All posts by dcaldwell23

More Books for the Soul

-“When Jesus comes back everything sad will become untrue.”  From Tim Keller’s book, The King’s Cross

Books that Fed my Soul

I tried to read a book per week last year. I didn’t quite make it. But along the way I discovered some real gems. In fact, I didn’t want to finish some of them. I wanted to make them a friend, a steady companion… and I’m sure that I’ll get back to a couple of them for a re-read.

Last week I submitted three books that touched my soul. And I promised to tell you about three more books that fed my soul.

Actually, there were several. So I will make this a contest that I will refer to as “The Caldys.” The Caldy goes to my favorite book of a genre.

The second runner up is…  The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders

Have you ever known something, I mean really understood it in your heart, but found yourself unable to explain it or put it into words? That’s how I felt about the doctrine of the Trinity after I read the Bible the first few times. That is to say, I got it, but I couldn’t explain what it was that I got.

How the Trinity Changes Everything is “readable,” and by that I mean it’s not so heavy that you have labor in order to soak in a “deep thing of God.” I liked this book because Sanders strips away all that might be intimidating or theologically technical. He brought my focus to the triune God, and he inspired my wonder and awe in who God is. Reading this book I experienced the beauty of the Trinity.

As stated in the introduction, “this book shows us why we ought to embrace the doctrine of the Trinity wholeheartedly…”  Sanders notes that, “The good news of the gospel is that God has opened up the dynamics of the triune life and given us a share in that fellowship”. You will see in this book how the harmony of the trinity is the harmony of the gospel. There is community, tranquility, and relationship.

My first runner up is …The King’s Cross – The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus  by Tim Keller

Too often I read books that are targeted at the Christian audience and find that after the first two or three chapters, the thesis and best parts of the book are well in hand. From there I can read the last couple of paragraphs in each chapter and be good-to-go. What I love about this offering from Keller (and his other books) is that chapters remain salient to the purpose of the book, and every bit as valuable, and fresh, as the first chapters.

In King’s Cross Keller takes the life of Christ, as told by Mark in the Gospel of Mark and walks us through its major themes. In a clear and simple exegesis, Tim Keller unpacks the Gospel of Mark and offers the reader both a valuable lite-commentary and a hefty devotional work (it’s two, two, two things at once).  That’s it! It’s a devotional commentary.
This is Tim Keller doing what he does best, he is reasoning with skeptics and teaching the faithful. I loved this book because it just made so much sense. Here’s a guy that will make you want to be a better Christian for all of the right reasons. Here is a sample: Continue reading More Books for the Soul

Soulful Books of 2011


I actually thought about something “devotional” and / or inspirational for the New Year. But I was not devoted and / or inspired to write it.

So, I give you books! Books make great companions. What a great way to hang out with make believe people, or past presidents for that matter. I ran into a few people I didn’t like being around, but overall, books were my 2011 passion.  Each book brought a particular passage of Scripture to my soul and I share the verses herein.

Three Novels (or close to) that Touched My Soul

3. The Brothers K by David James Duncan

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else,

for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself,

because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1  

 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this…Romans 14:13

This is a huge novel about family, and families can be complex; it’s a book is about life, all of it. I found the magic of The Brothers K in watching six children of Hugh and Laura Chance grow, and I fell in love with the family, not because I could relate to them, but because Duncan made me care about them.  Parts of the story made me smile and parts were agonizing.  Papa Hugh Chance, a ‘coulda-been’ baseball all-star and his devout Adventist wife, Laura raise six kids that couldn’t be more different. More than once I found myself becoming extremely emotional as I fought alongside members of the Chance family trying to resolve conflict. It was life, existential and moving. I found myself empathizing with each character especially when they were at odds with one another.

