and mine. Forgive me for being selfish and arrogant, for always wanting the last word, for always wanting my way.” “Oh, and one more thing….”

My way has some serious problems. There’s proof. But strangely, I don’t feel obligated to share all of it.

As a matter of fact, some of what I’m writing right now is a veiled attempt to “get the last word” in response to some emails and posts of yesterday. Good Grief.

So, I’ll just step away from this for a few, come back and read it later and see if it’s more
nonsense than necessary.

…….. hmm…….hmmm……oh, cookies…… hmmm...



Ok, back now.

Blessings.

Wayne Watson

Monday, October 12, 2009

Did You Worship?




“I always feel for you when you’re up there singing your heart out, trying to get people to join in, and some of them . . . just won’t!”

A friend of mine said this to me the other day. When I’m not on the road, I lead worship at a church about ten minutes from my home. They’re the most gracious people - from the staff to the membership. They aren’t so much concerned with the insignificant stuff, you know, the stuff that nobody will remember next week much less a year from now. They like doing church to bathe in God’s presence as a corporate body once a week, to gather to worship, to learn and have great fellowship.

Worship has become a production. While I admire the quality of all the elements as much as anyone (Heck, maybe more than most . . . because I know what it takes to pull it all together, and I know what kind of gear it takes to produce such great audio and video and lighting effects.) sometimes, it tires me.

The spiritual pendulum swings pretty fast. While one day, I’m energized by the production, on another, I’m deeply, deeply moved by singing an old hymn in a small gathering of ordinary folks with no particular musical expertise.

So, does it bother me when people don’t always join me when I’m leading? Used to.
Not so much anymore. I realize that the hundreds of people in the room are coming from a great variety of life experiences.

I don’t know too many of them intimately, but, as we’re not that different from any other gathering of spiritually hungry humanity, there’s probably any number of issues being dealt with on any Sunday AM.

There were arguments at home about being late for church. Love that one. Some parents stood in the door and denied exit by some teenager daring to show up at Sunday School in some inappropriate something. “Too much makeup,” says another. “You can’t go to church in those shoes, son.” Then there are, inevitably, the couples that are on the verge of calling it quits. “One more church service and if God doesn’t do something big – and I mean BIG, I’m outta here.” “What am I going to do with my life?” a single, young adult asks in quiet. “Am I ever going to meet somebody to love? I don’t fit in here with all these families.” Then, there’re those with aging parents thinking about how to care for them, pushing back guilt for not visiting more, pondering how the estate will be split between siblings, what to do with the house.

Add your own personal drama.

It’s no wonder that it’s difficult to pull aside for an hour our so to be quiet, to pray, to sing, to listen and be taught or at least comforted.

I don’t take it personally when people don’t sing with me in worship. I worship and I hope my demeanor, my heart and voice can gently plead with them to join me, but honestly, I don’t know what each one needs or what they have to offer. That’s out of my hands and none of my business. I do know this – I’ve had some incredibly intense worship experiences listening to others sing, listening to someone speaking, keeping my own mouth shut for a few. My built-in southern Baptist guilt mechanism does kick in from time to time. It rears its head with loud piety. “Your not singing. What are people going to think?” “Nod your head like your agreeing. No, no, no that looks more like you’re falling asleep!” “Say “Amen” or something . . . not too loud or they’ll think you’re trying to be, well, you know.” “Smile….no….look serious.”

Yikes.

Here it is….and this probably doesn’t need to be said but I’ll say it anyway. Don’t wait for Sunday to worship. Live your life in an attitude of worship. If you pay attention to God’s moving in your life, you’ll have a worship experience every day. And in worshiping Him, you’ll live in a spiritual posture that will cause you to be humbly thankful for all He’s done and for all He’s doing.

Then every once in a while, show up at church and sing your heart out!

I’d love to hear how you’re doing with all this. Let me know.

Blessings.

Wayne Watson
October 12, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgHg0w5DFp4


Not always.

I just finished a tremendous book about Andrew Jackson. Fascinating man with such a wide scope of opinion and views on people, life, spirituality and a host of other issues.

An orphan at fourteen, the revolutionary war took the lives of his brothers and mother. He saw little distinction between family and nation. In his eyes, they melded together into one formation and one loving devotion. He was passionate in his pursuit to defend and preserve both.

He is said by some to have been the president most like you and me. During his presidency, the culture was absorbed in fascination with politics, patriotism and religion. “My Country Tis of Thee” and “Amazing Grace” were products of this era and culture.

“He could be incredibly violent toward Indians and decidedly generous. Still there was nothing redemptive about his Indian policy.” There was conflict that is more than obvious in hindsight of nearly two hundred years. The way the United States acquired much of it’s property is downright scandalous. The wrongs and injustices perpetrated on the Native American can never be undone. Simple apologies from a generation far removed from the original offenses are almost meaningless.

One of the most poignant quotes from this book “Andrew Jackson: American Lion” by Jon Meacham . . .

Not all great presidents were always good, and neither individuals nor nations are without evil.

Andrew Jackson was blinded by the prejudices of his age and owned at least 150 slaves. It’s easy, in the year nearly 2010, to judge.

While I find this all very interesting and love to read the history of the world and particularly of the United States, there are so many undeniable facts that cause me to reflect with some degree of what I can only call shame and recoil that God hasn’t called us into judgment over the public escapades of our past, much more so over the things done in secret “in the best interest of the Nation.”

I won’t go on about the embarrassing episodes in our country’s history. Most of us are painfully aware. We proceed to live with bowed heads, thankful for God’s Grace and Mercy over us as a people – praying for forgiveness as individuals and as a nation for the missteps and intentional offenses we’ve committed. Thankful that none of us gets what we deserve. Justice is for another time. His mercies are new every morning.

So with that said, there are times when I’m proud to be an American. Let’s make this clear though - I find the word “pride” has few applications in the life of one trying to walk in the steps of Christ. And in the light of all the public observations of those we celebrate as “famous” I have to say, I don’t know why we expect people who’ve never been to the Cross to behave as if they have been, when it’s hard enough for those of us who have been there to behave as if we have been there! I’m embarrassed at my own judgmental attitude when I’m aware of my own life and it’s twists, turns and failures.

While I was in the Philippines in September, I was able to visit the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. We were able to pass slowly through this beautiful memorial to the more than twenty thousand who died in the islands during the second world war. Those who live in the Philippines are thankful for the United States of America and the part our service men and women played in securing their nation.

The cemetery and memorial are beautifully maintained by the United States. It is a quiet, humbling place. A place that honors many whose bodies were never recovered. Their families were simply and respectfully informed of the loss of one they loved.

As I walked this memorial, looking at the names on the wall, watching the landscape pass filled with white crosses marking the life of some young soldier, marine or sailor, I found myself thankful for those that made the decision to stand at the door of these beautiful islands, these sweet people, and hold off the oppressive forces that wanted to overrun and dominate them.

