Monday, January 28, 2008

Some Memories

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Ruston, Louisiana to play a memorial concert at the First Baptist Church. I went to college in this beautiful small town in North Louisiana and while there is a lot of evidence of growth since the late seventies, it still has a grace and charm that comes from its gentle hillsides and its warm and loving people.

The audience that night was dotted with people from my past. I rarely get choked up singing a song, but more than once on this evening, I had a hard time getting the words out.

The event itself was meant to make people aware of a scholarship that was set up in the name of Amy Meyers. Amy died in a car accident in October of 2006 on a trip between Houston and Ruston. So, there was some air of bittersweet memory for those that knew her anyway.

Amy’s family, her father and mother, her sister with her husband and a row of close friends that came up from Houston, sat together and watched and listened.

It must be surreal for parents to have to say goodbye to a child. Children are supposed to outlive their parents. It just seems to be the natural progression of us mortals. But here, and in so many cases every single day, the tables get turned and the normal agenda of life gets reassigned.

Along with the realization of the loss this group of family and friends has sustained, my emotions got the best of me several times because I was face to face with so many that have played such a big role in my life. They probably don’t even know it. Time and distance and silence and neglect have all become obstructions along the path of good intentions to stay in touch or to simply express gratitude for their help along the way.

As I stood on the stage and looked out, I saw the professor that talked me into staying in school when all I wanted to do was go to California and join an established band. Doc and Dottie have been great friends for a long, long time. Many years passed without much communication between us. A few years ago, Doc was diagnosed with stomach cancer and spent a good bit of time in Houston. I was able to see them then and catch up. When we spent time together, it’s as if no time has passed.

My voice teacher and his wife were there. He had another student come through his office after me that has gone on to achieve a lot in the country field – Trace Atkins is a household name in country music. They came back stage before the concert to say hello. He told me how thankful he was of the work I’ve done over the years. Knowing that the kind of singing I do now is not the way he taught me to sing then …. Well, it was nice of him to say. I know he meant it.

My mom was there. She’s struggled lately and didn’t decide until that morning whether she could make the 90 minute trip or not. . For mom to consider not coming to one of my concerts, well, I knew she was really not feeling well. She did come with my brother and two of his children.

Afterwards, mom was surrounded by people wanting to say hello – wanting to reconnect. She liked that.

My Uncle Royce (my dad’s only living brother) and Aunt Vera were there. I can’t remember the last time I saw them.

Dicky and Kim were there. He’s the pastor of another church in Ruston. We go way back. He’s a guitar player / motorcycle rider like me. We’ve not stayed in touch lately and I felt the distance of that relationship as I looked out from the stage that night.

I could go on but won’t.

I’ve never felt more loved. I know I’ve been loved. Much. But after the last few years, my senses are keener to God’s presence, His favor, His Grace and mercy – His Love.

How time flies.

Yesterday morning at 8:40, I got a call from my daughter-in-law, Laura. She told me that Adam would be leading worship at their church in northwest Houston where he’s been on staff for a few years.

His boss has been on a sabbatical for 6 months caring for his wife so Adam has, pretty much, been in the driver’s seat for much of that time. Sunday would be the last time before things returned to what used to be “normal”.

I sat there and watched my youngest son – his guitar strapped on going in the wrong direction, and I smiled at the memories. When Adam first got interested in playing the guitar, I, of course tried to put one of mine in his hands. The right-handed position just didn’t feel right to him even though we tried and tried to make it work.

Eventually, we both realized he was going to have to play lefty. Shopping for a left handed guitar wasn’t as crazy as we thought it was going to be. Here in Houston, there is a shop called “Southpaw Guitars”.

When you first walk into this funky little shop in the Bellaire area of Houston, it feels like you’re looking into a mirror. All the guitars are backwards! There had to be a couple of hundred “southpaw” guitars – everything from Martin acoustics to Fender Stratocasters to Gibson Les Pauls. All turned the other way! Adam was drooling.

We finally settled on a guitar, Adam pulled out his savings, then we went home.

Seeing Adam playing on the big stage at his church yesterday was a beautiful thing for me. I remember teaching him his first chord.

He sings like me. People have always said that and now I see it. He leaves nothing for later. He leaves all he has on the platform right now. He closes his eyes and lets ‘em have it.

His heart is on fire for the Lord. I’m overwhelmed at what God is doing with him. And so very thankful for God’s faithfulness to all generations.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Church on Sunday

Yesterday, I worshiped with the Episcopal brethren.

