Friday, July 31, 2009

In The Shadow Of Our Steeple

On Wednesday night just after prayer meeting and Bible Study at the church, I noted two of our members lingering in conversation as others left the church. There is nothing unusual about this in itself, but the circumstances made this conversation very much out of the ordinary. Both of these faithful church members' families had been touched by a common tragedy. This brother and sister in Christ both had reason to grieve, but from very different perspectives. One as the cousin of a murder victim - the other as the great grandmother of the suspect.

A couple of days earlier there had been a terrible tragedy in the city where I minister. Reports came in on the 11:00 PM news that the police were on the scene of a crime in the west end of Huntington (just a couple of blocks from my younger brother's home). Information was sketchy at that late hour, but as the news reports came in the next morning we began to learn the names of the parties involved and the details of the sad story.

A young man had allegedly stabbed to death his girl friend and had attempted to conceal her body in the crawl space under the house. Someone had tipped off the police, who made the grizzly discovery, and subsequently the arrest of the suspect. As the names of the two were announced, I immediately guessed the victim to be related in some way to one of our church members, from the surname they shared. My fears proved to be correct. I didn't recognize the name of the young man who had been arrested. However, in talking to my brother, I learned that he was acquainted with the family of the suspected killer, and had even coached the young man years earlier in Little League baseball.

We were unaware of any connection he had to our church until prayer meeting on Wednesday evening. We requested prayer for the family of the victim, and for her two children, and for the other family as well. At that point, one of our precious elderly ladies advised us that the man in custody for the crime was her own great grandson. Understandably her heart was broken with grief as well.

Later printed news reports indicated that this had couple both experienced previous encounters with the law, and at least a two year history of domestic violence that had included previous arrests and restraining orders. The rocky relationship came to an abrupt end as the news of her fatal stabbing rocked the community and devastated their respective families.

Several thoughts raced through my mind, as I saw the two relatives - a brother and sister in Christ - sharing their grief after the church meeting on Wednesday evening.

I took comfort in the fact that these two church members - whose families had suffered terrible loss on each side of the awful event - could still love one another in Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that they were attempting to offer comfort and condolences to one another.

I thought of the children (one of which was the child of both the victim and the suspect) who had lost their mother. It is also heartbreaking to consider all of the things that they had probably endured through the previous stormy relationship between this young man and woman. What a terrible circumstance for innocent children to have to endure!

I thought of the untimely end of the young lady's earthly life, and the fact that the rest of the life of this young man had been ruined forever. Two young lives - with tremendous potential, now wasted. The grief experienced by both families surely must be almost equally devastating.

Finally, I thought of the tremendous number of hurting people there are in our community - even within the shadow of our steeple. People who are young and old, and every age in between. People who have suffered loss of some type. People who are enslaved to addictions of all type. People who struggle silently with problems that many of us cannot even imagine. People who need to know there is hope for their hopeless situations. People who need to know there is a God who loves them. A God who is willing to forgive and forget. A God who can give them a new birth, a new, abundant, and eternal life, and a personal relationship with Him.

How will they know? How can they know?

Will the sight of our beautiful church buildings project that hope to them? Will the majestic view of the steeple pointing toward Heaven get the message of hope and salvation across to those who see it towering above the roof line of the community? Will the marquee on our church lawns with the clever messages change the lives and eternal destinies of lost men and women and boys and girls?


The Bible tells us very simply how hope can be brought to the lost and hurting who walk among us. People need Jesus. They must come to Him to find peace, hope, joy, love, forgiveness, and purpose. But they need to be told! Listen to what the Bible says on this subject in Romans, chapter 10 -

"... for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" ... So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (NASB)

Lost and hurting people need to hear the Good News of Christ. That is where faith is born. Christ, alone, is where salvation may be found. He alone can break the bonds of sin and lift the weight of its accompanying guilt.

How will they believe upon Christ unless they hear the Good News?