Each marker in this memorial represents a person, a body, a soul. One who was born on that one day to a family that eagerly awaited the arrival. “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl” they said that day. They celebrated birthdays with their friends, that first day of school, they went to ballgames, had dates, made their folks proud when they announced they were going into the service. Moms cried when they got letters from the South Pacific. Moms and Dads worried and prayed over each of these children grown into grownups. Then they let go into the Eternal Hands when there was nothing else they could do.

Yes, we’ve made some monumental mistakes as a nation but we’ve done some wonderful good, too. Just like you and just like me.

Stay Thankful always. Do good.

I welcome your comments, questions and discussions.

Wayne

My friend James


A few days ago, I talked with a dear old friend.

James played guitar and other instruments with me on the road for 10 years. They were some of the best musical days of my career. Every night, he added so much to the evening. People would come up after the concert and ask all kinds of questions about “how did all of that music come from two people?”

James was tender and gentle. Always gracious and kind.

I’ve lost count of how many years ago we stopped traveling and playing together. But it’s been, probably, another ten years. I tried to stay in touch, called every long once in a while to a phone that I thought was his home, but got no answer. I let it go. We’ve both move far, far along.

But the other night, I got a voicemail and it was James. His voice was the same gentle voice I’d known all those years. He said he was sorry that he’d not been more in touch, that he was sorry to hear of the struggles and troubles of my past 5 years, etc.

I called him the next day because in his message, he mentioned that he was facing some “stuff” of his own. Of course, the mind takes over and starts to write an imaginary script of all the worst things you can think of….illness, failed marriage, death of a family member, accidents, whatever.

His wife answered the phone so that was a good sign and, for the moment, eliminated one looming question. She put him on the phone and we talked for 10 or 15 minutes.

After exchanging pleasantries and apologies for not being more in touch, he asked questions that I answered, followed by mutual expressions of our collective appreciation for fresh definitions of old words. Words like grace and mercy. While “God is good” can, sometimes, come off trite and flippant, it certainly didn’t in the course of this conversation with James.

James told me (and I don’t think he’ll mind me telling you . . . he’s asked for prayer from everyone. Please do!) that he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma three or four weeks ago. He thinks the prognosis is good and that there’s a good chance they’ll be able to beat it.

My breathing stopped for a moment.

This isn’t the first phone conversation I’ve had like this. But you’re never prepared and it’s never easy to know how to respond.

And I find, even as I write these words, I have little if anything, profound or exceptionally spiritual to say. I’m just a little deflated and tired of what happens to this body.

I’ve felt bad this whole year. But my stuff is minor compared to this. My stuff is done and fixed and I’m thankful every moment of every single day.

I’m concerned for James and praying for James and his wife. But as in all things, I know and am more convinced than ever that we just don’t know everything that God is up to.

He is a Mystery and will always be. Faith requires that we trust what we cannot see or understand. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be faith at all.

Whatever you’re facing today. Trust God with the unknown and the unknowable. Smile in the face of Mystery and enjoy the fact that so much of all of this is out of our hands – and safely in the Palm of His.

Wayne Watson
October 7, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Walking Over Water

I met a young man as I walked into the village. I asked his name. “My name is Allen” he said. “My first name is Allan,” I told him. It doesn’t take much to have some kind of a bond, does it?

The chapel in this little river village was set deep into the dwellings that were built on poles sticking out of the water. As our conspicuous band of American males started to walk toward the chapel, we were intensely aware that the walkway wasn’t made for our kind.

The first 20 feet took us over boards laid out like a ladder over the water. When I say the water was dirty, well . . . let’s just say, I had the feeling if you fell into it with any kind of open cut, you’d be really sick very quick. The first section had hand rails to hold onto, then it suddenly became two boards side by side with nothing to hold onto. Then one board . . . that bent dramatically under our weight.

At that, we all turned around and went back to the shoreline to visit with some of the children that were mildly entertained by our presence.

Allen sat and talked with me. You can see and hear him in the accompanying video.

He’s been a Christian for a little over a year, speaks pretty good English, and sells jewelry that he makes himself. I asked about his family – he pointed them out and they waved from the open window above. When I asked more about how they lived, etc., he told me he most often slept in the chapel. Again, I’ll remind you that our mental snapshots of churches and chapels have to be redefined. Their chapel was simply a small dwelling among the others over the river. Maybe 8 by 10 feet. I asked why he slept there and he told me he liked to have “devotion” when he first woke up. “They have Bible there” he said.

“Do you have a Bible of your own?” I asked.

“No” he answered.

I told him I would do everything I could to get him a Bible. He had told me that he wanted to be a pastor to help all the people of the world know Jesus.

A few hours later, we visited another church a few miles away from Allen’s village. He walked up to me as we were about to leave – it surprised me to see him again.

“Mr. Allan, where is my Bible?” he asked.

Uhh…..

I ran inside this little church and asked the pastor if there was one copy of the Bible he could spare for me to give to a young man from the river village. He found a single copy and handed it to me.

Right here, let me emphasize that we were there with Bible League International observing their work, evaluating the great need for copies of the Word of God in the local language. So this was not to be taken lightly. I knew I held something precious in my hands.

Bible League International is very focused on their methods of sharing God’s Word and what I was doing was outside the lines of that focus. The pastors and laypeople that work with Bible League share Scripture through a small workbook called The Answer. It takes the reader through the book of John and guides them through the Gospel with questions and answers. After someone completes this study and is placed in a regular study group and church, that’s when they are able to have a complete Bible of their own.

When I gave the Bible to Allen, he looked like I had just handed him a pot of gold. I suspect he knew the value was way beyond mere gold – even as young as he was in his walk with God.

What will this simple, paperback copy of the Holy Scripture do for his world? How many people, young and old, family, friends, strangers will have their lives changed by the discovery of the Truth of Christ, His great love and grace for them all, for US all, simply because Allen has a Bible. He will tell them. He will go where I cannot go.

This is not writing a check to ease my conscience. This is not throwing pocket change at a beggar to gain a few seconds peace at a traffic light. This is time and energy well spent – invested in eternity.

We can’t do everything. But we can all do something.

If you listen, whether you’re in the Philippines or in Houston, God will talk to you. He will whisper. He will tell you which way to turn, when to speak, when to hear, when to watch and when to close your eyes. Obedience will bring joy to Him that made us and could quite possibly change the world.

Listen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pZqGylLNrc

Wayne

Friday, September 25, 2009

Church in the Middle

This short video today is taken at the foot of a place called “Smokey Mountain.” It’s well known to all in the area. Thousands of people have made their homes all around it. It’s an old garbage dump site.

As you will see in the video, life goes on. That’s the theme of this country, I think. They live, laugh, buy and sell and go on despite their circumstances. I could learn a thing or two.

There is a little church in the video that is smack in the middle of a little neighborhood. On one side, there is a well known drug dealer and on the other, not 8 feet away, is a brothel.

The church stands.

How powerful is the Truth of Christ. How life changing it is!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3Wba-wC1PY

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leaving You Hanging . . . Day Three

Leave you hanging.

I realize the last note / bog / article I posted might have left you hanging a bit. I mean, it was a pretty harsh and realistic piece about a particularly tough part of the Philippines. To leave you with the impression that most of this wonderful country is in this condition is completely untrue and is certainly not representative of most of what we witnessed.

