Out Here Hope Remains

There is hope for the helpless ... Cry Out To Jesus. -- Third Day

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Welcome, New Year

It's a new year when the clock strikes midnight. The crystal ball will drop in Times Square. Hopeful ones will shoot fireworks into the air. Desperate ones will get drunk. Broken ones will make promises to Self. Busy ones will put up their new calendars and open their date books. Devoted ones will pray for God's will to unfold in the coming months. Old ones will wonder where the year went. Young ones will long for the next few months to pass so that Summertime can come. Coastal ones will look anxiously toward hurricane season 2006. A local hotel has on their sign: Welcome 2006. Good Riddance 2005. I cannot agree. It was a tough year, for sure. The toughest I've ever lived through. But I lived through it, with God's grace and His mercy. And somehow in all of my struggles, He has shined brighter and lovelier than I have ever seen. I do welcome a new year. New horizons are before us. We press on without looking backward. We know that wherever we step, God has already blazed the trail ahead of us. Friends, let us join together in welcoming a new year ... a time for the King to shine in all of His glory. First Light of a New Day There at the edge of the night Where the blackness of earth Is revealed In the first light Of a new day Hope arises along with the sun Months and Years and Hours Are made In the first light Of a new day No greater honor or privilege Awaits the one who recognizes The promise In the first light Of a new day --John Dobbs

Friday, December 30, 2005

Still There

We made it back from Birmingham safely this evening. What a great time we had! We had the energy of over a thousand teenage believers joining their voices together in praise. We enjoyed staying in a beautiful hotel. We laughed and cried and made new friends. I saw old friends and even some blog friends! The preaching and singing had my spirit soaring! Tonight when I drove our church bus into the lot at the Central Church of Christ, I must confess there was a bit of a sinking feeling. It's still there. The needs are still there. The scattered vans from various places are still there. The tools and piles of supplies are still there. The people who are spending the night in the church building are still there. Please don't get me wrong. I rejoice in how God is using us. I am truly amazed and humbled by the grace that is being lavished upon us. I can't believe the workers who keep coming, and I continue to praise God for their compassionate hearts. Still there, though. The piles of rubble along the street tell me that homes are being gutted. The featureless white campers that line our lanes tell me that entire families are crammed into aluminum boxes and trying to live there. The makeshift stairs and porch landings on the campers tell me of the crippled and elderly who struggle to get into their government provided shelter. And the tears ... yes, they are still there. They are the gritty reality of people who's greatest wish for 2006 is to walk through the doors of their own home and sit down on their own chair and know that it is all over. Because of those of you who are coming, praying, sending supplies and money - that dream will be realized. I hope each of you is fully aware of what an incredible impact is being made when you serve the strangers of our community. It is hard work. It is exhausting work. But one day an elderly lady ... someone's grandmother ... will lay her gray head down at night on a pillow in her own bed and thank God for you. A child will climb up into his father's lap in a chair in thier den and he will not know to pray for you. His heart will simply be content that all is well again. In this effort to restore, we also hope that a good word for Jesus will take hold and heal the broken life even as we rebuild the broken walls. The workers are still there. The mission is still there. And so we return from the mountaintop to the valley. Even in the valley, His light shines and He carries us in His strong arms. In the coming weeks I will be telling our story at the following locations. Come see us if you are in the area! January 11 - Broad Street Church of Christ, LaGrange, GA, Wednesday night class January 15 - Port City Church of Christ, Mobile, AL, Morning Worship January 29 - University Church of Christ, Monroe, LA, Sunday Morning Class Thanks for reading. Tonight we have a lot of people here in town. I'll probably leave someone out! A group of 20 young adults from the University Church of Christ in Conway, AR are here. (Below is a picture of one of their deacons, Rick Sublett, cooking fish). A group of boy scouts from Crieve Hall church of Christ in Nashville are here. Two sisters are here from South Carolina. I'll find out tomorrow if I've left anyone out!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Youth in Action - Birmingham

I talked with David on the phone. The Jonesboro Youth in Action group has done a great job in Pascagoula this week. We are gearing up for a big group to come from Pennsylvania in a few days. I'm looking forward to being back home and preaching this Sunday. My theme is going to be "New Horizons for a New Year". Unless I change my mind! I will work with David for a week, and then Maggy and I are going to take a week out of town to rest. Our teens are excited and renewed from this week's Youth in Action. They want to start having our teen devotionals again. I think I will suggest Sundays at 5:00. I'd like to do it like we used to The Gathering - aiming the whole format for the youth culture. If adults are interested in something aimed at them, we could add a 6:00 adult worship for Sunday evenings if there is enough interest. I do not want to do any of these things if people aren't committed to participating. That was an area of frustration in the pre-Katrina days. As my friend Mike Kjergaard says, "If the horse is dead, you have permission to dismount!" We want to be alive! Chris Lockhart invited myself and John Robert to tell our hurricane stories in his class at Youth in Action. We were both able to tell three different classes about our experiences. We made some new friends through that effort and had a lot of interest in what's happening at Pascagoula. Thanks, Chris! Youth In Action ends tomorrow ... but here are a few images. We're having a great time. I've run across some old friends and made some new ones. I did get to visit for a short time tonight with Jon Owen - my son's favorite worship leader. Too bad JR wasn't with me so I could introduce them. Actually Jon and I only know each other through blogworld. Isn't that cool? Jon led the worship team this week ... awesome job as expected. The team helped me sing along with parts I didn't know and also helped me learn some songs I didn't know. Some people have a big problem with praise teams ... but no problem with a song leader. Consistency, thou art a jewel.

Matt Elliot Leads Worship

Matt Elliot and Jeremy Swindle

Don McLaughlin talks with some friends.

Buddy Bell Addresses the Teens

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

From Birmingham

Tonight I'm blogging from Birmingham, Alabama. I have come along with the Port City Church of Christ (Mobile, AL) with eight of our teenagers, and their youth group. The event is Youth In Action. YIA is planned to reach our teens and the teen culture. Tonight's event started with a Christian concert which many of the teens enjoyed. It was too loud and too long for me, but it wasn't designed with a 42 year old in mind! I hope we will be willing to do anything we can that is good and right to reach our young people with the good news. For the next two days there will be classes, speakers, and singing sessions. I'm looking forward to those. I've already run into some friends from Picayune (Houston and Claire Costello, Wade, Donny, Jake), Jon Hackett, and Jeremy Swindle. I'm hopeful I'll run into other friends later on. I will not be communicating much about hurricane relief for the next three or four days. I do know that it is an ongoing project and that there will be more happening as the days go by. If I hear anything by phone, I'll let you know! You can always check out the huricane worker calender to know who's in Pascagoula working for the Lord. Tonight about 1500 teenagers will line the atrium and sing some songs. These songs will echo throughout the hotel. It truly sounds angelic as these voices blend together through the atrium, which is about 15 stories high. I wish you could hear it. I'll be updating my picture page with pics each night...or at least that is my intention. God bless each of you and thank you for your many expressions of encouragement and strength. We feel very blessed. Below: Tonight's crowd at YIA

