Me and Bu: A Long Sappy Car Story

Me and Bu – A Long Sappy Car Story

In 2002 hot on the heels of heartbreak and my first college graduation my car blew up on the interstate. As in, the engine completely and entirely locked up. I walked three and half miles to a sweet old lady’s house in Coal Hill, AR. And, even though she was afraid to let me in, she let a punk looking twenty-two year old sit in her living room and join her for an evening of the Gaither Vocal Band while my parents drove to pick me up.

Just like that I needed a car.

The next week Bu showed up. For a whopping $4650 this 1999 Silver (not grey) four door Chevy Malibu could be mine. I sold a cow to make the down payment and drove it home to the farm with a busted tail light that’s still busted fifteen years later.

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Bu was the first thing of significance that I ever bought and paid for with my own money. I was a department manager at Hastings, because that was still a thing. For a solid year I drove Bu everyday from the King Farm between Paris and Ozark on Highway 309 to Russellville where I moved a whole lot of movies and books over the coming months to make payments. Luke rode shotgun on most of those trips and we had some good times and a whole lot of laughs listening to “Riding with the King” by BB King and Eric Clapton on repeat every morning.

Bu and I took a lot of trips to Flatrock Swimming Hole, before it was shut down. That’s where Bryan C. almost drowned and I learned that saving someone’s life is a lot harder than Aquaman made it look. But I did save him. Hey it’s not everyday that you save a bonafide hero. Not that he would admit it or probably even like being called that, but he is, just like every other bright-eyed young man and woman that serves the red, white, and blue. Later he went to the Middle East and saved us from  Iraq—so I guess I saved us from Iraq. You’re welcome guys. (That part’s a joke Mr. Serious.)

Bu drove me to my job as a part time teacher. Bu took me to the shelter where I had the privilege of “working” which really meant playing basketball and PlayStation with abused and neglected boys. Bu took me to CarMart where I was a repo man and worked with some awesome people and had a wonderful manager named Brian. It was actually while I was a repo guy here that I went into full time ministry.

Bu broke the sound barrier the day my dad had his heart attack. I swear Bu made it from H street in Russellville to the hospital in Fort Smith in about three and a half seconds.

I paid off Bu as I worked as a college missionary associate with Chi Alpha at Arkansas Tech University. Amanda Smith and I road tripped together to Central Bible College in Springfield, MO to learn what in the world we were doing. Amanda, I’m not quite sure we ever really figured that out but it was a fun trip.

I drove Bu to the Steak ‘n Shake where Amanda and I met with Heath and Christie Graham, who in the years since I have come to think of more as family than just some friends I have spent nearly fifteen years working with. Seriously, after so much time I think I can finish all of Heath’s preaching stories for him. (The Dog Story is still the best one Heath.)

I drove Bu to watch Brad play more softball and flag football games than I could even begin to remember. Bu was the silver chariot that took me to more preaching engagements than I could possibly recount. Jason road shotgun in that soft small passenger seat to so many churches to help me lead worship that I’m pretty sure the seat still has the shape of his 6’8″ frame.  

Bu took Matt and I up to north-central Arkansas a lot to play music for many small but awesome churches. These days Matt is the worship pastor at one of the best churches around.

Bu drove Kim to the hospital that time we all thought she was dying in my apartment. Bu is what my brother and I rode in together for months after he almost killed us on the interstate. It’s a crazy-cool story that I share with people all the time. God wrapped up a twenty year old miracle that day.

Bu picked up Jamie for our first date. We drove Bu to Florida on our honeymoon. To Memphis to celebrate three years together. Bu drove Ethan home from the hospital. Three days ago, nestled in the glove box under the demo tape my garage band cut in college, and where they’ve been for the last ten years, I found the personality tests Jamie and I took when Pastor Keith did our premarital counseling and told us we were perfect for each other.

Bu drove a handful of us to Eric’s bachelor party, which I have spent the better part of the last thirteen years trying to forget no thanks to you Jason. Bu carried me and Jamie to the home of the world’s largest mosquitoes to celebrate the best thing to ever happen to Brad (that’s you Katie!) at what I dearly hope always remains the hottest summer wedding I have ever been a part of.

In May 2007 Bu carried me and a bunch of friends to a fun filled day to celebrate my upcoming wedding. We played laser tag with modified paint ball guns. It was awesome. Then Bu took us to Long Pool where Jeremy almost drowned…so I saved him. At my bachelor party. Then we watched from the top of one of the rocks as two clans of crazy hill people tried to kill each other with sticks and rocks….not even kidding.

