Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Keeping The First Thing First?

It constantly surprises me that the SBC, collectively, doesn't seem to be able to keep the main thing the main thing.

What's the main thing? Making disciples.

Isn't that the "Great Commission"? To go into all the world and make disciples? And doesn't "disciple" mean student or learner?

Everyone seems to acknowledge that the majority of the 16,000,000+/- members, whom the SBC claims, aren't coming to church any more. But they don't seem to want to accept that as a failure to carry out the great commission.

Sure seems to me it is.

A couple of years ago, the Alabama Baptist ... our state Southern Baptist newspaper ... published a display of numbers for church membership and attendance, by county, for Alabama. There were many denominations included in the total, but they also set out the SBC's numbers separately. So ... it was really easy to enter the numbers for the 6 big population centers into a spreadsheet, let it subtract out the Baptists, show the percentage of membership represented by attendance, and then compare them. The results were most interesting.

According to my figures, in the million or so church members in those 6 areas, attendance for Baptists was 33.28%, whereas the other reporting denominations was 53.97%. And as if the numbers themselves weren't depressing enough, it should be mentioned that attendance includes visitors, and children too young to be members. Like infants and toddlers, and some other young'uns.

There's a lot of talk about programs to get people in. But I think it was the Internet Monk, some years ago, who said that's like owning a hospital that loses 2/3 of its patients and thinking the solution is to add more beds. Or maybe start more hospitals.

If our churches were businesses that collectively had 16 million employees, and only 1/3 of them showed up for work, the first thing that'd happen is heads would roll in the HR department. It'd be painfully obvious that they weren't doing their job in hiring the right people, and were also failing to train them once on the job.

It doesn't take a lot of grey matter to figure out what the church equivalent of that, is.  

There's a local church that you may have heard of, that's had pretty fair success at getting people in the door, keeping them coming back, and discipling them. It's the Church of the Highlands.

Get this:

  • After starting in January 2000 as a bible study in the pastor's home, they officially kicked off as a church the next month, February of 2000. A few hundred were there.
  • That same month, our church moved into its new building. We had attendance of 900-1000. And occasionally topped 1000 in the new building. 
  • In 2014, the Church of the Highlands has on the order of 20,000 members, 10 locations, and attendance of around 22,000. They have more members, and candidates for membership going through the introductory process, than they do absentees, apparently.
  • This year, our church is running 700-800 in attendance, and just went over 3000 enrollment in Sunday School. 

I am struck by those numbers. After looking over their material, it's obvious to me that the other church mentioned has been built upon, and continues to operate under, a system which puts people expressing an interest in membership, into a track to grow them into valuable servants of Jesus, in the local church. In fact, they call it their "Growth Track". Simply from looking at the results, and also from talking to members, the conclusion is obvious:

It works.

I have wondered for several  years why the SBC wouldn't address this. They do have some requirements for churches to participate in the SBC, but they have nothing to do with whether they are succeeding or failing at making disciples.

And lest you say that we have to make converts first before they can become disciples, check out Acts, Chapter 19. Paul tells of finding some disciples at Ephesus, who hadn't heard about the Holy Spirit. When they said they were baptized into John's baptism, Paul told them about the coming of Jesus and then baptized them, and something remarkable happened. So they were referred to as disciples before they heard of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, seemingly.

Look at it this way: Why would God want to send us more candidates for membership? Doesn't He know what our track record is? 

I think I know why nobody wants to broach the subject, though. To tell the SBC assembled that it's failed at making disciples is to tell a lot of pastors that they've got it wrong.

I don't blame anyone for not wanting, personally, to do that to several thousand messengers.

But I'm pretty convinced of one thing: if we don't fix that ... and I mean get some kind of system convention-wide, in which local churches verify new members' salvation, determine their Spiritual gifting, educate them as to the church and its operation, and get the members into an area of service corresponding to their interests and gifts, then we're never going to solve the percentages I mentioned.

Which make us look bad enough already.

Without even looking at trends over the past dozen years.

Friday, July 04, 2014

We Keep the Pictures. But We Throw Away the Scoresheets.

Peg and I have been married for a few months more than 55 years. That is a bit unusual, today ... perhaps because lots of folks don't get married so young and then live this long ... but regardless, we do seem to be somewhat of an exception to the norm.

