Archive for the ‘Wife’ Category

You should see what is under my bed. (Part II)

Friday, April 9th, 2010

I keep one special book under the bed:  my dad’s Bible.  It is an old leather black Bible, expensive leather, worn now, with the edges exhibiting light brown cow leather intruding out of the faded black.  The cover has “Holy Bible” and “Billy Stobaugh” written in gold letters.

Inside the Bible in my Mammaw’s handwriting is “1939. To Billy from Mother and Daddy, 8 years.”  My dad was born in 1932 and apparently this was his 8th birthday present.  When my dad died on Father’s Day in 1982, when he was only 49, my mom gave me this Bible.

I imagine Dad got other things for his birthday.  Toy soldiers?  A pop gun?  I will never know.  But I know he got this Bible.  If you found your deceased dad’s Bible what would you do? I immediately looked for evidence that he read it.  I looked for a mark, any mark, that would evidence that he read it, studied it, applied it to his life.  Nothing.

Nothing.  Nothing in the family register.  Nothing next to John 3:16.   I know my dad knew God loved him.  I heard him say it a few hours before he died.  But no marks in his Bible.

I know I have lots of marks in my Bible.  I can’t keep up with Karen though.  She is the “master marker.”  Her Bible is full of underlines.  Her Bible underlines are straight and neat.  I can’t do it.  My lines inevitably invade other verses.  I gave up drawing straight lines under verses—I now put squiggly lines.  I once asked Karen to show me how she made straight lines under her Bible verses—sometimes without even a straight edge.  She ignored my question.

I don’t have my dad anymore but I have his Bible.  And there is nothing written in it.

I wish my dad wrote in his Bible, the Bible I keep under my bed.  I would like something—anything—that reminds me of him.  I am 56 now and it is 28 years since he died.  I can hardly remember what he looks like now.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2: 3-5—“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we?  You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us,   written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.”  My dad’s life is written on my heart.  It gives me pleasure still to read his Bible.

But, parents, write in your Bible!  Even if you use squiggly lines.  Your kids will thank you someday!  But more important, write your lives on their hearts.  That someday, perhaps one cold night, as they wait to go asleep, they will read your Bible, see your marks, and, more importantly, remember that day, long ago, when you wrote your life on their lives.

You should see what is under my bed. (Part I)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

You should see what is under our bed (don’t tell Karen I shared this).

Stashed in disheveled piles are my World War II history books and other treasures.

Inevitably Karen (my wife) will spend eons of time preparing for bed.  While she is brushing her teeth, washing her face, and other necessary hygienic things, I grab a book from my history library and I read about the German U Boat campaign in the North Atlantic.

I have several libraries.  There is the academic library—full of literary criticism books.  That one is stashed in the basement next to my desktop computer.  The one with Windows 98—the last Microsoft software I fully comprehended.  Next, there is the classical library in the family room.  This is the library that is full of “pretty books.”  No one touches that library; it is there for show.  But across the room is the “grandchildren library” full of children’s classics that Karen reads to the grandchildren.

But my favorite library is the library under my bed.  It really is a good idea—you should try it.  Under my bed, safe and clear, are my treasured reading books.  I have perennial classics—Run Silent, Run Deep. Occasionally other favorites sneak in—Milton’s Paradise Lost—which I re-read bi-annually—is propped up next to Operation Barbarossa.  John Keegan’s World War II is a great read and can keep me awake through Karen’s most extensive post-day, pre-sleep preparations.

I hope you have things you treasure and that you keep them close at hand.

Big Momma

Monday, August 17th, 2009

I was privileged to visit my Uncle Huey, who is the youngest of six siblings, of my deceased mom.

We had an opportunity to talk about my grandmother, Big Momma. I loved Big Momma–I loved her name too. Now there was nothing “big” about her–in fact she was quite petite–but we still called her Big Momma. In fact, when our grandchildren were born, I really wanted to be known as Big Daddy but Karen, my wife, refused to be “Big Momma” so how can there be a Big Daddy without a Big Momma? As usual I get my way and now I am called “Pop.”

Anyway, my Big Momma was quite a woman. Great cook but much more. She was very smart. In fact, she was a college graduate–no small accomplishment for a woman born in the 1890s. She married my grandfather Jesse Bayne (to me Big Daddy of course) who was a fourth grade drop out. She taught him how to read and to write.

