Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Back in the mid 80's the country music radio stations filled the airways with the mournful voice of George Jones singing a song that asked the following question:
"Who's gonna fill their shoes?
Who's gonna stand that tall?
Who's gonna play the Opry
And the Wabash Cannonball?
Who's gonna give their heart and soul
To get to me and you?
Lord I wonder, who's gonna fill their shoes?"
The ballad was an ode to the deceased or aging giants of Country Music history. The lyrics made reference to country hall of famers such as past greats like Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, Roy Acuff, and Lefty Frizzell. It also mentioned aging stars like Johnny Cash (now deceased), Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson. The premise was simple. Would there be someone – anyone – who would step up and fill the void that remains from the departure of those who had left this world behind?
It's a sobering question in the world of entertainment, sports, science, military, education, and business.
It is an equally sobering question to those of us who serve as "undershepherds" of the flock of God. When the "solid saints" of the "builders" generation go home to their Heavenly reward, who will fill their gigantic shoes in the local church?
In the past 6 ½ years, I have had the responsibility to officiate in 71 funeral services. In our church, alone, nine of our members have passed away in the past seven months. Six of them in the last four weeks! Most of these were older Christians. Mature in their faith. While we mourn our loss, we know that they are now rejoicing in the presence of their Lord. My heart is stirred with mixed emotions in the light of such statistics.
Over the past seven months, the ages of those we eulogized ranged from their 58 to 93. These were from the generation of "builders" and older "baby boomers". These were folks who had long ago committed their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. They were men and women who had been taught to be faithful. Faithful in church attendance, faithful in the support of the ministries of the church. Faithful to missions. Faithful to teach and to serve in the church. In short, these were folks who could be counted on to carry their share of the load – to do what they could do to advance the mission of the church.
They are now leaving us in ever increasing numbers.
The question today is, "Who will fill their shoes"?
Who will step up and take on leadership roles in the church? Who will teach the Bible Study classes? Who will lead in worship? Who will go as missionaries? Who will minister to children? Who will be the next pastors and evangelists? Who will be the effective witnesses in our culture? Who will give faithfully of their finances to advance the cause of Christ? Who will serve as role models for the children? Who will mentor younger men and women and pour their lives into them? Who will be the church?
The "church culture" as we know it is forever changing. Recent polls have shown that fewer and fewer younger people are identifying with a local church. Methods change but he message does not. While some of the time worn traditions of many of the local churches of the past are passing from the scene, still the concept of the local body of believers is a valid and scriptural one! While we may no longer DO church the way it was done in the middle of the 20th century, believers are still called to BE the church – until Jesus comes!
We are still called to be Ambassadors for Christ. We are still called to fulfill the Great Commission. Everyone has a part to play in the mission. These dear saints have done their part and now they are gone.
Who's gonna fill their shoes? Someone has to do it!
Will it be you?
Thursday, April 23, 2009
TRUE WAYNE COUNTY RESIDENTS ....
1.) Only a true Wayne County resident knows the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption, and that you don't "HAVE" them, you "PITCH" them. They also know that a whoopin will soon follow one.
2.) Only a true Wayne County resident knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc. make up "a mess.
3.) True Wayne County residents know the difference between Napier (nayp-yer) and Napier (napper). A Napier (nayp-yer) is a Napier (napper) with five dollars in his pocket.
4.) Only a true Wayne County resident knows exactly how long "directly" is - as in: "Going to Kenny Queen's, be back directly.
5.) All true Wayne County residents, even babies, know that "Gimme some sugar" is not a request for the white, granular sweet substance that sits in a pretty little bowl on the middle of the table.
6.) All true Wayne County residents know that branch, creek, lick, and fork refer to both bodies of water and roads.
7.) Only a true Wayne County resident knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who's got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of cold potato salad. (If the neighbor's trouble is a real crisis, they also know to add a large banana puddin'!)
8.) Only a true Wayne County resident knows that C-K is not a town. It is two towns - Ceredo and Kenova.
9.) Only a true Wayne County resident both knows and understands the difference between a redneck, a good ol' boy, and po' white trash.
10.) No true Wayne County resident would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn, but will ALWAYS assume the person in the passing lane and not passing anyone is from Kentucky or Ohio .
11.) A true Wayne County resident knows that "fixin'" can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adverb.
12.) Only a true Wayne County resident knows that the term "booger" can be a resident of the nose, a descriptive, as in "that ol' booger," a first name or something that jumps out at you in the dark and scares you senseless.
