Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Word of Thanks to a Good Friend

Good friends are a blessing.

Rick Gunnell falls into both categories - a good friend, and a blessing.

Rick (or "Gunny" as he is known at Lowe's - where he is delivery manager) is one of a kind. There are some people who know a lot about one or two subjects. There are others who know a little about a lot of things. Rick will amaze you with his wide ranging familiarity with nearly any subject. He is quick witted, but even as long as I have known him, sometimes his comebacks give me pause and I have to think a few seconds for the remark to sink in.

I guess it's been ten years or more since I first met Rick, his wife, Pat, and little Ricky (at least at that time he was little). They were visitors one Sunday morning at a church where I previously served as Pastor. That morning in my message, I had made a tongue in cheek remark about some church members being "SMO's" (Sunday Morning Only). I only mentioned it in passing, but it was not lost on Rick. As I stood at the back door of the church shaking hands with the congregation as they filed out, this young visitor said, "We need more ETTDO's don't we?"

There must have been a blank look on my face as I said, "I beg your pardon?"

"ETTDO's" he grinned. "You know, 'Every Time The Door Opens!'"

I had already forgotten my fleeting reference to "SMO's" - but it wasn't lost on Gunny.

That's just the way he is. It sometimes seems as though he might be on just a little different frequency, but when you think for a second, his comments always make good sense, and they are generally right on the money.

Rick is one busy guy! He works two jobs - the aforementioned position of Delivery Manager at Lowe's, and when he leaves Lowe's, he heads down I-64 to the next exit, where he makes deliveries for Office Depot. Rick serves as Sunday School Director at Westmoreland Baptist Church, where he also sings in the choir and serves as a Trustee and as a Yokefellow in our Deacon/Yokefellow Family Ministry. He also finds time to serve as a guitarist and lead singer in a Christian band, called "Three O'Clock Sunday", yet he still finds time to spend his fleeting free time visiting his mother, who is a patient in a local nursing home.

You learn a lot about someone when you spend some time with them, and I have spent some time with Rick. In fact, he and I have travelled half way around the world together, not once, but three times, on mission trips to the Philippines. I have learned that Rick loves Jesus, he loves people, and he has a servant's heart.

Linda and I have been blessed to know Rick and Pat. They are just good folks. Always thoughtful, always supportive, always a blessing. They're the type of folks that you never want to take advantage of, but they just have the gift of giving of themselves. Case in point, the last four Saturday mornings -

Linda and I had decided that we wanted a privacy fence around the sides and back of our yard. We purchased 23 of those pretty white six foot vinyl fence panels and the corresponding posts a few weeks back. I thought it would be a pretty easy project.
I was mistaken.
It had been years since I had done any fencing, and I underestimated the degree of difficulty on this new fencing product, (as well as the fact that I am not nearly as young as I use to be!) As I began the project, I realized I had probably bitten off more than I could chew. Enter Rick Gunnell, offering to help. So, for the next four Saturday mornings, rain or shine, Rick showed up, with nothing on his mind but to help us get this project finished. Basically Rick built the fence, and I was his helper and "go-fer". Someone asked me what I would have done without his help. The simple answer is, "I don't know", but I sure know I could not have finished with these results - and it would have taken all summer!
So, Rick, all I can say is "Thank you." And "Thank you too, Pat, for sharing Rick with us for the past four Saturday mornings." In typical fashion, Rick would not accept any pay for his work. Pat is just the same. She is a giver, not a taker. Linda and I will take the Gunnell family to Jim's for spaghetti next Saturday evening. Then in July, Rick, Ricky and I will make a trip down to Great American Ballpark for a Red's game.
It's not nearly enough to repay Rick for all he did to help us with this project, but hopefully he'll know how much I appreciate his help.
Thank you, my friend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Graduation at Parchman Prison

Some of our readers may not get the Baptist Press daily updates, so for those who don't, I would like to share this BP article with you.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary offers classes at Angola State Prison in Louisiana and at Parchman State Prison in Mississippi.

Please click on the link below to BP to read this touching article about NOBTS Graduation Ceremonies at Parchman.

It brought tears to my eyes.

Read and be blessed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Really, Mr. President?

A few things I would ask you to consider this morning as I reflect on recent and upcoming issues regarding our President. While this is not a "political" blog, I did say from the outset that I would sometimes comment on politics, "For What It's Worth".

One of the most important (and long lasting) actions taken by the Chief Executive involve the appointment of Judicial nominees, especially that of the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Federal Judges serve for life. They are not elected by the people, and can only be removed from office by impeachment for cause. the Judicial branch of our Federal government (outlined in Article III of the U.S. Constitution) serve as an important part of the checks and balances, wisely written into the Constitution by it's framers.

As you know, Associate Justice David Souter has announced his intention to retire from the High Court at the end of this session. So, only four months into his first term, the duty falls to our new President to appoint his first Supreme Court Justice. Many commentators believe that appointment could come as early as today. Speculation is that Mr. Obama's appointment will likely be a woman, and possibly one of Hispanic descent. Common sense and experience would indicate that the candidate will also be philosophically aligned with the liberal political views of the President. I have no problem with any of this, because that is the way the system works. The President makes the appointment, and the Senate confirms or rejects the nominee under it's "advise and consent" responsibilities in the constitutional process. It should be apparent to the most casual observer, that a conservative President will appoint conservative judges, and a liberal Chief Executive will appoint liberal jurists. When Barack Obama was elected President, no one should have had any doubts where his priorities lay involving judicial nominees.

