Thursday, November 27, 2008


Well, we are on the road again. It's Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and we are on the road to our youngest daughter's in Arkansas for the celebration with the whole tribe of eleven. On the way as I had planned our trip I had noted that Mike Huckabee was to be doing a book signing in Little Rock between 6 and 8 p.m., and it was on our way, so I thought that it would be an opportunity to connect with my "friend" after a few years.

Governor Mike and I had some early ministry experiences together before he began his political career. He was working with an evangelistic ministry when I was pastoring in Arkansas, and during crusade planning he came to my area and we spent some time together, getting ready for the event. I had also known him as a fellow Arkansas pastor, prior to our call and departure to Asia as missionaries in 1982. The next and final time we connected was at the time our youngest started college at Ouachita Baptist University in 1995, for his son began at the same time. At that time he was Lieutenant Governor.

We have been following faithfully his career and had hoped that he could have claimed the nomination as President. Most recently we have watched his new program on the FOX Network and have been pleased with the very positive agenda. When news of his latest book, "Do the Right Thing", was released with the tour to promote, I had hoped to be able to be near enough to see him again. Well, WALLA, it happened.

We arrived at Barnes and Noble a few minutes after 7 p.m., expecting to find a parking lot and lines so crowded that we would have to wait a while. Imagine our joy to find that we were able to get in very quickly and even have a brief few moments to share an update. With his, "I Know You!" We managed a few interchanges, sharing retirement plans, a quick greeting from my daughter, and we continued our journey, with "Do the Right Thing" in my hand.

As I reflect on the title and its thesis about taking "America up rather than down", I am convinced of the rightness of his thrust, for it is such a thrust that Scripture challenges us in every day's living. In the words of Paul, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9)

The problem with "America Politic" is that we think we cannot succeed unless we step aside from what is right. An old adage I remember says, "two wrongs don't make a right!" You don't marry right and wrong, or attempt to accomplish a righteous end with unrighteous action. There is no peace nor success in such.

Thanks, Governor and Friend Mike, for the reminder.

Be encouraged, my brothers and sisters, from today. Have a blessed THANKSGIVING!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Will the Real William Brewster Please Stand Up?

I stood in a one room “clapboard” house and looked around. The inside walls were sealed with a combination of straw and mud to keep out the cold and keep in the heat. A fire on an open hearth made of hardened mud and clay to radiate the heat, was being used to cook the simple meal of meat “pudding” wrapped in what was described as pork intestines. It looked, for all intentional purposes, like modern day sausage links. The house had a thatched roof, but the interior was furnished with some very out-of-place furniture we were told came with them aboard ship from England some seven years prior. Many other things were homemade. Sitting near the fire was a man who appeared to be in his forties, dressed in what might have stepped off of a Shakespearian stage. I asked him what his name was and he replied, “William Brewster”. Immediately, my mind opened a file of remembrance from my readings about the colony I seemed to be “experiencing” at the moment.

“…William Brewster more than any man was entitled to be called the Founder of the Pilgrim Church. It originated in his house at Scrooby, where he was born in 1566, and he sacrificed everything for it. He was elder of the church at Leyden and Plymouth, and served it also as minister for some time after going out. Through troubles, trials, and adversity, he stood by the Plymouth flocks, and when his followers were in peril and perplexity, worn and almost hopeless through fear and suffering, he kept a stout heart and bade them be of good cheer. Bradford has borne touching testimony to the personal attributes of his friend, who, he tells us, was "qualified above many," and of whom he writes that "he was wise and discrete, and well-spoken, having a grave and deliberate utterance, of a very cheerful spirit, very sociable and pleasant among his friends, of an humble and modest mind, of a peaceable disposition, under-valuing himself and his own abilities and sometimes over-valuing others, inoffensive and innocent in his life and conversation, which gained him the love of those without, as well as those within."
Of William Brewster it has been truly said that until his death, on April 16, 1644, his hand was never lifted from Pilgrim history. He shaped the counsels of his colleagues, helped to mould their policy, safeguarded their liberties, and kept in check tendencies towards religious bigotry and oppression. He tolerated differences, but put down wrangling and dissension, and promoted to the best of his power the strength and purity of public and private life. Mary Brewster, wife of William, who went out with him, died before 1627…”
As I engaged him further in dialogue, I mentioned my own interest in drama and portrayals, and he stared blankly at me as though hearing but not understanding where I was “coming from” and as if to reaffirm his own identity, in truth. I realized, of course, that in order to portray the real William Brewster, he had to be, in mind and thought, as well as, in surroundings, William Brewster. As I watched him and listened to his tale of their seven years of survival in the new world I was captured at how well he communicated the disposition and spirit of the man I had read about.

