Saturday, August 30, 2008

A New Season - New Hopes

This afternoon our beloved Marshall University Thundering Herd football team kicks off the 2008 season at 4:30 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, with renewed hopes of returning to a winning record. We wish Head Coach, Mark Snyder, and his staff much success, and we are certainly pulling for the student athletes to do their very best as they take on Illinois State from the I-AA ranks. Sports Illustrated has provided Coach Snyder with some wonderful bulletin board material with a recent prediction that the Herd will only win one game this season. 1 - 11. Ouch!

This season's Conference USA schedule is tough. Plus the Herd faces some challenging non conference games with University of Cincinnati, and nationally ranked powerhouses Wisconsin and West Virginia University. However, as Marshall learned in last season's opener, they had better not overlook Illinois State. The loss to I-AA New Hampshire in last season's third game should be an adequate reminder that the Herd had better show up to play today. The last few seasons have been disappointing for Herd fans, who had become accustomed to winning seasons under Stan Parish, George Chaump, Jim Donnan, and Bobby Pruett. Many feel that this is Coach Snyder's year under the microscope. This is his team - his recruits - under his training. I, for one, certainly wish him the best.

Pre season practices were encouraging. No major injuries were sustained, but therein is a bit of a controversy in itself. In an effort to curtail those serious and sometime season ending injuries to his athletes, Coach Snyder has chosen to keep full tilt hitting and tackling to a minimum during camp. The squad goes into today's contest healthy on the two deep list, but the question remains, will they be sound fundamentally? Tired of the "thud" drills that have made up the scrimmage work of the summer, most of the players are yearning to hit and tackle. Herd fans are hoping they will, and that they will not sustain any major injuries in these first couple of games - since they have been forced to be somewhat reserved in practice. We'll know the answer to that before bedtime tonight.

Snyder has a talented group of returning starters with Chubb Small and Darius Marshall coming out of the backfield. Veteran receivers Cody Slate, Darius Passmore, and Emmanuel Spann give redshirt freshman quarterback, Mark Cann, some talented and proven receivers. Cann's baptism by fire today will be interesting to watch. The lefthander has great potential but he is sure green. Fans should remember that fabled MU star quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich (both now laboring in the NFL) had rather dubious starts in their initial outings. That, along with new offensive and defensive schemes, brought in by Snyder's new offensive and defensive coordinators will also add to the drama.

One known quantity will be back on the field in Albert McClellan. Big Al was the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 but missed the entire 2007 season due to a knee injury. Reports are that McClellan is fully rehabbed and ready to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks from his Defensive End position. We sure missed his presence on defense last season! John Jacobs, Vinny Curry, and C.J. Spillman should also be defensive assets this season.

Hope springs eternal this time of year among the Marshall faithful. Those of us who suffered along with the teams during the long string of losing seasons, the longest losing streak in college football (back in the 60's) and of course the terrible plane crash, are a loyal lot. We love the Herd, and have reveled in the successes of the 90's and early this decade. We've missed the Bowl Games, the winning seasons, and the glowing pride. Win or lose, we'll back the Herd, but we all hope this group "gets the swagger back".

We are... Marshall!

Go Herd!

Seminary Evacuation Plan In Place

As most of the readers of this blog know, I have a special place in my heart for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. My son has earned his Master of Divinity Degree in Biblical Languages at NOBTS, and he is beginning his Doctoral work there this year. Jay was heavily involved in the Seminary's recovery effort in the aftermath of it's destruction by the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina. Doug Virgin, John Freeman, and I were blessed to help for a couple of days in October, 2005 (photo above) when Dr. Kelley opened up the campus for one week so the seminary family could salvage whatever of their post Katrina possessions they could, before the campus was locked down for renovation. I have been blessed to serve on the Seminary Board of Trustees for the past two years (serving on the Instructional Sub Committee) and have come to know and deeply appreciate the Administration, Faculty, and Staff - and many of the students. In fact, six of the NOBTS students accompanied our Beacon Ministries mission team on our May, 2008 trip.

Some of you may regularly read the daily Baptist Press dispatches (we have a feed from BP News on our church website but for those who may not, I am including a link to yesterday's article about the NOBTS evacuation. The process began at 3:00 PM on Friday for the Seminary family, in anticipation of the expected Monday arrival of Hurricane Gustav. To read the story click on this link

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Uncomfortable Anniversary

Today marks a solemn anniversary for many Americans along the Gulf Coast. August 29, 2005 was the date the eye of Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore at Slidell, LA triggering what is now known as the worst natural disaster in United States history. Who among us doesn't remember the shock and awe of the power of nature that was unleashed upon the residents of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana? While not the strongest hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast, Katrina's destructive winds and rains were only a prelude to the devastation that engulfed New Orleans when several of the levees on the cities many canals failed, bringing the waters of Lake Pontchartrain pouring into the Crescent City.

No one who lived in that area was unaffected by the impact of the disaster. Lives, homes, jobs, schools, businesses, churches and personal property were lost. Right on the heels of Katrina, came Hurricane Rita, which pounded the remainder of the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast. Much of what wasn't totally destroyed was severely damaged. While recovery efforts are still ongoing, much still remains to be done. Now, on this Third Anniversary of Katrina, it seems that the other shoe is about to drop. A storm named Hurricane Gustav has laid waste to Haiti and is now picking up steam in the warmest areas of the Caribbean, and is projected to make landfall late Sunday somewhere along the central Gulf Coast. New Orleans appears to be right in Gustav's sights. Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindall has already begun preparations to declare a state of emergency, and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin is preparing to order a mandatory evacuation.