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Several months ago we held out a bleak hope that we would be in our home for Thanksgiving. That date passed and we turned our hearts toward Christmas. While our home is not restored at this point, we are able to sleep in it ... we have a den set up with TV and a few couches ... and we are blessed with central heat / air. We are happy to be home for Christmas. Around our tree were gifts that came from somewhere else. We didn't have the time to do much shopping for ourselves this year. We were blessed with gifts from people like you. Thank you so much. I did post some pictures on my picture page, though I don't think they're all that interesting! We didn't quite make it to 70 in attendance today, but there was a good spirit at the assembly. We sang carols, had readings from Luke 2 and Matthew 2. I spoke for a few minutes from Romans 8:1-4 on why Jesus came to earth. During the announcement time a man stood in the back. I did not recognize him, but it was obvious he wanted to talk to the church. I don't think I need to explain why this made me very nervous! He read part of the teachings of Jesus about doing good to those who hate you, loving those who do not know you, and serving others. Then he said that his name was Daniel. He lives on my street, though I've never met him. He said he had visited lots of churches, but he HAD to come see Central. He thanked us heartily for the workers who came to his house and helped him out. It was a stunning and unexpected conclusion to the service. I was pretty much speechless as the church applauded the sentiments of this stranger. I was glad for many in our church to hear this uninvited testimony - especially those who have not volunteered to help our ministry. It was a beautiful moment, and I was moved to thank God. We had prepared to have a ham sandwich Christmas dinner (our stove and refrigerator are not installed yet - waiting on flooring in the kitchen!). But we had two families come to our rescue. We ended up at the Boswells - great friends for many years. Thanks also to the Harris family for the invitation. I actually took a long nap this afternoon and enjoyed the day so much. We were scheduled to have a steak dinner at the Seab's Friday night, but that's when we were passing around a virus. So Debbie packed up our part and brought it to us. That's what we had for supper tonight. Tomorrow begins a new day in the hurricane relief ministry. One of our chief helpers around here are from the Loneoke Church of Christ in Paducah, Kentucky. Paul and Elsie England are awesome people in my estimation. They are a great team, and they bring so much encouragement everywhere they go. So I thought I'd share their picture with you as I close out this Christmas Night post. I hope your Christmas was warm with the love of Christ, family, and friends.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Yet To Come

Today we managed to give away all of the gifts that were sent down our way. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in this community-wide event. Some of the pictures of people who received gifts can be found on my picture page. This afternoon our family drove over to Mobile to do some last minute Christmas shopping and eat at Olive Garden. We had quite a thunderstorm while there, but we were blessed with a safe journey home. I hear there are churches that are cancelling morning worship because it's Christmas. I think that's quite a shift in thinking. While Christmas is not the birthdate of Jesus, it is a celebration of the promised Messiah's advent. Only a glaring secular commercialism could persuade Christians into dismissing worship on a day like this! Well, that's my opinion anyway. Have a warm and wonderful Christmas Day. Here's a little something I wrote a few years ago.
Christmas Yet To Come
In Charles Dickens’ familiar fable, Ebenezer Scrooge is taught by a visitation from four spirits that his life had been characterized by misery and had no hope of improving unless his bitter and hard heart would melt and embrace the joy of living. The first spirit was that of Jacob Marley, his deceased partner who warned him of the next three visitors. Though he protested, the first spectre took him back in time. The Ghost of Christmas Past opened wounds of regret as he showed Scrooge’s poor choices in life, including the loss of his fiancé because of his intense greed for money. The Ghost of Christmas Present further broke his heart as he witnessed the Cratchit family try to provide a merry meal in spite of the meager provisions. It is the humble and kind spirit of Cratchit’s crippled son, Tim, that further warms the cold heart of Scrooge. It is then that Scrooge notices two starved children in the coat of the Spirit...and their names are Ignorance and Want. It is, of course, the third Spirit that finally breaks the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come takes Scrooge to a funeral. No tears of sadness are shed here. There are expressions of gratitude that he is finally gone. There are beggars trading his possessions. Scrooge begs to know for whom is this pitiful funeral. The Spirit takes him to a graveyard to reveal on the headstone that it is indeed the funeral of Ebenezer Scrooge. Everyone knows that when Scrooge woke up, his heart was changed and he brought food to the Cratchit’s, gave money to the charity, and spread cheer everywhere he could for the rest of his life. It is the Christmas Yet to Come that we often neglect in our own lives. What will come of your life? Do you have a bitter and cold heart full of grudges and pain? What will they say about you when you are gone? Dicken’s fable is telling of the human condition. Jesus is the only one who can truly cleanse the heart and give us new life. The Spirit of God moves within you in order to bring about God’s character. Take a look around you. The hurting, the lost, those who are struggling through life could be blessed by your love if you are willing to give it. A Christmas Carol is a fable, but it does remind us to do something that God would have us to do. "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Further, "'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). Let's not get so involved in "right now" that we forget the Christmas yet to come.

Friday, December 23, 2005

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Eve

Today was very busy, with giving out gifts, hunting down people to which to give gifts, and trying to accomodate requests for gifts that we didn't know were coming. The last shipment of gifts arrived tonight at 7:30, so tomorrow I'll be calling people trying to get them to come get their gifts. This last shipment from James Island Christian Church is packed with some awesome gifts. I guess if there are any leftovers, I'll have to take care of them myself!! Two thousand people packed the Coast roads to visit the newly reopened Imperial Palace Casino yesterday. The owner said, "You would be hard pressed to find a slot machine." The Mayor of Biloxi blindly thinks that people just want the economy to come back. With all due respect, people who have a pocketfull of insurance and FEMA money have decided to invest it in a loser's game. With nothing left to lose, I'm afraid that the addictive spirit of gambling will take a new hold on South Mississippi. Perhaps we need to get Gambler's Anonymous started at our place ASAP. Tex can help me with that. I think he's coming back next week. (By the way, keep Tex Nolan's wife in your prayers, as she had a surgery on her hand that is giving her some difficulty.) Wednesday I told about Bill and Christine, and Lucas who wrote to them from Iowa. Wednesday we took them an oven, and that Christine got to baking right away. Today we took them a washing machine. In return David and I came home with a fresh coconut cake - one each!. Talk about good! I think that oven is going to get some good use! Please pray for Richie. He is the grown son of one of our members. Cancer had spread to the liver, and they were unable to remove all of it. Treatment will likely follow a Christmas spent in the hospital. God bless all of the Carpenter family. On a personal note, my family is mostly feeling better, except for Maggy - who spent the day in bed. This terrible virus caused us to miss a wonderful dinner at a friend's home. Ah well. Also John Robert and I put together a futon that was given to us by a wonderful friend. This will be JR's bed, and it looks great. Thanks Bill! Also, some decking was laid in my kitchen today to prepare the way for ceramic tile. That'll come after the first of the year, I expect. I'm guessing people are much too busy to read this blog, but I'll post anyway. Maybe some faithful reader will stop by and leave a comment. Did I mention that I love comments? Have a wonderful Christmas eve, which begins in about 15 minutes. Below: Christine, David, Bill. Christine has been cooking cakes ever since we gave her a new stove. Good ones, too! Sorry for the blurry picture!