That really stands out in light of the fact that we don't hang around old people very much. Peg has always had a burden to mentor younger ladies ... as the Bible instructs ... and I have always been drawn to younger married couples, and passing on all the things I've learned over the years, that they haven't seen yet.

You know .. the old bit about getting your good judgment from your experience, but your experience from your bad judgment.

Then there's the more recently-realized fact that Jesus came to make an abundant life available to us, and just like a devoted parent buying presents for his children, he wants us to want that abundant life. And, that comes from simply doing what He said to do. Being what He enables us to be. That seems evident to me in a brief passage in John 14 ... Jesus speaking ... in which He said:

  • Verse 21: "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me"
And then again ... 

  • Verse 23: "Anyone who loves me will obey My teaching." 

It seems to me that obeying His commands is a matter of doing what He said to do, or not doing what He said not to do, but obeying His teachings seems more a matter of who we are and how we live and what our motivations are ... as pointed out in Proverbs 16:3.

Part of the abundant life is heeding all the instructions in the Bible about how to be married. How to live in a marriage of obedience to God.

One thing that comes to mind is that, every morning after breakfast, Peg and I play a game of Phase 10. It's a game with 10 dice, in which we score points by rolling various combinations, called "Phases". The scoresheets that came with the game were miniscule, not well suited to a hamhanded guy like yours truly, so our younger son Brad made us one in XCel. It features 8 scoring columns, so it's good for 4 games for Peg & me. 

Sometimes, one of us will win all 4 games on a sheet, other times a 3/1, 2/2, 1/3, or 0/4 split the other way.  It's a lot of fun. But when the 4th game is over, we always throw away the score sheet. 

See, it's not about who won or lost, but the joy of the company and the fun of playing (and sometimes the incredibly ironic things that can happen). 

That seems Biblical. 1 Corinthians 13 puts it as follows:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs."

We don't need no stinkin' records. We just need the fun of the company and the game.

We started taking photographs pretty early in our marriage. So we've got a lot of great memories captured permanently on film ... and in electrons. My "Pics" folder, and the Alaska Trip folder, contain 40,634 pictures. They are, almost without exceptions, representative of happy moments. You may have seen some of them on Facebook; I put some interesting or unique pictures up there, usually from some other area, now & then.

Here's an example, taken in April of 2000, leaning on a fence which was keeping us from falling into a 2000' ravine in the French Alps. That causes some folks to wonder if we're spending all our time, traveling, which we're not. I'm just dredging up old photos. And old happy memories. 

Can you see the wisdom in what God said? Keeping no record of wrongs? As the Apostle Paul told the Philippians:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ... if anything is excellent or praiseworthy ... think about such things.

Paul sure knew what He was talking about. Which is why The Author included it in The Book.

So. Throw out the scorecards. And hang onto ... and look at ... those photos.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On Elephants, Hot Tubs, and the Danger of Outliving Usefulness

There's a connection, I promise.

First, elephants: it's been stated that the way one eats an elephant is one bite at a time. I've used that analogy in the past, here, and it came to mind again, today.

We've had a hot tub on our back deck for perhaps 25 years. When my Mom was living with us, she was impressed by how much good Peg said she'd gotten from the hot tub at her sister's time share on Hilton Head (no, I never get to go....), and decided she'd get a hot tub and have it installed for Peg. My parents were always really bats about Peg, from the first time I ever introduced them, and Peg really went out of her way to make a home for her, here with us, after Dad died in 1988.

Above is a picture I took after we'd ripped off some of the case that the tub was sitting in. And when I took the picture, a couple things occurred to me; more on that subject later.

We enjoyed the tub for many years, but then it began breaking down now and then. The last time we had it fixed, it actually cost more than the tub had originally cost. So, the last time it quit working, and in light of the fact that we were getting older ... generally considered a good thing ... plus, it was getting harder to get in and out of the thing, we decided we wouldn't fix it. And that was perhaps 7 or 8 years ago.

We finally mentioned to our younger son Brad, that we were thinking of getting rid of it. The real problem with that was that the tub was a bit over 8' square, 4' tall, and sat on a screened-in deck with the largest opening being the screen door. Brad said that wouldn't stop him, by golly; he'd just come over, saw it up, and cart it off to the dump for us. And that's precisely what he and Connie, his bride, did last Tuesday.

That's a picture taken after removal of several of the elephant-bite-sized chunks of ex-hot-tub.

