Driving home today I saw one of those license plates a ham radio operator has. And even though I've seen them lots in the last 15 years, today was different. Today the memories came.
My granddaddy was a ham radio operator. I still remember his call sign: WA5YPA. As a kid, he had a "radio shack" in the backyard. It was just what it sounds like--a little shack where all the radio equipment was. Later they remodeled their house, and added a room where they didn't have to go outside to get on the radio. Grandaddy talked to people around the US. People came from all around to talk to friends in other parts of the world. I remember families coming over to talk to missionaries in South America.
My grandparents were (and still are--granddaddy's wife, my grandma, is still alive) people of incredible faith. Granddaddy was a lay leader in churches all his life. He often served as a music minister. He couldn't read music, but he would sit and chord on the piano. He wrote a song based on Psalm 40 that I can still remember and sing called "God Gave Me a Song." After spending most of his life as a Baptist, he had a filling experience with with the Holy Spirit, and spent quite a few years in a pentecostal church in the little town where they lived. When I was in college, and he was fighting cancer, we would have these deep theological discussions about God.
But it was the conversation we had 8 days before my 10th birthday that I can remember like it was yesterday. We were playing chess on the patio, and he started to talk about repentance (I must have been winning, since he changed the subject). He took one of the pawn and put it on the table, and said when we were born, we were put on earth by God. Because of our sin, we are naturally pointed away from God and toward hell. He pushed the piece across the table, talking about living and learning, but eventually, he said, if you keep living in the same direction, you end up dying and going to hell. At that point he pushed the piece off the table and fell to the floor. My nine year old psyche didn't want that to happen to me.
Then he took another piece, put it on the table, and started the same discussion. But he began to describe what repentance was, this turning your back on sin and hell and turning your face back toward God and life. It made sense to me, and we prayed right then that Jesus would rescue me, that I would follow life and God and good. There were tears and hugs, and a week later I was baptized at First Baptist Church, Skellytown, Texas, by Milton Thompson.
Today that journey continues. Today the heritage that is my family--honed by my grandfather--finds fruit in my life. And it's not just him, although he's the one I thought of today. Faith has been alive for generations. And when you add my wife's family and the generations of deep and abiding faith there, I am confident the heritage continues with my own kids.
I'm grateful for my grandaddy.