How will they hear unless someone tells them?

How can anyone tell them unless they are sent with the message?

Intentional evangelism is the answer. Mass evangelism when possible, certainly - but more important is personal evangelism.

Relational evangelism.

Compassion is the essential element. Caring for and loving others like Jesus loved us is the primary motivation for our evangelistic activities. The most successful evangelism is one which is founded on building relationships with lost people. That requires intentional effort on our part. That will move us out of our comfort zones. That will certainly cost us something in time, resources, and effort.

Very few of the millions who need to know about Jesus will rush through the doors of our churches to hear the news. The enemy will see to that!

That is why Jesus told us to "GO". As we are going (to school, to work, to shop, to play) may God make us aware of the many hurting people who need our Savior.

Will we be able to stop every tragedy? Sadly the answer is no. But we can make a difference in the lives of those who God brings into our lives. Let us be intentional in our mission of hope. Shall we take the Gospel to the far corners of the earth? Certainly! But the mission field starts with those in the very shadow of our steeple.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

And We Sometimes Think We Have It Bad!

David Lees shared this link with me yesterday. I had not seen it earlier myself, but I felt I had to pass it on.
Read it, and grieve with me over the persecution that Christians are facing in North Korea (as well as many other nations around the world).

This is indicative of the persecution that Christ Followers in many other countries are facing every day. Yet, just as it did in the early church, the Christian faith is flourishing under repressive regimes that try to stamp it out.

May we remember or fellow believers in other countries daily, and fervently pray for them as they face certain persecution. Perhaps persecution is what it will take for us who are "at ease in Zion" to break out in sharing the Gospel as Jesus intended for us to do.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This photo was sent to me by a friend who noticed it along a local highway in front of a "Gentlemen's Club".

Is West Virginia an equal opportunity state, or what?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kids on Mission

I've been around a lot of church youth groups for a number of years. I, myself, was once a member of a youth group - back in the day. Later I was a student leader in that group. Several years after that, I served as a youth pastor. Every church I have led for the past 38 years has had a youth group or student ministry of some type or size. But what I am seeing lately among several student ministries has put all of these previous groups to shame.

The difference is missions.

Instead of the "what have you done for us lately?" mindset of so many youth groups of the past, I am noticing a major change in the direction of student ministry - and I like it!

Over the past five years our youth group at Westmoreland Baptist has become involved in mission work. It began with a week at Mission Lab at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary the summer before Katrina, and followed up with a mission trip to New Orleans, the year after the storm. Our group has also has made mission trips to Chattanooga, TN; and Buffalo, NY. They have also done mission work as part of their experience at M-Fuge Camps in Philadelphia, PA and Charleston, SC. I also appreciate the fact that they also have done local work at the Huntington City Mission, and other projects in Wayne County.

This mission emphasis is not being grown in Westmoreland alone. All across the state and nation, Christian kids are not just being taught about missions, they are doing it. While they are still doing all the traditional youth activities, with parties, fifth quarters, lock-ins, camping trips and other outings, they are learning to get their hands dirty in the name of Jesus. Hundreds of kids came to Huntington, WV last month as part of World Changers, and these numbers were multiplied in World Changer projects all across America. Many churches are taking kids and adults on overseas mission trips as well. I thank God for visionary pastors and youth pastors who are modeling Jesus' commission to "Go".

Our older son, Jay, is pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego (in the metro New Orleans area). His church building was severely damaged by the winds and rain of Hurricane Katrina. Since the storm, FBC Westwego has been the recipient of benefits from mission teams from all over the country. Even though their church plant is now complete, they have made the decision to house other mission groups that come to New Orleans for the ongoing reclamation work in the Crescent City.

This week, FBC Westwego has sent out it's first youth mission team. Student Pastor, Bryan Scholl has chosen Huntington, WV as the are where the Westwego kids would minister. This is appropriate, as Bryan first visited Huntington around 7 years ago as a participant with World Changers, and Huntington has sent several mission groups to minister in their home on the bayou.