However, after leaving the cemetery we proceeded to visit with ministers and those whose mission it is to go face to face with the people of Manila, share the Gospel with them (no matter their circumstances or living conditions) and commit to stay with them as they learn the Truth.

After that, we drove (in the driving rain) to another part of the city of Manila known as Smokey Mountain. They say it’s so big and puts off such smoke that it can be seen from space. It’s the main garbage dump for the city.

One thousand tons of garbage arrive each day. And yes, you guessed it, there are people living in the garbage dump. This is not some Sanford and Son recreation. If it were possible, it’s as dark – literally and figuratively as the cemetery slum. People build makeshift dwellings among the piles of filth and garbage. The mud and whatever else was on the ground was ankle deep. When new trucks arrive, the people of the dump run to claim sacks of garbage, then start to rummage through to see what treasures they can find.

We didn’t get out of the truck to have a closer look. And I didn’t shoot any video. Honestly, by that point, after the cemetery, it was all just, well, just too much. I don’t know when I’ve ever felt so sad and helpless. I remember thinking, “Just get me out of here and back to the hotel.” It wasn’t so much a spoiled, western cultural attack - “Ok, I’ve seen enough of this pain and I want my clean sheets and shower and wash all this off me.” It was more of a need to get somewhere safe where I could be alone. If you’d asked how it all affected me at that moment, I don’t think I could have answered.

But can I tell you how focused these men and women are that work for Bible League International in the Philippines? I mean, they’re not distracted or put off by anything. They keep their eyes on the one thing that means something. And they are committed to telling their countrymen about Christ.

The next day was to be our “hike into the mountains and visit a remote village” day. We were all told about this before we left the states. We were told to buy serious bug juice – I think the stuff I got at REI really was called Bug Juice. We were told to bring some kind of mat or inflatable pad to sleep on. We would be sleeping in the village – on the floor – or at least that’s what we were told!

We boarded a ferry - yes, the old tubs that you hear about turning over in the Philippines and other parts of the world. The ride on the ferry was a little over two hours. Our destination was the island of Mindoro. After we disembarked, we loaded onto two vehicles that would drive us as far as they could. On the way, several sections of road were washed out from the heavy, seasonal rains. Finally, the trucks pulled over, drivers got out and said to the interpreters something akin to, “This is as far as we can go.”

There was only a light mist falling at this point, so with healthy, hearty attitudes and adventure in our bones . . .

OK, can I say here that I’m not a camper kind of guy. I’m not really a hiker either. I do like to ride my motorcycle and have been on some long trips on two wheels, but at the end of the day, adventure, to me is pulling into some new town without a hotel reservation. Edgy!! I slept on the ground one time, I think, when I was a kid in Boy Scouts. I think I nabbed my camping merit badge and resigned the next day. OK, so there you have it. Take your best shots!

….we set out up the mountain toward the village of DubDub (spelling is only a guess).
Of course, the rain began to get heavier, the incline more steep and the mud more deep. Geez, that sounds like a song! Several in our troop lost shoes in the mud. There was a trail maybe a foot wide in places but deeply grooved by the constant rainfall. In lots of places, we had to take to the grass to progress. There was falling, tumbling, laughing, mild grumbling (hmm…another rhyme…I’ll get a song out of this yet.) and somewhere between hours one and two, someone shouted “village in site.”

Another “camping” note from the expert. I was doing the last minute shopping and prep for the trip at our local Academy store when I came to the aisle stocked with parkas. The prices ranged from about a buck to ten or fifteen. I don’t know what came over me, but I picked up this tiny pack that said there was a rain parka inside. It was light and wouldn’t take up much room. The price was $2.99. Just a word here. Don’t skimp on the parka when you’re going to be in a rain forest! Mine was little more than a Glad Bag with arm holes and a hood.

Darkness was falling at a pretty raid pace. The reality that we were going to spend the night in a place with no electricity, no running water, that we would sleep, who knows where and eat who knows what, began to sink in. But we were soaked through with rain and perspiration and weren’t too concerned about much of anything but stopping.

We found out that some of the 70 citizens of this tiny village had TB. That spoke volumes to the food preparation issue and we feasted on bread and water that night.

Evaluating the sleeping options, I chose to roll out my mat (it automatically inflated to, oh, about two inches of buoyant luxury right before my eyes) in the chapel. I was told there was more room there.

The chapel was occupied, when I walked in, by two pigs, a goat and several chickens or members of the chicken family. I bet they all tasted like chicken. Never got a chance to find out.

The chapel was a grass-roofed hut with a dirt floor with several boards nailed to posts in the floor for seating. The size of the entire place was probably 10 x 15 feet. The hosts began pulling up the boards and placing them three across to provide some place for us to lay our mats. Their hospitality was awesome. They would do anything to accommodate us – even rearrange their chapel “pews.” I’ve been in a lot of churches that require a committee meeting to move a piano.

About 40 of the 70 that lived in this village were believers and followers of Christ. The others, we were told, were Muslim.

The believers gathered in the chapel as the deep darkness settled in. We sang with them and listened to their leader speak to them from God’s Word. It was beautiful. I played a couple of songs for them myself.

We found out later they’d never seen a white man. We were the first in their village.

After the great fellowship and worship, everyone retired for the evening.

No Sportscenter for you!

I think we laid our heads down about 8:30. There was to be a bell at 4 AM calling everyone back to the chapel for prayer. This was not a special service for our benefit – they gather every single morning at 4 – for an hour and a half of prayer. Humbling.

I guess the leader was a little excited. I saw him creep in the chapel and ring the bell. Assuming it was 4 AM and time to rise and try to shine, I hopped up. Looking at my watch that said 12:30 AM, I softly announced to the others that it was a tad early to be getting up. I rolled back over and caught a few more minutes of sleep. Where are those ear plugs?

The other alarm that shook me was the bleating of a goat a few inches from my head. Say, have you ever heard a goat in the middle of the night a few inches from your head? They should capture that sound for some alarm clock. . . . you’d never oversleep!

At the real 4AM, the bell was rung again and the little chapel soon filled with children and young adults ready to sing and hear the Word. I was overwhelmed at their innocence and their zeal for Jesus. It wasn’t complicated with what kind of church building, what version of the Bible, what one was wearing or anything of the sort. They simply gathered to revel in the common love they shared – the common redemption by Grace they’d been offered. It was truly sweet in the finest sense of the word.

You’ll want to read the next installment about the trip back down the mountain!

Blessings…..Wayne

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Cemetery in Manila

DAY TWO

Leaving the hotel on this the second full day in Manila, I remembered reading in some of the materials that we were going to visit a cemetery of some sort. It is the rainy season in the Philippines, so for most of our trip, there was a cloudy sky and everything from a light mist to heavy rainfall.

This day was no exception.

I had somehow come to the conclusion that we were going to visit a military cemetery. A final resting place, perhaps, of some lost American soldiers that gave their lives in the service of their country and, well, this country, too.

