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  • Writer's pictureJoni Topper

Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine

A few minutes of music can make a quick trip into town feel like a retreat. Sometimes for inspiration, sometimes for fun. Today an old Tom T Hall song came on and I found myself singing along in a nostalgic frame of mind.

Funny thing was when Tom and I got to the chorus, I realized I had always sung this song wrong. In my mind it was watermelon RIND, not watermelon wine. I laughed at myself and thought “Really? That doesn’t even make sense.” I do not know Tom T Hall, but I could visualize him stopping, rolling his eyes and me and saying “Really? You think the old man in this song is talking about watermelon rind?”

I wish I could say this is the only song I’ve ever gotten wrong. I remember the first time I heard David Lee Murphy’s ‘Dust on the Bottle’. I only caught the chorus and I thought he was saying “There might be a little dust on the Bible. Don’t let it fool ya about what’s inside. There might be a little dust on the Bible. It’s one of those things that gets sweeter with time.” My mind thought, well the country music scene sure is changing. Since that day I sometimes hum the chorus and laugh again at the difference one word can make in the meaning.

As children we sang “Bringing in the sheets” instead of “Bringing in the sheaves” and we’ve heard about the child who thought God’s name was Art because he misunderstood the meaning of “Our Father, who art in heaven.” But what about those times when a misunderstanding causes someone to falter in their understanding of God? What about when people swear using God’s name in vain because they have been hardened by a culture that does not hold his name as sacred. There is nothing funny about influencing a child to have a lack of respect for God. And how can you rein in that horse once it’s out of the gate? How can that parent help a child understand the holiness of God when their words reflect no reverence toward the almighty.

Mistaking a word in a song can be funny. Mistaking our role as leaders is not a laughing matter. If you represent Christ in this world, make no mistake, you are a leader.

The teachable moment is now. Today. Right now, while you are tired. Right now, while you are frustrated. Right now, while you would rather kick something. Today. Today is when we teach our children how to treat someone who we think is not as smart as we are. Today is when we explain to a child that all lives matter, only we will not do it with speeches. We will show them by treating people respectfully. People we agree with and people we do not agree with. This is the day. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today. We teach them by helping another human in need or we teach them by kicking the unfortunate with our words and our attitudes and our snide remarks. They do not learn from what we tell them, that would be easy. They learn from what we do, and it is never easy. Do we scream at the other driver? Do we badmouth the teacher? Do we imply that the pastor is a nerd? Who do we choose to spend time with around our impressionable children? Do we laugh describing “the good old days” when we exercised poor judgement, or do we embrace our best days as those when we chose well? Do our children hear us talk about how we want to help an old person, or do they hear us talk about hoping the older people in our lives do not inconvenience us?

These are serious considerations. Occasionally as I speak with someone they erupt with foul language and immediately apologize to me. I always want to stop the conversation and say, “It’s God you need to talk to about this way of thinking, not me.”

My youth leaders always talked to us about shaping our character and living by principles rather than trying to live by a set of rules. This concept created in me a freedom. The idea that my life goal was not checking things off a list but rather living in Christ’s love took off the pressure and opened the possibilities. Living by principles has one drawback though as a Christian. You must be familiar with the Word of God if you are going to attempt to live by its principles.

Our culture has equipped us to be financially and socially affluent while placing little or no emphasis on being independent students of the Word of God. If we are going to guide a lost world to the light, we must be students of Jesus. He told us he was the light of the world. We need to sit at his feet intently listening as though his words are the oxygen our lungs crave to survive.

Adults. If you are out of high school, you are an adult. The world has a shortage of good examples. Please be one. Our nation is calling for role models. Your family needs a good example of someone in skin who graciously accepts the gifts of God and tenderly embraces the brokenhearted of this world. Your children need to see someone model how to apologize. They need to see us fall on our faces before God asking for forgiveness so they will understand he will forgive them as well.

I am praying for the courage to live more like this myself. I am praying for all of us.

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