Our older son, Jay, and his family are joining thousands of their neighbors in securing their property and packing up to evacuate. Jay is Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church of Westwego which lies directly across the Mississippi River from New Orleans' Audubon Park. Jay's church, like hundreds of others in the area, was tremendously impacted by Katrina. Several members of his congregation have moved away from the area. The roof of the sanctuary was severely damaged by Katrina and the entire interior had to be gutted after the storm. Jay and his Student Pastor, Bryan Scholl, were two of the first people people back into Westwego after the storm and worked with City officials and the North American Mission Board of the SBC to get Disaster Relief work under way on the West Bank. Jay and FBC New Orleans Pastor, David Crosby have both been called the "Disaster Pastors" for their extensive disaster relief work in their respective areas.

Now comes Gustav, and an entire metropolitan area which is still suffering from "Katrina Fatigue" is faced with the uncertainty of what this storm may bring. Where will Gustav make landfall? How strong will it be? Where will they go for evacuation? Will the new levees hold? Will this be a replay of Katrina? Jay tells me that the anxiety level is high among his church members and neighbors. While actual panic has not set in, there is a sense of dread and apprehension over what the next few days have in store for them. The church secretary at FBC Westwego and her family lost everything they owned in Katrina. Kelli and her husband, George, came to know Jesus as a result of the ministry of Baptists who befriended them at an evacuation point, and led them to Christ. Now, having lost her father just two weeks ago, Kelli and her family are facing the uncertainty of the future. They are not alone. A report on FOX News this morning quoted Gov. Bobby Jindal in saying that this may be the largest evacuation in history, affecting twice as many as the one million people, who were evacuated with Katrina.

Keeping everything in perspective is most important. Property can be replaced. Human life cannot. This Hurricane will come ashore somewhere. No one knows where, and no humans know the final outcome, but God does. I would urge each reader of this blog to pray for the people of New Orleans in particular and the Gulf Coast in general. Pray that they will be prudent in their judgement and actions, and that they will not forget that God is in control. Pray that they will be safe and find refuge from the storm. Pray that when the storm has passed that they will know the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding.

Joe McKeever has been telling people for three years to "Pray big for New Orleans". Many of you have in the past three years - don't stop now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Look, Up In The Sky...!"

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look, up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's Superman! Yes, Superman. Strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman! Who can change the course of mighty rivers - bend steel in his bare hands. And who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights his never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!"

That's the way the old black and white TV series began. I couldn't wait till that special half hour arrived when I could lie, spellbound before the old television set engrossed with the adventures of Superman and his friends, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, and of course, Perry White, the editor of The Daily Planet. The anticipation would build all day. School had to be attended. Chores had to be done. Dinner must be rushed through. Then came that special 30 minutes - the fastest 30 minutes of the day. Superman, fearing nothing (but Kryptonite), always appeared in the nick of time, to rescue his friends and the other citizens of Metropolis from the most heinous criminals on earth. Those were the days.

The "real" Superman, of course, was the guy who appears above in the DC Comic books. However, over the years, at least seven actors have portrayed the sole survivor of Krypton on the large and small screens. Dad's generation thrilled to Kirk Alyn in the movie serials. George Reeves was Superman to me. My kids were wowed by the special effects in the exploits of Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. I reluctantly accepted Dean Cain in "Smallville", which my wife often watched on TV. But alas, I have never been able to muster any enthusiasm for Tom Welling or Brandon Routh as my favorite super hero. Superman, no matter who portrays him, has spanned generations fighting evil and eliciting fantasy in the minds of kids all over the world. We could use a good hero like him today. Wouldn't you agree?
My admiration for the Man of Steel is no secret to those who know me. Anyone who thinks that kids aren't affected by what they see on television is sadly mistaken. I speak from personal experience. I was engrossed by Superman. First, through the comic books that I would beg my grandmother to purchase at the Company Store, then later through the TV series that inspired me to try my own "powers". My ultimate (and last attempt) to exercise my super powers came at about the age of seven. I was spending a week at my grandmother's house in Logan, WV. She had a window in one room that opened outward, much like the one Superman always lept from in the storage room of The Daily Planet. It looked perfect to me. So, dressed in my blue pajamas, with a red bath towel wrapped around my neck, and wearing a pair of red panties I found in my aunt's dresser drawer, I sprang into action. "This looks like a job for Superman" I yelled in the deepest voice I could muster. I threw the window open and flew - about six feet, straight down - into a rather sticky hedge growing on that side of the house. Ouch! Man of Steel? Not!
Members of my church caught on quickly, as I often use an illustration or make some reference to Superman and my youthful fascination with him. An entire corner of my office is filled with a growing collection of Superman memorabilia, that folks have brought in for me over the years. That may seem a little strange, but at least it's nice to know that they are thinking of me! Recently the guy who represents "Upward" sports ministries to churches in WV, OH, MI, and PA, stopped by my office for a visit. Upon walking into my office, his attention was immediately drawn to that corner. "I like this room!" he smiled. "Superman is my favorite!" Kindred spirits! It was a pleasure meeting with him.
George Reeves was my personal favorite Superman. And why not? He was the Superman of my youth. In reality, he may have been the least "super" looking Superman of all. The early shows were in black and white, and in those days before spandex, the woolen looking tights he wore, left a little something to be desired. But he was still "my" Superman. He was also once a resident of nearby Ashland, Kentucky, where I now make my home. (not because Superman once lived here, but it is a nice bonus). No sooner had I come to work in Ashland, I met Joe Coleman, a native of the city who had grown up on Hagan Court, just west of the downtown area. In the course of a conversation, he casually mentioned growing up in that neighborhood and playing around "Superman's house". I was incredulous. "You know where he lived?" I nearly shouted. "Sure", he responded. So, at lunch time, Joe and yours truly took a quick drive to Hagan Court, where he pointed out the home of the former star. I was thrilled! I know, it's sad that a 27 year old man with two children of his own, could be so happy over such a discovery, but what can I say? I am a fan.

