Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Today was a bright and comfortable day on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I began my day by going up to the church building, where I found David already sitting at the table with someone who had come in for help. Today his special assistant was Jean Holliman. Jean is perfectly suited to this kind of work, having been a secretary at a local elementary school for many years. Unfortunately, a few weeks after the storm her husband suffered a massive stroke and passed away. Al Holliman had served as one of our elders for many many years. Jean has coped with his loss well, considering the decades that they spent together. I had some good conversations with those I haven't seen in the week I was on the road. Then I went outside to take the tarps off of the outdoor tables. People still stop to look on the tables and see what they can find that they would like to have. While I was working on the clothes, Susan came by. We met Susan not long after the storm. Her grown son had recently passed away and she was having a lot of troubles. Still, we loved on her and let her know that God cares. Her job keeps her from worshiping on Sunday. She had run into Elsie England at the grocery store and Elsie had invited her to attend on Wednesday nights. She was feeling particularly low today. It was her son's birthday and she had visited his grave. The grief of losing her son compounded by the grief of recovery from Katrina is almost more than she can bear. We prayed together out on the front lawn and I hope she is finding some peace tonight. While I was still outside, a van drove up with several ladies from the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola, Florida. I appreciated these ladies coming over so much. They worked hard at the tables outdoors and also a crew helped cover a FEMA trailer park. I went with the latter crew. We knocked on 108 doors, asking residents for lists of their needs. We then went back to the building to gather up the items needed, and headed back to the park. There was much joy in this service, and I was blessed to be around these dear sisters. Three of the last FEMA campers we visited were for some people with intense physical challenges. Two of the women with us, Sandra and Pat, were very touched by the plight of two of the women. They had intense back problems. One walked with a cane, though she was not elderly. The beds in the FEMA campers are not comfortable. They are basically a plywood sheet with a mattress with springs in it. Because they have such a big heart, Sandra and Pat went to Wal-Mart and bought some foam mattresses to relieve the ladies who are hurting so much. They paid for these out of their own pocket, without hesitation. This is the kind of response we see very often in people. One young man who came down to help with the effort had not spent much time here before he had given all of his money away. You just feel so urgent about doing something to alleviate the suffering. I'm sure Pat and Sandra would rather have kept this to themselves, but I knew that you would feel blessed to be able to know about this, and would praise our Father in heaven for their bright lights. The Gateway Ladies left about 4:00 and I put together a basket of sheets and towels for someone in another FEMA park who had come by earlier. Aloha Lee and one of her friends had been working at the building today and she helped me put it together. Maggy and I delievered those supplies and went to the church building to visit with the volunteers and enjoy a bite to eat. Before I finish, I want to tell you about a lady I talked to on the phone today. At 79 years old, with a gutted house, living in a camper, and all alone ... she admits freely to being depressed and uncertain about her future. She has a son, but does not know where he lives. Two years ago she prayed for the Lord to reveal to her if her son was alive or dead. Two weeks later in the mail she received a Christmas card with a ten dollar bill in it. There was no return address, and the card was not signed. But this mother recognized the handwriting of her son. The postmark was Oakland, California. And now after the bitter reality of Hurricane Katrina's wrath is setting in, all she thinks about is that she will die before she sees her son again, and before her home is repaired again. She very plainly and pointedly asked me tonight on the phone: "Can you fix my home?" Oh, how I wish I could. But even if I could, it is her broken heart that I could not repair. I will visit with this lady and pray with her tomorrow, Lord willing. So, today I watched a grieving widow serve others, prayed with a mother who has lost her son to the grave, worked through the day with a group of compassionate mothers, and talked on the phone with a mother who watches through the mist of her failing eyesight for her son to come to her door. The broken, the compassionate, and the hopeless. They all live on our Mississippi Gulf Coast today. And God has used some of us to give them some light.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Home On The Coast
We started off this morning with a wave good-bye to Monroe and West Monroe. What a great bunch of God's people live in this area of the state of Louisiana! We headed back East across the Mississippi River into the city of my birth, Vicksburg. Mercy Hospital, where I was born, is no longer called by that name. The decaying downtown area has been revitalized and is now a wonderful area to walk and shop. I was looking for an old landmark that still operates, and that is Mississippi Hardware. We stopped by for a brief visit with my mother's sister, Aunt Pat. Aunt Pat used to drive us through the Military Park there in Vicksburg when we were children. We haven't seen her in several years, so this was a real treat. Aunt Pat told me something about my grandmother (her mother) that I did not know. She told me that my grandmother, Alice Hearn, worked at a garment factory in Vicksburg back in the 1930s - and that factory was operated in the building that Mississippi Hardware has now occupied for many years. I did know that my grandfather, Robert Hearn, was a body man at Blackburn Motors (Plymouth) there in Vicksburg. I'm sure there are many things I do not know about my family. One of Aunt Pat's sons is now a Texas Marshall, and the other lives there in Vicksburg and works at a transmission place. I wish we could have stayed longer and visited even more of our kinfolks, but maybe that'll be our next out of town trip for rest and relaxation - whenever that will be! Oh, and while I was in Vicksburg, I decided that Chris Lockhart could possibly be right about those Shipley Donuts. So we decided to give them a fair shake. After eating some of those donuts, though, I will have to confess that I would have to have Delta Cream donuts and Shipley donuts side by side in order to truly know which was better. I may have to work on that one. Actually, I must get back on Weight Watchers tomorrow ... my week away hurt me bad! Cecelia told me in a comment that her mother's were better donuts than any that could be bought. Don't we all think that about our mother's cooking? I would bet, though, that her mother's are great donuts! As a result of the newspaper article in the Monroe newspaper, some old family friends who live in the area sent me an e-mail tonight. I haven't seen them in thirty years, I'm sure. I did get some pictures from Tammy Matthews tonight via e-mail and have posted them on my picture page HERE. Tammy sent out an awesome wrap-up of our weekend together. I want to share some of that with you below: "... One of the biggest needs arising at the retreat was the need to have a NATIONAL DATA BASE of counselors and psychiatrists from our churches of Christ who could volunteer time to go or be available to work with people who need their help. We were frankly shocked to know that such a thing doesn't exist already. ... Our friend, Dr. Joneal Kirby, from WFR is starting a program called "CHRISTIANS on CALL" to collect this information for the rest of Katrina recovery as well as have it in place and ready for the next disaster. Please get this word out to the leadership of any churches you can, or to any individuals in the counseling profession. In the Pascagoula area alone there have been 200 suicide attempts since Katrina (and unfortunately, some have been successful). Had