For the first few months after I stepped down as worship leader, I visited this particular church. Honestly, at first, I was simply curious about the building. I don’t know what that says about me although, lots of churches of lots of denominations work hard on building structures to attract. Don’t know what that says about any of us. It is what it is.

Yesterday I went back for morning worship.

Growing up Baptist didn’t prepare me for the words in the worship booklet.

“Second Sunday after Epiphany” Huh?

“Holy Eucharist” Uh, sort of sounds familiar.

In the booklet, it says that the sermon (Ah, I know that one!) for the day is “The E Word”. My first thought was that “E” stood for Episcopal. If a Baptist sermon were called “The “B” Word”, the word would probably be “Baptist”. We’re proud of our baptistness. But I guess all brands have a certain level of sanctified (at least in our own eyes) pride. I’m not sure there is such a thing as “sanctified pride”. Oh well, another day.

The “E” in the sermon title stood for “evangelism. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that my Episcopal brothers and sisters have a passion and a heart for evangelism! Again, what an arrogant Baptist I am.

During the sermon, the speaker talked of sharing your faith, missed opportunities, preparing for a day at work and praying for chances to minister to someone - being ready to give an account of the joy in your life.

In the service there was lots of kneeling and standing and sitting at different times. I just followed the crowd and didn’t feel awkward. There were lots of responsive readings where the pastor or rector or one of the other guys wearing a robe and cool looking green and gold shawl would lead out and then the congregation would speak together.

I thought, “This is good stuff”. I noticed that some of the faithful knew the material by heart and others, like me, were reading it from the book.

But I’ll tell you, if they were paying attention to what they were reading and saying, it was strong and moving.

We read the Nicene Creed together – we read the Apostles’ Creed. We confessed our sin.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved thee with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and humbly repent. For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in thy will, and walk in they ways, to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

We sang songs. I knew some of them and some, I’d never ever heard before. We didn’t do “Shout to the Lord” or “Almighty”.

There was no worship leader out front. As a matter of fact, the whole service was rather void of elevated or celebrated personalities. The most obvious name on the program was the young man that gave the sermon. Still, I didn’t get the impression that the place was full because he was the headliner.

The whole service revolved around the name of Jesus. He was proclaimed Virgin Born, Crucified and Resurrected and alive here and now.

There was no one on the stage charged with the duty of getting us to worship. Like I said, no one personality for us to look at and evaluate. “Why is he wearing that tie?’ “He should get a haircut.” “I don’t like this song”. “I don’t like this guy”. “Where are we going to lunch?” “When will this be over??”

The first time I visited St. Martin’s, the most obvious thing to me was reverence. I needed the quiet – the awe.

No one came into the sanctuary and talked about their golf score or the stock market or how many fish they caught or “How ‘bout those Aggies or Longhorns or
_________________ (fill in your favorite team). I didn’t hear anyone talking about their yards or their grandchildren – as a matter of fact, there was little talking at all.

People came in, walked quietly down the center aisle, and bowed to the cross before taking their places. Some would sit, but most would immediately put down the kneeling bench and pray.

It made me wonder if future generations will have a desire for reverence and awe. Optimistic me thinks they will. Because no matter what advances we make or how technically progressive we become, there will always be a longing in the human soul that won’t be quenched with X Boxes, ipods or HD Television. It may take some years for each living breathing mortal to realize just what the void is, but as we grow older and, hopefully more mature, we recognize the need to fall before our Creator and allow look us in the face through the eyes of the Redeemer.

Hear me. Hold me. Speak to me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Welcome Home Luke!

Well, you’ll have to indulge me today.

Luke went home to his brothers and his own room last night.

After they were discharged from Baptist Hospital in Nashville yesterday afternoon, they went straight to Vanderbilt Medical Center to have his little heart checked out.

There had been some concern early on that a few things might not be just right.

By the grace of God, answered prayers were obvious as the doctor came in and said something to the effect of “This is a boring scan to look at. Everything is right where it’s supposed to be and everything is perfect.” All of us are overwhelmed at God’s hand in this.

Why are we surprised? Well, I don’t know if “surprised” is the right word. Relieved. Grateful. Truth is, sometimes our prayers don’t get answered the way we want them to be answered. Father knows best.

Anyway, we’re thankful that Luke is ok.

So now there are three Watson boys in the house in Nashville. Here are some pics.

