Saturday, November 29, 2014

He's A Constant Reminder To Be "Latcherated"

The handsome young man pictured here is Canon Josiah Adkins.  (yep another C.J. Adkins).  Canon discovered America ten years ago today, at Oschner Medical Center in New Orleans.  On that day he was revealed to the world as the second son of Jay and Michelle Adkins, and the third grandson for Linda and I.

Every grandfather who is worth his salt loves his grandchildren and any reader of my blog or follower of my on Facebook or Instagram accounts has probably gathered that I have that characteristic, myself. I adore each of our five grandsons.  Each one so unique and special to me in different ways. Canon has a sweet loving spirit, and is tremendously gifted in musical ability and visual artistic talent. But that, alone is not what makes him so special to me.

Canon holds a special place in my life, and his birthday is always an occasion for celebration, introspection, and thanksgiving for me.  Not just because he was born just after the Thanksgiving holiday, but because of our family's  circumstances accompanying his birth.  Canon and his birthday are an important "marker" for me.

A decade ago, when Canon's birth was imminent ,Linda had flown to New Orleans to be there for the joyous occasion and to help out while Michelle was recovering from the C Section.  Little did Linda realize on that happy Monday, that just two days later, instead of caring for Jay and Michelle's family in the little parsonage on Avenue B in Westwego as planned,  she would be sitting with me in Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital here in Ashland, learning that I had a huge mass in my colon that was malignant.

A week later, my gifted Christian surgeon, Dr. Staten,  removed a three foot section of my intestines, a number of lymph nodes and took samples of my liver for biopsies.  The results of the biopsies and an accompanying MRI were staggering.  My malignancy was extremely aggressive and had metastasized from my colon to the lymph nodes and had invaded my liver with numerous tumors of various sizes. Dr. Staten told us that the malignancy had spread "all through my liver as though someone had sown grass seed".

The diagnosis was sobering.  "Stage Four.  Incurable.  Hopefully manageable for a while with aggressive chemotherapy. Average survival time, 18-22 months."

My friends know the rest of the story, and I will not take the time or space here to go into it again, but I mention it here today to give my Gracious God thanks for the wonderful medical care I received and for his His healing touch on my life.

The story doesn't end there, though.  About the time (according to the average statistics) that I was "supposed to die", at the age of two, Canon experienced an inexplicable fracture of one of the bones in his little leg.  Tests revealed the existence of a non malignant tumor in the bone. At that young age, this little guy had to endure a surgery to remove the tumor and get used to life in a cast and a wheel chair or pint sized walker.  Over the next four years Canon suffered a couple of other fractures to the bone and had a total of four more surgeries on the leg along with several bone grafts.

The little guy had a number of casts, special boots, used a little wheel chair and child sized walker off and on for four of the first six years of his life.  Finally, the doctor at New Orleans Children's Hospital pronounced that Canon's leg was sound.  The final bone graft had "taken" and that Canon could take part in any of  the physical activities that any 6 year old boy might want to do. His tumor has never returned.

One of my favorite stories about Canon involved when he was in the midst of his four year ordeal.  He had been working on some type of art work with crayons on a piece of paper in the family's living room.  With the paper in his hand, he limped into the kitchen where Michelle was working on dinner and called for her attention.

She stopped what she was doing and cast a look his way,  He pretended to be reading from the paper and said, "Our Agent Code is 'Latcherated'!"
""Latcherated?" Michelle said.  "What does that mean?"
 Canon, with a serious look on his face tacitly announced, "Never give up!"
With that, he turned and limped out of the kitchen to go back to his activities.

Over these past 10 years, Canon and I have both learned the importance of being "Latcherated".

I am still under the care of Oncologist Dr. Kirti Jain at the Ashland Bellefonte Cancer Center. I have my medi port flushed and lab work eone every three months.  I have scans done now once or twice a year (as opposed to quarterly like we use to do). I see Dr. Jain or his assistant three times a year.  He still resists giving me the status of "Cancer Free", but I remind him on each visit that one day I will, indeed, be cancer free. Only 15% of people with my type of cancer survive for five years, and yet, 10 years later, by God's grace I am still here, working every day, and enjoying watching my (now) FIVE grandsons grow into wonderful young men.

Whenever I see Canon's smiling face, and note how much he has grown, I am reminded of how much God has blessed me with 8 "bonus years" beyond my prognosis.  The tears of joy flow freely, and I thank Him for His blessings to me.

Lord willing, on Monday evening, I'll be taking Canon and his family out to "The Joint" for a belated birthday Barbecue dinner for "my little marker" and will share a special evening with the one who has helped teach me the joy of being  "Latcherated" .

Happy birthday little buddy.  See you Monday!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Are You A Good Soldier?