something like CoC been in place before, maybe some of this could have been headed off. This is, at this point, probably a more urgent need than money. Many people along the Gulf Coast are now reaching a very deep state of depression and despondency. ... Joneal and Kevin Nieman also gave special advice to the leaders in attendance; urging them to watch out for themselves and their families' mental well-being. They are dealing with so much every day, 16-20 hrs a day. For several in the group this retreat was their FIRST R&R break in the 5 months since Katrina came ashore!! We can't say enough about the stamina and hearts these men and women have. .... Stephen Teel and I were talking about the idea of being involved with a city-wide Hispanic Campaign somewhere in the city of New Orleans, and he was very excited at that prospect. ... I found out this weekend that FEMA is finally supposed to be getting trailers delivered to Plaquemine Parish sometime in February! Some people there are still living under overturned boats or what ever they can find to live under as shelter. The extent of the storm continues to overwhelm even those of us who've been there and seen it. But the good part is, God has opened and continues to open doors in people's lives and give all of us opportunities like we've never had before, at least, in our memories, to impact the lives of others in ways they cannot ignore, and will never forget. New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, churches, and us -- none will never be the same. Maybe we'll be better. Katrina's aftermath is teaching us how to do a few things now that we should have already been doing a long time ago. Keep the men and women along the coast in your prayers... " Thank you, Tammy. You and the brothers and sisters with the kind of heart that you have, are a great encouragement to us. And you are also a necessary link in the chain that keeps things moving here. I look forward to posting tomorrow night, for surely the Lord will put someone He loves in our path. Hopefully we will be alert to the opportunity. Thanks for reading! Below: Dr. Joneal Kirby and her husband Randy (an elder at WFR). Below: The Thursday Night Dinner Given to The Dobbs' and Kilberns by the University Church of Christ in Monroe, LA.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
We had a marvelous day here in Monroe / West Monroe. We began our day at the University Church of Christ in Monroe. We have been treated so kindly all weekend, and that was also the case at University. It was great to see Tex Nolan and to meet his wife. Tex has been instrumental in serving as a liason between Central and University. He also spent the night in the hospital, so I was glad to see him up and around. One of University's deacons, Tammy Matthews, called us and the Kilberns before the congregation. One of University's elders, Dennis Mitchell, prayed for us and the work at Central. Dennis also lead the songs in a wonderful way. I thought that the singing of the congregation was beautiful. I presented a message from Luke 17 on the subject, "We Must Serve the Ten to Save the One". During the invitation song, we quietly left the congregation in order to attend worship at the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ. WFR was also a great experience. Their singing is led by a team of singers, and it was reverently done. Alan Robertson's message was excellent. The elders met all hurricane relief workers up in front of the large congregation. They prayed for us and the work that is going on across the Coast. WFR has also had a major influence in the work at Central, helping to get a large grant to keep our congregation financially afloat during this hurricane recovery. WFR fed us all weekend, and we enjoyed another great lunch today. After lunch, Tammy took us on a grand tour of Monroe and West Monroe. He is very knowledgable about the area and we enjoyed getting to know these twin cities better. Following our tour, Maggy and I rested at the hotel and prepared for our evening. Evening service at University was every encouraging. We showed slides of our work in Pascagoula and introduced the congregation to some of the people with whom we have been associated. Everyone was kind to us and we had a delicious supper with the college students in the student center. Interestingly, one of the college students went to the same high school I did, and lived in the same neighborhood - years later of course. Tomorrow we will get up early and head back to the Coast. It has been great to get away, but more than ever we are determined to be a blessing to the people of our community. I did hear from home that one of the men that has been helping us in the relief effort was baptized this morning! Steve Martin was in my place doing the preaching, for which I was thankful. We have been surrounded by care and love all weekend long. People went out of their way to express their love and concern for us. They prayed with us, hugged us, talked with us, and made it very clear that they loved us with the love of the Lord. This has brought us a renewed strength and confidence. We know that God has blessed us richly in this experience. And now we head back into the Katrina zone... with enthusiasm and expectation.
Click the link to read a news story in Saturday's newspaper in Monroe, Louisiana about our visit here! http://tinyurl.com/bpesd
Friday, January 27, 2006
From John Alan Turner's Home Town
West Monroe, Louisiana is where the Dobbs' find themselves tonight. We drove up yesterday, and had an uneventful trip. We had supper with a group of people who had been involved with hurricane relief from the University Church of Christ in Monroe. They took Maggy, David, Elaine, and me to La Bella Vita, a nice Italian restaurant. They had kind words, hugs, and a nice gift from the Daily Harvest bakery in Monroe. It was a great night that really lifted our spirits. They put a lot of thought into the night, even signing cards for us. Today we missed the events planned at White's Ferry Road Church, in order to travel to Clarksdale, Mississippi. We attended the funeral for Maggy's aunt, Dot Peyton. She was Maggy's dad's baby sister. We saw several family members we hadn't seen in a long time. One of Maggy's cousins talked to me about getting a group of people to come down and work on the Coast. I've already talked to the Associate Minister there and got that ball rolling. Even on a family trip we're not far from our work on the Coast. It was good to see Maggy's family. I married into a wonderful family, and they have given such love to me over the years. It seemed a shame to only see them for such a short time, but it was better than nothing, I suppose. I had a camera in my pocket, but it seemed a poor time to be taking snapshots. As we drove back through Cleveland on the way back to Monroe, we stopped in McDonald's and was able to chat with two very special ladies. Edna Reaves is the wife of longtime Cleveland elder, Lyn Reaves. She was having lunch with Francis Neal. Francis is the widow of deceased Cleveland elder, Bill Neal. I have a long history with these two families, having worked for the Cleveland Church of Christ on two different occasions. It was great to bump into them and to give them a report of what was happening on the Coast. Since this week I have had no control over the meals I have eaten, my Weight Watchers plan has been a bust. I'll get back to it when I get home and have opportunity to choose what I eat. So, since I am already a sinner this week, we did stop by Delta Cream - a Cleveland tradition - and enjoyed some bad stuff. I tell you the truth, these donuts are so good, you'll spit out a Krispy Kreme in a taste test. I know, you don't believe me. My brother in law, Johnny Moore, will not agree ... but I know donuts. According to David and Elaine, it was a good day at WFR. Tonight's program included a concert from the Steffen Sisters and an entertaining and inspirational talk by "The Duck Commander", Phil Robertson. David reports also that phone calls to the Coast reveal that all is going well without us there. Amen! A crew from Pennsylvania will fly out from Mobile in the morning. Pray for them to have a safe journey home. They have worked hard all week. We have a light week this week, then another crew from Hope Missions will be in next Saturday. Thanks for reading and I'll try to let you know how things are going tomorrow night!
