Bethel Baptist Association

Linden, Alabama

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Brother Bobby's Articles

Bethel Baptist Association News
In The Alabama Baptist
March 11, 2010  April 12, 2017
April 12, 2017 
 

The other day, I realized that I missed my daily father-son talks with Aaron while taking him to school each morning.  It was fun sitting with him at McDonalds in Jemison munching on breakfast and listening to the morning conversations of the “coffee shop” old men.  Most of them have passed into eternity and Aaron eats breakfast somewhere around Mount Belleview, Texas.  On February 11, 1999, I had an inspiration to write a poem about the “coffee shop” men.

“OVER A BILLION TOLD”

Each morning they gather around the table, To tell jokes, lies, and fables.

Each man is an expert in solving the problems of life, But each one admits he does not understand his wife.

Yesterday they were the best, Today they cannot do very much without taking a rest.

Their topic changes each morning, It’s grandkids or the weather and how they change without warning.

Today it was fishing and the one that got away, Tomorrow it may be a friend or family member that passed away.

They discuss the younger generation’s tattoos, body piercing, and pants too far down, And they laugh of their youthful folly of stealing watermelons, drinking rotgut whiskey, and drag racing through town.

It’s fun to know each man and share the start of the day, Realizing one morning I will be that way.

They have paid their dues and earned respect, To spend each morning talking in retrospect.

There is Mr. Blankenship, Seymour, and Mr. Thrash, Sharing friendship with Bobby, J.W., and Mr. Glass.

Many more will come and with their joy be entertained, Whether the day starts with sunshine or whether it has rained.

So in the morning if you want a smile from the men of old, Go to the restaurant in Jemison where lies, over a 100 billion, will be told.

 

“Coffee Shop” conversations are scattered all through God’s Word.  There is the conversation of the Angels with Abraham, Baalam and his donkey, Jesus and the woman at the well, and Jesus and Zacchaeus. One of my favorite television programs, The Andy Griffith Show had Floyd’s barbershop.  The favorite coffee shop at the cement plant was the kiln control room.  There are plenty of conversations, inspired sometimes by the scandal sheets, at the Walmart checkout, both lanes!  Another great place is Papas’ Meat department in Linden.

Most conversations will have God in them regardless if it is the latest on President Trump, Alabama’s own honorable Jeff Sessions, the latest piece of juicy news, a spicy novel, or whatever. 

Each day, I engage in conversations.  Some people kid me about having banking hours when I arrive late at the office.  I tell them that I have been working and receive pay to talk and engage in conversation.  A preacher friend of mind once told me concerning the small town of Linden and everyone knowing me.  He said, “You are a big fish in a small pond.”

The inspiration for this article was one by Dr. Timothy George, one of my professors of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University.  In an Article, “Can We Talk?” Dr. George writes:

 

Conversations can be deep or shallow, casual or serious, but they invariably take place as an encounter between an “I” and a “thou.” They happen at a level of verbal engagement when we have moved beyond the formal courtesies of cordiality—Good morning! Have a nice day! How’s the weather looking?—and reached the point of listening and responding to another person. One-way monologues are not conversations. They are soliloquies.

 

Dr. George said that Pope Francis has recently identified dialogue and listening as two essential components in breaking down walls of misunderstanding:

 

Problems grow, misunderstandings and divisions grow, when there is no dialogue. A condition of dialogue is the capacity to listen, which, unfortunately, is not very common. … The attitude of listening, of which God is the model, spurs us to pull down walls of misunderstandings, and to create bridges of communication, overcoming isolation and closure in one’s small world.

 

We cannot fully understand the impact of our conversations.  That is the reason as we share the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, the world is coming to us.  Let us share God with those we meet.  The example of a maid servant is a great inspiration for us to share.

 

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.  And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.  And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his Lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel (2 Kings 5: 1-4 KJV)

 
March 22, 2017
 

Good News is Always a Tonic for the Soul

 

One day I thought of something funny and I smiled.  Aaron and Sharon wanted to know why I was smiling.  Knowing that it was probably not funny to them I said, “I had a thought of a private nature.”  That intrigued them more.

I don’t know why, but I have been questioned many times through the years as why I was smiling.  One time at one of my former pastorates, a deacon with a solemn look said he wanted to talk.  Now, after thirty-four years in the ministry I have learned that when a deacon wants to talk to the pastor, it is not good news.  It is usually after a sermon that did not sit too well with a member, or the deacon, and they want set the preacher straight.  That is why I have always tried to study and preach sound Biblical principles and not preach personal soapbox sermons or be a bully in the pulpit.

The deacon that wanted to talk was also a member of the pulpit committee that recommended to the church.  I had been what we call “around the block a few times with people wanting to speak with me so I said, “Sure.”  He came to the house for the “talk” and we spoke outside to make it of a private nature.

One of the church members had a mother that was very sick.  Her mother would die with a few weeks.  The person complained to the deacon that I was insensitive.  She told the minister of discipline, that is the deacon, that I smiled the whole time she was pouring out her heart to me.  Those of you that know me know I grin, or have a crooked smile, a lot.  People do, as did Sharon and Aaron, want to know why I am grinning.  There is no reason other than it takes less muscles to grin than frown.  Most people in my lifetime use a very crude adjective to go along with grin.  It is also amazing how many people, including coaches, supervisors, upset friends, and yes, even relatives become very angry when you grin as they are chew you up or tearing you down.  It really upsets folks and they have told me in no uncertain that were going to wipe that “grin” off my face.  I just keep on grinning, which upsets them more.  Even when I try not smiling, my eyes smile.

I inherited my grin, crooked smile, from my mom.  Since I “chased that rabbit,” let me catch it and get back to the minister of discipline.  The deacon said the woman assumed that I did not take her serious.  I said, “WHAT!”  She said I was never serious, to which the deacon asked, “Are you ever serious?”  I said serious as a heart attack.

I told him that I lost my mom after a prolonged bout with stage four, melanoma cancer.  It broke my heart to hear that the woman’s mother was dying.  I told him that I had been around more death as pastor than he realized.

I took a few minutes to explain to the minister of discipline about being serious.  I told him that I had a five-year layoff from a company that had a record of accomplishment with out a blemish and when I borrowed money for our house, I received a ninety percent load.  In the first year of that layoff, God called me into the ministry.  I started the University of Montevallo as a twenty-nine year old freshman working for minimum wage.  In the spring of my first year, I held my dad’s hand as he died from a brain tumor.  In my senior year, Sharon became pregnant with Aaron and we did not have insurance.  I paid for him out my pocket.  I told him mom died and Aaron was born before I graduated.  I took a stress evaluation while taking a Marriage and the Family course at the university.  Anything over 150 was considered a heart attack candidate.  I scored over 700.

I said, “Yes, I am serious and you called me to this church with a history of problems and

God has led me hear to share the ‘Good News’.  I grin because God loves me and it is the highest honor to serve him and His high calling.”  Then I asked, “Would rather a pastor that grins or one that looks like he has been sucking lemons?”

I went to the woman who questioned my seriousness and we are good friends.  She smiles when we are together.  People comment to me from time, “Are you a pastor?”  I grin and say, “Does it show that bad?”  They say, “You have a glow, a smile and your eyes give it away.

The writer of Proverbs 15:30 has something to say about grinning.  One commentary says, “The light of the eyes” and “good news” corresponds.  The light of the eyes is in the news bringer.  When you see his happy face, you take heart because you know he has something good to tell you.  I like the New Century Version translates it: Good news makes you feel better. Your happiness will show in your eyes.

The Message Bible translates it: A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart, and good news makes you feel fit as a fiddle. 

The Amplified Bible translates it: The light of the eyes [of him whose heart is joyful] rejoices the heart of others, and good news nourishes the bones.

 

FYI: Members of the above church tell me that they miss my smile.

 

 
March 10, 2017

Wrong Idea What Do With Riches

 

When we do not wait on God, sin has a way of bamboozling.  Waiting on God on-the-other hand is a time of testing, of increasing faith, and of hoping.  The Bible has numerous examples of waiting on God.  One such event is the Exodus.

The Passover is a watershed event for the Hebrews and Christians alike.  It was a monumental event with good and catastrophic consequences.  It was good that Pharaoh set the Hebrews free and made them rich, but freedom and riches can lead to stupid choices.

Thinking about the event, the Hebrews under Moses’ leadership did as the Lord instructed and made the Exodus at the right moment.  They had faith to get out, but did not have faith to enter the promise land.  They experienced “rags to riches” overnight and had the wrong idea what to with riches.

While Moses was spending time with God, the Hebrews figured that Moses must have gotten lost or God killed him because it looked as though he was not returning.  Having too much time and too much money, they approached Aaron, Moses brother, and instructed him to make them a god to worship since the great I AM and Moses were not around to help them.

To put in perspective the Hebrews’ wealth, Aaron said, “Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.”  Aaron gathered enough gold to hammer.  Pure gold is very malleable.  I am sure that none of the Hebrews carried a furnace to melt and pour the gold, so the tool that Aaron used was to shape the gold as he hammered it.  Egyptians taught this technique to the slaves.

The idol was of a calf, which the word “calf” denotes a three-year bull.  Idols of bulls were the popular trend.  Bulls represented power and fertility.  This was no small idol.  If the estimated 1.5 Hebrews and mixed multitude each gave one earring, that is a chunk of gold.

When Moses did return, he made Aaron burn the idol, sprinkled it on the water, and made them all drink it.  No pun intended, but that is a lot of waste of gold that could have been used for good.

What can we learn from this?  First, we need to wait on God.  We do stupid stuff when we grow impatient.  Second, be generous toward God’s work.  They, as are we, were generous to give to creating an idol and rejecting God’s way.  Third, walking with God is more important than money and things.

 

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount . . . And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.  And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: (Exodus 32:14a KJV).

 

God is generous, always giving.

 
February 23, 2017

Worrying is a Waste of Imagination

 

Time flies.  Over thirty years ago, I had a hurting in my chest.  I didn’t think much of it thinking it was indigestion.  Then I started have some pressure on the left side of my neck.  I shrugged it off, but when I started having pain down my left arm, I was concerned.  I thought that I might be having a heart attack.

I did not want to die at the cement plant, so I made a trip to see the human resource manager, Joe Carey.  I really didn’t want to see him because he had a tendency to over react.  I knew that if were a heart attack, he may have one himself, but company policy was to report all injuries regardless of how minor.  This was not accident related, but I feared it would be if I died at work.

Sure enough, Joe panicked.  He told me to go immediately to see the company doctor who just happened to be my family doctor.  After a barrage of tests, Dr. Mitchell said I was not having a heart attack.  I remember looking at him and said, “Doc, I’m okay and I know what I need to do.”  I returned to work, gave Joe a report, and returned to work. 

That evening I went home and sat on the bed, took a long look in the mirror, and had a heart to heart, no pun intended here, conversation with me.  As I looked at the man in the mirror, I told him that he was under too much stress.  I told him that no one expected him to make straight A’s at the University of Montevallo.  It was difficult enough to work a forty-hour week, take twelve hours (full time student) of classes, and be a husband, dad, and pastor.  I reminded him that no one cared what kind of grades he made and that he was the one that applied all the pressure.

The man in the mirror reminded me that he was going to school for the Lord and wanted to be an example of God’s call on his life.  He said that it was the cement plant that forced him to miss all his classes and refused to accommodate his class schedules. The University agreed that he did not have to attend classes because he had a high grade point average.  He only had to do the assignments and take tests.

The conversation ended when I agreed with myself that I was not going to worry about it.  The hurting stopped and I made all Bs that college term.  That was great.  Sharon attended all her classes and all mine too with the exception of computer, which I was able to take night classes.  She tape recorded my classes and took notes.

My grades improved when I stopped worrying.  Classes were more interesting and I had a great time.  The straight Bs cost me Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, or even Cum Laude.  You are right.  Who cares?  That was my point to myself.   I did graduate with honors and high enough grades to graduate with honors and apply a Master’s Degree and eventually a Doctorate.  The biggest discovery from college, stop worrying.

I should have known better.  Dad taught us not to worry.  Though he was not a Christian, he reminded us constantly that God was in control.  It was disrespectful, but he would say, “The Old Man Upstairs is in control.  If the sun don’t come up in the morning, what are you gonna do about it?”  Another favorite of dad’s was, “In a hundred years, who cares?”  God taught us about the providence of God.  God is on His throne and when He walked on earth, He admonished His followers to give their burdens to Him.

God is well aware of the troubles that you and I face.   I believe our present troubles are for God’s glory, making us better for the future.  God will use our bad for good that others my see the power of God in our lives.

I read something the other day that never registered with me before.  I came at a critical juncture of my journey.  It was, “Worrying is a waste of imagination.”  Worry comes from the Old English word wyrgan, which means to strangle.  Author Mark Twain writes, “I have lived through some terrible things in my life, some which actually happened.”

I come from a long line of worriers on momma’s side of the family.  Mom worried about everything and daddy acted as though he did not have a care in the world.  I heard a preacher say a long time ago that “Worrying for a believer is a sin, the Bible says fret not.”  I do worry from time to time, but remind myself, sometimes looking the mirror, that God has it under control and he does not want me to worry.  Hey, God’s got it!

 

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22 KJV).

 

And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?  If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? (Luke 12:25-26 KJV)

 

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God (Phil 4:6 KJV).

 

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (I Peter 5:7 KJV)

 

 
 
February 8, 2017

A Tale Told

 

The other day someone informed me that I lived too much in the past.  After talking to them, I looked at my fitbit to check the time and how many miles I walked.  I checked my iphone to check for missed called, voice mail, text messages, and email.  I checked my weather app on my iphone to see how warm the day would get. The fitbit and iphone are new millennial, current.

The stories I write do deal with things of the past, but when I write them, they become current.  I reminded my accusers of my antiquity, that I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History.  I am a student of the past.  Those who do not study the past are doomed and destined to repeat the same mistakes and atrocities.  A study of the history of Rome, Sodom, and Gomorrah will reveal how our nation is following in their footprints.

If I write about an event yet to happen, it becomes a work of fiction.  It will be a product of my imagination and creativity.

The late Dr. Calvin Miller encouraged me to write.  I responded to his challenge by asking the question, “About what?”  Dr. Miller said one of the most effective ways to share the Gospel with the new millennials was by story telling.  A close examination of the Bible and the teaching of Jesus disclose the use of story telling.  The Bible is an Oriental book, filled with short, bright stories.  These stories, or tales, are like people, good or evil. “A tale” is the view of brevity, a trifling character, and a speedy forgetfulness into which they fell.  Tales have these essential elements: energy and activity, thoughtfulness, characters revealed, a generous and high aim, and it must end well.

I remember studying Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales translated by Edward Hopper.  It intrigued me that I might have a relative that was a writer long before I even thought about being a writer. 

Hopper translated Chaucer’s tales from Middle English to Modern English.  Canterbury Tales is critique of the society in Chaucer’s lifetime and reflects diverse views of the Church in Chaucer’s England. 

Chaucer created satirical tales prompted by the Church, political figures, and stories told by Christians making the pilgrimage to the Holy Land during what was called Verde or the greening associated with Spring.

Verde is a word I learned while taking Dr. McMillan’s English class at the University of Montevallo.  Verde is Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian for green.  Green reminds of renewing and new life.  Incidentally, I made the highest grade on one of the tests about the Verde.  It helped that I was taking Spanish also.  Oops, I am talking about the past again.

A tale or story roots in the past.  Fond memories of daddy are those nights we would lay outside on an old quit or blanket on the grass and he would tell interesting things about his childhood and people associated with it.  I could never get him to talk about WWII other than a few funny things he did while serving.  Little did I know that his generation was passing and mind was rising.  That is true as I write.  My generation is fleeting and another is rising.  I challenge you to pay attention to the target audience of commercials.  The ones for my generation are for medicine, medical supplies, life insurance, lawsuits, and ensure. 

My life, your life, is as a tale told.  “Our lives are illustrations of heavenly goodness, parables of divine wisdom, poems of sacred thought, and records of infinite love; happy are we whose lives are such tales.  When it is said and done, our time on earth is as a sailing ship, which leaves no impression or track behind, a dust, a vapor, a morning dew, a flower flourishing one day, fading the next.”  The rapid consummation of our years is speedy and inevitable.

Some years of our lives are as a pleasant story, sometimes a tragic tale, mixed, but all short and transitory; which may have been long in doing, but may be told in a short time in a book, newspaper, magazine, or even an article on the back of The Alabama Baptist. 

It is said, “Life is real, life is earnest, – the simile only holds good if we consider that a holy life is rich in interest, full of wonders, chequered with many changes, yet arranged as a story.”

As Moses writes Psalm 90 about the brevity of life as the years in the wilderness rapidly roll down life’s highway.  While the Hebrews were consuming in the wilderness, another generation was rising.  Justice shortened the days of rebellious Israel.  Each stop they made was marked by a graveyard marking their trails with burial places left behind.  Sin cast a shadow over all things, and made the lives of the dying wanderers both vain and brief.

Moses view is very sad.  All he heard was about the tales of how good Egypt was.  What lay ahead were tales that would give hope to the nation of Israel as they remembered the Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea.

 

We spend our years as a tale that is told (Psalm 90:9b KJV).

 

Yes, 2016 is behind and its memories now become a tale to share with those that follow.

 

 

 
January 26, 2017
"Follow Me"
 

While returning from a hospital visit at Shelby Baptist in Alabaster, I ran into torrential downpour on Interstate 65.  My windshield wipers could not remove the water fast enough.  I started to pull off to the side of the Interstate, but I was in the left lane and could not see anything.  When I slowed, I could hear cars beside me and behind me.  The last thing I wanted was to wreck in the rain, especially from the rear.

It was not long until I realized I was behind an eighteen-wheeler that was moving at a slow speed.  Ever once in awhile, I could see the outline of the trailer.  What I could see was his taillights. So for what seemed as a long journey in darkness, I followed the red glow of his rear lights.

You have to be careful when you are following people.  The other day I led the funeral procession for Ms. Marlene Downey from the O’Bryant Funeral Home in Thomasville to the Old Union Baptist Church Cemetery.  When I was a young pastor and led my first funeral procession, the funeral home director told me not to run but forty to forty-five miles an hour.  He said the cars behind me and will always be running too fast trying to catch up.

When I pulled out from the funeral home, I was in the lead.  I think that mentality has carried over when I run up and down the highway.  I hate what they call wolf packs on the highway.  You know that when cars get in a group.  I will either lack behind or let them get out of the way, or I will pretend I am at Talladega Speedway and get far ahead.

The other day coming home from my uncle’s wake at my home church in Randolph; I had a person riding my bumper with his headlights on bright.  On a long straight I slowed where the dude could pass.  Thinking back, he might have been lost in the wilderness and was following my taillights back into civilization.  That is if one can say Selma is civilized.  He slowed too.  I finally pulled to the side and stopped.  He did too for a second and then pulled away.

Traveling in a caravan on the Bethel Baptist Builders trip is always fun.  The caravan seems like a Canon Ball Run.  The Canon Ball Run is where sports car drivers are racing across country to see who can have the best time from say from Los Angles to Miami.  Every Bethel Builder, with the exception of a slow poke or two, are racing to see who has the best time getting to the job site and who can return home in the fastest time without getting a ticket.  Oh yes, they have Bethel Baptist Builders magnetic signs on the sides of the vehicles.

Sometimes out of necessity, we do things that are I say, wrong.  Several years ago when I was pastor up at Gallion Baptist Church, I had to retrieve my old GMC pickup from my cousin who was also my mechanic.  I needed a driver.  I recruited my thirteen, maybe fourteen-year-old son Aaron.  Before embarking on the 100 mile journey from Montevallo to Gallion, I told Aaron, who was always up to the challenge to do something he was not supposed to do, to drive my Honda Accord and follow close to the truck.  Aaron was tall enough to pass for an adult.  My worry was what to do if we were pulled over by an officer of the law. 

We mapped out our journey by traveling all the back roads to Uniontown.  Highway 183 from Maplesville to Uniontown was foggy.  I told Aaron to stay close to me.  We drove the long journey slowly.  The twelve-mile journey from Uniontown to Gallion was the stretch I dreaded the most.  We made the journey in the still of the night without any problems.

Now, before you pass judgment too quickly.  Aaron was a very good driver.  He learned the skills of driving by bush hogging, go carting, riding ATV’s, and riding around Gallion.  I knew he could do it.  Because I trusted him, he trusted me.

Aaron and I have fond memories of that night and one day he will have trouble explaining that to his boys when they want to drive before they are old enough.  That night is a sweet memory and one I thank God that we made it.

When Jesus discipled his followers, He admonished them to take up the cross and follow Him.  Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth encourages believers to be followers of God and walk in love.

 

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour (I Corinthians 5:1-2 KJV).

 

Let me encourage you to be followers of Jesus.

 
January 12, 2017

Bumps Ahead

 

The other day I was spending some time alone by riding in West Alabama and East Mississippi.  I did not have any particular place to go or to be.  I wanted to meditate as I drove.  Each time I came to an intersection I would think a minute then turn.

I was traveling in places I had never been before.

Most of the traveling was smooth for my little Honda.  I like driving my old truck, but it takes too much expensive gas to joy ride in it, but it is more comfortable.  I drove without the radio or CD playing.  I just wanted to watch, observe, and listen to God.

Not knowing where I was or where I was going was uncannily soothing.  I was not lost because I knew that if I went north I would intersect at I 59.  If I continued west, I would be in Meridian.  If I traveled south, I would intersect US Hwy 84.  If I went back east, there would be Alabama Highway 17.

Somewhere in East Mississippi, I was reminded of home.  The roads were deplorable.  They were worst than anything we had up home including red dirt roads and converted pig trails, but it was east Mississippi.  There were no signs to let you know where you were.  I thought I might have changed commissioner districts.  Used to be up home, commissioners responsible for our “red” neck of the woods could care less if we had good roads.  The commissioners claimed lack of money.  When they did get money, they would spray tar and cover it with crushed limestone that was excellent sand blasting material for pulverizing windshields, stripping chrome bumpers, and removing paint.

The poor commissioners did not repair potholes or ditches in the road when putting in drainpipes.   I hit a pothole in the town of Thorsby one time that caused my tire to go flat.  I thought I ruined the tire only to find I ruined a tire and the rim.  This highway was worse than Chilton County.

The landscape was very familiar until I saw something redneck that we do not have up home.  There was a fencerow that baseball caps adorned the top of the fence posts.  I noticed that the caps were Alabama and Auburn caps.  That is not unusual for East Mississippi, but it got me to thinking about the change in the road a couple miles back.  I paid attention to the car tags of the next house and discovered I was in Choctaw County Alabama.  I asked the Lord to forgive me for thinking bad thoughts about the poor poverty, last in everything, State of Mississippi.  I thought about it a moment and realized that the County tag for Chilton is 14 and the one for Choctaw is 15 and suddenly everything in the world made sense even the identical highway connecting Magnolia to Lamison.  I am getting scared to make a church visit to Lamison in my small Honda.  I am afraid if I don’t disappear in a hole, the potholes are going to destroy my front end.  But, I get the same sensation when travel State Highway 183 from Union Town to Marion only poor Perry County has paved that highway three or four times in the past sixteen years.

I continued on the road, it carried me to South Choctaw Academy in Toxey, then Gilbertown where I crossed the railroad tracks and started back on my journey into uncharted territory in search of peace, meditation, and dinner.

I saw a sign with Welcome to Mississippi. Other signs warned of road closure, lane closure, flagman ahead, slower traffic keep right, and detours, low shoulder, and bump ahead.  I can testify that there was a bump, but it was a long way from the sigh. On my journey to “find myself”, I found that there were very few places that were different from where I have been.  I found myself at a catfish restaurant in Stateline, Mississippi. I found the people nice, the patrons friendly, and the catfish delicious.  In Stateline, I thought about the gecko in the GIECO commercial where he is jumping from Tennessee to Virginia.  When I turned left, the highway changed tunes and I saw the Sweet Home Alabama sign.

I drove slow and thought about the things I saw.  I crossed over rivers and creeks that continue their journey endlessly flowing since the Lord created them.  I saw empty towns, houses, and land that were once productive now sitting idle and forgotten.  I saw large homes, small homes, new homes, rundown homes, mobile homes, and nursing homes. 

I saw a wreck or two and people helping.  I saw people in a hurry and some like me that were poking along.  There were the courteous drivers and the road rage maniacs.  There were safe drivers and the idiots that pass on hills and on double yellow lines.  There were new things and plenty of the same. 

In my time alone, God was showing that life is a journey and the road will have its challenges.  As we journey into a new year, we can expect the unexpected.   Every year I pray the New Year will be better than the last.  In some ways, it is, but there are ways that are as my journey. 

I pray that we travel the road God gives us with confidence and it will be a great journey regardless of the bumps.  I remind myself to thank God for roads, which remind of life.

 

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it (Isaiah 40:3-5 KJV).

 
 
 December 21, 2016

Stuff

 

I opened shed door and had to move the garden tiller to get the blower.  Once again, the pine straw and my neighbor’s leaves have hidden the driveway and filled the carport.  It is unbelievable how much stuff collects around the house and in the yard.  Just a few days ago, I trimmed the shrubs, cut the grass, weedeated the fence, and vacuumed the leaves cleaning the yard.

I need to clean out my shed.  It is full of stuff.  It is all necessary stuff to clean the yards, the house, and vehicles.  There is so much stuff, that I have difficulty finding the right stuff to use.  With the abundance of stuff, I have built storage bins to organize my stuff.

The shed contains other stuff too.  There is an office chair, old office computer, shredder, filing racks, and old laminating machine.  There is there are antiques such as a typewriter, 1950 Plymouth hubcap, an old wash pot we used to stew out cracklings, and an assortment of antique tools.

Speaking tools, I have all kinds of power tools; a router, vibrating sander, belt sander, jigsaw, plane, reciprocating saw, two chainsaws, hacksaw, coping saw, skill-saw, and handsaw.  There are electric and cordless drills.  They require their stuff such as drill bits, extension cords, battery chargers, bit extensions, and a variety of bits.  The chain saw, blower, and weed-eater require oil mixes and gasoline containers.

There is a flat shovel, a pointed shovel, a corn scoop shovel, two garden hoes, two yard rakes, and a pitchfork.  There are two axes and a hatchet.   There several knives, assortment of left-handed gloves, a dozen or more cans of spray paint in a mishmash of colors, several small cans of stain, polyurethane, mineral spirits, cleaners, bottles of glue, carwash, waxes, buffing balls, sand paper, masking tape, paintbrushes, rollers, and paint trays.

There is hanging stuff.  There is an old chandelier from the Pastorium dining room and an old fluorescent light from the office, seasonal bouquets, flowers, bells, and wreaths.  There are tie down straps, ropes, chains, C-clamps, and bungee straps.

There are shelves and shelves of stuff such as oil, filters, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid, and windshield washing fluid.  There is weed killer spray, bug killer spray, and ant poison.

There is free weight bench, rack, a mélange of weights, and two hand weights.  There is a kerosene heater, propane bottle and fish cooker, grilling tools, and two-eye Coleman stove.  There are several fishing rods, tackle boxes, and net.

There are tarps, moving quilts, carpet remnants, and padding.  There are two sets of horseshoes and their pins.  There are two tents and a folding seat.  There is the spare tire for my truck and heavy-duty wheelbarrow. There is a sledgehammer and wedges for splitting wood and several pieces of dry hickory for grilling.

There is a motorcycle jack, floor jack, bumper jack, and an antique jack.  There are toolboxes with spare GMC parts, plumbing parts.  There are several other toolboxes, each with an assortment of tools, sockets, rackets, and pull handles.  Most of these have been Christmas presents, birthday presents, of Father’s Day gifts.  The acetylene bottle, the oxygen bottle, hoses, and cutting torch were Christmas presents.  The golf clubs and bags were a gift from a former church member.  The tennis racket and balls were a Father’s Day gift.

I have a wagon filled with hand tools, hammers, and my electrician tools.  There are the chalk bottle and line.  There are an assortment of clamps, some string, magnets, gloves, earplugs, and safety glasses.

The biggest obstacles in the 12’ X 24’ shed are two John Deere riding mowers, one with an industrial Cyclone Rake hooked behind it, a two-wheel fertilizer distributor, a Father’s Day gift, push mower, and an 8’ Christmas tree next to all them.  They made it difficult to get to the six-disc player and radio and my collection of CD’s, most which were gifts.  I need a bigger shed just to have room enough to use my two workbenches, one which is a Black and Decker folding work bench given as a Christmas present, that are covered with stuff.

 

Jesus talked about a man that had too much stuff and wanted to build more or bigger sheds.  And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.  And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:15-20 KJV).

 

Christmas tends to be more about STUFF and less about Jesus.  I am thankful for the gifts people have given me, but the greatest gift this Christmas is the gift of love.

 

Merry Christmas from Bobby and Sharon

 

 

December 7, 2016

 

The vacuum wipers of my old 1950 Plymouth slowly swiped the light icy rain peppered on the windshield late one night as took a co-worker home. Clifton and I talked of the cold night and possible snow flurries that would create a panic among the people of Alabama and especially Chilton County.  We were having a light-hearted moment in Clifton’s heartbreaking relationship with his wife.

 

To pacify his wife, Clifton bought her a new red with white stripes, Ford Grand Torino fastback.  It was a beauty.  It was also a gift to harness his wife’s wandering ways.  As we passed Friendship Baptist Church, one I pastored years later, I spotted Clifton’s Torrino underneath the security light of the church parking lot.  Whether he knew it or that he acted dumb, we joked that his wife left it there.  Having an eye for details of automobiles, I knew without a shadow of doubt that it was Clifton’s car.  I had this empty, wishing I was wrong, moment.  It would become a defining moment as I witnessed something that will always be etched in my mine.

 

Clifton lived just over the hill from the church at the Blacksnake Trailer park.  Ice collected on the wipers as I pulled to his driveway.  Clifton said, “She’s gone again.  That was her Torino.”  I waited as he opened the mobile home door.  He motioned for me come to the door.  I saw three little girls, all in t-shirts and diapers, cuddled up like puppies on a rug at the front door.  The oldest little girl said, “Momma is gone.”

 

My heart broke for these precious little girls and for Clifton.  Clifton had an alcoholic brother who appeared from the darkness.  He had tried to open the door, but it was locked.  He waited in shadows and from the cold underneath another mobile home until Clifton arrived.

 

These three little girls were ages three, two, and one.  They were red-haired, blonde, and brunette.  All three had different dads and Clifton was not one of them, but Clifton loved them as though they were his.

 

I never will forget the first time I met Clifton.  He had grown up in the same Mars Hill community that I did.  He was older than I was and we had never met, but since he worked where mom did, and I eventually did, I heard a lot about him.

 

He was pale as a ghost when I first met him.  He was recovering from a gunshot wound to his stomach and had a 22-caliber bullet lodged against his spine.  Days before, he had escaped, yes escaped, from a Birmingham hospital by hiring a cab to transport him to Clanton.  He was wearing a hospital gown.

 

Clifton claimed that he had accidentally shot himself while cleaning a rifle.  Truth was that his wife shot him.  Can I tell you that I had lived a rather sheltered life and I learned a lot about life in the real world?

 

Clifton’s wife was a very loose woman.  She was a little on the trashy side.  She loved men, but Clifton loved her more.  I had never seen a man that loved a woman as he did her.  As the old saying goes, “He put up with a lot.”

 

As the energy crisis of 1973 swept the nation, I faced my first layoff and it would be the last time I saw Clifton alive.  Clifton kept working and his wife kept running around on him.  She was so despicable, that her mother and father disowned her.  In fact, Clifton had moved in with his in-laws who were helping with the three girls.

 

A friend called me to tell me that Clifton had committed suicide.  The bullet against his spine continued to cause pain and health problems.  Overwhelmed by the heartache of a wayward wife and a bullet she placed in his body, Clifton borrowed his father-in-law’s 410-gauge shotgun to shoot rabbit or squirrel, but placed the barrel against his heart and pulled the trigger.  His in-laws saw him stagger and fall near the clothesline.  Helped came too late.

 

Sharon and I attended his wake.  My heart was with the three girls.  Sharon and I had not been married very long and talked about adopting them.  As for Clifton’s wife, I was told that as Clifton lay at rest, she lay intimate with another man in a Clanton parking lot.

 

Every year at Christmas, I wonder what happened to the girls.  It was the Christmas season when I saw them cuddled on the rug cold and shivering. If they are alive, they are in their forties now. 

