Friday, June 30, 2006
Several years ago I joined an e-mail Bible discussion list called Berean Spirit on Yahoo! Groups. The list was started by Al Maxey and has had nearly a thousand subscribers. I began to make acquaintences via e-mail with people all over the world. I met ultra-liberal brothers and I met ultra-conservative brothers. We have had people on the list that we do not consider brothers at all. Over time I even owned the list for a while, before giving it to my friend Gerry Parker, who used to live in nearby Grand Bay, AL several years ago. Anyway, on a list like that, one can bring up just about any topic and get a flurry of e-mails containing opinions on the matter ... from just about every perspective. Sometimes that leads to good conversation, and sometimes it leads to an argument. I'm telling you all of this to help you know how I came to know Mike Kjergaard. I first noticed Mike in a discussion on baptism. He was at the time preachingfor a Christian Church in Virginia. He is now at Leo, Indiana at Cedar Creek Church of Christ. In this discussion on baptism I noticed this Christian Church guy and I were hanging in there together on the necessity of baptsim for salvation, while some others were downplaying it's role. Thus began some of my education about the Christian Church. Like all churches, some congregations are different than others. There are Christian churches everywhere on the spectrum from the most liberal to the most conservative. Someone told me yesterday about a Christian Church that used to write up a local Church of Christ because they had a watermelon feed. You get the idea. We in churches of Christ have congregations everywhere on the spectrum as well. Mike and I have been friends now for several years - basically through e-mails and phone calls. One of the joys of the North American Christian Convention was to meet Mike in person and have some great conversation with him. He is just as fun ... and just as devoted to Christ ... in person as he was online. In fact, I was surrounded by people who were joyous, devoted, Bible-loving, God fearing, disciples of Jesus Christ. There were many of them, and I didn't meet all of them. I am sure I do not agree with all of them on all of the nuances of faith practices. However, we all agree that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord and we agree on how one comes to follow Christ. Last night's message and worship time was an experience I will never forget. Jeff Walling offered a marvelous lesson on God's grace. He then invited Dave Stone, the preaching minister for one of America's largest churches, Southeastern Christian Church, to the stage. Through tear filled eyes Jeff read the dedication page of his Bible - it was given to him by his mother in memory of his deceased father. He offered that Bible to Dave Stone as a symbol of brotherhood - of being part of the same Family of God. Then both Dave and Jeff called two of their mentors and heroes to the stage. I don't remember the names of everyone called. Marvin Phillips and Alan Dunbar exchanged Bibles. Presidents of four Christian Colleges - two from each fellowship - exchanged Bibles. The two leaders of the worship teams exchanged Bibles as well. All in the audience who were in agreement with this expression of brotherhood stood, united in the intent to tear down walls of division and know that God's Family has been divided far too long. We ended the evening by singing The Lord's Prayer together. I wasn't anywhere near my friend Mike when all of this was happening, but I called him on his cell phone after it was over and expressed my love and appreciation for him. We are brothers, no doubt. Born of water and spirit into God's big Family, we both preach the same saving message of the gospel. I know that not everyone is comfortable with this recognition, but comfort is not the goal. Acceptance of brothers is the goal. Putting down or picking up instruments is not even in the discussion - it's been in the way for so long. I have heard several Christian Church brothers say that they hope the churches of Christ never start using the instrument ... the vocal music we produce is beautiful. At the NACC there were acappella selections in the mix of music ... expressions of love and acceptance from the Christian Church towards their Church of Christ siblings. It is my opinion that most people in the pew are accepting of this recognition of brotherhood. I think it is the preachers who have continued to keep the fires burning on these issues. Some have been kind, some have been unkind. We've probably all been unkind at one time or another as we have tried to grapple with the history we have inherited. This is not a discussion about who worships in the most correct form. It is truly a discussion of the most basic part of our faith. Do we believe that God saves sinners when in faith they repent and are baptized? Do we believe that God continues to save sinners as they live for him and honor him in their lives? Do we believe that God will save all his children, who by virtue of His grace have been born again into the Family of God and kept in His favor? I've never really ever known anyone from the Christian Church, until I met Mike. In a post-Katrina world, I have met hundreds of them. I have talked with them about their churches back home. I have had them pray for me and I for them. I have heard them preach the Gospel passionately. I was glad to attend this convention. I am happier, though, to realize the beauty of our wonderful brotherhood. Note: I have several pictures up on my picture page. Note: The Christian Chronicle has posted a story on the NACC. Below: Mike and Me at the North American Christian Convention
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
North American Christian Convention
I am now in Louisville, Kentucky and have internet access again. We spent the past two days at Lake Barkley, as guests of Frank and Linda Shelton. We enjoyed the restful and serene setting so much. While I was talking to my mother Tuesday morning, a deer ran across the hillside in front of me. The picture above is from the deck, and you may be able to detect the rainbow in the sky. In addition to the rest and reading, we had a wonderful visit with Cecil and Patti May, who live just an hour from where we were. They picked us up and we went to Grand Rivers, KY to eat at Patti's Settlement. We had a wonderful meal, which included their specialty: a 2 inch thick pork chop. I will confess that we all had dessert. I had the coconut cake, and they all laughed at me - it was a full fourth of a cake! No, I didn't get it all down, but what I did eat was very good! Cecil, Patti, Margaret, JR, and I laughed ourselves silly as we enjoyed each other's company. It was a night to remember. We were especially thankful on the way home that Cecil narrowly avoided running over a big ole skunk. The night ended much too soon. Today we traveled over to Louisville and checked in to our hotel. JR and I went on to the North American Christian Convention. As was the theme of Tulsa Workshop this year, there is a recognition of the division between the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ that has existed since 1906. The message that we heard tonight from David Stone was a healing and unifying message of trust in Jesus and hope for tomorrow. We also enjoyed a "Welcome to Kentucky" message from the Governor. There are thousands of people here. The