Thursday, January 26, 2006
And On To Other Journeys...
Today we are scheduled to head up to West Monroe, Louisiana to spend the weekend with some other hurricane relief workers from across the coast. This is due to an effort by the relief ministry of Whites Ferry Road Church of Christ. I will also speak Sunday at both services of the University Church of Christ in Monroe. So, it looks like a busy trip for us. We're looking forward to it. Both of those churches (and others) in the Monroe area have meant a lot to both our church and our family. It is through a grant from the WFR Disaster Relief that half of my salary is being paid for the next six months. And it is partly due to the hands-on efforts of people from the University Church that so many great things have happened here at Central. Tex Nolan is a member at University - and he has become a dear friend to us. The work will continue on here at Central while David and Elaine, Margaret and I head up to North Louisiana. A crew from Pennsylvania is here - and what a lively and humor-filled bunch of folks. They are full of the love of Jesus. They will head back home Saturday, so we do not get to say good-bye to them. I hope they'll come back sometime when they can. And on another kind of journey, Margaret's Aunt Dot passed away a few days ago. Her visitation is tonight, funeral tomorrow. We loved Aunt Dot. She had a great sense of humor and gave a lot of encouragement and love. So, we will leave Monroe tomorrow morning and head up into the Mississippi Delta to Clarksdale for the funeral. That means we will miss some of the events planned for us in West Monroe, but that will just have to be. We're all going on the same journey that Aunt Dot has now entered. We must be prepared ... and we must do all we can to help others be prepared. Something I need for us to think about together is that I need some staff for Bible camp, June 11-16 (www.gcbc.us) . I suspect that most of the people we usually rely on for camp will be unable to take off of work, given the fact that most of them missed so much work just a short time ago. Let me know if you have interest in coming for the week. Of course you are welcome to bring kids from your church along if you like. I hope to be able to blog from Monroe, but we will just have to wait and see! God bless!
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Connections At OC
I enjoyed a very busy day at Oklahoma Christian University today. I attended a morning lecture on coping with suffering. Then I attended a University class (not a Lecture for the Lectureship) taught by my friend Richard May. He's doing a great job with the young Christian minds present. After that, Richard, Jeanna Lynn, and myself got a burger on campus and talked with a lady who was kind enough to let us sit at a table with her. Interestingly, she is a campus nurse and so nurse Jeanna Lynn and she had lots to talk about. After lunch I went to Open Forum. To be honest, I wasn't very interested in the subjects of the day. Except for one question on the subject of suicide. Suicide rates on the Coast are soaring as people lose hope. I thought the panelists answered some questions about that subject very delicately and with much compassion for hurting people. I don't know all of the panelists' names. I do know that Stafford North, Lyn McMillon, and Jim Baird were on the panel. Not long afterwards I met Richard and Jeanna Lynn once again for the Preachers and Elders Banquet. It was an interesting night, aside from the excellent food! Herschel Dyer was honored for his preaching ministry in Tulsa at the same church for 44 years. One brother was present who was 94 years old and who has been preaching for 67 years. Jerry Jones gave the address of the night, and it was very stirring. I attended the last evening lecture and then headed to our late night class on disaster relief. Because everything was behind time, and it was so late, we didn't have as many as we had hoped. However, it was a great evening of sharing about disaster relief. At the end of the class, Hugh from Calhoun, LA asked everyone to surround me, lay hands on me, and we prayed together. It was a beautiful moment in my life. Thanks, Hugh. I was pleased to meet Ray Hughes, the Executive Director of Rapha International - a worldwide Humanitarian organization. They do not usually do hurricane relief - but then again Katrina was not your usual hurricane! They have done so much good for so many people around the world ... so I was very blessed to meet someone who helps turn impossibilities into realities! Ray was very encouraging about our work on the Coast. They have been involved in the work in Slidell from the beginning. It was also good to see Carla Calhoun again - who made so much of this possible. She is simply a wealth of information. I did catch a picture of her talking with Alan and Marvin Phillips. I look forward to staying in touch with her throughout this time of work. I have heard a report from back home that things are going great at Central. Someone donated a big bunch of fish and shrimp, so the workers have been working for their supper ... peeling the heads off of the shrimp. I know they will always remember that! One of the people we helped and who spent a good bit of time at the building was Terry. Terry was a black man about 35 or 40 who had some health problems, but he just kept on doing all he could. If the McPhereson, KS guys are reading, he is one who helped us unload all those mattresses! Terry had a lot of struggles in his life and he talked openly about leaving behind some of those things for the Lord. He was a big talker and an enjoyable person to be around. His sister came by yesterday to inform us that he had passed away. There wasn't much explanation ... but she knew that we had tried to help him some. We never know when a conversation or encounter with someone will be the last. My flight home leaves Oklahoma City at noon. I'm looking forward to being back home. However we leave again on Thursday. But I'll tell you about that then! Thanks for reading!
Monday, January 23, 2006
Busy Day at Oklahoma Christian
Greetings from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After a delayed flight in Mobile, and a stopover in Memphis where I apparently was the victim of oversell (although I did get a seat on the flight) ... I finally arrived in OKC about 9:00 last night. This morning I enjoyed a lecture by Dr. Howard Norton on how important it is to experience partnership in the work of the Kingdom. Thank you all for being our partners in this work either through donations, work, or prayers. Bobby Ross is the managing editor of the Christian Chronicle, which is housed at Oklahoma Christian University. He bought me a great mexican lunch and we talked for a long time. I appreciate him listening, even though I know he is busy. I also met up with Phil Sanders, who is the minister for the Concord Road Church of Christ in Brentwood, TN. That is one of the churches that provided a wonderful Christmas for Central. Then I met Carla Calhoun, with whom I have only spoken on the phone. Carla works with Rapha International and knows a lot about disaster relief. I'm about to head to Yukon, OK to have supper with Richard and Jeanna Lynn May - old friends who used to live in Mississippi. Maybe I'll post their picture here later or tomorrow. Richard is the preaching minister for the South Yukon Church of Christ, and also an instructor at Oklahoma Christian. It's really a busy trip, but that's what I came for! Hope your week is going great. I'll share more as I have opportunity! Below: Bobby Ross and me in Bobby's Office on the OC campus.
