Thursday, February 28, 2008

Yep... That's My Dad!

Several years ago at Chapman's Mortuary in Huntington, WV, my father was paying his respects to the family of a departed friend. The room was packed with family and friends of the deceased, and as those things go, lots of milling around and conversing takes place. In our part of the country, funeral visitations are a time to show respect to the deceased (of course) but also to renew old aquaintances and generally meet new people as well. As Dad (who was dressed as seen below at the left) was introduced to another member of the family, the guy said, "It seems like I know you from somewhere." Dad replied that he had been preaching in the area for over 50 years and that he had probably seen him around some church, or even at one of the funeral homes. "No." the fellow mused. "That's not it." Dad sort of passed it off and went on talking to some of the other mourners. A few minutes later, the other fellow approached him again and said, "Do you go to Marshall football games?" When Dad replied in the affirmative, the guy said, "That's it! You're that guy!"
A strange transformation takes place around the end of August each year.
About the time College Football Season rolls around my father, Rev. Caudle Adkins, Jr. morphs from his role as "semi retired pastor and evangelist" to "That Guy" in Section 102, Row 9 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on the campus of Marshall University.
Now if you want the serious story about Dad, go back to my inaugural post on this blog site, dated June 20, 2007, in an article entitled, "The Giant"
But for our purposes today, we're going to look at the "other side" of the old preacher. The one that comes out when the footballs begin flying around in the fall. The one who is known by the group of "Philosophers" who gather in "Frosty's Corner" at McDonald's for breakfast each day, and most certainly to the folks on the West Side of the stadium (Third Avenue end). That's The Guy who dons the funny hats and glasses and walks up and down the aisle yelling, "Looking Good!" to celebrate each time the Thundering Herd scores a TD or a field goal.
It hasn't always been this way. Time was when Dad didn't have time to attend many football games. He was busy serving as an evangelist, preaching in as many as 17 - 19 revival meetings per year (and back then, revival meetings were secheduled for two weeks at a time!). He'd catch a game on TV every now and then, and do his best to attend some of our Little League games, if nothing more than just for a few innings before he had to go preach somewhere. It was always a special time when (usually on a vacation) he would take my brothers and I to a major league baseball game in Cincinnati, Atlanta, or St. Louis. But I never knew of Dad to attend any college football games until a dozen years or so ago.
My brother, Bruce, regularly attended Marshall games at old Fairfield Stadium through the lean years, long before the Herd became the winningest college team in the nation during the 90's. As Dad began to have a little more spare time in retirement, he began to go along from time to time. When the new stadium opened in 1991, he and Bruce began to purchase season tickets with a block of four "family" seats - and Dad's "new personna" began to emerge.
It started innocently enough. Somewhere Dad came across a red baseball cap with two bills. Not front and back, but the two bills angled from both sides of the front of the cap. It looked pretty goofy. He wore it as a gag. Somebody laughed, so he took it with him again to the next game. About that time, local TV station WOWK (Channel 13) had begun publicizing their newly acquired News Helicopter "Chopper 13". Dad picked up a dozen or so "Chopper 13" lapel pins and stuck them all over the red two billed cap. (This, I think, was done to impress the lovely Sandra Cole, a Channel 13 News Anchor, who sat across the aisle in the next section.)
Dad began to gain a reputation for the unexpected from the fans in his section. One season, Stewart's Hot Dogs ran a promotion to sell more weenies. Stewarts Hot Dogs are a local favorite in the east end of Huntington. They had the hot dog concession at the stadium and they wrapped their dogs in aluminum foil and then with a napkin imprinted with Stewart's logo. The PA announcer would remind fans Stewarts had wrapped a $20 bill inside the napkin of one of their hot dogs which would make some lucky fan very happy. Dad bought his usual hot dog, but alas, no money inside. However, the wheels started turning.
Dad took a twenty out of his wallet, wrapped it up inside the Stewart's napkin and made his way back to his seat. When he unwrapped the hot dog in the presence of his fellow fans, he jumped to his feet waving the twenty and yelled, "Look what I found!" Everyone was amazed at his luck. The next game he pulled the same stunt and folks began to catch on. The third week when he found another "lucky twenty" in his hot dog, a guy two rows back yelled, "Hey Preacher, look what I got!" as he pulled a fifty out of his hot dog.
Dad has always had the gift of motivating others!
Well, as his notoriety grew, Dad began to find new ways to stand out in the crowd. He found a huge pair of green glasses that he would don (along with the "Chopper 13" hat) every time the Herd would score. "Looking good!" he would cry out as he paraded down the aisle in his celebratory get up. Soon he had fashioned two huge thumbs, painted green, (Marshall's color) for a Thumbs Up gesture which he added to the celebration routine.
One thing led to another. New and even stranger glasses were added to the get up. Soon he had a whole bag full of nose glasses; mirrored glasses; "oriental eyes" glasses; glasses with eyeballs that light up inside the lenses; glasses with eyeballs on springs (see above); and even a pair with windshield wipers for those rainy games. Along with the glasses came new and unique hats. One of my favorites is the "Skunk Hat" that he quickly dons after a bad call by the officials. As late season arrives, he brings out the green baseball hat with the "Bah, Humbug" logo that lights up and flashes in red.
A new wrinkle has developed over the past few years. His great grandsons from New Orleans brought a big bag of Mardi Gras beads home one summer for Grumpa, and, you guessed it, Dad now hands out Mardi Gras beads as part of the celebration routine. (No flashing required).
Dad was always a hard guy to buy Christmas presents for. No more. If you can find an unusual hat, fuzzy green wig, or a strange pair of glasses, he'll be happy to add them to the two bags of stuff he regularly carries into each home game. Several years ago I came across a gift that I thought would be perfect for Dad's bathroom. It's a white toilet seat with the green Marshall logo on the top of the seat. When you open the lid the bottom side says "Hear the Thunder!" The perfect lowbrow addition to any Herd Fan's powder room. To my wife's dismay, Dad never did install it on his commode. HE TAKES IT TO THE GAMES WITH HIM! Not every game, mind you, but at least once a year the toilet seat makes its appearance at the stadium.
The home crowd loves it. Visiting fans just don't understand. Some folks from Temple had their pictures made with him and the toilet seat several years ago. I'll bet that created some interesting conversation back in Philadelphia, don't you?
Some of Dad's seat mates have asked me if Bruce or I are going to continue the tradition. My standard reply is that, "It skips a generation". Bruce has an explanation for Dad's unusual behavior at the Marshall games when he deadpans, "He didn't get enough dress up as a kid!" Dad has become a fixture at the stadium, one of the characters that make up the great atmosphere at "The Joan". Even folks in the area where I sit (about 20 rows up from Dad's seats) always start rubbernecking when the Herd scores - looking to see what get up "That Guy" has on this time.
The last couple of seasons, Dad has slowed down a little. Those really cold games are a little tougher on him than they used to be. He's even left a little early a time or two. But still, at 80 years of age, he has a great time at the ball games.
He deserves it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Article By Dr. Hershael York

More about the gambling issue in Kentucky.

Dr. Hershael York is a professor of preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He is Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort and is a past President of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Dr. York gave the invocation at the opening sessions of both houses in this session of the Kentucky General Assembly. Printed below is the full text of an article taken from his blog, dated February 11th. In it he eloquently makes a powerful case against legalized gambling. I believe it bears repeating here.

