Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: November 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

CB. Me. Wade B.

Seems like a logical place, I guess. Between CB & Wade. I figured it was time I spoke up, since someone has said I was strongly supporting CB. That popped up on, specifically as follows:

"Scott has talked in similar language to Wade Burleson and Wade's defender Deb Kauffmann. As I read his blog, he seems to be strongly supported by Bob Cleveland an influential member of former Bama SBC prez Buddy Gray's Hunter Street Church."

Hey ... being half right is pretty good I guess, just from no more than I've seen in SBC life. I'm referring to three specific things in that quote:

A) ". .. influential..." Uhhh ... don't know about that. Maybe. Probably with my SS class, anyway, but maybe not with the 2,375 members of our church who DON'T come to my class. Give him 50%.

B) ". .. member of former SBC prez Buddy Gray's Hunter Street Church". I can think of several pastors who'll be real surprised to hear that .. Mike Shaw, FBC Pelham, who thinks I still go there (I mean .. he DOES let me teach there and all..), Buddy Gray, who agrees with Mike Shaw, and CB, who'd be interested how I knew so many folks at FBC when I showed him around a couple years ago. He gets 0% on that.

C) ". .. strongly supported ...". CB's a good friend. Put any label on that you want, but score it 100%.

I'll even give you a little clue as to what I see as one driving force with him and kids. We were having breakfast the other day .. Cracker Barrel if it makes a difference .. and we were sitting at the divider between the section closest to the cash register, and the smoking section on the other side. I had my back to the aisle to the cash register; a little kid went toddling behind me, to the store section where the cash register was. CB looked instantly like a hunting dog locked onto a target. He followed that kid out with his eyes and immediately said "look at the kid .. where's the mother?" He then said something like "Don't they know it only takes (snapping fingers) THAT long for a kid to be kidnapped?"

The mom followed perhaps 15-20 seconds later, and took the kid back to where she'd been sitting. Then she went to pay the bill, and CB remarked "There she goes .. and the kid's sitting over there crying".

I'm sorry, folks, but none of you have anything to tell me about CB and kids. I've read the book on the man.

And about a lot of other things, too. I don't have a better friend, outside my own family, than CB Scott. And nobody needs a better one than he is, to me.

We've had lunch or breakfast or supper a lot. A LOT. And gone places. And done stuff.

I've read the book.

I count Wade a good friend, too. If he's less so than CB is, it's only because he's in Oklahoma and I'm in Alabama and we don't see each other that much. The times we have, have been good. Really good, from where I've been. One, the first, in particular:

Peg and I had gone to the SBC Convention in Greensboro, 2006. In fact, at Wade's suggestion, when he said we needed "folks like me" involved in SBC matters. I happened to agree with the motion he'd made to the SBC, to deal with certain IMB issues, and thought the SBC as an entity itself should investigate it. Thought rather strongly, in fact. But when I was at the mic to speak to the issue, he spoke before me, affirming the action on the Committee on the Order of Business' referral of his motion to the IMB Trustees for study, and to report back to SBC 2007. I was surprised, as I thought it more of a watershed moment for the SBC (still do), and that referring the matter to the IMB was like referring an accusation of bullying, to the bully, to study and report. So I went ahead and spoke my peace about it.

And, by the way, nothing I have seen in SBC life since .. NOTHING .. has changed my belief that what I said was right. Please don't take that as egotistical .. God had shown me a couple things in scripture the night before, and when Wade spoke his agreement with the Committee's action, I was dumbstruck and wondered what I would say then. But in as clear a message as I've ever gotten from Him, I heard "I didn't show you what I did so you could sit down and not say it". So I did.

Later that evening, walking into the Convention Hotel, I was set upon by an IMB trustee, who said some pretty mean things about Wade. Peg, being the perceptive soul she is, high-tailed it into the hotel to pray, as she knew from his demeanor what was coming. Well, I didn't mind him so much, but then Wade walked up behind him in the middle of his tirade. When the Trustee noticed him, he stopped talking, but his demeanor did not change. And Wade was as kind and irenic and cooperative as anyone can be, with his best friend.

The courtesy was not returned, that I could see.

There have been lots of other things we've been involved in ... me peripherally, since I'm not a pastor ... and Wade's always been as good a friend as I could ask.


I'm too big a coward to take sides. I mean, God says not to, and my arms are too short to box with Him. I always figured I'd be on the wrong side, anyway, but the real, REAL compelling reason is scriptural.

The Bible tells me, in many ways, to judge not. Last Sunday's lesson even included Paul's rhetorical question to the Romans .. "Who are you to judge another man's servant?" So I will not judge either man's situation or take sides.

See .. I believe that, to have the right .. the position .. to declare judicially that someone is wrong .. guilty .. I think that's what the word means in the original .. I have to be in a position, also, to declare they are right .. innocent. And I am certainly not in a position to do that with anyone besides me.