Friday, January 20, 2006
The word of the day is 'desperate' ... and I think it's going to be that way for a very long time. I spent some time talking with some people today who really touched my heart. There was the lady who sat in the chair at the end of the table. The tale she related was not so unique, but her broken heart just crushed me. She sat with an endless supply of tears as she related the first days after the storm having no where to stay. With her first FEMA check she bought a tent for her family to live in. Her in-laws, who had an undamaged home, would not let her family live with them. The agencies that she thought ought to be able to help them turned a deaf ear to her needs. She has a FEMA camper now ... but here she sits ... nearly five months after the storm ... and she is desperate. Her flooded car barely runs. She has turned to every resource she knows and has come up empty. We gave her some food, an electric heater, a bunch of clothes that she picked out, and one of the workers from Pennsylania encouraged her to give her life to the Lord. While I was meeting with someone else, she left ... but she asked someone to tell me 'thank you'. We did so little for her, but she did have the chance to tell her story. Another lady got a nice check from FEMA. She also lived in a tent for a while after the storm. She had surgery on the back of her neck right before the storm. Now it is still giving her pain. Her check looks like a big amount, but once you spend a huge amount of money to secure a rare rent house, buy a few rooms of furniture and some clothing, and pay your bills, there isn't much left. She has bed frames for her children but no mattresses or boxsprings. She wouldn't ask for a bed for herself. Just for her children. We will help them soon. The look on her face tells me she is desperate. A couple has been staying at the building the past few days. We first met them a few months ago. She needed a coat, so we gave her one. They were displaced from New Orleans, had been flown to Idaho, and were back down on the Coast. They thought they could make it, but life has a way of beating you down when you're desperate. Very down on their luck, but willing to work, we allowed them to stay in our building. She is 42, pregnant with their first child - a very unexpected child. Today they got a job in Texas and we gave them a tank of gas and some food and sent them on their way. (Side Note: an unsaved person in another state sent some money in a sealed envelope via one of the Hope Missions guys. It was given to me today and I was told that I would find a good place for it. That was about 30 minutes before this couple needed a tank of gas and some food. God's timing is impeccable.) On the phone an elderly voice said, "I'm disabled and I need help with my home. I'm desperate." A lady in her FEMA camper has been off of drugs for two weeks, but the look on her face tells me it is the struggle of her life. A young couple has not touched their home. They still live in it as if everything is OK. They have a FEMA camper in their driveway, but do not want to live in it. In their world they are desperate and do not know it. Sometimes I feel desperate when I think about all of the needs in our area, and the most overwhelming of circumstances that afflicts people who cannot help themselves. But there were flashes of grace today in all of the desperation. Chris Lockhart came over today and accompanied me on visits, lunch, and the new coffee shop in town. He is a great encourager ... and a superb listener. The Hope Missions group planted a living gift in our church yard today. We will always remember them. The group from Pennsylvania (Hope Missions) had a final devotional tonight. All thirty of them each got up and offered a brief testimonial to what the week has meant to them. Common among the comments were things like, "we were the ones who were blessed" and "this is the best week I ever spent in my life." And then Robbie expressed his desire to be more than just someone hanging around the building - he wanted to be a part of the church. So tonight he was baptized into Jesus Christ, amidst great celebration. Out of the desperation, God's grace arises in the beauty of new birth and brotherhood. Below, Robbie smiles a brand new smile!
Thursday, January 19, 2006
It was a most interesting day today. I spent the morning at the front desk, which is always chaos. I do not handle this well, but I did my best. After lunch my friends Paul and Glenda Franks came by for a drop in visit on their way to Pensacola. They have had to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Rita in Lake Charles, where Paul preaches for the Enterprise Blvd. Church of Christ. At supper David Baker pointed me to a cooler where there were three very unusual drinks. Liquid Cereal it's called. It says it's made with REAL cereal. Hmmm.... We laughed about it, but David decided he had to try it. I think this is a terribly bad idea, but the humor of it causes me to remain silent in my horror. David Drank. David poured into sink - there really is cereal in it. gulp. I didn't try any of it because there was none representing the world's greatest cereal. Care to take a guess? Another interesting thing today were some e-mails and phone calls with Carla Calhoun. I hope to have pictures and more about her next week. Suffice it to say that I will be attending the lectures at Oklahoma Christian University (where I hope to meet Bobby Ross, managing editor of The Christian Chronicle. Also, Carla Calhoun, who works as a liason between government and faith-based organizations.) Carla has given me 15 minutes to speak about being a hurricane victim on a Tuesday night class. I will fly out Sunday afternoon, and back on Wednesday afternoon. I hope to meet any readers out that way!