The kids from Westwego have teamed up with Westmoreland's youth group (who just got back from M-Fuge) to take on several projects in the Huntington, WV/Ashland, KY area. They started yesterday with a painting project at Westmoreland Baptist Church. This morning, half the group will finish the painting project, while the other half will begin a two day Back Yard Bible Club at Adams Landing Apartment complex. Other work planned for the week involves some light construction projects for a couple of senior ladies, canvassing and witnessing in several apartment complexes and neighborhoods, and yard work for a widow. The kids will have multiple opportunities to show the love of Jesus and witness for Him while serving others.

Last night Linda and I hosted the joint group (and their adult leaders) at a cookout at our house. I am so impressed with these young people and their dedication to the Lord. I am also proud that they are learning the importance of being on mission. We are quickly losing an entire generation of people who were mission minded. How wonderful it is that this younger group of believers are learning missions first hand. May God continue to grow this passion in each of them.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hidden Potential

Watching two of my grandsons sleeping early this morning, my mind processed the typical grandfather thoughts. How beautiful... how blessed we are...etc. Often I wonder what the future holds for these guys, and their cousins in New Orleans, and for other children in general. What paths will they take in life? Where will it take them? Will God use them for great things? Only He knows what the future holds. He holds their future. He has a plan for their lives. He has a plan for mine. He has a plan for yours.

The words of a popular Ray Boltz song, written 20 years ago, talk of the selection of David to be King of Israel. The chorus goes like this:

"But when others see a shepherd boy,

God may see a king.

Even though your life seems filled

With ordinary things,

In just a moment He can touch you,

And everything will change.

When others see a shepherd boy

God may see a king."

David was the youngest and apparently the most insignificant of all of Jesse's sons. In fact he wasn't even in the house when the older sons were brought before Samuel to determine the man of God's choosing. He was tending the sheep in the pasture. Yet when the ruddy faced youth entered the room, God spoke to Samuel's spirit and told him, "This is the one". Samuel and Jesse must have been incredulous, but God's perspective is much different than ours. In fact, He explained to Samuel, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart".

When the call of God comes in an individual's life, many folks may doubt it. In fact, the called one may have his own doubts! Consider the case of a fellow named Gideon, as recorded in Judges, chapter 6.

As the narrative goes, the Midianites had overrun the land of Israel and had oppressed the Israelites for seven years. They had looted the towns, destroyed their crops, taken their flocks and herds, and driven them from their homes. The people of Israel were terrorized. The Bible says that the looting hordes were so numerous and destructive that their camels were "like the locusts" swarming across the land. Many of the Israelites had left their homes and farms and moved into caves and dens. They were living in total terror of their enemies.

We are then introduced to Gideon. He comes from the tribe of Manasseh who had been the younger son of the great Joseph. Young Gideon's world was one of uncertainty and fear. His father (like many other Israelites of the time) had forgotten God and fallen into idol worship. The spiritual lives and physical lives of the Israelites were dark and miserable to say the least.

In the narrative, Gideon is attempting to thresh some wheat in a wine press. This, in itself, shows the desperation of the situation. "Threshing floors" where the grain was winnowed were located on high ground. Usually they were on plateaus where the wind blew regularly and aided in separating the chaff from the grain. Wine presses, on the other hand, were in the lowest spots, where the juice from the stomped grapes would flow down into the catch basin.

Here, working in a futile situation, attempting to hide from the Midianites, Gideon had an encounter with a Heavenly messenger.

An angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and announces "The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor". The thought itself seemed ludicrous to Gideon. He hardly resembled what anyone would think of as a "mighty warrior". After all, he was working in fear while attempting to avoid the notice of the terrorists.