In and out of other houses scattered within the rudely constructed “fort”, the other inhabitants were equally compliant with their roles and the explaining of their daily life, not just in talk but in action, for they were engaged in the very hard labor of keeping the village in shape, whether hewing of timbers, repairing a thatched roof, or hulling of walnuts, of which the young lady answered my unasked question, “I think I left them too long to dry.” Their speech, clothing, everything , left you with no doubt but that they were the Pilgrims, who, after seven hard years, were the survivors of the famous Mayflower which arrived in Cape Cod in 1620.

REFLECTIONS: I have alluded to this theme before in my previous blogs, but it continues to bear repeating, I believe, and is a singular need that every child of God must realize, if we are to ever capture that which has so captured us.

Paul says it thusly: “…I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the high call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…” (Philippians 3:12-15)

The Pilgrims came to this land for religious freedom from the oppressive state church persecution. They did so at great sacrifice of life. The Plimoth Plantation, as it is called, is a reenactment of that colony, to share and keep alive a bit of history that is the foundation of our land and life. I commend them for their excellent portrayals and immersion into the life and times of William Brewster and others with him. Because of that beginning, we continue to have religious freedom still not fully experienced in the rest of the world, but sadly, not portrayed by the spirit and disposition of even the most evangelical and conservative of Christian believers. Now, herein is my point, and what I believe Paul is bringing as a challenge to our “modern” day Christianity. Yes, and William Brewster, too.

We don’t have to put on a 1620 period costume, with its Shakespearian accented speech, or live in a hovel of poverty to portray that which has “apprehended” or captured us. We must, however, follow the spirit and action of our Saviour, continuing to immerse ourselves in Him, capturing daily more and more of His mind and will and way – for it is for this purpose His Spirit has captured us and made us a part of His family. We do not have to flee this land to experience such, but we do have to so live a life that portrays Him, even in the midst of, often, an unwelcome society that seeks to pull us out of character. The William Brewster I met stayed in the character of his task. We must ever stay in the Character of our Lord in a similar manner.

Well, I pray I have whetted your appetite in your own hunger for our Lord. Brother Brewster, please pass me a piece of that meat “pudding”, will you?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The movie “Somewhere in Time”, which starred Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour, had a story line that followed a playwright on a mental journey which transported him back to a past before he was born. The method used was complete separation from all reminders of the present and a self-induced trance in which he continued repeating and thinking only that he was indeed there. Result. He woke up to find himself experiencing that “in reality”, according to the script, of course. A good, thought provoking, though obvious science fictional story.

I relate this to share my own experience of the last few days in Northborough MA. We had been invited to come and portray Luther Rice and his sister Sarah. Read my last blog “On the Road Again” for some of the details of this. In that I mentioned that we would be staying in Rice’s birthplace. Well, we have, and herein is my “somewhere in time” experience. As I sit in the more formal living room at a desk that could have been deposited here from the early 1800s and look around, I can almost feel myself transported. Being acquainted intensely with Luther Rice during this last year’s numerous presentations, I find myself immersed in his character and almost his thoughts as I attempt to portray him to those who would learn of his life, Christian heritage and strong missions commitment. It has been the ideal preparation ground for the three presentations I have made over the course of the three days.

I’ve heard comments which express that I was able to “transport” them “back in time” with a feeling that they were actually hearing Luther Rice himself. There is nothing better by way of compliment than this for one playing such a meaningful character. It continues to affirm our preparations and “immersion” into the life and character of the personalities we portray.

As I study on this matter of “immersing” myself in such characters in our drama ministry, it occurs to me that we are taught in Scripture that this is the process which needs to take place in our relationship with Christ. The mind is a marvelous thing, because, though we are surrounded by things that are far removed from His life and character, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to into “our closet” alone with Him, regardless of our physical surroundings or circumstances. It must be in this intimate contact with Him through prayer, His Word, and the Holy Spirit, that we “immerse” ourselves in Him, His character, His thoughts, His will and His way. The result, others will be able to see Him truly and by this, have the opportunity to have the Holy Spirit convict and draw them to Him.

I have seen many who have done so, and my response to them is that they have truly shown me Jesus in their lives, for His character and nature lives truly through their actions, attitudes, and words. Such a witness will not go without fruit as it is consistently given.

Be encouraged in your own “immersion” into the life and character of our Lord.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On The Road Again

This week we are heading into unknown territory. Our Drama Ministry, "Living Portraits", has been asked to portray Luther Rice, one of the first foreign missionaries to ever be commissioned in the United States. He, along with Adoniram Judson and others, were sent out in 1812 to brave the elements of travel for months on board ship, then to the country of India initially. From there their courses separated. The Judsons went on to be the first missionaries in Burma, and Rice, who was and would remain unmarried, returned to the states to begin enlisting support for them and others who would spend their lives in missionary service. His life long work of travel all over the early U. S. would lay the foundation for a cooperative missionary advance that remains until the present, and which has over 5000 missionaries serving world wide. We will be staying in his "home", hosting in period costume a reception for the messengers of the New England Baptist Convention meeting near Boston MA, speaking as Rice at the convention and at a celebration banquet. I, of course, will be portraying Luther Rice and since he was single, Virginia will be portraying his sister Sarah. Needless to say, we are excited about the prospects of this trip and seeing some country we have not seen before.