A Biblical Case against Gambling

A dear pastor friend of mine who, like me, finds himself of necessity involved in trying to keep casino gambling out of Kentucky asked me to share some biblical reasons why I believe gambling is wrong. I actually wrote most of the following in 2005 and it was published in the Western Recorder, the official newsmagazine of Kentucky Baptists. In order that it might contribute to the debate that now consumes our state, as well as inform some of my students who think it an adiapherous avocation, I share it once again with the conviction that a follower of Christ has no business gambling.Simply put, gambling is sin.If no passage of Scripture explicitly forbids it, can we with confidence claim that gambling is wrong, a moral evil, sin? With good reason, Christians are hesitant to label sins that the Bible doesn’t mention, yet we often have to distill principles from the Bible that we apply to contemporary situations. Pornography, computer hacking, or cheating on tests aren’t mentioned in the Bible either, yet believers who want to live like Jesus know intuitively and correctly that these behaviors run counter to the will of God. While biblical texts may not mention them explicitly, biblical principles speak to them directly. In the same way, the ethics of Scripture clearly teach that gambling is wrong and a sin against God, not for one single reason but for many. The slot machine, casino, or poker table are not for believers submitted to the Lordship of Christ.Many Christians object that if they budget a certain amount of their discretionary entertainment funds for gambling and don’t go beyond that, what’s the harm? After all, Christian people waste money on all kinds of diversions. Far from convincing me that gambling is not necessarily wrong, this particular argument actually confirms it in my mind, because it reveals a complete disregard for what one’s participation in gambling does to others. This argument reveals a self-centeredness and lack of concern for weaker brothers and sisters that believers ought to find disturbing (Romans 14:21). In reality, even Christians who are not personally hurt by it are not free to participate in an industry that preys on the weak and the poor.The Bible is full of references to God’s view of economics. In the garden of Eden, even before sin entered the world, God established a work ethic by which humanity was to exist (Genesis 1:28-30) Part of God’s creation of man in His own image was that man would work for his food. While God provided it, Adam and Eve had to exercise “dominion” over the plants and animals and till the soil, working for their sustenance. After they sinned, work changed to a more laborious task, but it remained the way God provided for them. In other words, God’s way is that we should earn what we get.Think about these reasons why gambling violates Christian principles:

Working and investing for a living is based on a win/win scenario, but gambling is always win/lose. God put His stamp of approval on commerce and work. When a carpenter builds a cabinet and gets paid, both parties win. One of them gets the cabinets she wanted, and one of them gets the money he desired. They can both feel good about the transaction. Not so with gambling. Someone always loses and pays a price.

Gambling is motivated by greed. Let’s be honest and admit that greed lies at the heart of all gambling. The desire to get something for nothing is really another name for covetousness (Exodus 20:17; Prov. 21:25-26).

Gambling is a wasteful use of the Lord’s money. I doubt that many Christians who gamble tithe, but even if they do, New Testament Christians understand that God doesn’t have the right to only ten percent of our money, but all of it. Even though I am a tither, I am still required to be a steward of all I have because it belongs to God. I am no freer to gamble with God’s money than I am with anyone else’s. Even though others might waste the Lord’s money on equally frivolous things, their sin doesn’t excuse mine.

Gambling shows a lack of love for my neighbor. If I really love my neighbor, I want only what is for his good (Matt. 22:39, 1 Cor. 10:24). When legislators talk about putting casinos on the state line so we can prey on the greed and weakness of our neighbors, they reveal the harmful assault that gambling really is. Can I in good conscience support something that preys on the weaknesses and indulges the worst instincts of the precious people around me?

Gambling fails to consider innocent families. We might be tempted to think that if a person gambles away all of his money, then that is his problem and serves him right. But what of his ten-year-old son who can’t afford school supplies? What of his wife who has to work to pay off the credit cards she didn’t even know she had? What of his ailing parents who cannot count on his help in their senior years? What of his daughter’s college education? Proverbs 15:27 says “A greedy man brings trouble to his family,” and nowhere is that more obvious than in the gambling industry.

Gambling shows no concern for God’s glory. A Jesus-follower should try to glorify God in everything (1 Cor. 10:31), and use his or her money to accomplish good for the kingdom (Matt. 6:19-21, 24).

Gambling is not an act of faith but a game of chance. Paul wrote that “Everything that is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). The Christian life is to be lived in dependence on God to meet all needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
Jesus wouldn’t do it. Can you picture Jesus sitting at a slot machine with a cup full of quarters? He was interested in doing His Father’s business, alleviating suffering and grief, not contributing to it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Are You Listening?

The Biblical account of the call of young Samuel has long been a favorite passage of mine. I told it to my children when they were small, and Jay once mentioned that it was the first Bible story he had ever remembered learning. There are a number of lessons we can learn from the call of Samuel.

Samuel was born to parents who deeply desired to have a child. His mother, Hannah, who was barren, prayed to God for a son. Her promise to God was that if he would take away her reproach and grant her a son, that she in turn would give the child back to him all the days of his life. God granted the request and gave Hannah the son she desired, and she named him Samuel (which, loosely translated, means "God Hears"). After the child was weaned, she brought him to Eli the priest who ministered at the house of God in Shiloh. Hannah kept her promise to God in bringing presenting her son to Him.

This was a time of great degeneracy and crisis in Israel. The Philistines held the Israelites in subjection. The spiritual quality of life among God's people was in decline. Even Eli's sons were disgracing the name of the Lord by their ungodly practices. It was against this backdrop that God began to deal with Samuel (who was probably about 13 by this time). The narrative is found in 1 Samuel chapter 3.

The first lesson we can learn from Samuel is to Be Aware. If you remember the story, Samuel was bedded down for the night. He heard someone calling his name and assumed it had to be Eli. The old priest told young Samuel he hadn't called him, and to go back to bed. Samuel heard the voice calling his name a second and a third time. Each time he went to Eli saying, "I know you called me. I heard your voice." On the third time, Eli perceived that Samuel was being called by the Lord. He gave the young man some excellent advice. "The next time you hear the voice, say, 'Speak Lord, your servant is listening", Eli advised.

Just as He spoke to Samuel, God speaks to us today - probably more often than we realize. We can hear from God through prayer time, Bible reading, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need to be aware of His call.

The second lesson we see here is to Be Attuned to the message. In verses 11-14 God gave Samuel specific information. It was Samuel's responsibility to pay attention and get the message straight. As we listen to God's Word, we must be attentive to the Holy Spirit. What is God saying to us? Is there a warning to heed? Is there instruction to apply to our lives? Is there a promise to claim? Is there a message to deliver? God had a specific message for Samuel. He has a specific message for you and me as well. We must be attuned to the Holy Spirit to apply the message.

The third lesson we learn from Samuel's experience is to Be An Announcer. In the remainder of the chapter we see that Eli encouraged Samuel to tell him all of what God had revealed to him. Samuel's information was accurate because it came directly from God. Samuel simply repeated what God had revealed to him. What do we need to announce to the world today? Opinions? Philosophy? Conventional wisdom?


We simply must pass along what God has revealed. Adding nothing. Taking nothing away. Simply being faithful to share what "Thus says the Lord." The message may not be popular. It may not be well received, but it will always be relevant and accurate if we simply share God's Word, plus nothing. Samuel was faithful to get the message right. So must we.
Is God speaking to you?
If so, I hope you're all ears...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Building Bridges

At this writing we are about five weeks out from what I believe has the potential to be a groundbreaking event.

Wow. That sounds impressive...

Here in the tri-state area of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio (we'll just call it KYOVA) we seem to live in a fragmented community. There are many of us who live in one state, and work, or worship, or go to school in another. We are separated by two rivers. They're not terribly wide, but they seem to do a good job of separating us. We live in one metropolitan area that ranks 158th in population in the U.S. Government's list of 567 Metropolitan Statistical Areas. It is larger in population than places like Lincoln, Nebraska; Boulder, Colorado; or Atlantic City, New Jersey. But the rivers seem to keep us parochialized into fragmented communities.

Now it is understandable that there would be natural differences, with three different state governments, and the various local governmental units in the KYOVA area. But really, we here in the central Ohio Valley share a lot in common. In fact, (other than a love for the UK Wildcats) those of us who live in Ashland, Kentucky have much more in common with the people of Huntington, WV or Ironton, OH than we do with the folks in Paducah, Louisville, or even Lexington, KY. Likewise, for those who live in Barboursville, WV. Their interests are more closely linked to those of the good people of South Point, OH or Grayson, KY than those of the northern or eastern panhandles of the Mountain State.

Local government officials are learning that we can get more accomplished by working together than by standing alone. The local chambers of commerce have come to the conclusion that new business in Ironton will benefit the economy of the neighboring communities, and vice versa. Although separated by the rivers, the communities have built bridges (literally and figuratively) to seek to accomplish the greater good. I believe that the same thing goes for those of us who call ourselves Southern Baptists.

Here in the KYOVA TriState Area there is an excellent Baptist presence. Nearly 80 local Southern Baptist churches and chapels are busy seeking to do Kingdom work, yet some of us are almost oblivious to the fact that just across the rivers from us, similar work is in progress. Each of us have our own local associations and state conventions, and many of us are active in those works, yet we seem to have let the physical barriers separate us from doing cooperative work right here in our KYOVA Area. Some of us believe that it is time to Build Bridges for better fellowship and ministry. On April 2 & 3 we have the opportunity to begin to do just that.