Bulletin: Marvin Phillips Chooses Pascagoula!

Read all about it on MARVIN PHILLIPS' BLOG. Scroll down a few posts to see his thoughts about Pascagoula! Thanks, Marvin! And thanks to everyone else who has chosen to help us! All the help we can get is needed! God bless you all! More later!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Feliz Navidad

Giving away gifts isn't as easy as it seems! We have about 150 families that have been adopted by churches and individuals. One thing we didn't count on is that people are so transient at this point. Those who were on the cruise ship might now be in a trailer. Some living with relatives or friends might now be in campers. Phone numbers might have belonged to friends who have left the area. One can only imagine the circumstances. So, there are a number of people we are working hard to contact. Matt (from California) and I drove around and delivered some Christmas presents today. On our last delivery we needed to pick up his dad (Patrick) because he speaks Spanish. Donna had adopted a hispanic family and we needed to deliver those gifts. Thankfully, Patrick could communicate with them. The little boy who got the bicycle said, "I can't believe it!" Of course, I didn't know what he said until later. When Marvin Phillips was here, he was working his way through a course called 'Learning Spanish in 10 Minutes a Day'. I think I'm going to get that. Anyhow, whether I understood all the talk or not, the Garcia family was very happy! Patrick, Matt, and Mark will be headed home tomorrow. It's been great getting to know them. A freight truck will arrive tomorrow from South Carolina with several families' gifts. We will want to get those gifts to families ASAP. Come on over and help us out! I ran into a neighbor today in the grocery store. She told me that while visiting a friend she heard that I had a radio program. Her friend told her how much she enjoyed it. I haven't recorded a new program since the storm. I'd like to go back and do some more radio programs. I was doing 90 second spots and they were running at the same time each day. Maybe at some point I can start back up again. It was one of those programs that was on the budget chopping block before the storm. We have a few days with no workers coming in to help. We will take a few days off from hurricane relief and relax. Next week things will take off with a bang and stay that way through the month of January. On a personal note, the past few days a nasty virus has been making the rounds in my house. I haven't been affected yet, and I hope that it's not coming soon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas In Dixie

Our Coastal Christmas is shaping up. In spite of the storm, the obstacles, and the challenges, spirits seem to be up. I know that the people I'm meeting are in good spirits because we are handing them awesome Christmas presents sent by people like you. Orlando from Heritage Christian University arrived today with a truckload of gifts. These were put together by the students of HCU. I didn't get to meet him, though, because I was out on a delivery. Maybe I'll get to meet him one day. A few months ago Tony the Truck Driver drove in an eighteen wheeler full of supplies from the Great State of Iowa. He gave up his pay for a week and drove the supplies for free. Tony had a special heart and a great testimony of how he was surviving the loss of his six year old son. He seeks out others with losses and attempts to encourage them in the Lord. He brought a banner that said "Disaster Relief State Center, Iowa Cares!!" In that truck were some food boxes. One of those food boxes made their way to the home of Bill and Christine, an elderly Pascagoula couple. Inside that box of food was a note from Lucas. I'm guessing that Lucas is about ten years old. He wrote on his home made card, "Your home is destroyed, you have no home, but at least we have each other." He listed his home address in State Center and wrote underneath, "will you be my friend?" Although Christine is in her eighties, she was impressed with this young penpal who wanted to be her friend. So she wrote him a thank you letter. Before long she received a reply with pictures, postcards, and other stuff a ten year old would think was important. Today David and I sat in Bill and Christine's home. We had delivered them a brand new stove. This elderly couple has exhausted their personal resources trying to restore their home on their own. With nothing left of their own, they are now willing to accept some help from others - although it is hard for them to do. So the long-distance love offered by a boy in Iowa had us all sitting around the table drinking coffee and wiping away tears. If a hand written barely legible few sentences sent by a boy to a stranger can touch hearts so deeply, I wonder what we could do intentionally? From a boy's house in Iowa, to a grieving but faithful truck driver, a box was dropped into a stack of boxes outside a tent of busy relief workers. That box ended up with Bill and Christine. And two months later we sat around a small table in an empty house and cried over a letter sent from far away a long time ago. And that's Christmas in Dixie, this year on the Coast. Pictures: Above is the banner brought from State Center, Iowa. The second picture is Tony, the truck driver. Notice his truck is "a blessing from God" and "in memory of Brett, 1997-2003. Brett's picture is hanging around Tony's neck...right there close to his big heart.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Winter Wonderland

I know that many of you are so busy with preparations for Christmas, so I do appreciate you taking a moment to read. One of my favorite Christmas songs has always been Winter Wonderland. I think it's because I've never lived in a place that was a Winter Wonderland. Until now. We live in our own kind of Winter Wonderland. We wonder about a lot of things this winter. We wonder why. We wonder what we're going to do. We wonder what will become of our community. We wonder if our spirits can continue to be encouraged. Some of our community members wonder how they're going to pay the utilities for next month. Some of them wonder if they will just get better on their own, since their medical insurance has played out. Some of them are cold in their campers, unable to buy propane to fuel their heater, and they wonder what they'll do as temperatures sink. Some are on a boat and wonder when they will be able to finally have an apartment of their own again. It's our own version of Winter Wonderland. Today we unloaded an 18-wheeler first thing. It took all morning but we were grateful for the supplies that arrived. When I got back to the church building they were unloading a UPS truck with over 100 boxes of supplies sent from New York. Chris Lockhart was here today to deliver Port City's Christmas gifts to the community here. As usual he bought my lunch - and John Robert's. Someday I'm going to have to start buying his lunch! This afternoon the Christmas Rush began at Central as people began to come and receive the gifts given by Christians all over the nation. I saw a man wheel out two bicycles. I know two little boys who will be so happy to receive those! I saw mothers break down in tears when presented with a box full of gifts for their children. Overall, though, there was great joy as we passed along the gifts that came from others. This should continue through the week as we work through our 'adopt a family' list. On a personal note, Tonight we tried to do a little Christmas shopping but we got a late start. We were at the mall when it closed, at Wal-Mart when it closed, and didn't make it to Waffle House before it closed. Oh well ... guess we'll have to get an earlier start. Our van is ready at the shop, so we'll go get that first thing in the morning. Below: Bill (Senatobia, MS) and Patrick (Santa Clara, CA) prepare gifts to give away.