13.) Only true Wayne County residents make friends while standing in lines. We don't do "queues", we do "lines," and when we're "in line," we talk to everybody!
14.) Put 100 true Wayne County residents in a room and 98 of them will discover they're related, even if only by marriage. 85 of them will also find out that they are (or were) an Adkins, Napier, or Maynard.
15.) True Wayne County residents never refer to one person as "y'all.
16.) True Wayne County residents know grits come from corn and how to eat them.
17.) Every true Wayne County resident knows tomatoes with eggs, bacon, grits, and coffee are perfectly wonderful; that redeye gravy is also a breakfast food; that fried green tomatoes are not a breakfast food; and that all are (were) available at the Pioneer (pronounced Pawn-eer) restaurant.
18.) When you hear someone say, "Well, I caught myself lookin' ..." you know you are in the presence of a genuine Wayne County resident!
19.) Only true Wayne County residents grow up knowing the difference between "right near" and "a right far piece." They also know that "just down the road" can be 1 mile or 20.
20.) A true Wayne County resident knows you don't scream obscenities at little old ladies who drive 30 MPH on the freeway. You just say, "Bless her heart". They do, however, scream obscenities at coal trucks; but have the good sense to get out of their way.
21.) Only a true Wayne County resident can show or point out to you the general direction of "yonder." It is anywhere beyond the "holler" in which you are currently standing.
22.) Only true Wayne County residents say "sweet tea" and "sweet milk." Sweet tea indicates the need for sugar and lots of it. "Sweet milk" means you don't want buttermilk.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Ben is the younger of our two sons. Much like his father, Benji "married up" when he got hitched to a wonderful Christian girl nearly thirteen years ago. Leigh Anne is a dedicated believer in Jesus Christ, and is a woman of faith and grace. We love her like a daughter. She and Ben have also given us two of our four precious grandsons.
I am proud that Ben is actively involved at Rose Hill Baptist Church. Proud that he and Leigh Anne are teaching their children about the love of Jesus, and bringing them up in a Christian home and teaching them the importance of prayer, giving, and belonging to the local church.
Benji did four years in the United States Marine Corps, and graduated from Morehead State University. He is a teacher and coach, and has been a good son for 33 years. I am especially proud of what he will be doing later this week at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, when he will donate bone marrow to a cancer patient he has never met.
Several weeks ago, Ben received a phone call, asking him to come in for some blood work to see if he might be a match for a patient who needed a bone marrow transplant. He has been a blood donor in the past, but had never had a call like this. When he asked why they were calling him. he was told that in April 1999 he had signed a form volunteering to be a bone marrow donor. He didn't particularly remember signing anything like that, but figured it must have been among the many documents he signed in the USMC, when he was deployed to Kosovo in April of that year.
At any rate, the blood work showed that Benji appeared to be a perfect match for the "66 year old international patient" at Georgetown. He was then flown to Washington for a complete physical the week before Easter. After one final medical test back here, he was told that he was a perfect match and that the patient was now beginning his chemotherapy and radiation in preparation for the procedure.
As I understand the procedure, they won't actually be "digging out" any of his bone marrow, but will actually be harvesting stem cells from his blood that will be used by the oncologist to implant in the cancer patient. Ben will receive some type of injection for two days and then the actual procedure will take place for the next four days. His blood supply will be circulated through some type of machine (much like a dialysis procedure) over a period of four or five hours each day as the stem cells are harvested.
The doctors tell Ben that while the procedure is not "dangerous", it will be exhausting and somewhat painful for several days while the procedure is in process. I understand that he will also need about a week to fully recuperate. The officials at Georgetown are flying Benji and Leigh Anne to Washington and putting them up at a guest house on campus and will provide meals for them while there. Linda and I and Lance and Linda Clanton will share the duties of taking care of Will and Asher while their parents are out of town.
Ben, like everyone else, has issues he is dealing with in life. No one is perfect and we are all needy creatures. Human flaws are part of all of us, but I am proud of both of our sons and daughters in law, and proud that Benji is willing to give of himself to help try to save the life of someone he has never met.
I am proud of you son, and praying for God's touch and His blessing in every aspect of your life.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
On Saturday, "The Lighthouse" radio broadcast was back on the air in its regular 4:00 PM time slot on WEMM FM in Huntington, WV. Actually, the program was never off the air, but its founder and host, Rev. Caudle Adkins, Jr has been out of the "air chair" for two months. Yesterday the familiar voice returned, and his listeners across the tri state (and those who listen on the internet) were glad to hear their "radio pastor" coming back into their homes and automobiles.