Haven't heard of our Drama Ministry? Well, for about 12 years now, we have been portraying a variety of historical characters in schools, churches, nursing homes, colleges, well, wherever we can get a hearing. With such personalities as George and Martha Washington and Mark Twain and Olivia, we are able to bring history to life in public schools. With missionaries such as William Carey, Lottie Moon, George Mueller, Annie Armstrong and others such as Fanny Crosby, John Newton, Horatio Spafford, whose hymns are well known, we are able to put "faces" on history in a way that the printed page cannot. We believe that such a medium can do much in a society where minds are already "tuned" to visuals for learning. As George Washington, for instance, I teach moral truths such as honesty, obedience, studying to be the best one can be, and loving one's country and others. I have received letters addressed to "George" and the students recall, not my exploits in the Revolution or with Indians, but the "four lessons" I taught them. So, in a way, I pray we are making some major impact on young and "old" lives.

It reminds me of an important truth for Christians. We who have Christ in our hearts truly have a ministry of "dramatic" presentation wherever we go. We are to portray His life through every moment of ours. The world is our stage and they are watching every "act" to absorb it as truth or just another "bit of entertainment" that's not "for everyone's taste"! Get my meaning?

Be encouraged today, and pray for us as we travel.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

War Chief Kungfu Panda "Jim"

Before you read this blog, make sure you read the last one. I did it this morning also and I believe it has some merit - I hope it does!

Now, today has begun on somewhat of a new note as I came to the office. A co-worker brought a picture of "War Chief Kungfu Panda", the totem name I adopted from our mission trip to Wyoming this past July. Our team of 34 each had totem names we gave them to describe their character or tasks. We had a lot of fun with it. Well, as leader of the "tribe" I got to be the chief. I was really privileged to have our missionary in residence there - make me a war bonnet - which he brought to me last month when they came back for a visit. Well, if you knew me like some know me, you'd know I needed to find a way to use the headdress in a presentation. I did so at our annual meeting of churches last month. I used it to introduce my sermon and speak about our mission to the reservation in Wyoming. You will see in the picture I am holding a curved stick in my hand. That is called a "coup stick" and its purpose in the hands of a Cheyenne warrior was to bravely risk his life in riding close enough to an enemy to strike a blow but leave him unharmed and alive. In this way he showed his superiority without shedding blood. He was said to have "counted coup". Our missionary host, true to his craft in recreating such items native to the people with whom he works, made one for our team, with this admonition and affirmation. We had "counting coup" on the devil by our work with the people there, and the feathers were a testimony of such. Of course, we cannot hope to kill him for that is left in the hands of our great Lord. But we can show His power through our work and "count coup" each time we do. Our challenge was to return next year and bring the "coup stick" back for some added feathers!

Oh that we each day would risk ourselves in the service of our Lord, as we share His gospel and the freedom He brings to all who would believe and receive Him as Lord and Saviour. We could "count" a lot of "coup" each and every day!

An Emancipation Proclamation - Come Full Circle

I'm still dwelling on the events and aftermath of the campaign we have just experienced. Some real lessons worth "getting a handle on" while they are fresh in the mind. I hope I can adequately report and interpret them.

Yes, many lost an election because their candidate received less votes, but that is the way and why of our democratic process. That's what makes America so unique in our world. And when you win, it's not just one campaign's turn at bat, but everyone's new position on the team, whether in the batting lineup or in the field. When the one at bat scores, he does so for the whole team. In America we are all on the same team.

I'm not a real fan of "The View" for I believe many times the comments given for wise counsel to the viewers is very uninformed about the issues. I did pick up on the recent post-election segment when Elizabeth Hasselbeck shared what they reported was a change in her view. I beg to differ. When she expressed that she had fought hard for McCain, but now was "feeling good" about the outcome for what it said about the country's embracing (my word) the first black president, she was expressing the true Christian sentiment about how all should feel with such processes. Some comments made in reaction, like "oh, so you're saying we were right all along" miss the whole point of her sharing and deeper feelings about what has occurred. It makes me wonder if the "shoe were on the other foot", if her grace of acceptance and joy would have been worn equally well by the others. A report I heard of the occurances at a high school, where the police had to be called, also gives my mind an additional turn. It seems that black students, reacting to their candidate's win, went through the halls shouting, creating havoc, turning lockers over, etc., with cries that "we are taking over", had to have the police called in to bring order. Now, having joy over the win and expressing such is understandable, but to do so by "trading places with the perceived master" is not what America "coming of age" is all about. It's to be expected that there will be a new feeling of "arrival" that has been too long in coming, but I adjure my brothers and sisters of every color, that trading one oppression for the experience of another is not the answer to a nation becoming a mature example for the world. I've lived in other countries, and the seesawing of power brokers who took such approaches kept those countries in a constant state of conflict. May we not slide down that "slippery slope" of competitive conflict. We are ONE nation so let us be ONE!

