I’ll be going to Dallas, Texas next week to represent Smyth & Helwys Publishing at the General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). I’m looking forward to it. They’re my people.
The upcoming trip has put me in mind of the last time I saw Dallas.
It was June, 1984. I was attending my first Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting. Had I had any sense, it would have been my last. I didn’t, though, and so it wasn’t. I toughed it out until 1991 (which was longer than most of my like-minded sisters and brothers) at which time I said, “If I want to feel like that I can call up Don Rickles and ask him to tell me what he thinks of me.” At least that would have been funny as well as painful.
The 1984 convention was the one at which I was joined by 45,000 of my closest friends, or, more accurately, about 22,000 of my closest friends and 23,000 of my bitterest enemies. (I didn’t want them to be my enemies, but they wanted me and those who thought kinda sorta like me to be theirs, so there you go.)
It was also the meeting at which one of the oddest (not to mention most desperate and cynical) parliamentary decisions I ever saw made was made. We had voted to do something late on Wednesday afternoon; “our side” had actually prevailed in the vote. When we came back after supper, the President (who was on “their side”) ruled that we couldn’t do what we had done and since we couldn’t do what we had done, we hadn’t done it. Folks were hollering “Point of Order” so loud that people in Arlington must have heard them, but it didn’t matter. The President had spoken.
I got to Dallas on a bus that was provided by the good folks at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where I was two years into my work on a Ph.D. in Old Testament. Now, don’t hear that wrong; we had to pay to ride but the seminary made the arrangements. I made my reservation in the office of a young assistant to the President of the Seminary. That assistant, rather ironically, later became and remains a shining light on “their side.” Go figure.
For the price of admission, I got to ride on a crowded charter bus and to sleep in a small motel room with four other seminary students that I barely knew, and to ride the bus between the motel and the convention center.
A fun time was had by all.
But that’s not what I want to tell you about. I want to tell you about the Yellow Roses of Kentucky.
I was in Dallas on June 10, and June 10, 1984 was the sixth anniversary of my marriage to Debra Kay Johnson. Our son Joshua, our first child, had been born on February 21 of that year. So there I was, miserable, irritated, frustrated, and just generally fed up, and also 800+ miles away from my wife on our wedding anniversary.
Then I had an idea. How cool would it be to send Debra a dozen yellow roses (her favorite) from Dallas, Texas? They’d be Yellow Roses of Texas! I mean, how much more romantic could one nerdy graduate student get?
I swallowed hard. We weren’t exactly rolling in money in those days. But I gave her my credit card number and hung up the phone, wondering whether Debra’s response would be weighted more on the “You’re so sweet!” or the “I can’t believe you spent that much money!” side.
Later—I don’t know how much later—it dawned on me that the Dallas florist called a Louisville florist and had them deliver the flowers.
So for our sixth wedding anniversary, my Good Wife received a dozen Yellow Roses of Kentucky.
I guess it’s the thought that counts.
Besides, I got a lot more for that $45.00 than I did out of whatever I paid to ride that bus . . .