Now I know that churches must do that in order to discipline errant members, but I'm not in that position in our church, and I'm not going to volunteer to do that where I'm not asked.

I'm not afraid to say I love both those guys. Love Wade's dad, too. And I want to keep doing that.

By the grace of God, I will. And more than anything, I know that God will bring Himself glory from all this stuff we're stumbling around doing down here.

Bet on it.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Church (1 a.m., Russian Apartment Variety)

Most of the pictures in the prior post came from our 1997 Mission Trip, in which we went to Pskov, Russia, and Bauska, Latvia. I'll put some stuff up about folks I met in Latvia, but on our second trip to Russia, in 1999, some really cool things happened.

First, I had to be in London on business, the week after the Russia trip was scheduled. So, I decided I'd go to Russia anyway, and simply fly to London when I was finished there. And, since the team wasn't going to go to Latvia, I went several days early, to visit with my friends in Bauska. One of them was Aivar Berlinski, the Worship Leader at New Life Church there, and I knew he'd be going to the Pastor's Conference in Pskov, Russia, and I figured I'd ride with him (which I did).

The last evening of the Conference in Pskov, they had a wonderful worship service in the Pskov Community Center. That's a whole post in itself, but that was the place where this happened. So you can figure what it was like.

Before we went for the service, Andrei Stepanov told me he had something special planned for the evening (like just being there wasn't....). Then, at the end of the evening service, Aivar asked me what I was doing afterwards, and I told him the Stepanovs were doing something special. He said the equivalent of "phooey" and I asked what was wrong. He told me it was his birthday and thought we could go out or something. I figured he shouldn't be alone, so I dragged him over to where the Stepanovs were standing and asked (through Andrei, my family interpreter) if Aivar could come along.

They said that would be great, so he did.

What was special that evening was that they'd invited the Conference Worship Leader, Sasha Medvedev, over for dinner, along with his partner, Dima (never did know his last name). And, the other third of the equation is that my roomie with the Stepanovs was Jeff Hairell, from our church, who was an incredible singer, keyboard man, and worship leader in his own right.

SOOOO ... I wound up in a little Russian apartment after dinner, with Aivar (a terrific leader of worship), Sasha (a terrific leader of worship) and Jeff (a terrific leader of worship). And great keyboard guys, all.

The service got out at 9:45 pm, while still light, and dinner followed. Sometime around midnight, Sasha got his keyboard from his car, Dima found an old guitar hanging on the wall as decoration, strung it up, and the guys all started noodling around.

We had church.

Fortunately, I had my video camera and the presence of mind to tape most of it. Here's a bit of what was arguably the most impressive time of worship I've ever experienced. We ended up sometime after 1:00 a.m., all singing Andre Crouch's "My Tribute" in Russian, Latvian, and English. If I hadn't caught the moment on tape, I'd have doubted it ever happened, myself.

Check it out, below:

In the first scene, the guys at the keyboard are (L to R) Aivars Berlinski, Sasha Medvedev, and Jeff Hairell. Occasionally, you'll see Dima with the guitar, and Andrei Stepanov, on the right.

These guys are making Heaven more attractive, too.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

More of the Unfathomable Joy of Heaven

In 1997, and then again in 1999, some of the folks from our church went on a Mission Trip to Russia, in cooperation with Pastor Truitt Murphy, of Living Word Church here in Pelham. LWC was a small, independent, pentecostal church, and Truitt had begun making trips to Russia immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

During a Community Thanksgiving Service at Pelham High School in 1996, Truitt challenged our music minster, Sam Neugent, to put together a small team of singer to go along with him, and some singers from LWC, the following Spring. After some hemming and hawing on Sam's part, he decided God was in it. So, when he put out the challenge for folks to sign up, I was among the first, and not just because I wanted to go to Russia.

I was 7 years old when WWII ended, and was keenly aware of the rise of the Soviet Union. When the US began routine flights of our B-36 Bombers after the war, by what later became the Strategic Air Command (as I recall), I could hear them plainly. They had a distinctive drone, and as I lay in bed at night, I wondered if they were USSR bombers coming to kill me.

In fact, that very fear led me to tell Dad I was afraid to die, which led him to remind me what I'd heard in VBS. And that led me to trust Jesus.

I grew up hating Russia and Russians. When we'd see USSR people in the Olympics, or other such events, I remember clearly the feelings I had toward them.

So, when Sam told us about the trip, I knew I had to go.

The trip was a life-changer for me. Words cannot describe the feelings I had, and it remains to this day as one of the ... well .. I just can't describe it. Sorry.

The first picture is of Alexai Stepanov, and his mom (I don't think I ever learned her name). When we went there in 1997, Sam and I were assigned to stay in their apartment. Only trouble was, they had a cat, and Sam is allergic to cats. So I had a room to myself. The apartment was exactly what old folks have seen in newsreels, namely high-rise concrete buildings in rows. Pretty small, without any built-ins (like closets, cabinets, etc). But it was warm and I loved staying with them.

