Thursday, September 24, 2009

September 23rd Was Also Good For...

...the birth of our second son, Jason Carder.

I was pastoring a church in Moultrie, Georgia, at the time, and our men had scheduled a trip to the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to see the Braves play on Saturday. September 24th.

Jennie was pregnant, and it had not gone well. Come to think of it, it didn't go well with any of the three children she bore. She was sick--SICK--all nine months with all three kids. We couldn't eat at home. We went through every restaurant in town and the county. We couldn't eat anywhere without her getting sick.

The worst happened one day after we ate in town and barely got back to the house before she bolted out of the car and began ralphing lunch. Simultaneously a school bus full of children went by in front of our home. You could hear a collective "eeeeuuuuwww" from them as they passed slowly.

I waved. She puked.

So, needless to say, we looked forward to the birth of this child. But it wasn't that way at the beginning.

My sweetheart had to have surgery in early January. Before they did the operation the hospital did a routine pregnancy test. It was negative.

She had the pre-op tests, the x-rays, the anesthesia. The operation was successful.

Days later, just before she was released, they did another routine pregnancy test. It was positive.

She was pregnant.

Our family physician recommended we have an ultrasound to check the viability of the baby. He also told us with some hesitation that the best course, for mom and baby, would be an abortion.

We went back to the hospital.

All I could see with the ultrasound was a blip on the screen. But that blip was throbbing. With a heartbeat.

We chose to go all the way, good or bad.

Late that Friday night in September, Jason Carder came into this world, full of life. The doctor said he looked healthy, but that there were some problems he needed to check on. We pressed him, and he said our son might have spina bifida, but they'd have to test him to find out.

Another hurdle.

We knew we had done the right thing in going full-term, and now this. We prayed. And prayed again.

Then we got the results. He was fine. Still is.

Oh, and the bus driver for the trip to Atlanta couldn't go. So guess who had to drive? Yep.

Jennie was livid. "There isn't a man in that church that could drive? We just had a baby!"

At that time in my life, I was more concerned about what the church thought. I had to go.

I've learned a lot since then. It started on that trip.

On I-75, just south of Vienna (pronounced with a long "i"), the bus died. A little bit of me did, too.

This was way before cell phones. We were on the side of the road, the Braves game an unattainable goal. A couple of guys walked to the rest area, and later the rest of us followed.

I called Jennie. She made some caustic comment about seeing me in the outfield seats, but then she realized they were empty. Thirty-five of them.

The bus got towed back to Moultrie. Some folks from another church brought their bus, and took us back. I went straight to the hospital.

Jennie was sleeping when I got there. She'd wake up soon enough.

I walked down to the nursery window. There, in all his blue blanket-wrapped glory, was our son.

Everything would be okay. Because he was.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Four Wonderful Years. Thirty-One In All.

Thirty-one years ago this afternoon I married the love of my life in Newton Hall at Mercer University in Macon.

She was beautiful as she came down the aisle on the arm of her father. I hadn't seen her prior to the ceremony, since we adhered to the tradition that it was bad luck to see each other before the wedding. I did catch a glimpse of her on Coleman Avenue as she rode in the backseat of her dad's Catalina, on the way to the Campus Minister's office in the chapel to get dressed.

Of course she couldn't exactly do that, since the door was locked and the key was in my apartment in Warner Robins. Fifteen miles away.

I sent Doug Lawson, one of the groomsmen, to retrieve the key while Jennie got ready downstairs in an extra room. By the time he got back I'm sure she was dressed, but how would I know? I couldn't see her until the wedding.

She was worth the wait. Oh. Yeah.

Daddy was my best man. Of course I insisted I was the best man at my wedding, but he won out.

When the ceremony started, Jennie was crying, her mom was crying, Mama was crying, Daddy was crying, I was crying.

I told a friend later that hundreds of women cried when I got married. His reply was, "Really. How many did you marry?"

We left Macon for Atlanta and our first night together. Her brother had used toothpaste to write all over the windshield of our car. He used gel toothpaste. It started raining.

So, before I even got out of town, I had to stop and wash the car so I could see how to drive.

