Texas People

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the States. So maybe it’s a good time to tell you about something that had a major influence on my life when I was growing up that I’m very thankful for.

I’m from Texas. When I lived abroad for 36 years and someone would ask me where I’m from, often I’d say “Texas”, rather than the US. Why? Most of the time I’d be in places where the USA, because of its foreign policy, is sometimes not really liked.  But no one ever was hateful towards me because I said I was from Texas.

When I was 1, with my parents and grandparents. Kinder people and perhaps better times

When I was 1, with my parents and grandparents. Kinder people and perhaps better times

So let me tell you about some Texas people I’ve know and come from. In the picture above are my parents and my grandparents at my first birthday party. This will mostly be about my grandparents, especially my dad’s parents. Probably to many people they would seem like the most non-descript, plain, ordinary folks you could think of. They were born in the 1890’s and lived to their 60’s and 70’s. They never did anything really “great” or noteworthy in the way most people think. But they had a tremendous, fundamental influence on me when I was growing up, like Jesus said of some people of His day, “the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13)

They were kind. They were friendly. I never saw them argue or be mean in any way. In fact, that whole side of my family were some of the nicest people I ever met. And in my heart I just knew at an early age that this was the way people were supposed to be. When we went to their house, we “said grace”. That’s what you call it when folks pray and thank God before the meal. We always did that there. They were Christians. Not loud, in-your-face Christians but just simple, sincere country people Christians.

My dad’s mom had a tremendous influence on my life through her kindness and humility

My dad’s mom had a tremendous influence on my life through her kindness and humility.

We used to go to family reunions of my dad’s mother’s side of the family. There were 6 sisters and one brother and of course by the time I came along, these folks were in their 50’s or pushing 60. There would be these big get-togethers out on the central Texas countryside at someone’s house with lots of food and fried chicken, potato salad with general milling and mixing,  talking and chatting.

Lots of fights?” Never even close. “Lots of bragging, boasting and chest puffing?” Nope. I guess I’m a little sensitive to that kind of thing because in Texas you do run into a lot of rather proud, tough, assertive people.

But my relatives weren’t like that. They genuinely liked each other and had almost continual harmony; you didn’t feel threatened around them, you felt safe and welcomed.

Probably back then I wouldn’t be able to describe it the way I do now. I wouldn’t be able to verbalize what I was experiencing. But on the inside, it was really affecting me. I just knew that these were the best people I had ever met. “Lots of money and plenty of university degrees?” No. Mostly farmers, small businessmen and middle class folks with high school diplomas, which was pretty normal for their generation.

But there was wholesomeness; I’ll even use a seldom used word in our times, a purity about these people. They were “without guile” (John 1:47) , as Jesus described one of His disciples. Somehow to me it just made common sense that this was the way everyone should be. But of course they weren’t.

When I was 4, at perhaps a happier, more wholesome time in the history of America

When I was 4, at perhaps a happier, more wholesome time in the history of America

As I grew up, I realized more and more that many, if not most, people were not like my grandparents’ generation. They didn’t have the sincere and unfeigned faith in God that they did. They didn’t live their Christianity in their relationship with other people as my grandparents did.

By the time I was twelve, I had pretty much become an atheist. My dad’s father had passed on and we’d moved away from the town where my dad’s mom lived. And probably I’d lost some respect for her and those folks as I became more “educated” and “modern” and strived to be cool and intelligent.

It was only after I had my near death experience in university and then became a Christian that I remembered again what an impact those folks had on me. I’d been given an incredible sample of what it means to be a sincere, simple, unfeigned Christian. This is the type of Texas person that almost no one ever hears about. You’ll hear about mass murderers, hard-hearted haters or raunchy movie stars and rock band heroes from Texas.

