Archive for August 2013

PTP Sidebar: The Six-Year-Old Inspector

August 31, 2013

Root Beer MugRecently, Bonnie and I, along with about 3,200 other Christians and their children, attended the weeklong Polishing the Pulpit program in Sevierville, Tennessee. One evening, Bonnie and I were eating supper at the Cracker Barrel restaurant. Unexpectedly, a seven-year-old little girl came up to Bonnie who was seated and immediately embraced her with a full bear hug; she was one of the sweethearts Bonnie had been teaching for several days. Tagging along with her was her six-year-old brother, also someone that Bonnie and I had been teaching daily. Abruptly, he said to me, “What is that you are drinking?” Surprised, I responded, “Root Beer.” “Beer,” he said, peering at my frosted mug and brown root beer bottle. Hastily, I replied, “It’s not beer! It’s not beer!” No sooner had I explained myself to the six-year-old inspector when he darted back to his own table, seeking validation of either his suspicion or my defense. He promptly asked his mother and father as well as his grandmother and grandfather, “Is it alright to drink root beer?” Then, he returned with his child’s cup in hand to show me what he was drinking.

I was innocent this time, but even small children are watching with examining little hearts and evaluating what they see in comparison to what they have been taught. Each of us needs to be careful with our Christian influence. Sometimes we are not innocent, are we?

The apostle Paul exhorted, “…be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV). Each of us needs to be able to say as Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). If we conscientiously behave ourselves as Christians ought to behave themselves, we and other faithful Christians can confidently exclaim, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17-18). After all, the apostle John exhorted concerning Jesus Christ, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Jesus left us an example that we might follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).

Whose little eyes are watching you? What example are you exhibiting?

2013 Polishing the Pulpit

August 30, 2013

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Bonnie and I arrived in the early afternoon at Polishing the Pulpit (PTP) on Saturday, August 24. Sevierville, Tennessee – adjacent to Pigeon Forge and not far from Gatlinburg – is a beautiful part of the country for sure. Whereas in former years we were able to enjoy some of the Smokey Mountain surroundings for a day or so following PTP, this year we crammed the weeklong activities between two of Bonnie’s chemotherapies. We were fully engaged during PTP and had to rush back to Mississippi to afford Bonnie her chemo on Friday morning.

Bonnie and I tended children of all ages each day. Bonnie assisted with 4- and 5-year-olds from as early as 7:45 a.m. to lunchtime. We, but especially Bonnie, presented a hands-on missions presentation for an hour each of two days; dozens of children pawed our exhibit and tasted the chapatti that Betty Choate had made for the occasion. Perhaps the one item that elicited the most interest from these little ones was The Voice of Truth International produced in Braille. Each morning I roved from class to class teaching Bible Geography to children as young as 4-year-olds up to 11-year-olds.

In the afternoons, Bonnie taught our program of Buckets of Bible Time, where youngsters are called upon to arrange in sequential order three red buckets labeled with “Patriarchy,” “Judaism” and “Christianity.” Then, they are asked to place three dimensional objects (e.g., cars, airplane, dinosaurs) and laminated cards depicting Bible characters in the appropriate buckets. The catch is that some characters belong in more than one time period (e.g., Moses, the apostles) and Jesus Christ does not belong in Christianity. In addition, Bonnie responded to the invitation to help out with children in the evening, too.

Afternoons from 1:30 p.m. until 4:15 p.m. or after, it was my sheer pleasure to assist other preachers who taught 21 budding young men from the ages of 10 to 14 how to prepare and to deliver a devotional. All of them did very well and deserve commendation; some did exceedingly well. One or two could easily serve as an “opening act” (to borrow a phrase from entertainment) preceding a keynote address by a seasoned brother at PTP in the future. I graduated somewhat in 2013 at PTP and was privileged additionally to have an adult class one evening. My assignment concerned the use of printed material in the mission field.

