OLD DOGS AND NEW TRICKS

January 17, 2021

Many of you know that during my 50 years as a pastor in Arkansas that I was a humorist at the same time. I spoke throughout the South and many mid-western states. One of my fondest memories was when I won a humorous speech contest, hosted in Peoria, Illinois, and covered a ten-state region. That trophy sits over my fireplace on the mantle.

One of my favorite titles of the many types of programs was called OLD DOGS AND NEW TRICKS. That’s my title today for this post. First, let me make it clear that I am in no way calling my readers a dog. That just happened to be a popular expression in the South where I grew up.

Generally, it’s simply saying one can learn new things even as one gets older. The usual version of that title says, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  I believe you can. And it CAN speak about dogs too.

One of my favorite football coaches was Lou Holtz. I met him once in Dallas, Texas where I was attending a speakers convention. He was one of the speakers at the meeting. In his speech, he told a story of how his dogs loved to eat turnip greens. He said he once told a buddy of his that. His friend told him that his dogs would not eat turnip greens. Holtz then told him, “my dogs wouldn’t either for about three weeks.” He went on from there and made a great point about how it sometimes takes a lot of persuasions to teach people new things.

When I used the above title in my humorous speeches I incorporated several ways in which we learn new things. And I used a lot of humor and received many big laughs.

I won’t attempt any humor in this post because that can be done best when one is speaking live to a crowd.

But I do hope to teach you a few things in this post whether a young or old dog. I met a great guy in seminary who once asked our professor on preaching, “how many points does a sermon need to make ?”  It was a good question. The professor replied, “ At least one. But not twenty.”

That was a wise answer. So I hope you learn at least one thing by reading this post. Remember, this is about you, how you can learn new tricks.

My precious dear old Granddaddy Jay Sinclair often said, “Only a fool never changes his mind.”

Maybe you’ll learn something today that will require you to change your mind so that you can make things new and better in your life.

We all learn many things the hard way, don’t we? One of my favorite humorists was Mark Twain. I have a basket full of his quotes. I’ll cite two of them in this post. First, he said you can learn a lesson by carrying a cat by the tail that you can’t learn any other way. Secondly, he said that each new generation has to learn on its own that the stove is hot. Do you agree with those quotes? Then we can begin.

I learned decades ago that when I talk about myself that I usually don’t make anyone angry. And often whether it was from a sermon I preached or a speech I gave, that people would come up to me afterward and say, “You know that same thing happened to me.” That’s all I want. For people to learn whether I’m the butt of the statements I make or somebody else.

This post IS about some things about me. But I bet you can learn something too. Where to begin? Yes, I have notes but I usually delete many things on my posts when I see I’m going too long.

First, let me remind you of a post I wrote many months ago. I think the post was on time management. I told of one of my former parishioners who asked me if he could say something to the congregation before church started, maybe right after the announcements.

I told him he could. This was a board member who was about 65 years old at the time (an old dog). Once he began he said that he wanted to share with them something that God had recently taught him. I became very interested in his announcement  myself at this point.

He started by saying he would be brief and he was. He said that God had helped him to not waste his time anymore in reading the comics from his newspaper. He said he calculated that he was spending about seventy minutes a week reading the funnies. He said God let him to believe that that seventy minutes could be better used in praying for his family. He concluded by saying that that’s what he was doing with that otherwise wasted time of reading the funnies.

I thought about his little announcement many times since he made it over forty years ago. What I did with his forty-year-old lesson I started doing myself about four months ago.

The lesson really hit home when Sandra and I took about a four-day vacation over the Christmas holidays of 2020 to visit our son, John Paul, and his family in Lowell, Arkansas.

It took nearly a whole day to load the car in preparation for the trip. Sandra wanted to do the packing in the car as we were taking our two small dogs with us. She wanted to be sure the dogs had room to play during the seven-hour trip.

I was told by my boss to get all my personal things together and she would load them. I did. Among some of the things I took was about a one-foot high stack of unread newspapers and several periodicals. I always thought it was my duty to keep up with everything going on, especially within my community. So Sandra loaded my papers, etc.. way in the back of the trunk.

About the time we were getting into Lowell, Sandra said, “Let’s rest awhile when we get inside the house and I’ll bring inside all the things we brought because I know where I want to put everything.”

I told her that would be okay with me. Then my :guardian angel” (Sandra) spoke to me. She said :I’m not taking in that stack of papers and stuff you had me load. We’re here to have a good time and relax with the family.” I tried to explain to her that I was just going to skim through the stack while everyone else was sleeping in the wee hours of the morning. She said no. Later on, I agreed with her 100%.

I got to thinking of one of my favorite thoughts about trying to keep up with everything going on in my community and even the world. I cannot remember where I first heard this jewel, but it is so true. The quote is” Good news will keep, and bad news will look you up.”  Ever heard that one?

So as Sandra was loading the car for our trip home, I told her, “Throw that stack of papers away.”  She did, and since then there have been many times I would go three or four days without even looking at the headlines in our paper. I have other sources of getting news throughout the day that keeps me apprised of what’s going on in my community and the world.

So I would say to my former parishioner, It’s incalculable how much time I’m saving by not reading the paper at all. Period.

Whoops, looks as though I’m out of time. This was basically a one-point sermon. I did have several other things to talk about. Maybe later in a sequel.

Anyway, I hoped you learned something. If you did, please share this post with your friends.

God Bless,
Spencer and Sandra Plumley