Monday, August 31, 2009

Where Are They Now?

The photo you see here is Flight 728 of Basic Military Training Squadron 3704 at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX. It was taken in mid July, 1973 as we drew near the end of our six weeks of Basic Training.
The Viet Nam War was still going on at that time, and when Basic Training was over, we didn't even have a graduation ceremony. Our ceremony consisted of tossing our duffel bags into the cargo hold of a Greyhound Bus that took us to our next bases, for Technical School training in our various career fields. A couple of these guys traveled with me to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS for Tech School. Others were assigned to places like Shepherd AFB, TX and Chanute AFB, IL for their own continued training. After Tech School I never saw any of them again. I have often wondered what happened to each of these guys.
We came to Lackland as more than forty individual who were mostly strangers, but soon were molded into a unit that was as close as family for a period of six weeks. We ate, slept, worked, drilled, and studied together. One young man had a nervous breakdown and left our flight. He was eventually dismissed from Wilford Hall Medical Center and sent home with a medical discharge. Three of the original guys ran afoul of our Training Instructors (TI's) and were "set back" in training to another flight which meant they would be required to spend an extra three weeks in training. One fellow was set back from another flight into ours and he eventually finished training with our flight.
There were several of us who travelled together from the Recruiting and Entrance Center in Ashland, KY, to San Antonio on May 30th. There were a couple of guys named Litz and Humble, from Wheelersburg, OH, a fellow named Tackett from Greenup, KY, Steve Herring from Pikeville, KY, and an unforgettable character named Cary Grant (honest) from Frazier's Bottom, WV who made the trip together with me from Ashland. The other guys came from Michigan, Texas, New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, Kansas, Montana, Washington, D.C., and Jamacia.
After our Tech Schools, I'm sure that some of the guys were sent to Viet Nam. I never left the USA. My active duty time after I left Keesler AFB was at a place called K.I. Sawyer AFB near Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, between Lakes Michigan and Superior. The winters there were brutally cold with lots of snow, but the summer was wonderful - both days of it! My time was spent "flying a Remington typewriter" as a "70250" Administration Specialist, working for the Chief of Maintenance at the 2001st Communications Squadron at K.I. Sawyer.
Richard Nixon was still President, and the Watergate hearings dominated the news. My oldest son was 3 months old when I enlisted. His first birthday was celebrated in the frozen north. There were no cell phones or personal computers. If microwave ovens existed, I didn't know about it (and we sure didn't have one!). 8 track tapes were the hot item for your car, and video tapes were becoming popular, but no one knew if they should get VHS or Beta. Remember those? Hank Aaron was still belting Home Runs out of Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, and Seals and Crofts, Simon and Garfunkel, and John Denver were regulars on the radio, along with Helen Reddy, singing "I Am Woman" (hear me roar!).
Looking at that old photo that I just came across last week brought so many memories flooding back. Seeing those long forgotten, but all familiar faces, gave me pause to wonder. Where are they now? What have they done with their lives? How many may have already passed on? Only God knows.
The guys in most military basic training photos usually have very serious expressions on their faces. You'll note that everyone in our flight, including Tech Sgt. Rivard, were smiling. One thing I do know is that when that photo was snapped, we were nearing the end of Basic Training and we were all glad. I won't tell you here what the photographer said to make us all smile like that, but smile we did!
By the way. That's me on the second row, fourth from the right, standing next to Airman Kotula in the glasses.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Big Question...

One had to wonder what it would take to knock the Michael Jackson story off the front pages. The (temporary) answer to that question came earlier this week with the death of Massachusetts senior Senator, Edward Moore Kennedy, at the age of 77.

Born the youngest of nine children to Joseph Sr. and Rose Kennedy, "Teddy" was the last of the four Kennedy brothers and is now survived by his only living sibling, Patricia Kennedy Smith. He was heir to Joe Kennedy's fortune which came from successful investments in movie production, real estate, and liquor. Joe Sr. is rumored to have made a small fortune on bootleg liquor during prohibition, and the fact is that he became one of the very first importers of liquor after the repeal of prohibition. Teddy's Irish Catholic pedigree was impeccable. His maternal grandfather, "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald was the long time powerful Mayor of Boston.

Joe Sr. who had been appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James by FDR, had groomed his sons for public service and political office. The eldest, Joe Jr., was killed in action in World War II. The careers and fates of Ted's other brothers, John and Robert are well known. Ted, himself, may well have been on track to serve as President, were it not for his early playboy image and the incident forty years ago at Chappaquiddick resulting in the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopchne. His one run for the highest office in the land fell short when he lost in the Democratic primaries in 1980 to incumbent President Jimmy Carter. After that, Kennedy seemed to be content to settle into his role in the Senate as one of it's most powerful Democratic members.

First elected to fill JFK's vacant Senate seat from Massachusetts in 1962, Ted served 47 years in what has been called, "The World's Most Exclusive Club". Over those four plus decades, more than 300 bills he wrote were signed into law. He truly was one of the great movers and shakers in Washington, DC for a generation. He was the face of most liberal causes in the political arena, and his public endorsement of Barack Obama's candidacy arguably was what helped Obama defeat Senator Hillary Clinton in sewing up the Democratic nomination.

The Kennedy clan is, no doubt, the most powerful political dynasty in the 232 year history of the United States. Few families have basked in the spotlight and had the world wide fame this family has enjoyed. On the other hand, few public families have ever endured more tragedy and public heartache than have the Kennedys.

Edward M. Kennedy was the "patriarch" of the clan since the death of his father in 1969. The highlights of his career are being parlayed in the newspapers, magazines, and on the network and cable news channels. His life and impact are the source of conversation on the talk shows. He has known wealth, privilige, and power. He has known celebrity, public adulation and public humiliation. He has known triumph and tragedy. He has known world and national leaders, and has truly been known as one of the post influential men to have ever served in the U.S. Senate.

Now, after 77 years, he is gone. He has kept an appointment that each of us will keep one day. As the Bible puts it, he now "sleeps with his fathers". He knew Presidents, Governors, Senators, Congressmen, celebrities, and Kings.