We got to Atlanta, checked in to the Ramada Inn (at that time an upscale place to stay), and noticed we were in an adjoining room. Next to someone with a yapping dog. I called the front desk, and they proceeded to tell me that I was in the wrong room. So we got our stuff and followed the clerk to a room on the top floor.

When he opened the door, we were amazed. We were in the Honeymoon Suite, paid for by Mama and Daddy. With a "CARE" package provided by some "friends", the contents of which I will not go into here. Or anywhere else, at any time.

We went to Chattanooga, then Gatlinburg for a week. What a memory. Jennie brought some gift towels with us in case we needed them. We did.

Our cabin was right on the creek, with a gorgeous view. Only one problem.

There was no shower.

That's right. My sweetheart and I spent our first three days together in Tennessee without a shower. We washed in the sink and used the towels she brought.

Did I mention the towels were navy blue? Do you know what navy blue towels will do when you use them before they've been washed? I didn't. But I found out.

We took our blue-tinted selves into town for the last two nights and took a day's worth of showers.

It's been a long time since then. Jennie married me for better or worse, but I'm not sure she knew how bad the "worse" would be. Yet she stuck by me, believed in me, prayed me through, and loved me no matter what. She is the joy of my life and my best friend. I've often told her that the rest of our life would be the best of our life. I want her to know that, every day.

I am the king of the world.

But only because she is my queen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rain. But Wait, There's More.

It has rained here in the North Georgia mountains--heaven--for the last ten days. Nonstop.

As a people of the Word, we're working on the Forty Days of Old. We're just not there yet, Noah.

The nearby Chestatee River hasn't flooded. Yet.

But it will.

And when it does, Noah's flood will look like a fine mist.

The Chestatee starts in the northeast corner of Lumpkin County, near Turner's Corner and Coppermine, then runs near Dahlonega, bypassing Crown Mountain and winding south toward Gainesville, twenty-one miles away.

I am telling you this so you'll know where to look for me when you organize the search party.

I have a creek running through my back yard which will probably crest sometime tonight or tomorrow. Then it will have me. Hopefully I won't be there when it decides to claim its property.

The forecast calls for between one and five inches of rain by this time tomorrow, when the showers are supposed to end. That'll be plenty, thank you.

I saw the sun for about thirty seconds Saturday afternoon. I started to send the doves out to find dry land, but called them back. It wasn't time yet.

It's pouring outside as I write this. Really.

"Come-here's" (as opposed to "been-here's") don't know diddly about driving in the rain. Or the snow. I can't wait until winter, which my friend Brent (the weather authority) told me this morning was, according to the Almanac, supposed to be "cold and wet".

Driving in this weather will be a cakewalk compared to January 2010 if his forecast holds true. Which it surely will, because the Almanac don't lie. I planted white half-runners at Mama's by it and got a bumper crop.

Oh boy.

I remember sitting in Mama's lap when I was a little boy and the rain peppering our driveway. She told me it was little children on their way to church. That's all I remember, but it's a good memory.

If that rain was going to church, this one's a Billy Graham crusade.

I just wish they'd all get there, get saved, and let the sun shine.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bobby May Not Be Back Next Year...

...not Bowden (although that is a possibility), but Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves.

During the manager's interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Kanye West grabbed the microphone and said "Joe Torre is the best manager in baseball--ever!"

You know what we'll have to do now--"just wait 'til next year."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget. Never.

Eight years ago today I was preparing to leave home around 8:45am to teach a class at my kids' high school when my wife called to me.

"Randy! You have to see this!"

With those words my life, and the life of my country, changed forever.

I remember falling into a chair, disbelief at what I was seeing as one of the Twin Towers smoldered from where the plane had flown into it. Within thirty minutes I watched in horror, "Live!", as the second plane hit.

A field in Pennsylvania. The Pentagon. The World Trade Center.

I wondered what, or who, was next.

We lived on the Space Coast of Florida, within throwing distance of Kennedy Space Center and, more ominously, Patrick Air Force Base.

I flipped over to the local news and saw personnel at KSC quickly rolling the Space Shuttle into the Final Assembly Building. Airmen at Patrick were taking off, already at DEFCON 3, patrolling the East Coast. MPs were blocking off A1A, the "beach road", two miles south and north of Patrick.