As we drove from the hotel, we passed by different scenes in the city. Some that were visual reminders of the extremes in this country. Here, like in so many places all over the world, there are the obvious “haves” and “have nots.” It just seems like the differences are so much more pronounced here. In the city of Manila, we pass startling images of children running in and out of traffic, approaching vehicles asking for money or food, dangerously close calls between the thousands of motor scooters and cars and trucks.

There is very little road rage that I can see. They tell me it’s because everyone understands the rules. You own where you are – not where you’re going. In Houston, we drivers claim where we are and where we’re going, thank you very much and out of my way!

There are beautiful homes just a few yards from lean-to shelters made of tin and cardboard. While we were driving past these flimsy shelters, I was thinking of how unfortunate it all is and why something can’t be done to improve the station in life of these people. “How did it come to this” I asked myself. What I was about to see would make the people living on the streets seem like some kind of third world middle class.

The cemetery was not a memorial site. Nothing of the kind. We slowly drove down the muddy side road, suddenly finding ourselves surrounded by burial vaults. Stacked 8 or 9 high like bookshelves, these vaults are the final resting places of the departed from this city. At least that's the intent. It seems that family of the deceased pays a fee to bury their dead, then have to continue to pay a fee each year. If the fee isn’t paid, the grave is not only not maintained, the bones are put in a sack, thrown to the side and the vault is used for someone or something else. In some cases, as you can see from the pictures and the video, the vaults remain open – containing several sacks of bones and debris. Some are empty but are used as sleeping quarters for people that live in this cemetery among the dead.

By the way, to see the video, go to youtube and search under Wayne Watson in a Cemetery in Manila. There's another video shot by a radio talk show host from New Zeland as well.

It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen or heard of. The odor is beyond description. The thought of what we’re walking on and walking through is horrifying. All you have to do is look down, if you can bring yourself to look.

A couple of weeks before we were there, a typhoon had flooded parts of the city – of course, this part of the city, and washed up even more trash and debris into the aisles of the cemetery.

This sight and this experience struck me like a brick to the forehead. It’s one thing to see poverty . . . most of us have seen it to some degree or another. But the poverty mixed with people living among the dead was almost too much.

Still, there was the laughter of little children. They’ve known no other life and, most likely will not. There were bands of teenagers – you could tell that the life they lived was getting a hold on them. They were growing cold - their eyes steely and ferocious. The few adults, and it seems there aren’t too may that grow old here for obvious reasons, have eyes that are distant and hopeless – angry, resigned.

We talked to a few of the people that spent their days and dark nights there in this horrible place. One woman that came walking past, dressed in her black jeans, white t-shirt and Coca-Cola cap said she’d lived there for 45 years. 45 years! She spent her days as a maid then at the end of the workday, took the bus back to “her home” in the cemetery. I don’t think she imagines ever leaving.

Still, there were others that were different. Something had changed their hearts and lives.
They still lived among the dead bones of their ancestors, strangers and kin, but there was liberty and a lightness in hearts. Someone had shared the Truth of God’s Love through the scripture with them. The unstoppable Love of Christ had come to dwell in their hearts, releasing their souls from a bondage even more dark and despicable than the place they laid their heads every night. For these, the horrors of poverty took a back seat to the hope they have in Christ. The vulnerability of their dwelling was overwhelmed by the security and safety they find in the Father’s Hand.

As a westerner, my thoughts are, “How can we change this?” And again I ask, “How does it come to this?” I thought of farms with pastures and lakes and trees where animals live better than these human beings. “What the heck is going on????” The term Godforsaken takes on a new meaning. “Who Is Responsible?!?” “I want an answer!”

The depths of sorrow and tragedy have fallen to a new low for me. The wages of sin take on a new meaning. While my occasional infractions seem to have little consequence on the world, the collective depravity and our regular dabbling in dark places will certainly lead mankind further into this nothingness, this deep pit, but for the redemptive work of Grace done at the cross by our Savior.

To say this experience makes me grateful simply for what I have sounds petty even as I write it. “There but for the grace of God” doesn’t work either. I know what I deserve. And I don’t want it. I’m thankful that God doesn’t give it.

I cannot change what I’ve seen. I can’t. But I can do something. And I will.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day One In the Philippines

After getting off the plane, a filled to the brim, somewhat ancient 747, we stormed the Hong Kong airport in search of something….uh…western, I guess. In other words, only away from our home shores for a dozen hours or so, the urge for a friendly sign or a recognizable something was strong.

Starbucks to the rescue. I paid for it in Hong Kong dollars on my debit card, and honestly, have no idea if it cost the equivalent of two American dollars or twenty. Frankly, I didn’t care. Just pour the stuff down my throat!

We made a quick walk to our connecting flight to Manila, coffee cups in hand. Comforted in the fact that (watch out for the ear worm to come!) “it’s a small world after all!” ARRRRGGGGHHHH.

After landing in Manila, we met the first two people from Bible League International. All smiles, they were so friendly and glad to see us. We went straight to the hotel to check in, spend a few minutes freshening up from the trip, then off to the Bible League headquarters. In the video below, you'll see some of the staff, hear a wonderful testimony from Linda and see the storage facilities that need to be filled up with Bibles for them to share with their fellow countrymen.

The staff spent time making us feel welcome and sharing insights to the ministry in the Philippines. I was impressed by their passion for their work and the depth of love they have for their people.

From a purely educational standpoint, it only took a few minutes to open my eyes to the scope of the need in those thousands of islands. Yes, I said thousands. Before our orientation, I suppose I thought of the Philippines as a handful of islands in the far western Pacific. There are over 7100 islands that make up this country and over half of them are inhabited! Amazing. Immediately, you realize the need to get the Word of God in to their hands, introduce them to the Liberating Christ. And the need for copies of scripture is tremendous. That’s why we’re here.

Bible League International is represented in 60 countries. First, let me tell you what their mission is NOT. It is not to fly over a country or even a village and drop Bibles on their heads. It is not to knock on the door of a hut, put a Bible on the ground and run! It is not to leave boxes of scripture on the ground in the village square and hope they are found.

What they DO is this. Utilize local pastors and other believers that can share the Word with others. When the connection is made, the individual stays with the new prospective student of the Word, meets with them regularly, teaches, shows them answers to questions about life in God’s Word – first through a little book called “The Answer.” When that is complete, they are included in a small group study, included in a local body, then they become owners of their own Bible.

Now look, I can’t speak for you, but I have, oh, at least 10 Bibles of various and sundry translations. These folks value and treasure this one copy like no other earthly thing they possess. It’s beyond special to them.

Makes me want to re-assess my property and the value I place on certain things that are really no more than just that . . . things. Let the appraisals begin!

Wayne
video

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Across the Big Pond

Across the big pond.

I have to admit, when the Brits or anyone from Europe uses the term “across the pond” from now on, I’ll think of crossing the Atlantic in a whole different light. It seems like a commuter flight compared to crossing “the other pond.”