Thanks for your prayers.

Wayne and family

good night now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Watercolor Pony Ranch Adds New Member!

I was awakened yesterday by a text message from my son, Neal, saying that Lindsay, his wife of 10 years, was all checked into the hospital in Nashville.

January 14th has been the date we've long expected Luke to show up. And so he did!

For a few months now, the doctors have been keeping an eye on Luke's heart. Early on, they detected a few problems. Hundreds of people began to pray. Oh, and one note - Neal and Lindsay weren't sold on the name "Luke" at first but as he was having this little bit of trouble and since "Luke" is a really good doctor name (check New Testament ...oh, about the third book in) they felt like the name was a good choice.

Yesterday, after they induced labor, they were keeping a close eye on his heart rate. As the morning drew to a close and the labor didn't progress as quickly as they all hoped, they performed a C section around 2 PM.

So now the suspense is over and Luke Britton Watson is walking the planet (ok, not yet, but watch out!). He is doing great. Maybe the elevated heart rate was just his excitement of meeting his family, seeing his big brothers, Sam and Gabe.

Wow. Three boys! Neal and Lindsay and all of us are so thankful and happy.

Just wanted to share this with you.

Watercolor Ponies have not only ridden away - they're working their own ranches!


Friday, January 11, 2008

Bird Dogs

The dogs can’t wait to hit the ground. They spend the night in the kennel, sleeping in their own, relatively comfortable quarters. In the night, from time to time, you can hear them respond to something outside their fences – a coyote, a rabbit or a raccoon. They get stirred up - they bark - they howl. Their excitement rocks you in the otherwise quiet country nighttime. Somehow though, it’s easy to go back to sleep knowing they’re out there.

In the morning, they’re ready to load up and get to the field. It’s quail season. They spend most of the year waiting for these days.

The first morning was cold and dry. The temperature stretched from 25 degrees in the morning to a high of 70 in the south Texas afternoon. Welcome to January near the Texas / Mexico border.

As I drove south to the hunting camp, I saw lots of trucks pulling nice trailers with license plates from New Jersey and Minnesota. They look forward to the season, too.

We drive along the ranch road until we get to the first spot. Getting the dogs ready takes a minute or two but they can hardly wait. They shake with excitement. My friend, whose place I’m hunting on, acts as host, chef, dog handler and everything else.

He puts the electronic receivers on each of the first two dogs that will start the day in the field. The receivers respond to a transmitter that is kept on the handler’s belt. If the dogs get too far away, the short, harmless, but probably uncomfortable shock gets their attention. Harmless shocks are what happen to somebody or something other than you! Kind of like “minor surgery”. You know, the kind of surgery performed on somebody else.

As the dogs begin to work the field, we follow along driving at a pace of two or three miles per hour. Sometimes, I get out and walk through the thigh-high grass and brambles. The dogs don’t seem to pay any attention to the thorns and the saw grass.

They run back and forth with their noses in the air and on the ground. They jump over any obstacle with ease. It looks like they are smiling.

Every once and a while, my friend will call out “Lil” or “Ben”. The other two dogs in the back of the truck waiting their turn are named “Dot” (a beauty of a pointer with one big brown spot on her left side) and “Girl”. I guess they ran out of names.

When the dogs hear their names called they come back to the path of the truck and resume the focused hunt.

When they find a covey of quail, they freeze. It’s an incredible sight. If they are on birds, they cannot be called off – they will not release at the call of their names. They won’t come off point even if they are shocked by the receiver on their necks.

It’s what they are there to do.

A few years ago, the Vice President was in the news for shooting a friend with a shotgun while quail hunting. The ranch they were on is just across the fence from where we are. And for anybody that’s ever done any bird hunting, you know how easy it is for this to happen.

You walk up behind your dog on point, not knowing if the birds are two feet in front or five. When they flush, it’s an explosion. There might be five birds or twenty but it’s chaos and when it happens, you act fast. You swing the gun into position and fire.

That’s why we’re wearing bright orange hats and vests - to keep from being shot!

I’m pretty sure there are some of you reading this who have a hard time with the whole hunting thing, but if you’ve read this far, stay with me a little longer.

And by the way, we clean and eat everything we shoot. You can’t find any meat in the supermarket to compare with the meal we’ll have tonight.

The more I do this kind of thing, the more I enjoy watching the dogs work. It’s really the highlight for me above anything else – ok maybe the meal is the highlight but I digress.

