Saturday, January 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Quint!

My oldest son turns 14 today. For those of you with children who have passed that point I assume my feelings would not only be familiar to you but that my words would resonate with you today. Not that 14 is a particularly unique or major milestone but that my thoughts run in numerous directions as I contemplate his life, both past and future.

Quint is a special child. I know they all are, but the first-born of two first-borns, of a first-born, of a first-born is unusual in itself. However, he is special to me as one who carries our name. He carries my name. Quint is in 8th grade at the Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy, one of the top performing schools in the country. He is a smart kid. He has dabbles in philosophy and loves logic. He is a deep thinker and we have wonderful conversations. We have a number of things in common and our time together means a great deal to me. He is a gifted musician, has a great sense of humor and is genuinely humble guy that is surprisingly sensitive (although he won't admit that). He loves technology and does stuff with computers I don't even understand. Most important to me... he has made a profession of faith in Christ and I am thankful to have the opportunity to watch him attempt to live a life that honors God. Who knows what the future holds but presently, his heart is set on going to Cambridge in the UK. Yes, that's right, he wants to go to college in England. His mother and I are thankful for his vision but aren't too excited about the idea that he would be so far away. All these things cause my thoughts to run amuck.

In 4 years he will be graduated and ready to leave us. 4 years... that seems like such a short time. I have socks more than 4 years old. It's just hard for me to believe. Within 10 years he could find, fall in love with and marry his future bride. Does this stuff mess with anyone else? He is so young but so close to being an adult. It's amazing to think about but nerve-wracking and staggering at the same time.

I believe, for those of us that have been blessed with children, that our greatest task is to be good, godly parents. The most important earthly thing we leave behind is the testimony of the character and nature of the children we grow in our homes. Granted, parents aren't perfect and even the best ones can't necessarily be held responsible for the choices and actions of their children. However, we should do our best to honor Christ with how we structure our home and how we bring up the children God has entrusted into our care so that we might, at least, establish a solid foundation on which our kids might build their lives.

With these things in mind, long before I contemplated the looming adulthood of my child (and after dad had witnessed the growth into adulthood of his two boys) my dad wrote a letter to Quint the day after his birth. It actually was printed as part of a guest editorial in the Daily Independent newspaper in Ashland shortly after Quint's birth. From time to time I pull it out and reread it. I've posted it for your consideration today. Happy Birthday, Quint. We love and are more proud of you than you can know right now. I believe that one day you'll have an idea.

A Letter To My Newborn Grandson
(Caudle Jerry Adkins, V was born January 25, 2000)

Dear Quint,
     Happy birthday little fellow! You were born last night at 10:59PM. Your beautiful mother worked long and hard to bring you into this world and your daddy was right there with her the whole way. I cried when I saw how much they loved each other and how much they loved you (even though they didn't yet know who you were). You see, sadly, the laws of our country would have allowed you to have been destroyed before you were even born, but your Mom & Dad would never have considered that. She carried you inside her body for nine long months until you would be able to live on your own. She labored for 25 hours and gave up her own physical well being and comfort to give you life. Always love and respect them for that – but more so, do it because God's Word instructs you to do just that.
     I never thought I could ever love any little boy as much as I did your daddy and his brother, Benji – but last night I found out that indeed I could. Your Mamaw and I fell in love with you at first sight. Not only were you beautiful to behold, but you also carried in your little person the combined heritage of all your Mommy and Daddy's combined families. Your represent our very best hopes and dreams.
     You are an eternal creature, for in your little body dwells a never dying soul. One day – sometime down the road, God will begin to deal with your heart about loving and serving Him. I am praying today that when that day comes, you will meet God on His terms and ask His son, Jesus, to come into your heart. Your Mommy and Daddy will be talking to you plenty about Jesus. So will Mamaw and I – and your Great Grandparents will too! You listen closely and believe, and when the time comes, it will be very easy for you to trust God and allow Jesus to be your Savior and Lord.
     Sleep well and gain lots of strength. You'll need it for what lies ahead of you. Who knows what the future holds for you? Tonight my imagination runs wild about you. What will you be like as you grow? What will you look like? How will your little voice sound when you say your first words, and what will those words be? With what types of talents and abilities has God blessed you? What great things might you accomplish for Him. Who will you marry? Will I be around to see you grow into adulthood and have a family of your own? I certainly pray that I do. You are so special. Among all the 6 billion people on earth there is no one else just like you. Not only does your whole family love you, but God loves you and Jesus died for you, and that makes you special.
     This is an exciting time to be alive. My Papaw (the first Caudle) was born in the 19th century, in 1895 and he fought in World War I. He died in 1959. My Daddy (your great grandfather) was born in 1927 – the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs and Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic. He lived through the Great Depression, served in World War II, and as a member of the greatest generation, helped set the standard for all of us who followed. I was born in 1950 at the mid point of the 20th century, and have seen a lot of changes in this world and it's lifestyles. Your Daddy arrived in 1973 and now, 25 days into the new 21st century, here you are! At the dawn of this new millennium, your life begins.
     Listen to your parents. Watch their lives. Learn from them and trust their Savior as your own. Live for Him and walk with Him. Follow Proverbs 3: 5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." If you'll do that, you'll never, ever go wrong! Your Mamaw and I love you, little fellow – more than you can comprehend right now. I pray for God's richest blessings on you all the days of your life.