 

When I think of Clifton and them, I think of God’s love for us and Hosea’s love for his wife Gomer.  Love is a powerful force.  I could understand the love of Hosea and the wandering of Gomer a little better when I read Francine Rivers Christian novel Redeeming Love.  If you have not read it, you are missing a great book.  I could not put it down.

 

 

 

The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord.  So he went and took Gomer (Hosea 1:1-3a KJV).

 

 

November 23, 2016

 

The calendar was October and today is November 9, 2016.  I was nuking a sausage burrito as the words met my eyes, “Life is ten percent of what happens to you, and ninety percent is how we respond.”

 

It is amazing how God puts things in the right place, at the right time, for the right situation.  That calendar has been hanging in the office workroom for six weeks and I never paid it any attention until I responded to the suggestion of my stomach that there had been a time change and, although the clock said twelve noon, my hunger remained on central daylight savings time.

 

Speaking of time change, I have not responded to well.  I go to bed way to early which results in me waking way too early.  My response to the changing of the time is, “Leave it one way or the other.  Stop changing my eating, working, and sleeping habits twice a year.”

 

When I think about responding I think of some wisdom shared with me when I first answered the call into ministry.  It happened at Shocco Springs, our Alabama Baptist Retreat Center.  It was not at a conference believe me I have attended many through the years.  It was one of my former pastors, David Meyers.

 

David said that he was happy to hear that I had surrendered into the ministry.  He and his wife Janice were a wonderful pastor/wife team for my home church.  David was Sharon’s and my pastor when we first married.  In fact, it was David’s sharing with Sharon the importance of belonging to the church in the community in which you live.  He taught us that being a Christian was one of happiness and joy.  He was a great pastor.

 

At Shocco, he said, “As one of your dads in ministry, I want to share one thing with you.  He said you will be pressured by the church and members of the church to respond I certain situations.  Do not let them pressure you.  Tell them that you will make it a consideration of and prayer and genuinely pray over it.  You will be amazed how many times God will work out problems for you.  Learn to wait on God.  Pastors’ biggest mistakes are trying to fix things that only God can.  We get into trouble when do not wait on God.”  I am so thankful that my pastor shared this and I have practiced for my entire ministry, lately more than ever.

 

David and Janice have both gone to be with the Lord.  Since it is Thanksgiving, I wanted to respond with thanks for the wisdom of those help and pray for each other as we struggle through life.

 

 

 

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord (Psalm 27:14 KJV).

 

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 

 

November 12, 2016

 

In one of my favorite pictures of my dad, he is leaning against a two by four board holding up the front porch.  Dad did not like to have his picture taken.  On this occasion, his brother was down from Illinois.  Dad had been hauling logs that day and had the smell of pine rosin and sweat mingled with the aroma of Camel cigarette smoke and grease on him.

 

In this picture, dad is tanned and muscled.  He was very strong from working with pulpwood and logs most of his life.  I, along with my brothers and sister, could not wait for dad to come home in the evenings.  We would spend many evenings lying on an old quit in the front yard just talking about life and looking at the heavens.

 

I remember that I could not wait to get old enough to go to work in the woods with him.  Back then, pulpwood was measured.  I carried a measuring stick and marked the fallen pine timber as dad cut.  He had a large, and heavy, McCulloch chainsaw.  As a ten-year-old, the chainsaw was very heavy.  It was all I could do to crank it.  When I could not, daddy would give the cord a yank and fire it up.  Ever once in a while, he let me run the chainsaw.  Most dads won’t let a ten-year-old run a chainsaw!  I had the best dad.

 

When hauling logs, dad allowed me guide the mule that pulled the logs back to the truck.  I was not sure I could do it, but dad said the mule knew what to do once I hooked the tongs to the log.  It was fascinating that the mule could find his way back to the truck.  I would jump on the log and balance myself as the log rolled, twisted, and turned going up and down the hills and hollers back to the truck.  It was even more fun to watch the side loading arms of the log truck throw the logs on the truck.  I don’t think momma would have let me go with daddy if she had known how dangerous it was.

 

I remember helping dad fall a giant oak.  He bated the tree and I helped to push.  Suddenly as the giant tree started to fall, a gush of wind caught the oak and pushed it back toward us.  Daddy yelled, “Run son!”

 

As a boy, I wanted to spend as much time with dad as I could.  Dad was what folks back home call a “jackleg mechanic.”  When you are poor and have nothing but junk, you spend a lot of time repairing.  Most of my time was spent under the hood or underneath cars, tractors, and trucks.  This is something I enjoy doing today.  It is therapeutic and nostalgic.

 

For some reason, dad went most places by himself.  On particular day, he was going to Montevallo to pick up his check.  Momma asked if I wanted to go.  I think she wanted me to spy on dad and see what he was doing.  I knew I had to keep my lips sealed if there was to be another expedition with dad.  I was so excited and could not wait to ride in our log truck with him.

 

As I went out the door, I closed the door on my fingers.  Doing the natural thing, I pulled them from the closed door, leaving on of my fingernails in the door.  Blood was flying and the finger was throbbing.  I was not going to miss an opportunity to spend time with dad.  I dare not cried.  He would have made me stay home.  I remember sitting alone for what seemed an eternity with my finger throbbing with the beating of my heart.  Dad wanted me to be tough.

 

Momma taught me how to drive, but daddy let me drive.  Dad went from logging to working in a rock plant.  Our family car became his work vehicle.  As usual, it needed repair another rear axle.  As we started to Bessemer to find a replacement, dad said, “You drive.”  I was twelve. 

 

On a long hill near Montevallo, I remember being scared to death as we descended.  I looked at dad and he seemed to have confidence in me.  That was until I kept riding too close to the outside of the highway.  Dad told me that there was more room to the inside and stop driving like momma. He said that we would have to have new tires and the front end realigned if I kept running off the road.  Driving in Bessemer was scary and exciting.  I had the time of my life, me driving my daddy.

 

In her book, Catching Fireflies, Patsy Clairmont says that she read somewhere that we get our role models from our same-sex parent and our sense of safety and security from our opposite same-sex parent.  I don’t know about all that, but I do know that I am glad I had a daddy that loved me and taught me much about life.  I know there are thousands of children that do not have a dad in their lives.  Society is paying a tremendous price for this.  This creates a negative view of God as our Father.  Those that have a nurturing and tender interaction with their dad helps in bonding with our heavenly Father.  Clairmont says that Deuteronomy 32:4, 9-10 gives us a glimpse God’s father-heart.

 

 

 

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

 

For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

 

 

 

November is the time for Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving.  Thanks dad!

 

 

October 12, 2016

 

Several days ago, I confessed to Sharon that I was a mass murderer.  I got the “look” from her.  Let me explain.  I had carried a bag of trash to the outside trashcan for city pickup.  When I raised the lid, I realized that I had stirred up a supply detachment of “sugar ants.”  I do not know how they got that name, I grew up with daddy calling the by an Old Testament word, which I would rather not write.  They are anything but sweet.  They are a nuisance.  I retrieved my bug killer spray and killed hundreds of the pesky rascals. 

 

They have taken up residence in my Honda Civic.  They love the dead bugs in the grill.  I have a can of Raid in the Civic.  I think they have built a hive or nest in the car somewhere.  Thank goodness, they do not sting as do those sorry, good for nothing, demons called fire ants, but they do pinch.  The best thing about sugar ants is where they are, fire ants ain’t.  Rarely do you have both species.

 

Our place in Chilton County is a haven for fire ants.  They have mounds everywhere.  I admire the work ethics of fire ants, but their battle tactics are more swift than the ancient Philistines.  Both sugar and fire ants have a sophisticated communication system that many modern communications companies envious.  When I kill a sugar ant, I watch as the straight lines of their comrades’ start evasive maneuvers.  If I drop a piece of bread, within minutes ants are forming supply lines.

 

When I stir up fire ant mounds, they immediately go into attack and rebuilding modes.  I love stirring up fire ants, because they are vicious.  Using a hoe or broom handle, I bore deep into the mound. Through the years, I have tried various methods of mass destruction.  Burnt motor oil and gasoline are more effective than most other types ant poison.  Sometimes I feel as though I am a mad scientist or dictator trying to create new weapons of mass destruction.

 

They always counter attack.  Just when you think you have conquered them, you realize that they replaced the destroyed mount with another nearby and used the moving opportunity to built two or three new subdivisions.

 

I know when I was cutting the grass in the pasture; I would send ants flying everywhere.  I think that is where my stirring up abilities originated.  I remember cutting my uncle’s pasture and I stirred up some bumblebees.  The tractor was not moving fast enough, so I jumped from the tractor and out run the bumblebees.

 

Working summers with Hiwassee Land Company, my coworkers, and I would stir up yellow jackets.  They are very protective of their hives.  On one occasion, Larry, my cousin, was jabbing on a tree.  Suddenly he realized that these yellow and black kamikazes covered his pants.  Now, I admit that it was funny to watch one another running and screaming, “Yellow Jackets,” through the woods.  Larry did not run, but stood swiping yellow jackets from his blue jeans and slowly saying, “I think I’m in a “yellar jackit nest.” 

 

Unfortunately, the hickey tree he jabbed housed an integrated duplex.  In the basement were the yellow jackets, while the high rise resided the hornets.  Yellow jackets are small fast and vicious, but hornets are bigger, faster, and carry a big punch.  While Larry swiped yellow jackets, the hornets swirled around their eloquently fashioned papier-mâché, which had more security guards than a New York Art Museum.  Suddenly, a hornet went into a nosedive and hit Larry between the shoulders.  He hit the ground face first as those of us who watched ran screaming through the woods, “hornets!”

 

Getting back to cutting the pasture, along with bumblebees, yellow jackets, and ant mounds, are cow patties.  Those innocent looking circular mounds, when stirred up, can cause a stink.  Sometimes we played baseball and football in the pasture.  Up home, we call this cow pasture ball.  Sometimes we would use the dried cow patties as bases.  One Sunday while playing baseball in a neighbors cow pasture, one of our teammates slide into second base only to discover it was not completely dry.  He stirred up a stink.

 

Several of you have read articles where I mentioned my nickname at the Calera Cement Plant.  My co-worker and friend, J.W. Tucker, I think he was my friend, started calling me Maytag.  At first, I thought it was because I was dependable, like the Maytag appliance commercials.  J.W. said it was because I was an “Agitator.”

 

Through the years, I realized it was not a derogatory nickname.  Those who stir up people can be an agitator, but also one who campaigns or motivates people.  I hear motivational speakers make big money.

 

Several Bethel churches have been and will be in revival.  Effective revival evangelists and preachers have the gift to stir up the people initiating revival. 

 

When political chaos reached an all time low, God became man to stir up His people.  Churches can be like ant mounds sitting with all the unseen activity, or crusty dry cow patty, or papier-mâché nest which have negative results. Can it be that the times in which we live need a little motivation? 

 

 

 

And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place (Luke 23:5 KJV).

 

 

 

And the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom (I Kings 11:14 KJV).

 

 

October 5, 2016

 

One of the buzzwords today is process.  Sometimes I wonder what all the hullabaloo is about process.  Everyday life is a process of understanding, developing, and growing.  Babies process from newborns not knowing how to do anything to in just a few months can walk, talk, and balk.

 

Those of us that have worked in plants know that the manufacturing of products is a process.  It is a long process to go from a log to a roll of bath tissue, paper towels, or paper.   It is the same with cement.  It is a long process to transform limestone, sand, iron ore, and aluminum into cement.  The list is of industries that process products are endless.  There are garment plants, welding and machine shops, electrical shops, etc.

 

At a very young age, I decided I wanted to be a mechanic.  Since we monetarily handicapped, a fancy way to say poor, we never owned many new things.  I remember helping daddy repair an engine, Danny Baker of Linden Baptist, tells me motor means an electric motor and I say an engine is what pulls a train.  Any who, daddy taught me how disassemble generators, starters, transmissions, and engines.  Sometimes I would tear a starter or generator apart and have daddy show me how to put it back together.  I cannot write in my articles what he said but the jest of it was; how in the world did you tear this apart?

 

As a preteen, I was repairing just about everything we owned.  I would study the parts as I removed them, hoping I would remember how to put them back together.  It always amazed me that I could get the part back to working with fewer parts.  It seems that I always had leftover parts.

 

I remember that there were a few things that flew into what seemed a jillion pieces when tearing them apart.  It kinda complicates things when you do not know what went flying or you cannot find it.  Then, I had to use a similar part from another part.

 

I remember when I began working at the cement plant.  I knew nothing about cement although I had helped pour and finish concrete.  Concrete and cement are two different products.  Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand, and stone.  I wanted a job there because it paid big money.  I left a machine shop hoping to be a machinist at the cement plant.  I can assure you that if I were there today, I would not be a machinist.

 

At the plant, I was placed on an oiler’s job on the cement kiln.  Kiln operators made the most money of all hourly employees.  I love the cable show “How it’s Made.” I love to see how things are made.  I did with the process of the cement kilns.  The operator was glad to teach me.  He provided me with an understanding of the “cooking of cement.”  He told the production manager, his good friend, about me wanting to “burn” the kilns.  The production manager, who had been an oiler at one time, told me to grasp a good understanding of burning the kilns and gave me a book, The Art of Kiln Burning.

 

I told the production manager that I did not know if I have enough time to learn the operation of the kilns.  He said that he knew how much work I had and that I understood what was necessary and was not and to spend a couple of hours a day training.  I told him that I did not want to leave undone work for the next shift.  He said, “Let me worry about that.”

 

I knew that everyone in the plant feared the production manager.  His nickname was “Killer.”  Knowing that, I realized if he wanted me to understand the operation of the kilns, it would be best for me.  I understood the consequences of being on his list.  My burner loved it because he could take breaks.  I was mortified burning two 200 feet pipe bombs.  While breaking, my burner would cut off a piece of equipment to see if I understood the total operating procedure.  If I did not understand the gravity of the situation, he would explain how vital it was and the quicker I recognized the problem, the better it would be.  My burner became a supervisor and I eventually became a kiln burner, operating them for several years. 

 

When I bided into maintenance, I had to train my replacement on the kilns.  I made sure that those that had not been oilers had more training, understanding the dangers and consequences of burning the kilns.

 

When I was a young man, Roy Moxley, a machinist and my father-in-law, told me that a person could do anything once they understand it.  I have experienced that.  Now having been in ministry for thirty-three years, I have a better understanding on life.  Evil is fast taking over our lives and it is important and imperative that we understand the dangers and consequences of evil and reverence for the Lord.

 

I like Job’s rebuttal to his so-called friends in response since Job has fallen on hard times.

 

 

 

And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding (Job 28:28).

 

 

 

The truth today is; there is a limit to power and skill.  We can learn many things and can harness the basic energy of the universe, but we cannot find wisdom in science.

 

 

September 8, 2016

 

What keeps you going?  I do not know about you but I need someone to push me when I won’t start, guide me when I need direction, pump me when I am down, move me when I am stuck, soothe me when I hurt, embrace me when I am lonely, and stand beside me when I struggle. 

I pray that as I face the uncertainties of life that I always have hope.  I have known several people that have given up hope and the result was death.  I want to have a living hope and that is difficult when I realize how fast evil is growing in our world today.  You and I must avoid killers of hope such as betrayal, trials, and death.

I had my yearly checkup with my knee surgeon on August 29.  After x-raying of both knees, Dr. Steele examined his handiwork bending my knees, straightening them, and swiveling them.  He asked if I had any issues.  Having none, he said, “I will see you in five years.”

That was great news considering last year has been a healing year.  Skibo, my knee therapist, saw me the other night at our Quarterly Men’s Meeting at Fairhaven Baptist Church.  He said, “I watched you walking at Walmart the other day and noticed you walked without a limp.”  I responded, “I didn’t know I was supposed to having two new knees.”   He continued to tell me how good I did and how I was a poster child for Genesis Rehab.

Prior to my surgery, I was on the verge of giving up hope.  My greatest fear was losing the use of my legs.  I knew that there were hundreds of people that loss the use of their legs, especially veterans of the Middle East.  The uncertainty of total knee replacement, especially those I knew that were not totally successful, those that walked with a limp, got infections, and had to re-operate and replace replacements, made me doubt.

My knees deteriorated for over eight years after the initial diagnosis of severe arthritis, bone on bone, and a recommendation of total knee replacement.  The harder I tried to aid in the healing of my knees before surgery, the worse they became.  I eventually destroyed the ACL’s in both knees and tore ligaments reaching the lowest point in my life physically, but it was beginning to affect me emotionally and spiritually.

Having had both knees replaced, Erma Davis from Dixons Mills encouraged me have the surgery.  A pastor friend of mine told of a member of his family who had the surgery and wished he had done it years earlier.  When I started having fever, could not do steps, could not bend my knees, and could not move laterally, I paid attention to those trying to give me hope.

At our eldest son’s birthday dinner in Birmingham, Sharon and our daughter, Angela went shopping in Brookwood Village.  Not being able to walk, I sat in the car.  It was a beautiful day for January 18.  I watched handicap students from the University of Southern Mississippi exit a van.  They were in town for a handicap tournament.

I noticed a student that had a prosthesis leg.  He wore shorts and tennis shoes.  I watched him mover effortlessly in the parking lot.  I made up my mind that day that if I did lose my legs, I could do as this young man did.

During the pre-op for the first knee replacement, the lady in charge of pre-surgical exercises apologized for being late.  She had helped an eighty plus year-old lady into her car.  This little lady had had total knee replacement that morning.  I made up my mind.  If that little old lady could do well, I could.

The morning of my surgery, I had a Biblical, a Godly peace.  I knew that people were praying for me.  I knew that regardless of the outcome, that God would be with me every step, no oun intended, of the way.

I remember that there was no pain in my knee.  Sure, the knee was sore from the cutting of muscles and ligaments, the pulling, hammering, and cutting of bones, and especially the tourniquet, but there was no pain in the joint.  That afternoon after the surgery, I started walking.  Actually, having not bent my right knee in years, I learned how to walk again.  I couldn’t wait to replace the other one and wished I had not waited so long.

Learning to walk again is what we must do when betrayal, trials, and death wounds us, zaps our energy, and consumes our being.  Peter’s hope was obliterated after the betrayal, the trial, and death of Jesus.  But, after the Resurrection, Jesus picked him up from the pits of self-destruction and self-pity and challenged him.  Examine the difference in Peter when he wrote the early Christians when they were being persecuted.    

  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (I Peter 1:3-9 KJV).

 
August 11, 2016
 

Influence is a powerful word.  It was so powerful that momma guarded what influenced us.  When I look at society today, there are more venues of influence than any time in the history of the word.  Several years ago, I read that people read more on one page of a daily newspaper than people did before the age of the printing press read in twenty years.  Can you imagine the magnification of that fact today with the media resources available today, especially smart phones and access to the World Wide Web?

When we discuss influence, VCR’s, DVD’s, and CD’s have entertained those that are in their mid to late thirties.  I remember discussing the subject of VCR’s with a cousin that operated a video rental store.  These stores, as well as VCR’s, have gone the way of the Dodo bird.  They no longer exist.  My cousin told me that VCR’s were great baby sitters.  Her sons, who now have teenagers of their own, watched VCR’s every day after school until her and her husband got home.  They may have been good babysitters, but the content of the VCR’s have influenced a whole generation.  The verdict of this way of life is pending.  Mama always said, “You will reap what you sow!”

Another one of mom’s favorite sayings was, “Birds of a feather flock together.”  Bad friends result in bad behavior.  If momma or dad said that they did not like a certain friend I had and that I had better stay away from them, I took note of it.  Dad was a very good discerner of people and momma wasn’t too shabby at judging folks either.

Because of a life without many amenities, I did not have many friends.  I was embarrassed to invite them to the shanty where I lived.  Most parents of kids from school had barns and sheds that were better than hour house.  I did not want people to see how poor we were.

In my late teens, I befriended some of my football teammates.  One evening after practice, some of them invited me to spend a few hours with them.  After hanging out at the local hamburger stand across from our football practice field, one of my friends, “Butter Bean,” invited to ride with him.  His dad was a mechanic and auto body technician.  Butter Bean’s dad had restored a 56 Chevy.  It was turquoise and white two-door hardtop with a 327 engine, four-in-the-floor, chrome mag rims, and Tiger Paw tires.  A chance to ride in it was wonderful since I was driving an old wore out junker 1950 Plymouth.

I loaded up with Butter Bean and a couple of very impressionable junior high boys. We took off from the hamburger stand with the sound of cherry bomb mufflers sounding like the fluttering of angel wings with changing of all four gears.  We had not gone very far when I realized I might have made a mistake.  As they broke out the Miller High Life beers, I knew it could not be good.  I did not drink.  When we stopped at the I-65 over pass near Rocky Mount Methodist Church, I got suspicious.  When they opened the trunk and got out the cases of eggs, I had a sick feeling down in my gut.

About this time I asked, “What are y’all gonna do with them eggs?”  Butter Bean said, “We are going to throw them at cars on the interstate.”  Well, I was pretty naïve, but I’m not stupid.  I folded my arms, sat down in the open trunk and told them that I was not gonna throw eggs.  I watched as they had their fun and prayed that no one would get killed and that the Jemison police or Alabama State Troopers would not show.  They drank beer, threw eggs, and snickered in demonic timbre.

I was glad to return to the hamburger stand, get in my old Plymouth, and get home.  I told daddy what I had done in hopes that he would be proud that I did not participate in the demonic debauchery and revelry of interstate eggnog.  I hoped that he would believe me and he did.  But, he gave me some advice that I carry with me to this very day.  He asked, “What would you have done if the police showed up that night?”  I told him that I would have told them was not drinking and I was not throwing eggs.  Dad said the police would not know any difference and would have assumed that I had.  He said there would be no way to convince them that you were not drinking and had not thrown eggs and the best thing would have been to start walking back to Jemison.  In my mind, I did what I thought was right and besides, I wanted to ride in the 56 Chevy again.

Thinking back to that night back in 1969, I am glad that no one was injured or killed.  Since that night, I have read and heard about numerous injuries and deaths due to objects tossed down onto innocent interstate travelers.  That night seems so trivial compared to the things teenagers are doing nowadays.  Today’s society is so much like those in the days of the Book of Judges.  

 

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25 KJV).

 
 
July 28, 2016
 

When the winds blow, I pick up sticks, trigs, and limbs.  Mostly they are from the three large oak trees near my grill and barbeque pit. These are very handy to start a fire when grilling with hickory.  The pine limbs are a nuisance, not too tasty to use for cooking.

Before I learned the art of cooking with wood, especially hickory, sticks and limbs had other uses.  Momma would instruct us to get a limb, usually a peach limb, a plum limb, or black cherry limb to whip us.  Folks that know I am from Chilton County always brag on how wonderful the peaches taste.  Well, peach limbs don’t feel too spiffy and create a bad taste in your mouth concerning peach trees.

On occasion or two, pine sticks caused me to have to retrieve peach limbs.  Once when I visited my cousins.  They told me they had found a wonderful place in the woods and they wanted me to see it.  As I followed them into the forest, I should have been more suspicious and less trusting of them.  After all, they were my flesh and blood.  We studied in Sunday school how brothers and cousins could do deplorable things to one another, but I never suspected that my favorite kin would harm me.

As we walked in the shadows of the large pines, they commented on the birds, squirrels, and other things.  Focusing on the things above, I did not see them deliberately side step a place on the ground.  All of a sudden, I felt like Alice in wonderland falling into a large hole.  When I looked up, I felt like Joseph in the pit about to be sold to the Ishmaelites.  There were my four cousins looking and laughing at me in this large stump hole.

They had taken pine sticks, trigs, made a rotten network of limbs and trigs, and covered their handiwork with pine straw.  Like a lamb being led to the slaughter, I fell into their snare.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the stump hole and see how my cousins created such a wonderful snare.

My cousins got me out and I helped them to redo the snare for some other unsuspecting cousin or friend.  In fact, I could not wait to get home to my pine ticket and make me a snare for my sister, brothers, and cousins.

I did not have a deep enough stump hole and had to do a little digging covering the dirt with pine straw.  I carefully weaved me a network of trigs and sticks across the top of my hole.  I fashioned the pine straw to make it look like the area surrounding the hole.  I had to create story to lure my victims into the pine thicket.  When I did, momma taught me another lesson using a peach limb.

Thinking back, we were fortunate that we did not get hurt really bad, but we were pretty tough.  Rolling down hills in old truck tires, sliding down pine straw on old windshields, swinging from muscadine vines, swinging out trees, and other fun stuff made us tuff. 

From time to time, we got caught in our own snares.  Truck tires would hit trees, knocking the wind out of us.  We learned that pines saplings were not the ideal tree to swing out to the ground.  Windshields would break into a jillion pieces when sliding across a rock.  Muscadine vines once cut, died, and turned loose from the tree when you were at the highest point of the swing, making landing on your back uncomfortable.

Ironically, the Friday morning devotion before a Sunday visit to Catherine Baptist Church was about the Scripture in this article.  At Catherine, Joe Harrison told me of another lion hunt he had in Africa.  Joe said that they had to dig a pit and use it as a blind to shoot the lion.  Thanks Joe!  The devotion and your story was the inspiration for this article.

 

A snare is defined as “concealed trap for a victim.”  A snare leads to eventual destruction.  Sometimes people, businesses, and organizations, yes even the church, unintentionally create snares.  A credit card makes buying easy, but the snare is debt.  A church can dedicate a building, piece of church furniture, or a picture and it becomes an immovable object or sacred cow.  A person praying for a good paying job can become so dedicated to that job that he or she forsakes their ministry, and eventually church.  That boat or motor home becomes something that we worship, spending more time with it than with God.  We did not intent to worship it, but we did. 

Take Gideon in the Book of Judges.  He never intended to create a snare, but he did.

 

And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.  And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)  And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.  And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house (Judges 8:23-27 KJV).

 

The Hebrew word for snare means “a noose for catching animals or a hook for the nose.”  The ephod, because of its wealth and beauty became an object of worship.  Its original intent was to honor God, but people are prone to idolatry. 

 
July 4, 2016
 

Twenty summers ago, Friendship Baptist Church in Clanton where I pastored, planned an old-fashioned church wide picnic the Sunday before July the Fourth.  We called it Friendship In The Park and we prepared barbeque, baked beans, tater salad, ice-cold cokes, and homemade peach ice cream.  We planned sack races, pitching horseshoes, and volleyball, which was very competitive.

To make the Sunday special, it was time for the Summer Olympics and they were to be in Atlanta.  We learned several weeks prior that the Olympic Torch Relay would come through Clanton.  Later we discovered that it would be one of the stops for the Torch.

Under the leadership of Director of Missions Charles Christmas, Chilton Baptist Association decided that it would be a great evangelistic event because CNN would have live coverage of the stop.  Every church in the Clanton area agreed to wear a T-shirt with their church logo.  I still have mine even though it is much smaller.  It had an eagle, red, white, and blue strips and stars.  Across the back, it had Friendship Baptist Church.  The Association designated June 30, 1996 as “Tennis shoe and T-shirt Sunday.”  It was the largest Sunday School attendance we had in church.  That morning I wore my T-shirt through Sunday School.  I wore a suit with shirt and tie.  I thought the, and still do now, that when preaching you need to were a shirt and tie.

The Olympic Torch coming to Chilton County was the talk of everyone.  Something wonderful happened as the torchbearer came down the hill into the Clanton City Park.  People began cheering and I could feel chills running over my body.  Suddenly I realized that I was part of history.  The torch may never visit Clanton again, but on Day One April 27, 1996, the Olympic Torch Relay started in Los Angeles, California and on Day 65 June 30, 1996, the Torch rested in Clanton, Alabama for a few moments. 

The torch’s journey began with the lighting in Olympia, Greece. The Olympic Games Organizing Committee determined the route, as well as the theme, modes of transportation for the torch, and the stops that it would take along its way to the Opening Ceremony in Atlanta.

The torch travels from country to country by plane.  Once it arrives in a city, it usually spends one day going from torchbearer to torchbearer on foot. Sometimes it goes place to place by car, boat, bicycle, motorcycle, dog sled, horse, or virtually any other type of conveyance.  The torch went through my hometown of Jemison on a motorcycle.  Some Jemison elite decided not to attend the torch entering Clanton thinking it would travel by runners only to watch it zoom by on a motorcycle.

“On certain legs of the relay, the torch must be housed in a special container. For a trip across the Great Barrier Reef before the 2000 Olympic Games, a special torch was designed to burn underwater. On airplanes, where open flames are not allowed, the flame is typically stored in an enclosed lamp, much like a Miner's lamp. At night, it is kept in a special cauldron until the relay begins once again the following day.”

It is considered a great privilege to be chosen as a torchbearer. Athletes, actors, musicians, sports figures, and politicians have all carried the flame.

Almost anyone can carry a torch that is at least 14 years old and is able to carry it for at least 437 yards. Handicapped people have been torchbearers.  Some have carried the torch while riding in a wheelchair. The torchbearers are usually persons that have made a significant contribution to their community and because they personify the theme of that particular Olympics.  Several members of Friendship registered, but failed to qualify.

A caravan accompanies each torchbearer with security personnel, a medical team, the media, and extra torches in case the torch the runner is carrying goes out.  At the end of the relay, the last torchbearer enters the Olympic stadium in the host city. Their identity is usually kept secret until the last moment. The final torchbearer is usually an Olympic athlete, sports figure, or an individual who has made a very special contribution to society. That individual runs around the stadium track once, then lights the Olympic cauldron, signaling the official start of the Olympic Games.  When the competition ends about two weeks later, the flame is extinguished at the Closing Ceremony, marking the end of the Games.

 

As believers, we carry the Torch of Jesus.  It has passed from generation to generation.  You and I hold it today. 

The Psalmist says, “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.” 

 

Chapter 12 in the Book of Hebrews reminds us that a great cloud of witnesses surrounds us and has passed the Gospel to us. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.  

 

Let us be torchbearers until the Lord has His closing ceremony.

 
June 22, 2016
 
I made the comment the other day that my dad as a lost man had better Christian ethics than some believers today. Dad would not do any work or shop on Sundays. He would not let us go hunting or fishing on Sunday. He would say that the Old Master rested and we would too. Every time we sat down at the table, we had to take off our hats, put on a shirt, and had to say the blessing or grace.
Dad taught us to tell the truth, to protect the innocent and those that could not defend themselves. We had to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. If we wanted something, we had to work and save for it. Dad taught us independence and not to depend on Uncle Sam for anything. Dad was concerned because the government could take control and tell you how to live and what you could and could not plant. He taught us to avoid charity and be willing to work rather than receive a handout.
He taught us to say, “Yes sir and no Mam. Thank you and you are welcome.” 
Granny Hopper, dad’s mother, taught her family good, basic Christian ethics. The problem was, most of her children were not believers, but were unsaved children with good Christian principles.
Somewhere in dad’s life, I think after he served in the Second World War, that he could not be saved because of all the things he experienced and participated as a teenager and serving in the war. Dad would have that mindset until age fifty-eight.
Part of the reasoning for his inability to be saved may have rooted in the doctrine of the Hard Shell Baptist Church which dad was nurtured. I do not know much about the “Hard Shell Baptist,” but I know that it was not Southern Baptist. Hard Shell Baptists do not get along with Southern Baptist regarding them as too liberal. Today most of the Hard Shell Baptists are Primitive Baptist Churches and adhere to the five tenets of Calvinism, but oppose the elements of John Calvin’s theology such as infant baptism. It is an intense conservatism church and belief system.
The mindset the Hard Shell Baptists when dad was young is a good indication of why dad developed the attitude that he could not be saved. I know this because dad would comment, “There is no need to invite people to church. They know where it is. If a “feller” wants to be saved, he knows where to go and God does not need our help.” The biggest difference between the Hard Shell Baptists and the Southern Baptists was missions. Hard Shell Baptists are anti-missions and teach against it.
As I think of dad for Father’s Day, I am thankful that it was not what daddy did that kept dad from becoming a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, but what Jesus did to save him. One of the greatest tools in the Devil’s workshop is the tool of “we have to get right before God can save us.” That belief is the big LIE. Over and over, dad would say, “Son, you don’t know what all I have done.” My reply was dad I don’t care what all you have done. God will forgive you if you ask forgiveness.
Repeatedly, he would say, “You become and Christian, because I can’t.” You go to church and live a good Christian life. 
Praise God, Dad did become a Christian at age fifty-eight. He finally realized that it was not what had had done or what he could do, but what God had already done through Jesus Christ the Lord.
 
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was (John 17:3-5 KJV).
 