I remember the first time I went to Hawaii. In my head, I just thought “off the coast of California, a few miles over water, then you’re there.” Right? Wrong. It’s another five hours of flying time from LA to Paradise. You just have to hope the plane is in good mechanical order. I mean, in case of any failure, you would hope for that gentle approach to the water, lightly kissing off the waves then coming to a floating halt among the whales, but really, what are the chances?

So when it came time to start thinking of flying to Hong Kong, then on to Manila, my little brain, again, started to calculate and envision this flight. “OK, so I’ll fly Houston to San Francisco, then from San Francisco to Hong Kong (I know it’s way past Hawaii!), then Hong Kong to Manila. No sweat.

When you pull up google earth and start spinning the globe around from San Fran to Hong Kong, well, let’s just say, it’s a big spin . . . “Yep, there’s Hawaii and . . . and . . . and. . .OK, there’s China! Gulp. Where are my floaties?

I departed Houston on the 1st of September and arrived in San Francisco around noon. I checked into the hotel for a few hours before our flight left for Hong Kong at 1:30 AM on the 2nd. It’s noon on the west coast, so I took off on foot to find a quick lunch before trying to catch a few hours of sleep in the quiet, still environment of my hotel room. I would check out around 11 PM and go back to the airport.

Walking from a hotel in a place where you’re unfamiliar is an adventure. At least I called it that. After what took place in the Philippines and China, I’ll be careful what I label “adventure” from now on.

So, you walk a few hundred yards, then a few hundred more with no food in sight. Then you rationalize the failure with “Well, at least I’m getting some exercise.” Then you reverse direction thinking “There’s got to be something out there.” Of course you’re looking for something good. Something that says San Francisco. But as the minutes and miles tick by, Wendy’s sounds pretty good. Arby’s. Chick-Fil-A?

Nothing.

Starbucks! But not a real Starbucks. One of those that you find in a gas station alongside the wall of coolers and STP products, spare fuses and duct tape. Pass.

I ended up settling for chicken fingers in the hotel. And thankful for that.

Thankful is the key, isn’t it? Ridiculous irritations over petty nuisances all get put into perspective over the next 8 days as we find ourselves face to face with indescribable poverty and darkness offset by Godly servants and the Christ-like hearts in the Philippines.

More to come.

Wayne


video

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

news....


A week ago (Sunday August 16), I was at Chapelwood in Houston to lead worship. My friend Sarah Fuselier was there to sing with me and it’s always so good to sing with her. She’s a pro that knows how to sing with her heart and knows how to worship.

Right after the service was over, I drove east on I-10 on my way to DeQuincy,LA for a concert there. We all met at the high school theater/auditorium, proceeded to get everything set for a 5 PM door (6 PM start time) when, at about 4:50, the sound system called in sick (i.e. shut down, nothing, bupkus). I can’t say enough about how proactive and positive everyone was! The pastor made the call to load everything up, head to the church and set up there. So many questions – so little time.

The sound crew and all the volunteers did their thing to perfection and I was actually ready to go, sitting in the green room at 5:40 having some fruit and hot tea! Amazing!

We started on time and it was a tremendous evening. Many thanks to First Baptist Church of DeQuincy, Mel Yorks and all the staff for having me there.

I drove home on Monday morning just in time to have a couple of hours to throw things together for the flight that evening to Chicago. Meg with me, we got to the airport in time for a 3:45 flight to O’Hare.

Sue Olsen met us there and drove us to the hotel. Sue is on the development team for Bible League (Soon to be known as Bible League International . . . they work in over 60 countries) and she set up the week’s activities.

Tuesday morning at 7, we were in the lobby to meet Sue for the ride to the Bible League headquarters. We had several meetings with different folks from the staff of over 100 and then, at noon, I shared some songs at their focus meeting of all the staff.

Bible League is well known around Illinois and especially Chicago land but not so well known around the rest of the USA. Let me encourage you to get to know them and their work. Bibleleague.org is there home website. They’re constantly updating and are in the throes of some major changes. I’m thankful to be able to represent them from time to time in concerts.

The two concerts in the Chicago area were well planned, well executed and well attended. I’m thankful for these opportunities.

Bible League is not a Bible distributor. I could go into detail about their incredible ministry but my wife had the best example of what they do and how I could describe how they do what they do.

Which would you choose? If I asked you if you could play the guitar and you said, “No, but I would like to learn” which scenario would you prefer? (A) I hand you a guitar, wish you well and leave you with it (good luck, Godspeed,etc.) OR (B) I hand you a guitar and tell you “I’m going to stay right here with you, teach you how to play, meet you every week until you can play so well that you could teach someone else to play.”

Well?

Which would be the best method? Which would be the best use of our time? Which would produce the finest player and the best results?

That’s what Bible League does. They put over 19 million copies of the Scriptures in the hands of people all over the world last year alone. Also, in 2008, they trained (through local churches around the globe) over a quarter of a million people to teach God’s Word.
Churches and Church fellowships grow from the Bible study groups. That, my friends, is follow-up!

We flew home to Houston on Saturday afternoon. And yesterday, Sunday August 23, I spent the day with South Main Baptist Church in Pasadena, TX. Two morning services starting at 8:15! I could tell, as people started arriving for that first service that this church was alive and well! The energy of the people was tremendous.

Last night, I asked my friends Jeremy Good and Rankin Peters to join me along with Nathan Wells running the sound. It was a blast to play with these guys again – the second time this month. After doing hundreds, and maybe into the thousands, of concerts solo, I really enjoy having musicians of this caliber on the platform beside me.

So now, I’m on a track to prepare for departure on Tuesday, Sept. 1, for the Philippines. I don’t ask this casually and I know and trust that many of you will actually do this with me and for me.

I need your prayers for this trip. I would ask you to pray for health and strength, for protection and safety, for joy in the middle of it all, that my eyes will be open (both physical eyes and spiritual eyes). Pray for my wife while I'm traveling, for her peace and safety. I’ll try to keep you apprised of all the action as time and foreign time zones and access will permit.

I’m thankful to all who read these notes.

Blessings to you

Wayne

Saturday, August 22, 2009


When do people think anymore?


I could say I’m worried about the next generation but I know that would probably induce a yawn from you followed by a couple of keystrokes taking you on to the next item on your surfing agenda. Wait! Wait!!!!


I’m not worried about the next generation so much. First of all, I try to NOT worry these days about much of anything. Read it in a Book somewhere.


I guess the reason some people worry about young people is that the media has such a presence in their (our?) lives and such pointed impact on everything they think and do. I’m not worried about the music they listen to. I hear songs now that I listened to back then. I had no clue as to the meaning of most of it. I just liked how it sounded much to the quiet dismay of my parents (See, this is nothing new at all). I do get a little concerned about the free access to visuals that weren’t there before. The lines of propriety were crossed a long, long time ago. Parents have to step up, step in and use the “off” button.


I’m not worried about fashion trends or how short shorts are or how mini the dresses are. Ever fly Southwest Airlines in it’s early days . . .yikes! Again, parents have to stand between boy/girl of the house and say in their best King Jimmy English “No wayeth as long as thou dwelleth under my roof (roofeth?)”


And I’m not so much worried about this as much as I simply wonder where it will end up. Well, that followed by lots of prayer.