Alexai and his brother Andrei were students in the Bible School, run by the Pentecostal Union of Russia, and located in the Church Emmanuel there in Pskov. Truitt taught there every year, and when they had a Pastor's Conference, our group went to sing for them. When I'd get up in the morning, Mrs. Stepanov had a nice breakfast prepared for me, Russian style, having worked overnight in a bakery. Then someone would pick me up and I'd go to the church.

The dog in Alexai's lap is Irma, the biggest sweetest dog I've ever met. She's also in the next picture with Andrei, Alexai's brother. When we went back for another trip in 1999, I stayed with them again, and that time Andrei showed me the bathroom, with sock strung up all across one wall drying. Andrei spoke a bit of English and said what sounded like "KAH - peet - ahl - EEZUM!" It took a second to figure out he said "Capitalism", and we both laughed like hyenas.

The bathroom was twice the size of the tub. The sink was adjacent to the tub and there was one faucet, between the two. You'd swivel the faucet between the tub and the sink, depending on where you wanted water. While I was taking a picture of the socks, Irma .. who weighed about 150# .. slipped past me, jumped into the tub, and sat down. While I was laughing at her, Andrei came in and laughed at me, then turned on the water in the tub. That was the dog's signal she was thirsty. So .. here they are:

Next, here's a photo of their Praise Team, there at Church Emmanuel in Pskov. They really showed us how to praise God; in fact, the Stepanov brothers both sang in the team.

One member in particular caught my attention. She was Galya Galkina, the lady at the left end of the front row. She seemed a very competent lady, and spoke English fluently. She sat down next to me during a break and we struck up a conversation. I gave her my impression of her as we sat; I told her she had a certain presence .. an "aura" of sorts, that told me she could well be a leader of women. I also said she needed to be careful of where she went, as women would follow her. She thanked me for that. When we went back there on another trip, two years later, she had graduated and worked for the Bible School, handling all their translation.

The whole team left an indelible impression on me.

Here's a lady named Yelena Belyaeva. She was a school teacher, and her daugher was with her there at the church. Her daughter wanted to make some presents for the Americans, so she'd been saving up chewing gum wrappers, and had made everyone a little bracelet out of them. She was simply precious.

Her mom taught English in the schools there, and had some worries that had been troubling her. God enabled me to minister some to her as we sat and talked.

Last is Ludmilla. She was the lady who showed up at the church every day and did all the cooking for us. And we were extremely well fed. We learned a lot about the Russian diet, which is heavy on the potatoes and a bit short on meat, but the veggies were just beyond description.

She was dedicated to serving God, a terrific cook, and a great hugger, too.

There were others. Lots and lots of others, and I'm looking forward to some day seeing them in heaven. But I'll close with these, and another thanks to God for taking me to a people I used to hate, but now love; with added thanks that, for some reason, I had most of these folks sign my Bible. It's about worn out, but I used yesterday to teach my Sunday School lesson.

It serves as a stark reminder that .. IMO .. God changed a nation, just to change my heart. And for their reaction to us, check out this (be sure and watch to the end):

Can you imagine an eternity with that sort of worship and praise of the Lord, being housed in bodies that won't get tired of things like we do here?

p.s. Stay tuned. I also have this video of 6 of us having church in this Russian apartment, at 1:00 a.m.......

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

We Still Think It's About Us, Apparently...

And it shows up in different ways, too.

We view things, particularly things God does, from our perspective. When we see Him doing something WE wouldn't do, we object. By questioning whether He's in that or not. I had some Jehovah's Witnesses visiting here one time, and they cited WW2 as an instance in which both sides were praying to the same God, for help in winning the war (which one does by killing one's enemy), as an example that God wasn't with either side in that conflict.

I had a lot of fun with that statement.

Then there's the tendency to "Humanize" God. God can't do this or that. After a lot of years, I finally concluded .. "WHAT???" God can do anything He wants to do, any time, any place, to anybody. Without needing to explain. But we say God can't save you if you won't accept Jesus and other stuff like that. But, IMO, that's wrong. God says He WON'T ... not that He CAN'T. But we like the "can't" deal better because when Worthless Brother-In-Law wants to borrow money, we'd rather tell him we CAN'T, than just to tell him we WON'T. Which we would have to explain, make excuses for, etc, which is not all that comfortable.

I doubt comfort plays a big part in God's decisions. Surely it didn't, at Calvary.

But what really made this thing pop up now, is the minor set-to about Calvinism, over at Wade Burleson's blog. Don't get me wrong .. I think that sort of thing is part & parcel of the sharpening of iron, mentioned in the bible. But folks seem to think that their own opinion is right, others must have less of a biblical basis, for what they believe, than they do. And I can tell you, from having been on all sides of that issue, that the Baptist Faith and Message, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, are both securely grounded in the bible.

I don't think either side of that discussion likes to think about that. But it's true.