service tonight was reverent, positive, and uplifting. I did talk with a representative from Hilltop Rescue mission in New Orleans, and Keith Wood from IDES, and I also saw Alan Robertson and Mike Kellet from West Monroe, LA. I look forward to tomorrow, and will offer some reflections on the theme. One thing JR and I did not enjoy was trying to find some place to eat after the evening service. We drove all around downtown Louisville for about 45 minutes, but to no avail. We finally ventured (inadvisably) into a place called LaBamba which claimed to have a burrito as big as your head. This, of course, appealed to both of us. I would just like to say that no one should believe a claim that anyone has a burrito as big as your head. It was plenty big enough, but it was filled with grease and simply AWEFUL. I have a picture of JR's plate with all the grease, but it is unappetizing! We ended up at McDonalds. That's pretty low on my list, but gourmet compared to LaBamba. Back home at Central David tells me that the teenagers there are delivering sheetrock. What a blessing to receive the needed sheetrock ... thanks to those who continue to give and bless us in our work. Miles Mayo spoke tonight, and I bet he did a super job. Will Collins is busy planning some youth trips for our teens, and preparing to speak this coming Sunday. Pray for Gary Kirkendall and Danny Dodd, friends of mine that head out for foreign missions this week. Thanks for reading! I appreciate your comments.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Sunday in Tennessee
Frank and Linda Shelton have been marvelous hosts, and I will hate to say goodbye to them tomorrow. Somehow it feels we are old friends already. They are fairly new to Brentwood Hills Church of Christ and are still introducing themselves. Of course that's not hard to do with 1800 members! This morning I taught two Bible Classes and gave a short talk and prayer at the three morning services at Brentwood Hills. They are a delightful congregation and I feel I have made many friends. Of course several of them have come down to help on the Coast, and I think more will. Credit needs to be given to David White for pressing this meeting and making it happen. David is a transplant from the Mississippi Gulf Coast...so our work is dear to his heart. He has kept our plight before the people here, and I appreciate him so much for the way he has continued to support and encouraged the work we are doing. To the right is David and Janelle White. Janelle has also worked for Open Churches, which continues to offer support and help along the Coast. One of the people I enjoyed meeting is Associate Minister Clarence Dailey. Brother Clarence has been a part of this church for many many years. He has a sweet spirit and is someone I enjoyed meeting as soon as we shook hands. In fact, everyone I met at Brentwood Hills extended a smile and gracious attitude. This speaks well for their leadership. Walt Leaver has been preaching here for many years. Walt maintains a sweet spirit, a deep conviction, and a passionate message. No wonder so many people assemble here each week to hear his message from the word of God. After the last morning service, Joe Dudney took us out out eat a delicious lunch. Joe was once an elder at Brentwood Hills. His current work keeps him busy as executive director of the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort. Words cannot express what good has been done in our community through this wonderful organization. Joe was delightful to visit with, and is full of stories of the people he has known across his lifetime. Millions of dollars worth of materials have been flowing through COCDRE for the past two years as people have responded to disasters in our country. Joe was featured in a picture in The Tennessean this past Sunday and everyone enjoyed giving him some good natured kidding about it. Joe took us to the COCDRE warehouse and operation and gave us a tour. It was simply a wonderful visit. As some of you know I broke my eyeglasses a few days ago and it has been a nightmare trying to restore them. I finally had my optometrist fax the prescription to Lenscrafters here in Nashville. They were ready, but I didn't have time to pick them up yesterday. So today after the tour of the warehouse, I went to pick them up. They looked great. I put them on ... not right. I think they were John Robert's prescription, not mine. Bah. Frank did borrow an arm from another pair of glasses and screwed them onto my frame. Mismatched, but functional. We got back to the Shelton's just in time to leave for Hillsboro. Another great experience with a very warm church. James Waugh is the minister for the past three years. He is an OC graduate who is very friendly. I enjoyed great 'preacher talk' with James. After worship all of the people who have helped on the Coast had a potluck at the home of Lynn and Diane Griffith. What a fun time we had with great food and a very joyful remembrance of the work on the Coast. It's getting late...it was a long but wonderful day ... tomorrow we will rest by Lake Barkley, visit with friends Cecil and Patti May, and head for Louisville, KY on Wednesday. I will likely have no internet connection while at the lake. So, this will be the last post for a few days. I hope you'll come back again later! There are several pictures from the weekend on my picture page (linked on right).
Friday, June 23, 2006
Because I dedicated yesterday's post to Cheryl's passing, I did not mention a neat thing that happened. On the trip from Bossier City, LA to Ruleville, MS, we stopped for lunch in Vicksburg. Maggy wanted to eat at Garfield's, so that's where we went. After ordering I looked across the room and there was Terry Rush and friends eating at a table. Isn't it something that he was traveling from Tulsa to Pascagoula, I was traveling from Bosier to Ruleville, and we ended up eating at the same place at the same time? What a trip! It was good to see him, though. I know he will have a great message at Central this Sunday morning. Today we drove from the green flatlands of the Mississippi Delta to beautiful central Tennessee. We stopped in Memphis and ate Bar-B-Que at Neely's - apparently featured by Al Roker on one of those morning shows. It was good. We arrived at the Shelton's home in Franklin about 6:00. Frank and Linda prepared a wonderful supper for us and we began the time honored tradition of seeing who we all know ... and found mutual friends indeed! Frank grew up at Union Avenue in Memphis, thus he knows the Cecil May family, who are dear friends of ours. He attended Harding Academy and met one of our elders, Jim Ingram, as a child. He is acquainted with John Mark Hicks through one of his children. Frank is a retired hospital administrator. One of our former elders at Central (Robert) is a retired hospital administrator. Both Frank and Robert moved to Franklin, TN less than a year ago. Neither of them knows each other, but I think a meeting is in order! I think there were other connections, but I've forgotten now after an evening of great conversation and hospitality. We have a wonderful and comfortable room in their home. Tomorrow morning Frank and I will go to a breakfast meeting, and then he will help me find someplace where I can get some new glasses. Yes, I broke my glasses. That's a pretty brief report, but I'm glad to have some new friends ... and look forward to getting to know them better over the weekend!
