Observations from the Padded Cell, home of the Resident Idiot of Blogdom, who is let out, occasionally.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Off The Early Morning Wall
It's a little after six a.m., Christmas Eve morning, and I didn't sleep worth a flip last night. That's me over there, in my Snuggie, sitting at my computer about 2 minutes ago.
I've been reading some stuff that's been said by various Famous People about the SBC and about the GCRTF and what everyone is guessing is going to happen. And, I just commented on one website where there's a new post about the outlook for the SBC and it reminded me of an old joke.
There was this accountant who was an inveterate gambler. He'd gamble on most anything and was always on the lookout for "clues" as to what he ought to bet on.
This one morning he went on an assignment to an office, to conduct a routine monthly financial workup. He noted the address of the building was #555 5th Avenue. 5th floor. Office #55.
When he ran the trial balance and looked at the general ledger (or whatever it is they look at when they do that), all he saw was fives. Everywhere on the page.
He'd had enough. He ran downstairs and jumped into a cab .. and noted it was NYC Cab #5555 .. and rushed to Aqueduct Race Track, getting there just in time to place a bet on the 5th race. So, believing in fate, he cashed a check for everything in his account, and put every penny on horse #5. He then rushed to the rail just in time to watch the race, and particularly horse #5.
It came in 5th.
Just shows to go you .. sometimes you can study all the right information and still come to the wrong conclusion.
I got this feeling..........
Friday, December 18, 2009
NAMB, I Think You Owe An Apology...
..to my Granddaughter Meredith. That's her, there, as we were talking to her this morning via Skype.
She's in Nairobi, Kenya.
In a recent letter, NAMB put out a "Call to Urgent Prayer for SBC", to be passed on to our "church, friends and family" to a "Day of Fasting, Prayer, and Repentance" .. attributable to the statement that "Southern Baptists - corporately and individually" have "forgotten our first love".
I don't think so. Meredith, and her friend Liv .. also from FBC Pelham, and the daughter of our Worship Leader .. are in Africa on a Mission. Today they played with children in an orphanage near Nairobi, and next they're traveling to a smaller city where they will spend a week, with a Pastor there, working with young kids who live on the streets.
They're going on their own, working with a pastor there that our Worship Leader and family have worked with for years. Neither that, nor Meredith & Liv's presence in Africa as I write this, is evidence of their leaving anything except maybe the comforts of home and the presence of their family at Christmas.
Certainly not leaving their first love.
NAMB: I think you owe an apology to FBC Pelham, too. And to a lot of other fine, Gospel-centered, Christ-preaching, Missionary-sending churches. I don't have space enough here to list all the ones I know, personally.
I admit we all need to be still and know that He is God. But when we do know that, maybe it's time to start making some noise playing with kids, or handing out fresh water, or praising the God who will so touch a couple of kids' hearts, in Alabama, that they'll want to give up Christmas with their families so they can minister to some kids over 7000 miles away.
If the leadership of NAMB has messed up .. but I suspect it's not about that, since you're putting this out worldwide .. then DO something about it. Ask us to pray for that. Should we pray for the NAMB? Certainly! Should we pray, worldwide, for our missionary efforts? Definitely! Should we pray for the Spiritual fervor of our churches, wherever they are? Most assuredly! But don't ask all the fine, hard-working, dedicated and consecrated Saints of God who are getting it right, to put on somebody else's sackcloth and ashes and have a solemn assembly.
Looking at my granddaughter, I'll be confessing how wonderful Jesus is, and how incredibly beyond description God is. After all, I've seen a glimpse of that.
Today. Via Skype.
Want a little more evidence? Check the next picture, of my granddaughter's hand, and the hand of one of her little friends named Daniel... uploaded to Facebook from Nairobi. She also emailed us and, among other things, said "Once we finally got here today we hit the ground running and met with the street boys. We were able to give them hats, candy, feed them, and leave some balls and frisbees with them. Liv shared the Gospel and 10 of them accepted Christ!
"Hit the ground running...."? Well I guess so!
So Why Are They Still Making Pontiacs At All?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Unity. And The No Plaid Cookie
This is a cookie, but not the kind you usually think of finding on your computer. It says, in the common "sign" language, "No Plaid". Since some people might wonder about that, let me explain.
We have this group that meets on Wednesday nights at church. We started in July 2008, reviewing Ken Hemphill's course entitled "Serving God". When that 8 weeks was up, we moved to the Baptist Faith & Message, then read through Romans, and that brought us clear up to week-before-last.
We chase a lot of rabbits in there.