Reeves, who also had a small role as a suitor of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With The Wind", came to an untimely death on June 16, 1959, at the age of 45, in Hollywood, California. He died of a gunshot wound to the head which was ruled to be self inflicted (although that has been a matter of debate for nearly five decades, and even the subject of the movie, "Hollywoodland" a couple of years ago). I will never forget the day my Dad showed me the story in the Huntington newspaper, indicating that "Superman" was dead. To this shocked 8 1/2 year old, there could be only one logical conclusion.
A Kryptonite bullet!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Random Thoughts Late Sunday Night

Tonight I witnessed blasphemy. I confess, I have never thought much of Bill Maher. In fact, I have developed quite an aversion to his hateful diatribes against religion in general and Christianity in particular. He is not someone I would normally waste five minutes of my time listening to, but while channel surfing between the Olympics and the three main Cable News Networks tonight, I did stop long enough to hear what he was saying on Larry King Live. Picking it up in mid interview it was not surprising to hear him blasting Christians and branding us all as bigoted idiots. When asked by King (another spiritual bankrupt) what he thought of the Saddleback Forum last week and the questions Rick Warren asked the two major presidential candidates regarding evil and how we should deal with it.

"These stupid people believe in this cartoon character (the Devil) who supposedly will be poking people in Hell in the ass with a pitchfork and depriving them of airconditioning."

Maher went on to opine that what bothers him the most about Christianity is the concept of salvation. "To these 'Christies' it's all about salvation. Saving their own asses" He also quoted that great thinker Jesse "The Body" Ventura's comments about "Christians being weak minded people who have to find safety in numbers."

This is America and Mr. Maher most certainly has the right to think as he wishes and to exercise his right to free speech. He also has the right to be wrong. In my humble opinion, Maher should stick to his rather feeble comedy career and leave theology to the theologians. He misses the point altogether. Not that "salvation" isn't important. It certainly is! Fallen man needs a redeemer and Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man. I am qualified to debate this with Mr. Maher because I have experienced such redemption through Christ. However to this "Christie" as he calls us, the true emphasis of Christianity is not just salvation - it is about a relationship with the true and living God. Those of us "weak minded" individuals who cling to this God know that it's not about "religion" at all, but rather about a relationship with the Creator through the person of Jesus Christ.

Tonight something interesting happened in my mind. The disgust and disdain I have long felt for Bill Maher began to change. A true pity welled up in my heart for this blasphemous windbag. A realization swept over me that the very God, whose existence Maher denies, wants a relationship with him. That's why He sent Jesus. Will you join me in praying that some way, some how, God might speak peace to the heart of this very vicious man. He's done it before (remember Saul of Tarsus?) He can do it again. Pray for Bill Maher - and Larry King, too, for that matter.


Speaking of the Saddleback Forum, what did you think about it? I am torn between the idea of whether a church is the right forum for this type of event, and the opposite feeling that it provided a wonderful opportunity for the candidates to be questioned on "value" issues that are important to a huge segment of the electorate. We have had analysis, ad infinitum, for the past week on who won, etc. I have no intention of getting into all that. I was struck, however, by the difference in the way the two candidates offered their individual answers to the identical questions posed to them by Pastor Rick Warren. Senator Obama's answers have been characterized as "nuanced and thoughtful" by some, and "mushy gobbledygook" by others. Senator McCain's answers have been called "decisive and direct" by some commentators, and "simplistic" by critics.

For example, when posed a question about whether the candidate believes in the concept of evil, and how we should react to it, Obama's answer was lengthy, making general references to his examples of evil both at home and abroad. He allowed that we should "confront evil, but do it humbly". When asked the same question about the existance of evil, McCain simply answered, "Of course evil exists." When asked how we should react, he gave a two word answer, "Defeat it." I have drawn my personal opinion, but each of us must be the judge when we enter the voting booth on November 4th.

Although I am not a "one issue" voter, I do believe that a candidate's stance on one particular issue is a cornerstone to how he or she will line up on any other issues. Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that we are "endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Am I wrong, or is the first inalienable right we have been given by God, the Right to Life? I have the strong conviction that unless a candidate - any candidate - supports the Right to Life - especially the rights of the unborn - how can I trust them to be right on the rest of the issues? To me it is a matter of priorities.

When asked by Warren, "When does human life begin?", again Obama answered with an assertion that this is an issue that can be debated by theologians and medical professionals. He stated, I think flippantly, that "The ability to make that decision is above my pay grade." When asked the same question, McCain's answer was five words, "At the moment of conception." One of these men will appoint many Federal Judges and possibly as many as two or three Supreme Court Justices during his term of office. This issue is of tremendous magnitude to those of us who value the Right to Life - to the elderly, the infirm, and by all means, the unborn. McCain has publicly promised that he will appoint Justices "from the mold of Roberts and Alito". Obama's Vice Presidential choice, Senator Joe Biden, vehemently fought and voted against the nomination of both of those Justices. While I have differences with many of the political stances of BOTH McCain and Obama, my decision on November 4th is already settled!