What I loved about Big Momma, among other things, is her humility. She existed, it seemed, to make others successful. She remained in the background–and made it her vocation to extol and honor Big Daddy. I like that about her. Mary Wordsworth was the same way. The sister of William Wordsworth, the famous British romanticist/poet, she could have basked in the limelight with him. She didn’t though. In fact, she often wrote poems for her moody brother and gave him all the credit. But she didn’t care though. She wanted to hurry him up so they could take walks together! She had her priorities straight!

The truth is Big Momma and Mary Wordsworth are the folks that keep this world moving in a sane fashion. I thank God for them and if you have a Big Momma in your life, give her a hug!

Elevators 2

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

I like elevators. I really do. I mean I would much prefer riding elevators to walking up stairs? Especially in 18 floor buildings. Karen does it–that is she walks up stairs. I wonder if it is because I kiss her too much in the elevator but I really think it is because she wants some exercise. Go figure.

I like to exercise too. But I like my exercise to be on straightaways and short. And I guess I look like it too.

I like my exercise to be short, sweet, and manageable. A little suffering is ok, but walking up 18 floors of stairs? Too much for me.

I like God to keep me on straightaways and easy walking too. But, like Karen, He often does not always do what I want Him to do either. But that is another issue.

I like elevators. I am a “punch the button 4 or 5 times sort of guy,” you know? Those of you who know me could have guessed that. Karen reminds me that I only need to punch the button once. And she is right. The things lights up–or not–after one punch. But it still fills good to me to do it 3 or 4 times. And if the elevator is delayed I give it 3 or 4 more punches for good measure.

Karen sighs and tells me that it really doesn’t make the elevator move any faster. She is probably right.

And she is probably right when she tells me that my worrying doesn’t help either. It is like punching an elevator button multiple times in order to change my situation. Neither thing works I suppose–but, honestly, it still feels good sometimes!

Am I right fellow worriers?


Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Having been on about 80 elevator trips in the last 30 days on the road, 255 or so this year, I have begun to be philosophical about the whole thing. I timed the trip down yesterday in Atlanta–I know what you are thinking “Jim, get a life!”–and I figure it takes about 45 seconds to get down to the first floor. Most times a minute. So I have spent 255 minutes–over 4 hours–on the elevator this year. Gosh!

I like empty elevators. They are calm and serene. I can stick my tongue out. Wiggle my ears. Who cares? Pray out loud–I can do anything I want. I mean this is a Descartes heaven! I am the center of the universe. Or at least my little elevator.

But I like to be with my wife alone even more. Now, I don’t know about other married people, and sundry other loving couples, but Karen and I are inveterate surreptitious elevator smoochers. Rarely do I get a kiss on the lips, I admit, after all we must not mess up the lipstick thing, but we certainly do kiss. And I most certainly am not a picky kisser when it comes to my wife–really, I am of the school that believes all kisses are worth gold. Karen and I are absolutely wicked though. With no guilt we kiss on that empty elevator.

That is if we are all alone on the elevator. If we are not I just wink and smile at my honey and she does her best to ignore me.

In my present hotel, I avoid the last of three elevators on the right. The “L” button for “Lobby” does not light up. I like my elevator buttons to light up. Don’t you? I like to know where I am going. I haven’t liked elevators very much anyway, since they got rid of all those nicely dressed, uniformed, guys who pushed all the buttons for you. But I really don’t like elevators who have buttons that do not light up. Now really, how can you be sure you are going to land on L level? What if the mischievous thing decides to drop you off on level 4 or 3–how will you know? How will you know when you arrive at the Lobby if the “L” button does not light up?

Serving God sometimes feels that way. You know? He sets me on a path and He does not always light up all the floors as we travel. I have to sort of trust Him to get me to the Lobby, to the destination. In fact I often don’t know I have arrived until I arrive. But I know when I arrive. Maybe that is what faith is all about. Maybe.

Would you do me a favor and drop me an e-mail so I can know who is reading my blog? Also feel free to offer me some suggestions. Which blog entries do you like the best? The least?


Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

“If one is to win honor in battle, he must by all means/stand his ground strongly, whether he be struck or strike down another.” (Homer, ILIAD, Book XI)

As Karen and I travel across country, we often listen to audio CD stories. In one of the stories we enjoyed, the husband (a quintessential post-modern) decided that he did not love his wife anymore and “decided it was inevitable that I end this marriage.”

