Devotion in Motion: My brush with fame

19 Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming!  Genesis 37:19  (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

When you’re the Country Preacher Dad and live out in the sticks like I do, you don’t run in to too many famous people. But I had a brush with celebrity several years ago, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I used to teach 8th grade physical science at Lake Middle School. The country music star Randy Houser was in my class. (He’s been in People magazine several times over the past few months.) Well, I knew Randy Houser when he was really just getting his career started! Then, as now, he was a wonderful, kind, and thoughtful young man.

Eighth grade students are going through a time of transition; some kids have hit their growth spurt, and other kids haven’t. Because of that, some of the students still look like grade-schoolers, and others look like full-grown adults. Randy Houser fit into the latter category. At age 14, he was already as big as I was. I remember him as a “gentle giant.”

(By the way, when Randy was in school, he went by his first name, which is Shawn. I always pronounced it as “Sean,” rhyming it with “John.” One day he quietly corrected me and told me he was a country boy and that his name was pronounced as “Shone,” rhyming with “phone.” I always got it right after that.)

Shawn Randy Houser was in my first class of the day. One morning he asked to go to the restroom before class started, and he was gone for more than just a few minutes. I was surprised when the principal came into my classroom a little while later. He said that Shawn had been in a fight in the bathroom and was now sitting in the principal’s office awaiting his discipline. I was shocked! Shawn was such a soft-spoken and nice student. Who could have imagined that he would get in a fistfight?

Returning from the principal’s office, Shawn told me the rest of the story. The school bully, Wheatie, had gone into the restroom and was pushing around some of the little kids. Then he went up to Shawn, who was standing in front of the sink, combing his hair.  Wheatie shoved Shawn and told him to “get out of the way before he beat his tail.” I will never forget Shawn’s sad eyes as he looked up from staring at his big hands. “Mr. Cash, I don’t know what happened. I guess I just snapped. He shoved me, then jumped up in my face and cussed me. I turned around and punched him in the nose.”

As I stood playground duty later that day, the principal filled me in on the details. He said he went into the restroom after the altercation and saw Wheatie curled up on the floor (in fetal position) in a small puddle of blood. Realizing that Wheatie had finally “gotten a taste of his own medicine” he summed up the situation thusly:  “Mr. Cash, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to send both Wheatie and Shawn home for 3 days. But what’ll you bet that none of the teachers take any points off Shawn’s grade when he is absent!” 🙂

I learned a valuable lesson from Randy Houser. Back when he was my student, he was already singing at churches and other venues every weekend. People who heard him told me he was really good. When Randy was 14 years old, he told me he loved the Lord. He also told me he was going to be a singer when he grew up. I remember thinking to myself something like, “Yeah, right, whatever.”  After all, every kid at that age is planning on being an NBA player, or a supermodel, or a movie actor, or a rock star. And life doesn’t turn out the way they plan it very often.

But Randy was right, and I was wrong. Because even though I’m a pastor, I sometimes forget what the Bible stories teach us. In the Old Testament, Joseph had a coat of many colors and dreamed that one day he would be a great ruler who would save the lives of many people. His brothers sold this dreamer into slavery because of their jealousy. But everything turned out just like Joseph had dreamed. That’s because sometimes the dream comes from God. Even though he was a teenager, Shawn Houser was smart enough to figure that out.

Make every effort to live a life of love, especially when you’re dealing with young people. In this wicked world in which we live, kids need a lot of encouragement. Nurture their spirits and nourish their dreams — because sometimes the dream comes from God.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 26 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he has a desk-job at a public school and teaches Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 20) and Seth (age 17) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher is hoping that Randy Houser will do a benefit concert to help “Sunbelt Christian Youth Ranch,” a children’s home in Lake, MS.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to

P.S. If you come visit our church, you are welcome to look at the piano. Randy Houser delivered it and set it up a long time ago when he worked for Mississippi Music Company in Meridian, MS ! 🙂