 
June 8, 2016
 
Do you have a hard time letting things go? I do. I have an old sports jacket in the closet that I kept thinking that I would loose weight. It has been in there so long that it is out of style. In that same closet are nice winter jackets and a couple of dress suits that are just a little too snug, but I hate to give them away because I like them and hate to get new ones that I might not like.
My clothes closet is full of shirts, pants, and other garments that need to go to Good Will. I gave most of my old VBS shirts away not too long ago. There was no way I was going to wear those 3X regular t-shirts. They are not long enough or big enough after a few washes. There are a few dress shirts that I like, but they are too small. Wow, I sound like a broken record.
Then there is my work shed. I have collected so much junk I cannot get in it. I decided that I would throw out some things that I saved, but have not used in months, heck years. As I readied each of them for the trashcan, I had mixed emotions, got sentimental. My thought is that if I throw it in the garbage today, I will need it next week. That has happened plenty of times in the past.
I have a system of collecting things, but honestly is there a need for a 1986 am/fm Citation car radio. I keep thinking that someone might need one. There is the old 8-track player beside a couple of more radios and there are kinds of speakers.
I did break down the other day and threw away some old spark plugs, radiator and heater hoses, a couple of old belts, and vacuum lines. I thought that was a sign of improvement.
I really want to have a big cleaning every time I try to locate something I have filed away and cannot remember which file I placed it. I spend precious minutes looking in my converted fish tackle box for nuts, bolts, screws, and washers that I could run to Ace hardware and buy.
Sharon will challenge me to throw stuff away. I say I would but might I might need it. Problem is that happened way too much. I am constantly repairing things with my collected resources. If not for that, I would do as many corporations have done in recent years and that is clear out my inventory. If I did that I would not need all those converted tackle boxes, coveted toolboxes, nor all the storage shelves.
Speaking of shelves, Sharon brought home some wire shelves that her sister was throwing away when she sold her home. Somewhere in the shuffle, the mounting brackets disappeared. The wire shelves were fairly new, so when Sharon wanted them hung in the laundry room, I bought some new brackets at Ace Hardware. I surprised her with old shelves with new hardware. She really liked the shelves.
I had three shelves left over that, I used in by workshop. I decided to be creative, Sharon calls it ridging, and I used some old Support Lift Struts from an old 1986 Trans Am rear hatch window as brackets to hold my shelves. They worked like a charm. I had two Support Lift Struts from the hood of the Trans Am that I used on the second shelve. 
There it was. I got a fix for my addiction of collecting things. Psychologists would say that I got positive reinforcement from a negative action. That being my habit was good and justifiable.
Some folks would tell me that I am good at saving stuff and using them in creative inventions. Others would encourage me to buy a bigger building for my collecting of stuff. But, I know that I need to rid my shed of stuff that I will never use and hinders me from using my time wisely.
You know the same is true in our Christian walk. Sometimes we have to let go of stuff to make room for better things and opportunities. If we are not careful, we have a tendency to collect stuff in our lives that hinders us from being productive. The writer of Hebrews says it like this:  
 
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. . . (Hebrews 12:1 KJV).
 
Then sometimes I feel like Lazarus.  He was dead and Jesus raised him to new life. Lazarus was alive, a resurrected person, but the old grave clothes kept him from really living. He would have never been capable to achieve new things by keeping on grave clothes.
 
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go (John 11:44 KJV).
 
May 26, 2016
 
I was asked to publish a patriotic poem. Poems and other writings are inspirational. If not for the sacrifice of men and women who have defended and protected the great nation we call home, you would not be reading this. My daddy used two dead companions as shields against the enemy.
I wish I knew their names as we celebrate Memorial Day. I often feel that I missed an important part of being an American citizen by not serving in the military. Although the poem is about daddy, it is a tribute to the myriad casualties of war that we do not forget the sacrifice for freedom.
 
The Man in the Middle Lives
 
Appearing as a dark fog drifting from hole to hole
Death, devastation, and destruction shrouded
The sacred ground where demonic fiends
Methodically pierced the hearts of the mutilated
 
Silent are loud bombs, rattling guns, exploding grenades as
Aromas of sulfur, blood, and guts saturate the air along with
Coalescing cries of pain, pleas for help, and begging God
Become quiet as the grim reaper surveys the carnage
 
Enthusiastic agents of death with spikes of demise
See three in another death pit to add to their trophies
Two disfigured youth had given the ultimate sacrifice as
Death laughed when his urchins penetrated their silent hearts
 
One urchin twisted his lethal tool deep into victim’s heart
As his partner made a noxious jab in the other victim’s heart
Shielded by the prayers of a mother on her knees and far away
Her son lies motionless beneath two that died to set people free
 
Petrified, the son deciphered enemy idiom concerning his plight
With devious confidence, the urchin replies the third one is ours
Blinded buoyancy does not allow them to see the young man’s verve
Death cannot and will not eradicate a mother’s prayer and true life
 
Anonymous and gone are the two who shielded the man in the middle
Eternal are the praying mother and the son whom she loved
Always present are the agents of evil seeking to kill and destroy
A praying nation will continue to bolster the red, white, and blue
 
The man in the middle left a legacy behind through his children
Teaching them to be responsible citizens for freedom is not free
 
 
My daddy was the man in the middle. Private Mitchell Clark Hopper fought under General Patton in North Africa and Italy. Somewhere in Italy dad lay beneath two dead soldiers in a foxhole. German machinegun fire ripped open his chest and abdomen. He pulled dead soldiers together and two German soldiers pierced the fallen soldiers’ hearts. With a limited knowledge of the German language, he heard them say, “What about the one in the middle?” “He’s dead.”
Receiving official word that dad was killed in action, Granny Hopper said, “No. He is alive. I am praying for him.”
I minister today because my dad lived and Jesus, the man between two thieves lives.
 
And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left (Matthew 27:37-38 KJV)
 
 
May 12, 2016
 
THIS DOOR IS NOT A RESTROOM DOOR. IT IS AN EMERGENCY EXIT DOOR! It was an odd sign, especially since it had yellow safety tape all around it and a big red exit sign on it. It even had an illuminated EXIT sign above it. Even with all this, I could tell there was a problem.
Since you want to know, I will explain by starting this article over. I had stopped at the Waffle House on I-59 near Ashville for dinner. Afterwards I went across the road to a Shell station for gas. I filled the car with gas and decided I needed a “pit stop” before continuing to Linden. In my haste to find the men’s room, I looked for the restroom sign. Seeing the restroom sign, between foundation drinks and coolers of beer, I saw a square bronze plaque with men on it. I noticed it was bronze and had a large white arrow pointing down toward it. As I got to what I thought was the men’s restroom door, I noticed it had a poster on it. I realized it was NOT the restroom door, and saw the men’s restroom door to the right.
Returning I had to stop and read the poster on the door at the end of the restroom hallway more closely. What I did not see in my haste was that the white arrow pointing down had fire extinguisher printed on it and there was indeed a fire extinguisher there beside the bronze men’s sign. The doorframe had yellow safety tape with CAUTION written on it attached on each side and around the top. The poster said, THIS DOOR IS NOT A RESTROOM DOOR. IT IS AN EMERGENCY EXIT DOOR!
By the large number of handprints on the door and poster, I could tell there had been a problem with people going outside through the door. Being from the country, if I had gone through the door and to the outside, I would have looked for the OUTHOUSE, which would have been along side of I-59.
Now, I, as have you, have read signs when entering stores. There is the No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service sign. Then there are the NO CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED and CASH ONLY signs. I like this one. I WILL NOT WAIT ON YOU IF YOU ARE ON YOUR CELL PHONE sign. These are self-explanatory.
One time in Thorsby, a Swedish town back home, a service station there had NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO SLACKS, NO SERVICE SIGN. Well, I had to ask the cashier about that one. She said a lady, I use that term loosely, stopped and read the sign that had “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” sign and calmly went into the women’s restroom, removed her pants, got a soft drink and bag of chips, approached the counter, paid and left wearing her shirt, panties, flip-flops. Well, as the old saying goes, “Here’s your sign.”
So, as I went to pay for a diet Sunkist for a caffeine fix, I commented to this big burly fellow with snarled look on his face standing behind the counter of the Shell station, “I see by the sign and safety tape that you have had a problem with folks going out the exit.” He snarled saying, “Stupid people can’t read. Every time they go out the door, the alarm goes off.” 
I have to admit that the sign was confusing, especially if you “gotta go” in a hurry. I didn’t ask, but I wondered how many had an accident after the alarm sounded. He was not too amused with my questioning.
Signs, like the Shell one can be confusing and misleading. I am reminded of an old rock and roll song by Five Man Electrical Band: Sign, sign, everywhere a sing. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind Do this, don’t that, can’t you read the Sign?
 
With the influx of foreigners, modern signs use universal symbols, but that is not a new trend. Look at Isaiah.
 
And the Lord said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia (Isaiah 20:3 KJV). 
 
I did not do as Isaiah did, but I did wear a sign one day. While on a Disaster Relief trip to St. Joseph Missouri, I wore a sign. I was unaware that my “so called friends” that I will withhold their names but they know who they are and a new friend Steve, manager of a co-op in Marshall County, posted a sign on my back. You know the kind that high schoolers get placed on their back saying, KICK ME. My friends set the plot and Steve did the dirty work. Steve padded me on the back and told me he was proud of my being a Chaplain. I was feeling pretty good, but I noticed people were snickering at me. One of Steve’s friends, not one of mine, felt sorry for me and cued me in on the scheme. Steve had placed a sign on my back that said, “WILL WORK FOR FOOD!” 
 
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he (Jesus) answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign (Matthew 12:38-39a KJV)
 
O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? (Matthew 16:3b KJV)
 
Dedicated to Milton and Nelson
 
 
April 27, 2016
 
The Parable of the Seed
 
Long ago, a sower of seeds received word that a group of propagators wanted to form a place of agricultural reverence.   Successful with great harvests, he lived the philosophy “Do not judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” He thought about the invitation and decided he would join the promulgating society of the agricultural gathering.
When he arrived at the agricultural facility, the simplicity of it impressed him. It was a small building. Once there, he learned that other sowers had the same philosophy as he did. They were sowing seeds on every available piece of property they could find. He decided this was a good thing and started attending their bi-monthly meetings. A successful collector of seeds, called a spermologist, would teach a class on seeds at these gatherings.
After the harvest time, some of the sowers decided that they would share testimonies about their harvest and collection of seeds. The core group of sowers invited some potential sowers to these meetings. They realized that it would be beneficial to start some classes about seeds. They decided to target the potential sowers and those that were interested in carpology, which is the study of seeds.
As a surprise, a sower sung a song that he wrote about seeds. He had some of his farm hands deliver his wife’s piano, which she played as the farmer sang. It was so wonderful that the core group collected seed songs from other agricultural groups. In no time, the agricultural groups from the county decided to form an association. This association joined with others across the state and formed a state seed federation. In a few more years, the states started a national Seed Broadcasting Convention.
This national Seed Broadcasting Convention developed a system that enabled any agricultural reverence gathering, regardless of size, to participate in seed propagation across the nation and around the world. Because of their cooperation to give 10% of their income, all agricultural gatherings, regardless of size, participated. 
The simplistic agricultural facility grew and started having weekly gatherings with more songs, more instruments, and more classes. They decided to call a full-time carpologist. A few years later they decided they needed a carpologist secretary and someone to lead the group in seed inspired music.
In the process of time, sowers spent more and more time at fellowships and less time in the fields. The agricultural reverence gathering offered studies on types of soil, kinds of farming techniques, and various farming equipment. They started programs that would raise money for seed awareness in the community, across the state, and around the world.
When excitement for seed sowing dwindled, the carpologist would invite a visiting charismatic carpologist to come and encourage a harvest renewal. It was so successful that they expanded to doing one harvest renewal during pre-planting and another after harvest.
This lasted for a few years, more and more potential farmers became less involved with sowing seeds, and more interested with maintaining the agricultural society and the benefits it provided. Sowers were more comfortable becoming spermologists. The agricultural society, losing its seed sowing focus, slowly drifted toward seed worship.
The agricultural facility evolved as younger sowers focused more praising the seeds than planting them. Where the traditional songs talked of the power of the seeds and the harvest, the contemporary songs incorporated more musical instruments, more emotions, and less carpology sound verses. With continual decline, the agricultural reverence gatherings decided to change the way they gathered and where they planted seeds to attract people. They determined that old soil was not vogue and decided to focus on new and uncultivated soil. Finding the new soil, the original agricultural reverence gatherings continued to decline.
The move did bring potential sowers. Spermologists decided that they would develop new techniques and clinics on cultivating. Potential sowers outnumber veteran sowers and sowing dwindled. Fewer seeds resulted in smaller harvests. These modern agricultural reverence gatherings have an array of activities concerning the work of sowers. The administration and management of these gatherings is a pattern for successful gathering growth. However, the lead spermologist, associates, and the staff of the larger gatherings are expected to sow. The rest enjoy the festivities. 
Veteran seed sowers of older agricultural reverence gatherings concentrated on maintaining the status quo. Because they did not change sowing practices, they plant less seeds and produce little or no harvests. Both young and old sowers forgot the basis spirit of seeds. Seeds are remarkable. Seeds are living organisms held in a state of suspended animation of dormancy. The longevity of seeds is remarkable. A seed with constant darkness, cool temperatures, and dryness will last for thousands of years. Every seed has the potential to grow when given the opportunity.
The bottom line: seeds must be sown to produce harvest.
 
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you (First Peter 1:23-25 KJV).
 
Note: Scientists have successfully planted a 2000-year-old Judean date palm seed. The seed was found in the Judean desert and carbon tested for its age. The date palm tree is called Methuselah.
 
April 7, 2016
 
Sharon and I were visiting down at Hoboken Baptist Church a few Sundays ago and we saw a small dog that did not have a back leg. That’s something that you don’t see everyday. I told some small boys watching the dog that the church ran out of chicken legs for Sunday Dinner and they borrowed one from the dog.
Sharon had some cousins that had a small dog that lost both back legs. Feeling sorry for him, her uncle made the dog an apparatus with roller skate wheels attached to the puppy’s body where his legs would be. I often wondered what he did around fire hydrants and trees. That’s something you don’t see everyday, a dog roller skate backside.
Back around 1972, the Goodyear Blimp was making a trip from Florida to the Iron Bowl in Birmingham. The blimp was following Interstate 65. I was a die setter for Keystone Metal Moulding in Clanton and I was helping a couple of co-die setters stack dies behind the building. We spotted the blimp meandering above I-65.
Now, there were men and women working at Keystone that were very common country folk. I could tell they had never been very far from home and lived sheltered lives. Several ladies came running outside and were in a panic because they were seeing a UFO. They were screaming and some were wringing their hands. A cigar shaped silver object slowly rocking in the Eastern sky. They thought the Lord was coming. In a blimp. Really?
I stood there amazed at the people. I said, “Hey y’all it’s the Goodyear Blimp headed to the game at Legion field Saturday.” Some asked how did know it’s not a spaceship. I said it has Goodyear written on the side. It was something you don’t see everyday.
I was headed from Demopolis to the office the other day when I noticed that the pickup in front of me had a mattress and box springs on the trailer it was pulling. I observed that the mattress had become untied. Suddenly, the wind picked the mattress up, up, up and away. In the words of the crows in the Disney movie Dumbo, “Well, I have seen a horsefly, and I seen a dragonfly, yeah, I seen a housefly,” but I ain’t never seen a mattress fly until that moment. The mattress looked like a large blue and white albatross slowly flying to the roadside. That’s something your don’t see everyday, a mattress fly.
Speaking of seeing things on the roadside, on our way back from Texas Sharon and I saw a stretch limo broke down on the side of the road. It had a couple of doors open and the hood up. I traveled for years and I think that was a first. Limos with open doors and hood up are not something you see everyday.
One day traveling on the Interstate I saw port-a-let tied on the back and in the trunk of a car. I know there are motor homes and travel trailers with built in toilets, but that was the first car I saw with one. That’s something you do not see everyday. The poor soul must have had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
While working at the Nanafalia Post Office, Sharon said a truck driver saw a large alligator crossing the Nanafalia Bridge. Someone in a log truck tried to run over its tail, but most people dodged it. She asked me reckon what the alligator was doing on the bridge. I said, “Undoubtedly, he did not want to swim from Choctaw County to Marengo County, so took the bridge thinking it safer than being hit by a barge. An alligator crossing the Nanafalia Bridge is something you don’t see every day.
Headed back home from Central State Bank in Calera when I worked at the cement plant, I saw a group of motorcycles. The bikers and their women were a motley crew. Long hair, beards, tattoos, and sporting sleeveless shirts and jackets they rumbled down Main Street on US Highway 31. I noticed one of the blondes in a black leather jacket on the back of a Harley Hog was a neighbor. What caught my eye was one of the Harleys pulled a small trailer. A trailer behind a bike is not unusual. But, the casket on the trailer is something you don’t see every day. I asked Shelia, my neighbor, about the casket. She said it was a biker brother that wanted to be carried to graveyard on his bike. 
When is the last time you saw something that you don’t see everyday? I think God gives us these moments where we can stop for a jiffy and ponder life. Some things we see or hear about can be life changing.
When Jesus walked on earth, there were plenty of things not seen every day. The blind saw, the deaf heard, and the lame walked. Lazarus rose from the dead, Peter walked on the water, and a small boy gave his lunch and Jesus fed five thousand. People did not see those things every day.
I thought about Moses’ call as I pondered on these things. He saw something that you do not see every day. He saw a burning bush that did not burn.
 
And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him (Moses) in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed (Exodus 3:2 KJV).
 
As you venture down life’s highway, meditate on the things that you do not see everyday and ask this question. God, what are you trying to teach me?
 
March 24, 2016
 
Dad died on April 27, 1984 around four in the morning. I had been up all night with him and held his hand as he drew his last breath. Moments before that final breath, I woke mamma, my sister, and baby brother where they could spend those last precious moments with dad. They were skeptical at first. We had several close calls with him that final week. I finally convinced them that the nurse had assured me that he was dying. The nurse and I had watched his breathing move from the stomach area to his throat. She said when it got there death was close.
The week began with Easter on April 22. Dad was at home. I do not remember what we did that Sunday, but I am sure we tried to make it a great day knowing that he had lived two years longer than the doctors’ first prognosis with his brain tumors and consequential surgery.
Dad did not care for Easter, especially before and even after his salvation. Dad had something we don’t see much of now days. Raised by Christian single mom, his dad committed suicide; dad knew and practiced Christian principles. Dad always told us that Easter was about Jesus’ Resurrection and not about bunnies, baskets, and bonnets. It was not about dyed eggs, delicious chocolates, or dumb pagan practices. 
Easter was one of the two holidays that momma or we did not have to beg him to go to church with us. He was faithful on those two events. I remind pastors and church folks not to make fun of those, especially dads, that come only at Easter and Christmas. I know I have seen my mother cry a million tears trying to get dad in church. I still can see her big beautiful smile when daddy escorted her into the church at Easter. We were elated too. New clothes, dad in church, and momma’s Easter dinner made it wonderful. We were glad Jesus rose.
Dad understood what many skeptics did not. Daddy believed that Jesus rose from the dead. Skeptics are like the characters in television investigation programs. They have to prove everything scientifically. One of the problems skeptics find with Christianity is faith. We trust God, but skeptics want tangible proof.
Several weeks ago while I was reading, I ran across this line. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. I remembered that I had read that phrase before and did not think much about it. That was until shortly after I read it again in another book. I thought about it more.  Then a third time within a month there is was again. Since all three times were in the context of daily devotions or readings I asked, “God what are you trying to say to me.” I wrote the phrase down and looked for its original author. I found it to be a quote from William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet Act One Scene Five. Well, back to old Billy Shakespeare. Being an English minor in college, I have had to read him a lot and analyze the meaning of his plays.
Skeptics take Shakespeare’s phrase out of context. In the play, Hamlet, Horatio, and a Ghost are in conversation. Hamlet says, “And therefore as a stranger giver welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that are dreamt in your philosophy.”
Hamlet and Horatio are products of Protestant humanism. This philosophical thought is a compound of ethics, logic, and natural science. Logically, for Horatio there were no Ghosts, much less carry on a conversation with one.
The Horatio’s of the world refuse to believe the Resurrection, but Jesus demonstrated the Resurrection before He rose from the dead. Remember that Jesus was late for Lazarus’ funeral, but right on time for his Resurrection.
Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth (John 11:39, 43 KJV.)
 
The Horatio’s of the world have doubts about supernatural phenomena or in the case of Southern Baptists, spiritual phenomenon. One meaning on Shakespeare’s quote is there is more that meets the eye, levels of truth, meaning, and complexity that are not visible to casual observers such as the Resurrection morning. Angel said, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6 KJV).
 
As Southern Baptists, we believe there is more than meets the eye. In our postmodern culture of growing skepticism, our challenge as believers is continue to live by faith. Paul reminds believers at the very humanist and carnal Corinth about the unseen. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (First Corinthians 2:9 KJV).
 
As I walked from the hospital the morning daddy died, I reflected on the week. There was a sense of loss and relief. On Monday night after Easter, I had my last supper with daddy. It was just daddy and me. I fed him while mom took a much-needed break. Later in the wee hours of the morning, dad had a seizure and the ambulance rushed him to the hospital.  By Friday morning, he was with Jesus. As I held his hand in death, Jesus took dad’s spiritual hand.
Walking to my car, the morning sky was crystal clear, the air was a vigorous cool, birds were singing, and dad was alive and well with Jesus. We had dad’s funeral on the Lord’s Day. Take that skeptics!
 
 
March 10, 2016
 
 
Traveling the highways we see lots of billboards. On our last trip to Baytown Texas for our son Aaron’s wedding, there were hundreds of billboards. Not too far from Aaron’s apartment is the world’s largest gas station named Buc-ee’s. Of course it is the largest. What else would you expect from the state that boasts the largest of everything? 
Buc-ee’s is known for billboards by Texas interstate highways with simple and humorous slogans. One of my favorites is: Two reasons to stop at Buc-ee’s, # 1 and #2. The Baytown Buc-ee’s is 60,000 square feet, sits on 18 acres, has 96 gas pumps, and employs 200. Buc-ees also has the cleanest bathrooms. Two employees sole purpose is cleaning the bathrooms 24 hours a day for #1 and #2.
From three hundred miles from Baytown, we started reading the billboards. The billboards were better than the GPS. The ideas behind the billboards: When motorists pull in to use the restroom, they are like to buy. For Sharon and me it means how far we are from Aaron.
There is a large billboard on I-110 in Pensacola, Florida advertising the Andrews Institute that says, “The world comes to Gulf Breeze.” It is true people from over the world come to Gulf Breeze to have surgery. I know I went there.
As a kid, I remember a barn north of Jemison that had “See Rock City” painted on its tin roof. For several years traveling with the Bethel Baptist Builders, I have seen dozens of old barns with the “See Rock City slogans. I have been by Rock City on many occasions, especially with the Builders, but have never been there. My destination is the Builder work site and I resist the temptation thinking that one day Rock City will be the destination.
Billboards are very tempting. My friend Michael Mason has a chapter in his book True titled 1-800-2good2Btrue. He says, “That if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” As a traveling evangelist, he says that he sees motels with rooms for $19.99 per night. He writes, “Chances are, many of those people at those motels are not there to sleep.” He and his wife, Crystal, have stayed in rooms with worn carpets, stained bathrooms, and dirty sheets. He asks, “Is sleeping on clean sheets really worth over a hundred and fifty dollars a night? Probably not, but peace of mind is priceless.”
Many years ago on a building trip with my home Association, we were headed to Granger, Wyoming. On I-80, we started seeing signs inviting us to visit the Little America truck stop. The closer we got to Granger, the more inviting the billboard became. 
Little America was an oasis along I-80 before truck stops were common. At Little America, there is a hotel, restaurant, post office, convenience store, repair shop, and other trucker amenities. We were expecting something more by reading the billboards. We were kinda disappointed at first. Before the trip was over, it was truly an oasis. Way back, when we were there, that is where we showered after working all day on the Granger church. There were no facilities or other amenities at the church. Little America was a welcomed relief after working in skunk dens under the church all day.
Michael Mason believes billboards line the highways because the highways are filled with lonely, empty people trying to find their niche in life. And advertisers know people are desperate to find happiness and will do whatever it takes to find it.
There are signs with: 1-800-divorce, all you can eat buffet, $9.99, ice cold beer, Cracker Barrel 18 miles, World’s Largest Adult Bookstore exit 666, Exit here for Gator City, Visit Silver Springs, and Pam’s and my favorite, Accident/ Injury, Call Alexander Shunnarah 1-800-808-****. Shunnarah is everywhere.
Long before Ricky Nelson was a traveling man. There was the Apostle Paul. On his missionary journeys, he had a traveling companion named Demas. Demas had potential, but the world captivated him. Rather than being in the presence of God, he chose the pleasures of the world. He read one too many billboards that distracted and tempted Demas and he got off at an exit and never returned.
 
Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia (II Timothy 4:9-10 KJV).
 
On a Builder trip to Pikeville, Kentucky, there was a billboard in the mountains advertising a plumbing business. It was an eye catcher. “We repair what your husband fixed.” Ain’t you glad that we serve a God that repaired what you and I try to fix after we fall prey to Satan’s billboards.
 
 
February 24, 2016
 
I had the opportunity to work for a Christian contractor with Alabama Bridge Builders. My contractor friend started as a laborer digging ditches and by the grace of God and encouragement of friends, he rose to partnership in Alabama Bridge Builders. When I needed some work for a layoff, my friend offered me employment. Thank God for Christian owners of companies and corporations.
I worked as a carpenter two years with the bridge crew. It was vastly different from a cement plant. At the cement plant it never rained. With the bridge crew, we drew a big circle in the dirt and when ten drops of rain hit inside the circle we got the tools up and went home. At the plant, we worked around the clock, while with the bridge crew we worked from March 10, 2016dawn to dark. It was hurry up and wait with the bridge crew and at the plant, it was nonstop. At the plant, it was the same thing every day. With the bridge crew, each job was different and had unique challenges.
I will never forget working on I59/20 at the Rock Mountain Lake exit just before the I459 intersection. The west side I59/20 we had to drive metal piling approximately one hundred feet to reach solid foundation for the bridge embankment. On the east side, we had to blast rock for the foundation. The new bridge reduced travel time from Rock Mountain homes from twelve miles to one mile to the city of MaCalla.
I was working on this bridge when Legendary Coach “Bear” Bryant died. The foreman had me paint a sign that saying. “We Love You Coach.” My co-workers and I realized that the funeral procession was about to arrive when we realized there was no traffic coming from Tuscaloosa. Suddenly there was the hearse followed by a white limo and large buses carrying former Alabama football players. It was an unforgettable moment from top of an unfinished bridge.
So often, we zoom up and down road with no thought of bridges. I often wonder how long it took our ancestors to travel without bridges. Having built bridges, I often pay attention to what bridges cross. Up in Montevallo, a bridge crosses a railroad track, a highway, and a creek. For many years, it held the distinction of being the only one in Alabama that did. Some bridges are unique because they follow the contour of the land.
The last bridge that I help build was the Walker Chapel Bridge on I65 south of First Baptist Church Gardendale. A coworker and I delivered a load of concrete bear rails to the job site. I never will forget the sight that morning. There were hundreds of wooden stakes marking the future bridge. It would connect the city of Fultondale to Walker Chapel community. It would replace the two-lane highway that I65 had cut in half. To the south was a hill that would become I65. The bridge began as a two-lane on the Fultondale side and became a six lane as it went over I65.
Being part of an area covered with wooden stakes and helping transform it into a six-lane bridge was a beautiful transformation. At the same time, we were constructing a bridge over a set of railroad tracks about a half-mile north on what is I65. Each time I travel I65 in that area, I have to look for the railroad bridge. Traveling in excess of seventy miles per hour the bridge that was hard and hot to build is just a bump, bump on the interstate.
At a Directors of Mission Developmental class, the instruction showed us some bridges that were weird. A bridge build from each side did not meet in the middle. One ran into solid rock on one end. Another was over dry land. These bridges connected to nothing. His point was bridges connect.
The Latin word for bridge building is Pons Pontis, Pons means bridge, and Pontis means builder. I think I am going to tell folks that I used to be a Pons Pontis rather than a bridge builder. The Latin word Pons and the Greek word  Hierei means priest. The role of a priest is that of a bridge builder.
The writers of Hebrews and I Peter remind us that Jesus is the high priest and that believers are priests.  
 
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16 KJV).
 
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy (I Peter 2:9-10 KJV).
 
I was working for Alabama Bridge Builders when God called me into the ministry. Thirty-three years later, I continue to be a Pons Pontis
 
 
February 4, 2016
 
Several years ago when I was working as a substitute mail carrier, I got called into the Post Master’s Office. Through the years, I have been “called on the carpet” on many occasions for various reasons. You might say I have plenty of “on the carpet” experience from high school, college, work, and yes, even church.
In this particular situation, I was working midnights at the cement plant burning the cement kilns. I had worked off midnights on a Saturday morning, showered at the plant, ate breakfast at Hardees, and arrived at Montevallo Post Office early. I thought about quitting the cement plant and working for the postal service since I was a bi-vocational pastor. Postal work would be straight days instead of rotate shifts.
When I got to the post office, I put up the mail, pulled it down, and delivered it. That afternoon I went home slept until time to work midnight and pulled another shift.
As we all know, there are folks that know more about your business than you do. Well, the post office Miss Busy Body informed the Post Master that I had worked the previous Saturday without a good night’s rest and was unfit to deliver the mail.
On the carpet, the Post Master informed me that I needed a good night’s sleep before I delivered the mail. He reiterated that the mail was a precious commodity that must be delivered with the utmost accuracy and extra care as I traveled the rural roads of Shelby County. He notified me that if I did not correct the error of my way that he would discharge me.
When I finally got the opportunity to reply, I let the Post Master know a thing or two. I asked him, “How much sleep did you get night last night, and what time did you get up yesterday morning?” He responded that he had gotten up at six, went to bed at eleven, and rose this morning at six.
I told him that I had more rest than he had. I said I went to bed at eleven in the morning, slept until nine, went to work at ten thirty, got off at six fifteen, reported to work at seven thirty, returned home around three in the afternoon, and slept until time to return to midnight shift. I reminded him that his day was from six in the morning until eleven that night, which is seventeen hours before rest. The Saturday I worked my time starting at nine thirty and ended at three thirty the next day which was fifteen hours.
I continued to tell him that Miss Busy Body’s son, also a rural carrier substitute, bragged to me how he did not get home until four in the morning and reported to work at seven thirty and if I was not mistaken, that’s only three and half hours.
I told him that each day that the cement plant entrusted me with two cement kilns that costs of millions of dollars, used thousands of tons of coal, produced millions of tons of cement, and I didn’t believe the mail I carried cost that much. I told him that I understood responsibility and took many safety classes that stressed the importance of rest and work.  I worked sixteen hour shifts and many occasions at the cement plant.  I worked every other Saturday delivering the mail and worked seven consecutive days burning the kilns. Did I say he had a sheepish look on his face?
At some point in each of our lives, people in trust us. I remember the first time dad let me drive in town. He had an injury to his hand and he needed to go to Bessemer for a part. We loaded into a 1958 Chevy and dad sai9d, “You drive.” I was scared to dead, but I knew daddy trusted me enough to drive and I was not going to let him down.
Years later, I needed someone to drive my car home from Chilton County to Gallion, while I drove my old truck. My son Aaron was thirteen. I told him to drive the car, stay close behind me, and watch my taillights. He had been driving enough around the Gallion community that I trusted him. We drove slowly and safely an hour and half trip late at night and in heavy fog.
God did something amazing before the cement kilns and before mail delivery. He in trusted me with the most important task of mankind. He called me to share the Gospel. It is ten simple words: Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. God is bringing the Lost to Jesus and I am part of the action.
 
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts (I Thessalonians 2:4 KJV).
 
I wonder if there is carpet in Heaven?
 
