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Monday, February 18, 2019

What CAN We Do?

There's been a lot of talk lately ... rightfully so ... concerning abuse and molestation within the SBC family. Stories of large-scale sexual misdeeds within the denomination (the SBC's own website used to use that word, so I will, too ....) have gotten the attention they so richly deserve, but was so sadly avoided, for too many years.

But they're there, like black clouds hanging over the SBC, and will be until we collectively take some action.

Most of what I have heard and read, lately, revolves around the oft-repeated recitations of what the SBC cannot do. But little has been said about what the SBC can do.

So: What can we do, denominationally, to address the problem? Or maybe solve it?

Let's brainstorm a few.

  1. Nothing. We're now witnessing the results of that. Explained by the old mantra about doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.
  2. Explain again that we're all autonomous churches so the SBC itself cannot do anything. See #1 for the expected results.
  3. Re-form as a true Denomination, with the power to mandate what the local church must do. That is not going to happen, and probably needn't, and really shouldn't.
  4. Put some teeth into Peter Lumpkins' Resolution, passed by the 2013 SBC assembled in Houston, calling on all SBC churches to report accusations of abuse to the authorities. Perhaps by declaring that churches which fail to do that will no longer be "In Friendly Cooperation" with the Southern Baptist Convention.
  5. Start that SBC Database of "credibly accused" abusers that Wade Burleson suggested in 2007, but that was rejected by (as I recall) the EC, saying they were powerless to actually do anything with the results (See #2 for details)

Let's speculate about the possible results of #5: Let's say the SBC did start the database, tended to by the employees of the Executive Committee in SBC headquarters in Nashville.

Then notifying the member churches, reminding them of the Lumpkins Resolution, and stating that failure to report abuse or molestation is cause for dismissal from the SBC.

Then, let's say there's such an incident at an SBC Church. The deacons .. or perhaps elders ... decide to quietly dismiss the offender, as has almost always been done by SBC Churches.

Down the road, the abuser repeats his crime at his new place of service. Can you imagine what the plaintiff's attorney would do with that information when he drags the former church into his lawsuit?

Do you think the first church would want that sort of exposure in those following years?

I don't think so. And I don't think the SBC would want it, either. Especially when it could have  done something!

The SBC is not going to re-form as a more conventional denomination, but such a Registry could be done, and done now. Without undue expense.

Particularly when compared with the price of doing nothing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Thursday, February 07, 2019

Organized. Systematized. Routinized.

I have come to feel concerned about one aspect of the organized church's methods of evangelism. And I suppose it stems from the highly unusual way I got saved, myself.

I shall explain.

When I was in the Sixth Grade ... as in the picture over there ... a couple of things were going on that really affected me. One was that Russia had The Bomb, and we knew it. I can even recall air raid drills in Grade School, after WWII was over ... as if sitting in the hall with our arms covering our heads was somehow going to protect us from an atomic blast.

The second thing was that our Air Force began flying Convair B-36 Bombers. They were loaded with nuclear weapons, and flew over the USA all night long (perhaps during the day, too, but I never heard them, then). As we lived in a small house in a suburb of Chicago, and had no air conditioning, we routinely slept with the windows open.

Now the B-36 had a very distinctive droning sound. Eerie, in fact, and particularly to an 11-year-old kid in a suburb of what was assumed to be a target city .... should Russia have decided to attack us, in which case those B-36's would have turned and headed for the Soviet Union. Hearing them fly over us, very high, in the night caused me to worry about what would happen to me if the USSR actually decided to attack us.

After lying in bed many nights, I started worrying about what it would be like to simply not exist. No me ... no consciousness ... no awareness of anything. And that is a depressing thought for an 11-year-old kid. It occurs to me, now, that the fact that we are spiritual beings is behind our inability to imagine not existing. But that was not on my radar at age 11.....

That worry had an effect on my behavior, during the summer of 1949. I was a normally-happy kid, but the juvenile depression had me poking at my food, not talking much, and exhibiting behaviors of that sort.

Now, my dad had been around me enough to know something was wrong, and one evening after I'd poked at my dinner and not eaten much, he came into the darkened living room, where I was sitting, and asked me what was wrong. My response, which is seared into my memory, nearly 70 years later, was "I'm afraid of dying." His response, equally dominant in my memory, was:

"Don't you remember what they told you in Vacation Bible School ... 
if you believe in Jesus, when you die you go to Heaven?" 

I did remember it, and instantly, the fear and the lump in my throat and the weight on my shoulders went away.

Unforgettably! Completely. Instantly! Permanently!

I said, to my dad, "oh YEAH", and ran outside to play with my friends.

A Baker's Dozen years later, married and with a couple kids, we got into church. The first one was not much, spiritually ... I do not remember ever hearing about being "saved" ... but it did get me around seemingly-saved folks, reading the Bible, going to Sunday School, and stuff of that sort.

