Friday, December 22, 2006

I GOT MY BEST PRESENT ON FRIDAY THE 13TH


Of March, 1959. That's the day I married my sweetheart.

I'd known I'd eventually marry her since day one. No ... make that minute one. I'd gone to work for a now-defunct insurance company, as the mailboy's helper, April 4, 1958. For the first week, I helped move stuff to a new building they'd just built. Then, the following Monday, April 11, 1958, I was escorted around the office to meet everyone from whom I'd pick up, and to whom I'd deliver, mail. About 9:15, the mailboy (whom I knew from High School), introduced me to Peggy Hiland.

We turned and walked to a stairwell about 15' away to go to the 3rd floor, and I said to Bill "I'm going to marry that girl." I think I asked him to tell me her name, again.

That evening, I said at the dinner table "Guess who I met today". Mom asked who, and I said "My wife". Inquisitive looks and remarks followed, and I explained. If I live to 100, I'll never forget their expressions. I think they were as surprised as I was that I'd met someone I thought would ever marry me.

The next day she came downstairs to get some stuff copied (this was long before modern copiers .. getting a copy was about like doing laundry on a washboard), and I asked her if she brought lunch. She said yes, and I said I did too, and invited her to go to the TeePee drive-in for a coke over lunch. She accepted.

There was never a doubt that she was the one for me, from minute #1 on. And we'll have been married 48 years if we're still here next March 13th.

The picture is Peg's, taken immediately after the wedding. One of those group photos with the wedding party all smiling. She's not that young any more; she's almost as old as I. But, when I look at her, the young lady in the picture is who I see. Only better.

Let me tell you a bit about my sweetheart:

She was a stay-at-home mom until the kids were both well into school and could ride the bus with other kids, etc. And she loved it. To this day, our sons reflect what sort of job Peg did in raising them. She did come from good stock ... Peg's mom lost her husband a few months before Peg was born, and she raised them working 2 jobs to support 3 kids and her own Dad, who was disabled.

There is a picture that is permanently etched into my mind, one that causes me to be unable to speak when I think of it. It's Peg, standing at the end of the road into our subdivision, waiting for me to come home, on the bus from work. With her is Brian, standing beside her and holding her hand, and Brad, in a stroller.

I wish I'd appreciated the beauty of that sight, back then.

She has, for as long as I;ve known her, had the most uncanny abilities with little kids, of anyone I have ever seen. She taught pre-school at church for 20+ years, and still gets that look on her face when one of the kids she taught is saved or baptized.

For umpteen years, I have seen her interact with little children on airplanes, in airports, at churches, in stores, restaurants, you name it. It is breathtaking to watch. More about that, in a minute.

She is totally devoted to me. Not that she won't tell me what she thinks, which I respect, but she's a wonderful example of that gal in Proverbs 31. She really is.

She also has a burden to teach younger women. That passage in the bible gnaws at her when she's not doing anything that way, and she's now active in a bible study for young ladies in church. So .. not only is her husband addicted to her, but there's now this gaggle of young ladies at church..

She's a hard worker and generous. Particularly to our family. She cooks dinner so it'll be ready at noon every Sunday, and our sons & their families, when they're able, come over for dinner. Every Sunday. With things like that, she's primarily responsible for the strong sense of "home" and of "family" that seems to be present in ours.

She's always been very supportive of me. She's consistently my biggest fan. I cannot tell you what that means to me, and when she differs with me, I think harder about what she says, than about what anyone else on earth has said.

She is largely responsible for the fact that I'm a Christian, today. We'd played Pinochle with neighbors Bill and Louella one Sunday afternoon, and Bill remarked I ought to go to Sunday School with them next Sunday; they had an interesting teacher. I'll agree to most anything a week in advance, so I said "sure". The following Sunday I was reading the newspaper and Peg said it was time to get ready. I asked for what, and she reminded me of my commitment the week before. I said I'd really rather stay home and she said one sentence that God used to change my life:

"If they were nice enough to ask, we should be nice enough to go."

Well, I don't know how nice I was, but we went. Surprisingly, to me, I enjoyed it; we went back the next week, and then joined the week after.

The rest, as they say, is history.

She's my treasure. The Bible tells us we're to treasure our wives as Jesus treasures His church. He doesn't do that because we're treasures ... we're treasures because He treasures us.

Listen up, husbands ... you owe the same to your wife, because Jesus is worthy of that.

There's a lot of other stuff I could write, but I'll end this by saying I love her. A lot. More than I could describe, and more every day. I also must confess that it's Jesus who's giving me that love, because my heart's desire is to love my wife as no man in history ever loved his wife. I don't have that in me, but Jesus does.