Between working with children, we did attend a few lectures, set up and managed our two display tables, and conversed with numerous people. Some of these brethren we only see at programs such as this, while others are our supporters and encouragers. We sold a few books, gave every budding preacher boy one or more books and distributed some The Voice of Truth International in two languages.

I spied a little tyke who may not have been potty trained yet, but who was an expert already with modern technology. He was mesmerized with a game on a cell phone. His little thumbs were working, and he was sliding his finger across the screen to manipulate the pictures. I was dumbfounded! Is there any hope for me?

The first snafu upon arriving at the Wilderness Hotel and Convention Center was learning that our lodging reservation had been cancelled and that there was no room in the inn. That we would not arrive on Friday was apparently not conveyed by PTP personnel to the hotel, and so staff there cancelled our reservation and gave our room to someone else when we were a “no show” on Friday. We were counting on being in the hotel so Bonnie could resort to the room for rest as needed. The hotel relented and rented us one of the two emergency rooms it had put back in case something went wrong. It seemed that we walked the length of a football field to an elevator that took us two floors below the main floor. Fifteen rooms are nestled in this subbasement adjacent to the loading dock and driveway for vending and laundry. Some bugs knew where our room was located even if housekeeping occasionally did not remember.

Whining aside, the accommodations were very much appreciated, and the hotel room at the convention center afforded Bonnie rest at lunchtime and supper each day, besides restful sleep. We ate two meals daily in our room and ate out once every day, twice as guests of the generosity of other brethren.

Thursday morning, Bonnie tended to small children until the conclusion of the PTP program. I packed our clothes, food and mobile office, and then loaded the car with those things. Next, I sat in on the speeches of seven of our young preacher prodigies as they made public presentations to parents and friends. Finally, Bonnie and I packed our displays and books for our return trip to Winona, MS. About 1 p.m. we pointed the limping Town & Country toward Mississippi. About eight hours later, we pulled into our driveway, positioned for a morning departure on Friday to get Bonnie to her next chemo appointment.

Tired, yes. Gratified, yes. Bonnie and I earnestly desire to serve the Lord to our fullest always in this life and as long as life persists and permits. Triage of looming efforts include contacting and confirming speakers for the April 2014 India Missions Conference, rent a car at the Pittsburgh, PA airport for our northeastern appointments in two weeks, purchase airline tickets for my fall mission trip to Myanmar (Burma) in October, work on Gospel Gazette Online for September and October, work on the next issue of The Voice of Truth International and bring it to fruition before departing for Asia, prepare my lessons for three weeks in Myanmar (four to six hours daily), prepare and rehearse sermons and classes for two congregations for which I will speak this weekend, mow the grass (it’s been four weeks), prepare six months of classes for Wednesday nights at the Siwell Rd. Church of Christ that commence upon my return from Asia, and try and deposit our bucking, sputtering van at a dealership for much needed nurture while away in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; yesterday, the car’s odometer exceeded 173,000 miles. Like me, some of its body parts don’t work right anymore!

I dare say that a few other more routine matters will cry for attention as well. We will triage one and all as needed. It is time for us to send another newsletter, but I’m not sure we can squeeze one out at this time. Thank you for your continued interest in our efforts to serve our Lord stateside and especially abroad.

PET Scan, Chemotherapy & a Journey

August 23, 2013

Thursday evening, we positioned ourselves at the Cabot Lodge Millsap, courtesy of the Siwell Church of Christ, so we would be refreshed and ready for a busy day that would begin and continue for several hours at the Baptist hospital in Jackson (MS). Bonnie and I were punctual at 7:30 a.m. Friday for her PET scan. By 10:00 a.m. Bonnie emerged from all of that, and we paused for about an hour, waiting for lunch venues at the hospital complex to open. We opted for the Atrium Grill, whereupon we each selected a cheeseburger, but we shared some fries. Bonnie and I retreated, via elevators and hallways, to the garden spot on which we happened before, to enjoy the sun and breeze while eating our lunch.