Then, through a series of providential events, we ended up on the other side of Indianapolis, and in a Bible Study in a friend's living room. It was the first time I had ever really dug into Scripture, and it was filled with overwhelming revelations, for me.

We visited around at different churches, and I ran from altar to altar, looking for some sort of "experience" ... like those I had heard glowingly described by some of my friends. Of course, I didn't find any, but I did eventually come to the conclusion that I really was saved.

I was saved the moment I trusted Jesus!

I didn't know anything about metanoia repentance or the kabod Glory of God. All I knew was that, if I believed in Jesus, He'd take me to Heaven when I died. And that was good enough for me. I trusted Him to do that.

One quote I'd heard in those days, about children who were saved at an early age, was this: "He gave as much of himself as he could give, to as much of Jesus as he could take". BINGO! That's what I had done at age 11! It was almost as if I  had been a fish, caught by the Great Fisher of Men, who looked at me and said "He needs to grow some more", so put me on a stringer and tossed me back into the lake.

When it suited Him, He reeled me back in.

These days, the organized church seems to have organized, systematized, and "routine-ized" salvation ... inside our churches at least ... into "Walk that aisle, say this prayer, fill out this card, and wade into this water". And when I ponder that, I wonder if we are not omitting something that started me on the Right Road when I was eleven years old:

Trusting Jesus.

Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that I'm eternally grateful that the Starting Post, for me, was Trusting Jesus to take me to Heaven when I die.

He can be trusted to do that.

ps: I've seen too many people respond to The Invitation, seeking assurance of salvation, to dismiss my thoughts completely.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Poem Worth Remembering

Only one life;
'Twill soon be past
Only what's done
For Christ will last

In the summer of 1970, Peg and I went on a Missionary Trip ... a Witnessing Crusade ... to Haiti. It was our first such trip, the first time for Peg to give a public testimony, and our first time speaking through an interpreter. 

Needless to say, it was quite an experience.

The trip was sponsored by Men For Missions International, the laymen's voice of the Oriental Missionary Society (now OMS ... One Mission Society). 

While in Haiti, at the missionary compound at Vaudreil, our leader was Dave Graffenberger, who told us the little poem shown above. It had impacted the lives of some OMS missionaries, and had been important to him. And I've never forgotten it.

That's been 49 years ago, and I've always remembered it, although its reality, and its importance, have recently boomed loud in my own life.

I started my Insurance career as a mailboy for an insurance company, in April, 1958, subsequently retiring in February of 2008. And, during that time, I accomplished quite a bit:

  • Career progress: I went from mailboy to accounting clerk; then to underwriter trainee; subsequently underwriter on large commercial properties in Indianapolis; to underwriting supervisor for an insurance company; to Insurance Agent; to Agency Manager for 3 offices in central Indiana; to VP of Marketing for a nationwide Agency network, to Surplus Lines Broker here in Pelham, from which I retired.
  • Via personal friendships made in Indiana, I saved a multi-million-dollar program for my employer here in Pelham.
  • As a result of attending a Convention in Connecticut, I suggested a new form of insurance for Jewelers, to my boss, who ironed out the details with our insurers, and activated the new program 30 days later. It gave us an inherent advantage over our competitors.
  • In 1966, the insurer I worked for decided to buy a computer, and let employees take a test to determine who would become DP Manager for the company. I scored highest of 400+ employees, and in one of my wiser (yeh right) decisions, decided to stay in the insurance business.
  • Got the highest score in the nation on a Professional Exam in 1965, out of 2,000+ examinees.  Which won me a trip to Chicago (from Indianapolis) and a Savings Bond.

There's more ... expectedly so in a career of nearly half a century. But there is an overriding point in reciting all this:
  • The insurers I worked for? All are out of business. Gone. Defunct.
  • The "multi-million-dollar program"? Long gone, swallowed up by the Insurance Company that bought out my employer, and subsequently went bankrupt.
  • The new form of insurance? Gone, along with all the others we marketed.
  • The insurer that offered me the DP Manager's position? Out of business, long ago.
  • The Certificate and the U.S. Savings Bond I won all those years ago? History now.
So these days, what does my mind wander to when I'm trying to fall asleep? HINT: It has nothing to do with the things cited above, or with my career at all (and I'd have a LOT to mull over, having given speeches and done seminars all over the country). It's what's happened to me as I served the Lord!

Plus: Many of the things I did in my career, and even in church work, I can no longer do. I could not, for example, fly to 3 cities in 3 days and put on day-long seminars, formerly a routine activity. Nor could I go on a church mission trip and help dig and pour a new sidewalk at a church in Atmore, Alabama. Or install windows in a small church in another country.