January 28, 2016
 
This morning as I was reading my daily Proverb, I thought of J B. J B was a good friend, coworker, and brother in Christ. As a kid, I would watch him fly past our house in a Baggett tractor-trailer truck. I thought it was the grandest thing to know someone that actually drove a Semi. There were not many big trucks that traveled our country road. We saw plenty of pickups, produce trucks, and pulpwood and log trucks.  
My brothers and I would run to the road, put our arms up, and pull down trying to get J B to blow his air horn. J B would just laugh as he blew the horn and we would say, “There goes J B.”
Most everyone up home had side jobs to compensate income. J B farmed on the side. We raised pigs and crops. J B had cattle and hay. When J B was not in the semi ridge, he was on his Ford tractor fertilizing hay, cutting hay, raking hay, baling hay, and storing hay. J B continued to do the small square bales instead of the large round rolls. He contented that the large round rolls had too much waste.
One summer years later, many years later, my brother David and I were helping J B and another friend of ours Calvin haul hay. We loved helping load and haul hay. The only problem we were not young any more. Like the proverb says, “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.” (Proverbs 20:29 KJV) David and I were grey. In fact, J B had gone to work at the cement plant. Calvin had been there for years and I was working there.
J B and Calvin loved the longer square bales for their cows. David and I struggled to throw the hay on the trailer. Calvin pulled the trailer as J B continued to rake and bale as David and I tired. David and I both realized that we were bad out of shape. Calvin commented that we had become soft and weak. We struggled to lift the bales.
Calvin had mercy on us and volunteered to rest us. On the first bale, Calvin struggled to life the bale. As he reached for a second one, he threw it to the ground and said, “Good gracious boys! Why didn’t you tell me the bales were heavy?” David and looked at one another and said, we thought we had gotten sorry and weak. Calvin said, “These bales weigh over 200 lbs. They are too green!”
Calvin flagged J B down. J B must have thought he was still driving for Baggett. He was flying on his tractor raking the cut hay. Calvin told J B that he did not want to burn down his barns with green hay. If not dry enough, green hay will go through a heat and catch fire.
I never will forget what J B said. “Dutton, I like to bale it a little green. The cows like it better.” Calvin won the argument and David and I were relieved. First, we needed rest and second we were glad we were not as out of shape as we thought.
Most people in our church and community worked hard to make a living. However, a few in our community did not..
One time J B was raking and baling hay in his fields. He needed someone to help him so he turned to his neighbor named Joe. Joe was a tall, slender, and well able to help with the hay. Watching him growing up I never knew of him holding a job or working. As J B toiled in the hot summer son, Joe sat on his front porch swing and played his guitar. J B hired him to help load hay. Joe helped a short spell and told J B that he had better go home which was across from the hay field.
J B inquired as to his abandonment. Joe said, “I might be seen by someone and lose my government check.” J B was furious as he raked, baled, and loaded hay while Joe sat on the front porch and played the guitar.
Every time I see the cartoon movie with Porky Pig as a farmer working had while his neighbor, an old fox, plays a guitar on the front porch of a shack, I think of J B and Joe. When winter comes, Porky is feasting while the old fox starves. Porky’s conscience bothers him and invites his neighbor for dinner. The sorry fox says that come spring he will work hard. When spring comes, the old sorry fox returned to playing the guitar.
 
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing (Proverbs 20:4 KJV).
 
 
 
January 7, 2016
 
The coming of the new year is like breaking in a new pair of work boots. If you are like me, I hate breaking in a new pair of shoes. Those in the know about footwear and good health recommend that you get new shoes every six months. I know that we could not afford to do that when I was growing up. Heck, when I hit my growth spurt I would out grow a pair of shoes in no time. Daddy bought them a size or two larger where I could wear them longer.
I know that women wear a wide assortment of shoes. All I know is they like breaking them in more than I do. My shoes, prior to knee surgery, lasted until they would not stand upright. I could take them off and they would do a roll over because they were rolled over. Even when I bought new shoes, I would keep the old ones as spares or work shoes.
The years that I worked at the cement plant, the company furnished us two new pairs of steel-toed work boots a year. Those of us that worked in the plant in the cement, coal, lime, oil, and mud would wear out more than two pairs a year. Later when I worked as a kiln burner, I collected boots because a pair would last until they tried to roll over. When the Hy-test boot truck came, we would hurry to get the best pair of boots they offered.
Companies can make stupid decisions. I think it is because corporate folks have never actually worked inside their plants and they make stupid assumptions. Corporate complained that they were spending too much on boots. Certain employees who were good corporate material and had extra boots said they wanted money instead of boots.
On the surface, it seems that the new deal agreement with boots would be a perfect compromise. Those of us on the contract negotiation team had better vision on the future outcome. Those that were paid to know more than we did, gave the money.   Initially, it was the beginning of a good new thing. Most of the employees were in the cement, lime, coal, mud, water, and heat. I destroyed a pair of boots working a kiln that was so hot it burned and melted them. We did not like the change.
During this time, I got a job on the kiln floor. I went to Kmart and bought me a pair of steel-toed high top tennis shoes. I set a trend. I had worn Rebook high top tennis shoe for year. I would have worn them when preaching but they did not match my suit. The high top steel-toes tennis shoes were cheap and comfortable. The first night I wore them some smartie decided to hit my toes with a ball-pinged hammer. To his surprise, they were steel-toed. He did not believe me, so he had to test them.
Now the fact of the matter was we were required to wear steel-toes boots. As my life record proves, I had to make a trip to the office, on the carpet as they say. I argued that I did not need boots because I worked in a clean environment, unlikely to drop something on my toes, except for the random idiot that would hit my steel-toed tennis shoes with a hammer. I won, but my compadres that worked in the plant had to have steel-toed boots. 
The new decision brought new consequences and challenges. Employees bought inferior boots from Walmart and Kmart. The company had to change the boot policy and returned to having the Hy-test boot truck come twice a year. By the way, we were not allowed to get Hy-test steel-toed tennis shoes. The company chose our options. Once again, we had another new way of doing business.
Newness creates uncertainty and opportunity. I have to remind myself that a rut started as a new way. Old boots were once new. An old house started with new materials. Fifty years of marriage started with a honeymoon. That ninety-year-old woman started as a newborn.
As I think about the comfortable worn-out rolling over boots, I know the new pair will get comfortable and help my walk and work. It has been said that the past is never as bad or as good as, we reminisce. During the holidays, I realized that I am obsolete, out of sync, and old-fashioned. I felt as though I was drowning amidst a sea with overwhelming waves filled with the challenges of a very hedonistic and immoral world. The light was growing dim then I began to see a light at the end of a dark tunnel that I was walking and thought, “It is probably a train!”
The future is unknown and yet to be. I needed a good kick (preferably not steel-toed boots) on the bottom from the Lord to jump-start my new year. Jesus reminds us that we can have a new beginning by being born again. That means starting over new. God is the God of new things:
 
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. . . (Isaiah 43:18-19a KJV).
 
It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3: 22-23 KJV).
 
My prayer for 2016: Lord, Help me see the light of a new day and a new year as the Holy Spirit goes before me preparing for the unknown.
 
 
December 17, 2015
 
Scott Stevens, pastor of Fairhaven, had a wonderful Christmas question in a sermon from John Chapter One recently. He asked, “How old was Jesus when He came as a babe in the manger?” The answer is He has always been – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
As Scott spoke, I had visions of articles, not sugarplums, dancing in my head. He reminded us that Christmas is about JESUS while the world’s propaganda is indoctrinating that Christmas is about Santa, Fifth Avenue marketing, and materialism. Sharon has the Christmas spirit decorating the house and I am feeling a little more like Ebenezer Scrooge every year. Sharon is recording and watching all the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. They are heart warming and tear jerking promoting love, family, miracles, and forgiveness, but very little is said of Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas.   
Sharon also recorded the fiftieth anniversary of the A Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon. Charles Shultz, creator of the Cartoon, was a Christian. Fifty years ago, he was relentless with television executives that the Charlie Brown Christmas special include the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke. The plot of the cartoon is that Charlie Brown feels as though Christmas is too commercial and materialistic. During the movie, Linus, the character that always has his security blanket, quotes the Scripture from Luke. An element of the cartoon is that when he said, “Fear not” he drops his security blanket. I have always heard and believe that cartoons are for adults. As we watched, I realized how much more the world has become more pagan and materialistic with Christmas in fifty years.
As the war for Christmas rages, it is a battle that wants to destroy the real meaning of Christmas. The materialistic “security blanket” of the world will not bring peace, joy, or hope. The craving to remove Nativity scenes from public arenas and Merry Christmas as season greetings, and replace with the North Pole, Santa and his Elves, and saying Happy Holidays can never remove the fact that God became flesh and dwell among men. The real is being replaced with a charlatan or a fake and promote it for the gospel truth. I know how Charlie Brown must feel about Christmas today. I am amazed that the Special included the Scripture from Luke’s Gospel for the fiftieth anniversary.    
This kind of Christmas logic reminds me of a story I heard about another Charlie. This one is Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin created the character known as the “Little Tramp.” The Little Tramp waddled with his feet pointed out and with a cane. He wore a hat, suit with tails, and tie. He sported a mustache that he wiggled and large eyebrows that he raised as he got in all sorts of trouble. He was known world wide. Though he was famous, legend has it that Charlie Chaplin entered a “Charlie Chaplin Look-A-Like Contest” and lost. The real Charlie Chaplin lost to an imposter. Sound familiar?
Again, Scott reminded us that the essence of everything concerns Jesus. Everything was created by and for Jesus. Unfortunately, the world would rather create everything for themselves. Several years ago, I heard a woman say of Christmas: Those Christians are trying to ruin everything by turning Christmas into a Christian Holiday. Yeah I know that Christmas, as was Easter was celebrated as pagan holiday long before Christ’s birth, but they were not called Christmas or Resurrection either. Christians celebrate the birth and resurrection of JESUS. All I can say about that is “DUH!”
To show how much has changed in fifty years; an atheistic group accused an Arkansas grade school of violating students’ constitutional rights by inviting them to a performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at a local church. Quoting Charlie Brown’s friend, Lucy, “Good Grief!”
Wait, there’s more. Dolly Parton entered a Dolly Look-A-Like contest and she lost. Now here is the rest. It was a drag queen Dolly Look-A-Like. Talk about a perverted world. Unbelievably, that is why the timeless Jesus came as a baby.
 
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:10-14 KLV).
 
For some, merriment, cheer, jing jing jingling and fa la la la la are light years away as you struggle with heaviness.   Straining under the load of sickness, or keenly felt grief because of death, or trying to escape the fog of depression, or the trap of financial deficiency, or the pressure of a chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out kind church members may have killed suffocated your hope. Hope comes when God’s people share the Good News, which the Angel conveyed to the shepherds.
 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!
 
(Check out www.bethelba.com under Brother Bobby’s Articles for past articles)
 
 
December 10, 2015
 
The other day as Sharon and I were traveling, she played a couple of Christmas CD’s. One was by Elvis and the other Burl Ives. As I listened to Elvis, I reminisced about Christmas Past and my mind carried me to a place that I sometimes long to be. I keep thinking that momma is going to wake me. Is today real or am I having this long nightmare? Am I dreaming of the future? Sometimes I wish I were only dreaming. Boy, do we live in a messed up world today or what?
I told Sharon that I usually ride for miles without listening to the radio or CD’s. She asked, “What do you do?” I told her that I usually take that time to think. She asked, “What do you think about?” I said the past, the present, and the future. She gave me that I think you’re crazy look.
As Elvis sang of Silver Bells, Blue Christmas’, and Red Decorations on Green Christmas trees, I thought how nice it would to be home for Christmas. Only problem is the home I long only exists in my mind. I am not speaking of a house, but a time long gone.
As we traveled, I thought how momma made dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas. These were very special meals and family time. She was a very good cook, except for fried hamburger, fried chicken, and fried fish. Everything else was really very delicious.
Most of what she cooked, we harvested and gathered ourselves. Mom was an impatient gardener. I can see momma headed to the field with a fork and basket in hand going to dig “taters.” We never had big potatoes. Mom would dig them too early. She loved new “taters” and gravy.
Daddy always made a bed for sweet potatoes. He would plow them up and we would store them in a bed he made in the ground. Momma would start baking them and making sweet potato pies before the sweet potatoes cured. It was the same with green beans, sweet peas, okra, butter beans, corn, and peas. She never let them mature, or as she would say, especially about sweet corn just off the blister, “Get too hard.” Boy, those tender fixin’s were sure delicious.
Mom made a wonderful pecan pie. In fact, we loved any thing that had pecans and loved them raw. One time I tried to eat a pecan that was not ripe. It tasted bitter. Don’t laugh. I remember a Yankee that came south to show us dump country rednecks how to run a cement plant and had never eaten a raw pecan.
My friend Keilan brought a sack full to work. All the men got two pockets full to eat during the day. Pecan hulls were everywhere. This know-it-all Yankee asked what everyone was cracking and eating. Keilan gave him a handful, showed him how to crack them, and started to walk away. He had never seen them in the hull and cracked them by hand. The word pecan means nut cracked by rock. The Yankee cracked the pecans, removed the pecan haves, and started to chew. Suddenly he spit the pecans out complaining they were bitter. The dummy did not know to remove the pith lining between the halves.
One time momma made a hickory nut pie. It was very good, but it very hard because the nuts were hard to crack and the meat hard to retrieve. Hickory nuts require a hammer. Needless to say, we did not want many of them. Hickory nuts make great ammo for slingshots.
One time daddy wanted a persimmon pie. Persimmons need to be ripe before enjoying. Each morning I walk to work I pass a persimmon tree that is almost in front of the office. I have watched with eager anticipation, as they are turn front green to orange, hoping to beat the possums to them. I have been tempted on several occasions to pop one into my mouth. Dad taught me a valuable lesson long ago when he had me taste one. I remember my lips puckered for a long time. Mature persimmons and persimmon pie are delicious.   
Picking time for the fruit of the land is crucial for consumption and enjoyment. Growing, cultivating, and harvesting good fruit is a labor of love, yet a challenging task. Growing up in peach country, I know the difference between a peach picked to eat and one picked for market. Ain’t nothing sweeter than a fresh peach. 
Momma had a different view of new potatoes as opposed to peaches. She wanted the peaches ripe. I will miss her peach cobblers and fried pies again this year. There is nothing compared to the home grown and home cooked fruit of the land.
Jesus used the analogy of fruit to teach about spiritual growth:
 
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:1-5 KJV)
 
And, how about Jesus’ birth? The world was ripe for the coming Messiah.
 
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son . . . (Galatians 4:4a KJV)
 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
 
 
November 26, 2015
 
Have you noticed how ungrateful people are becoming? I have to think that part of it is the use of social media. We are trending toward an impersonal society. The other day at the doctor’s office, I noticed that most everyone had their eyes fixed upon his or her iphones. Social skills and social graces are disappearing from the American way of life and the Christian moral fabric that permeates all of the society that are forefathers struggled and sacrificed to create.
Could it be one of the side effects of an entitled way of life? Could it be that we are seeing the results of a government funded lifestyle that initiated entitlement? Has it been the creation of a way of life that we, as parents, created for our children? That is having lots of things, owning an abundance of material possessions without waiting and working for them.
Our grandson is a prime example. At a birthday party several years ago, our grandson opened presents. It was something he did not like, or already had; he would turn up his nose and toss the present to the side. As he tossed them away he would, “Already got this, don’t like this, and yuk what is this?”
 His grandmother yanked him up, jerked a knot into his tail, and persuaded him that he needed to be thankful that people thought enough of him to buy him presents. Every since that birthday he has been more thankful. Sadly, the number of the ungrateful is growing.
Back in September 2007, I wrote about a former church member I named Ozzie, and his wife Harriet. I mentioned in that article how thankful he was to have a new home.
I want to share that special moment in more detail.
Ozzie and Harriet purchased a new doublewide mobile home. He asked the preacher that won him to the Lord, Tony, and his pastor, me, if we would have a prayer of dedication for his new home. We agreed. Tony called me and we discussed what we would do. We both knew that Ozzie was a little peculiar. I think it was all the time Ozzie and Harriet spent with the carnival!
Tony and I decided to do a mobile home version of the Lord’s Supper. Tony said, “Go to the Wynn Dixie, buy one of those bottles of sparkling grape juice that comes in a bottle that looks like a wine bottle. Go to the bread section and buy a whole loaf of French bread. I will meet you there.”
When I drove into the yard, Ozzie and Tony were shooting a “spud gun.” The spud gun was built of CPVC pipe and used a lighter to ignite lighter fluid sprayed into pipe chamber and shooting a potato out-of-sight in the sky. So much for gun control, a country boy can Make a Gun! Did I mention that Tony and I were not too far removed from being rednecks? Remember the Apostle Paul said something about becoming all things that he might win some.
After firing off a ten-pound bag of taters, we proceeded to dedicate Ozzie and Harriet’s home. Tony poured out the wine, I mean grape juice, and I broke the bread. Tony asked me to pray first. I did not really knowing what to say. Tony followed. Tony and I were about to be taught a lesson on how to be thankful and how to pray accordingly.
Something wonderful and life changing happened. Ozzie began to pray. I had heard him on several occasions but Tony and I were not prepared for what happened next. We heard a beautiful prayer thanking God for the magnificent home He allowed Ozzie and Harriet to have.
We could not believe our ears. One would have thought that Ozzie and Harriet were about to own the Biltmore House in Ashville, North Carolina or the Taj Mahal in India. Neither Tony nor I had ever heard such a humble and tear jerking prayer in all of our lives. We looked at one another and said, “Wow!” I agreed with Tony that we did Ozzie an injustice with our feeble and trivial prayers. I know that God had the biggest smile on His face when Ozzie finished.
I know that two pastors were ashamed. Tony and I learned what it meant to be thankful for God’s blessings.
Help me pray that all of us will be more thankful and teach others to be thankful for the things that God has done.
 
Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God (II Corinthians 9:11 KJV). AMEN!!!!!
 
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (IThessalonians 5:18 KJV).
 
“It is hard to be a full-time whiner while you are singing songs of gratitude.”
 
As a side note, here is something I do when I dedicate a new home for folks since the Ozzie and Harriet episode taught me how to dedicate a home:
 
I give,
Flowers so your house may always know beauty.
Bread so your house may never know hunger.
Salt so it may always have flavor.
A candle so the house will never know darkness.
Sugar so that life will always be sweet.
And, drink that have merriment.
 
Happy Thanksgiving
 
 
November 12, 2015
 
In one of my favorite pictures of my dad, he is leaning against a two by four board holding up the front porch. Dad did not like to have his picture taken. On this occasion, his brother was down from Illinois. Dad had been hauling logs that day and had the smell of pine rosin and sweat mingled with the aroma of Camel cigarette smoke and grease on him.
In this picture, dad is tanned and muscled. He was very strong from working with pulpwood and logs most of his life. I, along with my brothers and sister, could not wait for dad to come home in the evenings. We would spend many evenings lying on an old quit in the front yard just talking about life and looking at the heavens.
I remember that I could not wait to get old enough to go to work in the woods with him. Back then, pulpwood was measured. I carried a measuring stick and marked the fallen pine timber as dad cut. He had a large, and heavy, McCulloch chainsaw. As a ten-year-old, the chainsaw was very heavy. It was all I could do to crank it. When I could not, daddy would give the cord a yank and fire it up. Ever once in a while, he let me run the chainsaw. Most dads won’t let a ten-year-old run a chainsaw! I had the best dad.
When hauling logs, dad allowed me guide the mule that pulled the logs back to the truck. I was not sure I could do it, but dad said the mule knew what to do once I hooked the tongs to the log. It was fascinating that the mule could find his way back to the truck. I would jump on the log and balance myself as the log rolled, twisted, and turned going up and down the hills and hollers back to the truck. It was even more fun to watch the side loading arms of the log truck throw the logs on the truck. I don’t think momma would have let me go with daddy if she had known how dangerous it was.
I remember helping dad fall a giant oak. He bated the tree and I helped to push. Suddenly as the giant tree started to fall, a gush of wind caught the oak and pushed it back toward us. Daddy yelled, “Run son!”
As a boy, I wanted to spend as much time with dad as I could. Dad was what folks back home call a “jackleg mechanic.” When you are poor and have nothing but junk, you spend a lot of time repairing. Most of my time was spent under the hood or underneath cars, tractors, and trucks. This is something I enjoy doing today. It is therapeutic and nostalgic.
For some reason, dad went most places by himself. On particular day, he was going to Montevallo to pick up his check. Momma asked if I wanted to go. I think she wanted me to spy on dad and see what he was doing. I knew I had to keep my lips sealed if there was to be another expedition with dad. I was so excited and could not wait to ride in our log truck with him.
As I went out the door, I closed the door on my fingers. Doing the natural thing, I pulled them from the closed door, leaving on of my fingernails in the door. Blood was flying and the finger was throbbing. I was not going to miss an opportunity to spend time with dad. I dare not cried. He would have made me stay home. I remember sitting alone for what seemed an eternity with my finger throbbing with the beating of my heart. Dad wanted me to be tough.
Momma taught me how to drive, but daddy let me drive. Dad went from logging to working in a rock plant. Our family car became his work vehicle. As usual, it needed repair another rear axle. As we started to Bessemer to find a replacement, dad said, “You drive.” I was twelve. 
On a long hill near Montevallo, I remember being scared to death as we descended. I looked at dad and he seemed to have confidence in me. That was until I kept riding too close to the outside of the highway. Dad told me that there was more room to the inside and stop driving like momma. He said that we would have to have new tires and the front end realigned if I kept running off the road. Driving in Bessemer was scary and exciting. I had the time of my life, me driving my daddy.
In her book, Catching Fireflies, Patsy Clairmont says that she read somewhere that we get our role models from our same-sex parent and our sense of safety and security from our opposite same-sex parent. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that I am glad I had a daddy that loved me and taught me much about life. I know there are thousands of children that do not have a dad in their lives. Society is paying a tremendous price for this. This creates a negative view of God as our Father. Those that have a nurturing and tender interaction with their dad helps in bonding with our heavenly Father. Clairmont says that Deuteronomy 32:4, 9-10 gives us a glimpse God’s father-heart.
 
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
 
November is the time for Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. Thanks dad!
 
October 22, 2015
 
Over thirty multicolored backpacks fill my office. In a few weeks precious boys and girls, with eyes and arms wide open will rush to receive what may be their only Christmas present. As I look at them, I pray that children will receive something wanted along with something that is totally a surprise.
I tearfully think of these children, those that I may never see, and the joy that comes with someone doing something special. I know how I felt as a small boy when I received the unexpected.
I remember my Grandpaw driving into our front yard one frosty morning. There he was in a baby blue two-door 1950 Plymouth Sedan. He honked the horn and we went running to see what he wanted. I think back remembering him to be real old, but he was probably in his mid to late sixties, the age I am fast approaching.
He had sacks of groceries. Momma had tears in her eyes. It was years later that I realized that Grandpaw was bringing us food, bought by an aunt, because daddy was not working and there was no food in the house.
I remember running to the table and eating cereal and it tasting different. At the time, it tasted as bread from heaven and in a way, it really was. I am not much of a cereal eater. I guess I am like the Hebrews in the promise land. I tired of cereal in a hurry. It is more of a filler than substance, but for a hungry little boy it was like Turkish Delights.
I never owned a backpack as a child. I don’t know if there was such a thing for school. I, as did everyone else, carried our books in our arms. I remember some girls and a few sissy boys that had some book satchels. I do remember that they were mandatory at my Illinois school, but we could not afford them when we moved back to Alabama.
In high school it was not cool to carry a book satchel. Every once in while, a nerd or two would have a satchel and if they did not, someone would strip their books from their arms.
It was thought to be more cool not to carry books in your arms. As a senior, I remember walking down the halls of Jemison High School empty armed and headed home. Mrs. Miriam Harvey, an old maid math teacher, whom I had from the seventh grade to the twelfth, stopped me and asked where my books where. Having done all my homework in study hall, I told her that I had all my homework. Relentless, she marched me back to my locker, which I shared with Sharon, and Mrs. Harvey made me get every book from every class and walked me to the bus. She said even if you have your homework, that I had to study. It was not a pleasant walk or ride home. For one thing momma wanted to know why I brought all my books home. Today students have so many books and electronics in their backpacks that they have to lean forward to balance as they walk.
Last February at a Directors of Missions Workshop at Shocco Springs, Bill Barker of the Appalachian Regional Ministries challenged Alabama director of missions to have every church in his association to do one backpack as part of the LOVELOUD Christmas Backpacks for the Mississippi River Ministry and Appalachian Regional Ministry.
I returned to Linden remembering how well we do Operation Christmas Child and thought that each church could also do one backpack.
I have heard for years how we needed to do some ministries closer to home and realized God placed that ministry in our lap. The response has been overwhelming, but there are still Bethel Baptist Association churches that are clueless to the BACKPACKS. Upon a second Director of Missions workshop, Bethel Baptist Association was the only one in Alabama doing the Backpacks. I returned and told churches, “Do as many as you want.” Since that meeting more associations, Disaster Relief, and the state WMU have joined in the ministry. The goal was for 100% participation of Bethel Baptist Association. Even though there are 44 backpacks in Pam’s and my offices. Many of our churches have not responded.
As a reminder to Bethel Baptist churches my sister-in-law, a school teacher wrote me this:
I know that in Baldwin County, the backpacks carry books through the week, but also for some children, Friday afternoons the backpacks are filled with staple foods for children to have for the weekend meals.  Visiting the Appalachian Mountains for several mission trips, that area was a complete “new experience” of understanding the culture of that area. Churches are lifelines to hope in so many ways.  Thank you for leading a collection of needed "packages" for children and their future.
 
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence (Matthew 19:13-15 KJV).
 
 
October 8, 2016
 
My friend, and friend to Bethel Baptist churches, said something at the 125th Anniversary of Catherine Baptist Church that reminded me of something funny that happened when I pastored in Clanton.
Shannon reminded us that church is a place of worship and praise, not a place of mumbling and murmuring, and messes. He mentioned particularly people complaining about the church is too hot or cold, the sermon too long or too short, and a whole list of other complaints.
Having an attention deficit problem I immediately thought about a college football game the other day were the temperature on the field was 130 degrees. There were roughly one hundred thousand in attendance. Packed like sardines in the sun, they were screaming there lungs out for their team. Many of them would not do that in church.
At the church I pastored in Clanton, every Sunday I had those that complained the church was too cold and members would place songbooks over the air-conditioner regulators. Across the church, others complained that it was too hot. Now if you know me very well, you know that I am game for most anything.
One beautiful Sunday morning I asked all those that were cold to stand. When they did, I asked those that were hot to stand. They did. I asked both groups to look at one another and said, “Trade places.” The complaints ended.
My dear departed friend, Rabbit, real name S.O. Easterling had a similar situation at a sister church. Rabbit, a senior adult, was a newborn believer still learning about church folks. Rabbit was in charge of church maintenance. He was having the hardest time with the auditorium thermostats. Little old ladies, too cold, and deacons too hot, and others of both hot and cold feelings, kept adjusting them.
Rabbit bought thermostat covers that locked, but members would use pocketknives, hair pens, and other objects to adjust them.
Rabbit did something diabolical. He unhooked the auditorium thermostats, but left them on the wall, and placed two new thermostats in closet walls behind the auditorium and beside the choir loft.
Rabbit said that the complaints ceased. Everyone set the thermostats where they wanted, not knowing they controlled nothing. It is kinda like most folks who think that they are in control.
Diablo, that is Satan is having a heyday as of late. He knows his days are numbered and he is using every means available to place fear into the hearts of man through deception.
May I remind us that the Devil is the prince of the air? The reason evil abounds is that many are deceived. Deceive means to make one believe something that is not true.
Lately, I think of an old song that reminds me that one day Jesus will return and we need to awake as the Church. The old Deceiver cannot fool true believers
 
Jesus Is Coming Soon
 
Troublesome times are near,
Filling men’s hearts with fear,
Freedom all hold dear
Now is at stake
 
Humbling your hearts to God
Saves from the chastening rod
Seek the way pilgrims trod
Christian awake
 
Jesus is coming soon
Morning or night or noon
Many will meet there doom
Trumpets will sound
 
All of the dead shall rise
Righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies
Heavenward bound
 
Troubles will soon be o’er
Happy forevermore
When we meet on that shore
Free from all care
 
Rising up in the sky
Telling this world goodbye
Homeward we then shall fly
Glory to share
 
Jesus is coming soon
Morning or night or noon
Many will meet there doom
Trumpets will sound
 
All of the dead shall rise
Righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies
Heavenward bound
 
 
Love of so many cold
Losing their home of gold
This in God’s word is told
Evils abound
 
When these signs come to pass
Nearing the end at last
It will come very fast
Trumpets will sound
 
Jesus is coming soon
Morning or night or noon
Many will meet there doom
Trumpets will sound
 
All of the dead shall rise
Righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies
Heavenward bound
 
Going where no one dies
Heavenward bound
Heavenward bound
Heavenward bound
Heavenward bound
 
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matthew 24:24 KJV).
 
For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist (II John 1:7 KJV).
 
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him (Revelation 12:9 KJV)
 
Until Jesus returns, share the Good News of Jesus, Truth in the flesh. Attend church to worship and praise God.
 
 
September 24, 2015
 
The other day my daughter Angela texted me and asked me what I thought about the days of God’s judgment and how did I feel about all the September 23 stuff. My reply was, “What stuff?”
September 23 has something to do with the start of the days of atonement. Angela said it was all over the news. I refuse to watch much news. It is always twisted and perverted in the eyes of those reporting it. The 23rd has something to do with the Pope coming and some the author of the book The Harbinger wrote. I read the book and it was very entertaining. I told my daughter that we had been in the “last days” since Jesus came, died, and ascended.
Last days have always been good for book sales because most Americans are afraid to lose their material possessions. In my way of thinking, if people are worried about the end of time, to me is an expression of a lack of faith. GOD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE! Americans have not faced what Christians worldwide have already suffered. According to God’s Word, it’s gonna get pretty bad before He raptures the church.
Second, if there is a genuine expectation of God’s coming judgment, we would be wise to share our faith with those who are lost.
I remember in the late 1970’s that the End of Time theme was everywhere. People had identified the Antichrist and all was doom and gloom. Sharon and I thought we would never pay off the loan on our house because the Lord was coming back any moment. Well, we paid off the home and it burned to the ground a couple of years later.
During this period, my dad was lost. Knowing the imminent return of Jesus was near I was burdened for dad. I could not stand the thought of dad dying lost and we would be eternally separated, he to hell and me to heaven.
I talked with dad and for some reason he believed he was beyond the saving of Jesus. I told I knew God could save, that I was praying for his salvation, and that the Holy Spirit would draw him to Jesus.
The Sunday morning that dad publicly confessed Jesus as Lord, brought tears of joy and shouts of hallelujah to Union Springs Baptist Church. Dad’s conversion was, a cousin of mine said, a Saul to Paul Damascus Road conversion.
One week after dad’s salvation, doctors diagnosed him with inoperable brain tumors. One tumor, the size of lemon was in the frontal lobe of the brain and a second the size of small pea at the base of the brain stem. The prognosis was not good.
Doctors said the operation could leave him blind, paralyzed, and loss of memory. The morning of his surgery, he asked me to pray for him. This is before my call into the ministry. I read from Psalm 55 and prayed. All of Union Springs Baptist Church and many others were praying that this new convert could live and show the world that his salvation was real. There were those who did not believe his salvation.
When the doctors talked to our family, they said they felt the presence of God guiding them as they operated. They were able to get ninety percent of the large tumor and treated the rest and the smaller tumor with radiation. Everyone waited in anticipation to see dad’s response.
Dad scared the recovery room nurses. Being cold, he got up to move his bed away from the air-conditioner vent. Nurses thought he was going mad. Nope, dad was just cold.
A few days later, Sharon and I were hosting a cottage prayer meeting for revival at our home. About thirty-five folks showed up. To everyone’s surprise, dad entered the room. I will never forget the way he looked. He always wore a blue uniform from his job. Tied around his head was the bandage from his surgery. The hospital released him that afternoon and he came to prayer meeting.
Joy filled the room because of his presence. We started to pray. I sat on the hearth of our fireplace with our pastor and I began the prayer time with the pastor to close it.
I remember where dad was seated. Closer and closer the prayer moved toward dad. Faster and faster my heart beat. Suddenly, dad started to pray. I had never heard him pray. He always called on my brothers, sister, or me to pray. Remember he thought he could not be saved. Dad was fifty-eight. As dad prayed, tears of joy and the presence of the Holy Spirit filled the room. For two years dad demonstrated what being a new creature in Christ is.
 
Want to change America? God’s judgment is certain, Christ’s coming is imminent, and our mission is urgent. Stop worrying and start praying and sharing God’s plan for salvation.
 
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:15-16 KJV).
 
Oh! Many of you will be reading this on September 23rd.
 