The concept has begun here in the Greater Huntington Baptist Association, and we are hoping to reach out in cooperation with our sister churches in Kentucky's Greenup Association and Ohio's Scioto Valley Association. It may be "baby steps" right now, but I believe it could be something that could grow into an informal "Tri State" or "KYOVA Baptist Fellowship". Not something that would interfere with the work of our local associations or respective state conventions - but something that would compliment them and unite us in ways that could further the Kingdom of God in our geographical region. I forsee possiblities of joint celebrations, mission projects, joint disaster relief efforts, greater fellowship and cooperation among our churches, and even a large area wide joint evangelistic crusade effort.

Here's where we start, and are urging our brethren in the adjacent associations to join with us in taking these "baby steps". A planning group has sprung up here in the Greater Huntington Baptist Association. It has been made up of pastors such as myself (Westmoreland Baptist), Cledith Campbell (Altizer Baptist Church), Rodney Hale (First Baptist Ceredo), John Freeman (Calvary), Brady Lipscomb (Eastwood), Ricky Ray (Highlawn) and our GHBA Director of Missions, Doug Virgin. Other pastors and staff members have joined with us on occasion as we have met several times to brainstorm, talk, and pray about such an effort. We are looking to host these first events, and have put together a proposal as follows:

We are asking each of our GHBA churches to join together for a joint worship celebration at 6:30 Wednesday night, April 2nd. Now, I know that most churches don't want to "cancel" a regularly scheduled service. We are not asking them to "cancel" but simply to "relocate" to a central location in an auditorium large enough to hold those who would join together for worship. This service will be held at Highlawn Baptist Church at the corner of 28th Street and Collis Avenue in east Huntington. This meeting will also serve as our association's Spring Semi Annual Meeting.

Then on the next evening, (6:30 Thursday, April 3) we are inviting our sister congregations from Greenup and Scioto Valley Associations to join us at First Baptist Church of Ceredo (on Main Street, just a block or so from US 60) for a joint worship celebration. There will be special music, a GHBA association joint choir, input from the three Association's Directors of Missions and a special guest speaker, Dr. Charles S. "Chuck" Kelley (pictured above). Dr. Kelley is the President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a Seminary President with the heart of an Evangelist! He will have much to share with us on how bridges have been built in the New Orleans area following the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

Earlier in the day (11:30 am) Dr. Kelley will share with all of the pastors of the three associations who will attend a special luncheon and fellowship time here at Westmoreland Baptist Church.

Those of us on the planning team who have been working on this, are hoping to see bridges of cooperative ministry built in the following three areas:

  • Between the churches of the Greater Huntington Baptist Association
  • Between the GHBA and our Neighboring Baptist Associations (GBA and SVBA)
  • Between our churches and the lost world around us.

If you are here in the KYOVA area, you are invited to attend. If you have any questions, need directions, or any other information, feel free to contact our GHBA office by phone at 304-525-9334 or me at 304-412-0352; or via email at

I hope you will join us in building bridges.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Two Offensive Statements

The two ladies pictured here have recently made two of the most frightening and offensive statements I have heard in a long time. One is Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. The other is the Michelle Obama, wife of the other Democratic candidate, Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
I am not a Democrat (although I once was) so I don't have a dog in the fight - no pun intended. In my humble opinion there's not a dime's worth of difference in Senators Clinton or Obama. Both are making irresponsible promises that they haven't a snowball's chance of keeping - if elected. If all of those promises were kept, the cost to the taxpayers would be more astronomical than anything we have ever seen - even under our current reckless spending administration. In fact, it would total more money than most of us could even comprehend. Anyone falling for their empty rhetoric is either a dreamer or totally naive.
In the interest of fairness, let me also say that I am not terribly enamored with the apparent front runner on the Republican side of the race either. I respect his military service to our country (which neither of his potential opponents can claim) and I appreciate his fairly strong pro life voting record in the U.S. Senate. However, his weak stance on illegal immigration (one of the great crises facing this nation) and his self admitted weakness on economic issues is worrisome to this writer. This may come down to the most pitiful choice in my memory for picking the next resident of the Oval Office.
All that being said, let me get back to the subject of this post. Michelle Obama has made a comment that I think is absolutely amazing. And Senator Clinton continues to repeat a comment that is down right scary! Let's take a look at both.
Mrs. Obama has raised many eyebrows with her comment delivered yesterday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here is what she said. "...for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” To me, that is an unbelieveable statement.

She has NEVER been proud of her country in her adult life until now?
I can't pretend to understand all of the experiences that Mrs. Obama has had in her life. I am sure that as a Black American, she has probably felt the sting of racism, but born in 1964, her "adult years" wouldn't have even begun until around 1982. How can any American possibly not been proud of their country SOMETIME in the past 26 years? Can she not be proud of the history of our nation and the strides we have made since slavery was outlawed. Can she not be proud of the fact that over 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War to bring that freedom? Can she not be proud of how we have come to the aid of oppressed peoples the world over in two World Wars? Can she not be proud of the struggle of her people during the turbulent years of her childhood - resulting in the Civil Rights Acts of 1960 and 1964? Hasn't anything positive been accomplished? Isn't there something, sometime that could have made her proud to be an American?
For one to say she has NEVER been proud of her country is just incomprehensible. For one to say such a thing leads me to question their very patriotism.
Then there is Senator Clinton. She has the "gift" of not only being to say offensive things, but to also be offensive in how she says them. The thing that bothers me the most is something she seems to say in nearly every stump speech I have heard. It involves change.
Granted, "change" is the mantra that we expect to hear from the Democrats. I would be shocked if they weren't talking about change. I'm ready for a change, myself, but not the change Mrs. Clinton seems to be advocating. Several times I have heard her screeching, "With your help, we can change America!" to the cheers of adoring crowds.
Change America? That is a mighty big statement.
Change administrations? - Well, that is going to happen, no matter who is elected.
Change the makeup of Congress? - If that is what the voters desire.
Change foreign policy? - That will be the new President's perogative.
Change financial and economic policies? - If they have the mandate to do so.
Change the Constitution? - As ammendments are needed and as prescribed by the Constitution, itself.
Change the makeup of the Federal Courts? - As the new President has opportunity.
There may be a number of things that need to be changed in this nation, but "Change America"? God forbid!
This is the greatest Nation on Earth. The USA represents that "Great Experiment" in democracy that has for over two centuries been the standard of freedom in this world. Even with its faults, shortcomings and blemishes - America remains the last best hope for Planet Earth. To advocate "Changing America" is a slap in the face to our founders, and the multiplied thousands of Americans who have given their lives to support their country in good times as well as bad. It indicates that the system is broken, and I reject the very concept.
Sure, we have some things that need to be fine tuned - always have - always will. But there has never been a nation on this planet more blessed than the United States of America. I am offended by anyone who would suggest that something is wrong with America - and I am frightened of any such attitude that compromises the sovereignty of this great country.
The comments of these two ladies are frightening. I find them downright offensive. Is it just me?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Promises, Promises

As many of my readers know, although I am a West Virginia native, and serve a church on the "Almost Heaven" side of the river, for the last 28 years I have been a proud resident of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I grew up in West Virginia, and my parents and one brother still live there. I went to West Virginia public schools and enrolled in Marshall University as an 18 year old, and have been a Thundering Herd fan all my life. Even while I served as President of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, my residence was in Kentucky.

My kids grew up in the Bluegrass State and went to Kentucky schools. Linda and I have been active in school and community activities here in Ashland for many years. She is presently a member of the Ashland Kiwanis Club (noon club) and serves as a member of the Ashland Human Rights Commission. She was heavily involved in PTA and was a PTA State Officer for a number of years.

I did a four year term as a member of the Ashland Independent School District Board of Education, served on the Board of Zoning Adjustment for the City of Ashland, and was involved for years in the Tomcat Booster Club, Ashland Band Parents, and was a coach and league officer in the Ashland American Little League and the Ashland Babe Ruth League (even after our kids were up and gone from those programs). A past President of the Ashland Optimist Club, I also volunteered for several years as the PA announcer and "voice" of Putnam Stadium and James A. Anderson Gymnasium.

Please forgive me if I feel that I hold somewhat of a dual citizenship. I have strong feelings for both states and if asked where I am from, it's actually hard to decide which answer is correct. I pay taxes in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Ashland, and the "user fee" to the city of Huntington. I regularly read the "Daily Independent" of Ashland as well as Huntington's "Herald-Dispatch". Both states are important to me, and I am fascinated by the political workings of both. Over the years I have heard enough political promises (local, state, and national) to realize that many of those promises would best fit in the "Honey Wagon" pictured above.