I personally would like to see a more conservative jurist appointed to the High Court, but one would only assume that the new nominee would be ideologically aligned with the opinions of Justices Souter, Stevens, Bryer, and Ginsberg. What does concern me more is what the President recently said that he is looking for in a Supreme Court Justice. He says he will nominate someone with "empathy".

Empathy? What the heck is THAT all about? Does "the boy president" even understand the constitutional duties of the Supreme Court? The American Heritage Dictionary defines empathy as:

1. Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives. (See Synonyms at pity.)
2. The attribution of one's own feelings to an object.

The duty of the Supreme Court is to interpret the law. The Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in the U.S. It's main functions are to interpret the Constitution and to examine every law passed whether federal or state and determine if said laws adhere to the Constitution of the United States. Empathy doesn't come into the equation. Applying the Constitution, and not one's feelings, opinions, and pity, is the criteria for the work of a Supreme Court Justice.

The statue of the "Lady Justice" at the Supreme Court building depicts our justice system as blindfolded to outside influences, judging only by the scales in her hand.

It is not that this President "doesn't get it". No, not at all. It is simply another glimpse into his strange view of what America is really all about.


It's been about 10 days now since Mr. Obama's much ballyhooed speech at the Commencement Ceremony at Notre Dame. The invitation to speak in South Bend was controversial because of his "Pro Choice" views on abortion and the traditional "Pro Life" stance of the Roman Catholic Church. The debate raged on for some time on the cable news networks.

Should Mr. Obama be invited to speak at Notre Dame?

Well, why not? He IS the President of the United States and the honor of having the nation's Chief Executive speak at a commencement is a major one. Obviously his appearance was popular with the audience.

Should Mr. Obama have been conferred an Honorary Doctorate? Absolutely not!

The former question speaks of respect for his office. The latter is an abominable decision that a Catholic university would confer an honorary degree upon a politician who has no respect for the basic human "right to life."

In his speech, the President made reference to the differing views on abortion. He made no bones about the fact that the two differing viewpoints are at polar opposites and that there are certain irreconcilable differences between the two camps. Duh! He certainly has a tremendous grasp of the obvious...

What is more amazing, however, is that he stated that both sides must find "common ground" on the issue of abortion. Pardon me for asking, but HOW in God's name can we find "common ground" on the matter of terminating a human life in what should be the safest place on earth - it's mother womb. The matter is a simple one. Abortion stops a beating heart. Innocent life is terminated - often under the oblique heading of "choice" or "reproductive rights". The practice is either right or wrong. Where, please tell me, is ANY possibility for "common ground". Unborn life is either sacred, or it is not. Try as hard as you like, straddling the fence on this issue is impossible.

The thing that amazes me, is that many of the same politicians who have decried the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" on terrorist prisoners, are the same characters who approve of inserting scissors into the base of the skull of a partially born baby, and sucking the brains out, all in the name of "choice". Talk about inconsistent... now THAT is torture.

Common ground, Mr. President? Impossible!


The final thought I want to share with you today comes from page 92 of the May 25th issue of "Newsweek" magazine. It is a telling graphic which shines a bright light on Mr. Obama's Three Trillion, five hundred, fifty Billion dollar budget he has submitted to Congress. In figures, that's $3,550,000,000,000.00! Seth Colter Walls did the research that appears with the illustrations by Peter Arkle in an eye opening picture of "What You Could Buy With Obama's 2010 Federal Budget". Here is a breakdown, without the illustrations:

With the money in President Obama's 2010 budget, one could buy -

  • Everything produced in Italy in 2008 - PLUS

  • A refund for everyone defrauded by Bernie Madoff - PLUS

  • The International Space Station - PLUS

  • An electric car for every 16 and 17 year old in America - PLUS

  • All the oil in Saudi Arabia - PLUS

  • The Big Dig, Boston's urban-infrastructure money pit - PLUS

  • Full funding for the Krasnow Institute's project to map the Human Brain - PLUS

  • All the tea in China - PLUS

  • The treasure of King Tut's Tomb - PLUS

  • Recession era bargain: an Upper East Side NY Condo on 94th Street - PLUS

  • The 1909 mint condition Honus Wagner baseball card - PLUS

  • A week long staging of Stockhausen's seven-opera series - PLUS

  • One $.99 MP3 download from iTunes for everyone in America - PLUS

  • A pair of Marc Jacobs 214S sunglasses, with dark gray lenses - PLUS

  • A burrito at Chiptole in Manhattan.

Kind of puts it in perspective doesn't it? I would have included the dollar figures, but there are way too many 0's and my fingers are tired! You can look it up in Newsweek for yourself.

Enough of this for today.

How's that "hopey, changey thing" going for you?

I'm depressed...

Monday, May 25, 2009

All Gave Some...Some Gave All

On this Memorial Day Holiday, many folks will be attending cookouts, and going to ball games. Some will be enjoying the day off by boating on the rivers or lakes, some will splash in the recently opened public and private pools. Many will be travelling by planes, trains and automobiles, taking advantage of a three day weekend. Life will go on in the USA as normal. But on this day, especially, we should all take a moment to remember those who gave their lives to preserve our American way of life. We must also never forget those brave men and women who are presently serving in our military forces. Many are in harms way today as we fight on two fronts against an insidious, yet invisible enemy in an ongoing war on terrorism.