We made our way a few minutes later to her 11:50 a.m. chemotherapy appointment. After sampling of her blood for analysis, a little later we were led to the doctor’s office for examination and recitation of the findings of the PET scan. Bonnie’s blood work is excellent – exceptional and not typical for chemotherapy. The results of the PET scan were stellar – 100% negative without even any usual false positives. Bonnie is responding to chemo better than expected in every way. The side effects largely involve some tiredness, occasional nausea and “thinning” but not the loss of all of her hair. Consequently, Bonnie enjoys at least three-quarter days daily at the office, and she has resumed our stateside travels. She has been or will be teaching ladies’ classes and children’s classes.

After Bonnie’s chemo concluded today at about 2:30 p.m., we pointed the van toward Polishing the Pulpit (PTP) in Sevierville, TN – a seven and a half hour drive from Jackson, MS. As planned, we stopped for the night; we lodged in Gadsden, AL with plans on completing the trip on Saturday. Both Bonnie and I are fully engaged in various classes and the sort for the week.

The program ends on the following Thursday at about 12:30 p.m. Then, we will drive the return trip in one continuous jaunt back to Mississippi. That is so we can be back in Jackson, MS for Bonnie’s next chemo treatment by 8:40 a.m. on Friday.

During the days of PTP, Bonnie and I will teach children or in one case I have an adult class. If not too tired upon returning to our room around 9:00 p.m., we will continue to work on the next issue of The Voice of Truth International, which must be completed before I leave for Myanmar (Burma) on about the 3rd of October. So, while at PTP, I will try to book my airline tickets, too; I received a call today that my visa has been approved.

These are just some of the things that occupy the moments of our days. We get bored easily, and so we try to apply ourselves for the cause of Christ so that we never face boredom. We keep enough different things going simultaneously that if we tire of working on one thing, we just shift gears and work on something else. If by chance I would have some extra time on my hands, I need to work on the September issue of Gospel Gazette Online, lessons to be taught in Myanmar for three weeks in October and classes to be taught over the next six months on Wednesday evenings at the Siwell Rd. Church of Christ. For now, though, I need to focus on what is at hand – our PTP schedule. Our life is one of triage – meaning, “What’s next!”

P.S. Bonnie wanted me to include a heartfelt thank you for all of the prayers prayed that have been and are being answered on her behalf.

East Tennessee Outing #1

August 19, 2013

Bonnie and I arrived at the comfortable home of Robert and Barbara Wright on Saturday afternoon. Predictably and to our pleasure, Outback Steakhouse was our supper venue. We are indebted to brother and sister Wright for their tireless hospitality and participation with us in our ministry for our Lord.

Sunday morning, it was my pleasure to make our PowerPoint presentation about our 2012-2013 Mission Trips during the Bible class of the Central Church of Christ in Cleveland, TN. During worship, I preached Why Do the Churches of Christ Not Use Instrumental Music in Worship? This is a lesson needed periodically for a number of reasons (e.g., newer, younger generations need to be taught; all of us need to be reminded; central to the sermon is an emphasis on biblical authority and correct biblical interpretation as well as the relationship of the testaments to each other). We were well received by the minister, elders and members.

After morning worship, we accompanied the Wrights to lunch at Olive Garden – our second visit to the chain in three days, when we haven’t visited it previously for maybe a year or so. We finally found a meal there that we really like – and like to divide between the two of us. Also present for lunch was brother Scott Medlin, deacon of missions.

Bonnie and I spent the afternoon relaxing at the Wright home prior to making our way to our next appointment. Immediately before parting company with them, they treated us to pie. When brethren spend time together, they eat! We have found this to be true stateside and abroad.

Bonnie and I arrived at the meetinghouse of the Ooltewah Church of Christ around 5:30 p.m. in preparation for 6 p.m. worship. As usual, Bonnie set out the display and gifts of tracts, books, newsletters, magazines, etc., while I set up PowerPoint equipment in the auditorium. Once more, I narrated our 2012-2013 Mission Trips. Brethren here, too, were ever so kind to us. Then, we supped with Winston and Cathy Stringfield in their home, where we also lodged for the night.