But reflecting on the young lady who was saved in a living room one evening, when I scrapped the FAITH dissertation and just talked to her ... or the 6 ladies who prayed to be saved, in Nassau ... or the 6 young felons who prayed to be saved in that prison in Plainfield, IN ..... or maybe the Baggage Handler in the airport in Nassau, who also prayed.

You get the picture.

I must also note that I did precisely NONE of those things, myself. It was God Who gave ALL that "increase", as He said He would do, in 1 Corinthians 3:6.

 The only regret in all those years? That I didn't do more.

And, the poem above? It is as true as true can be. I have actually, at age 80, BTDT.....

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Happiest of New Years.

Peg was on the phone this morning, talking to one of her sisters. As I was sitting in the Living Room, there, looking around, I was struck by something that really warmed my heart.

There's a lot of stuff in the picture, and I don't know if it all can be called a blessing from God. But my, my ... what blessings the stuff reminds me of.

  • The stockings on the mantle: They hint at the family we're blessed with. Sons, Grandchildren, Great Grandchildren, and even a Granddaughter's sister and her offspring. We were all here, celebrating Christmastime, a couple of days ago. And it was an absolutely delightful mess! Plus, the fact that the 15 of us all sat, talked and played, opening presents, in our Living Room, tells me what a blessing we have in the home we own. 
  • The little stuffed doggie on the hearth: 20+ years ago, when Mom died, I inherited her 15 or 20 stuffed animals. Subsequent to that, Peg would buy me more, to add to my collection. I even featured the doggie in a blog post, many years ago.
  • The cars on the shelves over there: Our younger son, while traveling to 49 states in his job tending to bank computer programs, used to bring me 1:18 scale car models from all over the country. A result of that is a collection of about 100 (mostly) Ferraris and other exotic cars.
  • I bought a few of those models, myself. Several from the local Sharper Image store, which that younger son's wife managed. One, I bought during a tour of the Audi Factory in Ingolstadt, Germany, and one in the BMW factory in Munich ,,, during visits with friends there in Germany. And they also remind me of the visit to the Dachau Prison Camp, Hitler's Kehlsteinhaus ... The  "Eagle's Nest" ... and the Nazi Documentation Centre at the foot of Kehlstein Mountain in Obersalzburg.
  • The little read stool/bench with the Alabama logo. I made it from the last remaining wood from the big cabinet housing dad's Wurlitzer Home Theater Horseshoe Electronic Organ. It had quit working, was not practical to repair .... especially considering that a $150 Electronic Keyboard can now do a lot more than the Wurlitzer could when it worked ... so I dismantled it and kept the bench. I also made similar stool/benches with Auburn and Braves colors and logos, and the 3 are reminders of the times Dad and I spent together, playing stuff in an accordion/organ duet. Plus, the Great Grandkids routinely sit on them when playing with toys on the big tables.
  • The bald eagle painting on the fireplace: A reminder of how Dad loved the nation and its symbols. Especially so the Eagle. I'd mentioned that to my friend Tom Kimbrough, whose wife was a painter. As a result, she sent Dad a print of her Eagle painting, which Mom gave me after Dad's death. And if you can see it, there's also a little statue of the Eagle, atop the shelves with all the car models, which was also Dad's.
  • The toys in the plastic boxes: they are there primarily for our Great-Grandsons. But the three neighbor kids from across the street, come over occasionally to play, because they know they're welcome and we have lots of toys! And ... their mother is from Enid, OK, and her parents are members of Emmanuel Enid, where my good friend Wade Burleson serves as Pastor.
  • The fireplace itself, which really grabbed me when I first walked into that living room. And the recesses on each side, with all those plants growing there. Reminding me that only God can give that increase. Also, hanging in those recesses, are ceramic birds from Cancun and bells from Latvia and other places we've visited. And one set of bells was brought to use by a wonderful young lady from Latvia, a friend who came to visit us here, a couple of times.
  • And, saving the best for last, my wife of 59+ years, talking to her sister in Indiana. We'll have been married 60 years on next March 13th .... yes, we were married on Friday the 13th ... and without her I would doubtless be in a Homeless Shelter. Or in Prison.
There's more, of course, but what I've mentioned is enough to remind me that everything I have ... make that every thing I see ... reminds me of how great God is, and what wonderful care he's taken ... and is taking ... of me.

And how He loves me.

If this doesn't make for a Happy New Year, nothing ever will.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Seeds and Water .....

I was born in 1938, while my parents were living in Calumet City, IL. A suburb of Chicago, Cal City had a smarmy reputation, well deserved, but it was a terrific place to grow up.

Among other things, whatever racial tolerance I have today, I learned there, amid the largely Polish, Italian, Jewish and Catholic population (the city of 13,800 had several dozen Catholic churches).

After my Freshman year in High School, dad's job took us to Indianapolis, where Mom & Dad had been raised. The house in the photo above is where we landed when we moved, in May of 1953.