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

With Christmas day less than a week away, the 'adopt-a-family' thing is coming together quickly. We had good help for the past few days from Starkville, MS and South Carolina. I think a lot of the gifts are assembled and ready to take to people (or have them come get them). Two groups brought in gifts today. The church at Elba, Alabama brought in gifts for families, including a gift for my family. Tim Gunnells and his beautiful family were here with them (he preaches at Elba). Also James Simmons brought a 20 foot truck full of presents down to the Coast that he shared with us and Biloxi and perhaps Picayune. I'm sorry I didn't get to visit with James like I wanted to. I want to ask you to pray for Carl and his family. Last week Cecil May III and I went to see Carl. Paul England, a contractor here, had alerted me that there was a health problem in his family. Carl told us that his daughter was terminal. We prayed with Carl and went to the hospital to see Melody. Unfortunately she had been moved and we were unable to locate her. The ICU nurses did not answer their page, which I took to mean that they were busy helping a patient. So today Tim Gunnells and I went back out to the hospital to pray with Melody. We were too late. She passed away early this morning. We then visited with Carl for a bit, and Tim prayed for him. I know Carl is going to have a hard Christmas. He and his family lived for weeks in a tent in his yard. Now he has a trailer, but he will need more than that to shelter his broken heart. Let's bathe this family in love and prayers over the next week or so. It's going to be a tough Christmas for most of us ... but especially for Carl. Thanks, Tim, for being a source of strength and encouragement to me today. Now Tommy Stewart has mentioned TWICE on HIS BLOG a comment that I made as a joke. He knows I'm winking at him even as I clarify. Tommy was in the auditorium sitting in a pew taking advantage of the wireless network in our building. I told him he couldn't do that while I was preaching! One of us said something about his writing a sermon and I said, "I'd hate to see the sermon you would write for your preacher to preach." To me, that means that I think Tommy has a mischevious spirit and would write a sermon with some opinions his preacher might not hold! But like all jokes you have to explain, it isn't funny. I really just wanted to highlight Tommy's blog and the last two posts that relate to the great work they did down here. They gave gifts to ten families, making Christmas a beautiful time for some folks who do not have much hope. They also took my family out to eat at China Garden, which Claire especially liked. Tommy led our opening prayer Sunday morning, and it was very heartfelt and got us off to a worshipful start. It was great to be around Derek and his family as well ... great people ... great friends. Also ... Tommy asked about my spiritual life ... I will write about that in an upcoming post this week. But while we were talking about that, Scott Owings came in and met us. He is the Minister of Spiritual Formation and Outreach at Otter Creek Church of Christ in Nashville. After we talked a while, he placed his hand on my shoulder and prayed on my behalf, and of the work here. This meant a great deal to me, as prayer is often neglected in this hectic setting. The VanSplinters will leave in the morning and go back to South Carolina. I really enjoyed this family and the family that came with them. A favorite slogan David and I have is, "I don't know your name." I think I'll make a button with that written on it! I feel terrible that I do not know Eric's entire family and the family that came with them. They worked hard organizing gifts and getting them ready to hand out. Eric and his co-worker did lots of sheetrock work here, and I know it was appreciated by the families they served. Patrick Grimes is here for the week from Santa Clara, California. He, his son, and a friend are already working hard to help us out. I hope to have a little time to get to know them. Also Jeff Holbrook is here from Pikeville, KY. Jeff was here back in the first days of the relief effort. As I have related, I do not remember much about those early days. But, I do remember a man coming up to my window as I was about to drive off. He gave me a handfull of cash, gas cards, and phone cards. He told me I would need them. He was right. That man was Jeff Holbrook. Glad to have Jeff back on the Coast for the week. Of course things will slow down and probably halt for a few days around Christmas. I hope to see a good number of visitors for Christmas Sunday. This week I re-read Alexander Campbell's "Musings on Christmas Morning", which I recommend. Print it out and read it out loud, taking your time. It is rich and beautiful. On a personal note, our van is still in the shop. We have gone almost two weeks on one vehicle and it gets hairy sometimes! Today we had a BUNCH of errands to do on top of the usual chaos. And I confess I didn't handle it all very well. Supposedly tomorrow the van will be ready and we'll be able to be less stressed! Tonight we had a lovely dinner at the home of Danny and Terri Dodd in Pensacola. Danny preaches for the Gateway church of Christ. Terri had a wonderful meal of chicken spaghetti, italian green beans, a broccoli salad, and coconut pie. That was several hours ago as I write this and I'm still full! I think I'm about to put some new pictures on my picture page and update our internet site (www.123Jesus.com). But it is after midnight ... and perhaps that will be for later on today, after some sleep. God Bless each of you. Thanks for reading such a long post. Below: A Great Helper Gets Central Ready For Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Following The Map

Much of what we do seems to me to be beyond us. I tell people all the time that our little church could never have done what has been done. In our weakness, God has been very strong. He has sent people with skills and without, all to serve the helpless. I truthfully have no idea what the future holds. Where will we be in one month? I'm clueless. Sometimes someone will e-me or call and ask about next May or June. This makes me happy because it reflects the kind of long-term planning we will need to bring recovery to this community. On the other hand, who can say what things will look like even a few months off? God is drawing the map and we just follow along. We only have two choices. We can follow the opportunities or we can abandon the opportunities. There is great conviction among all of those working here that God is calling us to something bigger than ourselves. Simply put, I think God is teaching us how to love like He does. As we follow His map, He leads us to love the beaten, helpless, and needy. This weekend was so packed, so exciting, held so much promise that it is hard to write about. There were several things going on at once, which is referenced in my last post. Let me just say that everyone involved did a great job and many people experienced the love of God through the service of His people. Brothers and sisters from five Nashville churches blessed us - all in different ways. They do not all have the same views. They take very different approaches to ministry and worship. They did not even all plan the trip together. But God used them as they were willing to serve. We were touched by the gifts given to our congregation, and we were blessed by the spirit of those who brought them. But I think that the thing that touched me most was Sunday morning at the close of service listening to an elder pray through his tears. The ministry both at Central and on the Holiday Cruise Ship is all to God's glory, and we hope and pray that God will move many towards His kingdom. This work is touching people. I believe we had people here this weekend from South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. This week our focus is on getting Christmas presents out to those for whom they are prepared. That should be a big but managable task. On a personal note, we now have central heat and air. BIG thanks to Otis Bowman, minister of the Johnson Grove Church of Christ just out of Brookhaven, MS. Through his suggestion and encouragement, the church there bought the units for our family. Thanks to Clarence Kimble, who helped get the best deal, and Lucky Horne who drove it down to the Coast for me. Then there's thanks due to Paul England and his friend from Kentucky who installed the units over the past two weekends. It takes a lot of people to bring about a blessing this big! But it is a HUGE step toward bringing my home back into a liveable status. Again, God's great family has come through for us in unexpected ways. Tomorrow night we'll join Danny and Terri Dodd in Pensacola for a Christmas dinner. We appreciate their hospitality, support, and continuous encouragements since August 29th.