Today our President will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, to acknowledge the sacrifices made by our veterans in all wars. Earlier today, in Kabul, Afghanistan, active duty troops have already had a memorial service for their fallen comrades. Across the river in Ironton, Ohio, the streets will be lined by hundreds of people to view the longest continually running Parade in America - the 139th Annual Ironton Memorial Day Parade. Ceremonies like these will be held on military installations, in cemeteries, parks, and streets of big cities and small towns all across America today. This is fitting and proper because of the many veterans who gave "their last full measure of devotion" while fighting various enemies under the Stars and Stripes that represented their homes, families, freedom, and American way of life.

May we never forget the sacrifices they (and their families) have made for us.

My personal family has had its share of men who have served, and I am proud of them all. My great grandfather, Cumberland Adkins (Sr.) a Civil War soldier, and my grandfather, Caudle Adkins, Sr served in the Army in WWI. He was gassed in the Argonne Forest and eventually died of lung cancer at a relatively early age. Dad (Caudle, Jr.) and his older brother "Buster" served in the US Navy during WWII. Dad's younger brother, Sammy, enlisted in the Air Force during the mid 50's. An uncle on my mother's side, Jerry "Bob" Stidham also served in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict. My brother, Bruce and I both had Viet Nam era service - he in the Navy and I in the Air Force.

On Linda's side of the family the heritage is just as rich. Her Grandfather, Cornelius Bowling was a WWI Doughboy, his brother, Andy, was held as a POW by the Germans. Linda's father, Burgess, served under General Patton, taking part in invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy during WWII. Her uncle, William Smith, Jr, (a Marine) was the only family member to die while on active duty - although his death was not combat related. Linda also had several cousins who proudly served in the Armed Forces.

My brothers in law, Danny, Burgess Ray, and Bob Bowling were also veterans. Danny was an Airman, stationed in England and Langley AFB, Virginia. Burgess Ray (who later died in a mining accident) did two tours of duty with the Marines in Viet Nam and served for several years as a Marine Recruiter. Bob, also a Marine, was injured while on duty, just before his discharge in the early 70's. A couple of my nephews have also served - young Dan Bowling and Christopher Bennett also served in the Air Force. My younger son, Benji, enlisted in the US Marine Corps and faced enemy fire in Kosovo.

That's the way it has gone down through history. There have been a number of career military men and women during the history of our nation, but the vast majority of our veterans have been like those listed above - average Americans who give of themselves to serve their country. Many of them never returned to their families and homes. Let us never forget their great sacrifices on our behalf, nor the unimaginable loss suffered by their families.

All gave some, some gave all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Proud To Be On This Team

It is an honor to serve with men and women like those pictured on this post. Leeah and Steve Weber joined me in representing Westmoreland Baptist Church, Michelle Harris and Sara Sutherland were there from Abundant Hope Church in Barboursville, Doug Virgin is our Associational Missionary, John and Pam Freeman represented Calvary Baptist in Chapmanville, and there was another gentleman from Calvary who was there one day, but is not pictured here.

The Greater Huntington Baptist Association had a presence this week in the Matewan, West Virginia area, doing disaster relief work after the terrible flash flooding that took place a week or so ago. We were not huge in number, but we were a blessing to at least one family in the midst of their greatest physical loss, ever.

Our work was not glamorous, nor did we expect it to be. It was hot, smelly, difficult, and dirty, but it was fulfilling to perform it all in Jesus' name. Our particular task was to dig the mud and silt out of the basement of the Tom May family in the community of Red Jacket, WV (just north of Matewan). When Doug, Sara, Michelle, and John arrived on Monday morning, the basement was completely filled with 18 inches of the muck. The muddy mess was enough in itself, but all of the muck covered toys, tools, bicycles, scooters and other items stored in the basement also had to be removed. This was accomplished, piecemeal, as the team came to each item, but the main job was to get the wet, goopy mud out!

There was nothing "high tech" about how the job had to be done. Some members of the team took shovels and five gallon buckets into the cellar, some served as a "bucket brigade" passing the buckets upstairs to us "old men" who dumped them into wheel barrows, who then wheeled the heavy muddy mess back across the road to the creek from whence it came. The work was back breaking and very tedious. Every thirty minutes or so, the folks in the basement had to come up for air and those of us who were "wheelbarrow technicians" on the surface sought some shade. All of us had to wear heavy rubber boots and gloves. The folks in the basement wore masks, and looking back, those of us on the surface SHOULD have. The dried mud and silt was everywhere and the bobcats, dump trucks, Red Cross and National Guard vehicles, and resident's cars and trucks kept the dust constantly circulating through the air. (I am still coughing). Every hour or so, the buckets and wheelbarrows had to be hosed off as the heavy sticky mud added to the weight and sloppiness of the whole thing. Naturally, hosing off the shovels, buckets and other equipment, added to the muddy mess in the yard where we were working.

Similar work was going on in houses and churches all around the Matewan area. We met other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief groups from two other associations in West Virginia, (Mountain State Assn. and Potomac Highlands Assn.). A group of New England Southern Baptists were there, as was a team from First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia (where SBC President Johnny Hunt is Pastor). The SBC Disaster Relief Command Center was located behind the Matewan City Building. The Southern Baptist Conservative Convention of Virginia had their command center trailer there. The Virginians served as coordinators of the Baptist volunteer efforts. They also sent out "assessors" to the various communities, to determine the amounts of damage, and to dispatch cleanup teams to work the area. A Baptist feeding unit from Tennessee set up their mobile kitchen which produced over 4,000 meals per day. The Tennessee Baptists fed all of the National Guard and Relief Workers, and any residents who walked up to the unit. The vast majority of the meals prepared by the Tennesseans, were loaded onto American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV's) and distributed throughout the disaster area three times per day.