Next week we celebrate Veteran's Day here in the United States of America. It is a day set aside to honor our men and women who have served in the armed forces of our nation. Originally known as Armistice Day, the holiday was created to remember the Armistice agreement signed between Kaiser Wilhelm's German Army commanders and the leaders of the Allied Forces, which brought an end to World War I. The truce was signed 90 years ago this week on November 11, 1918, on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month".

In 1954, President Eisenhower signed the proclamation which changed the name of the holiday to Veteran's Day, honoring veterans of all wars - not just World War I.

At this time of year when we recognize and honor those who have served our country in military service, we can also draw parallels between the qualities of a member of the military who serves honorably, and those of us who are "soldiers of the cross". 

In 2 Timothy 2: 3-4  the Apostle Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy. Paul writes, "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier".

When one thinks about the qualities that make a good soldier - we should apply them to our lifestyle as a disciplined follower of Jesus Christ.

A Good Soldier is a Follower! This implies a relationship. Paul refers to us as being enlisted as soldiers for Jesus Christ. It also implies an soldier's understanding of rank. Each of us have our own place in formation. We understand our tasks. There are some who are under our responsibility and there are those who are over us. This also impliesrule. We understand that in the service, we are called to follow orders. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

A Good Soldier is Faithful. He must exhibit patience. Paul reminds us that we "must endure hardship as a good soldier. That patience comes from understanding ourpriorities. Our first priority is to "please the one who enlisted us". The soldier must thenpractice these principles of honor.

A Good Soldier is Familiar. He is familiar with the sound of the commander's voice. He knows those who outrank him and he follows their orders implicitly. He is also isfamiliar with the use of his weapon. Today's military has many sophisticated weapon systems but in the first century weapons of warfare were pretty basic. So is the equipment for the Christian Soldier. The Bible indicates our weaponry in the spiritual warfare in which we are enlisted. The whole armor of God starts with being gird about with Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the Gospel footwear, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6: 10-18). The Christian Soldier is also familiar with the strategy of the enemy and the strength of his comrades. We must be aware of the enemy and his strategy (2 Cor. 11:14 and 1 Peter 5:8-9). Like the military soldier, the Christian Soldier should be linked closely with his comrades in arms. We work as a unit, and in the heat of battle, no one should ever be left behind.

The Good Soldier is a Fighter. Our first General Order was, "I am an American fighting man. I am prepared to give my life for my country". A good soldier is determined to win the battle. He is driven by his devotion to his country and his commitment to following the orders of his superior officers. He is dedicated to the cause. Are we truly determined, dedicated, and driven in our service to our Lord? He deserves no less!

The Good Soldier is a Finisher. When my father joined the Navy in World War II, his agreed term of service was "for the duration, plus six months". He knew he would not be putting down his arms until the conflict was over. The good soldier has the resolve to finish the work. He has reason to do so. The primary reason is because it is his duty, but another great reason for finishing well is his reward. This is the reward of a job well done. Often medals and ribbons are given the military man for his service and valor. There is a special reward that the Christian Soldier can expect at the end of the war. Paul puts it this way in 2 Timothy 4: 7-8, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me on that day, and not to me only, but to all those who love His appearing."

Have you enlisted? Are you a Good Soldier for the Lord? The pay may not put you in the top tax bracket, but the retirement plan and benefits are "out of this world"!

I'll be preaching this Sunday morning at Wesmoreland Baptist Church in Huntington, about the "Qualities Of A Good Soldier"..  I'll use these two verses, as well as verses 8-13 to go more in depth to this subject.  If you don't have a home church, let me invite you to worship with us.  We're located at 3401 Hughes Street in Huntington, WV.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Exercise Your Franchise

Today, all across America, we citizens have the privilege that would make us the envy of millions of people around the globe.  We have the constitutionally protected right to go to the polling place and cast our ballot in free elections, devoid of government oppression or undue influence.

This morning I voted in the Elmwood-Hilltop precinct at the spot in the Charles Russell Elementrary School gymnasium, where I have voted in every election since we moved to Ashland, KY in April, 1980.

No one in power told me who I had to vote for, and unlike in  many totalitarian regimes, I had a choice. With the exception of two or three local offices there were two candidates from which to choose.  In most every case there was even opportunity to write in a candidate's name, if I was dissatisfied with the candidates presented on the ballot.  In my voting lifetime, I have been a registered Democrat, and I have been a registered Republican.  10 years ago, I decided that while I hold very strong political views, that I would not be officially tied to any political party, and I changed my registration to Independent.

I have always made it a practice to vote across party lines, with one exception.  One time (and one time only) I voted a straight party ticket.  There were reasons for how I cast my vote in that election, but as I said, that was only once, and it happened many years ago.