If you want to know her heart, look at this picture. It's her, interacting with a baby on an airplane. The baby was staring at her over the seatback and Peg started communicating with her in a way that only folks with that gift know. The mom handed the baby to Peg, and I snapped the picture.

That's my sweetheart, for you.

Merry Christmas, Peg.

ps: Don't go getting all speer-chul and tell me that salvation was the greatest gift. Of course I know that. But try telling your wife she's the best present you ever got. I think you'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 18, 2006

RED BRICKS, PADDED PEWS, AND BEER

Tom Elliff preached at our church last night. I was going to post about it, as his very challenging sermon interrupted my train of thought several times. But then the Missouri Mess got "shown me" and I figured I'd strike while the irony was hot.

Wade Burleson already posted about the investigative committee, formed amid allegations of nebulous character issues on the part of the Exec. Dir. No need reinventing that wheel, so I'll move on to the "controversy" surrounding The Journey, a rather unconventional church in St. Louis. I hasten to admit I know only what Ive read on their website and in an article in the Baptist Press, so cannot speak to lots of things about it. But I do know that they have a monthly outreach with a Bible Study in a Brewery.

Hey .. I'd bet some of the apparent upset is about that, wouldn't you? Particularly since the MBC lent the church some money.

This points out something that seems inherent in organized religion. We read in the Bible to see what we're supposed to do, in His service (assuming we're well motivated to do so). We then go do some of that, and God blesses our efforts. Now, we know, in the abstract, that it's God giving the increase, but we forget that after a while. We then confuse how we are to act with how God acts..

HUGE difference, folks. What He's instructed us to do, and which has become custom and acceptable for us, in no way limits how God goes about furthering His Kingdom work. To think that He's limited to doing it the way we do it, is egotistical, to say the least. But then, we've always been quick to give ourselves more credit than we think we're giving.

Case in point, about The Journey's outreach in a brewery. Some even said they showed a picture of folks hoisting a glass of beer, in connection with the Bible Study. They stated the church said (although I add that I saw this quote on the Brewery's website, and not on the church's)"Grab a brew and give your view".

I've heard for years, that not washing your car on Sunday, not drinking a beer when you're sweaty, not mowing the lawn on Sunday, were testimonies to our faith. Two thoughts about that.

1) They are testimonies to not washing your car on Sunday, not drinking beer when you're sweaty, and not mowing your lawn on Sunday. They're not testimonies to your faith. I've heard folks state "I witness via my life.", but that simply isn't witnessing. It's a witness to your life, and not your faith.

2) If your life is a witness, it's only a witness to saved folks. The spiritual evidence found in your life, is spiritual in nature, and God said natural man cannot perceive it. Folks can watch your life for all your life, and learn nothing from it that will save their souls.

In the case of the Brewery outreach, how's that different from Jesus going to Levi's house and kickin' back with the "tax collectors and sinners"? The pharisees accused him of "eating and drinking" with them. ... and I bet there was wine involved.

Did you notice that Jesus didn't send someone else to minister to them? He went Himself! Yet here we have a controversy about a church that wants to reach folks who go to a brewery, so they go there after them.

If The Journey's "Theology at the Bottleworks" is a source of controversy in the MBC, then I suspect they've got a sprinkling of "Pharisees and Teachers of the Law" up there, too.

There's more to "church" than red bricks and padded pews. In fact, in heaven, there probably won't be any of that. But there may be some folks who "grabbed a brew and gave their view" under the auspices of a church that isn't afraid to go outside the lines to reach people.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I GIVE HIM COFFEE, AND HE TAGS ME!!!!

Kevin Bussey tagged me, and I'll answer. But I ain't taggin' nobody. I have enough trouble keeping friends, as it is, without doing that.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

Egg Nog.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

Wrap them.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?

Colored, but only because Matthew didn't hang up the waterfall-icicle thingies this year.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

I might if you could remind me what it's for, again.....

5. When do you put your decorations up?

I don't ... my sweetheart and my grandkids do that .. usually right after Thansgiving.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?

The third Santa's Helper from the left .. the one in the black boots and the spandex outfit....

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?

Lying on the sofa in the living room, just looking at the tree and the presents. Also, listening to the "Cinnamon Bear" on the radio.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

I don't recall, but it was pretty young, and I remember thinking "yeh .. I know it".

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

No, Christmas morning. We'll probably do Christmas eve this year, as our older son has to work Christmas day (Fire Department). Side note: Peg still has the stockings she made for the kids when they were infants and she still fills them with goodies.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?