Friday, December 16, 2005


This weekend is a weekend of CONTACT with our community. We are coming off of a great set of three 'Good News Nights' earlier in the week. Tomorrow church members from Nashville will descend on our city to do various good works of outreach and contact. Three Nashville churches are cooperating in order to reach out to 1300 people on the Holiday Cruise Ship. Hillsboro, Otter Creek, and Brentwood Hills will send nearly forty people on board to reach out to the destitute on this ship. They will wander the halls and sing Christmas carols tomorrow afternoon / evening. Sunday morning they will have a worship service with Walt Leaver (Brentwood Hills) doing the preaching. They will also serve lunch, give gifts to everyone on the boat, and offer some entertainment (including local talents Rochelle Harper and Gary Boswell). Two churches, Concord Road Church of Christ (Brentwood, TN) and Southern Hills Church of Christ (Franklin, TN) will meet with our church in the morning and give us gifts. Then we will all go into the community and give away about five hundred gifts prepared by these two churches. We will be inviting people to Central for Sunday worship, where the Associate Minister from Southern Hills, Will Reed, will be preaching. The potential is simply incredible. And this is only a part of what will be happening. Gifts are arriving for families in the area for the Christmas adopt-a-family program. Some have already arrived in the mail. Some are being delivered. Derek Savage and Tommy Stewart and families will be coming in tonight about midnight, and will deliver to ten families tomorrow. Would each of you keep all of this in prayer? It just has so much potential for a great harvest of faith. Also pray because the weather is supposed to deteriorate tomorrow afternoon. Pray that the spirit of this season will present to the Gospel Message open hearts and willing spirits. On a personal note, my knee has been acting up again. After the first of the year I'm going to have to go get it checked out I guess. Today we bought a futon for John Robert's room. It will be delivered later. Also we bought a dishwasher that will be available next week. We also picked out tile for our kitchen floor and cabinet tops for the kitchen cabinets that arrived yesterday. We are getting sooo close! And to top it off, Maggy and I are going to sleep in the house tonight. Below: Hurricane Relief Workers Enjoy Some Good Seafood at Seaman's Cove After A Hard Week's Work.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


A church that asked for "40 families" just alerted me that they are only going to adopt 18 of the names sent to them - leaving 22. A few asked me for names and I told you we had them covered. This will have to be quick ... Central will cover the ones we do not adopt out because we committed ... but this was a suprise to me this morning. Just getting the word out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Reach Out or Fade Out

It is a rainy night on the Coast with the potential for severe weather. Perhaps the Lord will have mercy on us, seeing as how we have had our share of severe weather. But if not, we will trust Him to see us through. In about 1983 my friend Glenn Jarrett gave me a cassette tape and told me to listen to it. It was old, even then. The label was worn and I didn't recognize the name of the speaker. The lesson was given at International Bible College (now Heritage Christian University) back in 197something. It was called "Reach Out or Fade Out", and it was by a very young sounding Marvin Phillips. My tape player almost caught on fire, he was so energized with his message. Ever since then I have enjoyed reading and hearing this dear brother. I have traveled to his workshop over 20 times. And I knew that he was the right man for the hour this week. Tonight Marvin Phillips finished a three night series of positive, powerful, evangelistic messages. If anyone was close to obeying the gospel, I believe they could not have helped themselves. As it was, it was a good introduction to how to become a Christian and why. Marvin extended himself to everyone in our community. Everywhere we went he talked to people, prayed with them, invited them to church, and gave them some encouragement. I wish I was more like him in that respect! And the preaching ... well ... it would be hard to miss the truth about Jesus from his kind of preaching. Personally, Marvin was a blessing to me. He continually sought to encourage me and my family. He spent time with David and Elaine, and I am sure they were blessed. This brother has such a wonderful heart for people. The only thing I hate more than to see him go, is to get up at 4:00 in the morning to take him to the airport. There has been much more ministry this week due to the efforts of Cecil May 3rd, Miles Mayo, and Tim Rowland. Several visitors were present tonight that were invited by these men. I've been so blessed to hear some of the workers here talk about their experiences in talking to people about Jesus while they work. The rest of this week promises to fly by with all kinds of activity. At least five churches from Nashville will be doing ministry work here in the community. One church will give gifts to our church members. They also will bring gifts to hand out to our community and provide their Associate Minister as our guest speaker for Sunday. Another four churches will provide gifts, food, entertainment to those on the Holiday Cruise Ship. Only the Lord's hand could have guided their way through all of the many people who had to sign off on this ... FEMA ... Carnival Cruise Lines ... security ... probably others. But there is permission to come aboard and bless these people. Pray that all of these outreaches will touch the hearts of those in our community. I'm not sure yet if it has been approved for me to speak on the Holiday Cruise Ship on Christmas Day, but I'm hoping to be able to do that. We also want to investigate sending a bus out there on Sundays to bring people in for worship. Lord help us to Reach Out, lest we Fade Out. On a personal note, our kitchen cabinets have arrived. They will be picked up tomorrow morning and brought to the house, and I think installed. Then the guys from Fulton who are doing our flooring can put floor down around them. And guess what? That means we can bring in our stove and refrigerator. This makes my heart happy! Heat and air should be finished this weekend ... and suddenly we are down to flooring in three rooms left to be put down and only having some small things done so that we can move out of the camper and back into our home. Our sole Christmas decoration is a fiber optic Christmas tree that survived the storm because it was on top of the refrigrator (that did not survive!). We have some other Christmas decorations, but they are in the storage and we haven't had time to go and get them. We did lose some of our pieces, though. No matter. We spent an hour looking at furniture yesterday between appointments. I think this is going to be a big decision. Goodnight, my friends, from a blessed brother on the storm ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast. I've lost count of the days and weeks since August 29th. I could count them, but at this point I want to look forward. Out here, hope remains. Below: Alton and Morris chat with Marvin

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Week of Outreach Begins

Today is the beginning of a day of outreach. Marvin Phillips is preaching for three nights. Churches in Nashville are doing Christmas-oriented outreaches during the weekend. Will Reed will preach Sunday. Three preachers are here from out of town to do mission work. Reconstruction continues. Pray for the harvest! I was only at the building for a little while this morning. Long enough to meet a lady who lived in her conversion van for a while. She took hers and her fiance's FEMA money and bought a used motor home. Her children are at her mother's. She has cervical cancer and looked very weak. She wanted food, hygiene supplies, and had hopes that we could give her kids a few gifts for Christmas. I think we can tackle that. The Watsons from Newton, AL were able to deliver gifts to two families they adopted. From the looks of the load of stuff they brought, these families were going to have one great Christmas. I suspect the Watsons received as much joy as those they sought to benefit. Marvin Phillips' message tonight was so appropriate, so passionate, and so encouraging. We had a full house with lots of visitors. We have four preachers here visiting: Marvin, Tim from Humboldt, Cecil from Fulton, and Miles from South Fulton. We will have a breakfast in the morning and create a strategy for the use of our time here together. Pray for souls to be won to Jesus during this week of outreach. Below: Mississippi State University Christian Student Center students work at the house of an elderly couple who have not been home since the storm. This is an act of mercy, and service.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sunday on the Coast

