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.



Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.
— Heraclitus

LAST AUTUMN, my Amazing-Missus and I attended her high school class reunion. I wrote a bit about it.


While at the reunion I was visiting with a lady who had been married to one of my schoolmates. As we visited I was struck with a spell of melancholy. For some reason I have no connections with anyone that I went to school with. It’s not that I didn’t have friends; maybe I’m just not a good cultivator, which is a little weird to me because a role I truly cherish is that of being a creative catalyst—one who brings creative people together in collaboration.

But then a pop on Facebook, the social media thing. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve been politically manipulated by it. A name I recognized was there on the FB, the name of a girl that I considered to be a friend in grade school, junior high and high school. Not a “girlfriend” though. Her sights were set much higher.

One thing lead to another and a few weeks ago, we met for lunch. Karla, Arlene and me. What a gift it was. She was able to tell me about many of our classmates. I felt reconnected somehow. And at the same time I realized that Heraclitus was right. You cannot step twice into the same stream. 

Karla told us there was a group of Trojan alum having a meet-up at the Methodist church if we wanted to stop by. So we did. We walked into the church and followed the signs to the Fellowship Hall. We could see through the open doors the group gathered. “This isn’t them”, I thought. “This is the church’s senior adult group.” And then it dawned on me. All these people other than me have aged, and come to find out, many are gone.

I dug out my old yearbook, from my junior year 1968, and scanned the pictures of my classmates, pausing on some to recall a memory or two. Some of these, I realized, I had sat in class with year after year and I knew very little about them. Missed opportunities no doubt.

The tradition back then, when the yearbooks were handed out at the end of the school year was to hand your book to others for them to sign. I read the entries in my book through a much older lens. For the most part, we didn’t look to far ahead: “Hope you have a great summer!” Some entries were nostalgic: “Well another year is behind us…” Some prophetic: “Stay just the way you are and you’ll go far,” words I’ve never seen on one of those motivational posters.

We didn’t know it at the time but things were simpler and yet they weren’t. 1968 is notorius for riots, protests, and culture quaking moments. But without the WWW, 24-hour news outlets, a strange innocence prevailed; or at least that’s the way I remember it.

On the 50th anniversary of my senior year, I wonder about the Senior Class of 2019. Are they having a good summer? Are they aware of the crap-storm in Washington D.C.? Do they care? Have the active-shooter drills at their school become as common place as the atomic bomb drills did for us? Is there a thread or two of innocence left? Is there someone writing words of encouragement on the flyleaf of their yearbook? 

If I could write a prelude of sorts in their yearbook, I might say something like this:

Make a new friend this year. Not one of those social media “friends”, but a real one, maybe one that is different from you: race-wise, sex-wise, faith-wise—you know, different. When you get together with your new friend, put away the phones and talk. Talk about the future, your fears, your faith.

Be creative. Make a contribution. Express gratitude. Do something that makes your palms sweaty. Pay attention—not just in class but to what is happening around you. Remember: “Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.” — Heraclitus

Just a note: I attended school at Jenks Public Schools through my Junior year, but transferred and graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

P.S.: Thank you Karla Newman Taber for being a friend.

At the Heart of Town

WHAT IS THERE ABOUT THOSE ROADS that meander through the countryside in and out of small town after small town? I don’t know that my aversion to interstate highway travel is all poetic and Robert Frost-y in the sense of choosing a less-traveled road, if that’s even what the poem is about. But, I do like those roads.

Recently, My Amazing-Missus and I towed our little shiny Airstream through the “hill country” of Texas. Our first stop was in Waco, where we paid homage to the high priest and prietess of house re-doing. It’s a bit astonishing to see people come by the hundreds from hundreds of miles away to see the wonder that is Chip & Joanna. They do seem to bring a sort of beauty to the world; in more ways than just fixing-upping.

I remember hearing a speaker at a banking convention proclaim that when a small town loses its local bank, it is on its way to ghost town status. I remain skeptical of that opinion, but it did start me to thinking: what is vital to the beating heart of a  town or village?

We drove through one wide-spot in the road whose better days were behind it. On a large piece of land in the heart of the little town, where its school once stood, was a marker, reminding the few people left in the town that there was once a school with teachers and kids and sounds and smells and energy.

Maybe they were the Eagles, or Bulldogs, or Terrapins. Their “colors” might have been green & white, or blue & gold, but probably they were red & white.

So, what is it that makes the difference between a community having a pulse and being a ghost town?