Why the big differences? I don't know much for sure, but I have some opinions, which follow:

First of all, denominations aren't our deal. As far as I'm concerned, God thought them up, then led people to go their own ways as Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, etc. He did that, IMO, as part of His plan to appeal to as many people ... "natural-man-type" people .. as is possible. Without coercion. Look....
  • Want to be happy-clappy? Step right this way......
  • Favor an educated approach .. analytical and all .. to this religion thing? Look over here!
  • Care to be highly liturgical, see guys in robes, etc, go to that corner over there..
  • Is speaking in tongues, falling over, etc attractive? Here's the address...
  • Have a desire to go to church on Saturday? Have we got a spot for you!
So if you're lost, but God yanks your chain and says come hither, doesn't it make sense that God would provide lots of choices .. one of which would appeal to your still-lost but now-curious state?

It does, to me. And in any one of a myriad of denominations, you can hear John 3:16 and maybe Romans 10:9-10, and get saved. Then you get the Holy Ghost, and He is pretty good at directing you where you want to go.

So all you guys arguing about TULIPs and the like, cut it out! Down in my soul, I am as convinced as can be that NEITHER the Baptists nor the Presbyterians are wrong in their theology. They both are yay far from the absolute (and infinite) truth, but then that's the best any of us can do.

Christianity isn't about you and your preferences, or your interpretations. It's about this man Jesus. So let's not make it about infant baptism (when others want to do it) .. we don't say it's necessary for SALVATION, and I'd think we'd be for more of THAT and not more baptisms, anyway. So if the other guys want to baptize infants as a sign of something-or-other, let's leave them alone about it. In fact, it might be interesting to go back in their records and see if the persistency of their youth, when they grow up, is better than the 16%, or whatever the number, of those 6 year olds we baptize, that come back from college, still faithful.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008


Some years ago, I wrote a book about me. Me is, after all, the subject I'm most acquainted with. I've seen, and been involved in, some extraordinary things in my life, and I figured it'd be kind of a shame if all my memories died when I did. I mean .. in 8th grade, I interviewed a 100-year-old man. HE had met Abraham Lincoln! That's the sort of memory I wanted to leave behind for my kids and grandkids, so I typed everything I could think of into Word, and then had Kinkos' print and bind up a couple copies.

I called it "In The Foreword Of The Book Of Life", and some of the chapters had strong Spiritual overtones. So I figured I'd put some of them up here (cut & paste being so simple a Caveman could do it); hence, without further whatever, here's an account of the first overt, obvious, blatant, in-your-face intervention, of God, in our lives.

On Saturday, April 11, 1970, I went with my friend Dave Van Veld, to a Men For Missions International breakfast in Indianapolis. Downtown at the Howard Johnson’s, in fact.

At the close of that meeting, Charlie Spicer announced they had 4 places left on the Haiti Family Crusade scheduled for July 1970. Instantly, I felt as if everyone in the room was looking at me. I even recall looking up and around the room, to see if they were. They weren’t. I did know, however, that something was happening. I told Charlie, on the way out, that I’d just mailed in my tax return on the way to the Breakfast, that if I got the return back by May 1st, the deadline for the $100 deposit, we’d go. Our tax refund was $105, and we would not have the money without it.

As Dave and I got into the car to go home, he said he had felt the same thing. My opinion, I said, was that we might ought to apply to go; that I would discuss it with Peggy when we got home. He said he’d talk to Diana.

I talked to Dave Monday and told him that Peg wasn’t at ALL interested in going. She said maybe I was called, but she wasn’t. Dave told me he’d talked to Diana and she wasn’t thrilled about it either, but he’d called MFMI headquarters to inquire, and they’d told him they’d already put the Clevelands and the Van Velds on the list, filling it, simply on faith.

More talks with Peg reached a sort of consensus that we ought to look into it, no promises, but let’s see what develops.

I talked to my boss, and told him I’d like to have that week in July off for vacation, so I could go on a mission trip. He said no.

We called my mom and dad. Our kids were 10 and 7 at the time, and they’d needed to be 12 to go on the trip, so we needed my Mom and Dad to keep them for the week. A couple days later, Mom called Peggy and “read her the riot act”. It seems there had been an “Insurgent Army” (actually 3 unhappy soldiers) which commandeered the entire Haiti Air Force (an old relic of a DC-3) and had bombed the Dictator’s Palace (pushed out a partially-full barrel of diesel fuel, which bounced harmlessly on the Palace yard), and didn’t we realize that revolutionaries always kill missionaries first and here we have these 2 kids who are going to be orphans?

Peg said as Mom was talking, she could envision “SATAN TALKING” written on the wall. Mom and Dad had no evident spiritual leanings at the time, had not evidenced any previously, and Peg figured if they didn’t think we should go, then we should.
So we had no money to go; the cost was about $475 and we didn’t know where it would come from. We also had nobody to watch the kids, and my boss said I couldn’t go.
A few days later, we got a letter from Mom, and she apologized and said they’d be happy to come stay with the kids. And, oh, by the way, here’s a check to help pay for the trip.