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Four or five months ago I received a call from an elderly woman who said she used to be a member at Central. She now lives in Arizona with her husband. His daughter lived in Pascagoula. Like many people her home had been washed away in the storm surge Katrina pushed ashore on August 29, 2005. His daughter's name was Cheryl, and she has cancer. In fact, she had been given only 6 months to live. We began to visit Cheryl and to send compassionate visitors to her side. Cheryl lived in a FEMA camper in the parking lot of a strip mall that no longer housed any businesses. It was an eyesore and a haven for drug use and abuse. Her camper was brightly decorated with Coca Cola stuff ... all kinds of stuff... you name it, Cheryl had it. Some of the volunteers who visited Cheryl really fell in love with her ... some ladies from Missouri in particular. They continued to write her, text her cell phone, and bring her joy. She called them the "M Girls". Robbie was especially close to Cheryl, bringing her something with the Coca Cola emblem on it most every time he visited. Her eyes would always light up whenever he brought her something she didn't already have (which was hard to do!). Brooke and Twila visited with her in the past several weeks, and she really loved them as well. The first time I visited Cheryl, we spent some time getting to know one another. Her one desire that was stronger than all others was to see her father. She had not seen him in 20 years. Unfortunately, he also was dying of cancer in Arizona and there was no way he could travel. Cheryl always cried when she spoke of wanting to see "my daddy". With neither of them able to travel, it seemed impossible. We tried to keep Cheryl supplied with Ensure, because that's all she could keep down. Still, she didn't drink very much of that. The last time I visited Cheryl, Robbie went with me. She had been moved to a much nicer FEMA park and into a camper that she liked better. Robbie had found an old Coca Cola ashtray in a box that belonged to Daved Baker. Daved gave it to him to give to Cheryl, and he did. She smiled so big and was just taken with it - it was very old and she did not have one. I watched as Robbie sat on the edge of the bed and held her hand. He is so good with people. Cheryl cried as she told us that she only had a few weeks to live. Her cough and the pain she was experiencing told a different story. She told us her wishes for her arrangements. We met her daughter and some friends. Cheryl surprised me when she told me that her daddy was on his way. Somehow he had regained enough strength and was coming to see her. She cried again, this time with expectant hope. Then we held hands and prayed for her comfort, strength, and healing. We left, wishing we could do more for this lively strong woman. Early this morning, about 3:00, Cheryl passed from this life. Before she died, she did get to see her Daddy one more time. They were able to hug after a 20 year separation. He is so thankful for the Central church and those who went to visit Cheryl. I'm so glad he got here in time to see his little girl. She was 49. Cheryl is not the first Katrina victim to which we have said goodye. There was one of our elders, Al Holliman. Terry, a man who volunteered and worked hard, and died much too young. A young widow who took her own life in her grief and the drugs that clouded her mind. But we had more time with Cheryl. We knew she was dying. And we knew that it was very possible that every visit was our last. A vivacious woman who died too soon, she was a Katrina victim who never got to live in her own house again. Goodbye, Cheryl. I pray you have peace and comfort in the gracious arms of God.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Friends In Bossier City, Louisiana
We had a safe journey to Bossier City, Louisiana this afternoon, arriving about 3:30. We have this appointment because a group from Airline Drive heard me speak at Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa earlier this year. I remember some of the people we met there ... including Carrol Floyd, who has a ready smile and a word of encouragement. A brother did a great job leading worship tonight before I spoke. While we were visiting with several before church, in walked Bill and Flo Green. The Greens were members at Cleveland, Mississippi during my early youth ministry years. Their daughter Renea was also present with her husband and beautiful daughter. One of the first people we met was Troy Freeman, who introduced me for the message tonight. After the services there was fried fish and fixin's to eat. We enjoyed so many great conversations. We sat across from Michael Keyes, who was visiting from Tulsa. He has a ministry with prisoners helping them transition back into society. I enjoyed very much our discussion on that matter. Sitting next to Michael was ADcoC member Gary Hatcher. After talking a bit, I found out that his dad is Weldon Hatcher. I have met Dr. Hatcher a few times. He was one time director of Sunnybrook Children's Home. He is still very active in serving others and helping them with their problems. We also met a lady who is a cousin to June Franks, wife of Al Franks who both edit the Magnolia Messenger. She asked me if I had ever heard of "Booger Branch", where they were all from. Of course, I have! I have also heard from Margaret's dad about a community in the Mississippi Delta named "Booger Den". This might be a record for how many times the word "booger" has appeared in any one post in this blog. Anyhow, I also met a lady from Cotton Valley who knew Dorice Mitchell WAYYYYY back when. Dorice preached at Central for over 30 years. Needless to say, it was such an enjoyable night and the message was received well ... though it challenges even some of my own comfort zones. In the morning we will have breakfast with the Green's and then head for the Mississippi Delta. Maybe I'll get a picture of Booger Den! Maybe not. Below are a few thoughts from my message tonight. Thanks for reading. WE BELONG TO EACH OTHER Romans 12:3-5 I will confess that I did not grow up knowing the size of God’s Family. I was taught to limit the members of that family to one particular group. I was taught that it was easy to step out of God’s Family. I was given the impression that growing churches merely provided entertainment - and that's why they are growing. While working for Magnolia Bible College in the early nineties, I preached once a month for a church that sprang from the non-class sect among churches of Christ. I realized that there was an entire Family of believers I would have never known. It dawned on me that the body of Christ has been robbed because we did not know how to love one another beyond our differences. Through e-mail groups I began to be more familiar with the Independent Christian Churches. By e-mail, I made friends with men who stood firmly on the gospel. More and more I realized that there are wonderful Christian men - another brotherhood I never knew about. Then a storm named Katrina destroyed our Coastal communities, and people from every faith family came from all over the nation to help us. Churches with whom we have vast theological differences stood by our side to help us recover. Why? Could it be that other