The height of the silly season is now upon us. The Olympic spectacle has ended and the next two weeks bring us the Hollywood style productions known as the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Now don't get me wrong. I am not trivializing the immense gravity of our responsibility to evaluate and elect the next President of the United States. I thank God that we live in the country we do and I love the Constitution and the freedoms and responsibilities it lays out for "We the People". What is demoralizing, however, is how shallow we have allowed our electoral system to become. What we will be treated to for the next fortnight will be the height of propaganda, half truths, and spin.

Candidates from both parties will be presented to us as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Each will tell us of their particular qualifications to serve as leader of the free world, and will spend half of their time, trying to remove their respective feet from their own mouths. It has already begun. After a good week, and closing the gap in many of the opinion polls, McCain took a big step toward looking like a dunce, when he couldn't answer the question as to how many homes he and his wife own. Not good. McCain dug a pretty good hole for himself several months ago as well, when he admitted that he really doesn't know much about economics. Ouch!

Senator Obama has already stretched his credibility several months ago by asking us to believe that he sat in the Trinity Church for 20 years and never heard the hatred and racism spouted by his former pastor and spiritual mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. His newly chosen VP running mate is also one who has "opened mouth and inserted foot" on a number of occasions. Remember, Biden is the guy who said that Obama was a "mainstream African American who is bright, articulate and clean...", and then there's that famous quote that "You can't go into a Dunkin' Donuts or a 7-Eleven without an Indian accent." Eeewww.

No sooner had Obama named his choice of Biden as a running mate, did the McCain campaign begin airing a commercial showing Biden standing by an earlier comment that Obama was not ready to be President, and that that position is not one for "on the job training". We've seen them use Hillary Clinton's sound bytes saying that Obama is not qualified for the top job, and it will only be a matter of days until we see her hubby, Bill, in film clips accusing Obama of "playing the race card" and also implying Obama's lack of qualifications for the Presidency.

By the same token, should McCain tap former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney as his running mate, there is plenty of primary footage of Romney's criticism of McCain's qualifications, to serve as fodder for many Obama commercials. As often as the RNC paid ads link Obama with convicted felon, Tony Rezko and 70's radical Weathermen bomber, Bill Ayers, the DNC will counter of footage of McCain as one of the "Keating Seven" and linking him to the policies of the Bush Administration.

Accusation of "flip flops" will abound from both camps, and the beat goes on. Thankfully it's only a little over 70 days until election day. November 4th can't come a bit too soon!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Enough Reward Cards Already!

Have you had enough of the "Rewards Cards" that more and more retailers are issuing? I'm not just talking about credit cards that get you everything from frequent flyer miles, to building points for "free gasoline" or other products. I'm referring to the growing number of retailers who are offering special discounts to those who are bearers of the little plastic cards that they swipe at the check out counter.

Besides the credit cards that already fill my wallet, the old billfold now is bulging with these cards that allow us discounts on groceries, drugs, health and beauty aids, or gasoline. If your wallet is not full of them, chances are your key chain now carries several of the miniature cards with the magic bar codes on the back. I've had a Kroger Plus Card for several years now. I was informed that I have to produce it at the cash register or else I'll have to pay the top dollar for my groceries. Linda regularly uses hers at the Kroger gas pumps to get a savings of several cents per gallon. Seems like a good deal.

If I happen to stop by the local Superamerica convenience store to pick up a Twinkie or bottle of Sprite, I am asked to produce my Speedy Rewards card to add to my speedy rewards account balance, which at last count it really didn't amount to much. At the nearby Foodland supermarket where I often stop to do some shopping on the way home from work, I was signed up a while back for their new rewards program. Each purchase will build rewards toward the purchase of gasoline at participating stations. I recently asked what my balance was and was pleased to learn that I now have amassed no less than $0.85 toward my future free fill up - if, of course, I live long enough and am able to find a participating location.
Yesterday I made the monthly trip to the Rite Aid Pharmacy where I spend a small fortune on my many medications. The Pharmacist proudly handed me a new plastic card which entitles me to a 10% discount on any Rite Aid brand products. Unfortunately, the card does not apply to prescriptions. Oh well, it was a nice gesture any way. One day, I may be able to save $.50 on a package of their generic toilet paper. I can't wait...
Now, I am all about saving money on consumer spending, but do these things really offer a
discount at all? Could it be that the stores have artificially inflated the prices to allow for these "discounts"? If so, isn't it rather discriminatory to charge more to some poor "outsider" or visitor to the community who hasn't been priviliged to acquire the valuable plastic? (that happened to me last summer at a Food Lion store in White Sulpher Springs, WV. Boy did I feel ostricized!) Furthermore, isn't it likely that the whole program costs the retailer quite a bit to purchase the cards, the hundreds of little "savings certificates" on the shelves throughout the store - not to mention the cost of administering the program? Not long ago, arriving at the check out counter at Kroger . I discovered that I did not have my Plus card with me. "No problem" the gum chewing cashier intoned. "I'll take care of you." She deftly produced a Plus card from a drawer, swiped it across the scanner, and promptly saved me $1.13 on my $72.85 total. Here's a thought - if they are really interested in saving the customer some of their hard earned money, why not ditch the whole program, and just lower the prices?
At least the experience at Kroger's has taught me that I can horse the system and still get the discount! Now I can at least lighten my wallet by one piece of plastic.
That's a good start...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thank You For Giving To The Lord

We buried Alice Lowe yesterday. She was on this earth for 81 years, 6 months, and 22 days and there were seven people at her funeral. Seven people - her daughter, her brother, a sister in law, and the sister in law's neice and two nephews! She had a small family, and all of them were present. Her small family, and no one else...