The group is a little like the 100-year old hammer .. which had had 4 new heads and 5 new handles, but it was still the same hammer. There have been a number of folks in and out, but several have been in for the duration. Among them is a young mom named Lauren.
Lauren is quite intense, has a lot of zeal for God and His Word, and is a real challenge to teach. But she's a real pleasure to have in the class, as she's most respectful, and when I thanked her for that one evening, she said "Why wouldn't I .. you're my elder."
Anyway, a couple weeks ago she asked what my favorite color was. I said "Plaid". When I got home, it occurred to me she might have been serious, so I emailed her and said plaid wasn't a color; I liked red. So last night, she shows up and gives Peggy and me, each, a cookie like in the photo. We all laughed about it, and we told her thanks.
One of the guys in the group is named Ken, and he's not at all a fan of what's referred to as "Calvinism". And that's fine with me .. I don't teach it, but when we stumble onto a verse that the Calvinists point to in defending their approach, I'll normally tell the class that (which I also to for Arminians, Dispensationalists, Semi-Pelagians, etc). But what I do do is to ask them a lot of questions about such verses. Like Ken has said, my purpose seems to be to challenge them.
I like that.
Last night we were reading in 1 Corinthians, chapter One, and spent not a little time on the verse concerning God's mentioning He has apparently called some. Ken's belief is that He calls everyone, whereas mine is that He chooses those whom He calls. Nobody changed their minds, but everyone was challenged to defend their beliefs. This is healthy, to me, particularly in a denomination where so many seem not to know much more of what they believe, than what steps they took when they were saved.
And Lauren and I had huge fun kicking around Romans 8:26-27.
Brought all this up to say that, in the end, we rejoiced that we could discuss, defend, sharpen, and just generally fellowship in the Word, and without any hint of disunity or division. And that's important, seeing that we'd just read the earlier verses in 1 Corinthians in which Paul admonished the church, telling them there ought not to be any divisions among them.
One Of Our Better Retirement Investments
You may wonder why we have this Circuit City Shopping Cart sitting in the hallway. Actually, it's only because we'd just unloaded it.
Down that hall is our bedroom, from which you can enter via the porch from the upper driveway. And, behind me is the kitchen. So, we bought this little jewel .. brand new, by the way .. from the local Circuit City Store at their Going-Out-Of-Business Sale to save innumerable trips on arthritic legs, carrying bags of groceries in from the car. It's on the order of 75' from the car, that way, and a lot better than carrying armloads of stuff up 14 steps if we come in through the garage or front door.
Besides, our retirement accounts are paying hardly any interest, while this one hands us a sizable dividend at least once a week.
Funny thing: it sits on the back porch when not in use. Lots of people have visited here, but nobody's ever asked about the shopping cart. Bet they were talking about it in the car on the way home, though......
Monday, December 14, 2009
She Has One In Mine, Too
The picture over there to the right was taken in June of 1994, at a FEMA trailer park outside Winfield, MO (Winfield had been part of the great Mississippi River flood; hence, the FEMA trailer park). The young lady is Brandi Boykin, one of the youth who taught the Backyard Bible Club I oversaw there, on a church mission trip. And she was every bit as much into her work there with the kids, as her expression suggests. She was also the focal point of two real interventions, by God, in my life, and I thought I'd write about them today.
Brandi died this past Saturday. More about that, a bit later.
Brandi went on several mission trips with FBC Pelham, in which I also participated. The first was a summer trip to Jamaica in 1992. There, I "superintended" a VBS at the Cypress Hall Baptist Church, sister church to the one at Red Hills. It's actually somewhat of a mission, as Calvin Matthews pastors both.
Brandi was one of the teachers in the VBS .. we had over 100 kids attend .. and she was bothered all week by a cracked toe. The last day there .. Friday .. the Cypress Hall folks threw us a little "party" to thank us for being there. They served snacks downstairs in the (extremely rustic) church, and sometime during the party, one of our kids stepped on Brandi's foot.
She yelled in pain. Now .. the year before, I'd had a girl who was too sick to go to VBS the second day, on my team, and several of us (who believe in healing) had gathered around her and prayed God would take away her nausea. When we finished praying and said "amen", she looked up and said .. and I AM quoting here .. "I just burped and I feel fine!" And, indeed, she was, clear through the time at VBS.
She remarked, later, that we'd just asked God to take away the nausea so she could teach, and that's exactly what He did. The nausea came back, after!
Well .. several of those kids were with me in Jamaica, so I asked them to gather around Brandi and we'd pray for her pain. They gathered, but in a moment I'll never forget, none of us could speak.
We stood silent for perhaps two minutes, which seemed like an eternity. Then I apologized for not having enough faith to pray. Brandi said "That's OK, brother Bob."