My voting decisions, in the privacy of the voting booth are not based on political or religious affiliations. They are not based on endorsements of a union, or church leader, or business group or PAC. They are not based on personality, charisma, or attractiveness of a candidate.  They are most certainly not made based on the shameful negative attack ads that flood the airwaves and my mailbox insulting my intelligence as an informed voter. My choices are based on a thoughtful and prayerfully considered conclusion based on my biblical world view, and a study of the issues and the candidates stated beliefs and track record.  As an American citizen I consider the economy.  I consider domestic issues.  I consider foreign policy.  I consider local issues, and basic human rights. Again, all as an outgrowth in in concert with my personal faith in Christ, who has called us believers to be salt and light in this world.

I hold dual citizenship.  Temporarily here in the greatest country on Earth and permanently in the Kingdom of God.  They are not the same thing, and they are not mutually exclusive, and I cherish them both.

I do not take my vote lightly, nor the privilege of having this opportunity.  Our founders ordained it.  There had to be course corrections along the way to grant equality among citizens to guarantee the right to vote to all Americans.  It's something that needs eternal vigilance to correct.inequities in voting rights whenever the need arises.

Why?  Because our Constitution grants it.  Because men and women have laid down their lives to purchase those rights, and to preserve them.

I wasn't happy this morning with every choice I had, but I was happy to HAVE a choice and the opportunity to be one guy blessed to have the right to cast my ballot.

If you are registered, I hope you have or will vote today.  If you are not registered, PLEASE, by all means, get to the court house tomorrow as soon as the books open again, and register to vote.

It's a privilege that millions would give their lives to have.

Take a moment to thank God you live in the greatest nation on Earth.  It's the best.  But it can be better.  Exercise your franchise.  Vote!.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Special Month For Giving Thanks

November is a special month to me in many ways.  I have always loved November.

Obviously November is “Thanksgiving month”, and I do have much to be thankful for – every  month, but certainly in November.

First there are the wonderful memories of growing up as part of a family who loved to get together at Thanksgiving time.  In our family, as I was growing up, we would generally drive to Mamaw and Papaw Stidham’s house in Logan, WV to celebrate the holiday with our Stidham cousins who lived close by, and some years with our Wilson cousins, who were able to come in from Texas.  It was always a joyous time, with a great Turkey and Ham feast, lots of fun for the kids to play together, and lots of laughter for the adults.

As my grandparents passed from the scene, and Linda and I were raising a family of our own, the holiday destination became “Hatfield and McCoy” territory along the WV/KY border at the home of her parents in Buskirk, KY.  Their large family would gather in, with some traveling hundreds of miles to be together at Thanksgiving.  Great food, fun and fellowship was the order of the day. Then, we would then usually celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday a day later with my Mom and Dad in Huntington.

Last Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad had dinner with us at our house in Ashland.  This year they are both with the Lord.

Those days are long gone now, but I cherish the memories more than I ever thought I might.

November also is the month when we celebrate the birthday of our 3rd Grandson, Canon, who was born in New Orleans in 2004.

Concurrent with his birth, it was also the very same week that I was diagnosed as having “Stage 4, Incurable Colon Cancer”.  My life changed drastically on that Monday after Thanksgiving, 2004.  We were told that the “average survival time” for my type of cancer and the stage it was in was 18 – 22 months.  Statistics showed that only 15 percent of patients in my category survive for five years.

This month I will celebrate my 10th year of survival.  Praise God for the miraculous healing He has granted me!

November is also the month when I was called in 2002 to serve the congregation of Westmoreland Baptist Church as Pastor.  Now, after twelve years, a cancer diagnosis, partial amputations, more than 1800 sermons, 21 weddings, 108 baptisms, countless hospital, nursing home, and other visits, and 140 funerals, I am still blessed to be the longest serving pastor in the ninety nine year history of this church.  The twelve years I have served this congregation have been the most precious of my 64 years on the planet,.

I am obviously thankful for my wonderful wife, children and grandchildren.  For my home, for my health, for my many friends, for opportunity to serve the state convention as president for two terms, for the opportunity to serve on the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees for eight years, for the 13 short term mission trips I have been able to make to the Philippines, as well as Disaster Relief trips and mission work in Canada.  I am thankful that I have had opportunity to serve the Lord in several churches in Kentucky and West Virginia, and to continue to serve what I believe to be the greatest church with the most precious people anywhere.  I am thankful for the fine staff members whom I have served along side of for these past twelve years.

I am thankful for a life of blessing as well as the challenges that came with them.

But I am most thankful for the personal relationship I have with the Sovereign God of the Universe, through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He has forgiven my sins… given me an abundant life of joy and peace here… and reserved a home in Glory, for me, FOREVER.

Yep.  I’m ready to celebrate Thanksgiving – on the specific holiday later this month – and the other 364 days of the year as well!

How about you?