I wonder why I am so happy being married to Karen for 32 years. I was thinking that particularly on July 2 (our anniversary). For one thing Karen is drop dead gorgeous—she always has been. She is a superb mom and excellent wife. But there is more to our marriage than these things. Let me explain.

Karen and I were preparing for our marriage long before we knew each other. We met in 1976 but in 1971, a few months after I committed my life to Christ, I had committed myself to Karen—even before I knew her. At a Josh MacDowell rally I promised to remain chaste until I was married. And, in a less spectacular way, Karen had made the same promise years before we met.

So, before we knew each other, much less married to each other, we had decided to live by God’s laws. If one is to win honor in battle, he must by all means stand his ground strongly, whether he be struck or strike down another.

This is an important point. We were committed to God’s law long before we were committed to one another. So, when we finally met, we had developed a “habit” of obeying God—even when it was hard to do so. Not that we were perfect, but in this area at least, we had overcome temptation and lived a faithful life.

So we were “married” so to speak before we were married. Or at least we were preparing for our marriage anyway. People ask me why I have been so faithful to Karen—well they don’t ask me much anymore—being 56 and, well, “stocky,” but some of my unsaved friends asked me.

My response is that it has been a pleasure to be faithful to her. Besides the fact she is so darn beautiful and smart and faithful herself I had decided to be faithful to her long before I met her. Much less married her. So my “faithfulness” is not about Karen so much as it is about God. If one is to win honor in battle, he must by all means stand his ground strongly, whether he be struck or strike down another.

The longer we are married the more I plumb the depths of this love I have for this woman and I must tell you that the predominate feeling I have is gratefulness. “Gratefulness?” you ask.

Yes, gratefulness. I am grateful God honored me with such a life partner. Gratefulness. I suppose that is the best way as any to describe how love is with old warriors who have loved themselves for so long. If one is to win honor in battle, he must by all means/stand his ground strongly, whether he be struck or strike down another.

Post-modernism worships the subjective, the consensus. The love Karen and I have is not about how we feel or what the majority think. It is about a man and a woman who love God, love each other, and intend to be faithful to both loves as long as they live.

Fishing At King Tut

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Dear Friends and prayer partners,

My 49 year old dad died 27 years ago on Father’s Day. He was one of my best friends. He died so young – and I miss him so much.

Dad loved to fish. He taught me to fish in deep waters. To fish in places where others avoided. My friends and their dads fished at Possum Fork or Kate Elder Lake where there were inviting loading docks and paved roads to river banks. Their fishing was profitable and easy. They never caught a trophy bass or a crappie limit, but they caught enough to eat. Average fish, true, nothing extraordinary, but adequate. And that was good enough for them.

Not for my dad. He did not want merely to catch enough to eat. A stringer of forgettable but eatable 2 pound black bass were not enough for him. He didn’t merely want to catch the limit. He wanted the 4 pound lunker. The trophy. The unusual. So we went to Ditch Bayou or King Tut or Anthrax Slough. Slippery river banks and inhospitable muddy water for us. Why? Because no one else went there and that is where the monsters lived. The really great fish. The granddaddy crappie. The behemoth bass. That is where we went.

The allure of catching one trophy fish in a neglected Anthrax Slough was worth more to Dad than all the crappie in Possum Fork.

As a result, we did not catch as many throw backs as my friends, and they fried a lot more crappie and bass than we did, but when we did catch a fish, it was a trophy. A memorable catch. And more times than not my soft hearted dad threw the trophy back – it wasn’t the consummation of the fact that thrilled him so much as the faith event, the thrill of the journey.

I learned that the biggest fish lived in the back water bayous of Whiskey Shoot or Boggie Bayou, not in hospitable Lake Chicot or Paradise Lake.

I remembered my dad and as I fish for the big fish. Metaphorically speaking I went fishing at King Tut yesterday. I went fishing in the deeper waters yesterday. I reached for the trophy catch. I decided I wasn’t merely satisfied with catching my limit. I want the biggest and the best.

I resigned yesterday from my safe, profitable, public teaching job. It is not that I don’t like teaching – I do. And I am not opposed to public education (although it is an oxymoron). For the first time in my life I am not sure how my bills will be paid. This is my Anthrax Slough, my Whiskey Shoot. It is the only way I can fully obey the calling God has placed on my life.