September 10, 2015
 
The other day while traveling to a funeral of a friend’s mother in Mississippi, Sharon and I used the navigation system in her vehicle. I looked up the address of the church and found directions to the church. I knew the general location of the church, but wanted to use the GPS to track our time. 
What I realized was that the address was so rural that neither of our iphones nor her navigational system could locate the address.  Knowing what directions I got from Google, I ventured into uncharted territory, but Sharon had to be sure and she wanted to know the way. She called John, our friend and son of the deceased to get specific directions. His address was different from the ones I got from Google.
After the funeral, I entered our linden address into her navigational system and we realized that we were in the middle of the nowhere, which was the parking lot of New Sardis Baptist Church between Mize and Mount Olive, Mississippi.
So many times, I have argued with the lady in the GPS and took my way. Had I done that Saturday, I would have missed my destination. I am afraid that many churches and members miss the destination that God has because we want to do things our way.
If there is one thing wrong, and there are many, with the church today it is trying to have church our way. Since the beginning, doing things “my way” instead of God’s way has caused much pain and regret. Think about the song “My Way” sung by Frank Sinatra.
 
And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more much more than this
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exception
I planned each chartered course
Each careful step alone the by way
And more much more than this
I did it my way.

Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I face it all and I stood tall
And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fill my share of loosing
And the now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that and my I say
Not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no not me
I did it my way.

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way.
 
Although Frank Sinatra made it popular and Elvis, along with numerous others, did his version, Paul Anka is the one who wrote “May Way.” Anka got the song from Claude Francois and Jacques Revaux. It is based on the French song “Comme d’habitube” composed in 1967.
The lyrics tell of an old man reflecting on his life as death approaches. This old man is comfortable with his mortality and takes responsibility for how he lived with all the challenges of life while maintaining a respectable degree of integrity.
Anka rewrote the song specifically for Sinatra.
“My Way” is most frequently played at British funerals. Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union joking referred to the Soviet policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other Warsaw Pact countries as the Sinatra Doctrine.
The song has been reported to cause numerous incidents of violence and homicides among drunkards in bars in the Philippines and named “My Way Killings.”
 
The song is a testimony to those who want to exclude God. A deacon once told me in reference to a church problem, “I don’t care what the Church Constitution and By-laws say or what the Bible has to say. This is the way we are going to handle the problem.” Dangerous words, bad direction.
 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord (Isaiah 55:8 KJV).
 
August 27, 2015
 
The other day I went for a checkup on my knee replacement. The doctors gave a great report. I asked if I could continue walking seeing some people that have had knee replacement were told they could not walk for exercise, but told to ride a bicycle.
The doc said walking would be good. I told them that I did not want to wear it out prematurely. They responded that the titanium knee would last me the rest of my life. I responded that I had hoped to live to be an old man! They assured me that it would last and to return to whatever I was doing.
I asked them if I could jog. At one time, I was jogging three miles every other day. Every once in a while I would jog seven miles. Doing that two days in a row, I decided to stick with the three miles.
I remember jogging one morning when a deacon from my church pulled along side of me. He smarted by saying, “It don’t matter how much you plowed the mule, he stay fat if you continue to stall feed him. You need to push back from the table.” I said, “I jog to eat.”
Back to the doctors. I asked them what things can I do and they said anything. I asked if I could play tennis. They said yes, preferably with partners. I asked if I could run, they said sure. I begged please say I cannot run!
Running for me is a sign of punishment. I remember having to run extra laps when doing something wrong in football. We had to run when we lost, when practice was not suitable to the coach, when we missed a block or a tackle, and we ran to satisfy the coach.
It is hard for me to justify running, especially since both knees went bad. I have done my share of running. I have run chasing pigs, ponies, cows, chickens, and all kinds of animals. I have run to catch footballs, baseballs, basketballs, and tennis balls. I have run to catch a ride, to get help, and to be on time. I have run from rattlesnakes, Doberman pinchers, and bumblebees. I even ran from girls at one time and ran after them later.
I heard evangelist Jerry Pipes say that he quit running stating is was fruitless.  His reasoning was that God gives us so many heartbeats and he did not want to waste his running. I agree whole-heartedly. I wasted two good knees and no telling how many days I took off my life.
I tell people that I don’t run any more. If you see me running, it’s gonna be real bad. I have just returned to two miles of walking most days. When you read this article, I will have had my left knee replaced and will have to start the walking all over again.
I was out walking my two miles yesterday when by neighbor came running by me. I told him I remember when I used to run. I shook my head thinking to myself, what a waste of heartbeats. You can get a high running. The body releases endorphins that act like painkillers. When I ran, I felt that I could compete in the Olympics. That was the endorphins doing the thinking.
I worry about folks that run all the time. I not talking about running here and there, but those people in their funny looking shorts, jerseys, and footwear that run, run, run. They, along with bicyclists, are kinda weird. I think they too have had just a little too many endorphins.
Running is a young person thing, but every once in while you read about some senior adult that has had an overdose of endorphins and they run. Seeing senior adults in running apparel can be an ugly site. There are things that just ain’t right.
In ancient times, it was considered very undignified for a senior man to run. Aristotle expressed the same Shibboleth: “Great men never run in public.” Shibboleth means belief or custom that distinguishes one group from another. All I know is if I see a senior adult running, I gotta see what’s chasing him or her.
When you think about Aristotle’s quote, it makes us look at the Father in the story of the prodigal son in a different light: I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry (Luke 18-24 KJV).
In a period when everyone wants to feel warm and fuzzy about church, Jesus reminds those that listen about repentance. We must return to the Father.
Jesus reminds us in the parable that the Father, who is a picture of God, ran as fast and as quickly as he could to express the longing of his heart to welcome his son home. Did you get it? God runs to us. Our willing to return to the Father unleashes His immense, incalculable responsiveness.
 
August 13, 2015
 
Something Is Not Right
 
Have you ever had that funny feeling that something is missing? My late uncle Clifton had one of those moments.
Uncle Clifton lived in Beloit, Illinois for years and moved down the road to Rockton. After several years, he decided to add another room to his house. He took his time to measure and plan out his new addition. He dug the footing, poured the concrete, and pulled string to designate where to place the cinder block addition.
Uncle Clifton laid two rows of blocks and took a satisfied look at his handiwork. Something did not look right. He checked and the blocks were level, the corners were square, and the walls were straight. Still puzzled, he knew that something was not kosher, but laid another couple of rows and stepped back to admire his artisanship.
There was something wrong, but he could not put his finger on it. Once again, he checked, the walls were straight, the corners were square, and the blocks were level.
Sensing something was wrong, he asked an old Jewish friend to give a second opinion. This old Jewish man took uncle Clifton in and loved him as the son he never had.
The old man studied uncle Clifton’s construction with the eye of an inspector. He told Uncle Clifton that something was wrong and asked if the walls were straight. They pulled a line and they were. He asked if the corners were square. They placed a square in the corners and found them to be perfect. He asked if the blocks were level and after placing a level atop the block walls, found them almost perfectly level.
As they both stepped back with a puzzled look, the Jewish friend asked my uncle, “Where are the doors and windows?” There were none. Uncle Clifton and the Jewish man entered the addition from the house. Uncle Clifton had to remove blocks to have windows and doors.
Failure to see something is missing happens to all of us. If you remember, one year I grew a mustache and beard to play Santa. I had several people say that it made me look younger, some said older, and some said I looked like a college professor. I had several lady friends that said I looked handsome, I think they need glasses, but I was not married to them. Sharon hated it.
Hating to shave, I liked the new look for a while. Folks said I looked like the late country singer Charlie Rich. Others said I looked like Kenny Rogers. I always asked, “Kenny before or after the facelift?”
Before long, I was spending as much time trimming the beard and mustache as it took to shave. Sharon was persistent in wanting me to shave so I did. You know what? I did not say anything for three days to see if she noticed. She did not. In fact, we were headed out of town when I asked if she noticed anything missing. She responded with “nope.” I said I shaved three days ago.
Last article I said that if I received a vicious letter, I would check to see if the letter writer was bold enough to sign his or her name. If a signature is missing, I will not read it. Well, something was missing from my last article. When I write an article, I email it to Pam. She cuts and pastes it from my Microsoft Word program to her Publisher program where the Alabama Baptist can print it for you the faithful reader. Pam and I will proof it, but mistakes are made and things are left out as we try to fit the article into the limited space that becomes the back page.
As Paul Harvey would say, “Here is the rest of the story.” Here are the missing suggestions for dealing with vicious people:
 
Dr. Andy Westmoreland, president of Samford University makes these suggestions for dealing with vicious people.
 
Boldly Resist: Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproaches us also. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Luke 11:45-46
 
Negotiate:  Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Matthew 5:25
 
Turn the other cheek: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5:38
 
Since I did not know the vicious person, I turned the other cheek. It still stings a little bit!
 
Oh, another thing. I did receive a note to shave that silly beard off my face. It was signed, but I did not shave it until I was ready.
 
 
July 23, 2015
 
Vicious People
 
There have been some vicious people in the world. Vicious people have killed millions of people and destroyed nations. People can be vicious, especially church folks. 
There was a tall frail lady in one of our churches that always had to comment on my size when I made a church visit. I know that I am larger than the average person, especially tall frail ladies. After about the third or fourth time, or it could have been on a Sunday that I really did not want to accept insults, I smarted back to her. She said, “You are too big, you need to lose weight.” For a minute, I thought I was at the doctor’s office. He always says that I need to lose weight.
I smarted back to her by saying, “Listen you remind me of my Honda Civic with a little four-cylinder engine. It is cheap on gas, but I am like the big eight-cylinder in my pickup. I am bigger and stronger than you are and I require more fuel to get around than you do.
When I have lost weight, there are those vicious little ladies, both church and Sharon extended family that crush our spirits. I am feeling proud to have lost fifteen pounds and they say, “Whew, you shore have gotten fat.” Us fat people got feelings!
As long as we go along and contribute to their fulfillment and pleasure, they tolerate us. Watch out if you get in their way. I try to know God’s love and purpose. Without that assurance, facing vicious people can be a hopeless and terrifying experience.
It has been a long time but last week I received a vicious letter. No, it was not directed at me, but to me. I learned a long time ago to see who sent or wrote the letter before I read it. A preacher friend told me a long time ago that upon receiving vicious mail, check to see who wrote the letter. If it is not signed, tear it up immediately. He said you won’t have the temptation to read it if you destroy it. His reasoning was that if the perpetrator was a coward if he or she did not sign it. He said if a letter is not signed, I do not read it. I have lived by that principle for years.
Seeing that the letter and packet of material was defamatory to the character of a co-laborer in Christ and was not signed, I promptly sealed the package and disposed of it. I had a pretty good feeling who sent it and what they were trying to do the ministry of a Godly man.
As the devil would have it, I was in revival the week I penned the article. After preaching Monday night, I received a card in the mail. I noticed that there was no return address and a note on the back of the envelope.  It was an odd message, but I got the jest of it. It said I need to preach Jesus. The title of Monday night’s message is “A Pink Note from God” from Psalm 46. It is a personal testimony of God presence in one of the darkest hours of Sharon’s and my life. It was when our house burned in 2012.
Monday night I received some of the best compliments for sermon that I have ever received.
The front of the card had “A Note from, the words had been marked out with a black marker, God above the black mark, and “Pink” placed with an arrow between “A Note.”
Inside the card was a bunch of Scripture verses. I looked for a signature, finding none I tore the card in to little bitty pieces. Shoot! The whole sermon was about God being our refuge, our strength, and very present in times of trouble.
However, the damage had been done. Whoever penned the note was vicious. Satan and his vicious agent were trying to stop revival. My first thought was I would like to punch Satan’s agent right in the mouth, but I figured it was a little old lady. I am a pastor I gotta have thick skin. Then I thought, and I felt sorry for the one that Satan used. I think in his or her feeble mind that they were being an agent of light, not darkness.
 
Dr. Andy Westmoreland, president of Samford University makes these suggestions for dealing with vicious people.
 
Boldly Resist: Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproaches us also. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Luke 11:45-46
 
Negotiate:  Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Matthew 5:25
 
Turn the other cheek: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5:38
 
Since I did not know the vicious person, I turned the other cheek. It still stings a little bit!
 
July 10, 2015
 
My brother David was by the office the other day. He is back on the road as a hardwood salesman. He has a couple of customers in Marengo and surrounding counties so when he is in the area the will stop by and we will eat dinner together or just spend a few minutes sharing.
David attends hardwood conventions across the nation. At a convention in San Antonio, Texas, he won a fully loaded Harley-Davison motorcycle. He was hesitant to enter the contest, but did so at the insistence of a young lady. The keynote speaker was the CEO of Harley-Davison. When they drew David’s entry, the CEO said that the winner comes from a long line of bikers, referring to Dennis Hopper of the cult movie “Easy Rider.” David said his heart began to beat faster, faster, and almost exploded when they called out his name. David claims that this is the first thing he ever won. Of the three of the Hopper brothers, David rode a motorcycle the least, yet he won one.
David has met some interesting characters over the years, but he has the uncanny ability not to recognize famous people. For instance, he and our cousin Tim were at a hardwood convention In Nashville and decided to attend a Gaither Concert. They were fortunate to get seats on the front row. On the way to the concert from their hotel, a longhaired man in a long trench coat got on the elevator. They spoke and David wanted to invite the man to the Gaither concert. He never garnered the nerve to ask. They did ask where the man was going. He said that he was headed to work. When they exited the elevator, David told Tim that he felt sorry for the man. He said we are so lucky to be going to hear some gospel music and that poor man was probably headed out for night of wine, women, and song. David could not fathom such a thought.
David and Tim were enjoying the luxury of first class seat as The Gaither entered the stage to a standing ovation. David looked at Tim and said that’s the man in the elevator. It was Guy Penrod, lead singer for the Gaither Vocal Band. Penrod is internationally known for his powerful vocals and broad singing range. 
The morning of the concert, an elderly lady asked David’s assistance to set up a display. David graciously helped the lady and they struck up a conversation. He found out that she was from Alabama and very familiar with the happy Goodman family. Oblivious to her identity she finally told David he name was Vestal Goodman. 
Vestal was honored to be named “The Queen of Southern Gospel” and won her first Dove Award in 1969. She and the Happy Goodmans won multiple Grammy and Dove Awards. She sang for President Jimmy Carter at the Whitehouse in 1979.
To show that David is really bad at recognizing people, David and Mike Allen, former pastor of Sardis near Thomaston, were playing in a pro/am golf tournament. Now if you are playing in a pro/am tournament, more that likely you are paired with a professional somebody.
David had teed-off and was returning to his golf cart. He there was a big burly looking man in a cowboy hat smoking a cigarette slouched on the golf cart. David told the stranger that he must be his pro teammate. He asked who are you and what do you do. He said I am Trace Adkins and I sing. Did I forget to tell you that David is a true blonde and that he is a minister of music?
Trace Adkins is a movie, television, and country music star. He is famous for his baritone vocals. David fits one of Adkins songs, “This Ain’t No Thinking Thing.” Adkins also authored a book. I am thinking about getting it for David. The book is A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions of a Free-Thinking Redneck.
My brother is with some pretty good company when it comes to not recognizing people.
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him (Luke 24:13-16 KJV).
 
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and He made as though He would have gone further. But they constrained Him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight (Luke 24:27-31 KJV).
 
Truth is that most of us have a hard time recognizing Jesus when He is walking with us.
 
June 11, 2015
 
The early sixties were a great time to be a young person in rural Alabama. It was a time of innocence, romance, and wonder. Before the decade would end, radical change would take place and the whole culture would change. Dark times would come with political unrest, protest marches, as growing drug culture, and the hippie movement. Part of the evil today has grown from these dark and ungodly seeds planted in the sixties.
I remember the start of the seventh grade in 1965. School started with musical bang, heavy metal rock and rock was not making a run yet. A group called the “Vehicles” played rock and roll songs. For a measly seventh grader the old men who graduated in the spring returned to help indoctrinate us into the world of permanent press clothing, lockers, and having a different teacher for each class. These four instrumentalists were probably 19 years old.
In the seventh grade, boys shied away from the girls. Our interest was motorcycles and hot rods. Old jalopies intrigued me. Chrome reverse rims were the newest fad for poor boys and Cragar mags for the boys from affluent homes. A couple of rich kids drove a new car called the Mustang. Most old jalopies were fifty and forty models, but a few were the early sixties Chevys with v-eight engines and four-in-the-floor speed transmissions. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and other sixties musical groups Romanized hotrods. Every young man’s desire was to own one. Young people today call it the “Dark Ages.”
Fast forward to the new millennium and today it seems to be the “Dark Ages.” “Black Opps” have replaced the chrome reverses, big blacked-out four-wheel drive pickups replaced the Mustang, and foreign sports cars replaced the hotrods. I recently saw a pickup that the owner had painted his chrome wheels with black spray paint. Back in my day, everyone hated black rims. In fact, those of us who had hubcaps used them to hide black rims.
I remember painting the outside of the rim with chrome paint. Running down the road these red-neck painted rims looked like Cragar Mags. Some of my friends painted their rims chrome all over and they looked like the chrome reverses. We wanted to shine! To paint a real chrome wheel with black paint is just wrong! Even today, an average old jalopy looks better with a set of shiny chrome wheels. 
Times change with each passing day. Chrome wheels in the past, “black opps” today, and who knows about the future. We used to make do with what we had, folks today see, want it, and buy by putting it on the card. In the sixties, we refurbished an old car by working all summer just to have new interior or new raised white letter tires, today everyone wants new and they want it “NOW.”
Black Opps must be what is trending. In our world of texting, Facebooking, and Tweeting, comes the term “Going Dark.” This term did not originate at Kentucky Fried Chicken, white or dark meat. It means to disappear: to become suddenly unavailable or digitally out of reach for an undefined period of time. Young people have become so addicted to cell phones that they suffer withdrawal when they do not have one.
I been “Going Dark” for years but did not know I was “Going Dark.” When folks quiz me about my not answering the phone, reading a text, or returning an e-mail, I would say that I did not want to be reached. There was a reason I did not answer.
I remember when one of the churches I pastored wanted me to wear a “beeper.” They were handy devices. When people wanted to know what my beeper was, I would say that it was device designed by deacons for tracking their pastor.
Everyday we read or hear of a skirmish captured on video and gone viral. Can I remind you that film can distort the truth? Sometimes I think the era of “Big Brother” watching has become a dark reality with iphones, security cameras, drones, and satellites. 
We have gone from hot rods to iphones, chrome to black outs, privacy to “smile you are on candid camera.” The desire to have the latest gadget is more prevalent than we ever imagined.
Our society is geared to make us want what do not have and offers many venues to purchase the desires of our heart. Is it any wonder that the average credit card debt in Alabama is $30,000? Just because it is the newest gadget or on sale, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. 
I know people that struggle financially. They cannot understand that you cannot spend more than you make. We go into debt where we spend most of our time making money to buy to things that promise us to save time. I texted my oldest son, Andy, this morning. The text was, “Life is short, spend it well. Have a good day. Love dad.” I sent it because I do not know many people that say, “I wished I spent more time with my job.”
If we are not careful, we will spend all of our lives wanting what we do not have. We act like cows grazing in the pasture. The grass is always greener across the fence. I repeat, society is geared to make us want what we do not have. That kind of darkness is not good.
Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out the love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out – but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity (IJohn 2:15-17 The Message).
 
 
May 21, 2015
 
Many of you have worked in, on, and around machinery. Be it a paper mill, sewing factory, or just around the house or on the farm, running a piece of machinery can be frustrating. There was a sign in our maintenance department that said, “If it twists, turns, or moves, it will give trouble.”
My good friend, Keilan, had a very frustrating day operating/burning a cement kiln. Day shift at most factories is frustrating enough. Electricians want to check instruments, maintenance men want to change out equipment, engineers want to change the process, and quality control wants to tweak the feed.
Day shift has too many people watching one another to justify changes. Supervisors, managers, and corporate constantly walk around with pen and pad taking notes on how to improve their product not realizing that all their busyness creates havoc and chaos for operators.
Keilan was having one of those days. To complicate the problems, reclaimers that put up the coal did so in such a manner that substance other than coal found its way into the coal tanks creating an erratic burn. Electricians and instruments adjusting the oxygen analyzers disturbed the airflow that made the burn more erratic. 
The mixing of materials to create the feed to make cement somehow how got mish mashed creating a sub par material that the quality control declared “not up to snuff.”
It had been a hard day for my friend Keilan. When I relieved him at the evening shift change, he looked as though he had been run through a washing machine ringer backwards. He had the most bewildered and frustrated look until his eyes met mine. His eyes perked up and a smile came across his face. He ran to me, hugged me, kissed me, and said, “I have never been so happy to see you in my whole life. This has been the worst day of my life burning the kilns.”
Most of us forget how important it is to be a friend. I admit that sometimes I am not a good friend. I have had friends be sick and I never called or sent a card. I have had friends that lost loved ones and I never expressed condolences to them. I have had friends struggle with divorce and never visited to see if they needed help or words of encouragement.
Perhaps we have been disappointed when a friend or family member did not show for a big event in our lives. We give the excuse that we do not know what to say. Can I testify that it is not what you say, but that you were there.
I remember visiting the hospital for a lady in the Brierfield Baptist Church community. I was bi-vocational, so my visit was at night. When I entered the critical care unit, the whole atmosphere of the room changed from gloom and doom to hope when my eyes met theirs. A nurse told the family that three people were allowed to visit the sick lady. The family chose me as one of the three. The sick lady was close the death. I prayed for her. She recovered and lived many months afterwards.
I told Sharon of my experience. It was the first time I ever had a life changing emotion. I did not understand what happened. Sharon said, “Dummy, when you walked in the room they knew the Lord was with them. You are God’s representative.”
I have been to several funerals where the family said, “I knew you would come.” I did not have to say anything. People say I have the gift of gab, but there are numerous times I do not know what to say.
There is a story called “In the Trenches” from World War I where soldier friends became very close due the horrors of war. The trench war of WWI was brutal and created a common bond that helped deal with the misery.
One day friends, Jim and Bill, charged from the trenches into battle. At the end of the day, Jim lay bleeding to death between the trenches, his friend Bill returned to the trench. Realizing his friend was missing, the soldier started back in the field of battle. The shelling continued at its peak. His commanding officer refused his request. It was too dangerous. Ignoring the smell of cordite, the concussion of incoming shells, and a pounding in his chest, Bill made it to Jim. Bill found Jim and dragged him back to the trenches. It was too late. Jim was gone.
The smug commanding officer cynically asked Bill if it was worth the risk. Bill said without hesitation, “Yes sir, it was. My friend’s last words made it more than worth it.” He looked up at me and said, “I knew you’d come.”
I hope I can be that kind of friend, but I feel more like the disciples with Jesus at Gethsemane.
And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And He cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again He went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer Him. And He cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come (Mark 14:36-41 KJV).
 
May 7, 2015
 
My last position at the cement plant in Calera was electrical and instrumentation trainee. It took sixteen years to get it, but I was finally doing a job I enjoyed. I had a machinist background, but I would have never gotten that position. I was too far down on the seniority totem pole.
I heard some interesting tales while working the kilowatt crew. It seems that an electrician, Hamm, was returning from the north substation of the plant. He saw two men operating a drilling machine. The federal government mandated that the cement plant harness the dust, clean the air, and build aqueducts to control the flow of water used to cool machinery.
Hamm interrupted the men who had just engaged the drill to dig the aqueducts. Hamm said you cannot drill there, stating that the main electrical line that furnished the plant was located underneath the drill.
The two educated rednecks shut the drill down, retrieved some electrical schematics, and told Hamm that there were no electrical lines there. Hamm said all right and returned to the electrical shop to drink coffee.
Hamm entered the mill room when suddenly there was a loud boom and the cement finish mills slowed went silent. In fact, the whole plant shut down. The sonic boom shook tons of dust down in the mill area and covered Hamm.
When Hamm got to the electrical shop, coffee drinking electricians were scurrying like rats on a sinking ship. They were oblivious to the real reason the plant went down.
As Hamm poured a cup of coffee, Snuffy, the electrical foreman, told Hamm there was no time for coffee that plant lost power and thought that the substation blew a transformer.
Hamm said there was no need to be in a hurry. Snuffy was bumfuzzelled. Hamm said the contractors drilled into the main power line. All the electricians loaded in and onto the electrical truck and went to survey the situation.
Sure enough, there were two men in the state of shock standing beside a huge hole. They had walked way from the drill to pour themselves a cup of coffee and let the drill run. Otherwise, they would have been killed.
Snuffy asked the pale and trembling men if Hamm told them that they were drilling on top of the main line. They say he did, but the schematics did not show it. Snuffy said there were no plans and that Hamm was a young electrical when helped put the line there in 1948. They should have listened to the voice of experience instead of relying on a set of electrical schematics.
Aaron, our youngest son, worked with Culpepper Electric in Demopolis. Most every evening he would say that he could not understand why more houses did not burn in Demopolis. When I asked why, he said that customers would want larger breakers or fuses for their electrical control boxes. Customers would say they need a thirty-amp to replace a twenty-amp because the twenty-amp kept blowing. Well, if a twenty-amp is blowing, here is your sign. There is a reason it is blowing. Increasing the amps multiplies the problem and increases the chance of fire.
I am reminded of two coon hunters from Arkansas. One night they blew a fuse in their old pickup truck. Noticing that a twenty-two rifle cartridge is about the same size as the fuse, they replaced the fifteen-amp fuse with the twenty-two cartridge. Instead of repairing the problem, they intensified the heat to the shell that discharged and shot the driver in his private area. They had a difficult time explaining it in the emergency room.
Do you realize that if we knew everything about ourselves that God wanted to change, we would blow our circuit breakers? We cannot handle knowing how God sees us all at once. He is still working me. I am a work in progress.
 
Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” There is a moment of surrender and a process of surrender. The moment of surrender is that moment of faith that happens in an instant of time. The process of surrender is a lifelong, crucifying of the will of the flesh.
The will of the flesh is an ugly ogre. It is a monster that lurks in the shadows and has lackeys that put poison our hearts. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23 KJV).
 
April 23, 2015
 
The other day I was recovering from an intense workout at rehab by sitting in the car at the Demopolis Walmart. I told Sharon that I would wait while she went in for a few things. Now all you know that if you go to town, Walmart calls you to it like a bug zapper attracts insects.
The parking lot had more cars than normal. Sharon reminded me that it was the fifteenth of month, government checks. She ought to know, she delivered them for a quarter century.
All that I saw intrigued me. I am a people watcher and I observed people getting out their vehicle, and sashaying into the land of bargains. Folks were in raggedy old trucks, red mud covered Tahoes, nasty rice burners (Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans), BMW’s, and Mercedes. There were big people, extra large folks, short people, and tiny folks all coming and going.
I watched a customer gather buggies and return them to the proper place. Other folks, removing junk from their buggies, left them in empty parking spaces, where arriving customers would have to move them to park.
I had the windows and moon roof open enjoying the smell of spring, only to have it ruined with the nasty smell of a cigarette. I watched as the lady puffed and blew that blue nicotine toxic cloud my way. She, along with all the other smokers deposited their nasty cigarette butts on the pavement at the Wal Mart entrance. People can be so inconsiderate.
We experience the same inconsideration at the monthly distribution of food for low-income folks at the Bethel Baptist Building Annex each month.  Pam and I had to make and post signs reminding the folks that it is a no smoking area. One day I told a man it was no smoking. He said he did not know it was no smoking. I asked if he smoked at his church. He said no. I asked could he smoke on school property. He said no. I reminded him that he was on church owned property and parked his car on school property. NO SMOKING.
What amazes me is the fact that people receiving this low-income food have money to waste on junk. My experience living below the poverty level, according to the IRS, for fours years while attending the University of Montevallo, Sharon, the kids, and I lived on bare essentials. There were no vacations, no ball games tickets, no new clothes, just what we needed. 
I am reminded of a devotional about the sin of poverty.” It is the dialogue between Jesus and the rich young ruler. Jesus told him to sell all he had and to give the money to the poor. He lacked faith. Most of us are aware of the sin of riches, but what about poverty?
Poverty also can block faith. People use being poor as an excuse. Most of us find it difficult to give food to a person with a cigarette dangling from their mouth, the smell of liquor on their breath, marijuana in their pocket, a designer purse on the shoulder, and sporting a new Mercedes.
I decided to do a word study on poor. The Bible is full of references to the poor. Jesus said that the poor would always be around and to help them, Deuteronomy 15:7-8. The tricky part is how to help.
What I learned was that being poor is about attitude. Heck, some the richest people in Marengo County are poor when compared to Donald Trump. I know growing up we did not think of our family being poor, is just those folks in Jemison were rich because they had a lot of new stuff.
If we are not careful, we can foster an attitude in the poor of expecting handouts. I remember in economics class at the University of Montevallo the Chinese proverb: Give a man fish you feed him today, teach a man how to fish and feed him tomorrow.
I also remember the University had a partnership with Guatemala. During one of the exchanges, a delegation from Guatemala wanted to see the poor of Montevallo. They took them to a run down area. The Guatemalans said, “No, show us you are poor.” They were carried to a place were there were a few shanties. Once again, “No, show us you’re poor.” Finally, they showed them a rundown old shack. They were amazed and said, “Everyone here is so rich.”
What about the sin of poverty? I have concluded that people are poor by birth, by choice, and by uncontrollable forces. Think about it. One cannot control what family they were born, what conditions they face, and what calamities that will come. 
My late friend Jim Baker said that he went from being wealthy to pauper over night in the soybean business when President Jimmy Carter imposed the grain embargo on Russia in the late 1970’s.
The sin of poverty must be a choice (Proverbs 10:4, 21:17). The rich young ruler had to decide to stay rich, or trust God. The flipside is the poor, to stay poor or trust God (Psalms 69:33; Proverbs 13:7, 19:1; Matthew 5:3; and James 2:5).
Two things stand out in God’s Word about the poor. God has always been on the side of the poor, not just any poor, but those who were poor with material things, but rich in faith. The church’s duty is defend the poor and preach the Good News/Gospel to them.
 
Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble (Psalm 41:1 KJV).
 
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18a KJV).
 
Lest I forget Calvary, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9 KJV).
 
April 9, 2015
 
Chuck Swindoll in his book Hope Again says, “Suffering is a universal language.” Suffering does not discriminate. We may express suffering in various ways, but the sting of pain and heartache we understand.
As believers, we learn that failure to stock up on faith when you do not need it means you will not have any faith when we do need it. Our Christian philosophy is different from that of the world. As believers, we live for the glory of God in whatever we do and whatever comes our way. God calls us for a purpose. Our attitude is to bring honor and glory to God. A story I read long ago reminds me about attitude.
Several years ago, a teacher assigned to visit children in a large city hospital received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy’s name and room number. The teacher on the other end of the line said, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him in his homework so he doesn’t fall behind the others.” 
It was not until the visiting teacher got inside the boy’s room that she realized it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She felt that she could not just turn around and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with your nouns and adverbs.” 
The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” Before she could finish a profusion of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We have been very worried about him, but every since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s decided to live.” 
The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears, he expressed it this way: “They would not send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”
I think of this story every time I need to recover from an illness or surgery. There is a sign in Genesis Rehab in Demopolis that reminds patients that no amount of therapy can do more to heal than the willingness of the patient to work toward recovery. That is what I try to do, work hard because you, brothers and sisters of Bethel Baptist Association, encouraged me.
The Apostle Paul expresses my heart concerning the overwhelming response you gave me before my surgery when he writes, “For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.”
I am very grateful to be your Director of Missions. I dedicate this article to all you. Thank you for all the cards, letters, phone calls, text messages, voice mails, and emails. It was so encouraging knowing that you took time from your busy schedules to send me a note, give me a call, or pay me a visit. I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking because of your faithfulness in note writing and praying. I could feel your presence with me in the moments prior to my surgery. I had peace of mind, that peace that passes all understanding. I could tell in recovery that you had prayed for me.
When you wanted to know how to pray, I told you to pray for all the doctors, nurses, and aides that would be performing the surgery. The staff at Pensacola Baptist Hospital was wonderful. They went above, and beyond the call of duty. I know it was because of your prayers.
Your words of encouragement helped me have a great mental attitude when I took my first steps just a few hours after surgery. Many of you had similar surgeries and gave me encouraging words. I reminded myself if little elderly ladies can recover from total knee replacement surgery that I could.
Your encouragement reminds me that self-defeating thoughts come from the demonic realm. A.T. Roberson wrote, “The devil’s purpose is the ruin of mankind.” Christ’s attitude was to please the Father and save mankind. Resurrection Sunday reminds us that Christ did just that. He arose from the dead. Suffering and death could not hold Him. The Resurrection reminds us that suffering is temporal but it’s rewards are eternal.
 