Then, the Friday after I had mailed in the tax return .. a total of six days later .. we got the refund from the Government. That, after mailing it a few days before the deadline!

My boss called me in and said he knew there was something good about going on that trip, and I could have that time off, after all. And, by the way, here’s a check to help pay for it.

In early May, I got a birthday card from Art. He said he didn’t know what to get me that year, so he sent me a check. The ironic part of that is had never sent me a birthday present before that May. In fact, I don’t believe he ever did, again.

We had to have the final payment in by July 1st, and we were still $175 short. At the time, I was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Madison Avenue Businessmen’s Association. That entailed collecting the dinner tab from the members on meetings nights once a month, sending the bulletins out, receiving the reservations, and paying the restaurant every month. About the middle of June, the President of the Association called me about some Association matter. He then asked “Have you written yourself a check yet?”. I asked why I’d be doing THAT, and he said “On .. they didn’t tell you .. we pay the Secretary-Treasurer for the work you do”. I asked how much, and he replied “$175 a year”.

I was dumbstruck. My next question, as I wanted to do everything just right, was “When is that normally paid?”. He replied “Our fiscal year is July 1st through June 30th, so write it before the end of the month.”

God had provided, to the dollar, just what we needed.

Our church, now, promotes many mission trips every year. We’ve had several to Peru and Guatemala and Honduras. The usual format is to encourage people to put down the deposit, which is usually around $100, and then write letters to church friends enlisting their help in paying for the trip. I guess that’s ok, but I think it was Brother Andrew, in God’s Smuggler, who called that “Faith by Feelers”. I don’t personally believe in that, as I’ll trust God to provide the funds and wouldn’t want to pass up the miracle of seeing God provide, where there seemed to be no way.

We went on the trip, and it was a life-changing event. I had anticipated a call to the mission field, and I didn’t get one. I learned that missionaries were happy, well adjusted people. Teenaged kids there were like teenagers everywhere. They were just in a different place.

The evening we got to the missionary compound, a Haitian came to the Picazo home with a Boa Constrictor, fairly small, for sale. Daniel Picazo bought it for 50 cents and put it in the attic to kill mice and rats. Some days later, it crawled into the garage and squeezed a can of turpentine. It popped open and the snake was drenched in it. Daniel found it writhing on the garage floor, in pain. He took it into the bathroom and put it in the tub; the only soap he could find was bubble bath, so he dumped some in. OMS International has a radio station there, 4VEH, broadcasting over Haiti and the Southwest North Atlantic. They carried a story the next day about the Boa Constrictor who got a bubble bath.

Another Haitian came to the compound one evening. As I recall, he was led by his young daughter, as he was blind. He’d borrowed some money from the missionaries to buy supplies so he could make some whisk brooms. This evening, he came to sell the whisk brooms to the missionaries so he could buy food for his family. I asked our host, Dave Graffenberger, why he just didn’t take the money he’d borrowed to buy the food (since he never did repay the loan for the supplies) and Dave said they were too proud to borrow; they wanted to earn the money.

There were 20 of us on the trip. It was a real culture shock going there. They’d told us that nothing they could say to us would really prepare us for stepping off an airplane and into the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And they were right. The first night, in a small hotel in Petionville, 1500 feet high overlooking Port-Au-Prince, we were served Pumpkin Soup for starters. We didn’t even know there was such a thing. Then, they put a plate before us, which had a whole fish on it, eyes and all. We were really not used to that, but it was delicious, nonetheless.

After a couple days on the trip, folks started getting sick. They had something like the stomach flu, nauseous for a day and then it’d pass. Sometimes they’d even lose what they’d eaten. Myself, I felt somewhat sick one day and was lying on the bed; I recall praying ‘God, if you want me down, you’ll have to knock me down, as I’m not going to lay here feeling sorry for myself”. I got up and went on with the activities and worked through it ok. Of the 20, 19 of us were sick to one degree or another. Peggy was the exception. Miraculous exception would be an even more apt description, as she’d been suffering from diverticulitis for several months. Her diet had been baby food for quite a while, and when she was unsure she even wanted to go, she appealed to the doctor. She said she figured he’d say not to go, and she’d be “off the hook”. His response, however, was “You can’t live your life in a bubble … go ahead and go”.

She did, and she was the only one who wasn’t sick a minute on the trip.

At the end of the week, as we were leaving, a man came to the bus as we were loading luggage at the hotel outside Port-Au-Prince. He wanted to shine our shoes. Dave had told us a quarter was the going rate, so that’s what I offered when he asked for a dollar. As the man was kneeling at my feet, shining my shoes, God intervened and I felt so ashamed for asking him to chop his price, so I gave him the dollar he asked for. I’ve never forgotten how that made me feel, trying to “win”.