I lie in the recliner and watch Peg, Matthew and Meredith decorate it.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?

Love it ... it's one of my favorite things to watch on TV. (I moved 500 miles south to get away from it.)

12. Can you ice skate?

Nope.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

This one's easy to answer. No.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?

Aside from the Spirual angle (which is a given), seeing my kids and grandkids happy with what we got them.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?

My sweetheart's Bread Pudding.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Christmas morning with the family.

17. What tops your tree?

A Star

18.Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?

Giving

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?

Ira Ironstrings' version of "Sleighride".

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?

Yum

That's it. Dull and boring. Well, except for my favorite dish.....

Labels:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A SHOEBOX, A PAIR OF SCISSORS, AND 200 BUCKS


Seems a gentleman from New York had started a Department Store a bunch of years ago, and eventually handed it off to his sons, who had been raised in the business.

Daddy, with Mom in tow, then moved to the Sunshine State.

One springtime, Mom & Dad pop up at the store one day and find a sign on the door that says "Closed for Inventory". Dad fishes out his old key, opens the door, and hunts down said sons. He asks them why they are closed.

"Because we need to take inventory"

"What's an inventory?"

"Well .. that's where you count what you have."

"Can't you just see it?"

"No ... we have to count it up so we will know what our profit is."

"So get me a shoebox, a pair of scissors, and $200".

They did, and put it on the table before Dad.

"So look at that ... that's what I started with ... everything else you see ... THAT'S the profit".

When Jesus saved my soul, I was 7 or 8 or 9 or so, too young for me to remember how old I was. All I know is that I was afraid of dying. And when Dad reminded me of what I'd heard in VBS, that people who believe in Jesus go to heaven when they die, a big weight left my shoulders, and took with it the lump in my throat.

I'd brought a scared little kid with an ugly sin nature, to my first encounter with Jesus.

About 18 years later, when God tapped me on the shoulder and said it was time to get with the program, I'd added considerable weight, and a lot of filthy rags, to my personal inventory. Not a lot to get all proud about.

If someone gave you a season pass to the Metropolitan Opera, folks might guess you liked Opera. But that might not be true. About the only thing you could really deduce was that the giver of the gift liked Opera.

That's axiomatic about gifts ... they don't tell you anything about the recipient, but they sure tell you something about the giver.

Particularly true of the GIVER.

I brought a frightened kid with a sin nature, and some filthy rags, to the party. In other words, pond scum. So if you look at my life now ... what God has done in me ... with me ... through me ... think back to the Dad who owned the Department store. And remember that everything you see now, that's not something I brought to the party, must belong to the Giver of all things Good.

I talked about me, here, because I'm the only "Me" that I am. But look at your own life, and see what you brought to Jesus, and what He made it into. I suspect you'll be impressed, too, at the work that's been done by the Great Giver of All Things Good.

A sow's ear into a silk purse can't hold a candle to what He can do with a batch of filthy rags.....

Monday, December 11, 2006

SOME ASSEMBLY MAY BE REQUIRED


I got to reflecting on the Bible. I think it may have had something to do with the fact that I had lunch with Monte Erwin today. Maybe even the fact that I had lunch with CB Scott Friday. Goodness knows that'll do something to you.

What I got to thinking about was this: in the process of raising two boys (most of which was done by my sweetheart, anyway), I put together a lot of stuff for Christmas and birthdays, for which instructions were needed. On the rare occasions when I actually paid any attention to them, they were quite clear. It's not hard to take part "A" and insert it into slot "Q", particularly when they even give you pictures of the part and the slot. And each and every screw, nut, bolt, etc.

Then I got to thinking about the Bible and the church and believers in general. And about differences in opinion about speaking in tongues, baptism, systems of beliefs, even which day we're supposed to worship on. Whether women can teach or preach or govern. And that's where the rub comes in.

Is Christianity supposed to be like assembling a swing set or a do-it-yourself computer desk? Go here ... pay this ... take one of these and put it into one of those... is that what it's supposed to be like? Are we all supposed to look like a row of furniture or toys when we're done?

If not, then I have to suppose that God did this on purpose. Made things purposely just vague enough that we all have to look to Him, and not to some other hooman bean like us, to tell us what He had in mind for ME when He wrote it. That'd be ok, of course, if I care enough to want to know the truth. God wrote the book ... and the Author is still alive ... so I can ask Him. If I am interested.

If this is true, it's likely we'd end up with views and opinions and interpretations which vary in some degree or another with almost everybody else.

Gosh. That's almost inhuman. Hmmmm .. that might explain why we could never conclude that God is a man. And no, don't send me cruise missiles reminding me about the Trinity, either.