The big question is, "Did he know the Lord?" Did he have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ?

Do you have such a relationship?

In the final analysis - in light of eternity, that is all that really matters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Oh, The Sun Shines Bright..."

Most of my nearly 59 years have been spent here in the Tri-State area of Ohio-Kentucky-West Virginia. Linda and I were both born in the Mountain State, but have, at one time or another, lived in each of the three above mentioned states. However, for the past 29+ years, we have made our home in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We moved here on April Fool's Day, 1980. Our sons were raised here. Two of our four grandsons were born here. It has become our adopted home. Even though we reside along the northeastern edge of the Commonwealth, we love Kentucky, from the mountains to the Mississippi. We are proud to be citizens of the Bluegrass State.

Recently my good friend and former coworker, Dick Dowdy, sent me an email with the following facts about Kentucky. I already knew a number of them, but some were surprising. Just thought I would pass them on to you today. Here's today's history lesson on "My Old Kentucky (adopted) Home"-

*The bloodiest civil war battle was fought in Perryville, Kentucky .

*The first town in the United States to be named for the first president was Washington , Ky. It was named in 1780.

*1792 - Kentucky was the first state on the western frontier to join the Union

*In the War of 1812 more than half of all Americans killed in action were Kentuckians.

*1816 - (first promoted) Mammoth Cave, with 336+ miles of mapped passages, is the world's longest cave. It is 379 feet deep and contains at least 5 levels of passages. It's second only to Niagara Falls as the most popular tourist attraction in the US . It became a National Park on July 1, 1941.

*The first American performance of a Beethoven symphony was in Lexington in 1817.

*Begun in 1819 the first commercial oil well was on the Cumberland River in McCreary County .

* Kentucky is the state where both Abraham Lincoln, President of the Union , and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, were born. They were born less than one hundred miles and one year apart.

*1856 - The first enamel bathtub was made in Louisville

*In 1873, Louisville druggist John Colgan invented something that you can find in any just about every grocery store in the world, chewing gum.

*1883 - The first electric light bulb was shown in Louisville . Thomas Alva Edison introduced his invention to crowds at the Southern Exposition. *1887 - Mother's Day was first observed in Henderson by teacher Mary S. Wilson. It became a national holiday in 1916.

*The radio was invented by a Kentuckian named Nathan B. Stubblefield of Murray in 1892. It was three years before Marconi made his claim to the invention.

* Pike County the world's largest producer of coal is famous for the Hatfield-McCoy feud, an Appalachian vendetta that lasted from the Civil War to the 1890s.

*1893 - 'Happy Birthday to You', probably the most sung song in the world, was written by two Louisville sisters - Mildred and Patricia Hill.

*Late 19th century - Bibb lettuce was first cultivated by Jack Bibb in Frankfort , Kentucky

*1896 - The first (known) set of all male quintuplets was born in Paducah .. *Carrie Nation the spokesperson against rum, tobacco, pornography, and corsets was born near Lancaster in Garrard County .

*1926 - A Hot Brown is a hot sandwich originally created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville , Kentucky , by Fred K. Schmidt.

*1934 - Cheeseburgers were first tasted at Kaelin's Restaurant in Louisville .

*1937 - The first Wigwam Village Motel, with units in the shape of a 'teepee', was built by Frank A. Redford in Cave City .

*The "Old Fashion" drink was created in Louisville KY *The world's largest baseball bat, a full one hundred twenty (120) feet tall and weighing 68,000 pounds, can be seen at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville (Jefferson Co.).

*Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured only in Bowling Green .

*The world's largest crucifix, standing at sixty feet tall, is in Bardstown (Nelson Co.).

* Fort Knox holds more than $6 billion worth of gold - the largest amount stored anywhere in the world.

*The JIF plant in Lexington is the world's largest peanut butter producing facility.

* Kentucky has more resort parks than any other state in the nation...

*Middlesboro is the only United States city built inside a meteor crater..

* Newport is home to The World Peace Bell, the world's largest free-swinging bell.

*Pikeville annually leads the nation (per capita) in consumption of Pepsi-Cola.

*Post-It Notes are made exclusively in Cynthiana , Ky.

* Shaker Village ( Pleasant Hill ) is the largest historic community of its kind in the U.S..

* Christian County is 'wet', while Bourbon County is 'dry'. ('wet 'sells liquor; 'dry' does not)

* Barren County has the most fertile land in the state.

* Lake Cumberland has more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida .

* Kentucky is best known for its beautiful blue grass.

* Cumberland is the only waterfall in the world to regularly display a Moonbow. It is located just southwest of Corbin.

*Thunder Over Louisville is the opening ceremony for the Kentucky Derby Festival and is the world's largest fireworks display.

*The only monument south of the Ohio River dedicated to Union Soldiers who died in the Civil War is located in Vanceburg.

* High Bridge located near Nicholasville is the highest railroad bridge over navigable water in the United States .

*The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington has 82 stained-glass windows including the world's largest hand-blown one. The window measures 24 feet wide by 67 feet high and depicts the Council of Ephesus with 134 life-sized figures.

*The Lost River Cave and Valley - Bowling Green includes a cave with the shortest and deepest underground river in the world. It contains the largest cave opening east of the Mississippi ....

*The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country. It is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. * Kentucky is the horse capitol of the world.

*Mohammed Ali, “The Greatest” and most recognized face in the world was born in Louisville , KY.

*Three of Kentucky’s biggest industries are - Bourbon, Basketball, and Horseracing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Contribution or Commitment?

Both are big words that start with a “C”, but the difference between the two goes much further than the two letters in their length. Here is the example I like to use in explaining the difference between the two concepts:

Have you ever had a breakfast of eggs and bacon? Well, there were a couple of animals involved in providing you with that breakfast. Some hen made a contribution to your meal, but to some hog, somewhere, it involved a commitment! Providing you with those eggs cost the chicken very little, but “bringing home the bacon” cost the hog everything.

Commitment is a concept that is rapidly fading from the scene in our current culture.