Bu has done, seen, been a part of, and carried me to a lot of important stuff.

Because I’m a cheapskate Bu has been to the shop exactly one time in fifteen years. And that was right after I brought Bu home.  

 

Bu was also the object of my attention as I grew into an incredibly amateur YouTube mechanic. Jamie’s dad Tiny passed away on Thanksgiving Day two years ago, but he spent many many hours helping me take Bu apart and put Bu back together again. The only time I ever saw Tiny (who was a mechanical genius) stumped was with Bu’s breaks which were so old by then that they were basically stuck. Luckily his buddy showed up and knew a good country boy trick. Bu was the centerpiece and the focal point for our growing friendship over the course of a decade. We talked about family, how terrible of a mechanic I am, and Jesus an awful lot under that hood. Tiny’s running joke was that if a mechanic job should take about an hour we should plan a whole day. He wasn’t wrong. Sometimes it took two.

One day Tiny got in Bu so we could drive around the Dover area and diagnose a weird sound coming from a wheel. Bu chickened out and never made the noise again.

Another time I pulled up to his shop in Dover and the Marshall was standing over Tiny with a bandaged pressed to the big guy’s ear. My father-in-law (he lovingly liked to call me “his wife’s son-in-law”) was on blood thinner so a cut he had on his ear wouldn’t stop bleeding. Bu took Tiny to the Dover Clinic where they told him that it would be several hours before they could see him. So he took the bandage off of his ear and started bleeding on the poor girl’s desk. She found that missing doctor pretty fast. Tiny will always mean the world to me. I miss him every day.  

Bu, I’m sorry I lost your last original key while trying to help some baptist girl find her way-too-expensive-to-be-floating-in sunglasses when she lost them at Slant Rock. But Benji got you to open up for us and the extra key was safe inside. For that matter Bu, I’m sorry for all of the times I locked your keys in you and had to poke you with a hanger and string to break in—but you have to admit we did get that down to an art over the years. Like when Brandon and Kristin went with us to Petit Jean and I locked you up too soon. Or at the movies and Justin had to come help. Or that one time at the bank. My fault. That other time at the church. Jamie’s fault and Justin helped again.

Six years ago Bu even took a trip to Keystone, CO. Along the way Stephen learned not to pull over on the left side of the road when a state trooper pulls you over at 3:00 AM in Kansas—and I learned that if a trooper tells you to show him your hands he doesn’t want you to give him a thumbs up and go back to sleep in the back seat—AND that I get pretty mad and mouthy when a state trooper yells at my wife. Did I mention it was 3:00 AM?

When my missionary friend Greg had an important meeting with friends in Little Rock a couple of years ago he joined the elite group of folks that have set behind that fading grey steering wheel.

Bu has dropped off more pizza, donuts, and chicken nuggets to hungry college students than seems possible. Has carried me to a lifetime’s worth of lunch meetings, midnight movies, and Sunday mornings. Bu carried me to Arkansas School of Ministry, Might Nights, Restoration Worship Center, prayer meetings, and countless other places.

Bu started as a bandmobile. Bu became a Bible-buggy. Bu became Daddy’s Car. My favorite. My boys have always loved riding in Daddy’s Car.

Bu has been better to me than you ever expect a car to be—especially one that you pay so little for. I’ve spent nearly half of my life driving my humble little car. We have taken exactly one family trip with all three of the boys in Bu because our nicer newer Santa Fe was in the shop for minor repairs and an oil change.

A few days ago I bought my wife a nice van. It is a sincere blessing. Something we’ve been praying about for at least a year. It’s the vehicle my boys will probably learn how to drive in because as you can see I like to keep a car around. When the sweet sales girl offered me $300 for my car I felt a little sad. I very nicely told her that I would rather give my Bu to someone that needs a car.

So that is exactly what I did. Bu still had one more blessing left to give me…

“You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.'” Acts 20:35

 

If you have “Bu Story” of my old car, or a great car story of your own will you share it with me in the comments?

 

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With Thanksgiving 

 
Thanksgiving has always been an incredible holiday experience in my family. Food, family, and fun have always been the norm resulting in a lifetime of memories that have helped shape my values and direct my life. This has given me a thankfulness for my past that is rooted deep in my soul.