This is tonight's sunset. The sun shines brightly through the ruins of a destroyed home on Beach Boulevard. Out here, hope remains. We had 103 in worship this morning, with many community visitors. There really is such a spirit of thanksgiving here. So many offering up praise to God for the help that has come our way from people all over the country. Today I spoke from Acts 3, the healing of the crippled beggar by the gate called Beautiful. I think one of the most amazing things that I have seen since August 29th is the beautiful spirit of service among Christian people. This is not just storm relief, though, it is the essence of Kingdom living. We are in the business of imitating our teacher, Jesus Christ - a servant of others. Matthew 20:28 “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” From the story in Acts 3 I see three principles of service. Give What You Have (Acts 3:1-10). We all have something that we can offer to someone else. It may not be silver and gold, but it can be worth much more to the person who is in need. God has gifted us with the ability to reach out to others in a variety of ways (Romans 12:4-8). Look for ways to use your talents to bless other people - and in this you will be the one blessed. Relief workers often say, “It is been a blessing to us.” That is a powerful testimony to the double blessing of serving others. Give God The Glory (Acts 3:11-13). Peter deflects the credit and praise to the Father, and so should we. I have heard people say, "If it weren't for the Central Church of Christ, we wouldn't have made it!" That is nice, but ultimately we want them to say, "Without God we wouldn't have made it!". 1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, she should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” In the limelight of our good works, we call upon people to honor God with thanks, not us (Matthew 5:16). Give Grace An Opportunity (Acts 3:19-20). When we serve others, we help them physically. When God ministers to the spirit, there are times of refreshing that come. The message of grace comes through as we call people to abandon wickedness and turn to the purity and loveliness of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:37-38). “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). It is our calling to serve God first. It is our calling to serve our fellow man second. On a personal note, the gas is back on and we have hot water. The heater/ac unit is in place, but not quite fully hooked up yet (maybe tomorrow!). Marvin Phillips arrives tomorrow to begin three nights of preaching. Several crews are coming in and will begin working Tuesday morning. I'll try to keep you abreast of these developments! Also - thanks John Mark Hays. Your gift was received and we will make sure it is put to good use in someone's life. WE WILL CONTINUE TO NEED SHEETROCK AND SHINGLE DONATIONS! Below is a picture of some students from Mississippi State University. This group finished their project of handing out 200 fliers about Marvin Phillips' meeting with us. So on their own they headed across the street to some public property and started cleaning it up. Isn't that an awesome spirit of service? Maybe Tommy can leave their names in a comment ... I'm not that great with names since so many people come through our doors!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sleepy Saturday

I have been so sleepy today! Maybe because I started my day unloading matressess and box springs off of an eighteen wheeler! We had a good bit of help, though. Four guys came from McPhereson, KS just to check out our operation and prepare for a trip in March. They were privileged to help us unload the truck. Maybe they'll still come in March! As usual, whenever you get started on one project, you find another. Some men were putting in our new central a/c and heat unit when they discovered some rotten flooring underneath the old unit. No real surprise to me, there. Also they couldn't get to the gas connection to cap it off without pulling up some flooring. And it was late in the day. So they left. We now have a big hole in the floor to the ground under the house where the old unit was. We also have no gas. We do have a gas hot water heater. It's going to be chilly getting bathed for church tomorrow. There are ten students from Mississippi State University that arrived today. We asked them to clean up the rooms where people have been sleeping (I said very sternly, 'Clean your rooms!'). Then they went out and helped David with some organizational work. Today I got an e-mail from Terry Rush. It seems that the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma is going to give us a Merry Christmas by replacing our dishwasher, lawn mower, and leaf blower. Isn't that awesome? We just feel that God's big family has wrapped its arms around us in a wonderful spirit of love! Well, I'm still sleepy and maybe I'll sleep well tonight and be refreshed for tomorrow. Have a great Sunday!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Chilly Friday

It's been fairly chilly on the Coast the past few days, just like it has been in the rest of the country. We are gearing up for a pretty good weekend. Three guys from McPhereson, KS are due to arrive sometime today. They will survey the situation here and plan for a trip back in early 2006. We have a truck to unload early in the morning (any helpers ... it's 8:00 a.m. ... we need you!). Some students from Mississippi State University will be here later in the day. We plan to help get a house cleaned out that hasn't been touched yet - bad story that I'll share later. We are also beginning preparations for our Good News Nights with Marvin Phillips next Monday - Wednesday. NEEDS: We are in need of donated sheetrock, sheetrocking materials, and shingles at this time. We have some crews coming in the next four weeks that will be able to put these to good use. If anyone has a source and can get some of these donated, please get in touch with me (contact info on www.123Jesus.com). On a personal note, our living room floor is now almost completely installed. Which room next? I don't know but it looks great. Heat / ac unit is to be installed tomorrow. We also got some wrapped Christmas presents from Andy and Kelli in Nashville today. If we get our living room floor finished maybe we can get a tree and place those gifts under it. Thanks, Andy and Kelli, for your thoughtfulness. My Aunt Sissy was asked by her husband, Uncle Mickey, what she wanted for Christmas. She told him she wanted to send us a check. So that came in the mail yesterday. Also a very nice gift from Donna G. We really do feel so blessed ... more than we deserve ... and no matter how often it happens, we just continue to be amazed that God is working through so many people to bless us. US? It reminds me of a song. I don't know why Jesus loves me, I don't know why He cares. I don't know why He sacrificed His life, Oh but I'm glad, so glad He did. Thank you, friends.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dining Room Floor

Expect updates throughout the afternoon!

Oops... we ran into a little problem with the door frame

The Dining Room is Finished (almost)

Tomorrow: The Living Room!