You see this truth everywhere. Many people are not as committed to their jobs as folks were in previous generations. Absenteeism and poor quality in goods and services are often evidence of that lack of commitment. Commitment to the institution of marriage is also suspect. Even though the vows are repeated that say “until death do us part” the reality is that more than half of all marriages in 2009 will end in divorce. Coaches tell us that the commitment level of student athletes toward training, practice, and scholastic excellence, is far below the levels of those of the previous generation. Military recruiters also are having an increasingly more difficult time signing up young men and women for our armed services, due to the commitment involved with making such a decision.

Sadly, the decline of commitment also shows up among many professing Christians in their relationship with God and toward His church. Every year in churches all across America, it becomes more and more difficult to find people who are willing to commit to serving the Lord through His church as teachers, deacons, musicians, volunteers, and ministry leaders. This is not because there are not enough qualified folks for the jobs, but because so many church members do not want to make the commitment. The attitude that “someone else will do it, I’m too busy” seems to prevail and this is truly sad.

In my 38 years of ministry, I have come to the conclusion that a lack of commitment to the church is simply a visible symptom of a lack of commitment to our God. Take a moment to think about this. How much time to you spend alone with God in prayer? How much time to you devote to the reading and application of His Word? How serious are you about doing your part to fulfill His Great Commission? How important are missions? Are you teaching your children and grand children the importance of God in your life and in theirs? (Deut. 6)

In the Bible, King David, had sinned against God through an act of selfish disobedience. We read the sad narrative in 2 Samuel 24. When tragedy resulted, David repented of that sin. He sought to purchase a piece of ground where he might erect an altar to worship and offer sacrifice to his Heavenly Father. The owner of the property graciously offered the land to the King at no charge. David’s reply was simple, strong and poignant. “No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (vs 24, HCSB)
David understood that serving God was more than what I use to hear Leroy Forlines refer to as “cheap easy believe-ism”. Following Christ involves commitment. If you do not think so, check out the words of Christ in the four Gospels.

He called men to “follow Him”. Many of them left jobs, security, family businesses, and comfort zones, for the joy of following Jesus. He spoke of “denying oneself and taking up a cross”. He cautioned would be followers to “count the cost”. He warned half hearted followers that families, personal preferences, and comfort issues were not negotiable. Quitting along the way is not an acceptable option. He talked of a merchant who bought and sold pearls, and when that merchant found that “one pearl of great price”, he sold everything he had that he might obtain that prize. Jesus spoke of vines and branches, and that we must ABIDE in Him. The branches are not alive unless they abide in the vine.

Paul the Apostle said that all that was once important to him, he counted but dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. Paul, a formerly “religious” man, found that religion alone would not be enough. He learned that a relationship is required, and that his desire was to know Jesus, “In the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His suffering”. Many weak believers today want to experience that “pentecostal power”, but have no desire to know the weight of His cross. Dad use to refer to that as “Brylcreme Religion” (a little dab will do you).

Aren’t you thankful that Jesus was willing to commit to you? Aren’t you glad that He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Phil. 2:7-8 (NKJV)
I ask you today. Are you making contributions to the cause of Christ or have you made a commitment? Have you committed to Him your time, talents, and treasures? May God help us to check our commitment. Not for our own sakes, not even for your church’s sake, but for Christ’s sake.
Let’s “bring home the bacon”.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Let me get this straight.

Pro football quarterback, Michael Vick, served 18 months in prison for dog fighting ...

Former Super Bowl star, Plaxico Burress was sentenced to 2 years in prison for shooting himself in the leg...

Lybian terrorist, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who killed 270 innocent people in the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, has been released from prison after serving 8 years of a life sentence...

Daily news dispatches are full of strange stories of various court decisions, and sometimes total miscarriages of justice. None of them, however, come close to the travesty of yesterday's decision by Scottish authorities to grant "compassion release" to the above mentioned mass murderer from Lybia.

The former Lybian agent spent roughly 11 days in prison for the stolen lives of each of his victims.

Now, with terminal prostate cancer, his life sentence has been nullified and he can go back to Lybia (to a hero's welcome) to die at home.

You be the judge.

Some court judgments seem fair. Others appear to be ridiculous. One thing, however, is sure. There is a Judge, the Creator of the universe, whose judgments are always correct. This Sovereign One has decreed all natural and spiritual laws and He applies all of them fairly. The scriptures tell us that it is appointed unto man, "once to die, but after this, the judgment".

One of those dual laws is the law of sowing and reaping.

On the natural side, we all understand this law. If you plant corn in the spring, you naturally plan to pull ears of corn from the stalk, come harvest time. No one expects to pick oranges off bean vines, do they? Of course not. Naturally we expect to reap what we have sown.

Same thing goes on the spiritual side. The Bible puts it this way:

"Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit." Galatians 6:7-8 (HCSB)

What are you sowing in your life?

Due to our sinful nature, each of us have been sentenced to eternal separation from a Holy God.
If you are depending upon your own righteousness, to get you a suspended sentence, or time off for good behavior, don't be deceived. It doesn't work that way with the righteous judge.

God's advice to you is "sow to the Spirit". How? By trusting in the one who came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (that is each of us).

Trust Jesus.

That is where the only true "compassionate release" can be found - now and for eternity.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time Well Spent

I bought the tickets over a month ago, so my recent oral surgery and the threat of rain were not going to keep us from making the trip down the river to Cincinnati.

Most of my readers know that my father had pretty extensive surgery on March 3rd and spent two months in St. Mary's Medical Center and Health South Rehabilitation Hospital recovering and rehabbing. He continued with outpatient physical therapy until the middle of July, and he progressed from a wheelchair, to a walker, to getting around on a cane. Through all of the rehab, he has continued to be the 24/7 caregiver for my Alzheimer's afflicted mother. Dad was due a day off and I was looking forward to treating him to something he had done for me many times during my childhood - a trip to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game.