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus . . . He humbled himself and became obedient to death (Philippians 2:5, 8 NIV)
 
 
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 NIV).
 
 
March 13, 2015
 
This morning was my day to take my clothes to the laundry. I separated the shirts from the slacks and folded them into a pile to carry.   I always return the clothes hangers. Now up home some folks say cloak hanger, coat hanger, or plain hanger. I collected them separating the slack hangers from the shirt hangers. It never ceases to amaze me how they can get tangled.
When I try to hang our clothes in the washroom, which not big enough to “cuss a cat,” those demon hangers want to join together and hold hands, I mean hooks. It never fails in my effort to get one hanger that three will fall on the floor. Did I say that the Pastorium laundry room was small, just enough room to stand between the wall and the washer and dryer?
This morning these pesky hangers hooked up in the bedroom, just outside the place where they hangout with my clothes. The hangers have this uncanny way of deciding which shirt and sweater that I am going to wear. I reached for a white shirt, the hanger for the blue striped shirted got in front of the white shirt hanger. It was like it was saying, “Take me, take me.” I want to believe there is tiny clothes hanger gremlin that mixes up the hangers while I shower.
When I get the clothes ready for the cleaners, I routinely place the hangers between the folded shirts and folded slacks to prevent them for being tangled and sliding everywhere. I have yet to be successful. First, the hangers are accustomed to hanging with the clothes, not smothered between them. It is though I have trapped them and they search for the just the right moment to escape. I want to think that I have them in the wrong order with the shirt hangers against the slacks and they are trying to hang with the right article of clothing.
One time the hangers tried to make a daring escape when I got them out of the truck. They scattered all over the sidewalk in front of the cleaners. Another time they escaped when I tried to load them to go to the cleaners. Their escaping just leads to entanglement.
I wish that the shirt hangers and the slack hangers could be like the plastic hangers from clothing department stores. These have swivel hooks, but the plastic ends are subject to break when under pressure.
Some store bought plastic hangers are various colors. Their hooks are hard to remove from the closet rod. They are independent cusses and are harder to hold together. They are durable, but unlike the metal hangers, they are limited in practicality.
Metal hangers have a variety of uses. I have used clothes hangers to hold exhaust pipes in place. The wire is perfect to use in most redneck situations. They even make a great tool to unlock car doors. I have used them for welding. A good cloth hanger and acetylene torch set to the right flame can weld broken car frames, lawn mower decks, and wrought iron. I have used clothes hangers as a short set of jumper cables. When using them as jumper cables, make sure you have a solid connection. The wire does get hot.
There is another hook that can be more tangled than clothes hanger hooks and that is fishing hooks. They are so jealous of one another. Every time you try to get one to tie on a line, they hang together. They are one for all and all for one.
They can be testy also. When you try to separate them, they have been known to bite. Their bite can hurt too. When they do bite, they have a tenacity to hold on tight and must be removed by cutting them out.
Every time I think about fish hooks, I think of red worms. Trying to put a red worm on a hook can be challenging. Once you have threaded a worm or two on the hook you most cast with care, or you will have to thread more worms on the hook. Dad used to tell us not to cast too hard because we were feeding worms to the bass and bream.
When I think of fish hooks, I think of Amos 4:1-2 in the Old Testament. He calls the uppity women cows, we say heifer up home, and says that because of their sin they will be led to captivity with hooks. 
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, "Bring us some drinks!" The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness: "The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks.  
One commentary said the hooks would be in their noses. This became very vivid when I had to remove a hook from a nose. I remember one Saturday we were fishing at my sister’s pond when my niece hooked my son Aaron’s nose with a hook. Aaron didn’t cry but he encouraged me to hurry. The red worms were tickling his nostril. I cut off the barb and slid the hook off his nose.
Amos’ passage illustrates how tangled our lives can get with sin. Sin, like pesky clothes hangers and fishing hooks, has a way of hooking us and causing all sorts of entanglements.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1 KJV).
 
 
March 5, 2015
 
Spending time with my cousins was almost like living in a utopia because I thought that life would always be about family closeness. There were sixteen boys and six girls in our Chapman extended family. We were more like brothers and sisters than we were cousins. We went to church together, played together, and ate together. One of my favorite pictures is one where I am about five years old and we are together to eat at Grandmoe Chapman’s table. We thought those days would never end.   
Years later I realized that I was the only grandchild of Joe and Ethel Chapman that built and lived on family land. Methodically, we ventured into the world. College, vocations, and marriage separated us. Precious are the moments we spent together, but there were quandaries.
It never failed that when I spent time with certain cousins that momma and daddy would have to give me an attitude adjustment. The adjustment started with a verbal warning in the form of a question. “Am I going to have to whup, slang for whip, the ‘cousin’s full name’ out of you?” It never failed. It was guaranteed that I would get a whuppin’ after spending time with certain cousins. I didn’t realize the negative influence my certain cousins had. There were some, older ones, that always had good advice, but the younger would get you in trouble.
After an adjustment or two or three or four, heck a bunch of them, I decided I needed to be selective with my cousins’ advice. The adjustments helped me with life and the art of listening to folks.
People ask me about my decision-making. I must process information, usually sleeping before making a decision. I try to research all the information. Good information leads to good decisions. I must not allow peer pressure to form or sway my decisions.
Peer pressure has been around for a long time and it changes with age. I believe that the older I get, the more peer pressure pushes my way. It is hard to go against the flow. Going against the flow, means standing alone.
As a teenager, when I played football there were those that tried to get me to drink beer. I chose not to drink. I remember in state playoff one of our best backs fumbled a kickoff. He told us that he saw two footballs and he caught the wrong one. He later was murdered for gambling debts. Other teammates and classmates are now alcoholics. Some have failed marriages, lost jobs, and have nothing to show except a life of regrets.
I remember working at Hiwassee Land Company in high school. The older boys, in their early twenties, pressured me to date, to take girls parking, and to whisper “sweet nothings” in their ears. I never will forget their reactions when they quizzed me the following week. They asked me what I whispered into their ears. I said “sweet nothing.”
In class, there was the pressure to cheat for those that were either lazy or dumb. They assured me that it would not hurt anything. Looking back, I hurt them more than I helped them.
In the work place, there was the pressure to buck authority or not to work. I received ridicule when I would work hard, while fellow employees goofed off. They said they made just as much as I did. I reminded them that I could face the paymaster and they needed to walk up backwards to receive their payday.
I have listened to the wrong advice through the years and the consequences are not good. Even as a pastor, there is tremendous peer pressure from within and without the church when the church is struggling. I am reminded of my call into the ministry over thirty years ago. During the 1980’s, people questioned the church’s relevancy. Entertainment, gimmicks, and programs replaced preaching the Word of God. I think were are reaping those seeds today. Back then, God made it very plain that His word was not being preached and that I was to preach the truth.
His call is more emphatic today. There is a shift in conventional wisdom. It seems that the younger generation has all the answers and wants the old white-haired preachers and leadership to get out of the way. They are even belligerent and hostile in conversation with older church members and preachers.
Good decision-making means listening to the right people. Too many believers are listening to the enemy. The enemy has the ear of the world and it is becoming clearer with each passing day. Right is wrong and wrong is right if you listen to some folks.
 
President Woodrow Wilson said, “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” Good leaders encourage followers to tell them what they need to know, not what they want to hear.
 
And the king answered them roughly; and king Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the old men, and answered them after the advice of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add thereto: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God, that the Lord might perform his word (2 Chronicles 10: 13-15 KJV).
 
According to John Maxwell, Rehoboam refused to listen to history, his followers, the wise counsel of his staff, and to God.
Rehoboam heard, but did not listen and failed to connect and learn. Rehoboam failed to listen to the right people. I wonder if when he was a kid if his mom, Naamah, or dad, Solomon, every whupped the ‘Jewish cousin’ out of him?
 
February 19, 2015
As I parked my old ragged GMC pickup at the Big Mo Country Club, I seemed out of place. It was plum funny. An old pick parked along side of a Mercedes Benz, an Audi, and other fancy sports cars. I felt as comfortable as a sore tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs. My fellow golfers had new clubs, expensive bags, cute buggies, and nice carts. They wore fancy hats, nice shoes, and leather gloves. For me, I had some used clubs and bag donated by a former church member and some out of date golf shoes I bought on sale.
I knew golf protocol and the proper attire. I did own a decent golf shirt and pair of Docker slacks. With each new arrival, the more insignificant I felt.
The only reason for my attendance at the two-man scramble at the country club was to help my brother’s church raise money for a mission project. I am not a golfer, but I did take golf as an elective at the University of Montevallo.
I was good enough that Dr. Collins, the golf teacher, asked me to join her college team. I was pastoring a church, working at the University carpenter shop, and taking a full set of classes. I spent my spare time being a husband and dad. I told Dr. Collins that I did not have time to play golf.
Dr. Collins said that I had a gift for putting and loved the way I could hit the long ball. One day in class, she observed me as I practiced pitching the ball using the pitching wedge. She asked, “Can you make that shot with the whole class watching?”   I told her that I thought I could. She had the class stop for a moment and informed them that Mr. Hopper was going to demonstrate how to pitch the ball to the hole.
I took dozen balls and pitched them to the hole from a distance of about fifteen to twenty feet. Each ball hit the flagstick and fell into the cup. As I made each shot, Dr. Collins discussed my form and rhythm. 
In putting class, Dr. Collins asked how learned to putt. I told her that she would not believe me. You should have seen her expression when I told her I learned at putt-putt golf.
Before the two-man scramble, I had played very little golf. I did not have the time or the money. Playing golf is an expensive hobby. In reality, I had rather throw a football or shoot a basketball than chase a little white ball all over creation.
Well, that morning at Big Mo Country Club I did not know what to expect being my first Tournament. There were dozens of men going through rituals and preliminaries of the game.
Among the players was a former co-worker from the cement plant. Butch had to retire from the electrician crew due to a crippling injury to his wrist. Butch was a member of my brother’s church. He loved and played golf as often as any retiree could. 
He and I became partners in the two-man scramble and we were paired with a couple of guys to make our team. Butch and I kept their scores and they kept ours.
Butch and I made a good team. He could knock the cover off that little white ball, but he struggled putting. My strong suit was putting. On each hole, Butch insisted that I tee-off first. He wanted to see how good my drive was. By rule, two-man teams could choose the best ball on each play/stroke. If I made a good shot, Butch would take a chance; he knew if he blew the shot, we could play my ball.
In the beginning, our two teammates were winning. Butch and I were not bad, they were better. We had fun. On one hole, I sliced the ball so bad that it hit a tree and bounced in behind us. That put pressure on Butch to make a good drive. Butch stuttered if you looked him in the eye. On my bounce behind drive, Butch stuttered, “Give me that club before you kill somebody.”
The fifteenth hole was “dog leg” 550 yard, par five. I had my best drive of the day. I hit a perfect drive straight to fairway directly below the hole. Butch stuttered, “I’m gonna hit the ball over the pines toward the hole. As he hit the ball, it went high above the pines toward the hole. It was a beauty. It wasn’t too pretty for the other two guys. Our two incredible shots must have frustrated them. On this hole, one wrapped his club around a huge pine and the other threw his club in the swamp, I think to be with the ball he hit there. I still don’t know what the pine tree did to the other player.
Our partners wasted several strokes trying to get close to my ball. Several minutes and strokes later, we drove our carts down the trail adjacent to the fairway to locate our golf balls. Mine was easy. It was about 150 yards from the hole. Our teammate’s balls were harder to find, but Butch’s was the hardest. We thought Butch’s ball might be lost. We started looking in the rough, and finding a couple I wanted to make sure it was Butch’s ball, so I asked what the name of the ball he used was. I found several, but none was his. When we finally found Butch’s ball it was not in the fairway, nor the rough, but fifteen feet from the hole, just a foot off the putting green. I putted it in. That means that it was three strokes under par, what I think is called a “double birdie.”
When I got home, I was carrying a large trophy, which is now in the Bethel Office. Sharon wanted to know whose trophy I had. I told her I won it. She said, “Sure you did. You don’t even play golf.” I said I don’t, but I know how and that Butch and I won the tournament and a score of 72.
I did think it was ironic that we won, but we made a great pair. Our combined skills and gifts complemented each other.
In the devotional Playing the Game in the section “Character: The Infallible Test,” the late Dr. Stephen Olford writes, “No other sport requires the level of integrity expected in the golf game.”
 
. . . if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5 NIV).
 
February 5, 2015
For those of you that know me, I have used the term “divine appointments” in several venues. God never ceases to amaze. He has placed people in my path that have helped me to continue my journey. When I get to a crossroad in my ministry, God places someone or a situation that whelps me get to where I need to go.
Every once-in-a-while, at the precise moment, God will direct someone my way that helps me get to the next place where the Lord wants me to grow and minister to someone who has lost his or her way and needs a word of encouragement.
My dear friend Ruby Smith has reminded me on several occasions that each church I pastored trained me to pastor the next one. As I reflect on those ministry opportunities, I think about the people that have heard me speak. Often, I think about did I help or hurt with the message.
Preaching is very humbling, especially when you feel that some in the audience are more qualified than you are. Early in my ministry, I would be extremely nervous when a preacher or preachers would attend where I was speaking. I come to realize that they were there to support and encourage. It sure didn’t feel that way initially.
One Sunday morning while I was greeting folks at Gallion, the dad of one of my ministers attended. He introduced himself and his wife and son. He was a pastor from north Alabama. He was not just any pastor, but one from a big church. After a few moments of conversation, I found that we had mutual acquaintances. That lifted a little fear, but I was scared. He would visit a few times. In conversation, I discovered that I had worked with his brother at the cement plant in Calera and that his brother lived on Sharon’s mail route. 
 
My new friend was retired but waiting for his wife to retire from teaching and they wanted to return to West Alabama. A few months later, I became your Direct of Missions. My new pastor friend did build and move to Gallion. I suggested him as interim and the rest is history. On Sunday January 25, my friend and mentor retired again. I think is the third or fourth retirement but this time it is health related. That morning he sat in the congregation and again I was humbled. I celebrated the evening service with his church family, his family, and him enjoying catfish.
 
The church presented him with a beautiful plaque inscribed:
 
 
Reverend Brooks Barkley
 
You have served the Lord with gladness – tirelessly, faithfully, and with great compassion for His Flock. From November 1956 to December 2014 – for 58 years of pastoral ministry – you have boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Christ as His Humble ad obedient servant. Many have been blessed by your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord and Savior.
 
Everything you do is a reflection of what is in your heart, and your heart is a reflection of His. As you retire, please remember that we will hold you in our hearts forever. We know that God will continue to bless you and your family as you serve Him anew.
 
With Great Affection and Gratitude
from
Your Church Family
at
Thomaston Baptist Church
 
“Behold! I will do something new! Now it will spring forth . . .”
Isaiah 43:19
 
On behalf of Bethel Baptist Association, thanks Brooks, Margaret, and Lamar. I count it all joy to have you as friends and co-laborers in Christ.
 
January 29, 2015
 
Several years ago, one of our pastors, now in another part of the state, asked me about my ability to “shoot from the hip.” He said his church wanted know how I did it. I said that one should never rely on “shooting from the hip” as a way to handle life’s situation. The ability to “shoot from the hip” is as coaches teach players. Practice your position so well that it becomes second nature without really thinking.
I told my pastor friend that I constantly read books and articles. I am storing information that can be retrieved as needed. Most things we do require thinking and contemplation.
My personality in decision-making requires that I gather the necessary information, meditate, and sleep on it. “Shooting from the hip” is more exceptional, than the rule of thumb. It is great to have the ability, but it must be tempered and preceded by thought and reflection. Folks up home have a saying, “He is sharper than a stepped-on thumb tack.” All I can say is that the tack has been stepped on a lot if it is sharp.
I never will forget my first day at the cement plant. The yard foreman was conveying to me why the plant had the reputation for high wages. He said that it was hot, nasty, hard, and dangerous work. Reality hit when he said, “You may walk in the plant, but if I did work safely, co-workers would carry my dead body out.”   I responded, “Yes sir!”
We had regular safety classes. Everyone that worked rotation had to either stay past quitting time or come in early to attend TAKE 2 classes. Gerald Thomas from Georgia taught these classes and was a good teacher. TAKE 2 started in North Alabama at a chemical plant. The spokesperson was said to be a custodial worker with a very good voice. I had my doubts, but the old gentleman did have a very good speaking voice. The chemical plant produced a movie clip that focused on different scenarios where people would get hurt. It was very good, but it was no Hollywood production.
There was jingle with the presentation that stuck with you after the class. TAKE 2 meant that one would take two minutes to think about the situation before taking action. TAKE was an acronym for T, have I Talked over the situation, A, what Actions will I take, K, do I have the Knowledge to perform the task, and  E, do I have right Equipment to do the job safely and correctly.
The film would show an employee who did not take time to review the job that resulted in the employee injuring himself. The narrator would reiterate what the simpleton did wrong and then the same employee would do it correctly following the TAKE 2 steps.
There were several jobs where TAKE 2 had to be automatic and fast reaction saved lives and equipment. Employees had to be fast, but not careless. At every safety meeting, Gerald would handout “Fatal Grams,” papers containing reports of fatalities in cement plants, and other related industries. These men and women walked into the plant, but coworkers or rescue squads carried them out.
Taking 2 is important in ministry. One of my former pastors of my home church, David Myers, talked with me about being a pastor. He said, “Bobby, as one of your dads in the ministry, let me give you one piece of advice. Church members will come to you with difficult problems expecting you to fix it. Tell them that you will take it with consideration of prayer and genuinely pray. Wait on God to solve it or give you an answer. Most preachers run ahead of God trying to fix the problem, if they had waited, God would have taken care of it. Take time to let God work.” That is why so many preachers get in trouble and must find another church.
I can say after thirty years of ministry, Brother David was right just as David of the Old Testament:
And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David inquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all (I Samuel 30:1-8 KJV).
 
King David was pretty decent at shooting from the hip in his younger years; just ask the Goliath family, but learned wisdom in seeking God as he faced life. 
 
January 15, 2015
Celebration is an important part of our lives. If you are like me, you celebrated the Christmas Holidays and the beginning of a New Year. I was merry at Christmas because I spent a great deal of quality time with Sharon on the road to Montevallo, then Zackary, Louisiana, on to Gulf Shores, and then back to Linden. I drove she slept.
I was so enthralled in celebrating the New Year that I went to bed way before the ball dropped in Times Square hearing some fireworks exploding in the neighborhood. Those sounds may have been the illegal discharging of firearms by my neighbors and I decided not to be outdoors to see the fireworks in case it was falling lead. I wanted to celebrate life on New Year’s Day.
According to an article that I read last week, there are numerous fatalities from celebrating by shooting at the stars during times of celebration. There is a right and wrong way to celebrate. Random firing in the air for celebration can cause a lifetime of regret.
We do a lot of celebrating. We celebrate birthdays, holidays, weddings, anniversaries, victories, achievements, grand openings, graduations, retirements, and funerals. We give cards, flowers, money, watches, certificates, pins, and plaques. But, how many times do we celebrate God in worship.
It would behoove the church to celebrate the blessings of God rather than the church’s tendency to murmur and gripe. For some reason churches forget the great things God has done and dwell on things that God has not done or that we think He should have done. All one has to do is see how quickly the Hebrews started complaining when they exited Egypt. I like to paraphrase like this, “Where two or more Baptist are gathered there will be murmuring and fussing.
Celebrations have two extremes. I remember reading an editorial in the Clanton Advertiser many years ago of an irate mom concerning here child’s graduation from kindergarten. According to the irate mom, there was not enough celebration because the principal and teachers were so thoughtless of the great achievements of little ones graduating the vicious and demanding academia of kindergarten. She wanted caps, gowns, and pomp and circumstance, along with a boring speech, REALLY! Let the kids have cake and ice cream and be thankful they will be entering the academia of the first grade. Years later, I attended my grandson’s kindergarten graduation and I realized it was more for the parents, not the kids, as the teachers and aides pushed and commanded the children to act like the graduating class of Harvard Law School. 
After the extraction of last tidbit of information drilled into the child’s head, teachers and aides cut them loose to be kindergartners. They ran and were excited about the cake, ice cream, potato chips, and punch and could not wait to get out of the caps and gowns. Now that was a celebration. 
Then there is the extreme celebration and often taunting of the athlete who gets a penalty of excessive celebration upon a great achievement of running a touchdown all by himself. Last time I played, I remember that ten other teammates helped the overly zealous running back score. If we celebrated, we had to do pushups.
What about celebration on the Lord’s Day? Is our role the one of the irate mother who thinks there should be more or are we the zealot who fellow parishioners want to throw the penalty flag?
Do we know how to celebrate God? Is a worldly celebration more important than one for God? How many editorials do the local newspapers write for churches celebrating or lack of, God at worship? Is not the work of God more powerful than anything man has done? Are we afraid to worship? Do we really understand why we gather on Sundays? Do we know how to worship? Are we following tradition or do we follow the examples of God’s Word? 
In Psalm 22 David wrote a mournful psalm that Jesus quoted while own the cross. In Psalm 23 David wrote of the gentle shepherd that would help in times of need. In Psalm 24, David knew how to celebrate God’s majestic and triumphant presence. The Ark of the Covenant had been returned to Jerusalem. The people were ready to celebrate the presence of God. David realized that when the heart is prepared, the desire to worship God becomes an integral part of our lives providing direction and focus.
Our moments together at worship are a time of celebration. In our getting and giving, in our saving and spending, we remember that all belongs to God. Seduction by the genius of Madison Avenue marketing and advertising distorts celebration by taunting us with pleasure from material wealth. 
God created it all and He is redeeming it all. Celebrating God is recognizing His redemption. We celebrate life because Christ lives. Celebration is conditional. Celebrating is acknowledging that everything is God’s. He created us to worship, He redeemed us to worship, and He instructed us to worship. 
There are moral qualifications for worship. We come with blameless conduct (clean hands), we do right with right motive (pure heart), we are to be faithful to God and to neighbor, and we are to be truthful in dealings.
The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully (Psalm 24:1-4 KJV).
Write today’s worries in the sand. Chisel yesterday’s victories in stone – Max Lucado
 
December 18, 2014
Well, another year is gone and the world in which we live has changed so much. I tell folks all the time that this is not our daddy’s Alabama. It is most definitely not our dad’s nation.
Things from the White House, to the Governor’s house, to the Court House, to the church house, and to our house seems to be in shambles. With each passing day, yesterday’s shock is today’s commonplace.
I was at a meeting not too long ago where the people leading the music looked as though that had slept in their clothes and got right out of bed without combing their hair and went right to the stage to try to lead me in worship. I guess I am old fashion, I was taught to bring your best to worship.
A speaker that was not dressed much better then followed these uncouth and shoddy looking leaders of praise. They say they do this as not to offend anyone. Can I say that I am offended! They say they want everyone to feel welcomed. I did not! 
Here’s where I have the rub. It is okay to come before the Kings of kings dressed in the ragged, shabby clothes and unruly hair but wear the newest styles of tuxedoes and gowns to a prom or dinner engagement where most will bow down to the god of debauchery and hedonism. Something is wrong with that picture.
While growing up we were poor and did not have much, however we wore our Sunday best to worship. I know that there are times where we may not have our best at worship, but is the exception rather than the rule.
Malcolm Gladwell has a great book, The Tipping Point. The subtitle is “How Little Things Make a Big Difference.” I recommend it. One principle came very close to home and it reminds me of this stylish trend, or lack of style in our churches.
If the owner of property does not care for his possession, he gives the okay to vandalize it. The case in point was the old house behind the Pastorium. When Sharon, Aaron, and I first moved to Linden, the old house was in good shape. As the grass and weeds grew, so did the vandalism. It did not matter how much I tried to watch the abandoned house, windows were broken, doors were torn off, and graffiti appeared. The owner’s neglect was the perpetrator’s license to deface.
“An epidemic theory of crime can start with a broken window and spread to an entire community. The tipping point is not with a particular kind of person but physical graffiti. The impetus to engage in a certain kind of behavior is not coming from a certain kind of person but from a feature of the environment.”
Brother Bobby, “What has this to do with church worship?” Glad you asked. At some point in the property owner’s neglect, the right to trash the place tipped to the perpetrator. Had the owner given the slightest attention to his property, the destruction would not happen or least delayed it. There is a point in time when things tip the other way.
At some point and time, church attire tipped from “giving our best to it is okay to be a mess.” It is true that Jesus takes us, as we are, to which I am eternally thankful. But, what happened to repentance and change? Early church converts were given new clothes after baptism to signify a change. Samford’s Beeson School of Divinity’s Chapel has a painting showing this tradition.
Ron is a modern day example. Ron visited Friendship Baptist Church in Clanton when I was pastor there. Ron had long hair, beard, earrings, and dressed like a hippy. Yes, he wore sandals. He was welcomed just as he was and no one mentioned his appearance. We did not have a dress code. Every thing from three-piece suits to blue jeans and T-shirts was acceptable. I do not remember anyone looking like they slept in their clothes, although I thought I saw a kid or two and lady or two that did not fix their hair.
Ron continued to come and one Sunday he came forward during the invitation and told me that he wanted to be saved. I shared the Gospel with him and he prayed the sinner’s prayer. The following Sunday this handsome, clean-shaven, earring less young man in suit and tie with dress shoes appeared. Everyone told Ron how nice he looked. He said God changed him.
What happened to the church setting the trend? The church has lost its influence in the community. As a result, lifestyles and moral behavior in society have tipped from Christian principles to secularism and immorality. There is a war on Christian government and citizenship as I write this article. Right is wrong and wrong is right nowadays. Some compare our world to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Can I say that there is nothing new under the sun? One big difference today is technology allows one to capture events as they happen, rather than hearing about it later.
Solomon says, “Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions (Ecclesiastes 7:10 NIV).
 
December 4, 2014
My friend Calvin Miller did devotions and commentary for The Celebrate Jesus Millennium Commemorative Edition Bible. He autographed my copy with these words, “Bobby- How marvelous that God has made us friends.” Dr. Miller has gone to be with the Lord and I miss him. Brother Ed Vines of Forest Hill gave me a cane with a carving of a bearded man at the top. I told Ed that I named it Calvin because it looks like Calvin Miller. When I walk with the cane, it reminds me that I studied under this Baptist Giant and symbolically he walks with me when I use the cane. Dr. Miller told me that I needed to write. I remember telling him I struggle to write. He told me I was good writer and to write.
Many of you have told me how much you enjoy and receive encouragement from these articles. What started as a small paragraph on the back page as filler for Pam has evolved into a ministry that only God could bless.
Christmas is a great time for sharing stories such as this one.
On a clear night’s sky, the shepherds were watching over their flocks. Joseph and Mary were lying comfortably next to Jesus on a bed of straw in the peaceful town of Bethlehem, a suburb of the big city of Jerusalem. The animals peacefully strolled around, and the world was full of joy... and...that is Christmas stuff.
 
The real Christmas story is: On a very hectic and troubled night, a miracle happened. The Messiah entered a world of terrible political unrest. People hated and did not trust politicians who were quite corrupt. There were moves to throw them out of Jerusalem. Overspending by big government created huge taxes. The average wage earner could not keep a decent standard of living. Religious institutions were getting more and more involved with politics instead of meeting spiritual needs of people. Divorce was a common problem, almost at the fifty percent mark. Abortion was common with babies often seen floating through open sewer lines. The court system was corrupt; criminals were constantly going free on technicalities. Nations were constantly redrawing their boundaries; there was a nervous peace around the world. The educated were denying miracles and the supernatural. They believed science and technology were the best hopes for mankind and the future. The disparity between the rich and poor was getting greater and greater all the time. Even the healthy religious people were losing hope in the Messiah. For hundreds of years they had been told that the Messiah would come. In all this God makes His appearance in human flesh. The Angel of Lord told the shepherds that the Messiah had come. They would find him as a baby lying in a manger.
 
For some, merriment, cheer, jing jing jingling and fa la la la la are light years away as you struggle with heaviness in your lives.   Straining under the load of sickness, or keenly felt grief because of death, or trying to escape the fog of depression or the trap of financial deficiency, or the pressure of a chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out kind church members. Hope comes when God’s people share the Good News, which the Angel conveyed to the shepherds.
Day 355 of Dr. Miller’s devotion begins: “God likes to do some things better than others. We see him in the punishment business so often; we feel that is what he gets his kicks from. Punishment is not God’s core business. God is in the business of saving people. He showed that when he sent a little baby to Bethlehem and said he would save his people from their sins.”
God is the God of little things, little places, and little children. Can you imagine the surprise when Herod heard that God picked a little city called Bethlehem, a one camel town to be the place for the birth of a King?
To top that, Herod got the information from people we know today as Iranian or Iraqi. Most of us are offended when we did not receive an invitation to a Christmas gala. Imagine Herod’s surprise when he didn’t get the birth announcement for a great king. Great works of God rarely start in big places. They start in small places.
A small event in Nazareth came when the world was engulfed in turmoil.
As disturbing and troubling events unfold this Christmas, look for God working in little things. Christmas is about gifts, but the Gift of eternal life found in Jesus, the King from a one camel town.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."   When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: "`But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' "
(Matthew 2:1-6 KJV)
 
 
November 20, 2014
Several weeks ago I helped my daughter Angela remodel her kitchen. One of the alterations was to situate a refrigerator that is too large, to fit in the present opening of the cabinets. Being an old cabinetmaker in years past, I agreed to help her.
She had a couple of options. One was to remove the two-door cabinet above the frig, and take a couple inches off each side of bottom cabinets to keep uniformity. 
The other option was a bit simpler, but she would lose cabinet space. This course of action involved removing a section of the cabinet over to the next door by eliminating a top door and bottom door and their shelves.
My son-in-law said that it was impossible to remove the top and bottom sections since it meant removing two doors and their shelves.  His logical thought and reasoning was you could not do it due to its construction. My response was someone built it originally. 
Angela said, “Daddy can do it.” I knew that I could, but I was concerned about making it look like the cabinets were made that way.
Sharon and Aaron gave me this wonderful little saw for Christmas last year, so I knew I had the perfect tool to help me. Since I know how cabinets are built, had the right tool, I started by using a cordless drill to remove the double door cabinet above the frig opening. Square-headed screws held this section of the cabinet in place. Screws are much better to construct and deconstruct projects. I also removed the sides of the cabinets that I was about to cut. The sides were nailed together with small staples that I removed with a screwdriver and pliers.
When Angela finally arrived, I was well into to what Handyman Magazine calls a DIY (do it yourself) project. When disconnecting the cabinets over the frig, one side dropped a tad. I placed a level on the shelf, got it level, and anchored it with some ‘dry wall” screws. I keep several different sizes of dry wall screws for projects. Angela said that it did not look level. She inherited her leveling ability from my momma.
Having done carpenter work most of my life, I know to measure twice and cut once. I said I know good and well it was level because I put the level on it. She said it was leaning. I put the level on it and showed her that it was level. I know leveling.
The house that I grew up in was anything but level and square. Daddy placed some large rocks on the property and commenced to build our house on top of them. He did like old timers did when constructing a house or should I say shanty.
When I was a senior in high school, we did some remodeling on the old shanty. We added two bedrooms and replaced the old leaking tin roof with some fancy modern black shingles, replaced the asbestos siding with brick, and the outside toilet with a inside jam up bonafided indoor bathroom.
We did not have much trouble with the two new bedrooms because they were built on a good foundation. The rest of the shanty was another matter.
When we started putting new paneling over sheetrock, we thought we were uptown. Years later we asked why did we put that ugly paneling over good sheetrock? I claim temporary insanity.
In building, you must start level, plumb, and square. Daddy and I took our time to make sure the first piece of coconut colored paneling was plumb. Momma said it was leaning. Dad put a four-foot level on it and it was plumb. Momma won out, and dad and I struggled to hang paneling. It was a genuine mess. Momma had a good eye no doubt, but she was no level or plumb line.
Momma and Angela remind me of something that Denny Couturie` said in a sermon at Sunny South Baptist Church. Denny said that people disregard what the Bible says in favor of what they believe. Authority and speaking with authority come from Scripture, referencing Titus 2:11-15: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee (KJV).
God knows best. I had a deacon tell me one time that it did not matter what the Bible said, he was going to do what he thought was right. To say the least, he had no authority. Opinions may have some merit in certain arenas, but the Word of God is the plumb line by which all life is measured.
As Angela and I completed the modification, she questioned something being square on the bottom cabinets when I measured and scribed a line on the bottom shelf before making a cut. I assured her that it was indeed square. Being a “Doubting Thomas” because I did not use a square, I told her to get the square and check it. It was square. Of course, she wanted to know I knew it was square. I said if you measure the same distance from something that is square, the line will consistent and continue to be square. I told her it was called geometry and parallel lines. When Angela and I finished the cabinets, it was hard to tell the modification. 
 