The story even continued after we came back home. Two folks on the trip who’d touched me were the Dentist and the Mechanic; we’d had dinner with each and they had shared their needs with us.

The Dentist said he always needed dental needles. The dental situation among Haitians was pathetic, and his office was said to be the best-equipped dental office in the nation. But he couldn’t get enough needles.

The Mechanic said he couldn’t get shock absorbers for the Land Rover. He said the roads were so bad, and the shocks so worn, that it was tearing the Land Rover, slowly, to pieces.

When I got back home, I had about $35 of the money we’d saved to spend in Haiti. I went to Washington Auto Parts and asked if they had shock absorbers for the Land Rover, and they did!. The price just happened to be $35 for the set of 4.

I also mentioned the dental needles to the dentist who occupied the office next to ours. That was before I bought the shocks, and I told him I had $35 to spend on needles (since I never thought I’d find the shocks). A week later, he walks into our office and plops a huge box onto my desk. He said “Here .. this will be my good deed for the year”. And, with that, he walked out. The box was marked “Contents: Dental Needles. 5000 count.”

Yes .. I learned a lot. Before, during, and after. It’s amazing how much God will show us when we don’t try to make it into what we want to see.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Unfathomable Joy Of Heaven

For the one or two or twelve of you regular readers out there, you'll probably know I've never done what you'd call a Picture Post ... one made up of just pictures and descriptions. That's about to change.

Some months ago, I was at a meeting at which Paul Burleson was also in attendance. He'd explained, in addressing that meeting, how he and his wife frequently gave thanks for their meal in a manner unknown by the "Frozen Chosen" .. with eyes open, and praising & thanking God to each other, and to God. I happened to stumble into him, sitting alone and having breakfast the next morning, so I sat and ate with him. And we thanked God for the food in the manner he'd described.

If you've never had CHURCH while saying the blessing .. I mean a real hootenanny .. you don't know what you've missed.

Anyway, we got to talking about laying up treasures in Heaven. He shared a view that the relationships we build here, with our fellow believers, are, and will be forever, those treasures in Heaven. And, what treasures they will be!

I agree, and I decided to put up some pics here, to show some of the relationships God has sent our way, over the past few years. So here goes.

The picture following is of (L to R) Larry & Cynthia Smith, Neal Blackwelder, Me, Debbie Blackwelder, and Peg. It was taken at the Morgan Harbour Restaurant in Kingson, Jamaica (actually Port Royal), on the evening the USA invaded Iraq. Which also happened to be Peg's birthday, 2003. And the day the Federal Prosecutors invaded HealthSouth Corporation here in Birmingham.

I remember that because I'd walked out to the end of the pier there, to get some pictures, and our younger son Brad called me on my cell phone to tell me of those two little invasions.

Invasions, dinner (looking across Kingston Harbor at the city, lit by the setting sun), anniversaries, fellowship, good stuff. But the best thing that happened that evening was the guy in the yellow shirt in the next picture .. the Dockmaster at the Morgan's Harbor Hotel .. prayed and asked Jesus to save him. Only God knows his heart, but I figure I'm apt to see him in Heaven, too.

One the first families I met in Jamaica was the Bethune family ( that's Merrick, the dad, in my profile photo up there..). The following is a picture of me and Keri-Ann, whom I met when she was about seven. She sat next to me in church, and we clapped each other's hands .. she read out of my bible (she didn't have one, which I fixed shortly thereafter), sang songs she turned to in the tattered old hymnal .. and she captured my heart. One of the joys of my life has been watching her grow into a fine professional lady .. a High School Math Teacher, and Wedding Planner on the side.

The next photo is one of Red Hills Member Kevin Borland, and Deacon Percival Douse, as fine as any men I've ever met. Kevin often plays drums there, with an abandon and an enthusiasm that seems, sadly, rare in churches here.

Deacon Douse is a retired Brickmason, and has been for the 16 years or so I've known him. He lives abut 1-1/2 miles from the church, steeply uphill, and he walks there. Twice on Sundays. Such a gentleman, but also industrious in retirement; every time we've ever been there (six times, so far) on a work crusade, he's been there every day.

A privilege to know these guys.

Last, here's me with Carlene Byfield (L) and Natalie (we call her "Patches")Larmand (R), kids I've also watched grow up. Every time I look at this picture, I see nothing but joy on faces, and I can tell you it wasn't "posed happiness", either. It was the real McCoy.

There are lots of others, of course, but space and my carpal tunnel suggests this is enough. And they're surely enough to grasp the thought that we're going to spend eternity in Heaven, worshiping the King of Kings (of course), but we'll also have the privilege of fellowship with folks like these, who are already a joy for me to be around. And we will always have done, what we did here, that may have contributed to each others' lives.

Which makes what we do in our Lord's work, here, just that much more precious.

That's Jamaica .. stay tuned for some pics from Russia, Latvia, the USA, and who knows where....