Dad has logged a lot more "recliner time" this year than any time I can remember. In doing so, he has watched a lot more television, including most all of the Reds games telecast on Fox Sports Ohio. A couple of months ago, I heard him say, "I've never been in that new stadium. I'd like to take in a game there sometime." However, considering his inability to get around like he use to, he allowed that he would probably not be physically able to do so. I knew that if I could get him to go, I could get him in the stadium. So, in looking ahead at the schedule, I saw that today would be the last non Sunday day game of the season. Night games would be nearly impossible, due to Mom's condition and her anxiety at bedtime if she is not home or if Dad is not there. So, I went ahead and purchased a couple of tickets for today's game.

Then came the challenge of getting him to agree to go. Fortunately, my nephew, Josh, is off on Thursdays and he graciously agreed to stay with Mom during the day. With the assurance that we would surely be able to get home before dark, Dad reluctantly agreed to go along. I am glad he did.

Once in the ballpark, I could almost see the memories rolling out, as he reminisced about previous games he had taken me and Bruce and Carl to. He talked to those around us about how he had never been in this ball park before, but shared fond memories of old Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium. I reminded him that the first game he had ever taken us to was between Manager Fred Hutchinson's Redlegs and the St. Louis Cardinals in 1962. Just seeing Stan Musial play in person, was a great thrill for this eleven year old boy!

I had listened faithfully to the Reds on the radio, with play by play man, Waite Hoyt. But seeing my heroes in person, was absolutely special! My Reds heroes were guys like Eddie Kasko, Don Blasingame, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Bob Purkey, and Jerry Lynch. It was the beginning of a love affair I would carry on for the next 47 years.

The next summer, he treated us to another trip to Crosley field. The opponents were the San Francisco Giants. The two Willies (Mays and McCovey) were there, as were Orlando Cepeda, and Juan Marichal. What memories! Today, the Reds closed out a three game series with the 2009 version of the Giants. Same team - very different players.

We had rain off and on, all the way down the AA Highway. We had rain off and on, all the way back. But the game came off without as much as a minute's rain delay. Dad refused to use his wheel chair or walker, so we moved slowly as he walked along, leaning on his cane with one hand and holding my arm with the other. But he made it to our seats with only one brief rest stop. He had a Big Red Smokey and large diet coke, and seemed to enjoy absorbing all the sights and sounds of Great American Ballpark.

I had my share of memories myself, and made some special new ones today.

The game? Oh yes. The game...

It was a game marked by good defense on both sides. Neither club's offense could put together the big inning. The Giants scored first on a bases loaded wild pitch from Aaron Harang, and the Reds countered with a line drive home run by Laynce Nix that just jumped out of the park. With the score knotted at one, the game went into extra innings.

In the middle of the 10th inning I could hold out no longer. The two bladder buster soft drinks I had consumed had done their work and I told Dad I would be right back. I was in the bathroom when Drew Stubbs (who was appearing in only his second big league game) hit the game winning, walk off homer. As I rushed back to the seats, Dad just grinned and said, "You missed it!"

I may have missed the dramatic long ball that sent the home crowd home happy, but I did not miss out on the tremendous blessing of me and my Dad attending one more Reds game together. He is 82, and I am a gray bearded grandfather, myself. But as Joe McKeever reminded me on Facebook this morning, "I'm still the kid".

I have lots of ministry work to do the rest of this week, and in the coming months. Pastors have plenty to keep them busy, but today was good for me - tender gums and all. I wouldn't have traded this day for anything.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pistol Packing Grandson

I am recovering today from yesterday's oral surgery and my creative juices are not exactly flowing freely. Since I have noting of any real inspirational or informational value to share, here is a recent photo of my oldest grandson, Quint, and his father at a New Orleans firing range.

They tell me this was Quint's first time to fire his father's .45 caliber Glock.

When grandson number 2 (the always competetive Will) saw the photo, he said, "Wow! Quint has a pistol! All I have is a .22 Henry rifle."

Mamaw, is not too thrilled about firearms of any type in the hands of her grandbabies! Teach them carefully boys...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Special Day For Dad

A couple of years ago, this blog included a post on the Deuhe Reunion. For background, you can visit that post here . Dehue was a coal mining community in Logan County, WV. The last vestiges of the community disappeared in the mid 90's when the final houses and the coal tipple were demolished. Since that time, former residents of the coal camp, who are now scattered all across the U.S., have come together on the first Saturday in August for a reunion.

Since nothing exists at Dehue now, the reunion is held in a nearby Head Start Center (and former elementary school) which bears the names of Dehue and another former nearby community. I took Dad to the reunion last Saturday and it was so good to see him interacting with the elderly people who were his neighbors and playmates as a kid. Here are a few random photos of last Saturday's reunion.

The Head Start building that serves as the site of the annual reunion.

Some took time to look through old photo albums and share memories.

Dad (standing with cane) visits with former neighbors just before lunch.

A photo of my Grandfather and Grandmother (Caudle Adkins, Sr. and Victoria Pack Adkins). There were four memorial tables which bore photos of deceased residents. Sadly, the number of memorial photos grows larger each year.

Pictured here, left to right, are Basil Frye, Caudle Adkins Jr., and Earl Hager. Mr. Hager was the long time principal of the old Dehue School. Now 100 years of age, he was the oldest man at the reunion. Mr. Hager had been the educational authority figure to every one of the children who grew up in Dehue. One note of interest to me is that Mr. Hager succeded my maternal grandfather, Jerry Stidham, in the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1952, representing Logan County.

The attendance each year has been decreasing, as many of the former residents pass from the scene. Heading back to their various homes after the reunion, still basking in the blessings of the day, many silently wondered about the future. Would they be able to attend next year's reunion? Who will be there next year, and who will simply be a memory in a photo on the memorial table?

I enjoyed going with Dad to the reunion last week. What a joy it was to see his eyes light up as he shared memories with old friends. He got around a little more slowly this year, and had to use a cane, but for a few precious hours, he was that young man from Rum Creek again. At least he was in his memories...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who'd A Thunk It?

Words cannot describe the conflict I feel when I view this photo.

It is the uniform of my grandson, which bears the logo of the Boyd County team in the Tri State Youth Football League.

When my boys were in school in the Ashland Public School District, the arch rival was Boyd County. Whether it was basketball, football, or baseball, the object was to defeat the county! Now, one of my own grandsons wears the uniform of the previously hated Lions. Who'd a thunk it?