Dad began "The Lighthouse" broadcast 31 years ago, and for the past three decades, his familiar voice, and bluegrass gospel and southern gospel music has been a constant on the tri state airwaves on Saturday afternoons. He has ministered to homebound folks (as well as others who are not shut in) in a wonderful way. He hears regularly from friends he has never met, who listen on WEMM every week, from as far away as Virginia. He also has regular listeners across the country (and perhaps around the world) on http://www.wemmfm.com/.
His two month absence was due to complications from a hospitalization that began in February. Dad had been losing the use of his legs and was reduced to getting around in a wheel chair, when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Surgery was done at St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, WV and he was sent to Health South Rehabilitation Hospital for physical therapy. However, he developed some complications from the surgery and was transferred back to St. Mary's for more than a week, before finally being sent back to Health South to continue his rehab.
Dad will be 82 years old on May 17. No longer able to serve as a pastor, the radio ministry has become his outlet for preaching the gospel and touching the lives of people, like he has done for over 60 years. For years, Dad had been a very busy bi-vocational evangelist, and local church pastor. He began the radio ministry 31 years ago when he was pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Huntington. When he left that place of service, he continued the program in the 4:30 PM time slot. Now his regular pulpit is a radio microphone, where he shares announcements, makes song dedications, acknowledges birthdays, prays over requests, and shares the good news of Christ, to a faceless audience of unknown size.
Only God knows how long Dad will be able to continue this ministry, but it was sure nice to see him shuffle into that studio yesterday with the aid of a walker. There were many other folks out there who didn't see what I saw, but they were equally glad to hear that familiar voice.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Now, New Orleans is known for its great restaurants and coffee shops. Everyone knows about The Commander’s Palace, Emeril’s, Ralph & Kacoo’s, Café du Monde, and other great eateries in the Crescent City. Obviously Spudly’s is no Emeril’s, but if you want a filling meal that will stimulate your taste buds, (in interesting surroundings), Spudly’s is the place! Spudly's signature is potato, and plenty of it. The flagship tater is the Super Duper, loaded with crabmeat, shrimp and crawfish and topped with Spudly's original cheese sauce, cheddar and chives. The El Toro is topped with beef chili and cheddar, and jalapenos are optional. The spuds are HUGE and you can choose from the many menu choices, or have them build one to order.
You might be surprised to know that I did not order the Pizza Spud, but I did pig out on a tasty sandwich and a “smaller” potato with cheddar cheese. Good stuff!
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The Spring Trustee Meeting at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary concluded yesterday evening with a nice time of dinner and fellowship with our trustees and their spouses. The fellowship followed a full day of meetings and two plenary sessions that covered reports and recommendations regarding Building and Grounds, Investments, and Instruction.
Enrollment is good. There have been no faculty resignations. Several rank promotions were granted. Austerity budget is working with NO layoffs of faculty or staff! The financial report was good, especially in light of world economic conditions. We trustees had ample opportunity to meet and mingle with students, faculty and staff, and as usual, I came away impressed with the quality and the attitudes of everyone I encountered.
NOBTS President, Dr. Chuck Kelley gave an address to the trustees outlining the NOBTS Vision for the 21st Century. In a nutshell, Dr. Kelley listed:
Theological Education is Crucial
Make Training Accessible to Any God-Called Man or Woman
Offer Cafeteria for Ministry Training
Little Bites, Big Bites
Healthy Churches Reaching, Teaching, and Ministering the Name of Jesus
Dr. Kelley closed by saying, "We will reinvent Seminary for the needs, opportunities and mission of Southern Baptists in the 21st Century."
Dr. Kelley and our administration are seeking to keep NOBTS on the cutting edge of quality theological education.
There are many challenges, but our God is able to meet every need. I encourage you to continue to give to your local SBC churches, since their gifts to the SBC Cooperative Program help provide that quality education at all six of our seminaries. You may also help by joining me in giving personally to the Annual Fund of NOBTS. Your tax deductible gifts may be sent to:
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Our flights were good yesterday. Good flights are determined by good landings, and (as we use to say in the Air Force) a good landing is anything you can walk away from! New Orleans was hot, overcast, and HUMID when we arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport at 10:30 AM.
I won't go into the story in detail here, but I had a humiliating experience when we picked up our rental car from Budget. For a guy who drives a 2001 Ford Taurus, it is a humbling experience when he tries to start a brand new Chrysler 300 and can't figure out how the key (which is not really a key) works in the ignition! At any rate a cleanup guy named Fred, showed me how the thing worked and we were on our way. I guess I am going to have to read the owner's manual to figure how to put gas in the vehicle when we return it. I found the place where you put the gas in, but for the life of me, cannot figure how to open it! I am such a bozo...