This story struck me as authentic, no kooky plot twists or author’s indulgent inventions.   We see the four Chance boys grow up before our very eyes, watch as their characters age and become…  it’s a life experience and death experience — and we see the birth of hopes and dreams, and we see death, or worse.  This book is a big`ole juicy steak. Cut it up and savor each bite. This is not “book-lite” — This is book weighs in at nearly 700 pages. Who has time for that? I’m thankful that I made the time and highly recommend The Brothers K. (I’ll throw in a PG rating because I did  find that many novels ought to have some kind of classification — e.g. I read Water for Elephants and enjoyed the book, but um…R!) Continue reading Soulful Books of 2011

A Christmas Story… gone wrong?

Christmas 1962 - I was in the first grade

Looking Back on Christmas

December, 1962 – It was cold, but we played outside anyway. Playing indoors seemed like punishment. We had a routine; we under estimated the cold and over estimated our fortitude. Running, climbing, and making up games was the good life — right up until our ears and fingers hurt too much to play on. My little brother and I would reach our breaking point and go back inside, but not to stay. Mom would rub our fingers and put her warm hands on our ears. Then she gave us another layer and let us go right back outside.

In December of 1962 I was six years old and don’t remember a whole lot. But the memories I do have are quite vivid. My dad was in a job transition. He was attending Barber College in downtown Oklahoma City. He had moved us from the oil fields of west Texas through a short layover in Kingman, Kansas. Dad, Mom, my little brother Darren and an 8 month old sister, Danyne and I all lived in a tiny duplex around 50th and Lincoln. The little place had one bedroom and that’s where we all slept. My Uncle Bob, a gregarious, 6’5″ 20 year old, slept on the couch. The small, temporary home might have had 750 sq. ft. of space. That’s a stretch.

We ate beans a lot, I liked red beans. Still do. Mom or Uncle Bob could make cornbread and we often had fried potatoes. I loved my life. My whole family got to stay together in one room and the most entertaining person I had ever met was out on the couch. My world was perfect. Continue reading A Christmas Story… gone wrong?

The Value of “X” in Xmas

The X Factor in Christmas / Xmas

Here’s a little game we can play. I’ll give the abbreviation and you name the person or character the abbreviation stands for . . . ready?

J Lo      _________

FDR     _________

Dr J      _________

Ike       _________

007       _________

CP3      _________



Several years ago I was writing notes in a Bible class I was taking. I  copied what the professor was writing on the board. Typically he would use the Greek letter theta instead of writing the word ‘God.’  The use of an O with a line across the middle was our shorthand abbreviation for God. I learned that Theos is the Greek word for God. (Theology: the study of God)

As class went on and the lecture unfolded, he referred to Jesus Christ. The teacher used the Greek letter chi (x) as an abbreviation for Christ. None of the other students questioned it; neither did I. Through my theological educational I learned that there was a long standing history behind these abbreviations.

We Christians often lament the fact that Xmas has become associated with the commercialization of Christmas.  For some, ‘Xmas’ is an offensive four-letter-word that pops up earlier and earlier each year. One friend of mine said, “We need to stand up against the secular system that wants to X-out Christ.”

But ‘Xmas’ is a modern conspiracy to secularize this Holy season. The abbreviation actually belongs to the church.

X has a long and sacred history

There’s a long and sacred history regarding the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ. Plenty of articles and information already exist that are just a ‘click’ away. Hmmmm, should I cut & paste? If only I could create one of those cool internet blue-words that magically takes you to a relevant site. Sorry, I do not understand the strange magic of technology and therefore dare not attempt such things. My point is, you don’t have to take my word for it. Or was that my point? Continue reading The Value of “X” in Xmas

Know Your Directions


Are you good at giving directions? A lot depends on the orientation of the person you’re giving directions to. That’s my experience.

Are you good at receiving direction? I have given perfectly good travel instructions and clear directions to family members and I knew at the time that they weren’t getting it. My wife and I are very different direction receivers. I’m visual and she is linear; I can picture movement and she can follow the steps. Both ways can work.