The heat index in Houston was over 100 again today. Welcome to our summer. The heat has forced most of us to abandon a lot of outdoor activities lately. The AC has been pulling overtime most of the season.


But today, I vowed to take on the sunshine and spend a few hours on two wheels. No, not the pedaling kind of two wheels, the motorized version. My bike has been sitting a lot this year. With two surgeries that took a toll on my core strength and power (the doc wasn’t crazy about me trying to manhandle an 800 pound motorcycle), my ride has mostly been idle.


This morning, after breakfast, I pulled down the basket of car/bike wash towels, ventured into the dark recesses of the storage room outside to find the right soaps and waxes, etc, pulled out the hose and began the pre-ride ritual.


People ask me, “Why do you always wash your bike before you ride?” Well, first of all, I don’t want to ride around on a bike caked with dust and grime, and second, it’s kind of hard to wash it after the ride. Exposed engine parts tend to get a tad warm after a few hours. A cool spray of water on a hot engine . . . well, why tempt fate? So to answer the question, it’s a strange mixture of vanity and wisdom.


After the washing and the drying and the waxing, I hit the starter, thankful that the weeks off and the summer heat hadn’t done a number on my battery, and off I went. Yes, it was hot! But, man, I love to ride. It does something to me – for me. I’ve written more than a few lines of lyric and melody on the back of my bike.


Back in 2003, Harley Davidson celebrated their 100th Anniversary. That was the year I bought this black Electro Glide Ultra Classic. It’s one of those big daddies that has a radio, CB (wow, remember those????), CD player and all the other goodies. Sometimes, I touch the power button on the radio and tune to a classic oldies station. There’s something about riding and listening to CCR or Foreigner.


But today, the audio system stayed off for the whole ride. No talk stations arguing about who’s gonna win the Superbowl (oh, sorry – do I have to pay to write “Superb…?) or what’s gonna happen if the Astros don’t do something fast, or some public radio car care comedians messing around with the heads of their listeners.


Just good time to think, to pray, and to watch and listen.


If you’re thinking something profound came from today’s trip, I’m sorry to disappoint you. It didn’t. Nothing long forgotten came back to me. There was no George Costanza moment, “I just remembered where I left my retainer in second grade!”


I just rode and thought and prayed. Not the kind of prayer you’re taught in Sunday School. Just a conversation with the Father. A line or two here and there followed by the silence and the waiting. It was like spending the day with your best friend – some talking some listening, some just being together. The thoughts that came during the waiting were sweet. There was an innocence that doesn’t often show itself in this culture of noise and busyness.


So when do you take the time to just think?


When my kids were young, boredom would sneak up on them like a summer cold. Out of nowhere, in the middle of what you would otherwise think was a good day, one of them would declare, “I’m bored.” I don’t know when I first resorted to this tactic, but I remember using it often – even through those difficult high school years. Whenever one of the boys would declare boredome, I would make them go to their rooms – not out of punishment – sit on the bed (no sleeping, no listening to music, no talking on the phone) and just – think.


Without fail, within a half hour, sometimes less, they would emerge, ready to tackle some project, something they’d wanted to do but had forgotten all about. It just took some time to remember and reclaim the passion for that treehouse, that game deep in the closet, that model that never got assembled, that . . . whatever it was. It just took some down time – some time to think.


I’m concerned (evangelical-speak for “worry”) about the creative void that will almost certainly occur in the near future because people aren’t thinking, they aren’t dreaming and using their imaginations. While I was riding today, I passed dozens of runners in all parts of the city. None of them were running without headphones. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people listen to music! Duh. And I certainly don’t know what goes on every minute of everyone’s day. But everywhere we go, people are occupied with their cell phones, their ipods, their blackberries,etc. It’s not only that we’re missing interaction with each other, we’re not taking time to watch what’s going on around us, we’re not listening. Sometimes there’s need right beside me and if I’m not careful, I get so occupied with my stuff, I miss it. Who’s to know what direction a day might take – for that matter a week or a lifetime – if we just pay attention to something outside our own realm.



Wow….this soapbox is beginning to wobble.


Turn something off today. Walk away, even if it’s just an hour or so, from your iPhone, your blackberry, your cell phone. (It bothers me to feel the way I do if I happen to get in the car only to find myself a whole MILE from home with out my phone!!! Wimp. Take on the world sans phone once in a while.) Resist the urge to enter the family room, the kitchen, the bedroom, that hotel room, and automatically turn on he tv set.


Maybe someone should figure out how to charge for quiet. Then we might consider it a prize to be treasured. But ‘till then, try a free moment of solitude and silence and enjoy.


Wayne

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Losses

I miss some things.

For forty-five years, I had perfect eyesight. I could see road signs and read them, sometimes, before anyone else in the car even realized there was a sign. I could read small street signs in neighborhoods – even at night and, therefore, always appeared to know where I was going and seldom got lost. I could read the fine print in menus even in darkened restaurants – you know, what else comes with the dish you’re ordering, the “automatic 18% tip added to parties of six or more” or “some of our dishes are cooked in peanut oil” (a warning that, if not heeded during my youngest son’s early years, could have spelled disaster) or “pipe and cigar smoking prohibited.” You know, stuff like that.

Now, unless the lighting in a restaurant is something akin to a tanning salon or a futuristic space vehicle approaching the surface of the sun, reading glasses are absolutely required as I enter eating establishments – unless I want the menu read to me like a child. “Whoa, go back. What was the third thing you said . . . the tilapia?”

It usually takes me mere seconds, usually after I sigh a heavy sigh - mourning the loss of perfect sight, for me to realize how blessed I was to have all those years unfettered by glasses or contact lenses (I still don’t see how you can touch something to your eyeball!!). I’m aware that the minor inconvenience of having to remember glasses is absolutely nothing compared with some of the obstacles millions of people face every day – those that have lost their sight completely, those who are losing their sight noticeably every single day. It’s petty to complain.

But we all have to launch from our own pad - with our own experiences, good and bad, as a foundation. Our memories, our assets and liabilities are unique and, frankly, it really doesn’t help much to lessen the impact of our own loss to constantly try to walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s a good reminder and a good journey-correction device to do so, though. Keeps you in touch with reality and gives you some big-picture perspective.

A man at my church lost his wife a couple of weeks ago after a nine year battle with that horrible disease, that intruder, that malicious perpetrator that, if it doesn’t kill, often the treatment does. Cancer. She was in her 50s. I asked him how he was doing Sunday after church. “One day at a time,” he said.

I still miss my father. He died over 12 years ago and not only do I miss him, nobody and nothing can ever take his place. His presence is lost to me.

I’ve had to put a couple of dogs down over the years and the subsequent quiet and physical void that’s undeniable and immediate is stunning. But it’s nothing like losing a family member. Or is it? To people that keep humans at arms length because of some pain inflicted upon them by said humans, the loss of a pet can be devastating.
Again, we all launch from a different pad.



Some of my friends have lost the innocence of their early years. The ugly side of life, the disappointment that inevitably comes with relationships, the loss of focus on a career or a noble ambition that seemed so clear a couple of decades back. We’ve all lost some of that.

