[DISCLAIMER: If you're reading this as a sermon or admonition you're reading it wrong. If you're assuming I'm a theologian, you'll be disappointed.]

UNRELENTING HOPE REQUIRES AN OCCASIONAL GLIMPSE OR GLIMMER OF GOODNESS. At least that’s how it is for me. I have to know that sometimes RIGHT matters. From time to time I need for the bully to lose. I need for someone in a position of influence to call out arrogance and manipulation—even when I am the arrogant manipulator. I need to spend time in truth and beauty.

I’ll admit it, hope is waning for me. Wait. That may not be accurate. Certainly hope in many institutions is spiraling down, but hope in institutions is misplaced anyway. Ultimate answers and meaning are not found there.

So what is HOPE anyway? Especially the durable, unwavering, unrelenting kind?


Take a look at this picture. This is one of my beautiful Grand-Girls, Nora, a few years ago at her church’s fall fun festival. I watched her play this game over and over. The game goes like this: players walk around a circle of chairs while music plays. When the music stops each sits in a numbered chair. The MC then draws a number, calls it out, and the person in that numbered chair wins a prize.

Nora played round after round. Each time she would look to the MC for the announcement and each time she was not in the winning chair. She didn’t complain. She didn’t swear. She didn’t kick chairs. She didn’t question the fairness of the rules. She didn’t storm off to another game. She didn’t assume there was some sort of conspiracy against her. Here’s the weird thing—she actually seemed delighted for those that did win. And then, when the music resumed, she did too—her little march around the circle.

Then it happened. All the other kids moved on, leaving only Nora. When the music began, and she started her solo trek around the circle. When the music stopped, she sat down and looked at the MC with all the unwavering hopefulness she had maintained throughout. You can see it here, in this photo. I, too, looked at the MC thinking, hoping, surely this time she’ll win. And she did!

Let me quickly point out that this Nora-brand of HOPE is not the same as buying a lottery ticket every week hoping to retire “rich”, or hoping that redemption can spring from narcissism without passing through humility. This is about trusting that there is a certain fairness to it all, that people will ultimately do the right thing, that if you put on your pretty, Halloween costume dress and put your Mimi-made bag on your arm and march around the circle, sooner or later you will win the prize. Frankly, I’m not even sure it was totally about the prize for Nora. She seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience.

Maybe I’m just naive—68 years old and still naive—but I’m now, in new ways, understanding that good doesn’t always prevail.

Can we be hopeful? I’m still strongly on the side of YES. I still see those important, occasional glimpses of rightness, justice, otherness, and true Jesus-following that keep me hoping.

There’s a story in the Gospel of John, chapter 5, the scene is a pool and gathered around: “a great number of disabled people—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.”

One of these is a man who’s been there for thirty-eight years. That’s a long time to march around the circle; so to speak. So, Jesus sees the man lying there and asks him what seems like a really stupid question: “Do you want to get well?” Then the dialog goes like this:

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the music stops—wait, that should be—when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

Surely the man had days of hopelessness. There must have been times he cursed something or someone—those new to the pool who would jump in ahead of him, someone from out of town... I’m just guessing.

But what about that weird question Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Let’s do a self-check: individually, culturally, politically, societally, spiritually. Are we healthy? Are we getting healthier? Now that religion and politics are in bed together (again) are we better?

What if Jesus’ question to us is: Do you want to get well? Do you really?

Maybe true hopefulness hinges on knowing we want to be well and then getting up and walking. Walking in freedom, wholeness, boldness and hopefulness.

If you do; count on this: there will be a chorus ready to say, “Hey, stop that. There are rules against that.”

From John 5:

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

I might have replied with something like this: “Apparently he’s a guy who cares more about a broken person walking for the first time in 38 years than he does about your Sabbath rules.”

Good doesn’t always win. Right doesn’t always prevail. But every now and then... someday... ultimately... I’m hoping.


USING TRAILER PARLANCE AS METAPHOR, we’ve been hitched for a few years now. Both of us, my Amazing-Missus and I, are from the Tulsa area—she, just from the south of Jenks; me, just north of Jenks. We met in Bixby.


The insightful C.S. Lewis, as far as I know, never visited Jenks or Bixby, but he did have some keen wisdom on relationships:

“Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” —C.S. Lewis. The Four Loves.