After it was all removed, we also took down the benches I'd built around it. As the outside of the walls around the tub have vertical cedar siding on the outside, and I didn't feel like ripping that out to install more screens, we took the wood from the benches and nailed it up .. along with a couple new boards .. to make a new wall. That formed a neat little protected area, into which we could now put our deck table and some chairs, for those occasional days when the temperature is conducive to eating out on the deck.

Here's the result:

I observed several shall we say philosophical truths as they were deconstructing and replacing the hot tub installation.

  • When something's outlived its usefulness, it can be quite a mess to get rid of.
  • Getting rid of it is apt to be a bigger job than starting it in the first place.
  • Getting rid of stuff may involve more people than starting it ever did.
  • Using materials and space and time more wisely can leave you a lot better off than you were, before.

That made removing the tub, which had outlived its usefulness, worthwhile. And that got me to thinking about other things. Like church.

I wonder how many things we do, how many procedures we follow, how many programs we have, that have outlived their usefulness.

And I was also reminded of a talk given some years ago by Paul Burleson, at a meeting we both attended. He talked about confusing form with function. When your forearm itches, you scratch it. With your other hand, usually involving fingernails. But if your hand is otherwise occupied, say holding something, you may rub the itch with your wrist, or you may rub your arm against a table or something.   

He tied that in with saying grace at a meal. We all have customs ... holding hands, and bowing, etc, or whatever ... but the objective is to thank God. And my most memorable case of saying grace was the following morning, when Paul and I had breakfast and toasted King Jesus with raised glasses of orange juice. And loud proclamations of the goodness of our Savior. 

I'll never forget that.

Perhaps it is, that churches start "programs" to deal with perceived problems and then carry them on, long after the need has passed. They continue to follow the "forms" they've established, when the function is no longer needed.

I heard once of a position in the Government service in Great Britain; the position was guard at the cliffs of Dover. Their sole responsibility was to watch for, and warn of, the approach of Napoleon's Navy.

The position was abolished, as I recall, in the 1950's.

Let's hope that our churches are filled with people in positions that are productive, and that the operations they see to will be abolished when no longer needed. Even if it's painful.

Needless to say, so should the SBC and its various entities, where the need and the results are obscure enough that we are forced to rely on the trustees to do what's wise, even if it means working themselves out of a job.

I don't think we need fear Napoleon's Navy any more. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Grate Answer. And Great Answers.

The strip running across the end of the concrete there is a metal grating.

Following is a brief explanation.

The lot on which our house is situated slopes down, from left to right. the house is one story on the left, but is two-story on the right; the basement is a walk-out finished "apartment" ... for lack of a better term ... temporarily occupied by our granddaughter and her new hubby.

There's a driveway on each side of the house, and it runs behind the house, down to the gravel drive you see. Naturally, there's a lot of water running down it when it rains, and with the septic tank located at the far right edge of the picture, we thought it a good idea to channel the water away from that. So I built a channel about 5" deep across the end, open at the ends to channel the rain either into a drainpipe at the left, or out into the woods at the right.

The problem has been that I haven't found a way to successfully cover the channel. I tried all kinds of things with 1X4', 2X4', wire mesh and what-not, but nothing worked. Then, I noticed that there were some reinforcing bars kind of buried in the leaves by the driveway, so I dug them out. There were six of them, twenty feet long. They'd been left over when we had the concrete wall built, the very end of which can be seen at the far right of the photo.

Hmm ... being somewhat of a tool packrat, I also have a welder and a metal-cutting chop saw, so figured I'd get to work. In one brief day, I cut the re-bar into lots of shorter pieces, and welded up the grating shown. [

It works like a charm. My welds are even holding!

And that got me to thinking. That wall was built in 2002, so those re-bars have been sitting there for 12 years now, while I messed around trying to solve the driveway water runoff problem. But when I looked around and saw what I really had, it took a short day's work to solve a problem I'd had for as long as we'd had the driveway.

That got me to pondering: think of the average Christian. He has Christian friends, a church, plenty of stuff around him, a pastor who probably likes to minister, and also the Bible. Not to mention a Savior who died to present us with (the ability to have) an abundant life, and the Holy Spirit to guide us into it.

Too often, I fear, they're like my 12-year-old reinforcing bars. They're lying alongside my well-traveled ways, covered by the other stuff in my life, and unnoticed all the while because of that aforementioned other stuff..