Have you ever thought about the fact that God is with us? No matter what our circumstances may be, He is there. He has a plan. He doesn't see what we see. He sees the final outcome. He sees what we can be when we allow Him to have His way in our lives. Who knows what mighty men of valor, may be reading this right now - oblivious to who we may become in God's sovereign plan?

Well, Gideon scoffed at the announcement. "If the LORD is with us, why have we been in this terrible situation for the past seven years", he asked. "Where are all of His miracles our ancestors have told us about?" Why has He allowed the Midianites to oppress us?"

Undaunted, the Heavenly messenger announced that God had chosen Gideon to overthrow the oppressive Midianites.

Gideon asked, "How is this possible? My family is one of the poorest in the tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house!"

God saw something in Gideon that no one (including Gideon) could see.

"I will be with you" He said. "You will defeat the Midianites as if they were only one man!"

What a promise!

Gideon still had his doubts. He asked God for a series of supernatural signs to validate this calling. God patiently dealt with Gideon's doubts and granted the assurance that Gideon thought he needed. The young man answered the call, but before he could face the enemy he had to take care of some things at home. His first item of business was to clear all of the idols out of his father's house.

If we are to be what God wants us to be, He must come first. Is there any "housecleaning" that you need to do in your life?

After that matter was dealt with, Gideon began to raise a volunteer army to fight the Midianite force which numbered 135,000 trained soldiers.

32,000 Israelite men answered the call. Gideon was crushed. How could 32,000 men hope to fight 135,000? This would never work. God agreed. He told Gideon, "Your army is too large. Send all of the men home who are scared or do not want to fight."

22,000 went home.

This left Gideon with only 10,000 men to face the huge army of the enemy. Can you say stress?

God then tells Gideon, "Still too many. We have to reduce the ranks."

After following God's instructions for troop reduction, Gideon was left with 300 men.

So now, with the Israeli army being outnumbered 450 to 1, God told Gideon, "Now I can use them. I will use these 300 to destroy the enemy".

Perhaps you know the rest of the story. God gave the victory to Gideon and his tiny fighting force. It became, perhaps, the greatest military upset in history. God saw a "mighty warrior" in a man who appeared to be somewhat of a coward. God foreordained a small group of rag tag warriors with torches, pottery, and trumpets to defeat an alien occupying force.

As a result of his faith and obedience, Gideon earns mention in the "Hall of Faith" recorded in Hebrews 11.

Who'd a thunk it?

Like David - like Gideon - like many others - God chooses who He will to do His work. They didn't see it coming, and neither do we, but God sees the potential. God prepares us uniquely for the work He has for each of us.

Look around you. Look at the little kids. Look at your fellow church members. Look in the mirror. Imagine the possibilities! Who knows what a sovereign God has planned, and who He plans to use?

Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple. Only God can count the number of apples in a seed!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Prove The Tithe

In the month of August we will be placing the emphasis on an often overlooked and neglected Christian discipline. The concept of Tithing. The “tithe” means the “tenth”. It refers to the first 10 percent of our crops – our income – or as the Bible says, “Our increase”. The concept is that the tithe belongs to God. It is His, and it should be returned to Him. Those who withhold the tithe are literally “robbing God”! (Mal. 3:8)

Some people (usually those who do not practice tithing) are quick to say that tithing is a requirement of the Mosaic Law and therefore does not apply to us in the age of Grace. It is true that Tithing was required under Jewish law, however, a study of the subject shows that tithing was a grace practiced by believers in both Old and New Testaments. An outline I have used on the subject goes like this:

Abraham Commenced It – (Gen. 14:20)
Jacob Continued It – (Gen 28:22)
Moses Codified It – (Lev. 27:30-31)
Malachi Commanded It – (Mal. 3:10)
Jesus Commended It – (Matt. 23:23)
Paul Consecrated It – (1 Cor. 16:2)

The fact that tithing is expected from believers is not debatable. It is a Biblical concept and is an act of Grace, Love, Honor, and Obedience to the Father. Many of our members practice this discipline. Some do not. Some have said that a former pastor suggested “If you can’t give 10%, then start with a smaller percentage”. I would respectfully disagree with that advice. God says we rob him by withholding the tithe from Him. Tithing is simply and act of love and grace that every Christian should practice. 10% is the same for everybody, rich or poor. It is an equal standard for all. There was a time many years ago, when Linda and I felt that we couldn’t afford the 10%. We learned quickly that we could NOT afford NOT to give back to God that which is His.