Matewan High School (which, like other schools in the hard hit area) was closed for classes due to the disaster. The Red Cross workers and SBC volunteers were allowed to shower and sleep at the school. What a blessing those showers were! The cots weren't terribly comfortable, but they were a great alternative to the hard gym floor for folks like me who had no air mattresses.

The brief effort of which we were a small part, is only a token of the massive Southern Baptist Disaster Relief work that goes on all across the country when hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters hit. The work is sponsored by the SBC North American Mission Board, and various State Conventions and local associations. Cooperative Program gifts from local churches help fund this ministry, and thousands of man hours of labor are donated by volunteers from all over the country. The two young adults who went from our church were Steve and Leeah Weber. They worked HARD and I believe they were very impressed with the overall efforts of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Leeah commented that she, "Had no idea that all of this Disaster Relief operations existed." Many of our Baptists are in the same boat. SBC Disaster Relief is one of the best kept secrets in America, but anyone who has taken part or received help from Baptist men and women on relief missions can attest to the fact that it is a tremendous ministry.
Should you have any doubt, just ask anybody in New Orleans or along the Gulf Coast about those folks in the yellow shirts and yellow baseball caps. They'll tell you, "Those Baptists are a blessing!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Leaving For Matewan, WV Flood Area

A group from Westmoreland Baptist Church will be leaving in just a few minutes for southern West Virginia do do Disaster Relief work with SBC DR teams already in place. Please pray for safe travel for our group, and for witnessing opportunities as we try to help those who have been so hard hit by the recent flooding.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Disaster Relief Efforts In Southern West Virginia

Early this morning Doug Virgin, Michelle Harris, and Sarah Sutherland left with the Greater Huntington Baptist Association Disaster Relief Trailer for the coalfields of Southern West Virginia. The areas along the Tug and Levisa Forks of the Big Sandy River in Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky were devastated by flash flooding about a week ago. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have been dispatched to the affected areas immediately after the waters receded. Our Association team received it's call on Friday for deployment today.

Doug is our GHBA Director of Missions. Sarah and Michelle are members of the Abundant Hope Baptist Mission in Barboursville, where Michelle's husband, Paul, is the Pastor. Our Association Disaster Relief Director is John Freeman, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Chapmanville. Doug, Sarah, and Michelle were to meet John in Matewan, West Virginia this morning, where they would begin mud out work on homes, as assigned by the SBC Disaster Relief staging area located behind City Hall in Matewan.

Doug and John are becoming veterans at this stuff. The three of us worked together for a week in New Orleans, doing chain saw and other clean up work five weeks after Hurricane Katrina. "The Dynamic Duo" have also answered the call to Western Kentucky after a late winter ice storm wreaked havoc on that area. This is no small effort on the part of these two guys. John underwent open heart bypass surgery last year, and Doug has had a number of health issues as well. Were it not for my previously scheduled CT and PET Scans in the morning, I would have joined them in Matewan today for the mud out work, but alas, that will have to wait until Wednesday.
My first personal experience with SBC Disaster Relief came in New York City, less than a week after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. My son, Jay, and I, along with several other men from the Greenup Baptist Association in eastern Kentucky, went to the Big Apple to help cook meals in the large Kentucky Baptist Convention's large Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen. It was there that I saw first hand, how well Baptists all over America responded to the tremendous need. After our post Katrina work, and seeing how deeply involved Jay had become in Louisiana DR, we felt the need for a Disaster Relief unit to form in our area. John Freeman took the proverbial bull by the horns and spearheaded the drive to purchase and equip a trailer suitable for mud out and chainsaw work. Many of our local churches responded with donations, and one can see the final results in the photo below.

Early Wednesday morning, Steve and Leeah Weber will be joining me as we leave Westmoreland Baptist for Matewan. If scheduling issues work out, we will be joined by Brittany Haggerty as part of the WBC team, as well. I am proud of these young people and their willingness to leave their comfort zones to do the dirtiest type of mission work one can imagine. Steve and Leeah are the young adult children of our church's Interim Student Ministry Director, Rick Weber. Steve graduated last year from Spring Valley High School and is waiting to enter an electricians course. Leeah just graduated last week from Marshall University with a degree in vocal music.

Brittany came to us from far away Moorefield, West Virginia as a Marshall University student. She was in one of Dr. Barbara Tarter's communication classes at Marshall. Barbara is a faithful member of our church, and is a great believer in missions, herself. She has done foreign mission work in Mexico, church planting in Tennessee, works in our church in ministry to homebound, hospitalized and nursing home patients. She is also chairperson of our church Mission Committee. Brittany was a lonely college freshman in one of her classes at Marshall. Barbara befriended her and invited her to church. Brittany came, and soon joined our fellowship, and is now actively involved with Upward sports, AWANA, and other children's ministries.

It is a blessing to see how God works in bringing different people into His Kingdom work.

Disaster Relief is a powerful ministry, overseen by the SBC North American Mission Board. It is a common sight, after hurricanes, floods, ice storms, fires and other natural disasters, seeing dedicated men and women wearing those bright yellow shirts and baseball caps. You'll find them doing everything from mud outs, to chain saw work, carrying out debris, cooking thousands of meals in large mobile kitchen units, and providing chaplain services to people who have suffered tremendous losses from disasters of all types. In fact, when you see the Red Cross distributing hot meals in disaster areas, the chances are very good that those meals were supplied and prepared by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief crews.