Both congregations and members from both congregations not only encourage us greatly, but they make it possible for Bonnie and me to do what we do for the Lord by their financial participation. We are extremely grateful for each member of both churches.

Monday, we spent all day driving back to Winona, MS. We had completed a big, big circle when we passed the Natchez Trace junction with US 82. We have a short week in Winona, as we leave Thursday afternoon for Jackson, MS in preparation for an early morning PET scan for Bonnie, followed by her chemo treatment. Then, we will head back to Tennessee for the Polishing the Pulpit program, in which both of us will be participating. Therefore, Tuesday through Thursday, we will be preparing for our trip, to include packing the van with books, magazines and displays. This weekend was East Tennessee Outing #1, which will be followed on the next weekend with East Tennessee Outing #2 for August 2013.

It is no wonder that our poor car is blinking dash lights at us and bucking a little; one would think we were sailing instead of driving as we are taking on (AC) water, too, and the local garage cannot correct that issue. I suppose at about 172,000 miles we can expect the repair list to increase from time to time. Bonnie and I may be slowed a smidgen with her illness, and our car too with wear and tear, but we and our Gospel chariot will persevere until the end.

Working Lunch & More

August 16, 2013

India Missions ConferenceFriday morning, Bonnie and I left Winona, MS at 8:25 a.m., bound first for Florence, AL. That was over a three and a half hour drive. It was our purpose to meet up with Janet and Wayne Barrier, which we did at noon for lunch at the Olive Garden restaurant. The occasion of our get-together was to plug into the schedule the speaker names for the 2014 India Missions Conference. The World Evangelism Team, of which the Barriers, others and we are a part, has accepted responsibility for hosting the next India Missions Conference.

First things first, though. We had a sumptuous meal with pleasant company; Bonnie and I shared an Italian sampler of lasagna, parmesan chicken and creamy fettuccine. The male server excelled, too – even bringing us fresh drinks and finally to-go cups an hour after we had finished our meals and paid for them, too. Essentially, we monopolized the table after eating, turning it into a workstation.

It took quite a while to fill in the schedule on which previously World Evangelism Team Members had agreed at our annual meeting a few weeks ago. In addition, we had whittled down potential speakers to a pool with which we were working today. The next undertaking will be to invite the various speakers and attempt to confirm their participation in the various slots as speakers, panelists, moderators and master of ceremonies.

Before parting from the parking lot, we delivered two packages to the Barriers, one of which was a case of Global Harvest magazine. Afterward, Bonnie and I pointed the car toward Cleveland, TN, where we will lodge Saturday evening with brother Robert and sister Barbara Wright; each year, they graciously open their home to us and extend the sweetest hospitality to Bonnie and me. Sunday morning, I will speak during the Bible class and worship for the Central Church of Christ. That evening, I will speak for the Ooltewah, TN Church of Christ, and we will lodge Sunday with our dear friends, brother Winston and sister Cathy Stringfield.

Friday night, though, we are lodging at the Best Western in Huntsville, AL. We ate supper at Jason’s Deli, a chain restaurant with which we were not familiar. It turned out to be an excellent choice! The sandwich we shared was superb, only out performed by the exceedingly friendly good service of every employee we encountered. That was a far cry from the interaction I had with a Wal-Mart employee a couple of days before in Mississippi, when I inquired about the price of a HP Photosmart printer; the pricing was neither on the shelf nor on the box, which was high on the top shelf. The “associate” told me to take the box to a counter and have the price checked; the item yet sits where I found it, and it can sit there forever as far as I am concerned. It is always a delight to find persons who decide to own their jobs and serve both their employers and the customers in an admirable way. My confidence was restored and bolstered today at Olive Garden and Jason’s Deli.