We'd never be able to drive unhindered from Melbourne to Cocoa Beach again. From that time on every vehicle would be stopped and examined before being allowed to pass.

Later that day I watched as it was revealed that at least two of the terrorists had lived within miles of my in-laws, in Vero Beach. The pictures showed the house, and there in the driveway sat a Ford Expedition. An Expedition that my dealership in Palm Bay had sold a few months before.

I remembered the men, five of them, as they came into the dealership on a Sunday afternoon and, without any questions or negotiating, purchased the vehicle. They had called earlier that day to make sure we had what they wanted. I was the manager that Sunday and recalled they had paid cash for the truck. I had them sign a form that we had to submit to the IRS when that much cash was involved. They didn't seem to care.

One of them called back as we were closing and asked to speak to me, yelling that he didn't get any floor mats when he bought the Expedition.

Floor mats.

I informed him that it didn't come with mats, and he replied that he was going to come back up there and drive the truck through the front door. I asked him how soon he could be there. I'd wait for him. He cursed at me in some language I had never heard, slammed the phone down and never showed up.

On September 11, 2001, I wished he had.

I'll never forget. Every time someone mentions New York, I remember. Each time I go to the airport, I remember. When I see a soldier, I remember.

The flag outside our store is at half-staff today in honor of those who lost their lives, and a country whose soul was bruised eight years ago.

Two Saturdays back, the day of Ted Kennedy's funeral, a woman from Atlanta stopped by to inform us that the President had requested flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the Senator.

We left it up.

It seems more fitting to fly it that way today. I remember 9/11 every time I see our nation's flag.

I'll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. In my opinion, no one should.

We should never forget. Never.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On The Other Side

Many of my loved ones are "on the other side".

My Grandaddy and Granny Free are there. Grandaddy I only knew through my Mama. He passed away about a month after she and Daddy got married. He was a gold-miner, and, from all accounts, the definition of a good man. He worked hard to provide for his family. Mama tells the story that, when they needed money, Grandaddy would go down to a nearby creek with his pan and work until he found gold to buy what was necessary. Granny lived with us my entire lifetime, and she was a pistol. She loved "As The World Turns" and got, well, emotionally involved. I came home from school one afternoon to find her and Aunt Ethel (her sister) crying over something. I asked them what was wrong and Granny replied, "Sara died." My friend Mike Ruffin's mama was named Sara, and she had cancer, so I assumed that was who she meant. I fell into a chair and asked what happened and when. "This afternoon," said Granny. "Dr. Steve couldn't save her." I told her I had to go see Mike and she looked at me like I had a third eye. "Fer what?" she queried. "It's his mama," I replied. "No, it ain't. It's the nurse on 'General Hospital'".

The last night I spent with Granny was in the Upson County Hospital in Thomaston. We stayed up all night singing "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" until the sun was coming up. Then she got quiet and asked me if I could see them. When I asked who, she told me she saw Bob (Grandaddy) on the other side of the river. She went over there a couple of days later.

My Grandpa and Grandma Berry are on the other side. Grandpa spent most of his last years in a nursing home, catatonic. Daddy would always make me go in to visit with him as he bent over Grandpa's bed, telling him he brought "that little red-headed boy" (me) to see him. Grandpa's eyes never stopped staring, and Daddy's never stopped crying. Grandpa's on the other side, able to respond now.

I spent Grandma's last Thanksgiving with her in the Gainesville Hospital. As Jennie, Mama, Susie and I prepared to leave, I thought I'd do the pastoral thing and pray with her. As I finished, Grandma began to pray, holding my hand on one side of the bed and Jennie's on the other. The prayer was so powerful it ran everyone else out of the room. I'd have gone too, but I couldn't get loose. She meant business, and if you've ever been the recipient of a prayer like that it affects you. I hope her praying bore fruit. As she finished, eyes closed, she said, "Yes, I'm coming."

I asked her where she was going. "Across that river", she replied. "There's Miles (Grandpa), and Johnny and Roscoe (my uncle and daddy). They're waiting for me." She went home that Sunday afternoon.