Let’s talk about some of the side-by-side stuff. Early in our marriage we discovered one of our favorite places to eat together was Coney-Islander, a little hot dog joint native to Tulsa. (By “little hot dog” I’m talking about the size of the establishment and also the size of their coneys. They are adorable.) It is still our favorite. It started in 1926, and in all these years, hasn’t changed much. I hope Coney-Islander doesn’t hire one of those new fangled UX specialists to “take the company to the next level”. Their level is just fine. At Coney-Islander, you sit on the same side of the booth, side-by-side. This is so you can work out the Weekly Scramble on the old blackboard on the wall. It’s a C-I tradition.


We often spend weekends in Tulsa. We’ve found a great place in mid-town where we can park our Airstream. It’s close to some of our favorite side-by-side type places: the Circle Cinema, a throwback art-movie theatre; Tulsa University, a Coney-Islander, and a short drive to downtown where you’ll find the arts district, Glacier Chocolates, Guthrie Green, Antionette Baking Company, Spinster Records and Driller Stadium, all good places for side-by-side moments.

There is a mix of blessings to traveling in an Airstream: people want to talk about it and “take a quick peek inside.” Recently we were hitched up and leaving Tulsa for Shawnee, where we were to attend a very special event—a birthday party for a five year old. Often, as we leave Tulsa, our route is via Peoria Avenue, through the narrow streets of Brookside to a Coney-Islander, before getting on the highway out of town. As I pulled into the parking lot on this particular Saturday, I noticed a fancy Mercedes following closely. Before I could hardly get out of the truck, there was a woman who looked like she had just come from the Lululemon store up the street, or the hair extension store somewhere nearby. “Can I please droll over your Airstream!?” (Her actual words.)

Sure, I say. I’ll be inside drooling over “a couple of coneys with everything.” (That’s how you order them.) She’s holding her phone in the air and explains to us that she has her boyfriend on FaceTime so he can take the tour as well. My Amazing-Missus graciously hosted the tour while I went into the air-conditioned Coney-Islander to wait. As I watched her walk toward the diner from the Airstream after the tour, I saw it all as a tableau of sorts or an Edward Hopper painting (but far less forlorn)—that silver trailer, this little hotdog joint, and her; walking from one to the other. Not to over-romanticize it, but it was glimpse of a magical side-by-side life together. Our travels: together, our favorite things to do: together, our memories: together, and our future: together.

And then I thought, I hope that if Miss Yogapants and her FaceTime friend find themselves in an Airstream someday they will have great side-by-side adventures too. Like the old song says:

Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money
Maybe we're ragged and funny
But we'll travel along, singin' a song
Side by side
Don't know what's comin' tomorrow
Maybe it's trouble and sorrow
But we'll travel the road, sharin' our load
Side by side
Through all kinds of weather
What if the sky should fall
Just as long as we're together
It doesn't matter at all
When they've all had their quarrels and parted
We'll be the same as we started
Just travelin' along, singin' our song
Side by side

Here’s a Coney-Islander Weekly Scramble for you. Sorry I don’t have a coney for you to enjoy while you try to figure it out. If you just can’t quite work it out, email me and I’ll send you the answer.

P.S.: No Googling for the answer. You’ll hate yourself in the morning if you do.



I don’t need the mug, the medal, or the t-shirt. I want the award.


It’s good (isn’t it) to have a few things on your list that you would like to attain to, even though the reach is too far? You know, like: bringing world peace, writing the next great novel, playing drums with Diana Krall, etc. Numerous grade-school teachers documented my “vivid imagination and daydreaming” on my report cards. I took it as a compliment, though I’m not sure it was intended that way. I still daydream; it’s just that the dreams have changed.

Our dreams do change, don’t they? The good news is we still get to have them. Even the Bible promises that while the youngsters get to have visions, we men-of-a-certain-age get to dream dreams. What’s the old line about not letting your dreams be replaced by regrets?

Just in the past few weeks I’ve attended two memorial services: one was for Orlie Sawatzky,the grandfather of my daughter-in-law, Kara. the other was for my father. The heart of the service for Orlie was when his grandchildren told stories about this man they loved deeply. When planning my Dad’s service I said, let’s steal that idea and let his grandkids share their stories. It too was the heart of the service.

As I listened to all of these grandfather stories, I realized my dream of being the BEST POPS EVER was just that; a dream. I’ll never surpass those two. Still, I can strive to be my version of best.