The fact that the Bible teaches tithing is a no brainer. In Malachi 3:9 God reminds His people that they and their nation were cursed for robbing God. But I want to go a little farther and remind each of us that the Bible tells us there are unsearchable blessings in store for those who do give God what is His. Look at Malachi 3:10-12 and see the challenge and the promise that God lays out for those of us who will practice this grace:

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," Says the LORD of hosts; "And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land," Says the LORD of hosts.”

Notice the challenge, “Try me now in this…”. This is the only reference I find in the Bible where God challenges US to put HIM to the test. Do you want to enjoy the fullness of your walk with God? I would suggest two simple concepts. Be filled with the Spirit, and Prove the Tithe. If every member of the church practiced tithing, the job of our Budget and Finance Committee would be much easier. Our obligations would be easily met. We would not need have any “Ketchup (catch up) Sundays”. Our youth group would not have to take on endless fundraisers to pay their way to camps and mission trips. As our church giving increased, our proportionate giving to missions would also increase.

Will you be willing to “Prove the Tithe”? I challenge each member of Westmoreland Baptist Church to do just that in the month of August. Give God back what is His. Give Him what is right – not what is “left”. I promise you, on the basis of the Word of God, that you will be able to live better on that 90% of your income than you do on the 100%. You can’t out give God! You will be blessed. Start preparing now for “Prove the Tithe Month”.

(PS. You’ll also keep that “robbery” thing off your spiritual rap sheet!)

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's That Time Again!

The panic is beginning to set in.

Well , maybe not real panic, but the unpleasant knowledge that I will be losing my "right arm" at work for about 10 days - starting this Thursday. That is when our Church Secretary, Sonia Jones, will be taking some of her well deserved vacation time. I certainly don't begrudge her taking her earned time off, but things just aren't the same at the big building at the corner of Hughes and Court streets when she is gone.

Sonia is the pleasant first voice one hears when calling Westmoreland Baptist Church. She came to the church seven years ago, after a number of years working for a large law firm in Huntington. In fact, she began her duties at WBC just a few months before I was called to be Pastor there. I continue to marvel at how deftly she handles her duties and how she manages to get everything done between 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday. But she does it, and her duties are much more than just answering the phone.

Sonia serves as both the Administrative Secretary and Financial Secretary at Westmoreland. While keeping up with the innumerable tasks I give her to do everyday, she still finds time to run the office; paying bills; doing payroll for the church and Mother's Day Out; keeping all of the church's financial records and bank accounts current, updating membership lists; typing up the weekly bulletin and the monthly newsletter; processing numerous requests for help from needy families; taking care of all outgoing and incoming correspondence; ordering office supplies; computer troubleshooting; handling incoming phone calls; keeping the church calendar updated; answering questions and helping church members with various needs; etc, etc, etc.

Get the idea?

Her office can seem like Grand Central Station at times. It can get crowded and noisy. It can be confusing. Yet her efficiency in getting the job done - often under great stress and looming deadlines is second to none. Very seldom does she make a mistake. Once a task makes it's way to her "To Do" list, you can count on it being accomplished. I never have to ask twice. She manages to take care of all her church obligations while at the same time being a wife and mother, and helping Philip manage the numerous rental properties that they own. She is a busy girl...

Obviously, I am not looking forward to the next week or so while she is gone. We'll make it through of course, but it is not the same when Sonia is out of the office.

