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The Stranger

A few months before I was born, my dad met a
stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town.

From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting
newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family.
The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to
welcome me into the world a few months later.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in our family.
In my young mind, each member had a special niche.

My brother, Bill, five years my senior, was my example.
Fran, my younger sister, gave me an opportunity to play
'big brother' and develop the art of teasing.

My parents were complementary instructors. Mom taught
me to love the word of God and Dad taught me to obey it.

But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave
the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and
comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our
whole family spell-bound for hours each evening.

If I wanted to know about politics, history, or science,
he knew it all. He knew about the past, understood the
present, and seemingly could predict the future. The
pictures he could draw were so life-like, that I
would often laugh or cry as I watched.

He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad,
Bill and me to our first major league baseball game.

He was always encouraging us to see the movies,
and he even made arrangements to introduce us
to several movie stars. My brother and I were
deeply impressed by John Wayne, in particular.

The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn't
seem to mind, but Mom would sometimes quietly
get up ... while the rest of us were enthralled with
one of his stories of faraway places ... go to her
room, read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if
she ever prayed that this stranger would leave.

You see, my dad ruled our household with certain
moral convictions. But this stranger never did
feel the obligation to honor them.

Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house
... not from us, from our friends, or adults. Our long
time visitor, however, used occasional four letter
words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm.
To my knowledge, the stranger was never confronted.

My dad was a tee-totaler who didn't permit alcohol in
his home ... not even for cooking. But the stranger
felt like we needed exposure and enlightened us
to other ways of life. He offered us beer
and other alcoholic beverages often.

He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes
distinguished. He talked freely about sex. His comments
were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and
generally embarrassing. I know now that my early
concepts of the man-woman relationship were
definitely influenced by this stranger.

As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that
this stranger did not influence us more. Time after
time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet he
was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.

More than thirty years have passed since the stranger
moved in with the young family on Morningside Drive.

He is not nearly so intriguing to my Dad as he was
in those early years. But if I were to walk into my
parents' den today, you would still see him sitting
over in the corner, waiting for someone to listen
to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?

Oh ... we just always called him “TV."
Does your stranger come before God?
Safe Am I ... In the Arms of Jesus!