The promises are already abounding in what is proving to be the longest presidential campaign in the history of the United States. One only has to listen for a few minutes to the major candidates in both parties, to realize that some of the stuff they are promising are pure fantasy. The congressional and senatorial candidates will soon be be adding their voices to the chorus of promises about what they are going to do for us.

Here in the Commonwealth, our new Governor is promising us the gold mine but we're getting ready to get the shaft. I wrote about this at some length in my February 11th Blog post, "Bought and Paid For".

On Thursday, Governor Steve Beshear unveiled his proposed ammendment to allow Casino gambling in Kentucky. Gambling is nothing new in the Commonwealth, with its horse race tracks and the state Lottery, but Casino Gambling is forbidden by law. Seems as though the Governor is concerned that Indiana and it's river boat gambling casinos, and West Virginia's recent plans to open a large casino in Cross Lanes will get too big of a piece of the gambling pie. He wants Kentucky to get in on the action. His proposal would have 12 casinos opening all around the Commonwealth. It would allow casinos at the existing race tracks, but also propose free standing casinos in Boyd, Greenup, Kenton, Campbell, Daviess, Christian, Laurel or Whitley counties.

Beshear's proposed ammendment (if passed by the General Assembly) would go on the ballot for approval of the voters in Kentucky. If it clears those two hurldles, then voters in the cities and/or counties where the free standing casinos are proposed would have to pass a local referendum. No referendum would be required in the counties where the race tracks are located. State and local politicians are generally being "political" in their comments about the Governor's proposal. Most say they are taking a "wait and see" attitude, but some, like Rocky Adkins D, Sandy Hook (no relation to this writer) openly favor putting the issue on the ballot.

Beshear has done a good job in fear mongering by presenting a bleak revenue picture that will frighten many voters. The Governor, hoping that loathing higher taxes, the voters would jump on the band wagon to approve the "easy money" that legalized casino gambling would supposedly bring. He presents it as an either/or situation. Beshear promises that the state would take in around $500 million in fiscal year 2009, $482 million in 2010, and $600 million after five years. He promises that "50% of the take will go to education, 20% for health care, 13% for local government, and 17% for a variety of purposes including economic development, agricultural research, veterans programs, and substance abuse treatment" according to newspaper reports.

Here's a thought for the Honorable Governor Beshear. If casino gambling is the answer to all of our financial woes, maybe that first quarter of a million dollars for education would go toward a new curriculum in our schools. Instead of math and science, perhaps our kids need to learn how to deal blackjack or spin a roulette wheel. Slot machine maintenance would also be a big new career field for our youngsters as well, if all of these casinos are in our future.

While we are at it, there seem to be some other vices that naturally go hand in hand with legalized gambling. A quick look at Nevada, that gambling haven, reveals that legalized prostitution also has the potential to bring in big bucks. Then there is the drug trade. Huntington, WV officials have talked openly about the huge amounts of dope money that is flowing out of the Jewel City to the Columbus and Detroit connections. Maybe we could legalize that trade, take it out of the hands of criminals, and add millions to the state's coffers. School kids could study to learn the finer points of turning tricks and dealing drugs.

Well, there's an ancient Hebrew expression for all of that - "Hogwash!"

If Beshear and his cronies want to save Kentucky, how about doing what needs to be done to attract legitimate businesses? Why not set a high moral tone which honors the value of hard work and determination instead of hitching our financial wagon to the star of empty promises? Nothing worthwhile is easy, but does that mean we should settle for mediocrity? Why not have the intestinal fortitude to do what's right for our people, rather than take the easy quick fix, and continue "slouching toward Gomorrah"? When are we going to say "Enough is enough"?

Gambling is a bad bet. It teaches our children to trust in chance rather than honesty and hard work. The relatively few "winnings" that gambling produces, comes from the losses of thousands of people. Gambling is as dangerously addictive as smoking, drinking, drugs and pornography and those who can least afford it are the ones who are hurt most by it.

Voters in three counties of my beloved native state of West Virginia have already approved table games. The die is cast there. Now if the Governor has his way, my beloved adopted state of Kentucky seems to be headed in the same direction. My prayer is that our General Assembly members will do what is right. Take a stand for once. Declare that enough is enough and place the proper values and virtues that once made this country great.

And that's one West Virginia/Kentuckian's opinion - "For What It's Worth".

Isn't Google Wonderful?

Isn't Google amazing?

You can find just about anything or anyone on that magic website. I looked up these images primarily to send to my youngest brother, Carl, in Atlanta, but decided to share them with whoever might be interested in seeing old photos.

The first one shows the Adkins clan at the coal camp known as Dehue in Logan County, WV. Judging from the looks of my Dad (back row, far right, kind of in a shadow) I would estimate this photo would have been made somewhere around 1939 - 1941. It shows my Grandfather, Caudle Adkins, Sr. (far left) holding the little girl. One of Dad's brothers (Buck) is next to Papaw and his only sister (Lola) is in front of Uncle Buck. I do not see the youngest son, Sammy, in this photo . Mamaw is in this picture, but since the resolution is poor, it's hard to see her. She is the third from the right in the third row. There are a couple of my Dad's aunts and several of their children in this picture as well.

My Papaw Adkins was a veteran of World War I. He died in 1959 from lung cancer that we believe was caused by injuries to his lungs from the war. He was stationed in France and was gassed by the Germans in the Argonne Forest. He had breathing troubles for the rest of his life. With his war injuries, and the "Black Lung" disease so common to coal miners, I guess it was somewhat of a miracle he lived to be 64 years old.

The second photo is from 1958. It shows my Dad (at right) with another minister, Rev. Roy Vance. Rev. Vance was the pastor of the Dehue Community Church and Dad, who had moved to Huntington, WV in 1952, was a well known evangelist in southwestern West Virginia. The occasion of the photo was the dedication of the Dehue Community Park. I remember being there for that dedication. I was almost 8 years old at the time.

The third picture is interesting, I think. It is the last known photo (that I am aware of) of my great grandmother, Rachel Lucas Adkins. This picture was probably taken around 1940. It shows Rachel standing along the railroad tracks, most likely behind her house at Dehue. She was a native of Lincoln County, WV but made her home with my grandfather and grandmother in later years. They had come to Dehue in the thriving coal fields to find work after the Great Depression. I never saw my great grandmother in person. From old photos circa 1915 she appeared to be a beautiful young woman. Rachel and her husband, Cumberland, had 6 daughters and 4 sons. My grandfather was the oldest.

Time, and 10 children, can certainly take it's toll!

Dad was always very close to his grand mother, Rachel. She made no bones about the fact that he "was her pick" (favorite). In a box of old pictures at Dad's house there is one of the most beautiful Valentine Cards that I have ever seen. It's really an elaborate thing with lace and a large satin heart on it. Dad had sent it to Grandma Adkins when he was in the Navy during World War II. They had plans that when the war was over and he came home, that he would find a place to live and she would come live with him. Sadly, she died before the war ended. She had kept the Valentine card in a box of her treasures and they gave it back to Dad when he came home. He still has it to this day.

Dehue was an interesting place. I wrote about it in a blog post back in August, 2007. The community no longer exists, but if you're interested in such things, there is a website created by Delores Riggs Davis, who was a neighbor and friend of my father's family. Her site has a treasure of information about Dehue and it's families, and Logan County in general. There are many old photos that bring back a flood of memories for me. A number of them show members of Dad's family including his aunts, uncles and cousins in the Adkins, Gostovich, and Kitchen families. If you would like to check it out, just click on the following link:

Thanks, Google, for a trip down memory lane!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Today is the day of Love. St. Valentine's Day draws it's name from one of at least three Christian Martyrs by the name of Valentine. (Take your pick) Begun by the Catholic Church to honor the Martyr(s), it has become the day when lovers pledge their affections to their significant other. Valentine's Day was not linked to romantic love until the Middle Ages when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote this verse in "Parlement of Foules" (1382). Check it out:

"For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese
[choose] his make [mate]."

Romantic, huh?

This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia (a couple of teenagers at the time). Apparently, thanks to Chaucer, in those days of courtly love, it became fashionable to send cards and letters to loved ones to declare their undying affection for the receipient. Eventually cards, chocolates, and flowers became the standard tokens of affection for "lovebirds".