That evening, on the way to Red Hills for our final worship service before leaving the next morning, she hurt so bad that she threw up in the van. All over the front of her dress. When we got to the church, she said she couldn't go in, she was too messy, so she'd stay outside and make "Salvation Bracelets" for us to give out in the airport the next day. Then .. despite the fact that it was dark out, and despite the fact that the church is 43' above street level (thanks, Google Earth) .. kids started walking up the extremely steep driveway, noticing here there, and sitting down and asking what she was doing. She told them, and of course, explained what the beads meant.
When the invitation was given at the end of the service, Brandi came in with her dirty dress, and with the 22 kids who had prayed to be saved that evening, on the front porch.
That did two things for me. It left me speechless, and it also explained why we could not pray, over her, that afternoon. God did not want her healed that afternoon.
He had something far better in mind.
The other direct intervention of God happened in 1994, when we were in Winfield, MO, where the picture was taken. One day, on the way back to the church at noon, she sat on the floor of the van, head against the A/C vent. One of the other kids said she had a migraine.
When we got to the church, where they fed us, I asked the other kids to take all the stuff from the morning back into the church, so I wouldn't have to do it. They did, but Brandi got into the right seat and sat there, head bowed, feet dangling out the door. I walked around the front of the van to minister to her, and as I did, the chimes on the church started playing a hymn. I didn't recognize it at first, but I recognized the chorus .. "From sinking sands, He lifted me...". When the chorus played on, the chimes, I whispered the words in her ear. When it ended, I laid my left hand on her forehead and asked God, silently, to take away the pain. The chorus came around again, and I whispered the words one more time.
When I took my hand down, she looked up at me and said "the pain's gone".
A half hour later, I saw her playing UNO with some other of our youth. I said "How's your head?", to which she responded .. as if I hadn't been there .. "I told you .. the pain's GONE!". At that point, our leader Sam Neugent came up and asked what that was about, so I told him the story about the kids and the van and the stuff and the chimes and the hymn and the headache.
He said "WHAT chimes?"
Wow. This was in the fellowship hall, immediately under the sanctuary, immediately under the chimes. So we asked around, and nobody else heard the chimes!
We asked our hostess, a member of the church there. I told her this had happened at 12:37 .. I put my hand on Brandi's forehead, and I wear a digital watch, and I'd noted the time .. and the hostess said "Trust me, brother Bob, those chimes do not ring at 12:37".
They did, that day. Brandi and I both heard them, and we recalled that moment many times in the following years.
Last Saturday, her mom was bringing her from where Brandi lived, in Mississippi, to Birmingham for some treatments. Brandi'd fallen victim to several ailments in recent years. They stopped in Tuscaloosa, and Brandi was sleeping peacefully in the back seat. When she got home, to Pelham, Brandi was no longer breathing.
It's my hope that she died as peacefully as she slept. And, that she arrived in Heaven as enthusiastic and sweet as she was, in all my memory, while on earth.
The shirt says "You have a very special place in my heart .. Philippians 1:7".
I hope you have a terrific time in Heaven, Brandi. But you'll always have that special place in my heart.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Still A Mystery: We Do, He Does
Something occurred to me yesterday (as I write this), as I Peg and I were driving to see Invictus at Amstar 14 in Alabaster.
Incidentally .. Invictus is a wonderful film telling a story that's greater than we knew. And there's no trick, no sub-plot, just a recounting of the story of what brought South Africa out of apartheid.
What occurred to me is related to the concert that Isaiah Smith and I went to, last Wednesday evening. I just had a terrific time there, and it occurred to me it had to do with more than just the performance.
I mentioned that we sat on the front row, immediately in front of where Victor Wooten .. the world's best bass player .. stood. All evening long, out of the side of my vision, I could see Isaiah watching the band in general, and Wooten in particular. Victor's a really neat bass player, Isaiah plays the bass, and the expression of joy on Isaiah's face was absolutely priceless. I don't think I've ever seen a young man so captivated for so long, as I saw Wednesday evening. It was as if a life-long dream .. that of a long life .. had come true.
The thought that hit me was that the best part of the concert, for me, was that I'd had a hand in bringing such a thrill to this young man .. he's 15 .. who lost his dad to cancer a few years ago.
That thought powered another train of thought. God has done some incredible things in my life .. things which have blessed me beyond my ability to describe .. and what occurred to me is they've almost always been something He did, seemingly in response to something I did.