groups are more aware than we - that we belong to each other? Some of my own brothers rejected us because we were serving arm in arm with those we normally would not have known much about. In many cases, and the only thing keeping us from one another is a matter of interpreting a very few verses of Scripture. It’s hard to know where to go from here. Much of this division was created by other people and handed down. Aside from the Gospel, the most pressing message of the New Testament is how we ought to live with one another. The words "one another" appear together 58 times in the New Testament. It is crucial that we function together as God’s people, treat each other with the love of Christ, cooperate in the work of the kingdom, and recognize our inability to do these things without each other. It does not mean that we always agree nor that we abandon our convictions. Romans 12 shows those who would be divided in spirit, how to maintain unity! It moves us to overcome the northside / southside mentality! We move away from a "they" to a "we" concept! We move away from dividing kinds of Christians in our minds. We move away from individuality and into collectivity! 1. SERVE TOGETHER IN SURPRISING PARTNERSHIPS (3) Watch how God will partner you up with others to serve! Look for opportunities to serve alongside those we traditionally may not. You may have to rebuild bridges that were torn down by others. Do not thwart the purpose of God by thinking you are better than another believer! You think too highly of yourself when... -You feel you have accomplished more in the faith than someone else. -You think you are more qualified for the prize than someone else. - You don't want to serve alongside someone in the Kingdom! Galatians 6:3 "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." Our cynical and dark world doesn’t believe our message because they do not see our Messiah in us. 2. SERVE TOGETHER IN IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCS (4) Serve together in your differences! There are great differences among us. We do not all have the same function! Two things in which God’s Family is alike: We belong to Christ and We belong to each other. Don't discount your brother, he may be the leg that you need to stand on one day! Do not let differences keep you apart. In churches of Christ, most of the divisions I have seen are personality driven. Within the Christian community at large I see a lot of political posturing, territorialism, jealousy, and walls of division that keep people apart. We do not have to ignore differences, or even agree - but we can all act like Jesus while we serve together to make a difference in the world. Our differences only make us different, not disinherited. 3. SERVE TOGETHER WITH CONFIDENCE (5) Our confidence is in Christ, not in our theological depth. Romans 1:16; Galatians 3:27-29; Colossians 3:11. Conclusion: The Bible is specific when it comes to the family atmosphere of the kingdom. We are a Family when we worship and serve as a family! We must get beyond rote religion, which is dead and dull, into living, vibrant, happy family life. That's where we find support through the storms. That's where we learn to treat one another. That's where we really can let our spirits loose to worship God. That's where we see the potentials that are available to us. Have you brought the Family of God closer together by your attitude, or driven in wedges of division? Are you committed to God as an individual so as to bless the whole? Ephesians 3:14, 15 "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name."
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Busy Days on the Coast
There was lots of activity around the church building and community today as groups from various places got to work. I'm adjusting to being back in the office after an extended time at home and then Bible Camp. It still just amazes me to see the people scurrying around from job to job doing all they can to help as many people as possible. Jeff Smith is the preacher from Shelbyville, TN. He arrived with the knowledge that one of their members may pass away at any time. Unfortunately, this did come to pass, so he had to go home. But I did enjoy a great conversation with him before he had to go home. Above is Rod Lindsey and another brother from Shelbyville. Rod is a real go-getter who likes to see things happen. I bet he is hard to keep up with! His son Chris is the lead singer in Watershed Worship. Rod also reads the blog (which puts him up a notch in my estimation!). He knew when I came in with a cup of coffee this afternoon that I had been to Dough Joe's! Airline Drive Church of Christ Wednesday night at 7:00. After the service they are going to have a fish fry. I wonder why they are eating AFTER I speak? Think they've found a way to get me to quit on time? I think it will work! One our new brothers since Katrina hit is Robbie Woods. Robbie is a wonderful young man that I admire. He recently received his 6 month chip from AA for being clean and sober! Awesome! Robbie has had a strained relationship with his father for most of his life. Last week his dad had a severe motorcycle accident and nearly died. During that uncertain time his dad called him for the first time in a long time and they had a long talk. Robbie is going to fly up to West Virginia to see his father. His ticket is just over $600, half of which is being contributed by a visiting church group. If you would like to contribute the other half, let me know. Also, we have now established a building fund to refurbish our church building. Donations are being accepted and must be specifically earmarked for that part of our mission. All other funds go directly into the hurricane relief fund and are used to minister to our community. The seed money for this account was a $56,000 gift from www.ides.org, and a $1,000 gift from a Methodist church that wanted to help us get our church building back in order. The address to send gifts is on our website, www.123Jesus.com. Click on the icon for the KATRINA page. Pray for our safe journey over the next week and a half. I will do my best to keep you informed and let you know how things go! Thanks for reading. It is a blessing to me that you have such an interest in my world.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Sunday on the Coast