Back in the late 50's, in my days at Gallaher Elementary School, it was customary for all the kids to exchange Valentine cards with their classmates. Mom would purchase a package of Valentine cards at the dime store, and I would go through the contents of the package, thoughtfully sorting out which one would be addressed to which classmate. We sent cards to the boys and the girls, so I always tried to make sure I picked out the more "macho" greetings for the guys. (even then one had to be careful about that sort of thing!) Then I would carefully look for the most "mushy" of all the cards to single out for that one very special girl in my class. It was usually a different girl each year. After all, puppy love can be a very fickle thing.

I've been sending Valentine cards and gifts to Linda for thirty eight years now. It's a little unfortunate that her birthday and Valentine's Day fall only a week apart. It's hard to decide what to give her on each of those special days. Which gift is the most "special" and should it be given on her birthday or Valentine's Day? I'm always careful about what kind of card to send her. She likes the funny ones, (and I get her one of those from time to time) but I have learned that she really likes the "mushy" ones. She carefully reads the verses, so I don't just grab one off the card display at the drugstore. This requires a careful perusal of everything on the rack, to pick that ONE appropriate message.

This year may be the first that I haven't given her a heart shaped box of chocolates - but it is still early in the day, so maybe I can still pick one up. She rarely ever asks for anything, so I took note the other night when, while looking through a Macy's mailer we had received, she said, "I really would love to have this." I won't go into details here, but it wasn't really something I would have thought of as a Valentine's Day gift. "Romantic" or not, I decided that I'd better brave the slick highways to Huntington Mall and pick it up for her. I'm looking forward to seeing her reaction when she comes down to get her coffee this morning and finds the big box there in the kitchen.

Normally I get roses for her on this special day. Red or pink roses are her favorite. This year, however, I decided to try something different. I heard someone talking the other day about Valentine gifts and the light bulb came on over my head. Instead of the regular roses, how about sending her the kind of flowers she carried in her bridal boquet? So, sometime today, Linda should receive a big basket of Daisies delivered to her office, along with a note that nearly made the florist cry. (I do have my moments)

Valentine's Day also has taken on another special meaning for us over the years. It is the birthday of my brother, Bruce and our daughter in law, Michelle. The next day (Feb. 15th) is the birthday of both our son, Jay, and Linda's younger brother, Bob. Hallmark and American Greetings do a pretty good business in our family on the first two weeks of February!

With all this talk of love, I think it is appropriate today to mention the greatest Valentine message ever sent. I'm cutting it from an email I received yesterday, and pasting it to this post . (I hope it comes out ok, because sometimes this cut and paste stuff doesn't seem to work right on this blog format) It is a very simple, but beautiful love message that everyone needs to hear. It comes from the one who loves us more than we can imagine.

For God so loV ed the world,
That He gA ve
his onL y
BegottE n
T hat whosoever
Believeth I n Him
Should N ot perish,
But have E verlasting life.'
John 3:16

(well, it worked on the composition page, but came out garbled with the colors mixed up after I posted it. Anyway I hope you get the message)

Have a very special Valentine's Day. Know that God loves you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

An Article From Ron Branch

Hi Friends,

Ron Branch is Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, WV. He regularly writes a column in his local newspaper and always shares it with me via e-mail. With his permission, I am passing this column along to you today. It's a great tribute to a Godly father which was written by Ron a number of years ago, two years after his father had gone home to be with the Lord. I hope that you will find it a blessing as I did.

(Pastor Ron Branch, 2-13-08)

February 15th marks thirteen years since my father, Carroll Branch, passed away. He was sixty-five years-old when he died. His death for me was like having an anchor dislodged in the mooring of my life. But, the hope one can have in Christ during adverse circumstances is an anchor of the soul that is so “steadfast and sure,” according to Hebrews 6:19, it can never be displaced.
Two years after his death, I wrote my dad a letter. I have shared this with you before. But, because of these cold and cloudy winter months, I rather feel compelled to do so again with the understanding how the human condition continues to grasp for something to soothe the pains that assail the soul in the life we live.
There is constant comfort found in Jesus Christ. All is not hopeless, but hopeful. Note how Jesus helped me cope with the death of the most influential man of my life.

Dear Dad,
Though I know that time is no longer a concern to you, February marks two years since you died. I strain to keep from crying as I think on it, but only because I miss your physical presence. Mom does, too. So do Chris and Jeff.
I write this note to tell you how I appreciate the hope in Christ with which you held onto in death. People back home still talk about how you continually manifested the presence of Christ right up to the end.
If you remember, I visited you in the hospital two weeks before you died. You were experiencing a variety of physical complications. It was then that I told you, “Dad, you did good. You were a good dad from whom I learned much.”
I spoke specifically how your influence lights my personal path in life. You beamed broadly as tears trickled from your eyes.
But, as I reflect on that hospital-room scene, which was the last time I saw you alive, I believe you knew you were going to die. Yet, you exemplified such powerful hope in Christ. Your countenance was confident. Unafraid.
That same hope I held onto myself as I stepped through the grief, as I sang with your grandsons at the funeral, and as I stood before the people and uplifted the Savior of your soul.
In those moments, I understood more than ever before that the hope Jesus gives dissipates hopeless sorrow. And, in these past two years, the hope that Jesus gives maintains a comforting connection that Death otherwise breaks.
For, I know assuredly that Death has not disconnected us.
The hope that Jesus gives annexes our vitally different spheres, transcending and touching the time of my temporal with your timeless eternal. Even though you are not here, and I am not there, we are still connected through Christ.
I am so thankful that Christ has brought victory to the human experience. The Master Physician gave Death a different diagnosis. The Master Carpenter reconstructed Death’s design. The Master Rabbi vitally re-interpreted Death’s dissertation. The Master of Parables gave the story of Death a happy ending.
Well, Dad, I’ll bring this note to a close. It is obvious that I cannot mail this note to you. Can’t fax it, either.
But, I can offer it as an intercepted letter for others to read, and perhaps their hope in Christ will strengthen. Perhaps someone will read it and come to realize that death is not the end of existence, that there is an eternity in which to exist, and that Christ gives a sure hope for a Heavenly eternity for all who will believe in Him.
I usually end my letters with “God bless you richly.” But, I know He is doing just that.
See you someday soon, Ron

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bought and Paid For

Congratulations Kentucky. You have gotten what you deserve.

In November, a former Lt. Governor, Democrat Steve Beshear, unseated incumbent Republican Governor, Ernie Fletcher in his bid for re-election. Beshear won handily. His campaign ads constantly accused Fletcher of graft and corruption and apparently the strategy worked. Fletcher was cast as a criminal, yet no indictments were ever issued against him by a Democrat Attorney General (who himself had sought his party's gubernatorial nomination). Greg Stumbo dogged Fletcher and his administration for the entire four years of the Governor's service. Fletcher was a weak Governor, and spent most of his term dealing with Stumbo's accusations.

Beshear's campaign packaging was slick. The ads were effective. They cast Beshear as the ultimate down home family friendly good old Kentucky boy, running against the corrupt politicians of Frankfort. In one particular ad Beshear stood in front of an old country church, talking of his values. He spoke of how his father and grandfather were both ministers and how they had made such an impression on his life. Well, dad and grandpa would probably be spinning in their graves today if they saw the "values" that Beshear exhibits.

First, there's his choice of a running mate. Dan Moningarno of Hazard is probably the leading abortion doctor in eastern Kentucky. As hard as the right to life people have worked to fight abortion in Kentucky, now the second highest office in the Commonwealth is occupied by an abortion provider. Oh, he's highly respected in that part of the state, and he is a member of First Baptist Church of Hazard, but he is what he is - one who has (legally) killed a number of unborn children. Shameful!

Beshear also supports the decisions by the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, to provide benefits to the "domestic partners" of employees who are in a same sex relationships. This decision by the two largest universities in the state flies in the face of the Marriage Ammendment that the voters of Kentucky overwhelmingly passed a couple of years ago. This matter will now be in the courts, and the General Assembly will be addressing it this session as well. But we know where Governor Beshear stands on the issue.

Then there is the casino gambling issue. This is what Beshear is really about. Now, gambling is nothing new in the Bluegrass State, but Casino Gambling is forbidden by state law. Patrons of Churchill Downs, Keenland, and Turfway Park have laid down their bets at those race tracks for many years. Then there is the Kentucky Lottery, which that great statesman, Wallace Wilkinson, brought us during his Gubernatorial reign. Wilkinson told us that the lottery would be the cash cow that would be the savior of education in Kentucky. The electorate bought into the theory and the rest is history. The education system in Kentucky is unchanged and most school districts are still strapped for funds. We all pay higher property taxes to cover what the lottery was supposed to have taken care of.