Post Office?
Barber shop / Beauty Parlor?

Or, one of those places when you can get gas, bread, milk, beer,  and lunch from a greasy, steamy glass case filled with fried stuff like okra, gizzards, potato wedges, and such; plus a 32 oz. plastic vessel of some soft drink to wash it all down?

As our trip through rural America continued, I may have discovered what it is that most every small town seemed to have. It was easy to spot them. Many are brightly painted and gaudily adorned. The local flower shop. Think about it. If the town still has one of these, not only do you have a vibrant business still left on main street, but you’re also likely to have its effervescent and flamboyant proprieter. You also have a place to buy a balloon for a birthday, a gift for graduation, Father’s Day, and a baby shower. After all what is a community if not a place to celebrate and make memories together. 

I haven’t forgotten the obvious: the flowers. How could we be a community without flowers? There will be Mother’s Days and Valentines Days. Oh, and the weddings.

And while there may not be ballgames, and school dances on the town calendar anymore, there will undoubtedly be the next funeral. You need community to bring flowers and a covered dish to the house to remind you that in the midst of deepest grief, there is a tomorrow and your community is with you.

While I’m on the subject of the essential role of beauty in the midst of despair, let me beg you to contact your congresspersons and implore them to not buy in to the ill-informed, misguided, ill-conceived, near-sighted and selfish scheme to strip funding for the National Endowment for The Arts and the National Endowment for The Humanities. It would be like burning down the flower shop of a small town, or telling Chip and Joanna they can’t fix-up anymore ugly houses, turning them into someone’s dream home.

If you don’t believe the arts are critical to our national well-being, go see this exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. You only have until July 2, 2017. If you want to go with someone, call me. I’ll join you and even buy your ticket.

Here’s another idea. Click here and Watch this. 

Beauty and Pain

THIS MORNING OUR SEVEN YEAR OLD GRAND-GIRL KARLEE was standing in the middle of our living room, pulling up her tights. “That looks like a lot of work!” I observed.

Then she explained, “Sometimes beauty is painful.” A lesson, she shared with me in great detail, was from Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”.

I’ve been thinking this season about the Christmas story, you know the one we’ve heard so many times; this being my sixty-fifth Christmas. I thought about G.K. Chesterton’s quote I shared in the previous post, about adulthood and our loss of wonder which causes us to experience monotony. So I started reading Matthew’s account of the story, and truthfully, almost gave out halfway through the genealogy monologue. But wait… What’s up with these five women?

One of them is obvious: Mary, the mother of Jesus. Of course she deserves to be listed, but these other four? I wonder if there was ever a time when the Disciples were gathered around the campfire waiting for the fish to cook, that maybe Jesus asked Matthew, “Hey, Matt, I get why you mentioned my mom and maybe Ruth; but Tamar, Rahab The Prostitute, and Bathsheba?!”

Of course he never asked Matthew about that. My guess is that Jesus was not at all embarrassed to have listed in his public record women like Tamar, who pretended to be a hooker so she could trick her father-in-law in to having sex with her, or Rahab The Prostitute, a real prostitute, or Bathsheba (mentioned only as the wife of her husband) who had an adulterous affair with the king (David) and then the king had her husband moved to the front line of the war so that he would surely be killed.

Maybe WE’VE made the story monotonous by making sure that it’s all cleaned up and sanitized. We want to make sure that Jesus complies with our politics and religiousity. And in making him like us, we’ve made him boring.

From the Daily Artifact Project by Corey Lee Fuller.

From the Daily Artifact Project by Corey Lee Fuller.

I hope if you were planning to get a “caucasian” nativty set from Sam’s Club, you didn’t wait to late, because they are sold out. What’s even more sad is that some company felt compelled to make a “caucasian” nativity set in the first place, and Sam’s Club knew they would sell like enormous plastic bottles of puffed cheese balls.

Another thing about those “other” women that Matthew mentioned: not all of them were Jews, most were Gentiles, Moabites, Hittites and such. So there’s that.

I’ve never given birth, but I have been present. I know this: in the experience, there was both beauty and pain. Like Jesus, we all have a family tree. In those trees are stories of both beauty and pain.

In Jesus’ life there are two tableaux we remember more than any others. One we see so much this season, with a little baby in a manger. The other is of a cross on a hill. In both there is pain and beauty; and stories that never grow old.

Marker Rendering of The Nativity by Corey Lee Fuller (at a much younger age)

Marker Rendering of The Nativity by Corey Lee Fuller (at a much younger age)