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Say Hello To Tom & Vince **SEE UPDATE**

That's Tom, over there on the right. His full name is Tom O. Therapy (OK OK .. it's really Tomotherapy).

There may be some folks out there who've read my prior posts about my having prostate cancer. Some may even wonder what's been going on with that, since then, so follows a shameless update about yorz trooly.

My PSA had increased from 3.9 .. just under the 4.0 theshhold of action .. to 5.1 in the 6 months leading up to May this year, so there ensued biopsies, pathology, and surgery. A 30-day retest showed a 4.1 PSA, meaning the cancer had moved into a new home somewhere.

Bone scans were negative, but a CAT scan, accompanied by nuclear stuff in the IV, showed an enlarged lymph node. Subsequently, a Lupron injection has robbed the cancer of its food, and the PSA has gone from 4.1 post-surgery, to 2.0 a month later, to 0.32 another 3 weeks after that.

The Lupron is doing precisely what it's supposed to do.

That leaves the question about radiation, as Lupron usually loses its effectiveness after a few yeas YEARS (durn laptop keyboard...). There's a 25% chance that the disease hasn't gone anywhere else besides that one node; if that's the case, radiation treatments can kill it, and that'll be that.

We contemplated the minor side effects, with radiation, and decided I'd have the treatments, even at my age. We decided that, a few years down the road, when they stop the Lupron, were the PSA to go back up, it'd be a tad late for "WHOOPS....".

So, Monday, at 2:30 pm, I begin with the first episode of the Nuking Of Yours Truly. On a Tomotherapy machine like the one in the picture. It's best described as a combination CAT Scan machine with built in Radiation treatment thingamajig. I think they'll have me painted up with some permanent paint that the machine can read, and then the machine will know just where to microwave my innards. As opposed to stretching me out for an hour or so and manually aiming the machines at the marks painted all oooooooooover my boddddddy.

Which is how long Peg spent each time, on that table, while they took aim on her some 12 16 years ago (wow, time flies). They tell me I'll walk OUT the door within 10 to 20 minutes after walking IN the door.

Only downside I can think of is that Tom lives over at Vince's place (actually St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham .. over there on the right). That's about a 25 minute drive, each way. At my age, 50 minutes of driving a day for 37 consecutive days .. well, they DO give me the weekends off ... may be the most dangerous thing in my life.

37 treatments. Hmmmm .... I have this scene chasing through my mind ... guys in white coats saying "OK ... let's do ... THIRTY SIX treatments. Uhh .. wait ... let's be sure, and make it THIRTY EIGHT. Uhh ... no ... make it THIRTY SEVEN! Yeah .. THAT'S the ticket!"

I'm sure they have a more precise method, but this thing keeps playing in my (admittedly twisted) mind.

Oh ... I guess there is one other downside. Treatments won't get finished until after the first of the year, and I haven't the faintest idea what to get Tom & Vince for Christmas.

It'll be an interesting ride. The doctor says I may experience some loss of energy, so I asked her if it'd interfere with sitting in my recliner watching TV. She said probably not.

Stay tuned. It's apt to get really, really boring.


Had my first treatment today. As my tech said, it was kind of anti-climactic.

I showed up at 2:30 and simply walked into the men's changing room and put on the gown. Never sat down, and when I had the gown on and left the little booth, a nice lady said follow her. The first time I sat down was on the edge of the table. They got me into position, ran me through for a CAT scan. Then, after 4 or 5 minutes of pondering and adjusting by the doctor, they ran me through again. Only this time with radiation on.

For 586.8 seconds.

You heard me right.

Then, I got up and left the room. 30 minutes, start to finish. The real irony? Peg and I had to wait about 35 minutes for the oncologist to come in and say that was that, and I could come home.

Like some wag once said, there's a whole lot less to it than meets the eye. Except the machine does a whole lot MORE ......

Interesting point: my tech is Norman Wood. I go to church with him. In fact, we have somewhat of a common bond .. we both have a lingering illness, but feel fine. Mine's prostate cancer; his is MS, currently well controlled by meds.

Great guy.

I doubt I'll notice it, then.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Why Should The "Good Guys" Win?

Up until now, I haven't posted about this election, but I think I will.

To be "blunt up front", I don't know any reason why God should smile on us by sanctioning the election of a good President with a heart for his people, and the best interests of the USA at heart. Consider what, in my brief (eternally speaking) lifetime, I have seen. In no particular, and probably no logical, order:

  • I recall as a teen, seeing Jack Paar leave the Tonight Show, because they censored out a particular story. It was a funny little joke but it involved the use of the term "W.C" ... short for Water Closet ... a British euphemism for a toilet. He couldn't even say "WC" on television!
  • As an adult, I've seen .. well .. you KNOW what goes out over public airwaves now, and also what goes out on Cable. Care to tell me how profitable that's been for our nation?
  • When I was a kid, we roamed around the neighborhood playing. Other parents .. the moms were all home .. would see to it we didn't get into trouble, and if we did, they'd handle it right then. Then we'd have to face Mom & Dad when we got home.
  • Today, look around at the crime picture, particularly among youth. And lest you think of some neglected slum as where that happens, I live less than a block from a home where a teen and two of his friends went ... his Dad's house ... and killed his Dad, Dad's new fiancee, and the fiancee's two pre-teen daughters. Shot them all dead. They said they had reason .. as I recall, Dad's wouldn't let his son use his car.
  • In my four years of High School, ONE girl got pregnant. One. And it was her shame, and her family's. She had the baby over the summer break and the child was immediately adopted out. I should also point out that she married, a few years later, and was marvelously healed of the experience.
  • Today .. well .. just look around at teen pregnancy .. even in the church .. and draw your own conclusions.
  • As a young person, I rarely heard the word "abortion". It was too much of a horrid thought to even speak. And when a medical necessity threatened ... I mean REALLY threatened ... a woman's life, it was acknowledged as a tragedy. That the baby'd have to be aborted.
  • Today, the population proudly declares a "woman's right to choose". To choose to MURDER A BABY. Tell me ... how does that differ from the callousness toward life that we see in so many places in the Old Testament, which caused God to, finally, step in and do something about?
  • As a young person, I had to ask my brother what the word "homosexual" meant. I think I'd heard it whispered as an insult toward someone; I sure hadn't seen it in print, nor heard it in any public media.
  • Nowadays, we have ... well ... you know the marches, the teachings, the Pride, the organizations, etc etc, we see on TV from time to time. Even to those little forms we ask CHILDREN to sign, acknowledging homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. And, need I remind you that THAT particular sin seems to have been the one that brought down Sodom and Gomorrah?
I could go on, of course ... I could go on about the church ... you know all the stuff going on in the SBC ... inflated numbers ... teen pregnancy and divorce statistics rivaling the world's. But instead, let's look at what Habakkuk griped about, and what God told him in response:

"The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received: How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

"Look at the nations and watch-- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on-- guilty men, whose own strength is their god." Habakkuk 1:1-11:(NIV)

Sound familiar?

Yeah .. it did to me, too.

I don't know who our "Babylonians" are, but I can't think of any really good reasons why God doesn't have them warming up in the wings. And it seems to me that this election might just be setting it up. I suppose either Presidential Candidate might represent the entree' into a Babylon-Israel brouhaha. I just don't know....

EXCEPT ... maybe ... just maybe ... the same God who struck a deal, which ultimately failed, with Moses Abraham (suppose HE had Senior Moments too?) for the preservation of Sodom and Gomorrah ... based on finding a remnant of righteousness there ... will strike a deal with His Son's Body, here, to show the USA the same mercy.



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Saturday, November 01, 2008



The term "Double-hung" usually refers to windows, not siding. So, what's up with double-hung siding?

Simple. If you look at the photo, you'll see two guys hanging some siding on the house. What you can't see is that they'd just torn all that siding off the house.! See, the house was complete, but the contractor .. and the man working with him .. didn't like the looks of that section. It had gotten out of plumb, and by the time they got to the front of that wall, it was obviously out of square. So they decided it had to come down, and be put back up, plumb, square, and lookin' just right.

When I walked out this morning to watch them work, Keith .. the guy up top .. laughed and said "double-hung siding..". That's obviously a non-entity in construction.

I also point out that the siding went over the existing rough-sawn cedar, and you could see the bottom of the cedar at the bottom of the vinyl. So ... they wrapped the bottom of the cedar in brown aluminum so it'd match the rest of the trim on the house, and they even wrapped the bottom of the chimney chase, which is all of 6 inches off the ground! There's no way anyone will ever see that!

They just wanted to do it right. Even when nobody'd ever see it.

What really struck me was the zeal for making things right, and look right, shown by the men working for the contractor. They weren't trying to please him; they were assuming I wanted the very best it could be, and I'm the guy they were aiming to make happy.

Or maybe they just knew how good it could look, and they weren't going to stop until they were happy with it.

Either way would be ok, with me.

I wonder, in my own Spiritual life, if I'm as zealous to do things right. To make sure everything is as plumb and square and fitting as can be. I wonder who I'm trying to please. The people I'm teaching to, or the One I'm teaching for.

I wonder if I really understand how beautiful if can be, and refuse to settle for anything less in what I do.

I wonder if I'm as zealous as I should be to track how the walls are lining up, and go back and re-do things where I see it's gotten out of plumb. To admit I went off-kilter somewhere, and correct things to get back on track.

And I wonder if I'm as careful to do things right, when nobody will notice. When nobody will see.

I wonder.

That's certainly my desire. At my age, and with a disease that daily reminds me that every morning I wake up represents one less day until my last one, I'm understanding more than ever, the eternal consequences of what I do. I suppose that reality, coupled with the desire to get it right, is one of the more comforting things, in my mind. Without a real, live Holy Spirit, living in me, I can't imagine I'd care that much.....

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