Doing work like this, in the name of Jesus, is one of the most practical and effective short term mission efforts in practice today. Please pray for the Disaster Relief volunteers as they share the good news of Jesus in a most practical way.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Penn Gilette and the Gift of A Bible

Many of you are familiar with Penn Gilette of the Penn and Teller comedy team.

Gillette is a well known atheist and normally shows very little regard for professing Christians. Yet this video is quite telling as he recounts a Christian who gave him a Gideon New Testament.

Please take five minutes to view this video and draw your own conclusions about the manner in which we represent Christ to a lost world.

Click on the following link to view the video.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Four Year Old Blessing

I will never have any trouble remembering where I was and what I was doing on May 12, 2005. Almost six months earlier I had been diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer . A large section of my intestines had to be removed. The malignancy had escaped the colon and was found in 14 lymph nodes, and, according to my physician, "was scattered like grass seed throughout my liver". Stage four. "Incurable", was the diagnosis. Perhaps 18-22 months to live was the prognosis. Things happened in a blur from that point on!

The doctor allowed me to go on a previously planned mission trip to the Philippines. Upon arriving back home, I had a surgical procedure to insert a Medi-Port into my chest, and a six month course of chemotherapy began the first of February. By early May I was certainly feeling the effects of the chemo. The side effects were most unpleasant, but the treatments were necessary, I was told, if I hoped to survive the 22 months! Suffice it to say that the atmosphere was somewhat somber around our house.

It was on that morning in May that I was preparing to head to the Ashland-Bellefonte Cancer Center for one of my treatments, when the phone call came. It was the call that Linda and I had been expecting for a few days. Our daughter-in-law, Leigh Anne, had gone into labor and was at King's Daughters Medical Center, ready to give birth to her second son.

Naturally, we headed for the hospital post haste. My chemo appointment was scheduled at the Cancer Center about 12 miles away at 10:30 AM. It was a treatment that would take about four hours for the chemo drip to complete, and I needed to be there on time. Meanwhile, I was wearing a chemo pump for the 24 hour period between the two long treatments. So, pump and all, we headed for KDMC. Benji was in the delivery suite with Leigh Anne, so we waited with the other set of Grandparents, Lance and Linda Clanton, for the baby to make his appearance. I was so hoping he would arrive before I had to make my exit.

He did.

What a guy he was! Benji, dressed in hospital scrubs, with a mask hanging around his neck, brought the baby out to show the waiting relatives.

It was there that we met Matthew Asher Adkins for the first time. He was a good sized lad with a red face, with eyes squinting in the bright light. A beautiful little boy with all of his fingers and toes, grandson number four had finally arrived!

I remember thinking, in a moment of self pity, that I would probably never live to see this little baby grow up, and that he would never have any memories of his Papaw.


Just look at this guy now. God has wonderfully spared my life to allow me to see my youngest grandson reach the age of four. I have even lived to see him play in his first Upward Basketball game this fall. He's my Little Pal, and I am wonderfully blessed to have survived to have memorable relationships with all four grandsons.

Matthew is a rendering of the Hebrew name which means, "Gift of Yaweh" and Asher is also Hebrew for "happy" or "blessed". This little boy has certainly lived up to his names. We know he is a wonderful gift from the great I AM, and that he is not only happy and blessed himself, but he is a wonderful blessing and brings happiness to all who know him.

Asher is big for a four year old, but we know most of them aren't real tall. Well, this guy is 6'5" on the inside! He adores his older brother, but he will not back down in a confrontation. I may be a little prejudiced, but Asher seems to be able to run faster than any four year old that he pals around with. He wants to play with the big boys so badly that you can see the frustration in his face when he can't. He is quite the little athlete, and is very competitive. His smile is quick and he is very loving. He loves to sing and dance and you should really see "his moves" (oooh! Gonna hurt myself!".

There are many paragraphs I could write about Asher (as well as his brother Will, or his cousins, Quint and Canon), but I will not bore you here with a lot of gushing from a proud grandpa.

Let me just say, "Happy 4th Birthday, Little Pal. We love you! very, very much."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Three of My Favorite Preachers