Alice had been in a nursing home for about five years. I guess a lot of folks had lost touch with her over the years, but I could not help but think how she deserved better.

I had first met Alice about ten years ago, when her older brother, Roy Poole, had passed away. Roy was a dear friend and co-worker of mine for nearly 20 years. Alice was the one who called my office that morning to tell me the shocking news of Roy's unexpected death. After the funeral service, when I learned that Alice had no church home, I invited her to visit with us at Ashland Baptist Church. She took me up on the invitation and in a short time, she became an active member of that congregation. Her health was poor and she was unable to traverse the steps to attend events in the church fellowship hall in the basement, but she was always faithful in every other way.

Alice wasn't one who desired the spotlight. She was quiet and unassuming, yet as friendly a person as I have ever known. Although she had very little material possessions Alice was truly generous. She was always giving of her finances and herself to church ministries and especially to mission projects. One time we were sending shoe box Christmas gifts to the children of our mission church in the Philippines. We still had a good bit of room in the shipping container, and Alice went to the Dollar General Store and purchased a car load of children's clothing to fill the void in the carton. It was a large volume of clothing and I specifically remember a little girl's "Indian Style -buckskin type" dress that was emblazoned with an image of Walt Disney's Pocahontas character on the front. When I was in the Philippines on a short term mission trip the next January, I was happy to see a beautiful little girl named Melchora Kandar, proudly wearing the Pocahontas dress. I knew where that came from! As a side note, on subsequent trips over the next seven years I continued to see the Pocahontas dress worn by Melchora's two younger sisters. I know that was multiplied many times with that large bundle of clothing that Alice had purchased for those kids she would never meet. Truly a gift that keeps on giving!

When it came time for the monthly service we did at the Riverview Nursing Home, Alice was always the first one there. Very few of our members took part in that ministry. It was tough duty to say the least, but Alice (barely able to get around with the aid of her cane) faithfully ministered to the patients at Riverview. She would take little inexpensive gifts to the people there and their eyes would light up when she distributed them. At Christmas she had a new pair of white tube socks for every resident of the home. I thanked her once for what she was doing to help that ministry and she just smiled and said, "It's the least I can do. I may end up in a place like this myself someday."

This past Sunday, Alice passed into the presence of the Lord, from a "place like that" in Piketon, Ohio which is about 50 miles from the modest little home on Dixon Street in the Pollard section of Ashland, where Alice had lived, alone, for many years. Only the facility nurse was with her when she passed, but I know that Angels came to take her to her Eternal Home. Knowing Alice, she wouldn't really care about having a "mansion", but she certainly must be rejoicing in the presence of her Lord.

When I think of Alice in Heaven, I can't escape the words of a song, wrtitten by Ray Boltz. I truly believe it applies to her. It's called, "Thank You For Giving To The Lord". I'm sure she has already heard Jesus say, "Well done"The words are listed below.

"I dreamed I went to Heaven, you were there with me.
We walked upon the streets of gold beside the Crystal Sea.
We heard the angels singing, then someone called your name.
You turned and saw this young man, and he was smiling as he came.

He said, "Friend you may not know me now," and then he said, "But wait -
You used to teach my Sunday School, when I was only eight.
And every week you would say a prayer before the class would start.
And one day when you said that prayer,
I asked Jesus in my heart."

Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am so glad you gave.

Then another man stood before you, he said "Remember the time,
A missionary came to your church, His pictures made you cry.
You didn't have much money but you gave it anyway.
Jesus took that gift you gave
And that's why I'm in Heaven today"

Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am so glad you gave.

One by one they came, far as your eyes could see.
Each life somehow touched by your generosity.
Little things that you had done, sacrifices that you made,
They were unnoticed on this earth
In Heaven now proclaimed.

Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am so glad you gave.

And I know up in Heaven you're not supposed to cry
But I am almost sure there were tears in your eyes
As Jesus took your hand and you stood before the Lord
He said "My child look around you,
Great is your reward."

Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am so glad you gave,
I am so glad you gave."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Time Flies!