Wow. So you just wanted to read something uplifting, huh? Some “Tweet” of inspiration in 140 characters or less?

Well, if you’re reading this, you’re breathing and God is not done with you.

And here’s a real “guy” bit of advice on how to get over it.

Get over it. Stop dwelling on the past. It’s gone.

How do you do that? When your mind starts to drift toward some morbid memorial of things lost, put something else on the screen. Like shuffling photographs when they come off the printer, look at something else.

“Wow, that’s a bad picture. Let’s put that in the back of the pile – or maybe in the shredder!” OK, here’s a good one. Look at those colors!”

Here’s the point. You have to learn from your loss. Learn to deal with it in a healthy manner. Learn to trust that God is real and that He’s got His eye on you. And that anything we hold to in this life has an expiration date on it.

Is it possible that daily reminders of loss are just ways of telling us not to get too attached (or at least to keep our attachments within some eternal perspective) – to anything! To keep a light grip? Even on the wonderful blessed stuff - like love and those that come with love? To remember that we are passing through and that eternity won’t be cluttered with things that die? To not be overwhelmed with the piles of things that were supposed to make our lives easier and are just making us more anxious?

Our vacation time at the cottage this year was the most peaceful, simple pleasure. The cell phone didn’t work much at all. The only internet connection was a dial-up service that forced you to just . . . sit . . . there . . . and . . . . . . wait. It was beautiful. And, remarkably, the sun just kept coming up and when we returned to the busy life of the city, everything was still churning as if we’d never left. In a lot of ways, we weren’t missed at all.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself to breathe. I find myself, literally, holding my breath, getting done with the things that must be done! I don’t want to live this way. And I pray everyday for the wisdom to pursue things that matter, things that are eternal, while surrounded by the noise of things that don’t. I pray that I’ll revel every day in the love God has poured all over me – with Himself, with family and friends.

Ahh…..

Monday, August 10, 2009

Catching up

Well, where did we leave off?

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written. What was a lazy summer suddenly got very busy.

Most recently and most memorable – we spent a very relaxing 8 days in Canada in July. I was four weeks past the final round of surgery (which was textbook, thank God – most literally). Retreating to the cottage that’s been in Meg’s family since the early forties is a real vacation. Not like those trips where every minute of every day is filled with activities. You know the kind – a vacation where you come home needing a vacation. Yeah.

We flew to Buffalo then took the scenic 5 hour drive north to the shore of Lake Huron. The alarm had gone off in Houston at 3:30 AM so by the time we arrived at the cottage, we were spent. I think I slept about ten hours that night. The temp in Houston this summer has been brutal! We started having 100 degree-plus days in June and it’s kept up for most of the summer. So the high 50s of the Canada nights, the piles of blankets and the general easy, laid back vibe of the place, put me into a beautiful coma-like state of sleep I rarely get at home.

By the way and as an aside, the home office, while convenient, can be a nagging pest. It never goes away and it’s difficult to get away from. Computers, musical instruments, studio gear calling out “Touch me, use me!!!!”

Ahh….back to the cottage..

Our schedule, if you want to call it that, was something like this . . .

*Get up whenever you feel like it
*Coffee whenever you want, wherever you want – patio by the water
or in house.
*Read by the lake
*Talk by the lake
*Fish in the lake
*Stare at the lake
*Walk (exercise) if you feel like it
*Or ride bikes (pedaling – no motors)
*Lunch by Joanne (always beautiful, simple great food)
*Nap
*More patio time – Repeat steps three through six
*Dinner
*Whatever . . . read, tv, talk, laugh, quiet . . .
*Bed

Repeat daily


We got back to Houston feeling refreshed and thankful to have such a tremendous getaway.

Last night, I played a concert at our home church here in Houston. It was part of a concert series they started a few years back. On the stage with me were three of Houston’s finest musicians. Over the years, since I play most of my dates solo, adding other players to the mix has been a little stressful, but not last night.

Jeremy Good is a tremendous jazz pianist/keyboard dude. I hired Jeremy to come to Houston years ago when I was on staff at a church here – he was my main accompanist and has been here ever since. He played vintage Fender Rhodes and synth. Rankin Peters played upright and electric bass. So musical, Rankin drops it right in the pocket and goes with the flow like few others I’ve seen.

And finally, my longtime friend Sarah Fuselier sang backup. I can’t tell you how talented she is in a forum like this. You’d have to hear her! And if you get the chance, hear her!!!

After the events of this year, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to be able to stand on a platform and have a voice to sing these truths about the grace, the mercy, the unstoppable love of our Father. My voice is tired today. When I ran into my friend Tom at church a few minutes ago, he asked me how I was doing after last night. “Voice is really tired,” I said. “Well,” he replied, “You weren’t . . . . shy.” I still want to sing like I’ll never get another chance.

This is a busy month. This weekend (August 16th) I’ll leave after church and drive to DeQuincy, LA for a concert there Sunday night. I’ll get back on Monday and we’ll leave Monday night for the rest of the week in Chicago.

Bible League is a ministry based in Chicago and I’m doing three concerts for them to raise awareness of their work. You can check the calendar at the website for more details.

On September 1, I’ll leave to fly to San Francisco and from there, will go to the Philippines until September 10. This is a radio promotional trip with the folks from Bible League. We’ll all appreciate your prayers for this long journey.

Right after I get back from the Philippines, I’ll be in Colorado Springs for the weekend for Compassion International and their gathering of international partners and leadership.

After that….who knows . . . stay tuned.

Blessings

Wayne

Monday, June 15, 2009


I could tell you that I’ve been working on this book, “Turning Into Dad” for 7 or 8 years. Truth is, I’ve been working on it since the day my father passed away. And beyond that, I suppose, I’ve been observing and collecting these thoughts and observations for my entire life.

As Father’s Day approaches, I hope you’ll take some time this week to reflect on your father, the man he is (if he is still around) or the man he was (if he’s passed). Reflect on his better self and his faults. Thank God for the good things he gave you and thank the Father for the flaws that you recognize and vow to abandon as you live out your life.

Be grateful.

I share this excerpt from the book that I finally finished just a short time ago. I’ve made it available in soft cover form or as an audio book on waynewatson.com

Blessings.

Wayne


From the Chapter entitled ….


“The Phone Call”

The phone call came a few days before Labor Day in 1996. There were no
warnings, and no premonitions gave me any idea that this wasn’t going to be a
normal day. Those kinds of calls come from out of the blue. They simply intrude,
blowing their way into the normal routines we follow and stopping us cold. Things
that seemed so important five minutes ago are quickly moved to the back of the stove.
Sometimes, you have to turn the stove off for a while.

I had a concert to play on Saturday of that Labor Day weekend and decided
to drive up to see my folks the day after. While we were all concerned, my father
insisted that it wasn’t urgent and there was no need for me to come right away. The
call was a typical “The doctors have found something they’re concerned about
but it’s probably nothing” kind of call.