In western Oklahoma you can say, “Go down to the intersection, drive a half mile west, then go three miles north. You’ll see a big-ole, green mailbox. Turn back east and it’s about a quarter mile up the dirt road.” And that works, if the person knows their directions — north from south.

If you’re in Apache, Oklahoma you know that 13 miles west and 14 miles north is Carnegie. Growing up I gained orientation to travel by asking, “How many miles is it?” I could figure my travel time by number of miles. But that changed once I became a ‘city-guy’. I’ve traded reference to miles for Continue reading Know Your Directions

Princes, Paupers, and Black Friday

Thanksgiving is about perspective and proportion.

I sat before a Thanksgiving meal this week and surveyed the sumptuous spread. I couldn’t really get my brain around it all. The easy drive down the four-lane interstate to my in-laws’, the warmth of their home, the antacids at my fingertips for post-meal relief—the ease of my life is vastly beyond comprehension.

I imagined what it would seem like if I had the ability to pluck most any person from history and insert them into my day. I imagined Abe Lincoln watching us talk on cell phones to friends and family, using dishwashers, coffee makers, refrigerators, microwaves, and two-ply toilet paper.  There would be an absence of smoke from coal ovens and fumes from kerosene lamps; the clothing would be washed free of horse smell and hair products and deodorants galore. I could show Abe the football games on television, download the Gettysburg address, or Google the medicines that would have saved his son Tad.

Princes and Paupers

We live as princes, we do. But we shop like paupers.  Need proof?  Looming behind the bountiful Thanksgiving table is the frugal frenzy of Black Friday….

After the Dallas Cowboys squeaked by the Miami Dolphins, the Black Friday sales circulars were spread out on the table.  There were deals on tools and ladders, televisions, clothing, toys, and gadgets. An hour later I was catching the fever. I was being overpowered by two strong feelings: Continue reading Princes, Paupers, and Black Friday

11/11/11 I Hate War

This is a re-do.  I submitted basically the same piece for Memorial Day.   

When I was young, I cut my teeth on WWII movies where war was glorified.  John Wayne in The Green Berets made me zealous for militarism.

On 11/11/11  I remember — again — the day I learned that war was not the glorified world of the movies.  The very first funeral I ever attended was for a son of Apache, Oklahoma.  PFC James McClure was killed on May 2, 1967, the day before my 11th birthday. He was 19.

Once again I reflect. I recall the message I delivered to an over-flow crowd of mourners in the early spring of 2008.  The governor of Oklahoma sat on the front row, along with a  young widow and her toddler son, Gage.  As I stood before the men and women gathered at that funeral, I found myself confronted with the very real issues of honor, duty, courage, and sacrifice that Veterans Day represents.

The following is the text from that day’s message. Continue reading 11/11/11 I Hate War

Barbershop Theology: Ritual of Preparation

Spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation.”  Roger Staubach

I looked at the clock and mercifully it read, 5:35. Dad would end his day by putting away his scissors, resting his clippers, counting the cash in the drawer, and writing something in his ledger. But he would do that no earlier than 6pm.

I knew I could make closing much faster if I would begin the Barbershop Closing Ritual. That meant all the dirty towels had to be placed in a hamper, the floor had to be swept, ash trays cleaned, lather dispenser filled, and magazines organized. It meant being alert to any signals from Dad pointing me to a detail I had missed, (a nod, a glance, or a subtle point with a comb).

The final act of the day was watching Dad slightly open the door to the back of the shop, reach behind the wall and turn off the lights. Turning the Open/Closed sign was a quick trick and I hustled to jump into his pick-up truck parked just around the corner. If we hurried I could catch the last episode of the Flintstones or maybe shoot some baskets before dark. Continue reading Barbershop Theology: Ritual of Preparation

That’s a ‘Head Scratcher’

Why I’m Usually Confused

I “googled” something the other day, hmmm, or did I Google? I never used to google, but I google a lot lately. —Anyway, on my computer screen there appeared these three words, Christian Wrestling Federation. I don’t know how I got there, but I did.