We are at rest. Tomorrow, we resume our journey. We pray for safety on our trip and hope that the car doesn’t strand us. The engine light is on, and the Town & Country van jerks and bucks. Of course, something is whining as well, and has done so now for two years. In addition, the air conditioner is leaking inside on the floor at Bonnie’s feet. We attempted three times to have the AC problem fixed in Winona, but to no avail. We tried to have the engine light, jerking and AC problems addressed at a Chrysler dealer on Monday, but the shop wanted me to drop the car off so that maybe on Wednesday someone could look into the problems, and that days after that perhaps it could be repaired; they were willing to rent me a car! Subsequently, we tried again to have these problems addressed in Winona, but unsuccessfully. Somewhere along the line, between travels and not in the county where we live, we need to leave the car with a Chrysler dealer. The Town & Country has over 171,000 miles on it, and little things (and maybe some expensive things also) are breaking down. We kept the last car 10 years, but we are wearing this one out more quickly with our extensive travels. We prayed for the last car every time we went on a trip, and it must be about time to start praying for this one, too!

Bonnie is doing well; she always has fallen asleep if not doing something as we ride along the highways, but our drive affords her ample opportunity between respites to rest and recharge. The real rest for which we both long is in heaven – eternally.

Brown Gravely Cuts through Forest and Ample Kudzu

August 15, 2013

Bonnie Teaching LadiesMembers from several congregations of the Lord’s church convened Thursday, August 15 for the last session of special classes hosted by the Old Union Church of Christ (Carroll County, MS). Natural for brethren, we hand a finger foods meal preceding these studies; that’s how Christians paint the town red, so to speak. A good time for members of the church involves spending time together, and eventually we get around to eating (often more “feasting” than “fasting”!).

There were two parallel classes – one for the men and one for the women. The ladies had been using Bonnie’s book, Living Principles. Tonight, they had asked her to teach it. The men studied some of the parables of our Lord; the instructors were two youngish Christian men who had never previously taught adults, but they did well. I expect that they will continue in many ways to hone their skills and become even more valuable to the Old Union Church of Christ.

The setting for the Old Union congregation possesses the appeal of a retreat. It is set way back in the woods, accessible via several brown gravely cuts through forest and ample kudzu. Sitting around tables, face to face, each class felt at ease and many attendees discussed freely the lessons and applications under consideration. It was a good occasion from every perspective. May God be glorified and his children uplifted as well as encouraged in the Christian faith.

Accidentally Watered the Artificial Plant – at Church!

August 11, 2013

water fountainOur appointment Sunday morning, August 11 was with the Charleston, MS Church of Christ – not a very far jaunt from where we live. Within an hour of leaving Winona we arrived early at the meetinghouse; we always try to arrive about half an hour early so we can be among the first in the doors permitting us to prepare literature giveaways and set up the projector and the laptop.

It was our pleasure again this year to worship with this small congregation. Though few in number, they are big in heart when it comes to their encouragement and financial participation with Bonnie and me in our mission work.

For Bible class, I made the PowerPoint presentation covering foreign mission trips in parts of 2012 and 2013. During worship, I preached Why Do the Churches of Christ Not Use Instrumental Music in Worship? Following the assembly, we enjoyed fellowship and a potluck meal. After that, we all concluded with a devotional before parting from the building.

On one of the occasions that I visited the water fountain in the foyer to wet my throat for speaking, I had a minor mishap. One never knows what to expect upon depressing the button on a water cooler. Sometimes the flow is so pitifully meager that one would nearly need to give mouth-to-mouth to the orifice to obtain sufficient moisture. This time, though, the stream was robust – shooting far, far away – watering the artificial plant in the corner of the vestibule! The first press of the button was just to see where the stream would go and what I had to work with to get a drink. The second push of the button, with a little timidity, was timed to get my face in front of the burst of water, and yet not desiring to wash either my face or my hair at that time and in that place. Pet peeves often amass, but this was one of those surprising moments of amusement, and in a place and on an occasion unexpected.