Now the visionary Governor Beshear who tells us that Casino Gambling in Kentucky will provide many great paying jobs and raise over $500 million per year for the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet. He is presenting his gambling plan to the General Assembly this week. After all, several of our neighboring states have already approved casino gambling and they are getting all that cash revenue pie that the Bluegrass State should get a slice of . The Governor only wants what's best for the Commonwealth. Right?


He is bought and paid for by the gambling interests. Need proof? Consider the case of Mr. William Yung. He is a casino operator who would like to do business in Kentucky. How badly would he like to do business in Kentucky? Bad enough to donate ONE MILLION DOLLARS to help elect Steve Beshear as Governor. Now the law only allows a maximum contribution of $1,000 to a particular political candidate. So how could Beshear benefit from the $1,000,000 contribution? According to financial reports filed on January 31st, Yung made the donation to the Bluegrass Freedom Fund. The BGF is a 527 organization that spent over $3,000,000 on ads blasting Beshear's opponent, Governor Fletcher, in the run up to the November election.

527 Organizations get their designation from that section of the IRS code that allows such organizations to raise unlimited amounts of money. Legally they must be separate from any particular campaign organization, but they are used effectively to attack opposing candidates. (remember the Swift Boat Veterans ads that were so damaging to John Kerry in the last presidential election?) Although the 527's can raise unlimited amounts of money, they are required by law to disclose the names of their donors.

The Associated Press reports that Yung's company, Columbia Sussex Corp., based in Crestview Hills, Ky., owns hotels and casinos throughout the country including the Tropicana in Las Vegas. The company has owned the Tropicana in New Jersey, but casino regulators there stripped it of its license in December. New Jersey's Casino Control Commission also fined Columbia Sussex $750,000 for going nearly six months without an independent audit committee. IRS records also show that besides Yung's million dollar donation, the Bluegrass Freedom Fund received donations from 26 other donors including Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, gave $250,000. Turfway Park, a track in northern Kentucky, gave $125,000. While the BGF couldn't legally spend its total of $3.15 million on ads FOR Beshear, it did all go to Television and Radio spots blasting Beshear's opponent, Ernie Fletcher.

Besides the $1,000 maximum donation to the Beshear campaign, and the $1,000,000 gift to the Bluegrass Defense Fund, records show that Yung also gave $10,000 to help pay the cost of Beshear's Inagural Party in December. It's all legal but it doesn't pass the smell test.

When the AP tried to contact Yung but he would not return phone calls made to his northern Kentucky office. Beshear spokeswoman Vicki Glass had no immediate comment either.

An old story is told of a wealthy business man who approached a young woman in a bar. After buying her some drinks and advising her of his great wealth he asked her if she would spend the night with him for a million dollars. The excited tipsy girl answered in the affirmative. After a few more drinks the man asked her if she would spend the night with him for five dollars. Indignantly she slapped him across the face and screamed, "Absolutely not! What do you think I am?"

"We've already established that." he said with a smile. "Now we're just haggling over the price!"

Steve Beshear is bought and paid for by the gambling interest in Kentucky. He presents his plan to legalize casinos to the General Assembly this week. The logical sounding argument will be, "Let the people of Kentucky vote on it". I for one, hope that our elected representatives will show better judgment than the general electorate and will not yield to the pressure to bow down to the god of legalized gambling.

It's a bad bet.

Friday, February 8, 2008

"The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!"

Do you remember the old fable in which an acorn falls on the head of Chicken Licken (also called "Chicken Little", which I prefer). Convinced that the sky was falling, the frightened Chicken Little set out to notify the king, striking fear in the hearts of a cast of characters like Henny Penny, Turkey Lurkey, Goosey Loosey, Cocky Locky, etc. Eventually the group comes across the devious Foxy Loxy. There are several different endings to this fable and, as a result, a couple of different morals, depending upon which ending to which one ascribes.

Well, if Chicken Little were around today she would really have something to worry about. The sky is not falling, but something appreciably larger than an acorn is falling from it. Military officials have announced that a dead U.S. spy satellite (designated as US 193) is in a deteriorating orbit and is expected to hit the Earth sometime around the first week of March. The unsettling part of the story is, nobody knows where on Earth it will fall.

The news item brings memories of Sky Lab, the first US Space Station that came crashing back to Earth in 1979. This piece of hardware which was as big as a house created a tremendous amount of media attention - and with good reason. Something like this doesn't fall out of the sky every day. Las Vegas oddsmakers had a major business going on taking wagers as to where and when it would crash. One sharp merchandiser who realized the huge value of a Sky Lab liability claim, created T-shirts with targets printed on the back, emblazoned with the words, "Hey Sky Lab, Hit Me!" A newspaper in San Francisco offered a $10,000 reward to the first person who would bring a piece of the Sky Lab wreckage - which was claimed by a young man from Australia who found some debris on his roof and made a bee line for San Francisco.

This satellite is not as large as Sky Lab, but it does weigh over 5,000 pounds. The AP reports that an unnamed official estimated that about half of the satellite should survive the fires of re-entry and come crashing back to Earth. It is believed that the wreckage will break up on re-entry and scatter potential hazardous flaming debris over several hundred miles. It's somewhat frightening that something weighing as much as a 1955 Cadillac is going to come streaking down out of the sky - landing who knows where!

One of the differences between this situation and the one in 1979 is that in the weeks leading up to the re-entry, ground controllers had re-established contact with the six year old vehicle, and were able to adjust its attitude for optimal re-entry dynamics. As a result the debris field stretched relatively harmlessly from the Indian Ocean to western Australia. That's not going to happen with US 193. It's a crap shoot as to where this one is going to come down. Fortunately the Earth's surface is 3/5 water, so the odds are at least somewhat favorable that it will splash down harmlessly away from populated areas. That would be ideal, since the satellite has small thruster engines which contain the toxic rocket fuel hydrazine. Hydrizine is harmful to any one who touches it.

The news release reports that it carries a sophisticated and secret imaging sensor. U.S. officials do not want the equipment to "fall into the wrong hands". Heck, most of us don't want it to fall ANYWHERE!

Like every other uncertainty in life you can be sure of one thing. God knows the final outcome. This thing isn't taking Him by surprise in the least. While chances are miniscule that US 193 is going to fall on your head, it IS very likely that you will face many dangers and uncertainties in your time on this planet. There are many crises we will encounter - physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual - all with devastating possibilities. I often say "since we don't know what tomorrow holds, it is important to know the one who holds tomorrow." If you have a personal relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, there is no need to fear. You are secure in Him!

Does this mean that trouble will never come your way if you know Jesus? Are Christ Followers immune from the danger of falling satellites? Of course not. But it does mean that we have no need to fear anything that may come upon us. Whatever happens, God is in control! Consider the words of Psalm 91:

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust."
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation."

So, when the first week of March rolls around, and the flaming wreckage of the dead satellite comes raining down (who knows where) wear your hard hat if you must, but don't be afraid. Nestle up under His wings and know that you are safe in Him.

In fact, that's good advice any time - when the sky is falling - or not.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sweet Baboo!

My wife, Linda, celebrates her birthday today.
I'm probably not supposed to tell you her age, although today she catches up with me. Suffice it to say that we have both qualified for the "senior discount" at a number of eateries for some time now.

The photo at right is nearly four years old. It's hard to get a more recent photo, because Linda is notorious for avoiding the camera. Individual pictures of her are hard to come by. We have several hundred photos saved on our computer, but I didn't realize how few we have of her (by herself). Anyone who knows Linda, knows she would rather point the camera at one of her boys or grandsons, than have it trained on her. But today is her day, and she is going to be in the spotlight - whether she likes it or not!

Linda discovered America just after the mid point of the 20th century (boy that sounds flattering doesn't it?) at the Bowling home in Rutherford Hollow (that's pronounced "Relford Holler" in those parts) at North Matewan, WV. That's right - NORTH Matewan!
She was the fourth of six children born to Burgess and Orpha Bowling, a hard working "Salt of the Earth" couple who lived along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River - sometimes on the West Virginia side in Mingo County - later on the Pike County, Kentucky side. For those who may not know, that is the heart of Hatfield - McCoy country where the famous feud took place long ago. Although her mom was a Smith, she did have connections to the McCoy family.