We had a good number this morning with great singing. The group from Shelbyville, TN are great singers and they added a lot to our worship. Their preacher, Jeff Smith, was here today and I enjoyed meeting him. Our summer youth intern is here. Will Collins will be working with us for the next few months. Will is a talented singer and musician. I'm looking forward to having him around. This morning I preached from Psalm 103 on What The Fatherhood of God Means to Me. After that I taught a class from some notes by Norman Bales on the subject of Overcoming The Obstacles to Happiness. Both were well received as far as I could tell! Margaret hasn't been feeling well so the kids and I ate at La Fiesta Brava for a Father's Day lunch. Now I like to eat there often, so in one sense it wasn't special...but to be with them was special to me! This afternoon I went to the hospital and visited a 96 year old man who fell through his ceiling to the floor. He is in bad shape but good spirits. I also visited a lady whose house we are working on. She was especially appreciative of the prayer we had together. Then I went to Wal-Mart. I bought some tires a few months ago and one of them lost a segment of tread recently ... so they replaced it. I ran into the Boswells there, and we enjoyed an hour of conversation while we blocked an aisle. I got a haircut also ... and the stylist was upset about an unruly customer. Let's just say that I was a bit nervous at her anger and she was bearing down with that buzzer a little harder than usual. I just finished TORN ASUNDER: The Civil War and The 1906 Division of the Disciples by Ben Brewster. Ben preaches for the Airline Drive Church of Christ in Bosier City, Louisiana. I am speaking there Wednesday night and wanted to read his book before getting there. I picked it up at Tulsa back in March. I really enjoyed this small volume (133 pages) and learned some things I did not know about our Restoration Movement history. Of interest to me was the difficult relationship between J. W. McGarvey and David Lipscomb, and the failed effort of T. B. Larrimore to get those two to find common ground. I recently was sent a very old copy of Larrimore's Letters and Sermons in a volume that is barely hanging together, but still readable. I would encourage you to purchase a copy of Torn Asunder and give it a read. I recently ordered and received in the mail new books by John Alan Turner and Dallas Willard. A certain author who reads my blog promised a book via mail, but I haven't received it yet. :) Of course if you are in the Shreveport / Bosier City area, I would love to meet you Wednesday night at 7:00. I'll be speaking on the subject, "We Need Each Other" ... and I'll tell you more about that later. Sometimes people who come to work choose to stay in a hotel rather than in the warehouse bunks we offer. That poses no problem to us. While talking with Loree Boswell today, she mentioned the Moss Point Oaks Bed and Breakfast. Now I know it sounds like an oxymoron to say to your friends that you went to the Coast to do hurricane relief and stayed in this wonderful bed and breakfast! Stop laughing! I will say this, it is a beautiful place, they have a breakfast included in the price, and it is less expensive than the hotels in the area. I promise not to laugh at you if you stay at the B&B, but I wouldn't tell your friends back home. Well, that's all the news here that I know. I hope to give you some more thoughts tomorrow. This will be a busy few weeks ahead with lots of travel... but I will have to give you that info in a post very soon. I will say that if there is a church in Western Kentucky or Central-Western Tennessee that would like me to come and visit and report on our work on Sunday, July 2, let me know as quickly as possible. Thanks!
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Home From Camp
I am now home from a wonderful week at Gulf Coast Bible Camp. From a human standpoint, we really should not have had camp. Many of the staff were storm victims, and taking a week out of town was a struggle. Some do not yet live back in their homes. Most of the campers were storm victims, with many still out of their homes. Three on our staff are transitioning into new jobs. Some staff had work duties they could not escape and had to leave at various times during the week to accomodate the expectations of their employers. Pulling together a camp session is never the easiest thing to do, but this year there were so many things working against us. However, we cannot leave God out of the equation. He had a plan to pull together this group of people for the week, and it was a time of growth, fellowship, and love. We studied The Beatitudes during the week and challenged the kids to live revolutionary lives. We rejoiced with two young men who placed their lives in the hands of Christ in baptism. Three of the 'best camper' awards were kids from Central! Yay! There are, of course, a thousand camp stories. I will not try to tell you all about them. Over 300 pictures from our week of camp are on my picture page linked to the right. The hurricane relief effort, of course, continued on steadily while I was gone. We had groups here from several places, including a couple of returning groups. I was glad that Dusty Rush, University Church of Christ Conway AR, came over to my house last night and visited for a couple of hours. I hated to be out of town while he and Jason Turner were here leading a group of teens from Arkansas and Texas. They worked hard, according to all accounts, even taking sheetrock to my neighbor during the week. Dusty spoke Wednesday night to a crowd of about 150 or so - mostly volunteers. His group was bedded down at the Vancleave Church of Christ, which has been a wonderful partner with us in providing housing for volunteers. So, after our visit, I took Dusty to Vancleave and was able to see Jason and also meet the youth ministers from Texas (one of whom says he reads this blog!). The time flew by too swiftly, but I was thankful for the moments we had. David Kilbern called last night to say that the group from the First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, IL left us $1,000 to assist in refurbishing our church building. I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of our friends who come to help us from all faith families. This is even true locally. The First Presbyterian church just a few blocks away from us has offered the use of their facilities for weddings and funerals and other occasions. They even offered to forego the usual charge for the facilities. God has certainly used people from all faiths to bless not only our community, but our church as well. Today I'll spend getting ready for tomorrow at Central. There are some dark clouds in the sky and the wind is blowing steadily. Perhaps we'll get some needed rain today. Thanks for reading and for your prayers.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Return to the Coast
We had a great supper at Johnny and Carol's home Friday night. Johnny and I got to have a long conversation. Johnny and I were friends long before he was my brother-in-law. He reminded me that he was part of the moving crew that brought me from Ruleville to Cleveland so many years ago. He really liked my description of the people we knew as "characters". We decided that every church and every family has a lot of characters, which keeps things interesting. Johnny and Carol's lives were changed dramatically when a drunk driver with no drivers license ran into Johnny while he was on his motorcycle. In all of their struggles, though, I have seen nothing but faith and determination. I'm sure they have had their moments, but they do like all great people do, they keep going. I love Robert Schuller's book, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do. Dr. Schuller should meet Johnny and Carol Moore. They also read this blog every day, which gives me a great opportunity to honor them and let them know how much I love them. Family reunions offer so many opportunities to catch up. I have about 60 pictures on my pictures page (link on the right). Many of the people at this reunion are folks I only see once a year. I didn't grow up with all of them, so it takes me a while to figure out who everyone is. It's a