Pictured here are three of my favorite preachers. L to R - Dr. Tony Evans, Dr. Fred Luter, & Rev. Jay Adkins.
Let me start with the guy on the right (my former little boy) who is Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego in suburban New Orleans.
Jay has been in church since 9 months before he was born. He cut his teeth on church hymnals, and grew up exploring the nooks and crannies of the various Baptist churches in which I ministered.
After a few years of bumping into spiritual walls, Jay finally nailed down the important things in his life and committed himself to Christ. Things happened pretty quickly after that. He started his public work for Christ as our song leader at Wayside Baptist Church in rural Boyd County, Kentucky. He continued in that capacity at Ashland Baptist Church, when I was called to serve that congregation as pastor in 1996, the same year he married Michelle Slater. At that church he also took on duties of Youth Pastor, and he and Michelle were a tremendous asset to my ministry there. Shortly after an "Experiencing God for Couples" seminar with Henry Blackaby at Ridgecrest Conference Center, Jay surrendered to God's call into a preaching ministry. He eventually left us at Ashland Baptist when he answered a call to serve as Mission Pastor at Rose Hill Baptist Church's Fellowship Chapel in South Shore, KY.
After several years at Fellowship, he led them to be a self supporting, constituted church and went from "Mission Pastor" to "Church Pastor". There he gained several years of first hand pastoral experience, and even though the church was no longer a mission chapel, Jay continued to be involved in missions, through Disaster Relief and other Mission trips. It was on a musical mission trip to France, where Jay met Gary Halquist of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It was that relationship with Gary that led Jay to leave the Bluegrass State, to continue his education at NOBTS. He completed his Bachelor's Degree requirements at Leavell College, on the seminary campus, and enrolled in the Master's Program at NOBTS. Hurricane Katrina put a one year kink in his academic journey, but he earned his M.Div. with emphasis in Biblical Languages in May, 2007, and is now enrolled in the Doctorate program at NOBTS.
Jay is a dynamic preacher, with a pastor's heart. Over the past seven years at Westwego, he has been instrumental in leading FBC Westwego in dynamic growth into a vibrant "going" congregation in that Westbank community. Although still young in years, with over 10 years of pastoral experience, Jay has also served as a mentor to several other young men, leading one of the finest young ministry staffs you could ever find - anywhere. Jay has a rich spiritual heritage, standing on the shoulders of three previous generations of Baptist preachers.
Tonight Jay called to let me know he was going to be visiting Revival services at Pastor Fred Luter's Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. That's Dr. Fred in the blue shirt in the photo. Fred Luter is legendary in the Crescent City. Franklin Avenue Baptist Church is the largest Southern Baptist Church in New Orleans, and it was devastated by the floodwaters spawned by Hurricane Katrina. Luter's congregation (like many other New Orleanians) was scattered all over the southern United States, from Houston to Atlanta. In a modern day miracle, God held that congregation together, while geographically separated, and Luter preached regularly for the next two years, to his scattered flock in Houston, Baton Rouge, and in tempory space in the Big Easy, offered by David Crosby's First Baptist Church of New Orleans.
Dr. Luter is first and foremost a shepherd to his flock. But he is also a powerful preacher, who is one of the greatest "pulpiteers" in America today! So good, in fact, that he is traditionally invited to be the featured speaker in the first chapel service at the beginning of each academic year at the Seminary. I am looking forward to hearing Dr. Luter speak at the Pastor's Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, KY next month. I'm sure he'll "clear him off a patch and preach a while"! If Fred Luter can't light your fire - your wood is wet!
The Franklin Avenue Church property has been restored, and the Church is back up and running. Tonight Jay says there were about 2,000 folks on hand for the Revival Meeting. The speaker tonight was Dr. Tony Evans (pictured at left in the above photo). Tony Evans is probably one of the greatest preachers alive in America today. Evans is long time Pastor of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, TX. He is a prolific writer and is always in demand at crusades, Bible Conferences, and other evangelistic events throughout the country. Many of you have heard him on one of over 500 radio stations in his broadcast ministry, "The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans".
I have been blessed to have heard Dr. Evans speak in person on a number of occasions. The first was at a Promise Keeper's Clergy Conference in Atlanta's Georgia Dome in February 1996. I will never forget that conference, as it was truly a turning point in my ministry. The Lord used several speakers in that series of meetings to revitalize and refocus the scope of my ministry. God used Max Lucado to challenge my previously narrow viewpoint with a message on "Life Aboard the 'Fellowship'", and John Maxwell and Tony Evans were empowered by the Holy Spirit to renew my vision - through their respective messages, "Finishing Well" and "Moses Get's a Recall".
That was thirteen years ago, and my life has not been the same since that night.
How I would love to have been in that great service tonight at Franklin Avenue. I am sure that God showed up!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

One Reason That May Is So Special

Besides being a glorious spring month, May is always a special time for me. Mother's Day appears on the May calendar, and so does my own mother's birthday. Everyone loves their mother, and I am certainly no different. However, I believe that my mother is special. She has been a wonderful blessing to me since she brought me into this world, nearly 59 years ago.

Patsy Ruth was the oldest of five children, born to Jerry and Mary Stidham, in Logan County, WV in 1929. Yep, that makes my Mom 80 years old this month! Her sister, Hessie, died from leukemia at age 12, and a baby brother known as "Buddy" died in infancy. Her siblings who survived were younger brother, Bob (now deceased) and sister Dori. Papaw died in 1968 and Mamaw joined him in 1996. So now, it's just Mom and Dori remaining from the original Stidham family.

My grandfather was a coal miner, who later worked for the United Mine Workers of America, eventually serving the union as an International Representative. He was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1948 as a Democrat from Logan County. During his time in office, he served in the House with future West Virginia Governors Underwood, Barron, and Moore, and with future United States Senator Robert Byrd. He was active in several fraternal organizations and was well respected in Logan County and throughout the coal fields of southern West Virginia. He was an unpublished poet, and in 1964 was named West Virginia Poet Laureate by then Governor Hulett Smith. In 1960, he gave his life to Christ and was later called into ministry. He served as Pastor at a church in the Charleston area during the brief time that they lived in Kanawha County, and eventually served as Pastor of the #20 Whitman Community Church (the church were he was saved in Logan County) until the time of his death. I remember him as a kind but strong man who loved and served others.

My grandmother was a "domestic engineer" and one of the most dedicated Christian ladies I have ever known. Her life revolved around her Lord, her church, her husband and children, her special friends, and her 10 grandchildren until the day she died. She was a woman of prayer and great faith. She had the ability to make each of her grandchildren feel that they were her favorite. Mamaw was kind and generous, and would give her last dollar to someone in need.

Mom seemed to inherit the best qualities of both of her parents.