Karen seems to be ok about it–I don’t know if she is Joan of Arc or just walking in faith (probably the later). I love that woman. She has been fishing in Boggie Bayou so long she has learned to be patient and to wait for the trophy bass. Not I though. It is still real scary to me.

I am, I admit, Doubting Dan. I wonder if I will actually catch that big fish.

Perhaps only I, or any 50+ year old husband , can understand how this feels–I have devoted my entire adult life to providing for my wife and children. And I just resigned from a good paying job in a Recession? A good job. But not what God wanted me to do (darn it). He wants me to fish in more treacherous, but more promising waters. Waters where I can land a whopper.

The problem is, and I admit it, in spite of my dad’s best efforts, I am at heart a Possum Fork fisherman. I like to ease my boat down a ramp and not get dirty. I like to catch a few fish and go home. It is no fun dodging cotton mouths and mosquitos at King Tut. But that is the only place the monster bass live. It is the only way this saint can fully obey his Lord!

I have seen the outcome of this faithfulness. In my distance learning program there is Julia who will someday write better than Willa Cather. There is Lucy my 2003 distance learning student who graduated from Columbia Law School and is arguing hard in Congress against the inevitable approval of the pro-choice Supreme Court nominee. Chris used my SAT Prep program and scored 2000+. I have stayed on the lake long enough already to be assured the big fish are out there.

Well, I am sure it is my problem. I am a “scenario” guy. Which means I think of “potential” scenarios and I use that as my compass. A bad plan I admit. Too often this plan is a self-fulfilled prophecy to mediocre fishing. Pray for me! Pray that I will learn to ignore the scenario and to follow the Lord. Pray that I will patiently take the necessary risks and to fish in the dangerous places. Pray that I will take joy in the journey and not to worry about the angry water snakes stalking my john boat..

So onward and upward! And think of me while I am fishing in the deeper waters. Looking for the trophy. And join me if you can!

Thank you for your prayers.

Jim Stobaugh

Sister Mary

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Several years ago, in Chicago, Illinois, an elderly lady died.

When she was discovered by her neighbors, no one seemed to know who she was. She was called “Sister Mary” because she was a nun and member of the Cenacle Sisters (Roman Catholic Church). But no one knew her last name.

So, the police investigated. It was more difficult than they thought it would be.

You see, Sister Mary, owned almost nothing. She had no credit cards, no automobile, no televison. People knew and loved her though. She was well known at the local food bank. And almost every homeless person in the neighborhood knew her. But, the police could not identify her until they contacted the Cenacle Sisters and sent them a photograph.

“I have no need of credentials,” the Apostle Paul writes the Corinthian Church. “My life is written on your hearts.” Paul owned almost nothing, but his value as a person was to be found in the persons with whom he had shared Jesus Christ. Those were the riches he carried with him to the Roman gallows.

What do people say about us parents? “He buys a new car every year.” Or, “His front yard is beautiful . . .” If we died tomorrow, what would people say about us?

In America, unfortunately, we are most often known by what we own. By our job. Our success is determined by how much wealth we collect. You know the old joke–“Success is determined by how many toys we have at the end of our lives.” Sister Mary owned very little. So she could not be identified by outsiders. But her life was written on the hearts of thousands of people. And you can bet that God will know her when she gets to heaven!

Karen, my wife, and the mother of my children, is a culture creator. A faithful servant of God. Her life is indelibly written on all our lives!


Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

A woman in Deborah’s day had no property or value herself without her husband. If she was infertile she could be divorced. And, in any event, most women died before age thirty. They were married about age 13 and delivered an average of sixteen children (but only five survived). In fact, most women died in childbirth. This was a terrible time to be a woman.

But God again chose the most unlikely candidate to do His work. A person with no status, with nol honor. He knew that she would be flexible in His hand. He knew that Deborah would be easier to use than some self-reliant person who was self-important. No, Deborah was willing to follow the Lord no matter what the cost. Afterall, what did she have to lose? She was unimpressed with the Canaanites because she was impressed by who God is.

I pray that we can reach the basic level of our existence, the critical mass, as it were, where we realize that we have nothing without God. That we owe Him everything. That we must obey Him whatever the cost.

God will always use people like Deborah, people who are willing to go and do anything He says. The world needs more Deborahs!

Deborah, besides being a military genius, was a woman who remembered Israel’s past. She was a song writer, a story teller.

And Israel had forgotten her past. Righteous roads were abandoned. The nation was taking an obscure and destructive path (v. 6). The ego–not God–ruled the land.