On the way to Wisner, I drove a little slower than normal, thinking
the longer it took me to get home, the better the chance that bad news would just
pack up and leave. With some degree of dread, and with a fear that only shows its face in the unknown, I rode through the east Texas piney woods to the town where
I had spent my entire life prior to going off to college, the years where I began to
notice I was being molded into a man who was part me, but part him and part his
father before him.

On the way, I had an uneasy feeling I wasn’t being told the whole story. But
that was my father’s way: Save the really hard stuff for face to face. Some things
were not meant to be discussed over the phone. When I pulled into the driveway, I
knew I was about to experience a defining moment in my life.

I had pulled into that driveway hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Along the
way, there were some significant markers and memories as I moved toward becoming an adult. I remember the time I parked the car after my first solo trip around town - probably to buy groceries or something since new teenage drivers are always more than willing to
run errands for their moms. Or it might have just been a ride. In a town of 1500
people, going riding was near the top of a teenage driver’s cool-things-to-do list.
For me, it was about as edgy and adventurous as I would get for most of my teenage
years. Thank God. I was spared a lot of heartache and guilt by walking pretty close to the center of the line my parents had drawn for my brother and me.

We would ride from one end of town to the other - about a five-minute trip if
you hit the light just right. Yes, I said light, ‘cause there was just the one. You could
turn a five-minute drive into a half hour if you stopped and hung out at the Texaco
station on the south side of town.

But as you can probably imagine, the senior Mr. Watson was not a big fan of
of his sons hanging out, though it was a harmless, small-town activity that made us feel like men. Don’t ask me why. It wasn’t like we were sitting on the hoods of hotrods
or anything. We weren’t huddled up with packs of cigarettes rolled up in our t-shirt
sleeves. We didn’t tell off-color stories or try and sully the reputations of the girls in town. And these weren’t show cars with chrome pipes like you saw on Happy Days in the parking lot at Arnold’s Drive-In. They more resembled the late sixties version of Howard Cunningham’s Desoto - real chick magnets.



The car fate assigned to me during those first months with a license was my
mom’s Buick Electra 225. Look about thirty feet in front of where you are right
now and imagine a car stretching from you to that point - it was that big or at least
seemed like it. If it got real lucky and wanted to lean toward something a little more sporty, I drove Dad’s Buick La Sabre. Cool. I really can’t put my finger on why driving is such a primal pleasure for me. Even now, I’d rather get behind the wheel and drive to visit the kids in Nashville than drive to the airport and catch a plane. The road trip from Houston to
Nashville by car is about sixteen hours. It’s less than a two-hour flight. Go figure.

It’s called “windshield time” by guys who pound the road selling and making
calls on clients. I just like it. And I’d rather take the back roads than the interstate
highways. You see more color and more of the character of the country that way.
You meet some real nice people and can find some killer restaurants and dives that you’d never see on the interstate. Look for the full parking lot and take a chance.

It’s just one of those simple pleasures that reminds me of the early lessons and
examples lay down by my dad. I don’t really know how old I was when this started but I can see it, feel it and remember the excitement and the anticipation like it was yesterday. Nothing, at the age of nine or ten, got me so excited as dad saying “Boys, let’s go for a drive.” He would take my brother and me to the high-school track and let us drive the car. For cryin’ out loud, I was nine! I can’t tell you how much fun it was.

The track we drove around was nothing fancy. It was just a simple quarter-
mile oval that rimmed the football field. There was no fence to keep us out of the
school property, and it never occurred to me that the coaches might not have been
too crazy about our road trips around their sacred turf. The track was covered with
black cinders of some sort that crunched under the weight of the tires. There we’d
go - around and around at a lightning pace of oh, what, ten or fifteen miles per
hour? We took turns at the wheel.

I’d watched my dad drive for years and was spellbound at his expertise. I guess
it was one of the first things I used to worry about: that I would never learn when
to turn the wheel inches to the left and right at just the right moment. I guess I’ve
always been sort of a worrier. Even driving in what looked like a straight line, my
dad would be nudging the wheel back and forth dozens of times a minute.

“How will I ever figure out that move?” I asked myself. It never occurred to me
that he was just making small corrections to keep the car on a straight path.

It seems like a great bit of wisdom to me now. Making lots of small corrections saves you from having to make major ones - whatever the road you’re on or whatever you’re doing. That’ll preach, as they say.

The Long Way Home

I took one step away
I thought, “Hey, what’s the harm?
Still feel the heat from here
Still see the light
Still feel the warm
What’s another step or two
That wouldn’t be so wrong would it?”
Then when I looked for truth
My eye for truth was gone

In a desperation mercy plea
A spell of wisdom just came over me


I took the long way home
Back to what I believe
I took the long way home
You were waiting there for me
You were always faithful even when
My faith was not so strong
It’s been a long way home

You know I never intended to
Get off the track so far
The lights that turned my head
They’re looking so bizarre
It takes so little time
For me to be deceived
But just a simple truth
Can bring me to my knees

There are some stones
Better left unturned
There are some bridges never crossed
Still better off burned
I took the long way home
Back to what I believe
I took the long way home
You were waiting there for me
You were always faithful even when
My faith was not so strong
It’s been a long way home

Words and music by Wayne Watson
ASCAP Material Music 1997



My brother, Mike, always got first crack at the wheel. Being the first-
born had its perks. Early on, when my turn finally came, and don’t think I wasn’t
counting how many laps my big brother got before I took the driver’s seat, I had to sit in
Dad’s lap. He, of course, worked the mysterious pedals down in the dark recesses of
the floorboard while I worked the wheel. This was the coolest thing I’d ever done.
To be in control of the steel behemoth from Detroit was a real rush for a nine year old.


As time passed, I graduated from Dad’s lap to sitting on top of phone books or pillows,
and eventually, added the working of the brake and accelerator to my repertoire.

The most memorable moment on those Sunday afternoon trips around
the track was the time my brother was in the driver’s seat with Dad in the front
passenger seat - me in the back. Dad was looking to his right out the passenger
side, watching nothing in particular, when my brother caught my eye in the rearview
mirror. Giving me the hey-watch-this look, he took his hand off the wheel for a
split second.

Without ever turning his head, my Dad spoke in the low, emotionless tone that
was so familiar.

“None of that monkey business.”

Enough said. Lesson over.

We’d suspected that Dad had eyes in the back of his head and now we were sure.
Fact is, he probably just saw the reflection of the ill-timed stunt in the window.
Mike and I still laugh about that drive. Dad didn’t over-react and go all
dramatic on us. His few, carefully chosen words got the message across loud and clear.

There were times when I barely made it home inside curfew, although
Charles Watson seldom, if ever, used the word “curfew” - you just knew when to be off the mean streets of Wisner.


I had turned into that driveway on weekends, home from college with bags of laundry, hair too long that tested my father’s tolerance, weekends when I arrived with a monstrous hunger for Mom’s Sunday-after-church roast beef and rice and gravy. A little later, there were those early trips home with the first grandchildren in the family - trips that
brought such joy to my mom and dad.

This day, as I walked toward the side door of my parents’ house, I walked with more than a little bit of fear.