So, Sonia, I hope you and Philip and Nathan have a good vacation. I don't know exactly what you have planned, but I hope you enjoy your time off. Just don't forget your way back! We need you...

By the way - You'll be back just in time to get the August Newsletter out.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Is Wrong With Us?

The glut of network news coverage came to it's crescendo yesterday as Michael Jackson's public memorial service was held before a live audience of 20,000 adoring fans in Los Angeles' Staples Center. Millions watched live all over America, and the world, as the departed star was glorified by one celebrity after another. Every news cast we have heard over the past week or so, has led off with the story of the King of Pop's passing.

During the same time period at least 20 American servicemen have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Young men. Cut down in their prime. Sacrificially serving their country. Dying on a foreign field, half a world away from their 20 devastated families.

Where is the news media?

Where are the platitude spouting celebrities?

Where are the adoring masses?

Where is the hero worship?

Was Michael Jackson a great entertainer? Certainly. We watched him grow from that cherubic little 10 year old, fronting the Jackson 5, to the megastar of the 80's. We also watched his grotesque transformation through numerous plastic surgeries, skin bleaching, curious marriages, strange behavior, Sgt. Pepper outfits, and child molestation accusations. The cause of his death at age 50, while still not announced, may well be connected to the plethora of powerful pharmaceuticals found in his home.

In life - and death, Michael Jackson was a tragic figure. In our culture of celebrity he had become a superstar. Therefore his death was newsworthy. But was it worthy of the obscene glorification he has received at the hands of the news media? Was it any more newsworthy than the heroic sacrifices made by the twenty service men who have perished since the time of MJ's death?

I think not.

What is wrong with us as a society when a man like Michael Jackson is nearly deified by the media coverage of his death, while the bodies of true American heroes quietly come home from God forsaken places in simple, flag draped coffins with no news coverage and no public outpouring of grief?

Michael Jackson seemed to live for self. These men lived for others.

He lived in opulent splendor. These men lived in tents and spartan barracks.

He dined sumptuously and drank "Jesus Juice" on his Neverland Ranch. They ate MRE's and drank bottled water in hostile climates.

MJ was serving himself. They were serving their country. They were in harm's way because they had answered the call of their nation. Whether or not you personally approve of the war going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, these men were there serving us. Fighting for freedom. Battling terrorism and trying to provide security for folks who may (or may not) appreciate their service.

Michael Jackson brought other people's children into his bed. These dead servicemen brought protection to the children of other cultures, while their own children were so very far away in their fatherless homes.

Michael Jackson moonwalked across gaudily lighted stages before thousands of adoring fans. These men walked miles of dusty roads in combat boots, watching for snipers, suicide bombers, and hidden IED's.

Michael Jackson's family stood in sunglasses in the spotlight of the Staples Center. The families of these dead heroes, stood by open graves in cemeteries all over the country, with no media coverage - no blubbering celebrities - no adoring fans. Only family, friends, and community support were there for these families.

What is wrong with this picture?
When will we ever learn who are the real heroes and role models?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

On Our Nation's Birthday

We celebrate the 233rd birthday of the United States of America today. The biggest birthday party of the year began with yesterday as a holiday for many of us and will continue through Sunday. The USA is the most wonderful nation on the planet. Our freedom and independence came from the boldness, character and sacrifice of a group of men and women who were called rebels by the British Crown. Now we call them patriots! Our freedom was envisioned by thinkers and dreamers, won by citizen soldiers who took up arms to oppose tyranny, and preserved by thousands more throughout the next 23 decades, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Linda and I have been busy this weekend moving furniture and she has done quite a bit of redecorating. (I'm not too good at that part). Last night I took two of the grandsons (along with a couple of other friends) to Cincinnati for a game between the Reds and the league leading Cardinals of St. Louis. We thrilled to a spectacular fireworks extravaganza after the game (having earlier endured Albert Pujols' fireworks DURING the game). Mom and Dad officially marked their sixth decade as husband and wife yesterday, and we will all probably attend a fourth of July celebration at the home of my brother, Bruce later this afternoon. I'll be preaching on "Unity" in tomorrow morning's worship service, and the church will get together for an ice cream social tomorrow evening. There are festivals, concerts, tournaments, and all sorts of other activities available all over America this weekend. My prayer is that my little grandsons, their generation, and generations still to come, will not lose sight of the simple yet profound truths of what America has been and what she has stood for for more than two centuries. May they continue to be taught and remember the Godly heritage that has brought us thus far.