Now let’s play the “If Only...” game. If only I had the energy to keep up with one of my grands, much less 6-soon to be 7. There’s not enough coffee. I try to do the yoga and walking, hoping that I can build some stamina, but it’s like that slurping sound as you finish off a strawberry malt and you’re trying to get that last bit. Don’t get me wrong: I can play checkers, Uno, Legos, and dolls all day. I’m up for back to back to back to back episodes of Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol, and I’ll read books as long as they want to read books. You should see me watch them dance, ride their bikes, do cartwheels, jump from the chair to the sofa. I’m happy to peel an apple they are probably going to take one bite of. But none of that is going to win any awards. If only I had the funds to take them all to Disneyland or world or whatever. If only I didn’t hate Branson and Silver Dollar City. If only my dermatologist would let me play in the sun without a big hat, 350 SPF sunscreen and a long-sleeved shirt. If only I weren’t paralyzed with fear about one of them getting bit by a disease carrying mosquito or tick, a wasp, spider, scorpion, or the neighbors yapping shiiity little shih tzu dog. If only... Know what I mean?

So, I listened to these amazing young adults: the Sawatzky’s and Fuller’s, talk about their grandfathers and I thought to myself what is the common denominator here? What is the thread that runs through these stories that turns into the fabric of a really good granddad?

And there it was! Orlie Sawatzky and William Fuller gave them a whole lot of presents. That right. They showered their grandkids with presents.

Oh, wait. That’s a typo. That should have been presence. That’s what they did. They gave their grandkids their presence—their undivided, unconditional, never-ending presence. They were just there for them. And even now, through the memories and the stories, these two old saints are still there for them.

I can do that.


On June 11, 2019, MY DAD PASSED AWAY. He was 94. For 67 Father’s Days he has been here for me.

I’ve often wondered where my Dad’s patience flowed from. He needed it in great doses raising me. It must have sprung from his humility and deep sense of grace. I’ve often wondered though how he made the tough decisions and choices—the ones that always seemed to be good for us.

For example: early in my life, my parents wanted to instill and inspire a love of music in me, and my brother. When I was around 5 or 6 they bought a small accordian and started me in private lessons. Probably, one of my first acts of rebellion was hating that dang accordian—I don’t care how much they enjoyed the Lawrence Welk Show. I knew I wanted to play the drums. And I did, and they supported me beyond rational explanation.

By the late 60s, my Dad was pastor of a Baptist Church. The causes and the big sins that Baptists railed against over the years have varied. In that era, dancing was on the list. So, we have a Baptist preacher, and a Baptist preacher’s son who is playing drums in a little rock and roll band good enough that we played a lot of gigs—teen towns, school mixers and such. I have no doubt that my dad must have taken criticism—at least— over that, but he never mentioned it to me. He did have one rule: no matter what time I got home on a Saturday night from playing, I was expected to be in Sunday School the next morning, and awake until the benediction, around noonish. After that, I was allowed to join him in sleeping through the third quarter of the Dallas Cowboys game.

I often thought of asking him how he navigated that issue. But, all that matters is that he did, and to this day, there is a set of drums in my house that I play nearly every day. Each of my two sons have drum sets that they play regularly, including in their respective churches, which ironically would have never happened in a Baptist church in the 50s and 60s. You would have been more apt to find a pool table in the fellowship hall or a vegan casserole at a covered-dish dinner than a set of drums in the sanctuary.

We had Dad’s memorial service Friday. It was wonderful. I’m confident he would have loved it. Now that I think about it, we should have had a drum circle. He has three great-grandsons who are playing the drums. But, I’m not sure they allow drums at the Baptist Retirement Village.

I got the privilege of writing Dad’s obituary. I’ve included it here if you’re interested. I also got to do the welcome to start the service. It’s here too. Together there are a lot of words, but behind those words are beautiful memories and many grateful hearts.

William Lee Fuller, David Lee Fuller and Calidonia the cocker spaniel

William Lee Fuller, David Lee Fuller and Calidonia the cocker spaniel

WILLIAM LEE FULLER, was born October 28, 1924, in Dubach, Louisiana, the fourth of the six children of his parents, Chroley Smith Fuller and Bernice Colvin Fuller. He passed in complete peace on June 11, 2019 at 5:02 p.m. At his side, as she has been for more than 73 years, was his wife Mary.

He and Mary Ellen Rowden met at a skating rink, and as he loved to tell people, “They’ve been going around together ever since.” He was a new soldier in the Army stationed in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where Mary was a beautiful high school cheerleader. Yes, this could be a Hallmark movie—which he would reluctantly watch as long as they could watch the ball game later. Most every morning for these 73 years their day would begin together at the breakfast table where they would read the daily entry from their devotional book and the sports page of the newpaper—not necessarily in that order. Those of us that knew them best knew that somehow in the remainder of each day they would be a blessing to someone.