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
God Creates Great Stories
God is the creator of great stories. I believe we interact with him in prayer to bring about incredible things, as they fall under submission to His sovereign will. I can see the results of our prayers all around me. Robbie hit a milestone today. 30 days with no drugs. At an early devotional tonight Heather sang an acappella solo of Amazing Grace to him. It is an amazing grace at work, for sure. Laurie has a job and I got to see her at work today. Scott is having better days and seems more hopeful. These are people I've written about in the past month, if you're wondering. The Fergusons arrived today from South Fulton, Tennessee. They are participating in a cool story. A major store in Fulton had some bunk beds that they couldn't sell. The boxes had come apart and they were all jumbled up. They didn't want to throw them away, so they offered them to a local Habitat group. They couldn't use them, but a lady in that group attended Parkway church of Christ in Fulton, Kentucky. That lady knew that workers from that church had been down to the Coast to do some relief work. She contacted either Cecil May III or Miles Mayo ... I'm not sure which ... and the ball started rolling. The Fergusons arrived today with a truckload of bunk bed (parts). These will be so helpful in housing volunteers! Thanks, God! And thanks to all who were used by him in this neat story. Tonight's Central Family Devotional centered on Psalms that emphasize how we must trust in God at all times. TRUST really gets our attention when we have nothing left. Do we trust Him or not? On my blog page I've listed some new blogs, and also included some hurricane relief sites. Today we have workers from Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee, and Texas. I do not always have these listed on the work crew report because I do not always know when people arrive. They are mostly gone when I get to the building. Anyhow, we enjoy meeting the new people and they enjoy the work. In a devotional tonight a man wept as he contemplated how enriching it was to simply do what God commanded ... I think he was touched by the goodness of God. On a personal note, I went to the doctor today and gave some blood for a routine blood panel. My guess is that they'll find nothing - that's the news I want to hear anyway! I reckon I'll have to wait a few days to find out. I am considering a quick trip to the Oklahoma Christian University lectures. There is a discussion on diaster relief that I would like to attend. However, I am only thinking about it at this point.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Four Ready To Paint
It was a cold and rainy day here on the Coast. The workers from Pennsylvania are doing a fantastic job. They are working hard and have such a great spirit. I'm told that we should have four houses ready to paint this week. That means sheetrock is up, floated, sanded. Big step for four families. This past Sunday the workers were taking it easy. Some of them asked Elsie England what she needed in the kitchen. She pointed to a corner and requested a small shelf in a certain spot. They got to work and before they were through there was about eight feet of shelving, three shelves high. Awesome! To thank them tonight, Elsie set a beautiful dinner with tablecloths, roses, and candles. The spirit of giving - even among the workers - is continuously growing. I spent the morning surrounded by medical facilities! I went to the hospital to do some visiting, but I have not met the new chaplain yet. I'm waiting to meet him and have a talk about how I can assist him before I do any visiting on my own. I left my number for him to call. I also had a doctor's appointment. I've let several things 'go' until after the first of the new year, and here we are. As I suspected (and this will come as no surprise) I have been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. So I have to wear these cumbersome wrist splints until I have surgery on both wrists. Before that happens there is another test that has to be done. I have some other procedures coming up, but I'll just tell you about them as they happen. Nothing BIG ... so don't imagine anything horrific! We continue to receive calls from people who want to come and help. I just rejoice in these offers! Yes, we still need help! Take a moment and bookmark Bud Yoder's blog located HERE. Bud also works with Hope missions of Pennsylvania - the group that's here now. I was blessed to meet him about a month ago. Also don't forget to check out GARY KIRKENDALL'S NEW BLOG. You remember those first few weeks when you wondered if anyone was reading! And by the way, I do thank you for reading.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Imagine that you have served time in the Air Force and are now a civilian. You've grown up as a Christian, but the church has not been a part of your life for a very long time. The war with Iraq has captured your heart and you sign up with the Army to go and help the cause. You leave behind your fiance, your mother, your job, your life. You go to Iraq and serve your country with pride. While you are in a strange land, a storm crashes ashore near your home. The people with which you serve are worried about family they can no longer contact. Four months later, your time is up, and you get to come ... home. While the rest of the men and women in your unit are arriving home to cheers, signs, balloons, and hugs, you find no one. Your fiance has now connected with someone else and isn't here. Your mother, who has alzheimers disease, doesn't even know you've been out of the country risking your life. She thinks you've been out of state and doesn't know what you've been through. Your job has been washed away. You have no where to live. You had no idea what kind of devastation you would find four months after the storm. Your last paycheck from the Army is held up somewhere in red tape. In order to cope you buy that first bottle of liquor. Days are spent drinking until you can no longer force it down. Pain and confusion give way to numbness. Waking up with a hangover, the cycle begins again because the pain is still there. But in a moment of clarity, you thumb through the phone book and call the church of your childhood. Perhaps someone will answer. David says he will be right over. And that's how we met Scott...a Hurricane Katrina victim of another sort. One of hundreds, maybe thousands of people lost in the debris of what used to be life on the Coast. Scott told me today that in his opinion, what we are going through here on the Coast is worse than what he faced in Iraq. Today he was sober, admitting that he has lots of problems, and perhaps seeing some hope for the future. He is spending time around Christian people. The healing balm of sweet fellowship and grace is ministering to his hurting heart. And today is his birthday. Give him some prayer time tonight as your head rests against your pillow. Life can seem so secure at times ... and at other times ... there is no security other than that which the Lord offers. Scott is one person I met today. I invite you to come and spend some time in the wreckage. It will break your heart, but it will be stronger in the place where it mends. On a personal note: I look around me and see these precious young people who are turning their lives around. They are making major changes that will affect their future forever. They attend local AA meetings and learn to cope with their challenges. Though I know it's not the same, I'm not much different. Tonight I attended my 'recovery group', Weight Watchers. Tomorrow I begin a short-term goal of ten weeks. I've been down this road before, but it's where I need to go.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Sunday on the Coast
This morning Maggy and I drove over to Port City Church of Christ in Mobile, Alabama. We enjoyed a good Bible class taught by one of the elders, Jerre Bryant. Steve May led singing along with the praise team and did a great job. Kenny Harris kept the power point stuff on track and did a super job with that. Chris Lockhart said some really nice things about me to the church. Preacher Bruce Stewart baptized a young man into Christ. And then the church's generosity overflowed when they took up an offering for my family. It was a very sweet experience and I apprecaite the Port City church so much. While there are many Mobile area churches doing relief work along the coast, and a few have offered some help to Pascagoula from time to time, Port City has been there for us above all. For the first few months of our trial, Chris Lockhart called me every day. He has also made weekly trips over, as well as Gene and Robin Barrett, and others. After worship, Kenny, Chris, Susan, Hayden, Bruce, Maggy, and me went to the Oyster House on the bayway to enjoy a great lunch together. It really was superb. And thanks to Bruce for picking up our ticket. Tonight we had a youth devotional at the church. It's been hard for our teens to get momentum back and start meeting regularly. We had a few for the devotional, after which most of them went home. JR and Lanni and I went to Waffle House for a supper together, though, and enjoyed that. Tomorrow I plan to pick up our van from the shop (hopefully they will have it fixed this time!), do some hospital visitation, then head to the church building to do whatever I can to assist people there. That was our day on the Coast! Pray for my friend Danny. His uncle passed away today and he flew to Texas to do the funeral. Let's all have a great week! Below: Maggy, Kenny, Susan, Hayden, Chris, and Bruce prepare to dine at the Oyster House!