Our younger son, Benji, and his family live in Cannonsburg. And even though their son, Will, goes to school in Ashland, now that he is playing youth sports, he is playing in the district where he lives - Boyd County...

Benji has taught school in Russell, KY and Ashland over the past four years, and Will has attended both districts. I think Benji and Leigh Anne have decided to keep will in Charles Russell Elementary School in Ashland - even though he lives out in the county. This is where Leigh Anne attended elementary school, and where Will's other grandmother, Linda Clanton, taught for about 30 years. It's a good school and he likes it there. I don't know where he will end up in High School (after all, he's only in the third grade now) but for now, it looks as though he will be playing youth Baseball and Football in his home district.

I have been an Ashland Tomcat fan for three decades. I volunteered in the Ashland schools. I served a four year term on the Ashland Board of Education, and was a director of the Tomcat Booster Club. Even though I am not a native of Ashland, it is my adopted home, and where my boys grew up. I expect that I will be a Tomcat fan for life. That is what makes this photo of Will's helmet and uniform seem so foreign to me.

Unaccustomed as I am to root for any football team wearing Boyd County's red and white colors, I will be there on the sidelines tomorrow morning cheering on the County boys as they travel to Milton, West Virginia for their first game of the 2009 Tri State Youth Football League season. It looks as though William will be lining up at fullback and defensive end for the Red and White. So, as a dutiful and proud grandfather, you know who this Ashland Tomcat fan will be pulling for...

Go County!

(Gosh, that still sounds strange!) :-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back To Work!

Paul Harris and I are packing up and ready to head for home after this morning's final sessions of the Shepherding the Shepherd Conference. Paul is a church planter and Pastor of Abundant Hope Baptist Church in Barboursville, WV. He missed the sign up period for the conference and was not going to be able to attend. But when Linda learned that she could not use any of her vacation days in August (due to registration at the college where she works) we got permission from the State Office to let Paul come and room with me.

I'm glad he did.

I have enjoyed the time we have been able to spend together. He is a fine young man who is doing all the right things at Abundant Hope. He is growing in his ministry and his wife, Michelle is is valued partner in ministry. One recent blessing for them is that Michelle has just been hired as a secretary in the West Virginia Convention State Office!

I've pretty much got my bag packed and ready to check out, but I just wanted to make one more quick post to thank the WVCSB for offering this ministry to we pastors and our families. We have all been blessed to have attended. I want to express my thanks to the folks of Westmoreland Baptist Church for allowing me the time away from the field to rest and refresh, spiritually as well as physically.

Lord willing, we'll be leaving here today shortly after noon. I'm looking forward to being back home with church and family.

It's time to get back to work!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shepherding the Shepherd

Pipestem State Resort Park is the setting for this year's Shepherding the Shepherd Conference sponsored by the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. What a beautiful setting for a two day time of worship, fellowship, reflection, and renewal. Our state convention staff recognizes the stress that full time and bi-vocational pastors carry in ministry. So they have developed this retreat as a time to minister to those who minister to others. It is surely appreciated by this pastor! The conference allows West Virginia Southern Baptist pastors, staff members and their families opportunity to come together in a peaceful location , at a very modest cost to the pastor. We have worship times, break out sessions, special guest speakers and one afternoon of free time to enjoy the lovely natural beauty of the park. Ministry to children and teens are also provided, while the adults are in their respective sessions.

This is the second year that the conference has been held at Pipestem. Before that, Canaan Valley had been the setting for several years. The beauty of this place is breathtaking and it is a perfect setting to get away and commune with our Creator. I did not get to attend the conference for the past two years due to other ministry opportunities, and I truly had missed the time of ministry and the opportunity to fellowship with my colleagues from around the Mountain State.

Our speakers this year are Steve Freeman who is Staff Evangelist of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Virginia, and Dr. John Sullivan, Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention. Both of them have already ministered to me in a wonderful way through their messages in the opening session last evening. Freeman and Sullivan are pictured below.

Freeman is a tiny man in stature, but a giant in faith and ministry. Born prematurely in the 5th month of his mother's pregnancy, his twin brother died at birth. He, himself, stopped breathing several times in the first couple of hours of his life, and doctors prepared his parents for the fact that he, too, might not survive. But he did survive - only to be later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Again his parents were prepared by the doctors prognosis that if he even lived to adulthood, Steve would not be able to contribute to society in any positive way.


His message last night, from Romans 8:28-29, was one of hope for those who are hurting and facing difficult circumstances. He drew on his life story and his recent diagnosis with cancer to illustrate the joy that one can have in Christ, even while facing the darkest moments in life. I can certainly attest to that truth through my own journey with cancer over the past 4 1/2 years. Steve also ministered to us in song. His testimony, his talent, and his very presence at this conference are unspeakable blessings.

Dr. John Sullivan wound up the meeting last night with a rousing message from 1 John chapter 3, challenging us to rekindle our passion for Christ. Sullivan, is a West Virginia native, hailing from Ansted, WV. Under his leadership, the Florida Baptist Convention has become one of the leading state Southern Baptist Conventions in existence. Sullivan is an eloquent speaker, whose knowledge of the Word and more than 50 years of rich experience as a pastor and denominational worker bring a wealth of benefit to all who know him. The last time I heard Dr. Sullivan preach in person was in a chapel service a couple of years ago at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. What a blessing he is! He is "old school" and stands as one of the tallest "pulpiteers" in the SBC today.

Worship music is being led by Westmoreland Baptist's own Randy Spurgeon, who although still a member of SBC, now works full time in the state office as the WVCSB Director of Church Music and Family Ministry. I was blessed to work with Randy for six years at Westmoreland and love he and his family dearly.

Well, it's time for breakfast (and I really don't want to miss that) and then on to a full day of blessing. I am already looking forward to getting back to work in evangelism and pastoral ministry in the place where God has graciously planted me.