Anyhow, we met Jay and family at Port of Call for lunch. It is one of my favorite places for lunch in the Big Easy. It is in an ancient building on the corner of Esplanade and Dauphine streets, on the back side of the French Quarter. Port of Call opens for lunch at 11:00 (or at least that's what the sign says). Sometimes it takes the staff a little longer to clean up after the previous evening's activities. It's kind of dark in the place and Linda wasn't too crazy about the smell (smells kind of like disinfectant shortly after opening time) but the hamburgers and baked potatoes are like heaven on earth.
We left the family after lunch and headed for the Seminary Guest House for check in. After unpacking and a short nap (we got up at 4:30 yesterday) we headed across the river to Jay's house on the West Bank. Had a wonderful visit with the family. Linda brought marshmallow guns for Quint and Canon and, needless to say, they loved 'em. Jay grilled chicken breasts and some fresh redfish (caught Friday by Lenny Crespo) and Michelle fixed enough delicious mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn, mixed veggies, green beans, hot rolls and desserts to feed a small church congregation.
Joining us for dinner at Jay's were his Christian Ed Pastor, Bobby Wood and wife, Lindsay, and Worship Pastor, Daniel Savage and his fiance' Janna Johnston. Jay, Bobby, Daniel, and Janna were all part of our May 2008 Philippine Mission Team, and it was good to be together with them again. Bobby was pressing me to go again as he and Lindsay would both like to make the trip. Hopefully, he and Jay and some of the others will continue our mission work there. As of now, I am content to work on this end to try to drum up support for Pastors Valdez and Zerna and their church planting efforts on Negros Island.
Today will begin two days of trustee meetings here on campus. There is chapel at 11:00 and the Building and Grounds and Financial and Investments sub committees will meet this morning. The Instructional Sub Committee (of which I am a member) will meet at 3:00 PM today. This morning I will be attending chapel service and will have lunch with Bryan Scholl. Bryan is the Student Ministry Pastor at First Baptist Church of Westwego and he will be bringing a group of his youth to West Virginia for a one week mission trip in July. Our youth group will be working with the Westwego students on several projects in Huntington, including work at the Huntington City Mission.
This Trustee meeting proves to be quite lengthy and challenging. The April meeting is the one in which we deal with the majority of faculty and academic issues. Our Instructional Committee will be dealing with recommendations for faculty issues such as rank promotions, tenuer consideration, and sabbaticals. Due to the hiring freeze, there will be no new faculty to elect on this meeting. We will receive reports from the administration on enrollment, special programs, and budget changes. We will also consider recommendations on the following curricular issues such as possible changes in degrees or certificates, and new extension centers.
The other two subcommittees will also be facing many challenges. The Investments Committee particularly faces some major difficulties due to the recent nosedive in the financial markets. The financial downturn as well as lower church giving to the Cooperative Program has had an adverse effect on the finances of this, and the other five Southern Baptist Theological Seminaries.
In the Plenary Sessions tomorrow, the full Board of Trustees will meet to take official actions on the recommendations of each committee. We will also do the annual evaluation on the Seminary President, Dr. Chuck Kelley.
It will be a busy two days. Tuesday evening we will have a dinner with the faculty members and their spouses and on Wednesday we will close our meetings with a dinner for the Trustees and spouses, with another Plenary Session to follow the dinner (if needed). Dr. Kelley's wife, Dr. Rhonda Kelley, has a full day planned for the Trustees wives on Wednesday.
I am thankful for the opportunity to serve our Lord and this convention in this small way. It is a privilege to represent the members of our 43,000 Southern Baptist Churches as a Trustee of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a responsibility that I do not take lightly.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
There hasn't been a night since returning from the mission trip that I have not had some type of recurring wild dream. The dreams have featured family members, friends, church family, and even people I haven't seen in years - some of whom had pretty much been forgotten! But there they are in vivid color in my dreams. The details of the dreams are different each night but the situation is usually similar. I am hopelessly late for some type of event or appointment, or there is a task that needs to be completed by a particular deadline, and circumstances continue to build which prevent me from finishing the job. Most of the scenarios are just frustrating, but a few have been downright disturbing.