They’re amazing animals. They don’t point and flush cardinals or sparrows. They hunt quail. Their noses don’t peg on the scent of rabbits or groundhogs. They don’t chase deer. In the course of our time in south Texas, we saw a couple of dozen nice bucks and the dogs gave them the casual glance and the general disregard of a shopper not interested.

They are bird dogs.

I am here to bring pleasure to my Father. To listen to his voice. To respond when He calls my name. To allow for His correction and try to obey His command. I’ve not always done it and I’m sure, like “Dot” and “Ben” and “Lil” and “Girl”, there will be times He might hit the shock collar to get my attention.

My prayer for this year is to do what I’m here to do. To ignore the “sparrows” and anything else that has nothing to do with my purpose. That might seem cold and unfeeling, but honestly, we are a people too easily distracted by the junk. I want to close my eyes to the trivial and pour my heart into the eternal.

Great athletes, great musicians and great bird dogs get to be great by focusing on their gifts and their purpose. They pay little attention what others are doing. They stay on task.

The reward is in the process as well as the accomplishment.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


I spent many of the days during the Christmas season away from my own bed.

A couple of days after Christmas, I drove to Louisiana to spend some time with my Mom and my brother. Christmas with them this year (as it’s become more and more each year) was less about the pressure of gifts – who got what, and the accompanying tension of “Did I get them enough?” “Was it what they wanted? “Do they need that?” “Do they like it?” Honestly, it’s a good feeling and a good progression toward a more authentic celebration of the Child. The fellowship was good and warm and all that is supposed to be with family.

Expectations are high for the season though, aren’t they? And, almost without fail, they aren’t met in full. That’s ok.
Every year that passes reminds me that we don’t live in one of those Norman Rockwell paintings. While lowering expectations in some cases might indicate compromises of undesirable proportions, in others, they just help you accept the way things are in your life, accept the people in your life for who they are and enjoy the innumerable blessings that are all around.

I slept in the “front room” at my mother’s house – the house I grew up in. Three or four feet from the head of the bed, there is a window air-conditioner that makes the greatest noise! This room is where my grandmother stayed when I was a boy. My brother and I occupied the “middle room”. The middle room had its own air-conditioner that, again, roared me to sleep every night of my youth.

When I first took up residence in a place with a whisper quiet central air unit, it took me a while to get used to the stillness and the silence – a silence that allowed every crack and pop from the outside world to startle me and keep me awake.

I’ve slept in thousands of beds in hotels all over the world and one of the first things I take note of when I enter a room is what kind of air-conditioning unit there is in the room. Is it the kind that stays on, fan running all the time, or is it one of those wall units that turn off and on a dozen times a night. Is there a fan in the bathroom that can mask some of the outside noises? Do I have my earplugs??

For those of you that can fall asleep anywhere, anytime I guess this doesn’t make any sense at all. Count your blessings. The rest of us don’t like you.

Many years ago, I discovered “the noise machine”. Now, they’re kind of generic and lots of companies make them. Basically, they produce a wide range of sounds – anything from nature sounds to “white noise” (sort of like the sound of a radio dial tuned to nothing).

I’ve experimented with lots of different settings on my little machine. I’ve tried to sleep to the sounds of waves crashing (too dramatic), gentle seaside sounds (stupid seagulls!), waterfalls (undesirable in that it makes for more trips to the …well, you get the idea).

Through all the trial and error, I always come back to simple “white noise”. This little device that makes a soothing noise makes every hotel sound the same. It masks the outside noises that intrude upon a good night’s sleep. If I find I’ve left home without it, I panic just a little bit.

You have to choose what you’re going to listen to and what you’re going to hear. Shutting out some of the noise might be one good goal this year. At least consider being more selective about what you listen to. The mute button on the television remote is a great accessory. Use it. It’s a noisy world and there are some things that have no welcome place in my ears.

There are news stories I don’t want to watch. There is language that I don’t want to hear. There are pictures of life that, while they might be authentic and real, I don’t want recorded in my mind’s sight.

Filters are good. My prayer for this year is that God will still whisper to me when to listen and when to not listen, when to look and when to turn away or close my eyes, when to speak and when to shut my mouth. I will defer to Him for the things that enter my heart. Like a carnival barker on a midway, the world throws it’s stuff my way. I don’t have to buy it.

God, give us discernment, ears to hear You – Eyes to see You and hearts that are willing to act in noble and good ways for Your sake. Amen.