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Home is Where The Debris Pile Is
We left the farm this morning about 7:00 a.m., but since we cross a time line, an hour later it was still 7:00 a.m. We stopped at Cracker Barrel in Montgomery. As we walked into the dining room, there to our left were old friends Fenter and Sue Northern. Brother Northern was a teacher at Magnolia Bible College when I was a student there. He is a colorful character and there are lots of stories that have brother Northern as a centerpiece. I walked right up to his table, pulled a chair out, and sat down and looked him in the eye. It has been a few years since he has seen me, but he looked at me momentarily and spoke my name. We had a happy moment of reunion. Once we were home, I recognized that everything was just as we had left it. Thankfully one of our members, Wynona Harris, had gone out of her way to help take care of my son (who doesn't need a lot of taking care of - but at 16 he needs a mother around!). Everything was uneventful as far as I know! Tonight I spent a few hours with David at the church building. We should have a really big crowd tomorrow. Extra seating has been arranged. That's great. Unfortunately (in one sense), I won't be here. Sam Long from Faulkner University will be coming in to preach. However, I am blessed to be speaking at the Port City Church of Christ in Mobile in the morning. Chris Lockhart has been a weekly companion for me ... and I will never forget that in the first few months of the storm Chris called me daily. Gene and Robin Bartlett have also been over to help a lot, as well as other Port City members. I will present slides, offer our thanks, and encourage the involvement of the church in this overwhelming ministry just 30 miles away. I'm looking forward to spending a little time with Chris and Susan. Bruce Stewart is the preaching minister for the church. I should be sleeping, but here I am blogging. I will tell you about one of my old friends who has a new blog. You can read Gary Kirkendall's blog HERE. You will want to bookmark it if he updates it often. As a sad start to his blog, he spends much of his time talking about me! This past week with Gary was nothing but joy and refreshment as we renewed our friendship. Gary's greatest gift is clarity. He is simply not distracted by little stuff. I've always wanted to be morel like him in this area. I could write a lot about him, and maybe I will one day. There is a story that connects Gary Kirkendall, Fenter Northern, and Me. Perhaps that will show up here very soon. He has led me beside the still waters in this past week. In my heart I rejoice in His great care for my family. I hope that my heart has been strengthened and is now prepared to love and embrace the broken and hurting that surround us in this community. Come join us in the work.
Friday, January 13, 2006
A Few Scenes From Georgia
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Silence Is Golden
The first morning of our visit to the cabin in LaGrange found me awaking before sunrise. I took about 40 pictures of the beautiful misty sunrise coming over a small mountain and shining down on the pond. It was so quiet. I could hear the songbirds awakening with the new light of day. I could hear the geese, and the cows, and unidentifyable creatures. What beauty. The exciting part of our first day at the cabin was cooking breakfast. Our hostess had stocked the refrigerator and cabinets with food for us. We haven't cooked our own breakfast in four and half months! We spent our first day in the small shops of Warm Springs, GA. I bought a book about Warm Springs and learned all about Franklin Roosevelt's connection there. I am so ignorant of history that it was all brand new to me. I read the entire book (it had a lot of pictures). Tuesday night Gary and Donna Kirkendall and son Daniel took us to a nice Italian restaurant where daughter Kara waited on us. It was a great night! Wednesday we did nothing all day. It was great to do a presentation at the Broad Street Church of Christ in LaGrange. We had some audio/video troubles, but Ben Overby and Donna Kirkendall got them worked out in the nick of time. The presentation was very well received. We have a few painters and maybe some others who are now wanting to come down and work. Thursday we spent looking at furniture - as we have to get some things into our home. Then we had lunch with Ben Overby and Gary Kirkendall. It is our plan to return home tomorrow or Saturday. Right now we're unsure. We did receive word from home that our kitchen is now fully functional ... Praise the Lord! And thanks to Paul England! And thanks to the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, OK, who purchased a dishwasher for us at Christmas time. We are so excited at the steps of progress being made at our house little by little! I just wanted to check in with you guys. I do not have internet at the cabin, for which I am thankful! Below is a sunrise picture from the deck of our cabin.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Georgia On My Mind
I think tonight's message at Gateway went fine. I didn't have any notes, just shared what was on my heart. I cried all the way through it, but that's ok. The people were very supportive and affirmed that they were praying for us. Maggy and I had a safe trip over and back. We stopped and had a nutritionally void but delicious meal at Steak-N-Shake in Mobile on the way home. Right after the storm we had an offer to move to Georgia and start life anew. A generous Christian owned a cabin that we could use for any length of time we needed. (Actually, we had two similar offers, and were grateful for both of them.) After looking at my house, I guarantee you that was tempting. We talked about it, but our real place was here among friends and family. This week, Maggy and I will travel to Georgia and stay in that cabin for the week. We are looking forward to a week of rest, reading, relaxing, and recharging our batteries. The kids are taken care of here, and we will only have each other to keep company. I'm taking along Ortberg's "God is Closer Than You Think" and Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis". I have grand plans to read both, but I know I'll never do it. My mind races while I read ... and therefore I read fairly slowly. And now for something weird. Maggy and I both hate to leave. We feel torn about making the trip. It feels odd to go off and leave a house that isn't finished and take a trip at a time when the kids can't come. I feel like I could be helping with something here (although I wasn't much help last week). But we will come back and things will be as chaotic as ever. On the other side of this trip I'll probalby kick myself for having these feelings today! I feel fairly assured that I will have no internet service while I'm on my trip. But if I do, you'll hear from me! Pray for our safe journey. For any Coastal readers, you have until January 11th to file any forms with FEMA.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
I began today by wrestling with a screen. We've been showing our power point presentations on the wall, but I thought it was time to get a screen. Well, I overbought. The thing was 9 X 12...and it was just too big and imposing for our pulpit area. So I involved others in putting it together, and later taking it apart. I'll send it back to the company. I was disappointed, but it's not a really big deal. I spent most of the afternoon taking out garbage and vacuuming the auditorium and pews. It was a pretty messy. Messy is a good word for our ministry. I have continued to be amazed at the rapid evolution of our outreach, and the cast of characters that has been assembled at Central. It's a pretty good collection of broken people. David and I have noticed that they become fast friends, recognizing their common struggles. It's a beautiful thing. It was either my friend Al Sturgeon or my friend Steve Martin (or both) who recommended I read Mike Yaconelli's 'Messy Spirituality'. I'm glad I did. Actually God is the only One who can fix most of the messes I've heard about in the last few days. It's my job to love, and I love my job. One of my new friends is Mike. Mike told me tonight that he is separated from his wife, and not just because he's down here working. They've actually been married, separated, divorced, remarried, and are now separated again. I don't know if he noticed my tears while he talked about his life with me. I know it sounds crazy