There was no collective memory, no commonality. There was nostalgia, but no memory. Memory learns from the past; nostalgia tries to retrieve the past. Deborah knew how to remember the past without worshiping it.

In general Deborah’s community was prehistoric–writing was not yet developed. Traditions, history, and morality was maintained through legends, myths, stories, and songs. In early England these traditions and history were maintained by traveling minstrels, story tellers called Scops. Early English poems were memorized rather than written and were recited by scops, wandering poets who chanted their poems. These minstrels maintained English culture for several generations.

Communities–like churches–need minstrels, men and women of God who tell our story over and over again. When I came to my downtown church, I immediately looked for these minstrels, these preservers of history. I found them. A mother arose among them . . .

Deborah was a singer, a culture creator. But she also was a woman who understood power. Understanding that true power arises from God, not humankind, she led her anemic nation to victory. She was not to be deterred.

Today, we need Moms who will not be thwarted from raising their children in Godly ways. Who will not be impressed by the power in the world. But will take control in the name of Christ of their children’s future. And teach them to be impressed and to respect power–but not power and rulers of this world–but God’s authority and His word.

Deborah encouraged her community to defy Baal. To stand against the forces of darkness and to win . . .”Souls are like athletes,” Thomas Merton writes. “And they need opponents worthy of them.” Deborah challenged her community to reach beyond themselves and to find the strength to be and to do all that God wanted them to do and to be.


Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

“Fifty-seven and she is more beautiful than ever,” I thought.

Seventeen years ago, Karen, my wife, was carefully unpacking her 1960 Barbie dolls. While taking a break from my nervous Saturday night sermon review, I discovered my wife holding an archaic, but still beautiful, silver Barbie doll dress up to our dull attic light.

“Lord,” she hopefully sighed, “please don’t let Jessica think these clothes are corny.”

Some of these 1950ish out-of-style clothes would be part of one of my daughter’s Christmas. With four children to buy for Karen and I find Christmas shopping to be a painful experience. My Scottish wife never hesitated to explore creative alternatives to huge post-Christmas Visa bills.

Karen was the sort of woman who looked better at thirty-nine than she did at twenty-four. Oh she was beautiful–but her cherubic face, looking somewhat juvenile at 24, was suddenly strikingly attractive at 39. I remember well the smile of my bride as she walked down the aisle–her generous smile dominating her face. But, while most of us find that the vicissitudes of life assault our outward vitality, Karen seemed to have grown stronger and more attractive in the fight. As Karen’s grandmother from Glascow, Scotland, would say: “Fifty-seven suited her.”

Karen did not see me on this Saturday night and I starred at her for several minutes.

“I owe this woman so much,” I thought to myself.

My father once correctly evaluated Karen’s value to me: “She is the best thing that ever happened to you, Jim.”

And she has been, by far, the greatest gift that God has ever given me. She has supported me through graduate school (three times!), she has stood beside me through the difficult early years of ministry. She has raised our four children. While Karen and I feel that both parents’ working is proper for some couples, for us, at least, for the early years of our children’s lives, she chose to stay at home and to raise our children.

She was therefore critical to the growth and maturation of our children. It is a well known fact in family therapy that the mother is the key to a healthy family system. In fact, we family counselors are taught that if we can shore up the mother we can probably heal the whole family. The mother is the lynch pin so to speak.

Israel needed a mother. The city needs mothers. In fact, as we urban pastors know all too well, it is the mothers in our innnercity neighborhoods who hold together the very fabric of our society. The Cotton Patch Gospel interprets v. 6 as “Things were bad until a woman arose . . . we needed a mother!”

Families are in trouble. Everyone knows that. And one of the main reasons is that American parents are not making the right choices. Fathers and some mothers are AWOL. And the consequences to American families is devastating.

Of course the real victims are children. Single households statistically are usually poorer than two parent households.In 1993, 46.1% of the 8.8 million female-headed families with children lived in poverty, compared with only 9.0% of the 26.1 million married couple families with children. Of 1.6 million families headed by unmarried men only 22.5% lived in poverty.1 Out of 69.3 million children younger than 18 15.7 million–one in four–are poor. Most of these poor children are illegitimate and illegitimacy is approaching an 80% rate in some inner-cities.2 And it is not simply an innercity phenomenon. 23% of American children live in families below the poverty line and 31% of these in Suburbia.3 We need moms and dads to come home again . . .