Today I would just like to share the words of Katherine Lee Bates, from her beautiful hymn, "America The Beautiful". Take a moment to read anew the familiar words, and let us take inventory as to where we stand as a nation today - on our 233rd birthday.

"O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain.
For purple mountain majesty above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat, across the wilderness.
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul with self control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain Divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream,
That sees beyond the years.
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears.
America! America! god shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea."

Happy birthday USA. May God shed His grace upon us, now when it is so badly needed. May we, as a nation, seek the face of our creator and turn back to Him.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

60 Years Together

Tomorrow, July 3, 2009, will mark the 60th Wedding Anniversary of my Mother and Father.

We had the big celebration last weekend for two reasons:

  • 1). All but two members of the family could make it into town last weekend, and,

  • 2). July 4th weekend was pretty much out of the question (if we wanted anyone to attend!)

So we gathered together last Saturday afternoon at the multipurpose building at Westmoreland Baptist Church, where I serve as Pastor. No one got an accurate count, but we know that more than 100 friends and family members were in attendance for the reception.

60 years ago, Caudle Adkins, Jr. was just a few years out of the US Navy and was working at the tipple at a coal mine operated by the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, at Dehue, in Logan County, WV. (anyone who has ever been in a coal camp knows what a tipple is) He was also a young, recently ordained, Free Will Baptist preacher. Patsy Ruth Stidham was working in the payroll department of Island Creek Coal Company. Her father was an official with the United Mine Workers of America (District 17) and had just been elected the year before, to the West Virginia House of Delegates, representing Logan County.

According to Macy (Farmer) Adkins, who was Mom's Maid of Honor, Patsy was the prettiest girl in the twin coal camps of 5 & 6 Holden, and every single boy around was after her. She was a dedicated Christian (even as a teenager) and was particular about which young man she would date. A friend wanted to introduce Patsy to a handsome young preacher from Dehue, and Mom agreed to meet them at Franklin's Dairy Bar, on narrow little Stratton Street in downtown Logan. The lunchtime meeting took place, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Dad and Mom moved to Huntington in September, 1952 and still live in the same house on Gallaher Street that they rented from an elderly couple named Jarrell, who lived next door. They purchased the house in the early 1960's and it has undergone several additions and remodeling projects over the years, but it is still the same home they have shared for 57 years. I was almost two years old when we moved to Huntington. Three years later, Bruce was born, then in 1960 Carl came along.

God has blessed our family in many ways. I am especially thankful that the three of us boys were born to Christian parents, who not only taught us the Word of God, but also modeled discipleship through their lives. In a time when divorce strikes more than 50% of married couples, Mom and Dad have served as a tremendous example of Christian marriage, based on love and commitment - to God first, then to one another.

Of course we have no way of knowing how long we will be blessed to have Mom and Dad with us. Mom suffers from Alzheimer's Disease and is slipping farther and farther from us every day. Dad had a health scare this winter, and spent two months in two hospitals after complications from back surgery. In fact, his final physical therapy session is this morning. Both of these factors make us realize that at the ages of 82 and 80, our parents will not be with us forever. That is why we wanted to have one more special celebration for them, to honor them and show them our deep love and appreciation just for being who they are.

Happy 60th Anniversary folks. We love you and thank God that you are our parents.