Now, just another thought or two that occurred to me as I considered the election's results, and how it applies directly to me and you. I am not putting President Elect Obama on the same level as Lincoln, for he is yet to be proved in that vein, and needs our prayer that if such be his claim, we will help him achieve it for the good of the nation. It is interesting to note that Illinois was the ground of both their political initiations. Further, that the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln's administration set forth, now seems to have come full circle with a representative son achieving Lincoln's seat of leadership. Indeed, a reason for rejoicing. What was a proclamation has become, at least in this offering, a symbolic implementation. I say symbolic, for it is so far only one man's rise. It must now be modeled in every citizen's character and decorum of life, whether black or white or any other beautiful distinction that makes up the land we love.

Elizabeth, I feel good, too! Thanks for reminding me!

Be encouraged today, all day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Time of Significance

I watched the final moments of the growing anticipation as one by one the states revealed the results of their election votes for a new president elect. I watched as the numbers grew on both sides of the "aisle" and saw how the candidate for whom I did not vote steadily increase his lead to the fateful 270 figure required for election. I watched and listened to the concession speech of my candidate, as he graciously called for the nation to put the campaign to rest and awaken a new movement of unity and support for his rival, now his "president-elect". I watched the crowd in Chicago as they stood waving their American flags and cheering the news that their candidate had won, and heard the report that at my candidate's address, they, too, cheered him for his words.

A time of significance. Perhaps the most historic campaign of record in many a year, for many reasons.

And then I watched as the camera "zeroed in" on a face I recognized in the crowd in Chicago. Gratefully, without newcaster's comment, the camera stayed for a moment, capturing a "time of significance" that perhaps I may never feel in the same way that one felt and showed in his expression. Oh, I want to understand it and feel it, for it embodies the very soul of who we need to be as blessed children of our God.

What was this "time of significance"? It was the face of Rev. Jesse Jackson, caught in the emotion of the moment, as he stood alone in the crowd, with tears streaming down his face at the announcement of Obama's victory. This brother in Christ, certainly happy at the news, revealed a far deeper emotion than a mere election win. I know that flooding his thoughts was what this time meant for the whole of his race, as they had finally come from the very lowest of states, from the inhumanity of slavery, to the very highest office of the land. And though he was not my choice, now he would be my president, too, and I rejoice for this time of significance.

As I reflect further on the impassioned tears I watched, I am reminded that perhaps the deeper emotion and its significance can be mine indeed. Was I not a slave, sold by sin's bondage, until one day, through the greatest campaign ever waged on earth, I was able to stand, not as a president elect, but as one who would rule with the King of Kings! Tears of gratitude, tears of joy, tears without words to describe, should flood my eyes at such a rise from insignificance to significance in the heart and mind of God.

Take heart, my brothers and sisters, our God is still on the throne. He reigns and rules regardless of who wins an earthly position. May He reign and rule in our hearts and in that of our new president elect, Barack Obama.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Another Major Transition

Life is filled with transitions. Much of it we don't even think about. We grow up moving from one thought to another, from one interest to another, from one friend to another, from one place to another...well, you get the picture. Our minds and our bodies are in a constant state of movement. Well, when you think about it, the other option is in six foot hole! We're moving up, and out, and hopefully, in every way, improving our now and tomorrow, as well.

I've been reflecting on my retirement lately, and looking back over the 44 years I have been in the ministry, I am amazed at the ride! With what has happened just this week, I've begun to count up the number of physical moves I've had and how far it has taken me. In summary, we've lived in 5 states and 2 foreign countries and with our retirement next month, we will have moved a total of 24 times. In that time, we've owned 2 homes for a total of 14 years, leaving 30 years for the other 22 moves. Somehow, I thought we stayed longer than that each time, but I checked my figures, and that's correct. The bottom changes so really don't know where the time went!

Well, now we're about to make what we have been saying is our final move. Well, no, for we fully expect and look forward to our new home in heaven. We've already arranged for that transition, and the home there was purchased, Praise the Lord, for us by Christ on the cross! But until that time comes when we move in, we've just put a contract on another home, where we will make another major transition in just about 2 months, and we do look forward to it.

Ah, transitions!

Now, back to reality of now! We've a job to do getting this house ready to receive someone else's next transition. Pray for a speedy transition from this place to the next. Thanks!