 
October 23, 2014
Some of the most influential people in our lives are schoolteachers and coaches. I had, and I hope you did, some of the best. I don’t remember my first grade teacher at South Beloit Elementary in Illinois, but I did not like her. I disliked her so much that I ran away from school as often as I could get away with it.
In March of the first grade, we moved back to Alabama and my Dixie first grade teacher was the splitting image of the Yankee version so I continued to run away from school. I do not know how I advanced to the second grade, but thank God, I got Mrs. Nellie Glasscock. My cousins recommended her and I remember reading about Dick, Jane, and Spot running, but not away from school.
As luck would have it, third grade was like first grade in many ways. The third grade class had too many students and I was one of the “chosen ones” placed in the extra class with the substitute teacher who must have been a sister to my first grade teachers. Gee whiz, was there three of them?
By the third grade, dad and momma had broken me of my running away. One can only be sick so much and good hiding places are hard to find. I suffered with Mrs. Oaks until the Christmas break. I don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year at home, but when school started back, Santa had left this beautiful young teacher in our upstairs classroom.
Mrs. Avis Harthen was so wonderful. I went from U’s and S’s to E’s and G’s. Mrs. Harthen would hug me and tell me how proud she was of me. Years later when I was Beta Club president, Ms. Harthen, who had gone to bigger and higher things, spoke at our annual banquet. I remember her telling the audience how proud she was of me and how I was her favorite third grade student.
I had real good teachers after Mrs. Harthen. When you get the reputation that you are a good student, teachers treat you different.
Another person of influence was Coach Lamar Cost. He and I did not hit it off so well in the beginning. He was new to the school and had a reputation as being a hard-nosed coach.  He had coached some boys that later played at the University of Alabama. I will say that he was a very good defensive coach.
I remember my first meeting with Coach Lamar. Mom did not want me playing football so I had to run away from home, you might say, to play football. When I did not show up on the school bus, mom knew I had stayed to practice football. Everyday was the same scenario. The coaches fussed and cussed me at practice and mom fussed and cussed me for practicing. Did I ever tell you that I loved playing football?
On the first day of practice, I had to dig through piles of discarded football equipment to round up enough stuff for practice. I had a ragged jersey and I could not find a set of matching pads. My helmet was way too big. The older and veteran players got all the good stuff and the “hamburger squad” got the culls. In my quest I did get a pair of blue pants, like the veterans, only they were in bad shape, no body wanted them.
I wished you could have seen me when I got to the practice field. I looked awful and of course just like all football rookies, I had my thigh pads in backwards.
Coach Lamar grabbed me by the facemask and asked me where I got the blue pants. I wanted to be a big man and thought I would get a little smart with him. I said, “I stole them.” Not a good start!
Coach was tough. One time in practice, I injured my left thigh. I pinched the nerve. I was dragging my left leg. In scrimmage, our halfback run over me, which was unusual. I thought I would cry. Did I tell you I love to play football, but I hated practice?
Coach Lamar screamed at me and screamed run it again. Once again, the halfback ran over me. This time I felt someone straddle my back and grab my facemask pulling my head around off the dusty ground and telling me, “If I could not do any better than that to go to the house.” So, I got up and started the long journey home. Coach asked, “Where you going?” I said, “To the house.”
After I showered and started home, Coach Lamar the concerned daddy asked, “What’s wrong?” I said, “Coach, I pulled something in warm-ups and it hurts. I can barely walk”
I played for Coach Lamar for four years and we developed a friendship that exits today. He taught me how to play defense, good enough to get college offers. One practice during my sophomore year he told the team that I was the most improved player and that I had improved one thousand percent.
Mrs. Harthen and Coach Lamar taught me more than studies and football. They helped me learn about life. Thanks Mrs. Harthen and Coach Lamar!
 
When I think of great teachers, Jesus is the greatest: Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him (John 3:2b KJV)
 
October 9, 2014
I have a picture of my daddy holding me on the hood of an old GMC pickup. I am not very old, still in a baby blanket, big round head and face, no hair and no teeth. There is another picture of dad holding me on the back of a gigantic white workhorse named Babe. I do not remember the old GMC, but I do remember daddy holding after sitting me on Babe’s back.
I remember dad holding me down in the Mr. Bratton’s barber chair when I was very small. I remember this red faced, curly blonde-haired, and crying little boy in the mirror. I was screaming because Mr. Bratton cut my ear and head. Thinking back, he was probably trying to cut off my head. I did not know it at the time, but momma was furious for cutting off her baby’s curls. I hate haircuts to this day!
As a “little feller”, I was puny. I had pneumonia when I was a couple years old. I had stomach problems for a few years. I remember taking some concoction for worms. I had some issues with my kidneys and had a barrage of tests. Illinois doctors said that my tonsils were causing some of my sickness. At age six, mom had my tonsils removed.
Mom brought my sister and me back to Alabama where Dr. Joe Moore, the first person to slap me, and family doctor, could perform the surgery. Mom took advantage of the Christmas Holidays, being home with family, and giving me a memorable sixth birthday.
I remember the scenes of the hospital. The lights seemed dim and the halls dark. Nurses had this small thorny bush decorated with different colored gumdrops. There was a Christmas tree decorated with aluminum icicles and colored lights. There was the ether-filled mask over my face. The ceiling had these big chrome globes with bright lights hanging over the operating table.
I remember just like yesterday when they placed that screen meshed mask on my face. I struggled to breathe. I remember them holding me down as I felt like I was spiraling downward round and round. I felt like I died. I remember seeing a sign in my Aunt’s bedroom that had a saying about lying down to sleep and dying. I did not know what death was like, but I felt like I was experiencing it.
Momma said when the hospital called a “code blue,” she knew it was for me. Momma told me years later that they lost me, probably because I panicked. Momma said she prayed as she never did before and suddenly I vomited and the doctors revived me.
I remember the falling sensation and seeing all kinds of demonic creatures. I would learn later that the things I saw were things like artists captured on canvas centuries earlier. The sad part about the whole ordeal was my sister, three years old, woke from her surgery wanting ice cream. She would look at me and lick the ice cream. The demons never bothered her. I think I know why, but I rather not say.
I battled with extremely high fever for years. My fever would be so high that momma would put ice or alcohol on me to cool the down. Momma feared that the high fever would affect my brain. Some will say it did!
On more than one occasion, when I ran a high fever, I would see some of the same demonic creatures from my tonsillectomy.
I remember daddy holding me in his arms one night as I screamed from hallucinations of a high fever as unfinished sheetrock and sheetrock mud over joints and nails transformed into scary creatures. Monstrous demons reached for me with mouths wide open trying to devour me. 
As momma cried and wringed her hands in a nervous breakdown delirium, daddy would hold me firm and speak comforting words of hope and assurance. Daddy would shield me from these fiends and ogres from the pits of hell. As the fever would subside, I would find that indeed daddy had carried through a gigantic struggle.
Such are the fears of a little boy as he faces adversities and who has a daddy that will hold softly, yet firm in his arms and protect him. I needed his love, tender and formidable.
These events remind me that I have a heavenly Father that holds me and keeps the demonic at bay. Satan will do anything to destroy my testimony or yours. I am glad when the Scriptures remind that God who loves you and me will fight for, and carry His children.
 
Then I said to you, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place." Deuteronomy 1:29-31
 
 
September 25, 2014
You and I measure time by events. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us of that in Chapter three. We have those pivotal moments that mark our living in births, deaths, holidays, special events, and tragedies.
Growing up daddy would say on the day you were born icicles were hanging off the house a foot long and we buried your momma’s grandmoe Crumpton the day before you were born.
One of those pivotal moments came in October 1986. Momma heard that I would be preaching at the Maplesville Baptist Church.
Mom had worked in the veneer mill in Maplesville thirty-five years earlier. She wanted to go with me in hope of renewing some old acquaintances. I hoped that she wanted to hear me preach, but she wanted to meet old friends.
It was rare for mom and dad did not get to hear me preach. Both died within the first three years of my ministry. I think the only sermon my dad heard me preach as a pastor was a Father’s Day message at my first church. Mom heard a few more, but not many.
The trip to Maplesville was fun. I spent time with mom. She met a few old friends and for mom, she heard me for the last time. In my ministry, my sermon has been the last message people heard before they died. That is an awesome responsibility when standing behind the Sacred Desk. My preaching what may be the last word from God a person hears.
The following week, I went to see momma on Saturday morning. She was standing at the place she stood most, behind the kitchen sink washing dishes. She was looking out the window as I sneaked up behind her. Momma did a lot of humming and singing while doing dishes and this morning was no different.
I grabbed her from behind, gave her a big bear hug, lifted her from her feet, and turned round and round with her. When I put her down she said, “You broke my rib.” I said, “Momma I did not squeeze you hard enough to break a rib.”
Momma worked hard her whole life and she and dad never had many worldly possessions. For several years, mom suffered severe pain, but the doctors could never find anything that may have caused the pain. Mom hurt so bad that she would spent a couple hours after work resting at my sister’s house before taking the thirty-minute drive home. My sister lived a couple miles from where momma worked.
So when I hurt mom, I just added to the pain. After two or three days following my big squeeze, mom went to the doctor. When Dr. Funderburk, family friend and former parishioner of mine, read the x-ray, he sent mom to a specialist.
A few years earlier mom had a stroke, but recovered. She rehabbed herself. Later the doctors diagnosed melanoma cancer on her back. She had successful surgery. But, the pain continued.
I shall never for get the moment when the doctor told me, I was with her when she had surgery following the hug that broke the rib. The surgeon said, “Your mom is eaten up with cancer.” He said the rib was not broken, but I collapsed her rib cage on the left, the good one, with the hug. The other side is completely eaten away. That was the good news. The bad news was that cancer riddled her body. The surgeon said, “Your mom has six months to a year to live.” That was around Halloween.
Mom had a bad spell around Thanksgiving. The doctor said, “Your mom has three to six months to live.” Mom was in the hospital at Christmas. It would our last Christmas with her. The doctors said, “Your mom has days to live.”
My sister, brothers, and I spent time with mom. My sister was marvelous staying the week, while my brothers and I did weekends. On one of my watches, mom was struggling, always the fighter. Seeing she needed some encouragement, I said, “Come on old woman, get up, and fix me some biscuits.” I was not ugly or disrespectful, that was the way mom and I picked on each other. She loved to fix me biscuits and I loved aggravating her. She tried to get off the bed using her good arm; cancer destroyed her right arm, esophagus, number four disk, thigh, and neck among other parts of her diseased body. After a gallant effort, she fell back in the bed, looked me dead in the eyes, and asked me, “Am I going to make it? Don’t lie to me.  I know when you lie. I can see it in your eyes.”
Mom was obvious to how short her time was. I told what the doctors told me. I said, “You have days.” She said, “I thought so.”
She said, “God has blessed me. He gave me what I wanted. Christian kids. I have a preacher, two deacons, and a Sunday School teacher. I never wanted to be rich, famous, or have a lot of stuff. All I ever wanted in life was Christian children. God gave them to me.”
Pivotal events came at Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the start of a New Year. Twenty-seven days into the New Year momma died.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a KJV)
 
 
September 11, 2014
Author and preacher Chuck Swindoll in his book Laugh Again opens with this line.
“I know of no greater need today than the need for joy. Unexplainable, contagious joy. Outrageous joy.” He quotes Flannery O’Connor who writes, “Where there is belief in the soul, there is very little drama . . . Either one is serious about salvation or one is not. And it is well to realize that the maximum amount of seriousness admits the maximum amount of comedy. Only if we are secure in our belief can we see the comical side of the universe.”
Do you laugh at yourself? I do, especially when I catch myself in a funny moment.
The other day I was spending some time at our farm at Sugar Ridge. After a good night’s rest, I was suddenly interrupted from my sleep. I rolled over and BOOM! I fell out of bed. Now I haven’t done that in years, since I was a kid or there may be a time or two, Sharon has kicked me out.
What made this so bad was that as I fell from the bed I twisted the sheet around in a mummy like fashion and I could not move. I lay confined as Egyptian mummy there a moment, not being able to move and all alone. With my back against the bed, I giggled at my dilemma and then yelled, “Help I’ve fallen and can’t get up.” Someone asked, “How did you fall out of king-sized bed? Simple, I slept too close to the edge. After valiant effort of reverse twisting, I unrolled myself. I laughed and laughed at myself.
I have found that the older I get, the more I find myself laughing at me. Somewhere in my studies, I recall that laugher releases the endorphins that kill pain. People ask me why I laugh a lot and always have a smile. I hurt a lot!
The other day I started home for dinner and I decided to exit at the side door instead of the front. Pam and I must use a key to lock the front door and I did not know the location of my key. The first step going down, or the last step going up, is a lulu. It is inconsistent with the others. Knowing that, I made sure to take one giant step then two small steps down, but I made one giant leap for dinner and the good for all mankind, especially for Bethel Baptist Association.
As I slowly pulled the door closed, I felt my double-jointed ankle roll over on the small step down. I held tight to that tiny, shiny doorknob to regain my balance, but perpetual motion of a large body continued in an awkward and fast descent toward the green grass that lay beneath.
Having a bag full of blueberries gracious donated to the good health of the director of missions by Tom Sessions, deacon from Hope, I did not want them scattered everywhere. I held them high as the green grass came quickly toward me. Believing the arthritis commercial and knowing high school physics, I knew that a body in motion tends to stay in motion, especially when is a big body like me. Experienced in falling, I knew to hit and roll. As I started to roll, I realized that Pam had the bushes around the building pruned when large stubs from a bush/small tree tried to sever my spine.
As my back arched over one stub and two other stubs tried to puncher my kidneys, I continued my roll. I lay on the grass for a few moments hurting and thinking, “I broke my back.” I had no air, having knocked the wind out of me, and momentarily could not move.
I looked around to see if anyone was at the fire department, no one. I looked to see if the neighbors were watching, not a soul. I looked to the Linden and Robertson banks, the school, not a single person. Where are folks when you need them to laugh at you?
Surprisingly, the blueberries remained intact and after a few moments, I collected my thoughts. I had trouble breathing and figured along with breaking my back; I bruised my kidneys, and punctured my lungs. In my trauma, I laughed thinking, “You clumsy ox, you broke your back falling in a bush. How are you going to explain that?”
I went home, looked in the mirror to survey the damage, which was a bunch of cuts and scrapes, changed my clothes which were permanently stained, and got some medical supplies to treat my wounds.
After Pam treated my wounds, the doctor examined my back, and Sharon gave me the once over, they could not believe it was not broken. In fact, it never bruised; I only had difficulty breathing the day of the fall. Everyone said God was watching. I said that I injured another guarding Angel. I wander how many were under me.
 
James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”
 
Falling is not a laughing matter for the one falling. I lost a former church member and friend to a fall a few weeks ago. Some will say that life is serious and is no laughing matter.
Swindoll says, “Trust me, when you laugh in the mist of this cesspool environment, people want to know why. Laughter is hope’s last weapon.”
Laughter makes one look and feel better and is highly contagious. In fact, I bet you laughed about me falling out of bed. I just had a thought. I wonder if it was an Angel that wrapped me as I fell out of bed.
 
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (Proverbs 17:22a KJV).
 
 
August 28, 2014
 
Most of us have ventured farther than we needed to go in life. We took that infamous next step and fell flat on our face, had the last word and it has cost a life of regret, got one more laugh and it led to embarrassment. My family says that I always have to have the last word. I usually reply, “No, I don’t.”
When I think about going a little farther, I remember the words of my dad. He would say, “Son if make a stand, be willing to stand alone because most of the time you will look around and see that you are all by yourself.”
Thirty-eight years ago today, I had the one of many “stand lone” experiences. It was Friday August 13, 1976. I was fried from my job after I confronted the owner about an insurance policy. 
It started when Sharon gave birth to our eldest son, Andy, on January 18 of that year. The insurance policy included coverage for the birth of a baby. I paid a deducible and took Andy home from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham. Shortly, I received statements that I owned for Andy’s birth.
I asked the owner, since he was boss, human resource, personnel, and insurance managers for the company why the insurance did not pay for the hospital stay.
He said he had to get with his partner in New York and that he would let me know. Another statement came and I again asked the owner about the status of the insurance inquiry. The same question received the same response, “I will get with my partner in New York.”
I revisited my policy and once again, all I owed was a minimum deductible that I had already paid. I don’t know about you, but I dislike to be ignored and for people to be disingenuous with me.
Since I was a young man of twenty-three, I sought the wisdom of older guys whom I worked. They talked of all the shady things that transpired in the routine work of the shop. I remember doing things that I thought were improper and wrong, but I was a stupid twenty-three year old. What did I know?
The collective thought of the employees was that the owner needed to answer some questions we had. I received encouragement from my Sunday school class that we as Christians needed to stand for that which was moral and right. I remember a sermon that the pastor preached about snakes. He said, “If you mess with snakes, you will get snake bit.”er
I finally got an answer from the owner about the insurance. He said that he and his partner did not know of any insurance that paid for baby delivery.
On my favorite day, Friday the 13th, I, with the backing of six to seven employees, confronted the owner about irregularities with work and insurance. I know now, but was clueless back then that my companions lacked backbone, why else would they let a young man lead? 
I showed him my policy and the coverage. Looking back, I realize I caught him with the proverbial “hand in the cookie jar.” He became hostile. When the discussion got heated, I looked around and I was the only one standing up to the owner. After a short exchange and my short diatribe on the owner’s spiritual lostness, he fired me.
The response from my allies shocked me. They said I took the discussion too far. I thought I did the right thing. The premiums I paid were for full coverage, but the owner and his partner were paying for a lesser insurance coverage. When caught, they agreed to pay my hospital bill.
The owner realized what he did and offered my job back, but I took another road on life’s journey. I never made a full machinist because I never had an opportunity to continue the apprenticeship.
After two months of building houses, I went to work at the cement plant on October 13. During the between months, I faced great challenges and criticism. Everyone was mad at me for getting fired. I stood for what was right, I found myself alone, and I went into a time of a personal low.
Lying on the front seat of my old Ford pickup, my dad asked what was wrong. I told him that I stood for a principle I thought right morally and ethically. Now, I feel abandoned. His words I never will forget. “Son, if you stand for what is right, be willing to stand alone. If you are right, that is what matters regardless of what others think, including me. Son, I am proud of you.”
The other day at pastor’s conference Dr. Rick Lance gave an inspirational devotion on Jesus at Gethsemane and the phrase, “Jesus went a little farther in following God Will, Word, and Work.” I immediately went back to 1976.
 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? (Matthew 26:36-39 KJV)
I cannot start to imagine how Jesus felt at that tremendous moment in His journey to the Cross. His dad knew that His Son would be all alone.
 
August 14, 2014
 
Union Springs Baptist Church on the Randolph route in Chilton County is my home church has been a praying church. Shortly after Sharon and I started a family, the Tuesday morning Ladies Prayer group invited her to attend. With a baby Andy, Sharon started attending these meetings. The ladies encouraged her to put Andy on a quit, on the floor, and under the pew as they prayed. Back then, ladies gathered at the church to help nurture young mothers in Godly living and other things to help ladies cope with the pressures of life in the late 1970’s
Mrs. Blonnie Crumpton headed up this group of prayer warriors. They had long been the backbone of my home church, especially when very few men attended. They were great theologians with their limited education, but the school of hard knocks is a form of higher education that many schools need to incorporate. They taught from experience, from reading God’s Word, having faith in the written word, and seeing the Word of God exhibited in everyday life.
Mrs. Blonnie’s dad fought in the Civil War and did what most would consider treason. He fought with the Yankees. Mrs. Blonnie talked of his faithfulness when most people displayed their distain for his choice of color to wear, Yankee Blue. He endured many hardships because of his decision, but never regretted it believing he did what was right before God.
Mrs. Blonnie inherited his faithfulness. Both the preacher and deacons would say that when Mrs. Blonnie prayed, they knew she talked with God and made them feel ashamed that their prayers were nothing compared to hers.
I remember her sitting on the second pew to the preacher’s left. She was a common woman with modest means and dress. She and Brother Arch Crumpton lived in what most people today would consider a shack. For them it was a blessing from God to have a nice place in which to live.
One of my fondest memories of Brother Arch and Blonnie happened during Halloween. Young people from the church, along with some influencing parents would go Trick or Treating in the community. The first place we would hit was Land Mart. It was our local grocery store where a preacher, Brother Pete Land, owned and operated. Pete was one of our prominent citizens at what is called Posey’s Crossroad/Mars Hill/Bessie. What it was called depended on where you lived. It was wonderful to Trick or Treat there because he had a store full of candy.
We finally made our way to Arch and Blonnie’s house. None of us could afford a store bought costume, so we took our everyday clothes, old lipstick, shoe polish, and smut to fix ourselves into monsters, goblins, and spooks. Thinking back, we probably were scary.
As we approached the Crumpton house, darkness surrounded the house. It was because they had very little lighting and still used kerosene lamps. I remember the house was covered with smut from the kerosene lamps and the wood burning stove where Mrs. Blonnie cooked.
When this very small lady opened the door, we all yelled, “Trick or Treat!” I still remember the puzzled look on their faces, especially hers. We did not scare them, but they were bewildered by the phrase “trick or treat.”
It seemed as an eternity as we stood there with our brown paper sacks open and with pieces of chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel tastys in them hoping to add to delightful bounty.
Mrs. Blonnie looked at momma and asked what is this “trick or treat”? Momma gave a simple explanation that we were pretending to goblins, monsters, and spooks were waiting for her to give us candy. Bless her heart; all they had was cold baked sweet taters. They hit the bags of candy with a thug sound and a downward push to make the sacks drop, almost jerking them from our hands. On the way to the next house momma explained that Crumptons loved baked sweet potatoes and for Mr. Arch and Mrs. Blonnie to give to us was a reason to celebrate. I must say that I have Crumpton heritage and baked sweet taters are hard to beat. But, for a small boy, candy was a better option.
Other than sweet potatoes, Mrs. Blonnie gave those ladies at the Tuesday morning prayer meeting something to consider. She challenged everyone of those ladies to write down on a sheet of paper the names of the lost men in the community. Many of those ladies in the prayer meeting had lost husbands. One of the names was Mrs. Bonnie’s son-in-law. Another name on that list was my dad.
She told the ladies to put the list on the closet door of their bedroom and start each day praying for these men. My Sharon put hers on her side of our closet. When our house burned, that list was still hanging on the door. Most of the men from that list were saved. My dad, Blonnie’s son-in-law, Cecil Brown, and Lance Posey were a few of the names. I named these men because they did not live long after their salvation experiences. In less than three years, all these men were diagnosed with cancer and died. Praise God for the challenge of Mrs. Blonnie and the faithfulness of those ladies to pray for the men of the community.
Our churches need to do more of this. We never know how close people are to eternity.
Jesus reminded his followers of the importance of praying. Read these words and see if it resonates with the challenge of Blonnie and challenges us today.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:6 KJV).
 
July 31, 2013
 
Mrs. Callie Plier, a widow in my home church and one of my earliest Sunday School teachers, taught me faith by example. Mrs. Callie lived so far off the main road that the phone company would not provide her service. I quit and refused to support our volunteer fire department because they refused to provide service for her. 
On top of that, Mrs. Callie lived alone and did not own a car. She said that her situation provided her time to spend with the Lord. She was a praying woman and lived by faith.
Mrs. Callie generously supported her church and it’s missions. I remember visiting her after she invited me to her home. She wanted to talk to me about my future in the ministry. After a long affirmation of my call, she gave me ten dollars, a large sum for a small widow lady. She said that God called me and she wanted to support my ministry. I used it as seed money for books at the University of Montevallo and the beginning of a long journey to Bethel Baptist Association.
I thank God for her encouragement, her teaching, and her demonstration of faith by giving. When we give to the cause of Christ, we worship, demonstrate faith, and become ensamples for others.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come (I Corinthians16:1-2 KJV)
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample (Philippians 3:17 KJV).
 
 
July 17, 2014
 
My first cousin Floyd was the first person I saw baptized. The church all went down to Six Mile Creek west of the bridge. I remember the preacher dressed in a white shirt going down into the water, which was murky, kind of a lucent greenish brown.
The creek was good for camping, fishing, and swimming. Back before all the cotton poison washed out of the fields and down into the creek, you could catch bream, bass, and catfish. I spent many nights on Six Mile Creek checking fishing poles baited with “mud puppies,” “water lizards,” or salamanders. I remember wondering if a fish was going to nibble old Floyd.
Floyd went down into the water and baptized in the same fashion as Delmar from the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou. The water in the scene from the movie looks akin to that of Six Mile Creek.
Someone in my home church got the notion that the church needed an inside, store bought, heated, baptism pool. For some reason the church stopped using the creek and started borrowing the baptism pool at Macedonia, a neighboring church. That’s where I was baptized a few years after Floyd. Many years would pass before my home church would have their own inside, store bought, heated baptism pool.
It came with a new auditorium; we tore down the old church and replaced it with the present day auditorium. As a twenty-three year, I somehow got railroaded into being the work coordinator for the building. Our church was blessed with carpenters so I coordinated Saturday workdays. In just a few weeks, we had this big beautiful sanctuary with choir loft, baptism pool, fluorescent lights, padded pews, central heating and cooling, and a modern sound system.
God blessed the church and many souls came to know the Lord. One was a life-long friend of my momma named Tean.  Tean, now with the Lord, had always had a thyroid problem and was overweight. I remember as a kid watching her arrive to church with her little car tilted from her weight.
My daughter Angela said when she was little that my momma chewed her out for mocking Tean. She said she was not mocking, but following Ms. Tean and trying to walk like her.
David Myers, our pastor at the time was a small round man and usually needed assistance during baptisms. Since the baptism pool was covered with curtains, we didn’t have one of those fancy river scenes on the wall, my job was to open and close the curtains.
My friend Heedy Hayes helped Brother Myers. Heedy and I were in charge making sure everything was right for baptism. The church well could not supply enough water for baptisms so we used water from the creek using the volunteer fire department water truck.
Since Heedy and I, along with others from the church, helped create the West Chilton Fire Department, the church we used it. The water was nasty. Heedy and I would spend Saturday afternoon using his sister’s swimming pool filter getting the water crystal clear for Sunday baptism.
As the big day, no pun intended, approached for Tean’s baptism, I asked Brother Myers if he had considered whether or not, Tean could get in the baptism pool. He said he thought it was big enough. I told him I wasn’t worried about the pool but the door leading down to the baptism pool. Having been in charge of those things during construction, I knew that the door was a small, like ones on closets. Suddenly Brother Myers was concerned. We got the bright idea to hug one another and see if we could get through the door. We did and we were relieved.
When the moment came, the church was full, along with the baptism pool. I closed the curtain after a brief word from our beloved pastor about baptism. Heedy assisted Tean down into the baptism waters. With each step down, the pristine water of repentance rose higher. The preacher, Heedy, and I forgot to calculate water displacement.
As Tean reached the bottom, the water that washes sin away crested near the top of the glass. A Holy gasp ending with “whew” vibrated across that new auditorium.
Brother Myers took Tean, said I baptize you my sister in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. There with a bird’s eye view to the preacher’s right hand, I saw Tean go down and the waters flow over into the new choir loft in front of me.
This baptism mired the on going debate about washing sins away. Some did not want the baptism pool, opting for the creek believing running water was better than still water for the washing away of sin. I always told them when we pulled the plug; it became running water headed back to the creek.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two ordinances Baptists observe. Baptisms have been in decline for many years prompting an investigation by the Southern Baptist Convention creating a taskforce on SBC Evangelist Impact and Declining Baptisms. Dr Timothy George, one of my professors, responded to the taskforce findings with his article “Troubled Waters.” The article states that baptisms are no longer the central part of the act of Christian worship and have been tacked onto a service or are an appendix of the main event. It is no longer promoted as the decisive, life-transforming confession witness. Baptism is a conscientious act of repentance and faith.
 
Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . . I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost . . . And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:1b, 11, 16-17 KJV).
 
 
June 26, 2015
Since it is vacation time, many will be headed to exotic destinations. The beach is attractive to many but I do not care for it. I do meet friends each year at Gulf Shores for Christmas. On one occasion, I observed “Snow Birds” enjoying the beach and I was inspired to write the following poem.
 
FLEEING THE TEMPTER
 
A seagull chases a killdee* up and down, round and round.
As long as the killdee flees, the seagull cannot catch it.
So, in its illusiveness they race just inches above the crashing and roaring waves.
 
Children play in the sand, some tiptoe to the edge of the sea’s invitation to dive into its threshold. In innocence, they laugh as incoming waves chase them away from the sea.
Guardians along the shore keep watch over the naïve younglings.
 
Seagulls stand guard and await the seas invitation to dine upon its continual supply of refuse, trash, and skeletons of creatures fallen in the sea. 
The temptation is too great for them and they feast. 
 
Unnoticed, people walk by the seagulls that focus on the sea’s roar calling to dine.
Some walk along the waters edge slowly seduced by the hypnotic voice of the deep.
Quickly escaping the tempter’s snare, they flee the cold chill of the rushing waves.
 
Briskly they saunter along the shore with no destination in mind.
Leaving their footprints upon the sands of time, troubled waves wash them quickly away. Slowly they fade way leaving no evidence that have resisted the seas continual seduction.
 
The older generation sits and reflects upon the repeated temptation of the sea as it vacillates.
It reminds them of life’s continual restlessness that will continue long after they are gone. 
They reminisce of childhood sand castles that vanished long ago with the shifting sand. 
 
They think of romantic yesterdays as they watch two lovers embrace as the waves crash to shore. They think of past passions as the sun is seduced and slowly enters into the sea. 
In the seduction, the sun loses its brilliant glow and blushes as it kisses the sea.
 
Only moments before, the sun’s flame had made the sky crystal clear, pure, and virgin blue.
It sparkled like a diamond in the cold winter air penetrating the air with a warm embrace. 
The sand that glistened as a bride dressed in white meeting her groom, now besmirched.
 
Suddenly, the seagull stops his pursuit of flirting killdee.
Temptation to dine overcomes the seagull as it dives into the sea for its prey.
 
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7b KJV).
 