Perhaps I'll be able to post again from the conference. Until then ...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Summer of '69

It was the summer of 1969. It was two years after the Hippies in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco had caught our attention with their "Summer of Love". It was one year removed from the tremendous upheavals and national trauma resulting from the MLK and RFK assassinations, and the "siege on Chicago" at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. By 1969 our nation was mired deeper in protests and in turmoil as President Nixon's promised "secret plan to end the war in Viet Nam" instead turned out to be a plan to expand it to Cambodia.

I had just finished my freshman year at Marshall University and, like Benjamin Braddock (the Dustin Hoffman character in "The Graduate") I too was concerned about my future. The Summer of '69" came midway between the time I came to know Jesus on the Ides of March, and the night in October (two weeks before my 19th birthday) when I first met my wife to be. There was a five week period between the middle of July and the third week of August that summer, that stand out as a snapshot of who we were, where our society was, and where it was heading.

The five particular events of that period that stand out in my mind are as follows:

Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. Who in my generation doesn't remember sitting spellbound before our televisions that afternoon, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon? "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind." Remember the grainy black and white television feed of Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bouncing around in the reduced gravity, while Michael Collins orbited above them in the Command Module?

Later that night, my girlfriend and I sat in the front seat of the '64 Dodge Dart, gazing at the Moon. Now, that in itself was not unusual, but that particular night the big bright orb seemed bigger and brighter than ever before. Not because of romance and young love - but because of the knowledge that two of my fellow Americans were walking on it! On that heady night, it seemed that no task was impossible for our nation when we set our minds to it.

Between the time of the Apollo 11 blast off and its landing at Tranquility Base, another incident made the news. It was here on earth, and it involved Massachusetts Senator (and brother of the former President) Edward M. ("Teddy") Kennedy and a young lady who was not his wife. The setting was on a little island called Chappaquiddick, near Martha's Vineyard. Kennedy had been at a private party with some friends and some young ladies known as "the Boiler Room Girls" who had worked in his brother, Robert's, aborted presidential campaign.

Kennedy left the party with one of the young ladies, a girl named Mary Jo Kopechne. Only God and Ted Kennedy know what really happened about 11:15 PM on that July night. What we do know is that Kennedy drove his 1967 Oldsmobile off the Dike Bridge and the following morning the body of Miss Kopechne was found in the submerged overturned car in the channel, off the side of the bridge. Shortly thereafter, Senator Kennedy walked into the Edgartown police station to report the accident that, by that time was nearly 10 hours old. The question on every one's mind and lips was "Why did he wait until the next morning to report the fatal accident?"

The story that Kennedy told the police changed a time or two, and he eventually pleaded guilty to a count of "leaving the scene of an accident, after causing injury". He was sentenced to the mandatory two months in jail, but considering "his age and his status, and lack of any previous brushes with the law", his sentence was suspended. He served no jail time, but he lost more than two months of freedom. Most political observers believe that his actions and the resulting scandal cost him the 1972 Democratic Presidential nomination, which eventually went to George McGovern. Now, forty years later he is called by many, "The Lion of the Senate", but he will forever have that fateful 14 letter word, "Chappaquiddick" in his biography.

With the Kennedy scandal and the successful Moon landing and return still swirling in our heads, August brought more drama, horror, and surprise.

News reports came in from Los Angeles on the discovery of the grisly "Tate/LaBianca" murders. Pregnant actress Sharon Tate (the wife of famous director Roman Polanski), along with Abigal Folger (coffee heiress), hair stylist, Jay Sebring, and two others were found brutally butchered at Tate's estate in the Hollywood Hills. Over 100 stab wounds were found in their lifeless bodies, and "Pig" had been written on the walls of her house with the blood of the victims. One day later, the bodies of Los Angeles businessman Leno LaBianca and his wife, were found in their home. "Helter Skelter", the title of a Beatles song, was written on the LaBianca's refrigerator in their own blood.

It was several weeks before the investigation led to the arrest of Charles Manson and his "family" of misfits, runaways, and gullible drug addicted kids who were living an old abandoned movie ranch outside of Los Angeles. The horror that was revealed as the story developed, could only make one wonder at the total depravity of man, and the ability of crazed charismatic characters to impact the lives of their mindless followers. The brutality of the Manson cult put fear in all of us as we began to wonder, how many other psychopaths might still be out there, and could we ever really be safe in our homes?

The third week of August brought the other two seismic events of the Summer of '69.
One was a "little" rock concert on Yasgr's farm near Bethel, NY that kinda went out of control. The "Woodstock Music and Art Fair" turned into an orgy of sight and sound as 32 bands played and crowds swarmed to half a million young people over the three day event. The rain and sea of mud added a surreal quality to the glut of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, like we had never seen before. Many feel that Woodstock was the defining moment of my generation. It certainly was an event that openly showed the changing mores of our society and publicly brought on the concept of "if it feels good, do it!"
The other event of that week was the landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast of Hurricane Camille. Camille was the most powerful Hurricane to have made landfall in U.S. History. It's devastating category 5 power brought unfathomable destruction to Biloxi, Mississippi and surrounding areas. 248 people lost their lives, and over 1.5 billion dollars of damages were done to property - a tremendous amount in 1969.
Pretty eventful five weeks - huh? Moon landings, scandals, murders, social upheaval, and natural disasters.
The events of July and August, 1969 were unsettling to say the least. We've witnessed some other times of major historic events in our history, but one would be hard pressed to find a more jam packed period than the Summer of 1969. It was a summer of surprising events, yet with all that we witnessed in that eventful time period, none of it came as a surprise to Almighty God. The Bible reminds us, "To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: ... I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past." (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 & 14-15)
The inspired wisdom of Solomon here reminds us that even in changing times, there "is nothing new under the sun". Although times change and news cycles bring us breaking stories of all types, there is an unchanging God. He has a plan and He is Sovereign. Since none of us know what tomorrow holds, it pays to know who holds tomorrow.
I had just begun my walk with the Lord by the Summer of 1969. In the past 40 years, in the face of changing world and personal events, I have never regretted it.
How about you?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Papaw Stidham

It was Monday night of a revival meeting at the #20 Whitman Community Church in Logan County, WV. The evangelist was my father, Rev. Caudle Adkins, Jr. He had preached his heart out that second night of the revival, and as the choir sang several verses of "Oh, Why Not Tonight?" no one had responded to the traditional altar call. The pastor of the church was obviously concerned about those who were resisting the invitation. Although forty one long years have come and gone since that hot August night, I remember his words as if it were only yesterday.