My first glimpse of the home, as we first approached it, was from just about the position in the photo. And what I saw then bears little resemblance to what you see in the picture. The house has been painted, the garage moved, the driveway is totally new, and much other plant growth has occurred..

When we first saw him, Dad was mowing the front yard ... with a motorized sickle bar ... the yard being quite long with grass and weeds. Also there were two saplings, lying on the ground, little bigger around than my thumb.

A few days later, I helped dad plant them.

Those saplings are, today, the two biggest trees in the photo.

Trivial fact: The house to the right of ours was owned by Ed Tudor, owner of Regency Electronics, They manufactured the world's first Transistor Radio, in 1954, after developing it in partnership with Radio Shack.

The trees grew because, most directly, Dad and I planted them ... as had the landscaper from whom Dad bought them. Subsequently, God fed them and watered them.

For 65 years.

The photo reminded me of what the Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth, in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: 

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave growth. So then neither the one who plants, nor the one who waters, is anything, but only God Who gives the growth."

We are, in our humanity, eager to see the results of that we do, here on earth, in the Lord's service. But I am forced to ask: Is God less diligent in what He does, in response to what we do for Him here on earth, than He is with two saplings planted by a Dad and his 14-years-old son?

I don't think so! In fact, He has promised that if we plant and water, He will give the growth!

The meaning of that is full of meaning, to me. It tells me that the things I do here must be done in faith that God will do His part, if we will do ours. Complete with a promise to bring results He sees as best. And I lean on that promise!

I cannot know what's the best outcome in my work here, which is affirmed in another promise He made. Jeremiah 33:3:

"Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things you know not"

As with the trees, we may never see the results of our work here. But that's OK with me! It tells me that even our service for Him must be done in faith. Faith in is ability to use our efforts to bring results we know not. And God, when He so chooses, can easily lift the veil and show us the results of what we did for Him.

After all, Romans 8:26 says we don't even know how to pray as we ought. Thankfully, He has His Holy Spirit intercept our prayers and translate them into what we'd pray if we knew what He knows.

I like how He does trees. Even more how He brings results to our efforts here.

Whether He shows us the results, or not.

Friday, December 21, 2018

It's All About The Light

I took this picture while sitting at our Breakfast Table a couple of days ago. Hey, it's winter, I had surgery a couple weeks ago, and I'm not up to much beyond squeezing a shutter release button.

I snapped the pic because I'd noticed something I'd seen thousands of time before (We've lived here nearly 36 years). Namely, that the branches are really twisted and seemingly misshapen.

Naturally, my next step was to Google "Why are tree branches crooked?". The answer I found, which is what I thought it'd be, was interesting.

Before Bill Humphreys launched our subdivision, it was really heavily wooded. There were 50+ trees in the lot across the street which were knocked down some years after we moved here. And we lost dozens of trees off our lot, as well.

Tornadoes are a bad deal. Trust me.

In any event, the limbs seem, at once, beautiful, strange, and ugly. Until I understood that they were simply following the light, many years ago, as they grew. Then, they made sense. And, after all these years, and storms, they are still there, just as they grew all those years ago.

At that point of realization, my thoughts turned to The Spiritual. And shortly to two different aspects of that.

The first is, God's word is a lamp unto our feet. God lights the way for us, if we will only follow that light! As He is the inventor of the universe and directly or indirectly all that is in the universe, common sense would seem to dictate that He knows best how we should live. And since God loves us ... and I am unsure that any of us fully understand the depth of that love ... then common sense also dictates that He wants us to live a life of real fulfillment.

Then the other aspect hit me. Jesus said He is the light of the world, and He wants to so inhabit our life that His light will show through us. Try to wrap your mind and your heart around that!

Imagine the President called you one day .... if you don't like him, then pick someone you do like .... and ask to run an errand for him. He had a check for $100,000,000 for Puerto Rico (or perhaps the Gulf Coast Cities hit by the hurricane) and he wants you to deliver it. So he sends the Air Force One 747 to pick you up, fly you to the recipients' location, and present the check.

You fly there and there's the Governor of Puerto Rico, or perhaps Florida & Alabama, and you step out onto a platform and present the funds, amid crowds cheering, Brass Bands playing, and the Press snapping your pictures. If you're at all like me, you'd be happy to run that errand, and feel honored to do so.

Even though it wasn't your idea or your money!

If that strikes any sort of chord with you, just imagine that it was God, rather than a politician, who made that call to you. Who asked you to run an errand for Him. To represent Him personally in something He wanted done. What a privilege that would be!

Make that "What a privilege that is!"

Our lives are about following the light God gives us. And following the Light that is Jesus. Chances are good that our lives may seem twisted, to the world ... see Jim Elliot for details ... but that really shouldn't matter to us. What matters is that our lives look straight to The Light.

The One Who made the world.

And lives in us.