Monday, August 22, 2016

JOURNALISM?

Buddy Davis

The news report was interesting to me:  we are seeing the implosion of American journalism.

Just now?  I have been watching what has passed for journalism for years and my thoughts always return to the things I learned at the University of Florida in the classroom of the man who is pictured here.  His name is Horance G. Davis, better known far and wide as "Buddy."  So many times I have read or heard something from someone purporting to be a journalist and thought "You would never make it in Mr. Davis's class!"

Buddy Davis taught journalism in the 1960s.  He not only taught it, he did it.  His editorials in the Gainesville Sun in the early, volatile days of the civil rights movement earned him a Pulitzer Prize.  It is a blessing to my life that I had those days in his classroom.  Just to be clear, I was not Mr. Davis's star pupil.  Most of the time I was the one in the back of the classroom, hoping not to be noticed.  Or the one who was late standing outside the locked classroom door hoping to be let in.  My education could definitely be termed more agony than ecstasy.  I used what I learned to the benefit of family businesses, not in the pursuit of a stellar journalism career.

What I have always carried with me, however, is the example of those who taught me, especially Mr. Davis.  The sign on his office wall spoke volumes:  GET IT FIRST, BUT FIRST GET IT RIGHT!

What is missing in American journalism today?  In many cases...not all, but far too many...is what Mr. Davis taught every day in every class without speaking a word about it.  Integrity.  Not just in the professional world, but in life.  He was a good Christian man, a lay leader in his church.  It showed in his teaching.  I wrote about his class in my book, Faith Breezes: Glimpsing God's Glory in Everyday Life.  I share it with you here. 

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR

You must try your hardest to get in through the narrow door, for
many, I assure you, will try to do so and will not succeed.  For once the
master of the house has got up and shut the door, you will find
yourselves standing outside and knocking at the door crying 'Lord,
please open the door for us.'
-Luke 13:24-25 MSG

He was one of those college professors who was legendary.  Memorable.  The kind you talk about with love and respect for the rest of your life.

His name was Buddy Davis.  Among other things, he taught reporting, editorial writing and photojournalism.  It was my privilege to suffer in his journalism classes at the University of Florida in the early 1960s.

Every student in the journalism degree track from those days remembers Mr. Davis's famous "train wreck" class.  The students were in the classroom, which was set up like a newsroom.  Mr. Davis was in his office.  Acting as the reporter at the scene, he would randomly call in to the waiting student reporters.  In a breathless voice, over a really bad phone connection, he would offer "reports," spouting out the facts and then hanging up abruptly as the desperate reporter-in-training cried "What? Wait!!"  It was then up to the student to interpret the reports and craft a story for the next edition of the imaginary newspaper.

At the end of the class, Mr. Davis would appear in the "newsroom," disheveled, dirty and - ostensibly - exhausted.

"We did it!" he would pant.  "We covered the story and got the paper out!"  His pleasure was infectious.  No matter how panicked we had been mere moments before, everyone in that classroom felt a sense of accomplishment.

Mr. Davis loved that kind of teaching.  And he was so good at it.  In later years, his editorials in The Gainesville Sun earned him a Pulitzer Prize.  I sent a card of congratulations and received a typical reply - the same sentiment, I'm sure, that was sent to all his students.  "Yes, winning the Pulitzer was a highlight of my career," he wrote, "second only to your graduation from the university."

So I have a lot of wonderful memories about Mr. Davis.  But the thing I remember best wasn't those moments in class or those great editorials.

It was how he locked the classroom door.

When the bell rang for class to begin, Mr. Davis slammed the door and locked it.  You were supposed to be in your seat, ready to go, when the bell rang.  Running down the hall wasn't good enough.

The bell rang.  Mr. Davis locked the door.  And then he stood on the classroom side of it and giggled.  No, it was more of a cackle.  The more you knocked, the longer you would wait to get in...if, indeed, he let you in at all.  I'm sure that in his personal life, he was an understanding fellow.  But as a teacher, he had a point to make.  I had this experience a couple of times, and I can tell you that it was miserable and embarrassing and something you didn't want to repeat.

Sooner or later, you figured out what to do to avoid it.  You realized the importance of advance preparation.  If your unfortunate class schedule required you to hoof it from the opposite side of campus in 15 minutes, you figured out the fastest route and didn't tarry.  And the next time you had to sign up for one of his classes, you made it your business to build in some extra time beforehand.

Revelation 3:20 says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

Even though my experience with Mr. Davis was decades ago now, every time I hear a Scripture reference like that one, to knocking on the door, I picture myself before Mr. Davis's classroom door, begging for entrance.

Like that door, Heaven's door requires advance preparation.  Happily, it doesn't matter if we're later than we should be.  To go through Heaven's door, we just need to be on a first name basis with the Doorkeeper.  He wants to let us in.  After all, he knocked on the door of our heart first.