great bunch of people. I found out that there are others in the family who are reading the blog daily, which encourages me and I'm thankful. Dick and Ollie Sue Willingham are my wife's parents, and they love me, but they do not read the blog (except occasionally when they are at Johnny and Carol's). I enjoyed our visit to their home and hope to visit again soon. I think it has been Thanksgiving since I was there. That's too long. I also need to get over to visit my mother very soon, she reminded me today that I need to give her a weekend. I agree. It's been too long. I know that every family in this busy generation struggles with visiting their parents and children - but it's important. Tomorrow I'm off to Gulf Coast Bible Camp for our yearly week out there. I have a great staff and am looking forward to a great week. I will not be posting for the rest of the week, unless I sneak away for a short time to come home. If I do that, you know I'll have to post to tell you how things are going. In the mean time, we will have upwards of 150 workers here at Central. Thankfully, the "M & Ms" will arrive back in town this week. Margo and Mary were here before, and they're coming back to cook. Good timing! Margo reads this blog as well, and I appreciate the many notes of encouragement she has e-mailed along the way. This coming Wednesday night Central will have a special treat as Dusty Rush will speak. Dusty is minister for the University Church of Christ in Conway, AR. This church has been one of our major support systems during the crisis. They will conduct services for us and I know they will be awesome. Dusty's dad will also preach later this month. If I have time, I will post the Sunday sermon on the Pod-o-matic page (link to the right). I had time last week, but I wasn't as pleased with the sermon as I wanted to be, so I declined to post it. Now... do you think I am going to post on this early Sunday morning without mentioning Tropical Depression One ... which will soon be Tropical Storm Alberto? Well, there's the mention. What can I say? It's going to be a long summer.
Friday, June 09, 2006
From The Mississippi Delta
Ruleville, Mississippi is the kind of place you never have a reason to visit unless you know someone who lives there. That's why I'm here. It is the place where I spent two years in my first full-time ministry work. I think God will give them extra grace for what they endured under my youthful tenure. This is the place where I first met Margaret and Nicole, a beautiful young single lady and her daughter who comprised the youngest people at the Ruleville Church of Christ. It would be a few years before our eyes would catch each other's in a different, more romantic way. The Ruleville church was full of characters. As David Kilbern describes it, people with "dynamic personalities". That's not a negative description, by the way...just the truth...and a delightful truth at that. Every small town in America has churches full of characters, and they are much more interesting than anything you see on television. I am blessed with wonderful in-laws. The Willinghams adopted me as a son from the beginning. I have always felt welcome in their home. I'm sitting at my in-law's dining room table at this moment. My internet connection is leeched from the doctor across the street who, thankfully, has an unsecured wireless connection. He's a friend of the family so he won't mind, I'm sure. The Willinghams (my in-laws) are in the process of painting the kitchen and everyone's doing something but dad and me. Margaret's dad can't paint because of his dizziness ... I can't paint because I can't paint. Margaret's brother, Dickie, is directing the effort. Chad, our nephew, is removing cabinet doors and working on those. Ollie, Margaret's mother, is up on a chair painting (is this a good idea? Dickie told her to get down!). Even Margaret is painting ... I'll have to get her to do that at our house! I think I will make myself useful by getting lunch. That I can do. We are scheduled to have supper with Johnny and Carol Moore (Margaret's sister and husband) tonight in Cleveland. Tomorrow is the Chandler family reunion (Margaret's mother's side of the family), and then we will head home after lunch. It's ok to wake up now. Back home in Pascagoula work crews are heading home today and tomorrow, and then new crews will come in. Next week will be especially heavy with up to 150 workers. It is thrilling to see the work progress and continue. I am just amazed that people are still coming! God is so good and His Family is so awesome! Before we go, please keep my friend Ben Overby in your prayers. If you don't know what he's been doing at Fort Benning the past few years, you have missed out on some news about real ministry. The chaplain at the base has now discontinued Ben's ministry there and he must find a new ministry job soon. He has a great family and I recommend him highly. You can read some about it HERE. Ben stands unique in many ways in our brotherhood ... he is a treasure house of spiritual knowledge and I hope some church will adopt him soon either as minister or in some other capacity. Ben's blog is located HERE.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Wednesday Night on the Coast
The last few days have been an odd combination of getting ready for our session of Gulf Coast Bible Camp, relief work, visitation, and organizing the office. Since the office is semi-functional at this piont, my availability to people will increase. I have already had several great conversations with people and look forward to more. Tonight was just awesome. We had a full house for worship with groups from Lexington, Kentucky, Vernon, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma filling our pews. Chris Robey, youth minister for the Wilbarger Street Church of Christ in Vernon was our speaker. He did an outstanding job. Then a lady from texas and a teen boy from Lexington shared their thoughts about the mission experience with all of us. One of our deacons, Gary Boswell, wrote an awesome song called "They Came" about the hurricane relief workers. He and his friend Rochelle Harper recorded the song. When Marvin Phillips was here last, Gary and Rochelle played and sang the song for him at Gary's house. He took the recording back to Tulsa and someone made a DVD with the song and images from Katrina ... it was awesome. We played it tonight and everyone sat speechless when it was over. What a stirring presentation. I'll talk to Gary about getting that song on the internet somewhere so that you can hear it. I hope by now that everyone has heard Third Day's song "Cry Out To Jesus". It's playing on my computer right now... beautiful....stirring....heartbreaking....hopeful. Tomorrow we will head to North Mississippi for a few days with Maggy's side of the family having a reunion. A couple of prayer requests before closing... Marvin Phillips will have surgery on a coratid artery that is 90% blocked this coming Monday. Susan Carter is having tests run and may have cancer. Her husband, Ron, is an elder with the Hunter Hills Church of Christ in Prattville, AL. Ron and Susan are well known throughout the brotherhood because of their tireless efforts in Honduras, their work as church leaders, and their interest in knowing and loving all people.