Sitting down and writing a poem (which I never can do unless God inspires me to..), praying for someone's healing, speaking up when something needs to be said (even when it might get me in trouble, and despite the fact that I am, by nature, shy & insecure), encouraging a friend to do something they don't think they could ever do (when the downside could be substantial), preaching a sermon in Jamaica when I'm nowhere close to a preacher, but had a message and God seemed to be saying "do it...", asking an off-the-wall question that came from left field, and a lot of other things that just really don't seem like the real "me" that I know me to be.
I saw a question on Facebook one day which said "If someone could teach you a simple way to share your faith, would you do it?" I asked why that would even be necessary; I mean, I doubt your favorite restaurant taught you a course on how to tell someone it was your favorite restaurant! Your faith is your faith, and you have everything you need to tell someone else about it. There's nothing "else" you have to learn before you can do that.
In my experience, if we'll do what we CAN do, in His service, HE will add some other stuff to our Spiritual "repertoire" once we show ourselves faithful to use what He's ALREADY given us. And, if that doesn't happen, it may well be because people think there's "something else" they need to learn before they can serve Him.
Said all that to say this: an abysmally small percentage of Christians .. if we can believe the widely-published stats .. are actually involved in the Kingdom work here. Don't those folks .. the ones on the sidelines .. understand that the purest joy there is on earth is found in serving Him? In seeing what He will do, in response to what we do in serving Him?
We use a God-given gift in teaching, and God uses that to impact someone's life in ways we never could. And God lifts the veil and shows us what happened, when He knows we need to see that.
We use our gift of ministering to infants, which causes the parents to trust us with their kids while they themselves sit under the preaching of God's Word, upstairs, and lives are changed for His glory.
I cannot tell you the times Peg has been moved to tears when some teen that she taught, as a pre-schooler, gets saved and comes for Baptism. I don't know that I ever see her more fulfilled than that.
The downside: if all you do is go to church and sit in a pew, chances are you'll never see this at all. And, because you never actually do anything in the Kingdom work, you may well not ever know the joys of seeing God intervene in something you did for Jesus' sake, and watch while God works miracles in someone's life following something you did, that you could, in fact, do.
Even to seeing a 15-year-old, who's already had more grief than many will ever experience, radiate pure joy for three whole hours, one Wednesday night.
And one more thing: THAT joy is infectious!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In All Your Ways, Acknowledge Him.....
It'd be a little hard to ignore His showing up yesterday. He did just that, big time, in something as mundane as concert tickets.
One of my friends from church is Isaiah Smith, of the Smith family previously written about here. He's a bass player and he knows I'm a Bela Fleck fan. And Fleck's bass player in the Flecktones is Victor Wooten, arguably the best bass player in the world.
His performance, and the performances of ALL the musicians, were simply beyond description.
After, the band went to the lobby and stood in the area where all the band stuff was on sale. They called it their "Meet & Greet". Now, I'm not into standing in line, so I just sat to the side on a nice comfy padded bench, and Isaiah went through the line.
About an hour later, we left .. Isaiah had the autographs of everybody in the band, Victor Wooten had signed his ticket and the pick guard from Isaiah's bass (he brought it just in case...), and Isaiah had his picture taken with Victor.
The entire concert was so wonderful .. so outstanding .. that I wrote a thank-you note to Victor Wooten, and asked him to express my gratitude to the rest of the band. But if I want to REALLY thank our benefactor, I need to send another thank-you note. So here it is:
Thanks, God. Your performance was the best of all.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
It's OK, Because He Knows About It
Peggy and I visited with our family doctor today, for some routine 6-month followup for some bloodwork. And not just bloodwork, but fasting bloodwork.
Cleveland interpretation: fasting bloodwork is the test that give you an excuse to go eat Cheese Blintzes at IHOP, afterwards.
Everything was fine, and I took the opportunity to ask the doctor about a couple other problems that have cropped up recently. One of those was sleeping; he took care of that. Another was stuffy nose, which he addressed via a prescription.
The last problem, which arose in the past week, is best left undescribed (in case men, women, children, boys, or girls happen to read this). But it was of some concern. So, Doctor Tom and I talked it over, he examined the shall we say affected area, and said it wasn't a problem.
Peg asked me about it as we drove in the direction of the Cheese Blintzes, and I recounted the story. Then I said I felt OK with it, and said "It's OK, because he knows about it".
Hmmm ... hmmm ... it's OK, because he knows about it.
That got me to thinking .. shouldn't things be OK with me, because my Heavenly Father knows about it? I've got arthritis in my right knee and ankle, I've had prostate cancer that got out into a lymph node, we're living on Social Security and have a decent retirement nest egg but who knows what's going to happen to the economy or health care or oil prices, Peg's had breast cancer several times, and the list goes on. And on.