Now ... against the strangeness (that the "vagueness" of scripture in some areas may be intentional), replay the fact that some things are crystal clear. Thou shalt have NO OTHER GODS. There is NO OTHER NAME by which we may be saved. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER but by Jesus.

Why do you suppose God would DO A THING LIKE THAT? WHY? Perhaps it really is, that we must come to our own Bible-based faith, and we are to have faith that is strong enough to differ with others and still be secure in our faith. Maybe we're supposed to be staunch in what we believe. If so, how did we ever get into a system in which half the members couldn't be found by bloodhounds, and the ones who do show up look a lot like the world? And wouldn't that coincide with what they folks who wrote the BF&M ... including the Preamble ... seem to have been driving at?

Look ... those folks could have set out a cookie-cutter summary of beliefs that looked like the Westminster Confession of Faith, or any of the other confessions of faith which other denominations stand on. But they didn't. Doesn't that seem obvious?

One of the most attractive things about the Baptist Church, when I came to it from the PCA, was the BF&M. It was a broad display of beliefs that united a wide spectrum of believers, and hinted at the early church, when believers had precious little doctrine but a huge dose of the reality of Jesus. I like that then, and I still do.

If this diversity really is God-ordained, then those who are trying to narrow the definition of what it means to be a Baptist may be spitting in the face of God. We hear an awful lot about the BF&M and the Baptist traditions, but what if it was God Who was behind all that?

Personally, I'm trotting out my best Caleb impression and I'm gonna wait for the other 10 spies to die off.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I GOT YER "UNITY" RIGHT HERE, TOO, PAL


The handsome dude in the picture is none other than Mike Shaw, my pastor, of First Baptist Church in Pelham, Alabama. There's a lot to know about him ... a DMin from New Orleans Seminary ... ex-Chairman of the Alabama State Board of Missions ... former Chairman of the Board of the Alabama Baptist (the newspaper) ... currently Second VP of the State Convention (note .. isn't that the state equivalent of being Wiley Drake?). Perhaps the most startling thing: he's been pastor of FBC Pelham for twenty & plenty of years.

What connects him to the Arlington Roundtable this week is facts about two people. First, him ... he is Baptist Born (his Momma was carrying him when she was baptized), Baptist bred and when he's gone he'll be Baptist dead. He is not a Calvinist and does not have a PPL. The second people is me. I'm a Calvinist and I have a PPL. And I teach a Sunday School Class of young married couples. In our church!

Now one might think that Brother Mike might have some fears about that. I asked him why he didn't. His comment was "Because I know you believe the Bible!" He went on to state and reiterate some of our conversations, including the fact that, when the Bible teaches free will, that's what I teach. And when it teaches predestination, that's what I teach. Funny thing: replace "teach" with "preach", and that's precisely what he does.

Brother Mike and I have the kind of unity that some folks are striving for in the SBC and related entities. And that was the topic of all that went on in Arlington on Tuesday. In fact, at dinner the evening before, one of Rev. McKissic's pastor friends remarked, spontaneously, that here we were, a dozen or so in a room, discussing our desire for unity. And, he said, despite the fact that there were both black and white folks in the room, race was not even a topic of discussion!

Unity? You bet!

I commented elsewhere today, and I'll reiterate it here:

"I decide I want to be free to wear a pink hat. So I do. I also think others should decide for themselves what color they should wear.

Someone else says no, we should NOT wear pink hats. Or perhaps he says no, we should wear any color BUT pink hats.

I say ok, you're entitled to your opinion. He says we all are. He then throws me out and says I cannot be part of his group.

Who is being divisive? Me?

I think not. Yet month after month folks are saying we need unity and cooperation in diversity, and are then being accused of being divisive. How stupid is THAT"


And a further, later, thought on that ... our group has bylaws that say we're not to forbid wearing a pink hat, and that any group within our group has a right to designate their own colors as they see fit. And ... for a few hundred years, pink was ok, but now someone has decided it's not.

I love Mike Shaw like a brother. I am richer for the fact that he's not some of the things I am. When we have our occasional chats about the controversial issues, he keeps me on my toes. I hope I do the same for him. I've long felt that constant interaction with folks who think I'm swell is enough to dull a knife, and I love having to defend my beliefs. I have the feeling I'd be much the poorer were I, say, in an Assembly of God Church (which I hasten to add I dearly love to visit).

Unity. Diversity. Sadly, both may be endangered species in the SBC. But not if the group that met in Arlington bears fruit. At least that's my prayer, lest God write a word we don't want to see, over the door.