"Don't put off what you know you should do tonight!" he pleaded with the lost souls who were present in the congregation. "You may not have another opportunity" he continued. "This revival is scheduled to go right on through this week, but you may not be here by week's end. By the time this revival is over, you may already have been called out into eternity. You could be gone. I could be gone."

By Friday night he was.

That Monday evening was the last time I saw my grandfather alive. On Friday afternoon of that same week, his life was snuffed out at the age of 59 by a massive heart attack. His passing was sudden and unexpected. It left a void in the lives of our family members and in his community. Now, over four decades later, I think about what a remarkable man he was. How proud I was of him then - how proud I am of him today - even as I approach the age he was when he died.

Jerry E. Stidham was my maternal grandfather. He crammed a lot of living into his 59 years - from his birth in "bloody" Breathitt County, Kentucky until his death in Logan General Hospital. His formal education was limited to high school, but his entire life was spent in broadening his horizons through reading everything that came into his hands. He had a thirst for knowledge, a gift of tact and diplomacy, and a heart to serve. All of those characteristics served him well throughout his life and varied careers.

Papaw Stidham's father was a coal miner and his uncle was a blacksmith in the mines. I am not certain what brought his father to Logan County, WV from Breathitt County, KY, but later in life, long after Papaw was gone, Mamaw told me she thought there might have been some kind of "incident" in Breathitt, that facilitated the move. That's all that she ever said on the matter.

My grandfather grew up in the coal camps of Logan County. He worked around the mines as a youngster, doing "gofer" work (go for this - go for that) and doing other menial tasks. He told me about a task he was once given as a young teen. The Superintendent told him, "Jerry, run down to Browning's house and let Mrs. Browning know that her husband was killed in a slate fall." I've often wondered what possessed the boss to ask a teenager to handle the delivery of such devastating news. Well, he did as he was told. When the lady opened the door he noted two children playing in the house, and one in her arms. He blurted out the news, and the woman passed out from the shock, falling to the floor with her baby still in her arms. He told me in the final years of his life, that he had learned a valuable lesson in that situation about dealing with people in a compassionate and tactful manner. That lesson served him well later in life, both in his secular work and that of the pastorate.

As soon as he was old enough, he followed his father and uncle into the shafts and tunnels, digging black gold under back breaking conditions. He worked his way up through various jobs with the Island Creek Coal Company around Holden, WV. His penchant for public service took him into several fraternal organizations, and eventually led to his election to the West Virginia House of Delegates where he represented Logan County for three terms. Eventually he went to work for the United Mine Workers of America, rising through various positions until he eventually served as an International Representative and Lobbyist for the Union.

Always a man of high morals, he was highly respected in the community. His years of serving others through his legislative, union, and benevolent work endeared him to his neighbors. His high moral ethics, however, were not tied to any particular relationship with God. Oh, he believed in God all right. He respected the Bible, and the Christ Followers (that is the ones whom he genuinely believed "had it"), but he had little time for organized religion, himself. He "left that to Mary and the kids." The religion he had "in his head" and his talent for writing poetry, led him to publish a new poem every Christmas season and have it printed into a personal Christmas card that he and Mamaw would send to their many friends. In fact, his poetic skills earned him an appointment by Governor Hulett C. Smith in the mid sixties as West Virginia's Poet Laureate.

Papaw's life was forever changed in February of 1961. That was when, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, he surprised Mamaw by getting up early one Sunday morning and going with her (uninvited) to church. As the choir sang, "When The Roll is Called Up Yonder", to every one's surprise, Jerry Stidham rose to his feet, walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar and gave his life to the Lord. He was later called into ministry and served several churches in Kanawha County and eventually, back in Logan, at the very church where he had received Christ.

As we remember him this week on the 41st anniversary of his "graduation" to Heaven, allow me to share with you a poem he wrote about the day he came to know Jesus.

On my knees at an altar one day
Crying "Lord, Lord show me the way,
Forgive me of sin and my evil ways,
And place me on a life that pays."

"Take me, Lord, and do as you will,
Thy Holy Spirit my soul to fill.
Make me clean, and give me Grace",
(And tears were falling from my face).

And as I prayed my burden did cease.
In its place came such sweet peace;
The tears I shed, just like a boy,
Became at once as tears of joy.

This is where my story begins,
I arose to my feet and faced my friends,
First time in life, to testify.
I'll never be ashamed to cry.

If he were still with us today, he would be 100 years old. However, his memory is frozen in time as a man, still in his prime, who loved his family, his community, his church, and his Lord. I wish my children and grand kids could have known my grandfather. I wish you could have known him. Even today I miss him. He made a great impact on my life as a young man, and his example has helped me try to be the kind of father and grandfather he was.

I miss you Papaw.

See you soon!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Powerful Teaching From A Four Year Old

I am thankful that both of our sons and daughters in law are followers of Christ. They have taught their four boys the truth of God's Word from day one. They have told the boys about the love of Christ, and sought to model Christian living before them. They have kept them in church where they could hear the Gospel from other loving teachers who have reinforced the message in their young hearts. As a result, the 9 year old and the 8 year old have given their lives to Christ. Nothing has given me more joy than to be allowed to baptize one of my own grandsons at Rose Hill Baptist Church where he and his family are members!

All four of our grandchildren have been taught to pray - a Christian discipline which I hope they develop and practice all the days of their lives. I want to tell you about one grandson's recent prayers, but first let me give you a little background.

Grandson number 3 (Canon, our four year old who lives in New Orleans) has been through quite a bit of adversity over the past two years. The problem first came to light when he began to cry and fuss about how his leg was hurting. He was in obvious discomfort, and after a trip to West Jefferson Parish Hospital's ER, the family was referred to New Orleans Children's Hospital.

X rays indicated that one of the bones in the lower part of his leg was broken.