In honor of that wacky German philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel, I started to think. Why is this Christian wrestling thing a really good idea and why not. Hegel’s version of thinking, the Hegelian Dialectic, is to ponder the best possible reason for a something, then consider the worst reason. His method (I’m over-simplifying here) helps find a middle truth, sort of a new truth.

Hegel's Dialectic

The thesis, best reason for a Christian Wrestling Federation, is their evangelism catch-phrase, “They come for wrestling, and they stay to be saved.”  Sincere, noble, well-intended and I assume it works. The fundamental defense  is that we should do whatever it takes (short of sin) to bring people in and give them the Gospel. “If one soul is saved then it’s all worth it.”

 The other side of this argument questions this man-centered, shallow adaptation of Christianity. It’s a version of gospel-lite that inoculates people to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Much like a small pox vaccination, it offers a dose that is authentic, but serves to produce immunity to the Gospel. It’s a far cry from deny yourself, take up you cross and follow Me (Luke 9:23).
"Who's Your Spotter?"

So, here I sit, pondering variety of “baptized” activities. Continue reading That’s a ‘Head Scratcher’

Barbershop Theology — God Almighty

“Good God Almighty!” The words were as emphatic as they were profane; those three words seemed to be the natural and uninhibited expression in the moment. I looked to the entrance of Dad’s barbershop to see a soldier in his dress greens framed by the doorway. He was grinning ear to ear. I think he was home on leave or perhaps getting ready to ship out to Viet Nam . . . or perhaps not. Why I remember that heartfelt exclamation I do not know, but it was joyous and offered with a knee slap and tobacco stained grin. The old man in blue Oshkosh overalls couldn’t help himself, he was surprised and pleased. It brings me to a couple of thoughts about cursing, profanity, and the pseudo-therapy we find in using expletives to express our passion. Continue reading Barbershop Theology — God Almighty

Barber Shop Theology – To Cuss or Not to Cuss

I’m a hypocrite in more ways than I like to admit. In fact, I’m a hypocrite in some ways that I won’t admit. Wait, maybe it’s not so much that I’m a hypocrite, I just tend to have double-standards here and there. In particular…

Sometimes Expletives Make Me Laugh

     Most commonly, folks would define an expletive as a cuss word, vulgarity, or profanity. But the actual dictionary definition is “a word without meaning added to fill a sentence; serving to fill up, merely for effect.”

I am tempted to write and distinguish between obscenities and profanities; there is a difference between foul language and a curse word. Etymology is one of my favorite areas of study; I love to look at the history  and origins of words, and how the meaning of a word can change over time. Swear words, “off-color” words, and vulgar words — there is a difference, you know.  Continue reading Barber Shop Theology – To Cuss or Not to Cuss

Barbershop Theology – God the Father

A Father’s Words at Quittin’ Time

As we locked the front entrance to the barber shop, a half hour an hour have normal quittin’ time, I would say something like, “Wow, that was a really long day.” Dad opened the shop at 7am and closed at 6pm. When we didn’t leave until 6:30 or near 7:00 I could see my father’s exhaustion.

I must have heard Dad say it twenty times. It was distinct when he said it, and he meant it.  “I’m just thankful I can work and take care of my family.”

As he turned the key on his work day his response was authentic to his soul. He remembered being a young man with a wife and two little boys. He remembers lying in a hospital bed, down in his back and wondering if he would ever be able to work. Continue reading Barbershop Theology – God the Father

I Am The Best: No Brag, Just Fact

A man walks into a barber shop and sits in the chair. The barber asks, “How do you want your hair cut?” The man says, “I want it short on one side, uneven on the other side, crooked in the front and a hacked up in the back.”  The barber shakes his head and says, “I don’t know if I can do that.” The man replied, “I don’t know why not, you had no problem last time.”