but isn't there something beautiful about a love that refuses to let go? They talk every day on the phone. It's not the kind of relationship either of them would pick, I'm sure. I pray that they will find a pathway to each other, and that they will know the security, peace, and joy that their hearts long for. Tomorrow I'm going to talk about a mess that erupted when some guy's best friends ditched his party and wouldn't come. Little did they know that they would miss all of his parties from now on, as he accumulated some new friends. It had to be a neat party with all of those people gathered up from the highways and bushes. Who was in the bushes, anyway? Ah well, we can only see the Kingdom when we understand that this is all God's work. We're just believing and stepping. God provides the road. Not that we do it so well. Don't get the wrong idea. I need to confess often that I am a failure at all of this. If it all depended on me, it would fall apart quicker than a two year old's lincoln log house. My only peace is to trust His providence and grace as I serve flawfully (is that a word?). Tomorrow night I will be speaking at the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola, Florida. It is only about 90 minutes from here. The Gateway Church has been very good to us, and some members in particular. One of those is David Jordan. He is our David's brother-in-law. DJordan doesn't like a lot of attention called to his work. He has a super sharp mind and is as hard a worker as I know. I'm glad he's my friend. Yesterday he helped me get my stove, refrigerator and dishwasher into the house. There are others at Gateway, also. Their minister, Danny Dodd, has been a source of encouragement for decades in my life. He also was the first non-family member to provide lodging for my family after the storm. He was also the first to give me a handfull of cash. He and Terri, Taylor, and Jordan will always be dear to our hearts. By the way, I have no idea what to say at Gateway ... so pray for me! How do you talk about four months of hurricane relief in 30 or 40 minutes? I'll do my best. Danny, make sure there's some kleenex on the pulpit. We cry a lot these days.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Death & Resurrection
This is one of those days when I can hardly choose which stories to share with you. So I'll encourage you to get a cup of coffee. Maybe grab a box of tissue if you are prone to tears, as most of us on the Coast are these days. Understand that these events are far beyond our reach, and we simply experience them as they happen, good or bad. She came into our building with a story that would stop you in your tracks. A frail, hungry young woman in her twenties, and a widow. Her husband had been killed right after the storm. He was run over by a car. Actually he wasn't her husband, but they had lived together for a long time. They were living in a hotel under his FEMA number. Since he was no longer alive, she had no right to the room. On the streets, lonely, hurting, stricken with grief, this broken person found her way to another broken person. They were in our building looking for help. We fed them. They ate voraciously. They were living in a car. They were now engaged to be married. While David was looking at her papers, she walked out the door, presumably to get a smoke. She didn't come back. Her papers and her hat sat on a table by the door. Two days later he came in, but this time with his sister. The young widow, beaten by a life she couldn't win, had ended her own life the night before. In doing so she perpuated the cycle that brought her to us in the first place, leaving behind a confused, weeping young man. He picked up her papers, but her hat is still on that little table by the door. Maybe we could have done something ... maybe not. She's not really a victim of Hurricane Katrina, but then again she is. Heather from California grew up in church, but was not much into church. Some bad choices in her life led her in other pathways, down a spiral of drug use and other problems, which caused her parents great concern. Her dad is in a men's group and they pray for her often. One of the guys in that group got a couple of friends together and headed to Mississippi to do some hurricane relief work. They've been here a few days doing an awesome job. A few days ago while driving down the highway they saw someone who was in the road, distressed, broken down. They stopped and picked up ... Heather ... Heather who attends their church back home.... in California. Heaven's appointments are always startling. They brought Heather to Central, where she right to work with a team doing drywall, mudding, sanding, and other helpful things. She met some Christian people who loved her. When I came to the building this morning I was met with grinning faces and her big story. Heather was baptized into Jesus Christ last night about midnight! She says that drugs used to make her high, but now she has a new feeling that comes from Jesus. Heather's light really does shine brightly, and I hope it does for a long time. Paul and Billie attend my brother's church. Not long after the storm we received a letter from them saying that they had decided to send us $100 a month for six months (as I remember it). And sure enough, as the first of each month rolled around, a nice card would arrive with assurances of prayers from Texas and $100. Everyone just has to know that on our end, we are very slow about getting out 'thank you' letters. We will do it, but lack of time is a big reality for us right now. So we haven't sent them a thank you letter yet. I was talking to my brother one day when he asked me about Paul's letters, and I told him how neat that was and how appreciative we are. It was then that he told me that Paul had brain cancer and wasn't expected to live very long. I thought, 'Dear God ... here's a man with multiple health expenses, a family, an uncertain future, and he's sending me money?' I told him I would simply refuse the money. But my brother informed me that Paul was very determined and that I should take it. I received an e-mail from my brother's wife today that Paul had won in his struggle against cancer and is now with our Father. That e-mail was attached to an e-mail that came from the church. Tears still sting my eyes as I read the last lines of that e-mail: "They request no flowers be sent. A donation for the Pascagoula Church rebuilding fund is requested." I've never met Paul or Billie. And I never sent a 'thank you' to Paul while he was alive. They are giants of faith, in my book. This afternoon I was on the phone with my friend Roger, when Pam came up the stairs and informed me that a young lady wanted to be baptized. I'd never met Lori, and even now I know very little about her. But I do know she's my new little sister. And so I thank God for her newfound faith. Below: Robbie, Glenn, Steve, Heather, Lori, Pam, and Me ... just after Lori's baptism.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
A Big Stack
I started off today at the hospital and made several visits to patients. Afterwards I was going to pick up Maggy and head to the church, but the ac/heat man came to finish some work he had left undone. Maggy had several errands to run, so we did those, ate lunch, went to Lowes and bought a sink and some fixtures, then back to the house. Jason was arriving to put the grout down in between the ceramic tiles. So, I did go to the building for a while today - but it was a short while. Tonight our devotional was based on the song, "Bring Christ Your Broken Life." That's all we really can bring him. Even if you have few regrets and have lived a fairly good life, you have to admit that there are plenty of things that went undone in your journey. Even the 'good' among us (there are none, really) can only bring Christ a broken life that needs to be fixed. I read the account of the woman caught in adultery to the group. It was a good night together. Afterwards, Maggy and I spent a little time with David. His days are packed. Even if you had a few minutes with him, his cell phone rings every 3 minutes! David has a big stack of papers in front of him. Each set of papers represents a family in need of help. Sometimes it's an elderly couple, sometimes a young family with kids. Some of them need sheetrock to be placed on their bare walls. Some just want a washing machine. All of them are needy in some respect or another. Marvin Phillips gave us a great catch-phrase to describe to the community