One night, my two sons, an old college friend, actor Robert Duvall, (yes, Robert Duvall!) and I were in some type of battle, fighting our way up Fifth Avenue in Huntington, against some unseen enemy. We were armed with grenades and automatic weapons, running for cover behind trees, overturned cars, and fraternity houses in the Marshall University area. There were no casualties on our side, but the adrenaline was really pumping. I couldn't tell you if we inflicted any casualties on the enemy, but I can guarantee you that the lead was flying everywhere!
The amazing thing about these dreams is that they are in serial form. I'll wake up, look at the clock or go to the bathroom, and go right back to sleep. Bingo! The dream starts up again right where it left off! Some come to an eventual conclusion, others just end when I get up, with no apparent resolution to the various problems. The common result is that I wake up tired. Really tired. That's a rough way to start the day.
If there are any Daniel's or Joseph's out there who can interpret dreams, have at it. In the meantime I will assume that they are simply the result of stress, and/or something I shouldn't have eaten before bedtime.
I visited for a few minutes today with Shay Osborne, (our Southern Baptist Campus Minister at Marshall). Shay is a likable guy who has a passion to win college students to Jesus. He is doing a great job at Marshall, ministering to a group of kids that are heavily made up of Freshmen students. The group is growing numerically and spiritually under Shay's leadership. Please join me in praying for Shay and his work in this tremendous mission field.
The Cincinnati Reds opened the 2009 season at home yesterday with a two to one loss to the New York Mets. My guess is that I'll probably pay more attention to my grandson's little league exploits than anything going on in Great American Ball Park this summer. My son's former teammate, Brandon Webb, also took a spanking from the Colorado Rockies in his first start for the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday. Brandon is the major leagues' winningest pitcher over the past three years, but so far this spring, the hitters seem to have his number.
Linda and I will be heading for five days in New Orleans early next Monday. That's two full days of Seminary Trustee Meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the rest of the time we look to spend with Jay and Michelle and grandsons numbers 1 and 3.
Today marks six weeks that my father has been in the hospital. Six weeks! When I had my "guts cut out" just over four years ago, I only spent a week in the hospital. It's hard to imagine what it is like to the patient to watch six weeks go by at what has to be a snail's pace. All in all I am very appreciative of the care that my Dad has received both in St. Mary's Medical Center and Health South Rehabilitation Hospital. Having visited in two hospitals in the Philippines back in February, I am so thankful that we have the top notch facilities and staffs that we are blessed with here in this area and around the nation. Dad is improving every day and is learning how to get around on a walker now, and we hope to have him released in just a few days. I personally fear for the concept of socialized medicine that threatens to come our way.
Speaking of socialism, is there anyone else out there as enraged by President Obama's firing of General Motors Chief Executive Officer as I am? The Wall Street bailouts, the AIG fiasco, and the Big Three Automakers troubles are frightening, but more frightening than the economy is the trend which started with the previous president and now is full blown in the new administration, for the government to meddle in private business. Ronald Reagan once said, "A government that is big enough to give you any thing you want, is also big enough to take away everything you have!". We are on the slippery slope, and picking up speed.
One of my latest heroes is my younger son, Benji. Ben just got back from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC where he went through a physical exam in preparation for his being a blood marrow donor to a "sixty six year old international" to which he appears to be a perfect match. If the results of the test are conclusive, he will be returning to Washington with his wife, Leigh Anne, later this month for a seven day process of harvesting his stem cells to hopefully save the life of this man he will probably never meet. Ben has long been a blood donor, but this is his first experience at donating bone marrow. While not particularly "dangerous" the process does have it's risks and the side effects are painful and physically draining. I'm proud that Ben is willing to go through this to save a stranger.
Speaking of donors, what about the one who gave His life that you and I might have eternal life and a personal relationship with our creator? During this "Holy Week" let us remind ourselves of the magnitude of Jesus' atoning work for us. Long ago I heard the illustration of when William Randolph Hearst was on European vacation and visited a famous passion play in Germany. The great newspaper magnate was so overwhelmed with the actor's portrayal of Christ that he asked to meet the actor following the conclusion of the play. While talking with the actor, Hearst saw the wooden cross the actor had carried and asked to have his photo made with it.
Thinking the cross was made of balsa wood or some other lightweight material, Hearst was dumbfounded when he tried to move it and found it to be of solid oak and tremendously heavy weight.
"Why" he asked the actor, "Would you torture yourself in every performance by carrying such a heavy load?"
The actor replied, "Sir, if I did not feel the weight of His cross, I could never understand the magnitude of His forgiveness."
During this week when we observe the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, may we all feel the weight of His cross, and understand the depths of His Grace, Mercy, and Love!