Today, after officiating at a funeral service, I had an appointment at my oncologist's office for the monthly blood work and the flushing of my medi-port. When the nurse called me back into the Chemotherapy Room, it was unusually empty. One lady and another young fellow were called back at the same time, and like me, they were only having lab work or getting an injection. In a recliner in the far corner of the nearly empty room, one man was receiving his chemo drip. I said "Hello" and he smiled and returned the greeting.
He looked vaguely familiar, but I didn't particularly recognize him.
After being in the ministry for 35 years (28 of them as a bivocational insurance agent as well) you meet a lot of people. I have to confess that I can't always put a name with a familiar face as quickly as I once could, so I didn't really give it too much of a thought. My procedure was nearly done when the man spoke up and asked me, "Aren't you C.J. Adkins?" When I answered in the affirmative, he said, "You don't remember me, do you?" Now, that always makes me feel frustrated (and a little old). I confessed that although he did look familiar, I couldn't place exactly where I knew him from.
"Well", he grinned, "You made my picture one time."
That wasn't much help, so I asked if he could give me a little hint.
"I was your first sale in the car business", he said.
That brought it all back. I think I took him by surprise when I said, "You're Jeff Williams, aren't you?" When he smiled and said "Yes", I said, "Actually you weren't my first delivery, but you were the first person I ever ordered a car for. It was a 1977 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Station Wagon (similar to the one pictured above). That's only been 31 years ago. I know I haven't changed any, but you look a little different", I deadpanned. "You don't look like you did in the picture!" Jeff laughed out loud, and the nurses and the other patients got a kick out of the exchange as well.
It was the Spring of 1977 and I had just been hired as a new car salesman at Steenbergen Oldsmobile in Ashland, KY. I lived in Huntington at the time, and didn't know a soul in Ashland. The six of us "green peas", who were hired at the same time, had just completed our two weeks of training and the first customers I met on the lot were Mr. & Mrs. Poe J. Williams and their children. They were looking for a station wagon for their growing family. Keep in mind those were the days before minivans and the only SUV's around were Chevy Suburbans that only a few strange folks drove to pull campers, etc.
There were two wagons on the lot, and neither one caught the fancy of Mrs. Williams, so Jeff asked if they could order one. "Sure!" I replied, and, with the help of the Sales Manager, we sat down and spec'd out a dream car for the Williams family. He was forced to pay a hefty deposit for us to order the car. When I asked the General Manager, Harry B. Jackson, why so much was required, he quietly told me that the two tone paint job and the unusual interior color were a combination that Oldsmobile considered a "non recommended combination". Harry B. said, "Get as large a deposit as possible. If this guy decides not to take this car, we'll NEVER get it off our lot!" Jeff didn't protest, he paid the deposit, and the vehicle was ordered.
He sure was in a hurry to take delivery, but it does take a little time for an ordered vehicle to be assembled and shipped to the dealer. Jeff was stopping by the dealership every few days, asking if the car was in yet. In that day, before computer processing, we received order updates by mail every week. Jeff would stop by and the Sales Manager would give him the latest update, with the assurance, "We'll give you a call as soon as it comes in!" He may have believed us, but that didn't stop him from dropping by every few days, just in case...
Finally one evening, just about dusk, Jeff had walked in the show room with his usual question. While the manager informed him that the vehicle had indeed been shipped, the carrier pulled up right in front of the showroom with 7 cars to off load. Jeff's wagon was one of them. He was happy, to say the least.
While we stood, watching as the truck driver unloaded the vehicles one by one, another salesman walked up to the window to see what had arrived. "Holy Smoke!" he cried out. "Who the heck ordered that funky looking wagon?"
"I did", Jeff said, and the salesman mumbled something and walked away pretty quickly.
Well, by the next day, the vehicle was prepped, undercoated, washed and waxed and ready for the Williams family to drive home.
During our training sessions, Harry B. had told us about a salesman he knew in Alabama who made photos of every customer and their new vehicle when they came in for delivery. I thought that would be a great idea. After all, no one is ever any happier with their new vehicle than the day they drive it off the lot for the first time. Also, I thought it would be a great way to remember my customers, and something I could use as a sales tool as my office wall began to be covered with photos of happy customers with their new cars. So I invested in a Polaroid camera and began making photos of the satisfied customers and their shiny new vehicles. Jeff and his Vista Cruiser were added to the small but growing collection.
The wagon may not have been a "recommended" color combination, but the Williams' seemed to love it. I snapped the photo of the smiling young man with his new car, and he did look happy. I have seen that photo hundreds of times, in fact, I still have that picture (and all the other photos) somewhere. I don't know why I didn't recognize Jeff when I saw him today.
It's only been 31 years!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pleasant Memories

I haven't updated my blog for about a week. Last week was basically a blur of activities. There has been very little free time to spend on blogging due to the fact that I have spent 6 of the past seven days in a place where my roots run deep - Logan, WV.
Logan is nestled in a narrow valley of the Guyandotte River, sixty nine miles down State Rt. 10 from Huntington, WV. It is the county seat of the county that bears the same name. I was born at Holden (about 5 miles from Logan) nearly 58 years ago. Boy has that place changed in 58 years! The former center of town would have been Stratton Street (pictured to the left), a narrow thoroughfare that passes the County Courthouse, and a number of shops and offices. However, the new center of commerce is a place called Fountain Place Mall, located on four lane U.S. Rt. 119 just on the north side of downtown.

Last Saturday, I took the two local grandsons and traveled with Mom and Dad to visit a community near Logan that no longer exists. That community was Dehue, a coal camp that had built up in the 30's through the 70's around a productive mine, owned by the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company. The remaining buildings of Dehue were demolished in 2003 and now there is only a narrow hollow where hundreds of people formerly lived, worked, and played. Each year, the living former residents of Dehue gather for a reunion. It's almost more of a "family reunion" than a community reunion. For more information regarding the Dehue
Reunion, you may click on this link that will take you to my post of August 10, 2007. Pictured below is an old photo of the supervisor's homes in the "bottom" at Dehue. We had a good time at the reunion, but that was just the beginning of my busy week in Logan.