And this time, it's up to us to open it.

It's a profound comfort to know that when I knock on Heaven's door, I won't hear somebody cackling on the other side!

Update note on August 22, 2016.  I have to ask you today...have you answered Jesus's knock on your heart's door?  If not, I pray you will not let another moment go by without inviting Him into your life.  Blessings to you, friend.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Lost Signals


When the storms of life come, if they come to me personally,
to my family or to the world, I want to be strong enough to stand
and be a strength to somebody else, be shelter for somebody else.
- Anne Graham Lotz

Storms.  I've been thinking a lot about storms lately.  The title of my next book is SCATTERED STORMS: SENSING GOD'S STRENGTH WHEN YOUR OWN IS BLOWN AWAY.  I've spent a lot of time analyzing how it feels to be in a storm...what do we do when a storm is coming...how do we act in the midst of it...what do we have when it's over.

Today, I'm having a time of respite.  It's my own retreat to have writing time away from other distractions.  My hide-away is a B and B on the intracoastal waterway.  Just to accommodate my subject matter, two storms came today: a family storm and an actual rain storm.  I've taken notes on all of it.  Everything is grist for the mill! 

The family storm left me angry, fearful, feeling sick, fussing with God..."Where ARE You?"  I don't like this!  I hurt so badly for the people directly involved.  It was so overcoming that I lost my way for awhile.   I've had a hard time getting my psychological and spiritual footing back on track.  I want to help.  I want to DO something...be that shelter that Anne Lotz speaks of.  And then came the actual storm, and the similarities were striking. 

My room is close to the street that runs between this house and the river which is directly on the other side.  I can look out the windows and see all the way across the water to the other shore.  Several boats are anchored near the channel and a high bridge spans the waterway.  It's a beautiful scene in clear weather.  As the rain moved in, the world became increasingly grey until everything outside my windows was hidden.  Any thought of leaving this safe space was out of the question.  I was locked in by the force of the wind and rain.

And then, the most irritating thing happened.  This facility has Direct TV.  I'm not used to this system.  In the middle of my TV program, we lost the signal.  That was the biggest lesson of all.  Storms make us lose our signals.  All the signals that guide our lives...the lighthouse beams that show us where to walk, what to do, how to handle our feelings - all of those things are blocked out when the first bad news comes.  In the aftermath, it's up to us to sort it all out and get back on track.  Back on the path to syncing our will with the will of our Creator.  It's not always an easy sync and it doesn't happen fast.  But if we just stick with it...there is tomorrow.  Hopefully, if we stand strong, we can be a shelter for those around us.

I love this picture taken by my friend, Judy Deeson.  The sky tells us a storm is brewing.  The lone bird is not flapping its wings to try to outrun it.  Instead, it stays true to its path, flying toward the gale. 

In The Message, the third chapter of Lamentations is translated with these words:

Wait for hope to appear.  Don't run from trouble.  Take it full-face.  The "worst" is never the worst.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hands That Served


She watches over the affairs of her household
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her...
Give her the reward she has earned,
And let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
-Proverbs 31: 27, 28, 31


We buried Mom July 5.  Her passing was a great relief and release for our entire family.  Alzheimer's Disease had held her in a mental prison for far too long.  In death, she came back to us.  Her hair was done as she had always kept it, colored and permed.  Her dress was the lovely shade of deep purple she loved and her makeup was perfect.  She was the most beautiful person I've ever seen in a coffin. 

What caught my attention the most was her hands...folded peacefully and finally at rest.  No more shrimp to fry...no more bowls of banana pudding...no more bacon and eggs and grits.  Her service honored and praised her life, and it was uplifting.

Rest well, Mom.   

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wait



I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
-Psalm 27: 13-14

Much is said in the Bible about waiting for the Lord.  Because that's a core characteristic of this life we are privileged to live.  Waiting for God's timing to unfold a situation seems to be our constant condition. 

Never  before have I realized this more than now.  Several matters of extreme importance are hanging in the balance for me, my family and my friends.  I look back now, with the 20/20 vision of years lived, and see how often before we have been in similar situations.   We have never been forsaken, but the waiting is so difficult.  The truth is, when each of the things that we're knock knock knocking on heaven's door about today are finally resolved in God's timing and in His way, there will be something else. 

I ask you today...what are you waiting for?  What situation in your life has you running around in circles, wringing your hands and wondering what to do?  Has it drawn you to your prayer corner where you can blow it all out to the One who cares the most?  It's the most important action we can take...and all too often it's the last thing we do.  Remember...Peace is a Person.

Whatever is beating you down today, take heart.  We will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  But first we have to ... wait.