Even though, all these years, I had the tools in the other room, that I could have used, to deal with all those problems.

It was that way for too long, in my own life. I hope it's not, in yours.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The True Colors of the Church

The true colors of the church ... including a church in particular ... don't show up so much when attendance and offerings are up. When things are going swell. No, they're more apt to show forth when times get tougher. When change occurs. When the future becomes less predictable; predictable in our minds, at least.

When the status becomes less quo, so to speak.

FBC Pelham is facing such a time right now. I'm trusting all is and will be well.

Last Sunday was the last sermon Dr. Michael E. Shaw will ever preach as the Pastor of FBC of Pelham. He's retiring as of month's end, after 35 years as our Pastor.

Peg and I have been there for 33 of those 35, by the way.

The "success" of the church in persisting in its duties and its calling during the coming months while we experience well-qualified preachers bringing God's word as "pulpit supply" for a time, followed by leadership by an excellent interim pastor, will depend on the church itself. The people called to the assembly.

1 Corinthians 12 has a lot to say about this. We are a body, assembled with people God has placed in our midst, each one gifted to the task God has in mind for them. What happens over the next few months as our Pastor Search Committee labors to connect with God's man for our pulpit, will depend on how faithful our membership is to fulfill its God-ordained responsibilities.

I've always found it funny ... what the Bible mentions as the first "Spiritual Gift". It's not what I would have expected. As Exodus 31 says: "Then the Lord said to Moses, "See, I have chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled Him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts....."".

Hmmm .. arts & crafts, a Spiritual Gift? Makes sense to me if you consider the task of the "church" at that time ... to build the Tabernacle. All those skills would be needed. So I am confident that whatever our church needs to prosper Spiritually during this time of new directions has already been lavished on the people who fill our pews. It's up to each of us to see that the work of our assembly continues uninterrupted. And even to prosper.

Incidentally, I refer to Bro. Mike as our pastor. Not Lead Pastor, Senior Pastor, or anything of the sort. As my best friend once said, a church has one pastor. Everybody from the oldest to the youngest should know "He's my pastor....".

I look forward to FBC's next pastor. Here's hoping we'll be ready for him.

Monday, May 26, 2014

CB Said It But It Needs To Be Said Again

My best friend in the world ... family excepted ... is CB Scott. He's been that, for nearly 8 years now.

He wrote a post that's just been put up at SBC Voices but it needs to be repeated again and again. Herewith is CB's observations on Memorial Day: 

America is at war. As of yesterday, 05-24-14, the number of men and women of the American Armed Forces who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan was 6,805. It is highly possible that before anyone reads this post another father or mother will be notified that their daughter or son will not be coming home. Another young wife or husband may get the news that his or her spouse paid the ultimate price. A little boy may learn that his daddy will never coach him in Little League again. Some little girl may come to the realization that when she gets ready to go to her high school prom, her mother will not be helping her pick out her dress or help her put on her makeup.

Yes, America is at war. However, that should not be a surprise to any of us. Truthfully, there has never been a time when either a great number or a small group of Americans were not engaged in a combative posture with an enemy of this nation we call The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. There is no glamour in war no matter the size, no matter the cause.

Nonetheless, it is my opinion that war does become necessary in the human experience. War is necessary to maintain the kind of freedom such a nation as ours has enjoyed from the time of its birth.

Freedom is a very costly commodity. Therefore, I believe it to be proper and right to take a day and remember those who have given their lives to keep America free-to protect our way of life. I thank God for every man or woman who went into harm’s way and gave their lives. I thank God for those of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corp who have paid the highest price for freedom. And yes, I thank God for every American Operative, Contractor, and Mercenary who fought and died in places snakes and dogs won’t crawl that will never be reported or have their names written on a wall or monument to protect the interest of this country and the freedom if its citizens in foreign lands.

I am an American and I am not ashamed to be one. I will never back down from flying Old Glory, pledging allegiance, or singing God Bless America in church on Sunday morning in honor of our sons and daughters who gave their all for this country. By the providence of Holy God I am blessed to have been born here and I will never cease to thank Him for all He has given me as a citizen of this nation.