With All My Love,
Papaw Adkins

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

First, let me offer the obligatory Happy New Year to all! Now, on to my musings for the beginning of 2014.

Yesterday was January 6th which is the official kick off of my favorite time of the year in the land of Louis, Laveau and Lafitte.

Just a side note for those of you outside of our area. A scandalous event recently took place in Lafayette Cemetery #2 located on Washington Avenue just across the street from the world famous Commander's Palace restaurant and adjacent to the original site of the Baptist Bible Institute (which would later become the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary). The tomb purported to house the remains of the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau was painted… pink. Kinda funny since people from all over the world visit this tomb to draw three X’s on the tomb, knock three times, make a “wish” or “request” and offer a sacrifice by leaving behind a token or memento. The Gilpin family, the present day owners of the particular mausoleum, have prohibited the act, calling it vandalism, yet no one seems to care. The Archdiocese who is ultimately responsible for the cemetery have already “pressure washed” the tomb, much to the dismay of the “save our cemetery” activists who wanted to delicately restore the sepulcher. It’s quite the brouhaha.

Anywho, now toward the off-the-cuff purpose for this post. January 6th is Epiphany, the official end of the Christmas season culminating in Twelfth Night celebrations. This day begins the Carnival Season in the New Orleans area (and for that matter any area where Roman Catholicism is the dominant denomination). Carnival is the flexibly dated season of celebration between January 6th and midnight of Mardi Gras where adherents take on a sort of Epicurean view of “living it up” before the very Stoic time of the sacrifice and self-denial of the Lenten Season. The length of the season is flexible since Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is based on the start of Lent (beginning on Ash Wednesday) which is calculated backing up from Easter, which is based on the Lunar calendar. Thus, some years, due to a late Easter, we get to experience a long Carnival Season (like this year) and some years the season is short. Regardless, is a GREAT time to live in the Big Easy.

The parades are plentiful. Here in New Orleans we have “Krewes.” Think of these groups as you would the Kiwanis, Optimists, Lions or other social organizations. These are organizations people pay to join that put on elaborate parades which take place all around the metro area. This year alone there will be close to 60 Krewes rolling in the metro area all through the Carnival season. Last night Carnival was kicked off by the Joan of Arc Parade and the Phunny Phorty Phellows. These two groups "announce" the beginning of the season and then on Mardi Gras day, the season closes with the Krewes of Zulu and Rex rolling in New Orleans. The parades have large, ornately adorned floats which are genuinely impressive and include marching bands from around the area as well as visiting schools that travel in to participate in the fun. The float riders pay to ride and pay for their own “throws." Throws are beads, toys and other silly objects thrown from the floats which adults and kids alike enjoy trying to secure (and although our attics are full of bags and boxes of these worthless trinkets we can't seem to get enough). Only a couple of these parades are adult themed so more often than not parades are full of family and friends cooking out and enjoying a day at play. There’s even The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus for the Starwars fan and the Mystic Krewe of Barkus populated by dogs and their owners.

Now, I know my Pharisee-oriented, fundamentalist friends are already beginning to point the finger. However, if you’d just have the blessing of living here you’d see that Carnival Season (Mardi Gras is just one day out of the whole season) is not defined by Girls Gone Wild, drunken revelry, foolish college students or the worship of pagan gods on parade floats (not to say these things aren’t present, just that it is a relatively small expression of activity relegated to certain sections of the city).

Carnival is a time of celebration. Yes, its etymologically linked to the word “carnal.” Yes, the bible speaks negatively about “carnality.” However, the purpose of this time of jubilee is to celebrate the birth, death and resurrection of Christ until Lent (the time of introspection and contemplation when many people fast, or give up something as a token of appreciation for what Christ gave up for them). Certainly, in many ways Carnival has devolved into something misunderstood, commercialized (in the case of New Orleans), overblown and arguably an excuse for excess, but the beauty at the core of Carnival is inspiring.

Regardless of the length of the Carnival Season other things contribute to the gloriousness of this time of year. Crawfish season is coming. Although large, cheap and plentiful crawfish won’t normally hit the market until late February or early March the fact is, crawfish is on the way. I recently overheard one of my church members telling another that they’ve never seen anyone put away as much crawfish as their pastor. Not only do I take that as a compliment, I’d like to also offer that as a challenge to anyone who’d like to take me up on it. You’re buying. ;)

Academically, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Institute for Christian Apologetics (ICA) hosts it’s Defend the Faith Conference in January then ICA’s world class Greer-Heard Point-Counter Point event happens in February.

Further, both Michelle and I celebrate our birthdays in February. Spring time hits us in March, which is the perfect time for top-down rides in the jeep down River Road, through the parks, down Magazine and through the Quarter and Marigny. The misery of the summer sun and humidity are still a season away and the sweet aroma of the best food in the country wafts through the neighborhoods pulling you toward its cook like finger-tipped cartoon aroma draws a cartoon animal toward the off-limit oven.

And then there is the music! The sweet sound of our cultural soundtrack played and celebrated in the city where it was originally forged. Music and food festivals happen all around us. The French Quarter Fest takes place in mid April and then my favorite time of year culminates with the gigantic New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in late April early May.

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t thank God for allowing me the great blessing of living and ministering in and around what I believe to be the best city in America. Carnival is here! Turn on WWOZ and “laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Sing with me… “It’s the most wonderful time… of the year”