Grandfathers (Leaving a Legacy)

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

One of my grandfathers raised cattle. He had a place outside of Athens down the kind of winding, red-dirt road that Texas country songwriters can only dream of. To get to their house, you had to cross over two little one lane wooden bridges that looked like they could barely support a bicycle, much less our ’68 Oldsmobile. I’d catch fish with my uncle, play with the old bird dogs and i remember driving the tractor around in a circle in a field when i was four or five. I didn’t run over anything important.  

Old Hands

My grandpa chewed plug tobacco, and there was a stinky brass spittoon in the living room between  ‘his chair’ and the fireplace and when i got stung by wasps, he pulled the wad out of this mouth and put it on the back of my neck where i got stung, I don’t know if it helped, but i remember it.

He’d give me silver dollars to buy the barbecue beef sandwiches at a place called “Fred’s,” because he knew i loved them, subconsciously doing his part to perpetuate the consumption of beef, but i never spent them. I saved them in a little silk bag that i’ve kept all these years.

His father had been a traveling preacher, wrote songs that got published in some hymnals, led ‘singings’ around Texas and had his three daughters sing around places where he preached, but he died a few years before i came along. Apparently my grandfather was the one in the family who didn’t have musical abilities, so he raised cows instead.

My other grandfather, the one on my mom’s side, grew up in a small town, but in town, not on a farm. He was the youngest of twelve children, and a great storyteller. He was a carpenter by trade, and a car mechanic, and a preacher for a while…and a whole bunch of other jobs. He was good at some of them, but had some health problems and never stayed at a job too long. He could play a few songs on the fiddle, and a couple by ear on the black keys of the piano, and was really fun to be around.

He played catch with me until he was way up in his 70s, throwing the ball underhand, because his shoulder hurt. When i got to school, and the other 7 year olds threw OVERHAND, it nearly broke my hand.

And i inherited none of their cattle-raising or carpentry skills.

We didn’t talk much about spiritual things, but i know they prayed for me.

I’m a grandfather now, too, and i wonder what my grandkids’ perception of me will be forty years down the road. “Dado and Honey had this nice house with a swimming pool in Dallas, and then they helped start a church and moved to a farm that they didn’t know how to take care of, and had some cows and chickens” will probably be the blog post synopsis, if either of them attempt to write it all down. They’ll remember the electric guitars hanging on the walls in my home office and hopefully they’ll remember going to church in a metal building with people singing about Jesus all around them.

It’s strange to think of how old my grandfathers seemed when i was little. Granted, they were a few years older than i am now, both in their sixties when i was born, but i wonder if Greyson and Georgia look at me as ancient like i did them back then.

At least i can still throw overhand.

One Saturday morning a few months back, i woke up early and started writing what turned out to be a sort of “Leave a Legacy” trilogy of blog posts. This is the first one started, the longest and the final one finished. 

I guess it’s because i really didn’t have the relationship with them that i want to talk about. They were ‘good men,’ don’t get me wrong, and the older i’ve gotten, the more i realize i could have done much worse. Times were different then, and i don’t think that generation looked at church as something you were…it was just some place you went. 

It’s the kind of mindset Stonepoint set out to destroy.

As people, we need to be reminded often of how short life is, and how the greatest thing we can do is to remind our kids and grandkids of that fact when they’re young.

Singer-songwriter, Warren Zevon, when faced with the realization that his cancer had progressed to the untreatable stage, summed it all up to David Letterman this way, “enjoy every sandwich.” 

While not scriptural, in a literal sense, i think the sentiment holds a lot of truth for us. We do take things for granted, every day. Living in America is a blessing so many people in the world dream about. Even the people across the globe who hate us want to come and live here. The opportunities we have, the wealth even our poor people possess is the envy of the rest of the world.

No, it’s far from perfect, but it’s still pretty awesome and we need to instill in our kids the fact that as great as it is, there is a far, far better world to come.

Philippians 3:17-20 says ‘Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.’

In other countries, ones where Christians are persecuted for their faith, it’s easier to remember that. I think the harder life is, the closer people draw to God. We saw it in the days after 9/11, churches overflowed with people who hadn’t been in years, on their knees praying fervently for God to intervene and save our country. It happens on a smaller scale in communities where tragedies strike, but as people, we tend to forget and when the chaos returns to normal, or we adjust to whatever the ‘new normal’ is, we give God a cursory wave and thanks as we pass by a church on the way to the lake on Sunday.

Am i asking for persecution? Heavens no—i’d be one of the first to die in a zombie apocalypse. But we need to look beyond ourselves, beyond the years we inhabit this earth to pour into those in our sphere of influence, oftentimes right under our roofs.

Moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles…God has you in a specific place here on this earth at this point in time for a reason. Are you living a life like Paul, where you can say to your kids and grandkids, “join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” 

We are not guaranteed tomorrow. James 4:14 says ‘you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.’

Let’s use some time wisely today to pour into the next generation about the things that God has taught us in his word and showed us in our lives.

I loved them dearly, but don’t be like my grandfathers.