what we want to be. "This church wants to be the BEST FRIEND this community ever had." When I see David's big stack of papers and his personal notes on each one, I am reminded that we do want to befriend the helpless people of our community. We can do that because of donations of money, goods, and service by people like you. We have several who are asking about coming down for Spring Break and Summer Mission Trips. One idea David came up with was to help our community with a Spring Cleaning by collecting new lawn mowers. When the groups get here we can take an entire street and do every lawn on the street. After we're finished we can offer the mowers to the homeowners who do not have a mower and would like one. Most of us lost our lawnmowers in the storm. They can be the inexpensive ones ... most of the lawns here are very small. What kind of impact would that make on someone's heart to look down their street and see every yard looking great? I think it's a great idea! Anyone want to start collecting lawnmowers? Maybe you can buy them through Wal-Mart.com or something and have them shipped here? We haven't thought through all the details, but it's time to get that idea rolling if it has any traction! What do you think? I haven't talked about our needs in a long time. We continue to need manpower and money - just like it has been from day one. I'll another "M" to the list: materials. Sheetrock and the materials / tools needed to install and finish it are big items right now. At some point in the future we will need lots of painters, but the need for that is still small at this point. Finishing carpenters are very much in demand. At Central we can used both skilled and unskilled labor. People can be utilized to cook, clean the building, operate the clothing give away, help people fill out forms, and a variety of other duties. On a personal note, the tile floor in our kitchen looks soooo good! I'll keep you posted on how it goes! Yesterday I wrote about resuming some activities that I was involved in before the storm. Another one of those will resume tomorrow. I'm looking forward to lunch with Al Sturgeon. Al is the minister for the Ocean Springs church of Christ. He and I have had lunch together every Thursday for two or three years. We're going to give it a try. I've missed spending time with Al. He is gifted in many areas. I always am grateful that you read these posts. Thanks for caring.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Transitions, but not too far
The past few days have signaled a transition in my thinking about myself, my ministry, and my role in this massive hurricane relief effort. Much of this thinking was sparked by messages at Youth In Action by Don McLaughlin and Buddy Bell. First, I clearly regard hurricane relief as a major part of the ministry of our church. In many ways the CRISIS has passed. That either means we have accustomed ourselves to the reality of rebuilding and are engaged in that activity, or it means that many of the immediate needs have been met. Both are true, and both are false. I doubt I can explain that except to say that it all depends on who you talk to. If you talk to the lady that went on a trip over Christmas and came back to find her camper filled with sewage because someone connected her sewer line to a dead line, then I expect she will feel that the crisis has not passed. I talked to a man today who has spent time in the hospital twice recently. Both hospital stays resulted from trying to stay in his FEMA camper, but his lungs ended up being irritated by the fumes in the air from the new carpet and glue in the camper. To say that the crisis has passed is not to say there's nothing to do, or that all is well. Far from it. To me it means that we have met the immediate needs, and now we are working on the long term needs. We still find some critical cases, but not as often as before. Those long-term needs are as pressing as they ever have been. Getting back to my ministry here in Pascagoula, I have resumed a part of my daily schedule that I had abandoned since August 29th. For the past two days I went to the hospital to visit patients. I was saddened to learn of the retirement of Chaplain Bob Storey. I enjoyed assisting him in his work. He is a gentleman and a genuine lover of people. I learned a lot from Bob and I will miss him in the hospital ministry. His mother passed away shortly after the storm, traumatized by the ordeal. She was 92. I intend to go every weekday morning to visit the patients in my hall, and pray in the chapel. In another area, we will reprise our Sunday School program begninning this Sunday. I will be teaching a 'Welcome to Central' class. This class is such a need because we have so many visitors attending regularly. I hope we will have several of our 'guests' as a part of this class, so that they can make the transition from friend to family. I guess I'm just saying that I feel it is time for me to pay more attention to my duties as the minister of this church. Thankfully, none of this hurricane relief work is resting on my shoulders. In all of this I have gained immense respect for David Kilbern. His tireless efforts have been focused on those who are helpeless and who truly need the most help. He has a keen eye and a discerning heart. I have said for four months now that David and Elaine are here 'for such a time as this', and no one can convince me of anything other than God's providence in this matter. David has concieved a GREAT idea for a Spring project, but I will share that with you another night. Thanks for reading and listening and praying and all you've done. On a personal note, a great milestone of our return to home is getting near. Today Jason England expertly laid ceramic tile in our kitchen. I understand that tomorrow he'll apply the grout ... the cabinets are here and can be attached ... countertops are to arrive Thursday. I'm almost afraid to hope that we will be cooking in our kitchen by the weekend! Below: Jason lays ceramic tile in the Dobbs' kitchen.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
New Horizons for a New Year
A new year is a time for reflection and for thinking ahead. It is a time for lists - best and worst of everything in the past year. It is a time for resolutions - often made before. It is a time for New Horizons - New Dreams - For looking to the future! Our New Horizons Must Always Center on Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:7-11). Though we may be discouraged at our losses, they do not diminish the greatest gifts we have received from the hand of God. Most of our losses are temporal things. For Paul, losing his identity as a chief Jew was hard, but he was willing to throw it away for Christ. The New Horizons we see ahead are focused on faith. The righteousness that comes from God, the Resurrection from the dead, our relationship and identification with Christ ... all are matters of faith in Jesus. The Christian's new year should not be focused on what we can do, but on what He can do. Our New Horizons Always Move Us Forward, Never Backward (Philippians 3:12-14). I'm glad the Apostle Paul said he had not obtained yet that for which he was searching. I know I'm not alone! It's still ahead of us. So why do so many people live in the past? They focus on their broken dreams, broken hearts, and broken lives. God calls us to chase the prize! The calling is heavenward - toward the rich blessings of our Father. Marvin Phillips says that our past may define us, but it does not lock us in. Amen! Stop studying the past and get with the new day .... today ... a gift from God. Our New Horizons Always Reflect Growth (Philippians 3:15-16). Paul's view is not PollyAnna, but it is mature and it is positive. It was hard for him to give up his Jewish stature and trust Jesus to see him through. Our lives have led us through some terrible disappointments and problems. We have come this far, though! Live up to what you have already attained - don’t go backwards! That was my message this morning, and my New Years message to you! God bless you and thanks for reading. Upcoming Speaking Dates: January 8 - Gateway Church of Christ, Pensacola, FL, 6:00 p.m. January 11 - Broad Street Church of Christ, LaGrange, GA, evening Bible class January 15 - Port City Church of Christ, Mobile, AL, morning worship January 29 - University Church of Christ, Monroe, LA, morning Bible class March 19 - University Church of Christ, Conway, AR, morning worship Come out and see us if you're in the area!