Waiting for William when he entered the heaven he loved to preach about, into the arms of the Savior he loved to serve, were hundreds, including his mother and father, his siblings George Henry, Effie Louise, James Edward, and Chroley Smith Junior; his sisters-in-law Betty Hillman and Patsy Calico, and brothers-in-law Bob Hillman, Vernon Calico, and David Rowden and sister-in-law Joyce Rowden.

Those who are left here to celebrate his life, share amazing memories, and live in his legacy are his wife, Mary; two sons David Lee Fuller, his wife Arlene; and George Edward (Rusty) Fuller, and his wife Luann; his six cherished grandchildren: Wendy and husband Clark, Ashley and husband Noel, Corey and wife Kara, Misty and husband Matt, Zack and wife Hollie, and Kyle and his wife Brooke; and sixteen great grandchildren who are too important to him to not be named: Stephen, Sam, Tucker, Karlee, Jack, Adde, Gage, Harper, Hope, Porter, Haddie, Nora, Cannon, Everly, Lydia, Malachi, and one more on the way. William is also survived by his sister whom he dearly loved, Betty Ann Brady, his brother-in-law, Bill Rowden and many, many more relatives and friends.

William had a spirit of gentleness and humility. He had a deep sense of gratitude for many things: his family, his calling, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the makers of Community Brand coffee. He was a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and as of the past few months became a raving fan of Good Shepherd Hospice. He was proud of his Louisiana heritage, and proud to be an Okie as well. William and Mary provided a wonderful, nurturing home, first in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then wherever their call to ministry would take them. These last few years their home has been at the Baptist Retirement Village in Oklahoma City where the staff has become extended family to them.

William was humbled by his calling to serve, whether it was the call to serve in the Army during World War II, first here and finally in Belgium, or his call to serve as a Christian leader. Even the smallest church was important to William and his innovative ministry through day camps in camping and resort areas became a model for that kind of ministy.

He started the East Central Baptist Association youth camp near Lake Tenkiller and in fact, the recreation area there bears the Fuller name as a tribute to William and Mary for their service.

William’s sense of calling was rooted in the spirit of Bible verses like this:

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” —Luke 17:10 New International Version (NIV)

William Lee Fuller fought the GOOD fight.

Welcome. Thank you for coming.

Remember that letter, the first one that Paul wrote to the Corinthians? Remember his metaphor for the church—he called it a body and all the folks were the members of the body.

You know how when a part of the body is severed, like Van Gogh’s ear; in the medical field they call that dismembered, but when it’s sewn back on they don’t call it re-membered, but they should.

That’s what we’re doing today. We are re-membering with Dad. It happens every time we tell a story or look through pictures or talk to people who knew him, especially those whose lives where made better for having known him.

When we asked Dad several months ago what kind of service he wanted, he said, “I don’t need a church service. I want people to enjoy remembering good times. And I want you all to encourage your mother.”

So that’s what this is about. In a minute, some of his beloved great-grandchildren will read scripture. That’s the way he would have wanted it. Then his grandchildren whom he loved deeply will help us remember him through their stories and memories.

Then we will look at pictures together and listen to one of mom and dad’s favorite songs and one of mine. Then we will listen to one of Dad’s favorite hymns.

After that my little Brother Rusty will tie all of this together for us.

Then the Army honor guard will help us remember Dad’s service to our country during World War II.

I mentioned earlier that Dad said we didn’t need a sermon at this memorial. After the honor guard presentation, Doug Manning, Dad’s friend and fellow pastor from his days in Tulsa will bring a benediction. Our family met with Doug shortly after Dad’s passing. He asked if there would be a sermon at the service. We said no, and Doug said, “That’s the way it shoud be for your Dad. His life was the sermon.”

Remember that supper, the last one that Jesus had with his little band of brothers? Remember how he took bread and wine, he explained the metaphor to them, then he said do this wine and bread thing often and every time you do—remember me.

So, in that spirit:

  • Whenever you think of our mom, remember our dad.

  • Whenever you enjoy a hot, strong, black cup of coffee, remember him.

  • Whenever you hear the score of the St. Louis Cardinals game, remember their lifelong fan.

  • Whenever your fishing line gets tangled or you lose your golf ball in the woods, remember William.

  • When you think of all the kids, pastors and small churches he ministered to, think of Bro. Bill.

  • Whenever you find yourself wondering if there are any men of humility and integrity left, whose highest calling was to serve…

Oh, and after the benediction, hang around for awhile, because he also said he wanted this to be a time of fellowhip and people enjoying each other’s company.