Linda's oldest sibling (her only sister) was eight years her senior, and she was off to college and starting a career when Linda was only 10 years old. I can only imagine what her life at home must have been like, sandwiched between two older brothers and two younger brothers! I would think it would be safe to say that she learned to take up for herself pretty quickly. Linda's mom and dad were two of the finest people I have ever known. Burgess worked away from home (construction work - running heavy equipment) for a period of several years - mostly home late in the evenings or on weekends. That left Orpha to be the Chief Operating Officer for the family during the week. She was what we call today, a stay at home mom with a full time job of raising a family of six kids. She did a pretty darned good job.

For the first 7 years of her schooling - Linda attended a one room school, which was about a 6 iron shot from her home. The little schoolhouse served children from the community of Buskirk, KY in grades one through eight. Mrs. Cleo Varney was the old fashioned "school marm" who was responsible for keeping order and imparting knowledge to this varied group of students. It's a little difficult for most of us who never attended a one room school to imagine how that worked. Well, Linda will tell you that Mrs. Varney maintained order and earned the respect of the children from first to the eighth grade. She must have also been a first rate educator, as the test scores from Buskirk Grade School were always among the top in Pike County schools. The little one room school eventually was consolidated with another school in a new building on Blackberry Creek and the Buskirk Grade School was demolished.

Upon Linda's graduation from Belfry High School in 1969, she decided to move to Huntington, WV where her older sister had begun her career as a secretary at International Nickel Company. Violet had recently married, so Linda moved in with her former roommate, Sandy Chapman. She found a job working in the credit department at Anderson-Newcomb, Huntington's largest down town department store. I met her in October that year, and neither of our lives were the same from that point on! We dated for nearly two years and were married at Thomas Memorial Free Will Baptist Church on June 19, 1971.

I drug her to places like Willow Wood, Ohio; Biloxi, Mississippi; Marquette, Michigan; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Ashland, Kentucky. She stayed right with me, sometimes through difficult circumstances, never complaining. We weren't Gypsies, but in the first 8 years of our married life, she may have felt like one at times. She is one of the most selfless people I have ever known. For 36 years Linda has put husband and children (and now grandchildren) ahead of her own interests. In fact we ARE her interests!

Linda took my family on as her very own, and her folks have treated me like their own son - not just a son in law. She has known joy and happiness and she has known the sadness of losing her older brother in a tragic coal mining accident, and the sudden passing of her dear mother on Christmas Eve several years ago. She has faithfully looked after her dad since her mother's passing and honestly, I don't know what he would have done without Linda. Oh sure, he has contact with the other kids, but Linda is his rock. She's mine too.

Her life went completely on hold for the two years that we were battling my cancer. I'm sure the whole thing was harder on her than it was on me, but gosh, did she take good care of me! I know there were times she privately "lost it" - but never in front of me. Her faith was strong and she refused to believe that we would lose that fight. In the toughest hours, she would remind me that God is in control. Sometimes I needed to be reminded...

Linda would be described by many as a faithful pastor's wife, a wonderful mother, a trusted friend, a good neighbor, a partner, an exemplary employee, one of the girls, and a loving Mamaw.
I would call her my best friend and faithful life partner - the BEST human being I have ever known.

I love her. I have since the night I first saw her in October, 1969, and I always will.

She asks for little, but deserves the very best. She has lit up my life for nearly four decades. This is her special day - and I hope she has a great one.

Have a happy birthday, Baboo!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday” hits high gear today. This is the culmination of “Carnival” season which begins 12 days after Christmas. “Shrove Tuesday”, “Fat Tuesday”, or “Pancake Day” (as it’s called in England) is celebrated by Catholics throughout the world. It’s the day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of the Lenten Season) and it is celebrated around the world. Some of the more famous locations for Mardi Gras are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Venice, Italy; Belgium; and along the United States Gulf Coast.

Mardi Gras is the mother of all parties. It is the big blow out where literally anything goes. One final bender before Ash Wednesday, when many of the celebrants will visit the local Catholic church and walk around the rest of the day (hung over) with a charcoal thumb print of a priest on their foreheads.

Best I can tell, the first Mardi Gras observed on American soil, took place in 1703 in the French settlement that is now Mobile, Alabama. The celebrations quickly spread to towns like Biloxi, New Orleans and other settlements throughout the French possessions which would later become Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Although there is a running argument between Mobile and New Orleans about who claims first rights to Mardi Gras in America, when most of us think of Mardi Gras, we envision the blowout in The Big Easy.

Parades go on for over a week before Fat Tuesday, as Krewes of wildly costumed celebrants march through the streets or ride on huge floats throwing beads and worthless trinkets to the eager crowds. Folks seem to go crazy and will do nearly anything to get the “throws” that really have little to no value at all. After the parades the beads hang from low tree limbs and power lines and litter the “neutral ground” medians of streets like St. Charles, Canal, and Gentilly Blvd. The Krewes hold masquerade balls and other celebrations throughout the area. While the celebrations and parades take place all over the New Orleans area, the French Quarter is “ground zero” for the Mother of all Parties. Just about anything goes on Bourbon Street throughout the year. Mardi Gras is even worse.

The Crescent City police officers will show great restraint throughout the day and evening, arresting only the most disorderly belligerent drunks or those involved in activities that are deemed too lewd for even Fat Tuesday in the Quarter. However, when the clock strikes midnight, the police will move in en masse to drive the crowds from the streets. The cops are followed closely by the fire hoses and street sweepers deployed to clean up the mess left behind by the revelers. The photos above show a couple of views of the crowd. I have declined to show any close up pictures since this blog IS a family friendly site!

Fat Tuesday is the biggest day of the year in New Orleans. Schools are closed all week. Many businesses will be shut down. Crime and violence will increase. In fact, two people were shot and killed at one of the Mardi Gras parades last week. These were the 18th and 19th homicides in New Orleans since January 1. In the midst of this setting, the little Vieux Carre’ Baptist Church, located on Dauphine Street (just off Bourbon Street) is housing a group of volunteers who will be confronting the culture with the Good News of Jesus Christ in the heart of Satan’s playground. These folks will be witnessing, passing out gospel tracts and Bibles, and generally offering meaning to the revelers who are looking for something – but don’t know what. Will they make an impact today? Probably not visibly. However, seeds sown in the midst of the biggest drunken revelry in the country, just might take hold. Only God knows the outcome. These folks are just determined to do their part and leave the rest to God.

Most folks would not think of finding a Southern Baptist Church in the Quarter, but there it is – a lighthouse in a dark place, not only on Mardi Gras – but every day of the year. Pastor Greg Hand and his wife, Wren, minister in a culture that is foreign to most of us. It’s certainly “not your grandma’s Baptist Church”, but it is a Christian witness in the Quarter, nonetheless.

If you would like to know more about the ministry of Vieux Carre’ Baptist Church, click on the following link for Baptist Press’ article “Where Voodoo and Christianity Collide”.
Pray for New Orleans. As Joe McKeever says, “Pray big for New Orleans”. Certainly at Mardi Gras time, but all year round. It is a fertile field for mission.

For that matter, so is YOUR neighborhood!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Have A Laugh

Since I am not feeling terribly creative today, I thought I would share a couple of funnies with you that friends have recently sent to me. I have actually seen both lists before, and some of you may have as well, but they are funny (IMHO) and bear repeating again.

Hopefully you'll get a chuckle from them too.

Cathy Howerton sent me the first one:
A 1st grade school teacher had 26 students in her class.
She presented each child in her classroom the 1st half of a well known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb.
It’s hard to believe these were actually done by first graders. Their insight may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these are 6 year olds, because the last one is a classic.

1. Don’t change horses… until they stop running.
2. Strike while the… bug is close.
3. It’s always darkest before… Daylight Savings Time.
4. Never underestimate the power of… termites.
5. You can lead a horse to water but… how?
6. Don’t bite the hand that… looks dirty.
7. No news is… impossible
8. A miss is as good as a… Mr.
9. You can’t teach an old dog new… Math.
10. If you lie down with dogs, you’ll… stink in the morning.
11. Love all, trust… me.
12. The pen is mightier than the… pigs.
13. An idle mind is… the best way to relax.
14. Where there’s smoke there’s… pollution.
15. Happy the bride who… gets all those presents.
16. A penny saved is … not much.
17. Two’s company three’s… the Musketeers.
18. Don’t put off till tomorrow what… you put on to go to bed.
19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and…you have to blow your nose.
20. There are none so blind as… Stevie Wonder.
21. Children should be seen and not… spanked or grounded.
22. If at first you don’t succeed… get new batteries.
23. You get out of something only what you… see in the picture on the box.
24. When the blind lead the blind… get out of the way.
25. A bird in the hand is… going to poop on you.
26. Better late than... pregnant!