I like jokes. I happen to know one of the world’s foremost and talented joke tellers. His name is Robert “Uncle Bob” Caldwell. He lives is Granbury, Texas. I love that guy. I always wanted to be able to tell jokes like Uncle Bob. He could sure deliver a punch line.

One thing I’ve learned about punch lines, they don’t necessarily have to be in the context of a joke to be humorous. Sometimes a good punch line is simply the “pay-off” in a story.


It was a typical day in the barber shop— Dad was cutting hair, and his customer was resting comfortably with his eyes closed.

The front door opened, and Dad glanced up to say, “Morning.  Come in, you’re next.”

What happened next amused my dad to no end, and his retelling of the story over the next few days was his delight … Continue reading I Am The Best: No Brag, Just Fact

A Line in the Sand


One of my favorite movies as a child was The Alamo.  I remember this Hollywood version of Texas history very well. I don’t think historical accuracy was a major goal of the director, John Wayne, who also starred as Col. Davy Crockett.  I remember watching Santa Anna’s Mexican army sweep into the Alamo and there was big John Wayne, swinging his Kentucky long-rifle, gallantly fighting to the last.

Before the final and climatic battle there was a romantic scene. I’m talking about girls and kissing and yucky stuff that eight year boys can’t stand. I’m talking about ‘kid romantic’; I’m referring to a kid who loved Daniel Boone, Superman,  and six-shooters.

The Most Romantic Scene:  The ‘Texacans’ and other Americans were gathered inside the walls of the Alamo. Col. William Travis (Laurence Harvey) stood before them and explained the situation looked bad, real bad. They were tremendously outnumbered (7,000 to 185) and no help was on the way.   Colonel William Travis is hoping to give Houston the time he needs to pull his forces together.

Travis speaks to the men who have been defending the Alamo. He tells them there will be no shame if anybody wants to leave.

Richard Widmark, a real Hollywood tough guy plays the role of Sam Bowie. For some reason lies on a blanket unable to stand. In the most remarkable and indelibly imprinted movie scene of this eight year old had ever seen, Col. Travis draws a line in the sand.  If you cross that line in the sand, you are saying you’ll stay no matter what. Nobody moved.

Then, Sam Bowie, laid out on a blanket says, “Carry me over boys,” or something like that. Then all the other Alamo defenders step over the line. I’ll never forget the image of that line in the sand.


I looked it up.  Continue reading A Line in the Sand

Barbershop Theology – Pass the Salt

Pass the Salt

Salt. What an amazing additive. Salt. Never set the table without it. Most of us handle a salt shaker each and every day. For me, it always made food taste better. In the right amounts salt will accentuate the natural flavor of an otherwise bland food.

The Salt of the Earth

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” What a brilliant description of His children— they bring the flavor of God’s Kingdom into the earth.

A playful paraphrase would be, “My children are in the world to accentuate the real purposes of creation.”  What if society declared, It’s so great that we have so many Christians living in our city, they are such great fun, lively, gracious people; they just make everything a little better!  Continue reading Barbershop Theology – Pass the Salt

Barbershop Theology: My Faith Hero

An Honest Faith

I first heard a small diatribe on the subject of faith while visiting Dad’s barber shop.  I was a college student and had grown very interested in my parents’ renewed passion for Christ.  I tuned in a bit more than usual when a fella that I barely knew started to deliver his discourse on faith.

As I recall his talk, I remember it as just that—a lot of talk.  It sounded something like this…

“It’s all about faith, you know.  When we get sick, God’s just testing us to see if we can get rid of all our questions and just believe in Him and his power.  Why, just the other day I believed really hard that God could heal my aching back, and he did!  I was tempted to doubt, but I didn’t let it get to me.  My faith healed me!”

I listened as this customer in my dad’s shop proclaimed his conviction that “most of the world’s problems are really just because people don’t have enough faith,” and that poverty, sickness, and pain could be effectively wiped out if people would just extinguish their doubts with a fire hose of super-powerful trust in God.