Not a day goes by that I don't wish I could talk to Daddy, who's been on the other side for over thirty years. During his last week in the hospital after a heart attack, he never mentioned seeing anyone on the other side. He just kept telling me how good God had been to him. He crossed over May 5, 1979.

I love my sweet wife and children, and my mama and sister. They are everything in the world to me. But sometimes I get homesick.

For the other side.

I have folks waiting for me there.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Those Mothers Are Crazy.

I spent part of my Labor Day (after cutting grass and grilling the South, barbecue is something you eat, not something you do) watching a program recommended by my son's sweet wife, called "Toddlers and Tiaras". I learned at least one thing from watching it.

Those mothers are crazy.

They take children (as young as two weeks in one episode), dress 'em up ("glitz" and "glam" in pedo-pageant lingo), then parade 'em around in various "competitions".

The two-week old was a boy. Yes, he won his age division.

The contestants use it all--teeth caps, spray-on tans, $3,000-and-up dresses, etc. You get the picture. Too bad the mamas don't.

Living vicariously is one thing. This stuff is in a universe all its own.

Mothers promoting one child over another. Kids throwing tantrums (which kids will do) only to smile widely when they're onstage to impress the judges, all of which looked to book out at around 300 pounds and 60 years old.

Then there are the prizes. Crowns, of course, crowns everywhere and for every imaginable competition. There's the Talent competition, the Wear-Whatever-You-Want-To competition, and yes, even a Swimsuit competition. For three- to five-year-olds.

But the biggest of all is the Ultimate Grand Extreme Supreme Significant Incomparable Queen of the Universe award for, well, winning it all. I am not making this up. That's what it's called.

I'll settle for Guilty As Charged, Sentenced To Jail Time for all the moms (if you can call them that) who submit their little ones to this travesty.

Those mothers (and you know what I mean) are crazy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Government Lies. Again.

I mentioned the CARS program last week. The federal government reported that the top-three selling vehicles under the program were as follows: Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Toyota Camry. It appeared that imports carried the day. Again. By implication it looks like American cars just can't cut it. Again.

The report is true. NOT.

John McElroy at reported that "the government came up with a bizarre way to count Clunker sales and we know now that the DOT counted sales based on the drivetrain in a vehicle, not by its nameplate".

That's like me saying I have one son because the two I do have, have the same "drivetrain".

Daddy used to say "Don't piss on me and tell me it's raining." The government is dumping on Americans and calling it "pudding".

It's not unlike prior administrations. Different faces, different names, same crap.

But it's obvious the Obama administration is hell-bent on destroying anything "made in the USA", especially if it's "built in Detroit"., on the other hand, is not owned or managed by the government, so they have no bias when it comes to reporting facts. According to them, actual sales went like this:

"The way that Edmunds counted sales shows a very different story from the government's numbers. In its report, Ford captured three of the top four positions. The Toyota Corolla, which is at the top of the government's list, falls to number five on Edmunds' list behind the F-150, which didn't even make the government's Top Ten."

Numbers don't lie, of course. You just have to be careful whose numbers you believe.

Our dealership has yet to receive a dollar from Washington on any CARS deal we submitted. Those numbers don't lie.

We have to disable, then crush, all the "clunkers" we traded in, at a labor cost of about $150.00 per vehicle. Those numbers don't lie.

11-6-2012. The next U.S. election for Congress and the President. Those are some numbers I'm looking forward to.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rite of Passage

Being of Cherokee ancestry, I loved this story:

Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's Rite of Passage?

His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone.

He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a man. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

The boy is naturally terrified.

He can hear all kinds of noises.

Wild beasts must surely be all around him.

Maybe even some human might do him harm.

The wind blows the grass and earth, and shakes his stump, but he sits stoically, never removing the blindfold. It will be the only way he can become a man!

Finally, after a horrific night the sun appears and he removes his blindfold. It is then that he discovers his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

If you can see the truth in this story, tell others.

If not, you took off your blindfold before dawn.

Just because you can't see God, it doesn't mean He is not there.

'For we walk by faith, not by sight.'