I realize that my experience is not the same as everyone else’s. I know how blessed I am. I know that those like me who find the holidays to be refreshing and full of joy have something truly amazing to be thankful for. I try very hard on a daily basis to live in a way that does not take it for granted. This stage of life is showing me on a daily basis what I have to be thankful for right now, today, every day.

Last year Thanksgiving changed. We were at my parents’ farm where I group up. It was early in the morning. We were getting to ready to have breakfast when we got the news. My father in law had passed away early in the morning hours before dawn.We were close. He would frequently supervise me as I tackled projects way beyond my skill set—offering up his expert advice and informed opinions—all smothered in generous helpings of his winsome sarcasm. 

Over the years I had come to love and appreciate our conversations. They were packed with questions. He would quiz me on different passages of scripture and I would share my opinions. We disagreed almost as much as not and I ALWAYS came away learning something even though I was the one being asked the questions. 

His passing hit me hard. He had become a second father to me. Of course I was sad, as most people are when losing someone they care for, but I was reassured by one simple passage of scripture that I have probably heard hundreds, maybe thousands of times.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A year ago that’s exactly what he did. It was a reminder of the joy that awaits us. In an era of cultural uncertainty it has renewed in me a sense of thankfulness for the future.

Deep Roots

 

Today’s my parents anniversary! God knew he’d have to put two amazing people together to come up with someone as epic as me… 

Joking aside, I’m so thankful for their values, authenticity, and faith—driven by a love and selflessness that has always modeled God’s love better than anything else. Faith has always came easy to me. I have had a lot of people ask me why that is over the years. I never knew quite how to answer that question until today. 
It’s easy for faith to grow strong in your life when your roots run deep.

Say a prayer for them today when you read this. My momma is taking care of my brother who is still recovering from surgery and my dad is no doubt in a watermelon patch. 
Thanks for reading. Go make a difference in someone’s life today.

WALKING WITH GRANDPA

  

Today my parents came to visit us. It was a really good day. We didn’t do anything too out of the ordinary but it still stands to serve as a day that will mark a special place in my memories.

One of the best moments of the day came after lunch. The fellas in the family; my oldest son Ethan, my brother Brian, my father, and myself all went for a stroll outside—in the woods. It was great. Perhaps the best part of the whole affair was the simplicity of it. We just went outside, for a walk, together.

At one point I looked up to see my dad, who has never been an overly affectionate man, holding my three-year-old son’s hand. It was touching. Why? Because it was a perfect picture of rare and raw masculinity at work.

My dad is a man’s man. He loves the outdoors. He would rather be outdoors than anywhere else you can imagine. He likes all of the kinds of things that the men of his generation enjoy about the outdoors, but mostly he just enjoys experiencing God’s creation.

Back to the walk in the woods…

This picture perfect masculine moment came when my dad, a hard working outdoorsman of the rarest kind, used his strength in a way that offered my son protection. It was the simplest of gestures. But it carried so much meaning for me. It was more than my dad holding my son’s hand.

It was a multigenerational extension of strength, identity, and initiation—all wrapped up in the protecting hand of a grandfather. Something that is becoming rare in our society today.

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We are no longer at a crossroads in our civilization. No, the crossroads has long since passed, and may indeed no longer even be visible from our rear view mirrors. We missed the turning point. Men stopped being men. Fathers stopped being fathers. A generation grew up with dad’s in their homes that were not dad’s in any other capacity that mattered—and having lived that way they have believed that fatherhood is optional. My sons’ world is a world where the numbers of kids who know their dads is fewer than it has ever been, and the number who know their grandpas is fewer still.

I will be there for my boys. As much as I can be. My dad has always been there for me—and will be a grandpa to my sons. But what will the continuing repercussions be for a society that finds itself lacking grandpas who want to hold their grandsons’ hands?

What will the implications be for boys, of all ages, who don’t have someone to model strength for them? To tell them who they are? And give them a loving push into manhood?

The answer is all around us. It’s in our prisons. It’s in our broken sense of honor, justice, and morality. It’s found in the depravity that permeates our culture like a dirty poisonous fog. It’s death.

Without the guiding embrace of a man, on some level, a boy cannot become a man—and a man cannot truly live.

God walked with Adam in the Garden. He showed him strength, purpose, and identity. He showed him fatherhood. And ever since the Fall we’ve been fighting to get it back.