I have thirteen families who have asked for some Christmas gifts for their children. If you would like to adopt one of these families, contact me ASAP. Central will cover any that are left over, so this does not mean that we will not help them. If you were looking for a way to help a family, this would be great. This is, of course, time sensitive. E-me HERE if you need more details.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


One of our sayings is "we do not set the agenda for the day, the day sets our agenda." And so it was today. I started the day at the building meeting Robert and Patricia. They were found a few days ago by David Baker (another David here working with us). They were living in the back of an abandoned eighteen wheeler. I was asked to interview them and get some details. When I walked into the room Robert was sitting in a chair. His long hair was knotted up, he wore oversized clothes and had a distinct odor. Patricia was wrapped up and lying down on a bed, but she woke up enough to answer some questions. It didn't take long to know that these two forgotten souls were mentally challenged. I spent about thirty minutes with them trying to discover some information that let us be of help to them. They have not received their SSI checks since the storm ... and apparently both of them believe they are being watched. We did manage to get them to agree to take a shower and we hope someone will be coming along tomorrow to get them to someplace that can offer them the kind of help they need. It really is a heartbreaking sight. I did get to Lowes to buy some underlayment for the flooring that (Lord willing) will begin to be laid tomorrow. Today was just too hectic to get that done. I want to get our kitchen done first so we can put in our stove and refrigerator. But again, I've learned not to assume that what I want to happen tomorrow will actually happen. This afternoon I met with some brothers from Pennsylvania who are doing some work in Slidell, LA. They want to come back and help us in January. It was a joy to meet them. I also met a youth minister from Kentucky who wants to bring some teens and adults to do work in April. God keeps sending people our way. Blessings to all!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I'm Floored

About two weeks after the storm a group of workers from Chatsworth, Georgia came down and did a lot of the heavy duty tree cutting and gutting type work. They were led by their preacher, Rod Tate. My wife and I both have old ties with Rod. Although I arrived at Magnolia Bible College after he had already moved away, he was the first president of that institution. My wife remembers hearing Rod preach in gospel meetings in the delta of Mississippi. Rod also knows a lot of the same people we know. Also, Rod preached at the church where my brother attends, a long time ago. So, while I was no stranger to Rod, we had not had much chance to get to know one another personally. So, about two weeks after the storm while helping in our home and in the homes of others, Rod looked at me and said, "when you get ready for carpet, call me." At that moment, while pulling wet filthy stinking carpet out of my home, I never wanted to see carpet again. Things developed in our recovery and we were ready to look at floors. Maggy and I picked out some interlocking wood laminate flooring in a cherry color. So, I emailed Rod and reminded him of his statement. He told me he would get it donated or raise the money for it himself. This morning Rod and a brother Silvers delivered the materials to cover the floor in my entire house. This really is a dream come true for us. I cannot tell you how happy I am. Not only that, but there is a brother who will come over in the morning and help us get started with the flooring. This is a MAJOR step toward getting back in our home for good. I know I run the risk of creating envy, or sounding like I'm 'tooting my horn' when I share these kinds of things with people. I really do want to give all of the credit to God and I just trust that you can rejoice with me in these matter. There really is no end to the blessings that have come our way from God during this storm. We have also tried to be a blessing to others as well. This afternoon I was able to visit with Keith Wood from www.ides.org . He is a neat guy and someone who gets things done. With his help, we will have twenty-five sheet-rockers from Pennsylvania in the middle of January. That is great news! Also today my friends Danny Dodd and Chris Lockhart came to spend the day with me. During the morning we mostly visited with Keith, took a tour of our operation, and answered questions. In the afternoon, however, we spent several hours unloading an 18 wheeler of supplies that were turned away from another church. It took a long time, but we enjoyed working together. Tonight I had a meeting with several preachers and two elders from the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, Louisiana. They wanted to talk to us about help they could offer from their emergency fund. It was great to visit with several friends and enjoy long coversation. So long that I didn't get home until 11:30. I need to go to bed ... got a long day tomorrow. Thanks for reading! Below: Chris Lockhart and Danny Dodd help unload a truck.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Gearing Up

It rained this morning and then began to turn colder. It is supposed to get down around 33 tonight. For the Coast that's a wet humid 33 that feels very cold to us. Those of us who are living in campers are sleeping with very little insulation. This makes the heater come on often. This means burning a lot of propane. That translates into extra costs. If you have central heat, you never consider going to 'get' gas - it just exists where it needs to be. If you live in a camper, you know that at some point you will have to carry your tank to someplace and get it refilled. If you are like me, you never really know when that tank is going to be empty - it just goes out. So today there was a long line of people getting propane, preparing for a cold December night. December. How can it be December? The past three months are a blur. Today we observed the 13th week since Katrina disrupted our lives. High on everyone's mind is Christmas. Dolly Parton sings about a 'hard candy Christmas', and I think that's what it's going to be for most everyone on the Coast. But there are people working on that. Almost all of our families who asked to be adopted have been adopted. I think we have about a dozen left. We'll make sure no one is left out. Churches have adopted large numbers of people. Some churches in Nashville have some special outreach ideas planned for the next few weeks. Some of those are still in the works and I'd rather wait until the details are all fleshed out before I talk about them. I do know that the Concord Road Church of Christ and the Southern Hills Church of Christ will be bringing about 500 gifts down to share with our church and community. Their associate minister, Ken Reed, will be bringing the message of the morning. The Hillsboro Church of Christ is planning a special outreach to some displaced people here, and I'll have to wait to share those details with you. I do know they are cooperating with three other churches in the Nashville area to accomplish their goals. Groups of kids have been adopted for Christmas by churches at Elba, AL, Boonville, MO, Charleston, SC, and Starkville, MS. A student organization at Heritage Christian University took thirty names. A share group at Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola took a family. Friends in Newton, AL took a couple of kids. I know I'm leaving some people out ... churches that are sending donations and gifts and helps ... please forgive me if I left you out. I promise you, we are thankful. Every effort is so vital to our work. Paul Owen and a few other folks came here from Boonville, Missouri last week. They brought with them some gifts for outreach and encouragement. One of them was a quilt that was assembled by a ladie's Bible class. Each square was unique. There was a letter attached to the quilt. Doing some door knocking, they ran across a lady that they thought would appreciate the quilt. So they gave it to her. Don't you know that Sunday morning I met a lady and all she could talk about was those Christian people from Missouri who came by her home and blessed her with a quilt. She was present for worship, and stayed and ate lunch with us at the church as well. I think we will be seeing this lady and her husband again very soon! Things that seem like trinkets are so important to people here. Attention. Time. Listening. A token of love and appreciation. All so important. Next week we will have several more helpers with us. Among those are some preachers from the Fulton, KY area and Tim Roland from Humboldt, TN who will be doing ministry work. Also Marvin Phillips from Tulsa, OK will preach Monday - Wednesday nights. We hope this will be a powerful outreach week for us. We want this community to know that we love them with the love of Jesus Christ. We want to serve them, encourage them, bless them, and teach them. We believe that the efforts we are making to help them get back into their homes will result in many opening their hearts to the gospel message. Tomorrow I have a full slate of appointments, but if I tell you about them tonight then I won't have anything to write about tomorrow night! CURRENT NEEDS I haven't run a 'current needs' list in a while. As always our most current need is for workers - both skilled and unskilled. Included in this is the need for 'ministry' type workers (not just preachers) who love to talk to people and would like to spend some days just sharing the good news! Money always helps us keep on this path of service to the community. People often request clothes washing detergent, pine sol, lysol, and other cleaners. Most items are available locally, but we still run into those cases of people who have no transportation to get the needed items. We also still have many people who are jobless, homeless, and who need our help. If you don't know what to do and you want to do something, Wal-mart and Lowe's gift cards are very nice. Lots of people will be buying lamps, tables, pillows, and other home accessories as they move back into their homes. Thanks for reading! I'll check in again next opportunity I have.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Just Some Thoughts