Beyond thanking God to be an American, I thank Him for Jesus who rescued me from the wrath I so greatly deserve. I thank Jesus who gave His all that I might have life and life eternal. There is no greater freedom than that freedom wrought by the blood of the Lamb. Today, I sang God Bless America and I thanked God for those who died to keep my nation free. I also sang Amazing Grace and I thanked God for the Soul Cleansing Blood of the Lamb. The day will come when there is no America for which to thank God. However, there will never be a time to cease thanking God for the ultimate sacrifice, that of His Only Begotten Son. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I see. ‘Twas blind, but . . .”

In Christ Free,


Amen, CB; Brother, Friend.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

When Heaven and Earth Collide; A Review of a Book and a Pastor

I just finished reading "When Heaven and Earth Collide ... Racism, Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus". Its Author is Alan Cross, a pastor in Montgomery, AL, who happens also to be a personal friend. But before my observations of what I saw in the book, a few notes about the author.

I met Alan in 2006 or 2007, as we were involved in some mutual projects involving Bloggers and the SBC. Shortly after, in February 2007, Alan slept on a cot in our hotel room ... at a Baptist Identity Conference at Union University ... that CB Scott and I had reserved. Alan had gotten there late and found there was no room in the inn.....

Not long thereafter, my nephew John, from Indianapolis, mentioned he was going to be spending many months at the Command & War College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, and asked if I knew a good church he could attend while he was there. I told him about Alan and Gateway Baptist; he soon went to Montgomery to see if he could find an apartment, and visited Gateway.

The next day, he signed a lease on an apartment a block from Gateway, and became an integral part of the church for over a year. In fact, John had been in an AG Church, and was amazed at the love and grace he found at Gateway. It changed his life.

Alan and I have visited any number of times, we've been to Gateway ourselves, and I can tell you with certainty that, despite his youth, he's the real deal.

His book was prompted because he's a pastor in Montgomery, a place most important in the reforming of race relations in the USA, and the longer he was exposed, the more he wondered how the Evangelical community there could have stood silent in the face of many of the things ... both reported and unreported ... of which he kept learning. Hence, in 2010, he started writing about it.

The book itself: Divided into two general parts .. "Part 1: Earth; The Story" and "Part 2: Heaven & Hope: The Kingdom of God".

Part 1 begins with the story of the Freedom Riders coming to Alabama, and the things that took place immediately. It is, frankly, uncomfortable reading about some of those things, perpetrated by folks who were ostensibly in their own churches the following Sunday. And as evidence of the scope of the book, I offer the Chapters themselves:

  • Part 1:
  1. Freedom Riders
  2. Evangelicals and Southern Civil Religion (and yes the title is accurate)
  3. The Subversion of Christianity (again, accurate)
  4. Southern Religion: Greek Philosophy or Christianity (an eye-opener)
  5. Civil Rights: Broken Trust and Missed Opportunity
  6. What If the Church Had Been Different?
  7. Five Cultural Platforms
  • Part 2:
   8: What Would Jesus Have Done?
   9: The Better Way of Jesus
  10: The Church

There's also an Epilogue, "Freedom Riders and Praying Christians, Fifty Years Later", and also a Foreword by Dwight McKissic (which ought to tell you something).

In general, the book is extremely interesting. It sheds so much new light on old problems that it took me some time to plow through it and make all the connections.

Also, Part 1 is very "dense", packed with an abundance of information I hadn't known, before reading the book. I'd sit down to read and find that I'd read 4 or 5 pages and then have to put it down and just ponder it for a while. Reason: I simply could not proceed without examining my own life, my church involvement, and compare it with the truth revealed in it.

More specifically, Chapter 1 was pretty much a news report on the events associated with the Freedom Riders, but was punctuated with the 2 separate realizations: that white evangelical (supposed) Christians were in the mob trying to exact blood from the riders and their protectors, and: the Church ... the Body of Christ ... stood by and largely did nothing. I'm ashamed to admit I'd never thought of that, before.

Chapters 3,4, and 5 explain, in plain English, how that happened. And in the doing, largely explain what's wrong with the Church today.

The SBC leadership would do very, very well to read this book. It'll be a tough row to hoe, trying to "fix" the SBC with its declining baptisms, unless we know what's really wrong with the whole society, and the whole societal church in general.

Chapters 6 and 7 set forth how things might have been, and still should be, done.

Part 2 is an easier read, as he paints a picture ... accurate, to me ... of what Jesus would have done and how His way was, and certainly is, today, the Better Way mentioned in the title. And if many readers are like me, they're going to think "How on earth do we get there from here?"