Since he had not experienced any obvious trauma it was necessary to find the reason for the fracture. An MRI at Children's Hospital detected a tumor which had weakened the bone to the point that it had broken under normal activity.

Naturally the family was concerned and prayers were going up everywhere for the little boy. Surgery was performed to remove the non malignant cyst, but the surgeon cautioned Canon's parents that it was quite possible that the tumor would recur. And recur it has.


They found in early July that the leg was broken a third time.

The close proximity of the tumor to the growth plate in the bone has necessitated prompt action to try to protect that important area of his little leg. And, as a result, Canon just underwent his third surgery for the same problem in the past two years.

He is home now, wearing a full leg cast, and getting around in a little pediatric wheel chair. If all goes well, in a couple of weeks he'll be back on his little walker.

That brings me back to prayer.

I'm not just talking about the intercessory prayer that our family and friends have sent up on behalf of Canon, but about his own prayer. Jay and Michelle have shared with all of their friends the words that Canon spoke on Friday evening as he began his bedtime prayers. Michelle says went like this:

"I have just been taught by my four yr old. As we prayed before bed tonight, he said "thank you God Jesus for my cast and my wheelchair and thank you for my surgery!" He is thanking God for the "negative" things in his life!"

In Matthew 21:16, Jesus said, “Have you never read: You have prepared praise from the mouths of children and nursing infants”?

Canon taught us all a pretty powerful theology lesson in his bed time prayer. Although he has never read 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, he did exactly what the Apostle tells us we should all do:

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Isn't it wonderful to see such a basic spiritual truth - even if it is taught to us by a four year old?

I want to be like Canon when I grow up!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why Can't We Just Rent These Things?

Well, I did it yesterday. I signed a contract to purchase my casket. It is very similar to the one pictured here.

Now please understand that I have no intention of using it anytime soon, but I think it prudent to prepare for the inevitable. And lets face it - nothing is more inevitable than death (Hebrews 9:27). Ironically, death is one of the most important facts of life, and the one for which we had best be prepared - physically and spiritually.

Linda and I began physical preparations for that final appointment several years ago when we purchased our mausoleum crypts at the cemetery high atop the top of the hill that overlooks our home and the nearby Ohio River. The decision to purchase the crypt, rather than traditional in ground burial plots, was not well received by our grown sons.

"A file cabinet?" one of them asked. "You're going to be buried in a file cabinet? WHY?"

The decision was a logical one in my humble opinion. First of all, it was cheaper. (I do like bargains - even those of the end of life variety). Another reason was that we had an excellent choice of interment spots, since the mausoleum was still in the construction phase when we made the decision to buy, and many of the most desirable spots were still available. Also, knowing how my boys understood my distaste for the never ending task of grass mowing, I thought they would surely understand the logic of my reasoning. After all, if I were buried in a regular cemetery lot, how could I ever rest in peace, with the knowledge that someone would have to mow the grass over me - again, and again, and again, and - well you get the picture! I also reminded the boys that, interred in the second row of crypts, I would have at least an 11 foot head start on other sleeping saints at the rapture.

In fact, I even used the subject of the rapture to witness to the cemetery sales person who wrote up our contract.

Linda and I had already decided it was time to make arrangements for our burials. The sales person seemed shocked when, while making a cold sales call, he heard me say, "Sure. Why don't you come over tonight?" He was at our door at 6:00 PM and was soon on his way "down the road to a sale". He must have been a new guy on the job, as he seemed somewhat nervous throughout the event. A few minutes into his pitch, I interrupted, "We want to buy, let's do it."

He explained that he HAD to go through his entire presentation, so we sat back and waited. We patiently listened to his sales spiel, and he finally came to the point where he asked us if we were ready to buy. That is when I decided to have a little fun with him.

"Can we just rent this thing?" I asked sincerely.

His reply was anticipated. "What?"

I repeated the question with the most serious facial expression I could muster. "Can we just rent this rather than buying?"

He finally admitted, "I don't understand."

That is when I explained to him that Linda and I were followers of Jesus Christ and that according to the Bible (1 Corinthians 15: 12-18 & 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18) the burial spot is not the final destination of the believer. Therefore, we would not need this crypt forever, just a temporary thing until Christ comes back for his church. They could then sell it again to someone who had been left behind.

"N-n-n-no", he stammered. "We can't rent them, you have to BUY one."

"Well, if we HAVE to, I guess we'll go ahead and take it", I sighed. So the deal was closed. We signed the contract for the crypt, the opening and closing costs, and the bronze plaque that identifies who's remains lie behind the white marble wall.

Yesterday's purchase of the coffin was the next step in making the physical preparations for death. Having ministered to many grieving families (75 of them just in the past 6 1/2 years) I have seen many cases where those left behind were forced to make difficult and very expensive decisions at the time of need - at the passing of their loved one. And that is precisely the time when they were least prepared to make those important decisions.

On the other hand, I have known many folks who had already made arrangements for their funeral details. It always seemed to be a comfort to their survivors that the loved one had taken care of those details. That is why Linda and I are making these arrangements now. While we both hope to be around here for a long time to come, we do not want our children to have to make those choices and face those expenses at the time of our home going. Our plan is to also purchase Linda's casket before the year is out.

Now I said all that about the physical preparations for our deaths to get to the point of the more important SPIRITUAL preparations. Thankfully, both of us made those preparations about forty years ago. We were convicted of the fact that we were sinful by nature, and that sin separates us from God. Unforgiven sin separates us from God permanently! We realized that apart from help from a greater power than our own, we were doomed to an eternal separation from God. So we came to grips with the aforementioned scripture - Hebrews 9:27-28 " He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation."

We turned from our paths to God's path and trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, and the deal was settled for time and eternity. Apart from Christ there is no hope. According to the Apostle Peter in Acts 4: 12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

I hope you have made such preparations. Not just for death, but for what comes next! If not, then by all means, come to Jesus. Do it today.

THAT is what is really important.

Then you can ask the big question to the cemetery sales person, or the casket salesman - "Can I just rent this thing? I'm not going to use it forever!"