Her early life couldn't have been easy. She suffered from a bout with polio as a child, and has gone through life with one leg slightly smaller and shorter than the other. She grew up in the small dirty coal camps, living in little houses owned by the coal companies. As the oldest sibling she had the responsibilities of helping with housework and helping to care for the younger kids. Mamaw always said that Mom was a good girl, but that her only fault was that she had a "sassy mouth" at times. That was hard for me to imagine, because the Mother I knew was such a sweet and godly woman. I rarely ever heard her even utter a cross word.

Mom excelled academically. She was an honor student at Logan High School and was offered a college scholarship, but opted to go to work for Island Creek Coal Company. Her first job was as a clerk in one of the Company Stores and then later in the payroll department of Island Creek's main office in Holden. She had given her life to Christ as a young girl and was actively involved in her local church. She was a beautiful young lady and there were a number of fellows in the Holden area who came calling from time to time, but God had someone else he was preparing for Mom to meet.

That meeting came at the old Franklin's Dairy Bar on Stratton Street in Logan, when a friend introduced her to Caudle Adkins, Jr., a U.S. Navy veteran and young Baptist preacher. The rest, as they say, is history.

Mom and Dad were married on July 3, 1949 at her parents house with both families and several neighbors in attendance. I came along in October, 1950, Bruce joined us on Valentine's Day, 1955, and Carl discovered America in September of 1960. The three of us and our families will be honoring Mom and Dad by celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary in a couple of months. We hope many of their friends and neighbors will join us.

My mother was a stay at home mom for many years. Her days and nights were filled with caring for the three of us, and keeping things organized for Dad, who was a very busy bi-vocational evangelist for many years. She was sharp as a tack and took care of most of the "business" of the family. She read constantly, loved to discuss the Bible, and taught teenage girls in Sunday School. She also always worked in Vacation Bible School in the summers. As Carl got older, Mom decided to get back into the workplace. She worked for a while in the local drug store, and for several years in the offices of two Huntington doctors. First for Dr. Martin (a dermatologist) and later for Dr. Hoffman (a urologist).

Sometime in late 1995 we begin to notice some changes in Mom. Mamaw told me, "I'm worried about Pat. She is getting awfully forgetful." And she was. What we first passed off as "absent mindedness" eventually became reason for concern. She obviously had trouble with her short term memory, and her behavior patterns were changing. She might mop the kitchen floor, and then come back a few hours later an mop it again - with no memory of having done so earlier. Losing her car in the supermarket parking lot became a more and more common occurance. That, and a combination of other circumstances over a period of time led us to decide that something was wrong and she should seek the advice of a physician.

When the diagnosis came back - Alzheimer's Disease, her life, and ours changed forever.

For Linda and I, the last 10 years have been a real mixed bag of joy and sorrow. We have welcomed four precious grandsons into our family, but we have also experienced loss. We lost her mother suddenly to death, and we are losing mine little by little each day. Now she is only a shell of the sharp, vibrant woman that I remember. Her eyes, that once sparkled with life, now seem strangely empty. She still knows Dad and each of us boys, and our wives, but she is now having trouble remembering and recognizing her grandchildren, and the great grandsons are just a mystery to her.

The one who once was the rock that anchored our family, now cannot tell you the name of the President, the day or year, or even her own age. She is unaware of my battle with cancer. She doesn't know that Dad had surgery and was hospitalized for seven weeks. Her days are spent in a fog like existence, alternating between long periods of silence, lots of sleep, and times of constant chatter, asking the same questions over, and over, and over again. What a cruel disease for such a dear lady to endure.

With Mother's Day arriving tomorrow, and Mom's 80th Birthday coming a couple of weeks later, I know that no gifts or flowers or cards that we give her will be remembered for more than a few minutes. I also know that the day will probably come when she will not even know who we are. But we will know who she is, and will continually thank God for giving us such a dear and precious Mother.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Always Be Courteous - Don't End Up Here!

Enough said...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Importance of Preparation

Since 1911 the world has known Boy Scouts. The famous motto of that organization is "Be Prepared". The scouting program teaches the young men in its ranks to prepare themselves for adulthood. The merit badges the Scouts earn, indicate proficiency in various areas of their lives. The scouts learn skills that can help them throughout their lives.

Being prepared is an important concept for all of us.

We all make preparations for important upcoming events in our lives - birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. We make preparations when the weather forecast calls for catastrophic storms, or hard freezes. Our federal government tries to remain prepared in light of potential homeland security breaches and heightened teror alerts. My years as an insurance agent were spent in helping folks become financially prepared for lost or damaged property, health, and even life. I have never ceased to be amazed at how quickly people will seek to insure their homes, automobiles, boats, and even their lives - and yet have no assurance about their never dying souls.

As a minister's kid, I have visited countless funeral homes, and as a pastor, myself, for nearly four decades, I have officiated in many funeral services - several hundred, I am sure. Over the past 6 1/2 years alone, I have done 72 funeral or memorial services. While probably not anywhere near a record, that is still an awful lot of funerals. A number of the individuals I have eulogized have made pre arrangements with the funeral home. Those pre need details cover every aspect of the funeral service, from purchase of cemetery plots and property, all the way down from the casket, to the details of who will preach, sing, and and pray. But this in not the type of preparation I am talking about. I'm making reference to being prepared for what happens next. The saddest services of all are for those who have not made preparation in this life, for where they will be in the next.

The deceased may be a wonderful person, a caring parent or grandparent, a dear friend, or a great neighbor, but the "300 pound gorilla" in the room is always the question, "Was he (or she) ready to meet their maker?"