His talk concerned me.  Maybe he knew how to muster up that kind of super-strong faith, but I’m here to confess, I’ve never really been a person who’s been able to get rid of all his doubts or questions. In fact, I would give myself a C- if I had to submit a report card on myself. Continue reading Barbershop Theology: My Faith Hero

Barbershop Theology: Faith at the Razor’s Edge

A straight razor is an imposing instrument. I have watched my dad use one a thousand times, my mom too for that matter.

I loved to watch Dad extend the razor strap and whisk the blade back and forth on it. He would hone that blade to a pristine cutting edge before giving a shave or neatly trimming around a fresh haircut.

Customers who asked for a shave relaxed and wholly trusted Dad to set that blade to their face and throat. The steps were simple. First the customer was laid back in the barber’s chair, then Dad jerked the side lever and gently pulled the back to a vertical position. Next a steaming towel, bearably hot, was put on the face. A nice lather followed and as the whiskers were pacified, Dad prepared the blade for the task.

This memory shifts to my Mom’s barber chair. Late one Saturday evening she was asked to give a shave. That didn’t happen often with the lady barber. Continue reading Barbershop Theology: Faith at the Razor’s Edge

Barber Shop Theology – Directions

How many words are in the Bible? “In the beginning God . . .” Look, four words at the start.

“Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

See that? There are twenty more words at the end of the last book of the Bible.

I read somewhere that there are maybe a million words in the Bible. I spent my whole childhood hoping to find a genie in a bottle or get a wish; my goal was to ask for a million dollars. I figured a million of anything would be plenty.

Growing up in my dad’s barber shop taught me many life lessons. One lesson was how to give good directions. Quite often a stranger would step into the shop to ask for directions to a farm, or place like Boone, Broxton, Richard’s Spur or Porter Hill. Sometimes they would name a place three doors around the corner. A barber shop on Main Street was an easy find. Our directions went something like this: “Go up to the light (the only red light in town) and turn north, go `bout a half mile and turn back west. Head on out past the Sale Barn and go a `lil over five miles and turn right out there where the road bends. It’s just right there across a `lil-lo bridge.”  Continue reading Barber Shop Theology – Directions

Simple Sabbath – I Want to See

 I Want to See


Have you heard the story of Blind Bartimaeus? It’s found in the Gospel of Mark. You can read it in your bible (and I’ll attach the passage at the bottom of this Simple Sabbath post.)

Here is a story where Jesus leads us to understand real meaning. The symbolic and spiritual Truth of our existence is in this story. Okay, let’s state the obvious—the blind man here is a symbol of the inability to take in spiritual vision. There is an incapacity to Continue reading Simple Sabbath – I Want to See

Barbershop Theology – a lesson from a hot check

Barbershop Theology

I have attended college. I have attended four of them. I learned a lot at college. I have degrees that suggest, “Hey, this guy learned.” But I can never replace the lessons I learned as the shoe-shine boy in my dad’s barbershop.

Hundreds of people came through Caldwell’s Barber Shop over the years.  Between public school and the barber shop I received an education in Apache, Oklahoma. Here’s another story that has helped me understand a little more about the world, myself, and the truth to live by.

Salesmen and “Simpletons”

A unique sub-set of folks that came through Apache viewed us locals as rubes or hayseeds. I was always entertained when some of the locals would oblige the stereotype. They did it purposefully. Most of the people that visited our fair small town were gracious, winsome, and very kind. A few of them were condescending (a few salesmen) they “shore was high themselves.”

As a boy, I was maybe ten or eleven years old, I could be easily impressed by a smooth presentation and a new gizmo with an interesting name. The old timers who loitered in Dad’s barbershop weren’t so easily moved. My job was to observe from the sideline as the pitchman worked the crowd and then watch as one of the locals morphed into Gomer Pyle. Continue reading Barbershop Theology – a lesson from a hot check