On a personal level, I have asked one of our key Sunday School leaders ... a bright young black lady ... to help me start some sort of outreach program to the black community, for people who might find our Bible Study interesting. In reading the book, I was convicted that I could scarcely criticize the abuses perpetrated by the white Southern Evangelical community, if I wasn't willing to do something ... something ... myself.

As they say, all that's necessary for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing.

Personally, I believe every Pastor should read this book, Southern or not. It reveals so many things about the church and its condition today, that will be mandatory to know, if those guiding the church ever hope to fix what's wrong today. Including the things they don't even know are wrong.

I'm not a professional critic, or analyst of journalism. But I've read a fair number of books in 76 years, and can tell you I don't read many of them twice. This one, I will.

Density and all.


"When Heaven and Earth Collide .. Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus", by Alan Cross, published by New South Books, Montgomery; The book may be ordered from Amazon or direct from New South at

p.s.: Read this book and you'll probably never say, hear, or read the "Lord's prayer" the same way, again.

The Word Is "Dead"

Way back when we first joined FBC Pelham, perhaps 32 years ago, I recall something our pastor said, as if it were yesterday. He said it on the occasion of the death of one of our best-known members, in a tragic accident caused by a drunk driver.

He said that the police had contacted him for the family notification, and he'd gone with the officer. The widow knew something was drastically wrong, as they rang her doorbell close to midnight on a Friday night. What Brother Mike said that struck me was that he had told her that her husband was dead. Not gone to heaven, not with Jesus now, not gone to his eternal reward, but dead.

He said it is very important that they hear, and deal with, the fact that someone has died. That he is dead.

Ever since that day, I've been particularly alert to the euphemisms people say ... those in the Christian community ...when someone dies. I'm sure you've heard them all.

When I got to pondering the issue, I decided I'd prefer to take the view that God does, on the matter of death. And particularly so, in light of the fact that about the third verse I ever memorized, in 1969, was Hebrews 9:27-28:

"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."    

So God says that He has set up, for us, an appointment to die. And in the context of the two verses, He did that for people He loves.

If He says "die", I think I will, too.

Then there's always Psalm 116:15:

"Precious in the sight of the Lord, is His Godly ones."

God says our dying is precious to Him. He doesn't call it something else. And if He doesn't, then His language is fine with me. I mean, why would be even want to call it something else?

Perhaps it is that, despite all our talk about faith and the assurance of Heaven, with all the promises of what a ..... well, heavenly .... place it will be, we really don't want to think about it. Don't want to use that word. 

I think that may be the case. And I may be in a little different situation than most. I wasn't saved over conviction of sin, or the promise of a terrific life and relationship down here. I got saved because I was afraid of dying.

Picture the end of WW2. Russia had the bomb, we knew it, and we lived in a suburb of Chicago. Small house, no A/C, the middle of summer, and Air Raid Shelter signs up all over. Newspapers saying the best place to be would be ground zero, since the suffering would all be over for you. Casual remarks from adults like "Nuthin' sure but death and taxes", often followed by laughter.

And then me, lying in my bed at night, listening to the sound of bombers flying over Chicago, apparently very high. Wondering if they were Russians coming over to kill me. Feeling relief only when the sound began to fade. And wondering what it would be like to die.

That fear ended in about 1948, when I was about 10. Dad asked me what was wrong, as he'd seen me moping around, poking at my food, etc. When I said "I'm afraid of dying", he said "Don't you remember what you heard in Vacation Bible School ... if you believe in Jesus, when you die you go to heaven".  Instantly, the lump in the throat and the hollowness in the chest went away, and I ran outside to play.

By the way, it took a long time to realize that was actually when Jesus had saved me ... the moment I first trusted Him.

Ever since that day over 65 years ago, He's had me like a fish on a stringer, reeling me in when He wants me.

I always figured the best way to overcome fear of something was to face it. Talk about it. Get used to it so it wouldn't be a bother. And guess what ... it's worked. 

Peggy and I had a discussion a few days ago about this very matter. I told her when I die, I don't want any of those euphemisms flying around. She rather enthusiastically agreed with me, about herself, too! 

So, when one of us dies, expect to see something somewhere that says we're dead. If it's precious to God, and to the folks already in Heaven........ let it be precious to us, too.