But I can tell you that there were some humble shining lights of faith and simplicity here when I was a kid. Unknowns and unsung heroes, the kind of people that God blesses and wants us to be. If there were more folks still like that, perhaps this world would be a better place and we wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the daunting problems we’re faced with today. Thinking about it, they remind me of that famous verse in Ephesians, “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Kindness, humility, brotherly love, a lack of hatred, an aversion to pride, genuine friendliness and warmth. That’s what I saw in those folks when I was growing up. And I know that’s the way we should be and the way I want to be, God helping me. Texas people. I know there are still some of them around.


6 thoughts on “Texas People

  1. Your story reminds me of a movie I saw some years ago with Willy Nelson.
    Some of the caracters was a lot like what you described.

  2. I spent a summer witnessing in the Houston area about 30 years ago, and I found the Texans to be very Christian in their manners and their generosity. Before this I had hitch-hiked across Texas a number of times, and always I met people who were kind and generous and gentlemanly, and wonderful storytellers! It’s a bit of a paradox that one of the worst atrocities in American history–JFK’s public execution–and two of the worst presidents the country has ever had, came from a place that is probably more Christian than anyplace else in the U.S. .

  3. Thanks Mark, for your inspiring and heart-warming testimony about “Texas People!” I was also a “baby-boomer”, and had similar experiences to you. Only difference was, there was never a time I didn’t believe in God – but I didn’t really get to “know” Jesus until I asked him into my heart at 28. Then it became “no holds barred”, and I became a missionary.
    Also, I really enjoyed your extra video about Alexander the Great! Keep up the good work preparing the “meat for due season”, brother!

  4. Dear Mark, I enjoyed the look into your past and your memories of a “gentler, kinder” generation and time many of us remember well. I had a similar experience as far as my childhood and upbringing were concerned. The only difference is that I’m from Massachusetts, which is well known for a different kind of pride – intellectual pride, which is almost, if not utterly despised in Texas. That doesn’t mean I look down on “higher education” there, but rather, there is a difference in emphasis – witness the Kennedy-Johnson administration and you get an isea of difference and attitude!
    But my story has to do with an experience I had with Texas and Texans. I was in a Christian missionary group in California and was given leave to return home and visit my family, as we all were, and then return if I decided to continue following Jesus with the group.
    One of my fellow missionaries volunteered to go with me, although he was from California. So after visiting his family in California we undertook what for us was an epic and miraculous journey of faith hitchhiking with virtually no funds between us cross country to my home state.
    We were quite nervous as it was 1971 and the “hippie era” as well, and hitch-hikers weren’t exactly considered normal, decent folk – more like no-good, lazy, long-haired riff-raff. We, of course, had our hair cut to normal length but were still nervous being backpackers and hitching. We found ourselves just outside of Houston where we had been left by a trucker who was turning off the main road and it was already dusk! Then the mosquitoes came! They were huge and in swarms. They were eating us alive! I’d never seen or felt anything like it in my life. So we did the only thing we could and prayed desperately and not long afterwards a pickup truck traveling at a considerable speed almost screeched to a halt and in our joy at answered prayer we began running to the pickup when we both spotted the rifle in the rack behind the driver! Something very typical in Texas. But our only thought was that we were being picked up by a redneck who was going to take us to some isolated spot and “BANG, BANG”!, put an end to our missionary existence!
    Well, after introductions, he asked us what where we were going and what we did for a living. After witnessing to him for a bit while he remained absolutely silent he turned off the main road and headed to what seemed like no-man’s land. We meanwhile kept looking for roadsigns to assure us that he was headed for civilization and not a convenient dumping off spot.
    After what seemed like ages we saw a sign with an arrow and soon came to small town at which we let out the old “proverbial sigh of relief”. He took us to a small cafeteria where he told us to order anything we wanted and recommended the sirloin steak! A short while later he came back to tell us we had a room paid for at the only hotel in town where they treated us as VIP’s. He also arranged to meet us the next morning for a paid for breakfast and a ride to the best place to hitch a ride to Louisiana – our next destination. And it seemed like the whole town knew who we were, treated us with respect and kindness and saw us off as we headed towards Massachusetts.
    So don’t ever let the loud, vociferous few prejudice you so that you miss the many kind , selfless and humble folk. “Judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgment.”

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