Monday, June 05, 2006
No Peg Leg For John....Yet
I enjoyed this morning as I arrived at the building to meet some of the workers here. The past month I've been pretty much out of the scene, missing entire groups, sitting in my chair. Mondays are always so crazy as we get work orders together and try to get the teams organized. A few of the teenagers helped bring books and other materials from upstairs to the church offices. The office area is starting to look like an office again. However, placing the books on the shelves is really a big task - I have a lot of books. I'm culling through the books, and trying to cut down on the number of books. It's hard for me to do, though ... I always think that the book I get rid of will be the one I need next. I believe we were putting sheetrock in three houses today with about 100 workers here. Awesome! I went to the doctor today and let him take a look at my leg. He and I agree that the phlebitis is essentially gone, but there is a great deal of fluid being retained in the leg. There is some discoloration because of blood in the leg or something like that. Anyhow, he gave me a diuretic and thinks that this will end the problem in a few days. As a precautionary measure (and so that the insurance company can be billed), they will do an ultra sound of my leg tomorrow to make sure that there isn't a clot hiding in there. So, no peg leg for me yet. The medicine he gave me has a warning about being in direct sunlight while taking the subscription. Nice. I'm off to Bible camp next week. Guess I can be like Dr. Moreau and come out dressed wrapped in rags and wearing a big hat and whiteface. Chris Robey is here from Vernon, Texas. He will bring the message at the Central Family Devotional Wednesday night. I look forward to hearing this dedicated young brother bring the Word to us. Thanks for reading. I hope that your week is off to a great start and that you will see God's handiwork in your daily routine.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
From Alabama to Mississippi
This morning we began our day with the family of God that worships at the Pleasure Island Church of Christ in Gulf Shores, Alabama. This interesting church is host to an enormous number of visitors each Sunday, because of the vacation setting in which they live. I spoke during the morning class time on the work in Pascagoula. During the worship hour I spoke from Luke 17 about the ten lepers. I enjoyed seeing many faces of people who had been over to help us during the early days right after the storm. A group from this church video taped our home and showed it to the congregation. They have offered us a great deal of support and we are so appreciative. It was great to say "thank you". As an unexpected bonus we ran into old friends there. Toby Hunter and his wife from Belle Chase, LA were there. The Belle Chase church is still meeting, although there are only a few of them at this point. I also saw Allison Jordan and her friend John. I regretted that members Jim and Melody Davis and kids, and Brian and Angel Lamar were at other locations. Maybe I'll catch them on another visit. I did enjoy seeing John Ash and his wife. John serves as one of the elders of the church there. Also Buster Herron and his wife Barbara were there. Buster also serves as an elder of this church. Frank Hughes led energetic singing during worship. Frank has been over to Pascagoula several times and has always been an encourager. He didn't even make fun of me when I accidentally called him "Jack" from the pulpit. I'm not good with names these days! We enjoyed lunch at The Oyster House with our hosts to the right. That's Buster and Barbara Herren with granddauther Katherine, then Monte and Carl Shellenberger. We enjoyed a great meal and great company. Barbara and Monte are very involved in helping the hurricane relief work at Bayou LaBatre. One of the unique features of the Pleasure Island Church of Christ building is the murals that line the hallway of the education wing. Someone with real talent painted these murals depicting Bible stories. What a great way to implant the truth of the gospel in young minds. Mark Jamieson is the minister of this congregation, and Eric Gray is the youth minister. Both are doing an outstanding work. This morning at Central Ron Webb was the preacher. Ron has for many years willingly served the congregations of our area as a fill-in preacher. He preaches a positive and truthful message with great conviction and humor. I hear he had some things to say about me today. I'll have to investigate further. Ron is beloved by Christians in every congregation on this Coast. Church leaders would be remiss to pass up an opportunity to have Ron address the congregation. He has served as a deacon at Central in the past. Ron's health is not as good as he would like it to be, but he continues to serve when he can. His wife Kathy is a friend of many and has a great Home Interiors business. If you are within driving distance of Pascagoula and need a preacher, I can put you in touch with Ron and I will promise you that your church will be blessed. He has performed the weddings of many people, and eulogized the deceased both in and out of the church. Ron has been a friend since the first day we arrived in Pascagoula. That doesn't mean that Ron agrees with everything I think (an endorsement by me is not a favorable thing in some places!), but in expressing himself you can expect kindness and the love of Jesus Christ. We arrived back in Pascagoula this afternoon. For more than nine months my personal library has been in a big stack piled upstairs where I cannot get to it. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will begin moving them downstairs and into the church office. On a personal note, I'll give you a report on my leg tomorrow. Things are not what I wish they were at this point.