Beginning Monday night, we started a revival meeting at Central Baptist Church in Logan. I still tried to put in a couple of days in the church office at Westmoreland Baptist, but the revival and travel time put that time at a premium. I certainly would like to thank Sonia Jones, my super efficient Church Secretary, for her tremendous help this past week. On the nights I commuted to Logan I didn't arrive back home in Ashland until after 11:00PM. I did stay in Logan a couple of nights to take some of the two hour (one way) travel time out of the equation. There, I was blessed to have the hospitality of my second cousin, Lois Thompson and her son Robert, who graciously provided me with a comfortable bed, plenty of food, and some good company.

The revival services started out a little "slow" but the attendance and the spirit improved each night of the week. There was good "mountain style" music (lots and lots of it) and the people were gracious and attentive to the messages. I had opportunity to see a number of old friends whom I remembered from my childhood, and make a number of new friends. Pastor Glenn White said that the church had truly experienced Revival and several of the older members of the church indicated that it was one of the best series of meetings at the church in a number of years.

I thank God for being able to bring the messages and to be part of what He was doing in that community last week. I certainly appreciate the invitation from Pastor White, the hospitality of my cousins, and my home church allowing me to spend the time away from my primary area of ministry. I am blessed to serve such a wonderful group of people.

My week in Logan brought back a flood of wonderful memories and created some new ones.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

If You're Ever In Ranger, West Virginia...

Should you ever venture down West Virginia State Route 10, half way between Huntington and Logan there is a spot you really need to stop and visit. It's Tiny Lucas' Grocery Store in "downtown" Ranger. Now, basically Ranger is just a wide spot in the road, so the store is not hard to find. Tiny Lucas (a distant cousin of my Dad's) lives in the trailer behind the store, and along with his sister "Peep", has been the proprietor of this mercantile endeavor for as long as I can remember. That's Peep in the photo with my grandsons, Will and Asher, with Great Grumpa and Great Grandma Adkins looking on. We had stopped by for a brief visit on the way to a reunion in Logan. Dad usually stops to visit Tiny when he can. He usually can't get out of the place until Peep fixes him a free "baloney sandwich with a big slice of tomato" and a bottle of pop. Yesterday there wasn't much time to waste, so she just bagged up a few tomatoes and cucumbers for him to take home.

If you never get to visit Lucas' Grocery you will have missed out on a vanishing slice of Americana (West Virginia style).

I didn't make any photos inside the store because it's kind of dark in there, but you can get an idea of the contents by scanning the items on display on the front porch. On the porch, alone, one may peruse a variety of merchandise. These items are all for sale, at reasonable prices, (according to Tiny and Peep). Are you in the market for a propane tank or television? He's got 'em. How about a couple of red chairs or a set of four new truck tires? Yep, he's got 'em. Furthermore, on the porch you may pick up some lumber, a wash tub, breakfast cereal, moon pies (of course!), or a loaf of bread. Looking for some other type of merchandise? Well to the right side there is plenty various types of seed (in season), dog food, various farm implements, a roll of chicken wire, and a bale of straw. You can also pick up a copy of the "Lincoln Journal" newspaper. If you think the porch display is something, just step inside this emporium for an absolute plethora of groceries and stuff.

A guy named Mark, who is Peep's son, lives with 84 year old Tiny and kind of looks out for him and the store. I remarked to him that a fellow could just about find anything he might be looking for in this place. "Yep" he deadpanned, "We've got about anything you need. We may not have twelve different brands of everything, but we've got some stuff." He's right about that. There are the usual staples of any grocery store - bread, milk and other dairy products, soft drinks, canned goods, cleaning supplies, and a meat counter. If the law of supply and demand holds true, judging from the inventory levels, the patrons of Lincoln County seem to be quite fond of coffee, vienna sausages, coke products, and moon pies. And there's candy. All kinds and lots of it.

But groceries are only part of the story at Tiny's store. Under the same roof there is a good supply of shoes, axes, hoes, shovels, and picks. There are rat traps, light bulbs, baling wire, nails, screws, plumbing supplies, shoe laces, buckets, fuses, horse shoes, and big kosher dill pickles. You can also find mower blades, bicycle tires and inner tubes of all sizes. Need a saw? There are several types from which to choose. A range of tobacco products from cigarettes to chewing tobacco are also plentiful. Shotgun shells are available as well.
The back door stands open (to provide a little more light and ventilation in the building). The boys were interested in the chickens and cats running free back there, and a big dog chained up to a tree near Tiny's mobile home. Will was also intrigued by the homemade sign on the front porch which, no doubt, is intended to discourage would be burglars. The sign reads, "The man who sleeps in the back of this store has a gun". In the back aisle of the store, a roll away bed bears witness to the fact that would be nocturnal intruders should probably heed the warning of the sign.
Tiny is a friendly sort of guy, with a shock of long white hair. He walks with two canes, but according to Mark, he "doesn't get around much anymore". He's also a bit of a philosopher. He'll be quick to tell you, "If you're going to do anything - do it before you are 84!" Makes sense to me.
There is another grocery store in Ranger, barely 1/4 mile down the road. It's a "Pic Pac" or "Save-A-Lot" or some such chain. It has a big parking lot and is brightly lighted inside. It's clean and has wide aisles and a large selection of grocery items. But there are some things that you can get at Tiny's that you just can't get at the big store. Truck tires and wash tubs are a couple of them. Another is a line of credit until your "check comes in at the first of the month".
Some might say that Lucas' Grocery is one of the last of a vanishing breed. I contend that Tiny Lucas is a visionary and a pioneer in merchandising. After all, have you ever been in a WalMart Supercenter? Where do you think they got the idea?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Upcoming Revival In Logan, WV

As most of you know, I grew up as a PK (that's Preacher's Kid). In latere years Dad served as pastor of several churches in West Virginia and Ohio, but for the most part, his ministry was primarily one of evangelism. When I was a child in the 50's and a teenager in the latter part of the 60's Dad was one of the busiest bi-vocational evangelists in the Tri-State area. He would hold as many as 16-19 revival meetings per year, and they were all of the two week variety back then. Dad would usually leave a week open between scheduled services just in case real revival would break out and the meeting might be extended by an extra week. That was often the case!

