Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful for Kindness

Happy Thanksgiving! This is one of the days when people are a little kinder to one another. I think it's because we focus on the good instead of the bad. Of course, when the stores open and the mad rush begins the kindness goes away. So enjoy it while you can.

I remember one of the most kind deeds ever extended to me. It happened on Thanksgiving Day in 1992. I was fresh in the middle of devastating brokenness and a man named Bob Feltner seemed to sense it. He didn't just sense it, he acted in kindness toward me.

Bob owned and operated Feltner's Whatta-Burger in Russellville, Arkansas. His burger joint is on the corner across the highway from the local college. Both the restaurant and the college have grown since the time that I regularly attended both. Whatta-Burger began in November of 1967 and by the early 70s it was a regular stop for the Loyd family. I was just a kid stuffed in the back of a Ford Pinto with a bunch of other kids. This was before seatbelt laws and remember, my parents are from the drive-in movie era where you packed as many as possible into your car for one low admission. The burgers were and are great. The fries…well, they chuckle when a party of one orders a full order. It was a drive-up, place your order at the window, and stand there and wait for your order kind of place at first. Nobody complained about the wait. This was Whatta-Burger and it was worth the wait. We always ate in the car while still in the parking lot. Most everyone did.

Mr. Feltner eventually added an indoor dining room that is always as packed as the back of that Pinto. He passed away and his daughter and son-in-law run the business. I imagine he would be very proud.

So, here's my story of kindness and Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving of 1992 was the first holiday I would spend driving back and forth from Russellville to northwest Arkansas to pick up my boys. They were 8 and 6 years old and I would have driven any distance to be with them. I drove up to get them, came home to spend time with them, and drove them back when my visitation was over.

I also worked for KCJC radio at the time. I was the sales manager and had on-air experience so when Feltner's Whatta-Burger wanted a live remote on Thanksgiving Day the job fell to me. It was their 25th Anniversary and Bob wanted to roll back the prices to 1967. He may have thought that doing this on Thanksgiving Day would keep the loss in profit to a minimum but they were as busy that day as any I've seen. He opened for just a few hours but there was a steady line of customers having Whatta-Burgers and Whatta-Cheeses for Thanksgiving Dinner.

I sat in a booth with my two boys and broadcast live on the radio every 20 minutes. Yes, I took my boys to work that day. I really didn't have an option. Plus, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with them and they seemed to like being on the radio.

You might imagine how out of place I felt. A dad trying to figure out how to spend time with his boys in the midst of a celebration of successful business. I still cry when I drive away from Jim and Caleb so you can imagine how I felt when all this was fresh. Nothing was more important to me than spending time with them since my time with them was so limited. The customers probably never noticed us or our situation because they were in and out. To them I was just the guy on the radio and my kids came to work with me.

But Bob Feltner saw something different. He saw it all and I guess he understood. The restaurant was open for just two or three hours and after he closed Bob had a big Thanksgiving celebration planned at his house for his employees, family, and friends. I barely knew Mr. Feltner. He wasn't my client, I was just doing the broadcast because it was Thanksgiving Day and the station manager who sold advertising to him wasn't available. I was on salary so I got the job instead of paying a DJ to do it. My relationship with Bob was just barely what you might call a relationship.

After he cleared the dining room of all the guests who had stopped by for sacks and sacks full of burgers and fries, he came up to me while I was putting away the equipment and invited me and my boys to have Thanksgiving Dinner with him. I'm sure he was prepared to feed dozens of people so what difference would a man and his two small sons make? But I don't think his invitation was an obligatory gesture. I think it was kindness. I think it was genuine kindness. He saw brokenness trying to be put back together and he offered to help.

If you know me very well you already know my response. I gratefully declined his offer but I never forgot his kindness. Not a Thanksgiving or a trip through Russellville on highway 7 go by that I don't remember the kindness of Bob Feltner. And I hope that someday somebody can write about the kindness of this Bob the way I've written about the kindness of that Bob.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What Am I Thankful For?

This is Thanksgiving week. The kids are home from school. Families look forward to gathering. Retail (online and brick-and-mortar) is expectant. Parade routes are being readied. Teams are making final preparations.

The holiday of Thanksgiving is definitely an American tradition. But thankfulness belongs to God.

I wonder how many times the phrase "Give thanks to the Lord" or something like it is in the Bible? Add to that the expressions of thankfulness reaching from Genesis to Revelation. That we should be thankful to our Creator, Provider, Sustainer, and Savior seems obvious to me.

One verse about thankfulness that stands out for me is 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul writes, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Give thanks.

In all circumstances.

For this is God's will.

For you.

In Christ Jesus.

The two phrases most difficult for me to apply are "in all circumstances" and "for this is God's will." I understand giving thanks. I know it is specific to me. I'm glad thankfulness is fully accomplished in Jesus.

But in all circumstances? This morning's news included reports of a school bus crash that left several children injured and a half dozen dead. I just read online that the number of Syrian refugees has doubled in a short period of time. Lurking not too far below the surface is the real threat of ISIS and other terrorist groups. Half of the population of these United States think the world will end on January 20, 2017. The other half is hoping is doesn't end before then.

And we are to give thanks in all circumstances? Yes. Because God is on the throne. He is sovereign. He rules and reigns. And nothing…nobody…can stand against him. I've had some hard times when I couldn't think of a reason to be thankful. I'll share one particular Thanksgiving story later this week. What I've learned is that thankfulness is possible when I keep my focus on Jesus. When I take my eyes off Jesus and begin to focus on the problems and issues and trouble around me I sink into the problems and issues and trouble.

I am thankful that God gives peace and comfort even in situations of great loss. I am thankful that God provides all I need when I cannot imagine any other way of surviving. I am thankful that God loves and cares for all people. Those are not just words; they are truths. They are not just good for me to say when others go through stuff but are the anchors I need when I go through stuff.

Yes, give thanks in all circumstances. Because this is God's will for you. Your circumstances may or may not be God's will. I'm not convinced that everything that happens was planned by God. I believe some of our circumstances are the product of our choices and some are just simply the result of living in a world broken by sin.

But being thankful is God's will. I please God when I align my life with his will and am obedient to his word and express my love to him and to others. Being thankful pleases God. Being thankful in all circumstances pleases God. When I am thankful to God I am showing that I believe he is my Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Savior, etc. When I am thankful to God in all circumstances I am showing that I believe he is Sovereign and good, and I am showing that I trust him no matter what the circumstances are.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

The Greatest Game

The Cubs' fanbase is widespread, nation wide. Not many teams can boast that. In part, it's because of WGN. Almost every game was cabled or dished into almost every home in America. This was at a time when you didn't have the broadcast choices we have now. The Braves benefit from a similar setup.

Many in my generation fell in love with teams we saw on the Saturday Game of the Week on NBC. For me it was the Reds.

Others chose their favorite team because of late night AM radio broadcasts and legendary voices.

Broadcasting ingrained a love for the game and a team in our lives. I miss those days. The 2016 World Series solidifies baseball as my favorite sport even though my team didn't make it. My team lost almost as many games as the Cubs won.

But if you can't enjoy what happened last night, you may just need to listen to more games on the radio.