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Today we mostly rested. We drove down the beach strip to Perdido Key and ate a late lunch at The Reef. John Robert swam in the pool. We could have gone to the beach, but I can't really stand around or walk around there for a long time. The water is beautiful blue-green today and there are lots of people out enjoying themselves. The weather is perfect for a day at the beach. Tomorrow we look forward to meeting with the church here and then heading home. Back in Pascagoula, all of the out-of-town groups left this morning. A new group from Florence, Kentucky came in this afternoon. Crews from Lexington, Kentucky and Tulsa, Oklahoma will arrive tomorrow afternoon. It'll be a pretty busy week on the Coast. Tomorrow Ron Webb will be speaking at Central during morning worship. If you haven't been receiving Al Sturgeon's daily hurricane update, you've been missing a treat. Al is the Preaching Minister for the Ocean Springs Church of Christ. For years before the storm we met weekly for lunch and encouragement and talk about ministry. I miss that more than he knows. Maybe one day we will be able to get back in the groove. But the following story from Al is not only a glimpse of the recovery effort in West Jackson County, it is also a reflection of Al's heart for people. At the end of that story is information on how to subscribe if you would like to do so. This is a great eye-opener about how hurricane relief work touches hearts. **************** Jeanie Gray is just plain sweet. My wife became friends with Jeanie when we opened a business several years ago now, and my wife instantly fell in love with her. Jeanie has a big heart, and it is a good heart. Jody couldnt help becoming her friend. Along the way, we discovered that Jeanie cleaned the house of Hal & Lou Ann Baugh, some of our good friends from church, too. We thought it was ironic the connection that existed there; Jeanie spoke so highly of the Baugh family. When Katrina came, Jeanie and her husband, Scott, decided to stay in the Ocean Beach Estates neighborhood (where my family lived before the storm). They started the storm in a brick house, but when the floodwaters rose, they waded/swam back to their house which was up on pilings. They watched helplessly as their neighbors homes filled with water all around them. As they watched, Jeanie received a text message from a friend about a mile away that they were climbing into their attic as the floodwaters continued to rise. Instantly, Scott and a neighbor got in his boat, and in the middle of a stinking hurricane, took off to rescue their friend. I forget the final count, but Scotts heroics saved the lives of many people (and animals!) during Katrina. When the storm subsided, the entire neighborhood was stranded. Every car had been flooded. When my wife and I drove out on Tuesday to see our house for the first time, we dropped by Scott & Jeanies and heard their story. We went back to the church and loaded up supplies that had miraculously arrived Tuesday morning from Taking It To The Streets ministry in southwest Florida and carried them out to the Grays. Over time, Scott & Jeanie got the shaft from both FEMA and their insurance companies. Eventually, through the generosity of many of you, our church was able to get some financial help to this sweet family. And as we would have suspected, Jeanie was trying to take care of their whole neighborhood, too. So we were also able to help just about her entire neighborhood as well. Scott & Jeanie came to our fellowship night last night with their two sons. They brought desserts. Jeanie had never come to church with us before last night, though she is a religious person. Scott had never been to church in his life. When the slideshow was just getting good and started, Scott had to leave. He just couldnt handle it. But Jeanie stayed. And after the show ended, Peggy Shaw (one of Jeanies new best friends) asked if Jeanie could get up and speak. And she did so in such a powerful way. She told us all that this was the first time her husband had entered a church building, and that it was because of the love he had seen since Katrina. She was so thankful for the seed that has begun to sprout there. And as she cried and thanked us all, she simply said some of the most profound and wonderful things anyone could have ever said. One thing I remember in particular. She told us all that not everyone would thank us for what we might do for others, but the reason is that many do not know how. I thought that was so very true. And I also thought that Jeanie knew how to say thank you better than just about anyone I had ever met. To subscribe, send an email to: OceanSpringsChurchofChristHurricanefirstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, June 02, 2006
From Gulf Shores, Alabama
I'm blogging tonight from Gulf Shores, Alabama. Margaret, John Robert, and I have come to the Alabama Coast to share the story of what is happening in Pascagoula and to thank some people who have helped to make it possible. This Sunday morning I'll be speaking at the Pleasure Island Church of Christ at 9:00 and 10:00. This church was among the first responders to Pascagoula. I remember a group walking through my house with a video camera to show to the congregation. I met minister Mark Jamieson and (I believe) his mother. I talked with his brother on the telephone. Elder John Ash made a visit to Pascagoula, along with his lovely wife. Buster Herron came over and worked not long before he became an elder of the Gulf Shores church. There were others who came, as well, and I will likely recognize their faces long before I will remember their names. It is impossible to mention the wonderful support we received from this congregation without thinking about J. V. Lamar and the crew he brought over. Brother Lamar did an incredible amount of work for many people. His son Brian also did a lot of heavy work. Brian is now a deacon at PICoC. J. V. In cooperation with F. L. Crane and Sons from Fulton, MS, J. V. led the effort to restore six homes. Brother Lamar has since moved his efforts to the helpless community of Bayou LaBatre, Alabama and has made a significant impact in that area. Bayou LaBatre is a fishing village that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The church of Christ had closed its doors some time before Katrina made landfall. (How long? I do not know.) Through his efforts, the church has started meeting again and dozens have been baptized. Hundreds of workers from around the country have worked in that small community. The Pleasure Island Church of Christ - a church that felt the wrath of Hurricane Ivan - was able to sympathize with our plight - and were moved into action. As a matter of prayer, Marvin Phillips was scheduled to speak at Central this Sunday. His doctors have ordered him to cancel this trip due to a blocked artery. He will have surgery Monday and has great prospects of recovery. Please keep him and his family in your prayers. One of our members, Ron Webb, will speak this Sunday at Central. For years Ron has blessed almost every church in our area with messages from the Word of God. I will share more about this brother in an upcoming post. A few sites to check out ... Klay Hall has a blog that's been going since March. He's hoping to come to the Coast and lend a helping hand when he can. Brennan Manning's "The Ragamuffin Gospel" is one of the books that will truly lead you to a turning point in your life if you will read it. He has come out with a "visual edition", which I bought today. You can learn more about it HERE.