Being a pastor, I don't have the opportunity to hold many revival meetings due to ministry constraints here. The church allows me to have two revival meetings per year. The last few years I have usually been able to do that - usually beginning on a Monday night - which allows me to be in the pulpit on Sundays at Westmoreland, which, of course is my primary ministry. My mission work in the Philippines usually causes me to miss one or two Sundays, so I try to keep those Sunday absences to a minimum - even when vacation time comes.

Next week I will have the privilege of preaching in revival services in my native Logan County, West Virginia at the Central Baptist Church (pictured above). The church's official name is the "Central United Baptist Church of Jesus Christ", but ask anyone in Logan and they'll just call it "Central Baptist". Beside that, the term "united Baptist" seems kind of like an oxymoron when you really think about it. (You know, like "jumbo shrimp" or "military intelligence".) But I digress...

I do look forward to preaching again at Central. I had opportunity to preach there a couple of nights in a youth revival back in the early 70's. The last time I was there was ten years ago, when I helped Pastor Glenn White do my Uncle Sammy's funeral service there. That's Pastor Glenn and his wife, Catherine, in the other photo. Here is an amazing fact. Glenn White is only the second pastor in the history of Central Baptist Church. His tenure there began in 1957. I was all of seven years old when Glenn White was called to be Pastor there (and he had been the assistant pastor for the two years prior to his calling!)

One of the special things about going to Central next week is the memories I have of being in that church (and the old building) as a child. Dad held a number of revival meetings there over the years, and I have many memories of those times. One revival meeting there in particular went for three weeks with over 40 people making professions of faith in Jesus Christ, and many others rededicating their lives to Jesus. Now THAT is Revival! Dad and Brother Glenn would be the first to tell you that they had nothing to do with those results. He was only the messenger. The Holy Spirit did the work.

We could only dream of those kind of results today, but God is still the same, and nothing is impossible with Him. Please pray for us Monday through Friday, August 11-15, that God would move in a great way to revive His people, and to draw lost souls to Him, and to the Kingdom of God. I know the church must be publicizing the meetings, because a lady from Logan County called Dad and asked what nights he would be preaching at Central Baptist. He told her it wasn't him, but rather it would be me. She said, "Well, my husband heard it on the radio and we wanted to be sure to come and hear you." We do have the same first name, so there may be others who will also come, thinking they're going to hear the old timer who could "preach the fire down" while saying more in 15 minutes, than most preachers can in 35.
Boy, will they be surprised!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Outrigger Island VBS Is A Success

Friday evening was Family Night for our 2008 "Outrigger Island" Vacation Bible School at Westmoreland Baptist Church. More than 200 were in attendance to hear the children perform their songs, recite the motto, quote scripture, and recount the five lesson themes. Parents and kids were also treated to meet and learn from two native Hawaiian ladies who not only shared a treasure of information about their island culture, but also shared the Gospel in their wonderful testimonies. After the program, the kids and parents moved over to our gym for refreshments, to meet the teachers, and to pick up the crafts created throughout the week.

48 Adults and youth helped Co-Directors Tara Lockhart and Jeana Blatt minister to nearly 70 children over the past six days. We cannot begin to name all the teachers and helpers who worked in the class rooms, craft area, refreshments, sound/media, block party, publicity, recreation, decoration, transportation, and clean up. However, God knows each one of them, and the effort and sacrifices made this week. The rewards are many. First there is the joy of being around and working with little children. Besides the fun they had, the kids were exposed to a loving presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ from adults and youth who modeled those qualities that they taught the children. There is also the blessing of fellowship and the bond that comes when we work together as a team in ministry.
Next week, the Directors will complete the annual VBS report that will be sent to our local Greater Huntington Baptist Association office, the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptist state office, and LifeWay Christian Resources. That report will be full of statistics that will help the Convention, and LifeWay, do research and compile VBS statistics from all around the country. Our report will help them do that.
Our SBC Executive Committee has a number of video spots that run throughout each session of the SBC Annual Meeting. The theme of those spots is "Every Number Has A Story". Statistics are just that - statistics! So many numbers. But there is one figure that is the most important number of them all when we sum up the results of Outrigger Island Vacation Bible School - the number "8". That number has an important story. It is the number of children whose eternal destiny was changed this week. It is the number of precious children who responded to the Gospel message this week and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. That's 8 new Christians this week, but who knows how many more may come to Christ as a result of the seeds sown this week. There is an old saying that goes like this - "Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple, but only God knows the number of apples in one seed".
Joseph Spurgeon has created a wonderful slide show of the Block Party and Vacation Bible School. I invite you to click on this link to view the show, and join me in thanking God for what He has used the people of Westmoreland Baptist Church to do for His Kingdom this past week.