The second list came from Randy Spurgeon. Sick twisted freak that I am, I may actually try some of these some time:

To Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity:

1. At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point aHair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.

4. Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It 'In.'

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone has Gotten OverTheir Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

6. In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write 'For Smuggling Diamonds'.

7. Finish All Your sentences with 'In Accordance With The Prophecy.'

8. Don t use any punctuation.

9. As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

10. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat...use a serious face.

11. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is 'To Go.'

12. Sing Along At The Opera.

13. Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don't Rhyme.

14. Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical Sounds AllDay.

15. Five Days In Advance , Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their PartyBecause You're Not In The Mood.

16. Have Your Coworkers Address You By Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.

17. When The Money Comes Out of The ATM, Scream 'I Won!, I Won!'

18. When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot, Yelling,'Run For Your Lives, They're Loose!!'

19. Tell Your Children Over Dinner. 'Due To The Economy, We Are Going ToHave To Let One Of You Go.'

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday

Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday. I forget what Roman Numeral Super Bowl it is. I am old enough to remember the first Super Bowl - seems like I was maybe 17 or 18 back when Bart Star and Coach Lombardi's Green Bay Packers WERE the Super Bowl. I wish they just used regular numbers to identify the Super Bowls now. It was kind of cute in the early years, but I confess that I have forgotten most of what I learned about Roman Numerals in the fifth grade!

As usual, I will not be able to watch most (or at least the first half) of the game. I kind of hate that this year since it should be a good game, start to finish. In my head, I hope the New England Patriots can "run the table" and win the Vince Lombardi Trophy to cap off a perfect season. In my heart, however, I have a soft spot for the underdog New York Giants. It's hard to root for any team from New York - much less consider them the underdog - but this edition of the Giants fit the bill. They have made it to this lofty pinnacle as a wild card team, over achieving throughout the playoffs to face Tom Brady led "Goliath" of the NFL. Peyton's little brother Eli is in the spotlight this year, while Peyton and Archie and Mom watch from the stands. Who would have thought that after last season's results?

Anyhow, we're pretty proud around these parts on this Super Bowl Sunday. Our local favorite Marshall University, boasts five (count 'em - Five!) former Thundering Herd players on the Super Bowl rosters this year. Only the University of Miami boasts more former players (7) in the Super Bowl than our Herd. Former Marshall stars Troy Brown, Randy Moss, Chris Hanson, and Jason Rader are all on the Patriots' roster. The Giants' backfield features former Marshall running back Amhad Bradshaw, who has had a great rookie season after forgoing his senior year at Marshall and being chosen in the final round of last year's NFL draft. We certainly wish the best of luck to all of the Sons of Marshall as they perform in the brightest football spotlight of all.

There will be another local boy on the field in Glendale, Arizona tomorrow, but he won't be on television. He's my baby brother, Carl. That's him in the photo above with me and Dad at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Carl is the Executive Director of the Georgia Dome which is the football home of the Atlanta Falcons. Although that is his full time job, Carl has contracted out to the NFL to do security work for the league at the Super Bowl for a number of years now. He's been on the field for a number of the big events in Super Bowl's past (including Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" - although he says he didn't see it). He'll dismiss the question with a simple, "I was working at the time".

Carl's been in Phoenix all week, doing whatever it is he does for the NFL during all the events leading up to the big game. He'll get back into Atlanta late on Monday night for what's left of his wife, Sarah's, birthday. They just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary last month. Hardly seems possible that it's been 20 years since they were married, but time does fly. What really seems strange is that he was only 10 years old when Linda and I tied the knot way back in the day!

It would be nice to be with Carl tomorrow. With all the activity and hype going on this week, I hope he had the chance to meet some of the guys from Marshall. The Super Bowl is probably "old hat" to him after all these years, but I would sure love to have the opportunity to be on the field for this one.

Heck, I would just like the opportunity to see the whole game on TV!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Freedom Behind Bars

On Monday I received a letter from some seminary students, thanking me for my service as a member of the Board of Trustees at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. The students indicated that they were praying that God would grant us wisdom and discernment in the decisions we make concerning the direction of the seminary. The brief letter, signed by seven students and one staff member was a pleasant surprise. It's always nice knowing that someone is praying for you. Although I have met a number of NOBTS students over the past few years, these names were unfamiliar to me - and for good reason.

Ricky Holloway, Joseph Crosley, Bobby Smith, Mack Wiltcher, John Hester, James Wash and Michael Rushing are all students of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, but it is not likely that I will ever see them on the beautiful campus on Gentilly Boulevard. That's because these "non traditional" students are inmates of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, MS. The NOBTS staff member who also signed the letter was Dr. Johnny Bley, Director of the Parchman Extension center of the Seminary. Seminary students behind bars? Unusual, but not a recent phenomena. Parchman is actually the second venture by NOBTS in taking seminary education behind prison walls. The story actually has it's beginnings at Angola State Prison in Louisiana - the largest maximum security prison in America.

Thirteen years ago, when Burl Cain became Warden, Angola was best described as "America's Hell Hole Prison". It was a place where three out of four inmates were serving life sentences for violent crimes. When you came to Angola with a life sentence, the only way you were going to leave was feet first, with a tag on your toe. Drugs, murder, and assaults were everyday problems at Angola. In 1995 there were 799 reported cases of inmate assualts on other inmates and 192 attacks on guards. By 2007 the number had dropped 78 inmate assaults and 19 on guards. What happened? The prison has found Jesus!

Today, Christianity is everywhere in Angola State Prison. Preachers and other volunteers flock to the place to take part in various ministries. An in house radio station offers Christian programming 24/7, and hundreds of prisoners are enrolled in four year seminary courses. Scores have graduated and are doing various ministries - behind bars.

The turnaround began when Warden Cain witnessed his first execution at Angola. A devout Christian, Cain felt convicted when he presided over the death of a man who was being executed by lethal injection for murder. Cain was tormented for days by the fact that he "held the man's hand while he left this world for Hell" - and he (Cain) had done nothing to tell him about God's love for him and His offer of redemption. The warden set out to change the prison with a message of Grace.

Make no mistake. Cain is not a softy or a bleeding heart. He is a strict disciplinarian, and the rules of the prison are non negotiable. The inmates there are criminals - violent criminals - and are treated as such. The difference is, Cain has offered them hope. Hope to be set free - truly free - even though their future is behind bars. The results have been astounding!

Of course, not every inmate is involved in Bible studies and prayer groups. Satan still patrols the cell blocks and his influence is still present in Angola. But all of the prisoners have the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel, and hundreds of formerly desperate inmates have done just that. As revival spread throughout the penetentiary, Warden Cain realized that these new believers needed a closer walk with the Lord and a deeper understanding of the scriptures. A Southern Baptist himself, Cain contacted Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to explore the possibility of an extension center at Angola. Within Dr. Kelley beats the heart of an evangelist so the rest, as they say, is history.

Every weekday, more than one hundred men fill classrooms in a prison building to study the Bible and take classes toward an accredited college degree. The amazing thing is that Angola's seminary extension is now producing convict missionaries. Each year after Graduation, the prison sends out graduates "two by two" to other prisons in Louisiana. Ron Hicks, 34, also serving life for murder, hopes to be one of them. He is a graduate of the seminary and would like to preach in other jails. 'It all depends on where God calls me,' he said. 'You can walk through my wing now and see the games room with people praying. You see Bible studies going on.' So far more than 20 graduates, trained to spread their religion, have left Angola to serve their sentences in other jails. They have set up their own ministries in their new prisons.

Cain's critics claim that he has gone too far. They say he is blurring the line of separation of church and state. One state legislator has complained to the ACLU. However, in the midst of the criticism, the fact remains that Angola is a changed place. The "proof in the pudding" is that Mississippi prison officials have been so impressed with the change of the quality of life at Angola, they have also started the new NOBTS extension at Parchman. In fact, two other states are also considering making such a move.

I don't know if I will ever have the privilege of meeting inmates Holloway, Crosley, Smith, Wiltcher, Hester, Wash, or Rushing, but I am certainly praying for them and for much success in their studies and their ministry.

God certainly does work in mysterious ways!