Thanks for reading. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Walking the Line

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My wonderful grandpa’s birthday is today. Much of my stubbornness and compassion came from him. I talked to him on the phone earlier and shared with him the name we have chosen for our second son, Jonathan Eli. At Thanksgiving he had announced to the family, pretty much out of the blue, that he had been thinking of that name. Today when I told him that we had in fact chosen that name for our son he said, “I know. I just told my sister Ruby on the phone.” He was touched but not surprised.

Apparently he really did know. It was one of those inexplicable knowing by faith kinds of things. A measure of the movement closer to God I have seen in my grandpa’s life in very recent years. The power of God’s love has been hard at work in the lives of my mom’s family. Prayers that were prayed for decades have been coming to pass in the wonderful work of God’s mercy and grace. The culmination of a passage from the Psalms that has been really moving to me lately…

I’m finding my way down the road of right living, but how long before you show up? I’m doing the very best I can, and I’m doing it at home, where it counts. Psalm 101:2-3 MSG

My Papa has been an incredible example to me in my life. Not because of his perfection, because I have never been under such a false assumption where he was concerned. In fact, I have long since felt that his many flaws were so well known as I grew up that they always pushed me in an authentic direction. I struggled to actually be authentic much of the time, but the example was there. I never felt that he tried to be someone he wasn’t. I never felt that he pretended. He was never fake. He was always himself. And he never apologized for it, perhaps another series of traits I inherited.

Like the classic country ballad his nephew Bob helped to make famous my Papa Wootton has always Walked the Line. Not perfect, but dedicated. Dedicated to his family. Dedicated to the things that matter. When I grow up I hope I can be just like him.

Happy Birthday Papa & Happy Valentine’s Day to the rest of you.

Thanks for reading,
Nate

May 29- He Went Away

Read: Matthew 19:16-30

When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:22 ESV)

During the final stretch of Jesus’ public ministry a young religious ruler secretly came to him to find out the truth about eternal life. Jesus shared with him several insights about living a devout Godly life. The young man met all of the criteria, he was on his way to experiencing eternity with God, until Jesus revealed the final piece of the young man’s personal journey.

Some biblical translations call this man a rich young ruler, a name that adequately describes his place in life. At a young age this fellow had amassed great power and wealth. That was a problem. Not because either of those things are bad things, but because when Jesus asked him to leave it all behind he was unwilling. He went away sorrowful.

I am not rich and powerful. If God called me to lay aside my finances it would not be a monumental request. For this man it was. I believe that is exactly what Jesus asks of his followers sometimes. He sees into our hearts, and knowing the very things that would distract us from following him with the greatest sense of passion, he sometimes asks us to lay them aside in favor of a simpler life in pursuit of him.

In those moments we are presented with a choose similar to that of the rich young ruler. Either we will lay aside our idolatrous distraction and follow Jesus without reservation, or we will walk away sorrowful, unwilling to part ways with the gods of our own making. What will you choose?

May 28 – Who Believes In You?

Read: John 7:1-10

For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:5 ESV)

I want people to believe in me. It’s part of my personality. I have an innate desire to inspire others to believe. In an often selfish twist of this I regularly wish for them to believe that I know what I am doing, how I will do it, and why I will do it. Perhaps I am not so alone in this.

We all probably crave to have others believe in us. Sometimes it can become a distraction, especially if we come to depend on it as a measurement for self-worth or accomplishment. But encouragement is an exceedingly powerful thing. So, who believes in you?

Jesus faced this same issue. His own flesh and blood siblings doubted his divinity. They would not change their minds about it until after his resurrection. They would not simply believe in him. In spite of their doubt Jesus kept on ministering. He never lost focus. He never got distracted. He knew there was a source of belief in him that surpassed anything that could come from men. The Father believed in him.

The Father believes in you too. He believes in His image and likeness with which you were created. He believes in His righteousness with which you were covered. He believes in His future in which you can be a part.

That is a life changing bit of encouragement. It is actually quite daunting. God believes in you. We spend so much time sometimes considering the notion of belief as a term for the contemplation of existence. To believe also means to support, to encourage, and to rally to. So let me say it again, God believes in you.

Jesus believes in you. He believes in you so much that when his family, his culture, his country, and his friends rejected him he carried on. He endured. He sacrificed.

All. For. You.

All because he believes in you. He believes you were worth it.