We had a good number of visitors from the community in our assembly today. We had some members who had not been able to attend since the storm. Also, one of the hurricane relief workers was baptized this morning. We also had our first fellowship meal since the storm. Tonight I thought I'd share a few thoughts from my morning message. WHAT PRAYER TELLS US ABOUT GOD Matthew 6:9-13 I think we tend to think that prayer is about us. We worry that we do not pray enough. We worry that we do not pray in the right way. We feel that God hears other people, but not us. Our prayers tell us that we think God is waiting for us to say something in the right way before He will act; some key word or some special posture. Prayer is more about God than it is us. Charles Hodge: we do not believe in prayer, we believe in God who answers prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, I expect they thought they were about to hear something grand and amazing. The ‘Lord’s Prayer’ is simple, but it is powerful. Notice that it is about God and not about us. 1. GOD IS ATTENTIVE (9a) He is our Father. He is listening. (Luke 11:9-13) 2. GOD IS AWESOME (9b-10) Hallowed / Holy is his name - His kingdom expands in this world - His will is to be done in this world (As it is in heaven). Psalm 111:9 “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever— holy and awesome is his name” 3. GOD IS AVAILABLE (11-13). He provides our Daily bread - provision of things needed to survive. He is available to offer Forgiveness. He is available to Teach us to forgive others - provision of power to maintain relationships. (see Mt. 6:14-15). He is available to rescue from the evil one - provision of spiritual power. This is a prayer that Jesus taught in order to show us that prayer is about God and not about our ability to speak glorious things into his ear. Doesn’t that relieve you? Comfort you? Prayer is about God. So is life. Your life is really about God, not about you. The only way to find true peace with God is to give your life to Him.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Little Child Will Lead Them

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4) The letter was in an envelope marked, "For The Children." It was taped to a box we received in a shipment of supplies this week. The letter reads as follows: "Hi, my name is Olivia. I'm sorry that your homes got destroyed. I'm eight years old. I turned eight on October 20th. That's when I gave you your gifts. Happy holiday, Merry Christmas, for one and for all." The compassion of a child for those who are hurting is a good place to start when we want to see the heart of Christ. The children who seem so preoccupied and live in their own worlds while they play are actually very attentive to the pain around them. They want to heal and calm and comfort. Someone from a church somewhere brought in a box of gifts from a third grade class today. They each have notes expressing sorrow for what is lost, and they each have a toy. Cindy came in with her family today. She asked the questions. She pointed the way. She translated our English to her Hispanic parents. She is nine years old. Because she speaks English and Spanish fluently, she is the key to her parent's survival in America. It was Cindy who filled out the forms requesting help. It was Cindy who told her family that we had coats for them. It was Cindy that told them that we would try to get some Christmas gifts for thier family. Cindy, to me, is a hero. But I'm sure that in her world she is only doing what comes naturally: caring, calming, helping, and blessing her family. Today we've been especially mindful of the children of the Coast. "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them."(Isaiah 11:6) On a personal note, we now have scheduled to have heat and air replaced next weekend. I'll tell you more about that later. Also, there are some really big things being planned for Christmas on the Coast by some churches in Nashville. I'll tell you more about that later, also. Donna said some extra nice things about me at GRACENOTES. Thanks, Donna. If only I could be what you described. Still, my soul was blessed by your words. Below: Cindy and her family with the coats they picked out at our church today.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Crazy Tense Hectic Tiring Days

Every day when I update the blog I have to make myself NOT type the following sentence: "Today was really crazy, tense, hectic, and it wore me out ... but there were lots of good things that happened." I just hope you'll take that for granted! So anyway, today was really crazy, tense, hectic, and it wore me out. But I have to say that there were lots of good things that happened. In the picture to the left, David Kilbern holds a plastic bag with a donation. On the bag is written the words: "Huricane Fund, From Kyle". I think Kyle must have a precious heart, whoever he is ... wherever he is from. Somewhere out there is a boy with a heart that has caught the attention of God with his gift of a few mites. A local minister from an area church brought a family to our attention today. They had escaped New Orleans to a relative's home in Gautier. The sister gives credit to God that her home didn't flood. A few days ago a house down the street from the sister came up for rent, and they made an agreement on the property. They do not intend to go back to New Orleans in the foreseeable future. But they are a family of five in an empty rent house. We were grateful to be able to help them with a washing machine, dryer, stove, refrigerator, and beds. Pictures are on my picture page.

We said "Goodbye" to lots of friends today. Four ladies from Indiana left early this morning for home. They are all retired. One owned a tea room, one was a third grade teacher, one was a home economics teacher, and one was a ... hmm ... and my memory was doing so good! Oh well, they never did retire from the Lord, that's for sure. Gary Irby left for Jackson, Alabama. Tex Nolan headed back up to Monroe, Louisiana. Harold and Sue Painter headed back to Kentucky. These folks gave of themselves in wonderful ways. They were selfless and compassionate. We are so blessed that they made their way to the Coast with the heart of Jesus to share with us. Tex assisted us in acquiring a delivery truck. Thanks, Tex - and the congregations in Lousisana that helped fund this item that will aid us for months to come in our efforts to serve our community. Today I talked with a lady who's name is Heaven Leigh. No kidding. Her life is anything but heavenly. She has four children and is caring for her 72 year old mother. The mother is in ICU. And they are the last family in the hurricane shelter at St. Dominic's church in Mobile. Almost 13 weeks later this family is surviving in a shelter. I thank God for the church that offered her refuge, but this woman and her family have been overlooked. Their home that was flooded is not far from the church building. She came in today to see if we would help her children with some Christmas gifts. Gladly. In the coming week we have no extra workers scheduled to come in. They are welcome, but this is a busy time around homes. I understand. The next group to come in is from Prattville, Alabama tomorrow morning. Then there will be a week with no workers (unless some providentially show up!), followed by a busy week with lots of helpers. I spent a long time on the phone today with my friend Roger Mills. He is a gentleman, Christian, missionary, preacher ... and in my heart, a prince. I also spent a long time on the phone yesterday with Danny Dodd. He is my friend, and he aspires to all of those things that describe Roger {grin}. But he also is a prince in my heart. In fact, I talk on the phone with lots of people. Only one person's phone rings more than mine does, and that's David Kilbern's! Thanks for reading. I thank you for all of your comments (both private and public), and especially your prayers.