We know that death is inevitable. Why then do some face it unprepared? If God's word is to be believed (and it is!) we are reminded that "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this, the judgement." As Lonnie O'Neal used to tell me, "We'll never get out of this world alive!" Knowing that, shouldn't one be prepared?

Simply "believing in God" is not enough. The Bible says "The Devil believes, and trembles!" What DOES make the eternal difference, is having a relationship with God. A relationship that can only come through Jesus Christ. God's plan of salvation is truly a simple one. As we often say, it is as simple as A,B,C.

A - Acknowledge your sinfulness before a Holy God.

B- Believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins

C- Confess Him (Jesus) as your Savior and Lord.

I like to add that fourth letter -

D - Do it now!

The Bible tells us "Now is the time. Now is the day of salvation". Yet something seems to keep some folks from making those eternal preparations. The preparations are often put off (for any number of reasons) and sadly in many cases, the loved one passes before preparations could be made. This is the saddest thing we ministers have to deal with.

I urge anyone reading this post, to be prepared. Time is passing quickly. If you haven't made those preparations, do it now!

Christians are not perfect and sinless. But they are forgiven by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Savior. By faith they have become members of the family of God. Those who are not prepared, face an eternity away from God and His church.

Are you prepared?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Time To Panic?

While driving grandson #2 to his Little League Baseball game last week, the subject of the Swine Flu came up. The 8 year old had already heard someone talking about this exotic sounding illness, and had heard it mentioned on the news broadcast on the car radio. He looked at me and asked what this business was all about.

"Could people die?" he asked seriously.

I was somewhat preoccupied with thinking about some other subject at the time. "Well, a few people have died in Mexico", I replied.

His reaction quickly brought me back to the moment "Mexico?" he said sharply. "We're right next to Mexico!"

I explained that Mexico was a long way from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, but he was still visibly concerned. He asked a lot of questions. "Could we get it?" "Is there anything that can be done to keep from catching it?" "Would we die?" When I said I thought that a vaccine existed for that particular strain, he simply asked, "Is that a shot? I HATE shots!"

We rode on in silence for a couple of minutes or so. He looked straight ahead. Finally, with a very serious look on his young face, he flatly said, "I wish you hadn't told me about this."

Young Will's worries reflect a growing concern among the population as a whole. Swine Flu stories fill the cable news television channels. They are front page stories on every newspaper in the nation. At this writing, 7 people have died in Mexico from the malady and one little Mexican boy has perished from the illness in Texas. Each day the reported number of cases in the U.S. continues to rise. We all know that in a mobile society like ours, communicable illnesses can spread like wildfire. Naturally that causes concerns among reasonable people.

The stories from our neighbors to the south continue to raise concerns here. In Mexico City, schools are closed. Businesses are shutting down. 161 soccer matches have been played in totally empty stadiums. Attendance in the many Catholic churches is minimal, and those who do show up are wearing surgical masks, lighting candles, and saying prayers for an end to the outbreak. The World Health Organization has upgraded the status of the Swine Flu to a level 5, which is just short of a pandemic. Confirmed cases in the U.S. have reached 180 in 18 states as of last night. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public emergency. To make matters worse, our Vice President, Joe Biden, while being interviewed on NBC's Today Show flatly stated that he would certainly not want to fly on commercial aircraft or ride in subways. He suggested that he wasn't worried about someone sneezing in an open field, but he sure wouldn't want him or his family to be on a plane, train, or in a school room in this situation. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said that she was advising her family to "stay home".

This is the stuff from which panic ensues.

Do you think that it's time, perhaps, that we should all step back and take a deep breath (with or without a surgical mask) and think rationally about this situation.

The possibility of a world wide pandemic is a frightening thing. When I was a child in the 1950's our next door neighbors were an elderly couple who had no living children. I remember learning that their two daughters had both died in the great Influenza pandemic in 1918. That tragedy had killed over 20 million people worldwide, and more than 500,000 in the United States! The old black and white images from yellowing newspapers, give just a little insight into the panic that must have swept across our nation and the world. Could the Swine Flu have the same tragic results?

We know that anything is possible. With open border crossings across the southern U.S. people are free to come and go at will. Air travel can carry passengers (and any diseases they may be harboring) around the world in a matter of less than 24 hours. We also know that technology and medical care is far more advanced than anything that existed in the days of the last great pandemic.

Seemingly lost in the potential panic about a feared Swine Flu outbreak is the fact that 36,000 people die from the "regular" flu strains in America, EVERY YEAR!

Those of us who remember the days of the Gerald Ford presidency, can remember a Swine Flu concern in those days. There were numerous public service television announcements warning people about the coming disaster. Well, it just didn't happen. Most of us also remember the fear that swept the world in recent years about the Bird Flu. As one who yearly travelled through Hong Kong (which seemed to be ground zero for that flu strain) I had some real concerns about that disease. Many travellers wore masks and huge flocks of chickens were destroyed all over Asia. But alas, no pandemic of the Avian Virus.

There is certainly reason for caution regarding the "second coming" of the Swine Flu. The WHO is all over it. Our Center for Disease Control in Atlanta is working overtime in light of recent events, and pharmaceutical companies are cranking out vaccine doses. Furthermore, each of us can use prudence and good judgment, by observing simple good health procedures, like hand washing and covering our mouths and noses when we cough or sneeze. If you or someone in your family exhibit flu-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, body aches, and high fever) seek medical help without delay.

Paranoia won't help a bit, but a little bit of common sense, and a strong faith in the one who knows all things, and controls all things can go a long way toward your peace of mind in a time of spreading panic.