Do I think God doesn't know about any of these things? No. Do I think He intends harm for me? No. If that's the case, should I worry about any of those things? No.
And that flash of thought brought me to all that's going on in the SBC. Does He know what the GCRTF is up to? Yes. Does He know what their decisions are going to be? Yes. Does He know what we of the SBC, assembled in Orlando, are going to vote on, and how we're going to vote? Yes.
God, in more than one place, tells us that He orders the steps and even the thoughts of those whose works are committed fully to Him. Hence, all we need to do, as believers, and as members of the SBC, is to walk in the light He gives us, and in faithfulness to Him.
Which brings up a question in my mind. Since none of us lives in a vacuum, we're going to have to interact with people around us. Including some who don't agree with us. When that happens, do we think God doesn't know about it? I doubt we think that, and if God knows about those things, then what cause do I have to be upset?
None, that's what.
So why would there ever be vitriol, name-calling, sarcasm, and the like, stuff I see so much of in Blogdom? Maybe it's because, when someone disagrees with us, we think there's a chance they're right and we're wrong. So, we get all defensive. And loud. But if we're in tune with God, and He knows, what's to be upset about? What's to fear?
Said all that to say that God instructed us to be united. To be one, even as He and His Father are One. And He didn't say that we were just supposed to pick out somebody to be in unity with ... we're to strive for unity with all believers. Yet, as Nathan Finn pointed out some days ago on his blog, there are folks on the "sprinkling" side debating with the folks on the "immersion" side over whether the other is really a church at all!
I can't help but think that kind of thing sickens God.
In my personal case, I sure don't have a problem with either side of that debate, as I've been a Presbyterian and a Baptist. And also a Methodist, and I never left any denomination over what they believed.
For the record, I am now a Baptist by conviction, and do not intend to change. But if God tells us to go labor in some other vineyard, we'll sure do that!
The photograph above is that of the procession of the hearse carrying the remains of Pelham Police Officer Philip Davis ... killed in the line of duty last week ... from the funeral home, to the Church at Brook Hills, for his viewing 12/7/2009, and his subsequent funeral 12/8/2009. En route, they detoured past the Pelham Police Headquarters ... just off camera to the left ... which also took them past the Pelham Fire Department Headquarters. The men seen saluting in the photograph are the on-duty members of the Pelham Fire Department, paying their respects. Despite the differences, in may ways, between Policemen and Firefighters, the differences were all lost in the moment of respect caught in the picture from the Birmingham News.
Additionally, mid-day today, there weren't any Pelham Police units visible in the city; they were all at the funeral, which was some miles distant. But, in their place, were at least five cars from Hoover, the city immediately adjoining Pelham to the north. They were filling in for the Pelham Police, who were at the funeral. This was despite the fact that Pelham and Hoover may handle their duties differently. Pelham and Hoover may have different standards for speed limits, stop signs, standards for when to be lenient and when to be strict.
Edit Note: We ran into our son, Brian, at lunch today, Thursday the 10th. He told me that Hoover Police Personnel began covering Pelham at 6:00 p.m. Monday, the day of the viewing of Officer Davis, and covered the entire City until 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, the day after the funeral. The entire Pelham Police force was free to attend the viewing, the funeral, and tend to the family until the morning following. We also learned that there were over 500 cars in the procession, including Police from as far away as Dallas, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona. My, my, how much we can learn from them....
I'd hope that the SBC might demonstrate such a cooperative spirit and willingness to work for the benefit of others. I'd hope that differences, in matters which are seemingly minor, might be set aside as easily as was shown over the past few days, right in our back yard.
The really strange thing is that I don't think the law requires such a spirit among public entities. Nothing forced the Fire Department or the City of Hoover to do what was done. But they did it, regardless.
As opposed to that, the Bible commands believers to have ... to cultivate ... to strive for ... a Spirit of unity. And to love one another as Christ loves us. Sadly, I see less of that within the SBC, than I believe God had in mind.
Some people in our midst are Calvinists. More, aren't. Some people favor closed communion, some don't. Some people speak in unknown tongues, some don't. Some people (fill in the blank...), and others don't. Yet, despite the fact that God knows about all those things, and despite the fact that our imperfect, sin-blurred knowledge of all things Holy dooms us to miss the mark here or there, too many folks act as if they're right about everything they believe, and anybody who disagrees with them, is wrong. And that causes goodness-knows-how-much division. And disunity.
The Bible tells me nobody, but nobody, names Jesus as Savior and Lord, but by the Holy Spirit. If you do that, you're my brother (or sister).
Do we have differences? Sure. But it's OK that we do.
It's OK because He knows about it. I'm all for letting Him handle it, and just being about His work down here.