June 12, 2014 
 
Several weeks ago, I attended an Alumni Officer Meeting at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It is a three-day event to train State officers how to host an alumni meeting and how to solicit money from poor alumni, mostly ministers.
I found out that there are donors with lots of money that want to donate to our Southern Baptist Seminaries. They give according to the number of alumni that give. These donors reason that if alumni do not give to their alma maters, then why should they.
As an Alabama Baptist State Alumni officer, I support the seminary by giving ten dollars for each year after graduating. I encourage all alumni to give at least ten dollars. The large donors do not look of the amount of each alumnus, but the number that give. If you are a New Orleans alum, consider that ten-dollar donation.
One of the benefits of attending the meeting is the food. The first night the Seminary hosted a crawfish boil. There were two canoes filled with boiled crawfish, corn, and potatoes. I am not a big fan of boiled “mud bugs,” but I do like their tails fried. Being a big man, the servers thought I needed a large serving. I gave them to a couple of my fellow alumni. I did have a generous portion of corn and potatoes. The warm brownie was pretty good too.
I ate at the seminary cafeteria for breakfast and dinner. The second night the seminary took us to the French Quarters to eat. Alan Tony from Florida, Marco from Arkansas, and I went to Deenie’s. Did I say that we walked the streets of New Orleans guided by a GPS? I thought we would never get to Deenie’s. It was fun trying to keep up with those technological advanced guys. It was trying to rain and turning dark as we entered the restaurant.
I was hoping for some fired crawfish tails, but I settled for a generous portion of fried shrimp, catfish, and French fries. I had the best time listening to these “music” guys argue over the validity of Contemporary verses Traditional. I mad the comment that Contemporary has been around so long that it has become the new traditional and that the millennial had their own style. I thought they were going to pound me with hushpuppies.
When we left the restaurant, it was trying to rain. We were to meet other alumni at the Café de Monde around nine. As we hurried, we were stopped by a parade, which I took part. I have always wanted to be in one the funeral dirges in New Orleans. Since Alan was most familiar, we followed him. As we neared the Café de Monde, the parade stopped us again. I told Alan that I could have stayed in the parade and beat them.
On the way back to the seminary in a steady rain, we had a black man flashing his lights. Now, it being a bad part of New Orleans and a little rain, it is not an area that you want to be stopping. The driver of our rental was Tony, who is Puerto Rican. He did not see the flashing lights; hear the honking horn, and the waving hands of the adjacent driver. Alan and Marco did and they were very uncomfortable. Tony and I were trying to see the poorly lighted streets. Things have changed in New Orleans since Katrina. There remains much work and rebuilding to be done. Some Baptists wanted to pull the Seminary out of New Orleans, but Dr. Chuck Kelly reminded the powers that be that removing the Seminary would remove the little light that remains in the city.
Suddenly, the adjacent driver got along side of Tony. Tony rolled down his window and the guy shouted, “You’re driving with your lights off.
That explains a lot. That is the reason Tony almost went straight instead of making the curve. It also explains why the cars were offly close behind us and to the right. That explains why Tony and I could not see the road sign until being right on top of them.
When Tony turned on his light, we could see much better.  The only problem was we were very close to the Seminary. We started to go back and see if we could see what we missed.
I have driven several times with my headlights off. One time the Clanton police pulled me over for driving without headlights. When asked why, I looked down at the dash and replied to the officer, and his green teethed sidekick, that I forgot to turn them on. He told me not to get smart with him. I did not get smart with him because I didn’t think he, nor his hayseed sidekick knew smart when they heard it.
My experience in New Orleans reminds me of Christians today. We are traveling life’s highway, having a good time, and enjoying one another but our lights are not on. Sure, we can see, but others may not see us. Thank God for people like our black friend in New Orleans that reminded us to turn our lights on. Seems like I read that somewhere.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16 KJV).
May 28, 2014
I watched a nine-year-old boy sitting on his front porch. He was unusually still. Normally he was live wire and could not sit still. He was looking in anticipation for his older sister. It was her nineteenth birthday. He had his mother bake his sister’s favorite cake, bought a pretty birthday card, and tied balloons on the handrail.
I watched him for a couple of hours. His dad encouraged him as listened to every passing car hope he could hear it slow down and turn into the driveway. His dad  had a gut feeling that his daughter would not be coming home. She had spread her wings of freedom going off to college at seventeen and she had more important things to do and more important friends than to spend a few hours at home.
As the sun faded into the western horizon, the nine-year-old never gave up hope that his sister would come home for her birthday. When no headlights pointed toward the porch, he told his dad, she must not be coming. The dad had already come to conclusion she was not coming home and had chosen to be with friends who would never love her like her family, especially her little brother.
I will never forget how much I hurt for the nine-year-old and the disappointment he experienced that afternoon. I felt that way again Saturday. The Scriptures in Matthew 22: 1-5 remind me that there will be occasions of disappointment. It says, “And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.”
There was thought, planning, and a good deal of hard work in the effort to celebrate Associational Missions week with a Mission Fair. With the finance of the Association operating on a shoestring budge, there was the expense to purchase food and supplies for this annual event that stretched the budget.
Pam and I cannot thank Calvary, Providence, and Linden Baptist Churches for sharing there mission trips. I thank the Disaster Relief and Bethel Baptist Builder Teams for their booths and information about their ministries. I thank the Operation Christmas Child for their booth. I thank the volunteers that showed their support by helping by serving wherever needed. Thank the Selma Disaster Team for bringing their DR Trailer.
I am indebted to them. They worked so hard for only fifteen visitors. That’s right we had 35 volunteers and 15 showed. I honor you for your sacrifice and offer condolences for the lack of response. 
Pam and I prepared one hundred hotdogs. This has got to be a first, free food, free drinks, free sweets and so few came.
I thought there would be a good representation by the Executive Committee since it was our May meeting. If anyone would be there, it would be these representatives. I thought they would encourage their churches and pastors to come. It is a good thing we did not have any business to conduct; we did not even have the quota to conduct a business meeting. Just 13 executive members came, the rest were part of the Missions Fair.
I close with this:  Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
 
May 15, 2014
Used.  Used conjures many different notions. Most people think of used cars. I have a football teammate from high school that started selling used (junker) cars and today has transformed his business to a very respectable pre-owned dealership. In the beginning, he would sell these very used cars very cheap to customers that were financially strapped and that did not have a good credit record. He described to me the process. An individual, poor or an immigrant, would buy a car for about $1500 with monthly payments of $200. After about six months, these people would fall behind on payments, be arrested for driving without a license, or be illegal. My friend would pull the vehicle and then sell it to another poor person. Six months at $200 per month equals $1200. My friend could make several thousand dollars with one old used car selling and reselling it. It makes you think about the person buying the car. As my friend made more money, he was able to purchase better used cars, I’m sorry I meant pre-owned vehicles.
There is a big market for used furniture and other materials used in building industry. I had the privilege of visiting a home that was built with used signs, lumber, bricks, and tin. In fact, the used tin was the ceiling in the kitchen area. It is a beautiful place built with used material.
There is a market for used clothes. When I grew up, we called them hand-me-downs. Now there consignment shops that sell used clothing. What one cannot give away, people will buy at yard sales, bargain boxes, or flea markets.
If it had not been for used stuff when I was growing up, we would have never owned anything. My kids quizzed me about how did I know how to “fix” stuff. My answer was my family had to repair used stuff making it useful. That’s how I learned to work on old vehicles, repair clocks, and reuse nails. You ain’t ever lived unless you have had to pull, straighten, and drive used nails.
Let me shift gears, no pun intended, on the subject of used. In 1983, Sharon and I went with the Chilton Baptist Builders on a mission trip to Kemmer, Wyoming. If that name rings a bell, it is from a previous article. Kemmer is the home of the first JC Penny store.
On this trip, Sharon and I, along with another couple, had the privilege of staying in an apartment complex when normally we, builder volunteers, would stay in the church where we were on mission. The luxury of spending a week in a nice apartment came at the expense of a church member named Wayne.
One night after one of devotional services, Wayne said he wanted to talk with us. I had preached that previous Sunday, Wayne had heard me, and he had attended the devotionals. Thinking he was wanting to spend some time with us concerning spiritual friendship and fellowship, we agreed to meet.
After a few minutes, our friends, Sharon, and I realized that Wayne was not interested in spiritual things, but wanted us to use our influence to become part of a pyramid scheme something a kin to AmWay. He was trying to elevate himself by having us and the potential of influence the rest of the mission team, and folks back in Alabama under his scheme. I will never forget the sick feeling we had thinking that we had been used.
I wish I could say that I have always recognized that people were trying to use me. I constantly try to guard against being used. I have had folks that have tried to use my influence as Director of Missions to profit them in some agenda or another. They say things like, “Our company provides online broadcasts of church services. Could you provide us with a list your churches were we can contact them?” I guard my list and they don’t get it.
Preachers that are desperate to find churches call and say, “Dr. Hopper can you give me a list of your churches that are without pastors?” I reply, “If you send me a resume, I will glad to pass it along.” They usually do not send me one.
No one likes to be used. When I worked with the utility at the cement plant, I got stuck for several weeks on a sandblasting job. When I asked if I was the only one that could operate it, I got a reply something like this: “Hopper, the other guys don’t work as good as you do.” I responded with, “I thought it was your job to make them work. I’d sent to the house if they didn’t want to work.” Then the reply, “Well, if you got a good mule, you work him.” NO ONE LIKES BEING USED!
When I think of the spiritual ramifications of being used, I am reminded that many people in church work have thankless jobs. So many believers feel used by the church and the joy of serving vanishes to be replaced discouragement. When the Lord utilizes us, it brings honor to Him and encourages us. I had rather be engaged in the work of God than used by people or the devil. Here is a case in point.
Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude (Luke 22:3-6 KJV).
Old Judas was seized with remorse when he realized he had been used to betray the Savior.
 
April 24, 2014
Do you have trouble keeping up with stuff? I do. Every time I work on something, I cannot keep up with the tools. I remember one time when I worked in a machine shop looking for a pair of pliers. I accused everyone one in the shop of hiding my pliers.  The only reason I did was that my co-workers were notorious for doing such things. I looked almost the entire day, finding the pliers when I got into my truck to go home. They were in my back pocket. I felt a little foolish and had to apologize to my co-workers the next day.
Since that time, I try to put my tools back when I finish with them. I clean them if they are dirty and repair them when needed. It is frustrating when trying to find a tool that I know that I out it in a designated place and it is not there. Usually when I find it, it is where I put it. I just forgot I placed it there.
If you are like me, most of the time I must spend a day cleaning up my shed. Things have a way of collecting just inside the door. It seems they find their resting place there because those that deposited them there claim they do not know where they go or where I want them to go. 
Now I admit there are situations when time runs out and one has to place things in an area out of the way until there is time to place those things in their places. When quizzed about what I did today, my answer is I cut the grass. It does not take all day to cut the grass, but if you have to take most of an hour to pick up a variety of tools and other paraphernalia to locate the lawn mower, it slows the process.
Discovering the lawn front tire has a slow leak, I try to decide do I take the hand pump and fill the tire, or do I take a few extra minutes and run an extension cord to the air compressor. Deciding to use the hand pump, I take a few minutes trying to locate it. I find it, but the hose has dry-rotted, forcing me to cut it, making it shorter. I spend enough time that it would have been quicker to run the extension cord and used the compressor. 
Once the lawn mower is outside and inspected, it is discovered that the blades need sharpening and it needs oil. If the 5/8 wrench needed to remove the blades is not where it is supposed to be and it takes fifteen minutes to locate it, it slows the process. I hope that the hand grinder and C-clamp are where it is supposed to be and after about fifteen to twenty minutes the sharp blades can help redeem the time lost trying to find tools.
I find the oil, but the funnel I need to put in the oil is not where it is supposed to be and there goes some of the time wasted that I gained from having sharp blades. Not being able to find the funnel, I have to take time to find a used bottle or card stock material that can double for a funnel. While looking for those I discover that the funnel is in a bucket that is filled with tools and stuff from another project.
Once the oil is okay, I discover that the mower needs gas. Picking up the gas can, I realize it is empty. A trip to the gas station eats up valuable time. Once back, I need another funnel for the gas. Gasoline is too expensive to waste! I am in luck. The gas funnel is where it is supposed to be. I fill the mower with gas. Now, I am ready to cut the grass, but discover that the battery cable is corroded and I must take time clean the cable. Finally, I cut the grass.
This scenario is not confined to my shed. I have trouble at the office. I routinely must take time to clear my desk. I get a box from Pam, put everything in the box, and piece by piece I file most of it in file 13. I try to keep all my books, files, and documents in order where I can put my hands on them quickly if needed.
I have spent many moments trying to locate a book that I know it is where it is supposed to be. Right now, I have no idea where my Bible, The Message by John Peterson, is. It is not with the other Bibles. I think I loaned it to someone, so I may have to buy another. Guess what? If I buy another, The Message will reappear.
My personality says that I want things to be in order. I am not obsessed with it, but it sure makes cutting grass quicker and my office look neater. I believer that having things in order is what God designed. Hear what Isaiah 14:12-13 in The Message says,
 
Listen, Jacob. Listen, Israel—
    I’m the One who named you!
I’m the One.
    I got things started and, yes, I’ll wrap them up.
Earth is my work, handmade.
    And the skies—I made them, too, horizon to horizon.
When I speak, they’re on their feet, at attention.
 
I sure am glad that God does a better job of putting things in order than I do. I cannot image God saying, “Where did I put that rib I borrowed from Adam?”
 
April 10, 2014
My daughter Angela is a “Dumpster Diver.” What is a dumpster Diver? Let me share portions of an article by Kari Abate and Kyle Looby on “The Art of Dumpster Diving:”
Dumpster diving is the deliberate art of gleaning perfectly usable items from commercial and residential dumpsters. It is legal in most areas as long as there are no signs posted against trespassing. To be sure, check your city ordinances, or just call the police department.
The term dumpster diving refers to the position most divers assume in order to retrieve items without actually getting in the dumpster: Picture yourself balanced on the edge of the dumpster, head in the dumpster and legs in the air behind you. (Novice divers may experience some initial discomfort around the abdomen and ribcage. This will pass.)
Safety should always take precedence. No bag of sheets or even the mother lode of brand-name designer shirts is worth a trip to the hospital!
Now, the fun part. Where does one dive? Generally speaking, any store that has a dumpster is up for grabs. Retail dumpsters include craft supply stores, party supply stores, drug stores (a great source of greeting cards, boxed chocolates, small gifts, cases of soda and toys), book stores, department stores, discount stores, pet supply stores, home décor stores, thrift stores and hardware stores.
Once you've started diving, you'll never look at a dumpster the same way again. To us, they are no longer merely trash receptacles, but rather secret treasure chests waiting to be looted. But you'll never know what you may find in your local dumpsters unless you look, so get out there and lift some lids.
Strip malls are the best places to find retail dumpsters -- they're usually located behind the buildings. Apartment complexes, meanwhile, are a great source of furniture, clothes, small appliances, televisions, VCRs, household items and more.
Angela’s specialty is discarded furniture. She has become very successful transforming old cabinet doors into plaques with Scripture on them. People adorn their homes with these plaques creating a market for Angela to sell more. Sharon has bought several from her and given them as gifts for showers, birthdays, and Christmas. People love the transformed dumpster treasures.
Angela has refurbished tables and chairs, coffee tables and chairs, and home entertainment centers.
Angela was down with us recently and she raided my shed for items that could be transformed into décor treasures. She collected old car tags, a broken John Deere lawnmower steering wheel, an old sign or two and probably some stuff I haven’t missed until I need them.
Angela may have inherited the art of dumpster diving from my dad. He did not dumpster dive, but he did collect produce that a grocery store dumped and daddy supplied the barrels. It is amazing what a store discards. We never had to buy butcher knives or aprons.  There was a steady supply from the store.
We started out slopping the hogs with this foodstuff, but we realized there was a lot of good food tossed away. Pardon the pun, but we did eat high on the hog until the health department informed the grocery store that dad could no longer get the waste.
I read another article on dumpster diving where a father, a dumpster diver, cooked a very delicious breakfast from his dumpster dive.
"Once you get over the initial shock that people actually do this, you'll quickly realize that it isn't as gross as it sounds. Commercial dumpsters are very clean because employee trash is bagged, while the good stuff is usually in a box or tossed in loosely. Actually, store dumpsters usually smell quite good because of the discarded candles, potpourri and perfume. (Most dumpsters smell like the stores that use them!) Dumpsters are designed to keep critters out, so you typically won't run into rats and other vermin."
As Americans, we are wasteful. Bins of good food, clothing, and household items head to dumps while people need food, clothing, and shelter. Company policies and government regulations prevent or halt what could be given to shelters and charity organizations for distributions to those who need it.
On another venue, our churches have all the resources to feed spiritual food, but as a nation we are suffer spiritual malnutrition. A great example comes from a survey of women in churches by Dr. Denise George.
 In her book, What Women Wish Pastors Knew, she writes, "All around me I see women who exist with the barest scriptural basics and live with thin skin stretched over bones of spiritual malnourishment . . . As a nation, we possess all the necessary resources to feed starving people the life-giving meat of Scripture, yet hungry people search the trash bins of secularism in search of spiritual food."
 
And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:9-10 KJV).
 
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11 KJV).
 
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in (Matthew 25:35 KJV).
 
March 27, 2014
I was watching a car show the other night. These shows do what I would love to do, rebuilding old jalopies. My love for building cars started when I was in the fifth grade. I got a model car kit from a classmate for Christmas. Over the years, I had a pretty good collection that I lost when our home burned. In that collection I had a ’55 Chevy Nomad, a ’50 Ford, a ’57 Chevy, a ’40 Willis, two ’32 Fords, the Batmobile, ’53 Ford pickup, and a few others. Some of these date back to my teens. I built them until government regulations forced glue makers to change the formula and ruining its sticking power.
My dream car is a ’32 Ford Vicky, yellow convertible or five-window, 350 Chevy engine, saddle colored leather interior, and Cragar junkyard mag wheels. Trouble is, they are out there, but beyond a Director of Missions means.
These car-rebuilding programs have the mission of saving old cars one at a time. The closest I have come to rebuilding an old vehicle is when Aaron and I rebuilt my ’77 GMC pickup, and I understood the statement, “They don’t build them like that any more” a little better.  It is an era of American history that is fleeting away.   A friend of mine said that it makes him sick to watch classic cars headed to the scrap metal place.
My ’77 GMC is actually a 2009-13 pickup. It looks old, but it has experienced a transformation. No, it is not a Johnny Cash Cadillac. It is a completely restored truck. It is a work of love and labor. I will always cherish the time that Aaron and I, father and son, spend together transforming a ragged, rusty, multicolored hunk of junk into what most call a “sweet ride” or a “clean” classic.
Transformed classics make up the body of the church. Men, women, boys, and girls that experience the transforming power of God are new creations. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that transforms all those who trust Jesus as Lord and Savior.
As I thought about restored vehicles and changed lives, I cannot help but to think about Brother Arch Crumpton. He was a classic when speaking of a man of God. He was an old classic that you don’t see anymore, a one of a kind. Brother Arch was a giant pillar in my home church. Brother Arch, two other deacons, and the pastor were the only men in my home church when I was boy.
I heard stories how Brother Arch would walk four miles to church on Sunday morning to start a fire in the old pot-bellied stove, then walk back home, hitch the mule team to the wagon, and then bring the family to church.
Brother Arch always sat on the second pew on the preachers left. He wore a dark blue suit, white shirt, a tie, and a fedora every Sunday. He could pray some of the sweetest prayers. I never heard anyone say a bad word about Brother Arch.
One of the most interesting stores about him was when he was a young man in his twenties. I remember as a kid thinking that Brother Arch was ancient, being well into his seventies when I was a teenager. He was tall and frail, but always sported a smile. In his twenties, which would have been in the 1920’s, he had an appendix attack. By the time the doctor arrived, he had gangrene and the doctor said there was little or no hope.
The doctor did something that most would think repulsive. He opened Brother Arch, took out his intestines, and washed them in warm soapy water. Once they were clean, the doctor repacked them. I remember that Brother Arch always had a flat stomach.
Somewhere along that time, Brother Arch accepted the Lord as his Savior and the Lord removed the gangrene of sin from Brother Arch. He was transformed and became a model for the men in our church and our community.
One of my fondest memories of Brother Arch happened one Sunday afternoon at my Aunt Edna’s. My cousins and I were playing football in the front yard. Brother Arch and his wife, Mrs. Blonnie, shuffled their way toward the house. They walked along our goal line, which was the sidewalk to the house halting the game for a few moments. Suddenly, Brother Arch called for the football. One of my cousins tossed it to him and Brother Arch kicked the football. He laughed and told us to have fun. We all had a little more respect for him seeing that old man could kick a football. Brother Arch will never know how much of an impact he had on my early Christian walk. He has always been an inspiration and an example of what a Christian should be. He was a Christian Classic. Our churches would much better with more men like Brother Arch.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (Second Corinthians 3:18 NIV).
 
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (Second Corinthians 5:17 KJV).
 
 
March 13, 2014
I had the privilege of serving on the Alabama Baptist State Vacation Bible School Team. In one week, we went to Decatur, Birmingham, Montgomery, Enterprise, and Monroeville holding Associational clinics. It was a week that we slept fast, worked hard, and taught daily.
In Birmingham, I heard a great testimony about VBS from Dr. Sid Nichols, Director of Missions for Calhoun Association in Anniston. Sid and I have known one another all of our lives. We are the same age, but due to our birthdays, he was a year ahead of me. We went to school together, played side by side on the football team, and went to church together. I heard him preach his first sermon. He has come a long ways!
Last year as Sid visited VBS’s, one of his churches had a tragedy the weekend before VBS. Sid said that the church normally ran about a hundred in VBS, but the first day the church had twelve. Discouraged and hurting, the church started to call off VBS. Sid encouraged them to have VBS because they worked hard to prepare and they did have twelve children. The church did have the VBS with the twelve and God blessed. Four of the twelve accepted Christ as their Savior.
VBS remains the number evangelistic tool for the church. My prayer is that 100% of Bethel Baptist Association churches conduct a VBS. It is not about numbers, it is about souls. It is about sharing the Gospel of Jesus to kids, their parents, grandparents, and friends.
The Associational VBS Team, as well as those I served along side on the State Team are willing to help. Every church in Bethel can have a VBS; at least conduct an Adult VBS. Be creative, you have a whole summer to do VBS. Say yes to V B S!
 
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:13-14 KJV).
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (First Peter 3:15 KJV)
 
February 18, 2014
Today is the start of the new Millennium. School at Beeson starts at eight o’clock Monday morning. I expect it will be a great class. Much will be expected of us. There is always uncertainty of trying to do what the professor expects. My whole community, family, and church expect me to do well. There is hope for everyone if a poor country boy does well. That’s expected though! January 1, 2000.
I wrote this paragraph in a devotional book, Front Porch Tales, that I got for Christmas from our eldest son Andy in 1999. This book became an inspiration for the articles you read. The devotion was titled Expectation. It is the expectation of John the Baptist’s birth and the song, which his father sang. Philip Gulley writes, “. . . that expectation is a blessing, not a curse. It is a beautiful thing when people expect something decent of you.”
At the time I was meditating on this probing thought, the world was breathing an inkling of relief after being in panic mode for several months. Remember Y2K. Corporations, businesses, banks, and utilities spent mega bucks trying to avert a major meltdown of the civilized world of the computer its massive web of control.
I remember bank presidents in Clanton asking the preachers to tell congregations not to make large withdrawals from the banks. One Clanton resident withdrew $150 thousand dollars. One banker said that if certain people knew the man’s name, that that man’s life would be worthless.
One member of the church I pastored worked on a power company’s building in downtown Birmingham trying to update the computer infrastructure to avoid meltdown, as electrical outage would be catastrophe. Expectation of calamity controlled the minds of people around the world during the Y2K scare. Mass panic was imminent.
Fast forward fourteen years and we discover that most people laugh at the folly of Y2K, but the panic of world destruction looms even greater today. If one listens to the media, it is DOOM, DESPAIR, and AGONY on me. We hear about the financial collapse of nations around the world and the expectation that America is ripe for financial collapse clouds our judgment. We see the moral decay of Europe and witness the deterioration of our great nation with each new song, video, commercial, or fashion design and wonder how low we can sink in moral degradation.
I believe that God created you and me for these times. I revisit my calling from time to time. I remember sitting at the dinner table studying the Bible when God directed to preach the truth. Most people do not believe me, but I am by nature a shy introvert. God is the reason that I do not appear that way today.
I never expected to be a preacher, especially a director of missions. I knew that the Lord expected me to use the talents and gifts that He blessed me. I never expected that I would be a writer of articles that have become a blessing and inspiration to those who read them.
I wanted to quit the University of Montevallo, especially after I made an F ++ over a C-- on my first English 101 paper. The F was for grammar and the C for content. I even had to attend the Harbert Writing Center just to learn how to write.
Every Monday when I told Sharon I wanted to quit, she would say that I couldn’t and remind me that she had too much money invested in me. She made me realize that too many people depended on me. Remember what I said about expectation. Many times I did not believe that I could make it, but I knew the Lord kept providing my every need and increased my abilities.
Along about the time I began to feel a “burnout” bearing down on me, I realized that I expected more from myself than God, family, my church, and the community did. After my freshman year, I made the dean’s list. I expected to graduate sigma cum laude, but a geography class and European history class crushed that expectation. I thought about it. I was working full time at the cement plant, taking twelve hours of classes, pastoring a church, and trying to raise a family and I was expecting to make straight A’s. Then I realized who cares if I make straight A’s. It was my expectations, no one else’s. I made straight B’s that term, which is not shabby since I only attend one computer class and took tests for the others. I got a reprieve from the University because the cement plant would not work around my schedule. I had a high enough grade average that I did not have to attend classes. That’s another story!
When the Lord reminded me of my long-term goals, I started enjoying school and making better grades. The Lord increased my belief and my expectations became a blessing.
It is this attitude I need when facing the uncertainty of the world and the certainty of God. I am reminded of the father of the child with a foul spirit that the Disciples could not help. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:23-24 KJV).
I believe, no I expect, believers to make a difference. “It is a beautiful thing when people expect something decent of you.”
 
 
 
February 6, 2014
Do you have a favorite uncle? I know most families have that weird aunt or uncle that they avoid discussing. For some reason or another, this aunt or uncle has alienated herself or himself from the family through an embarrassing moment or shameful event. I bet right about now that person is on your mind.
Most everyone has a favorite aunt or uncle. It is hard to choose a favorite because I have some good uncles. My favorite was Uncle Clifton. I think he was because he is the first one that I remember.  He lived with us when we lived in Illinois. He was the reason that we moved there initially.
Uncle Clifton was my dad’s younger brother. He ran away from home when he was sixteen because he had a heart condition and Granny Hopper would not let him participate in football and any other activity that would put a strain on his heart. So, as the old timers would say, Uncle Clifton went missing for several years and went wild during that time.
Leaving the slow-paced South in the 1940’s, Uncle Clifton settled in the fast and wild area of Illinois ninety miles west of Chicago in the mid 1950’s. We moved there in 1957 and daddy went to work with Uncle Clifton at Beloit Ironworks in Beloit. Beloit, Alabama, on Highway 22 near Selma is named for the college located in Beloit, Wisconsin. If you haven’t figured it out, Beloit was on the Illinois/Wisconsin state line.
For a five-year-old kid to have an uncle who raced cars on a dirt track, road a Harley with saddlebags, had tattoos, rolled his cigarettes in his white t-shirt sleeves, and wore a black leather jacket with a Marlon Brando motorcycle hat, why would he not be his favorite uncle?
Uncle Cliff and I had a special relationship. It was wonderful to watch Uncle Clifton race old # 7 at the Madison Raceway, it was fun riding on his Harley, asking about his tattoos, and just listening to him speak in that Yankee brogue. Uncle Clifton loved and looked up my daddy. That made him special.
Uncle Clifton would tell me about the times that daddy would rescue him from barroom brawls. The police would call daddy and tell him to come get Uncle Clifton. Uncle Clifton said when daddy entered the barroom, that dad started cleaning house. Uncle Clifton said that one time he was fighting this guy when a big hand grabbed his shoulder. Uncle Clifton turned to knock the guy’s block off, but stopped short when he saw that it was dad. Dad told Uncle Clifton to get in the car.
Years later, long after moving back to Alabama, and Uncle Clifton settled down and married Aunt Maxine, they would make yearly visits to Alabama. We looked forward to them coming and telling of all the times we had together in Illinois.
By 1982, dad had a brain tumor and started wasting away. Uncle Clifton could not afford to come to Alabama as he once did. He had heard how bad dad was and a few weeks before daddy died, Uncle Clifton managed to see dad.
Momma said that when Uncle Clifton saw dad in the hospital bed there in the living room that Uncle Clifton said he had to step outside for a moment. From the kitchen window, momma saw Uncle Clifton outside by dad’s tractor. He was crying. When he saw daddy wasting away, it was more than he could take.
Momma went out and consoled Uncle Clifton convincing him to go back in and see dad. Uncle Clifton struggled as he watched his big brother and hero wasting away. Trying not to break down in front of dad, Uncle Clifton spent a few precious moments sharing brotherly love bragging what a big man dad was to him and many others in Beloit.
The last time I saw Uncle Clifton, he had stopped by the Pastorium at Gallion as he made the rounds seeing the ones he loved. As we sat on the front porch there in Gallion, he talked of dad and told me how much he loved him. He told me how difficult it was watching dad, and later, momma, Uncle James, Aunt Bessie, and Aunt Gertrude wasting away from cancer and that he did not want to waste away with cancer.
He surprised me when he told me how much he admired me. Then, he shocked me when he told me that the at one time he felt the Lord was calling him to preach, but he ran.
Shortly after becoming your Director of Missions, I received a call that Uncle Clifton died from a heart attack while making the loop to see his loved ones. I knew that he was on his way to visit Linden, but instead I traveled to Beloit, walked down some old familiar roads, and smiled. I, like uncle Clifton, cried as I looked down at the body of a once young and vigorous body now broken and ravaged by disease.
Uncle Clifton was not the first, nor I the last, to look upon a body wasting away by some demonic disease. When I read how Job’s friends found him, I think of Uncle Clifton and him seeing daddy.
 
Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great (Job 2:11-13 KJV).
I like how the Message translates the friends seeing Job: When they first caught sight of him, they couldn’t believe what they saw- they hardly recognized him!
 
Ain’t it amazing how the Bible speaks to us and makes life relevant?
 
January 21, 2014
Do you remember the commercial on pollution with Indian Chief as spokesman? It is the one where a Native American, Iron Eyes Coty, sheds a tear as he looks at a polluted stream. Every time I saw the commercial, I thought it looked a lot like the roads, streams, and creeks in Chilton County.
When I walk the fence line on my property in Jemison, I have to carry a garbage sack, sometimes two, to pick up behind sorry folks who throw out their trash. I don’t know about you, but I do not like picking up other people’s trash.
I have identified some characteristics of those people that want us to pick up after them. One is they like fast food restaurants, especially McDonald’s. It is bad enough to pick up hamburger wrappers, but it is wrappers, open catsup packets, tissue, and bit and pieces of hamburger, buns, and fries. These folks try to be helpful bay tossing out the whole bag where a family of four has chowed down on the grub, in their old jalopy, on the way to who knows where. Undoubtedly, it is a place where there are no trash bins or containers.
Another thing is that these polluters smoke cigarettes, especially Marlboro lights in the box. It’s bad enough that they empty their ashtrays in the public parking lots, but they decorate the highways with butts and empty boxes. Every time I see someone toss a butt on the ground I want to pick it up and toss it on his or her car, but that would make me like him or her. I need to be careful here, I want to preach a minute on the dreadful odor of nicotine and the awful sight of discarded butts when entering places that are clearly marked, “A Tobacco Free Facility.” The ones at hospitals are the kinda of an Oxy Moran. Oop’s, I almost got on a soapbox.
Another identifying mark of the polluter is they drink alcohol, especially Bud Light. They usually prefer the dark long neck bottles that break on impact. These babies create safety hazards for the unprotected hand and the unsuspecting lawnmower tire. The long neck bottle provides a nice handle to use the bottle as a projectile to toss at mailboxes, especially the fancy antique aluminum ones or the every elusive metal fence post that gallant holds the barbed wire and retains docile livestock.
Coming in second in alcohol arena is empty pints of whiskey. These are more durable and are not easily broken, excepting when you run over them with a tractor. They shatter pretty good when a water filled rear tractor tire sits directly on top of them.
The lowest of polluters is the one that uses plastic soda bottles as temporary holders of urine. These pee bombs riddle havoc on the unsuspecting lawn care worker who is so diligent to keep his or her area of the county right-of-way Southern Living Magazine perfect and help lower the high cost of county maintenance butchering, I mean bush hogging, of grass and trash.
Pollution is not confined to the streams, creeks, and roadsides. Radio, television, movies, music and iphones, and all manner of social media have a lion’s share of pollution. The other day at Linden Fitness and Tan, some young men tried to play some polluted music from their iphones. They would not because a certain man was in the gym. He told me that he was going to hang around because they will not play it in his presence. I told him not to worry and that I would handle it. Sure enough, just as soon as he left, these young men started to play their filthy music. I calmly walked over and asked if their music contained bad (lewd or suggestive) music. They said no, but they turned it off because I heard some filthy stuff. There were some young girls in the gym and reminded these two young men that neither the girls nor I wanted to hear it.
It is sad that filthy language is becoming more prevalent each day. Madison Avenue advertising tries to but offensive and suggestive language in commercials for hamburgers, credit cards, and most recently Chevy trucks. Thankfully, people complain and they remove the offensive language.
O.S. Hawkins in his devotion, The Joshua Principle reminds us that in the last days there will be a polluted pulpit. One of the sure signs of the Lord’s Second Coming is that pulpits will turn from the truth. Paul said, Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”  II Timothy 4:2-4
Polluted pulpits create polluted congregations. Believers are to be in the world, but not of the world. The Word of God is forever true. As the Word of God unfolds around us, my we influence culture rather than culture influencing the church.
The picture I see here is not of Iron Eyes Coty shedding a tear, but of our Lord Jesus Christ shedding His blood.
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6 KJV)
 
 
January 7, 2014
On the eve of 2014, I commented to Sharon that I did not hear any fireworks. She had a snide remark saying, “How did you expect to hear fireworks when you wear earplugs to bed?” I told her that I was talking about before going to bed.
The next morning I did something out of the normal. Having gone to bed early and dishearten that Duke University lost to Texas A&M, I slept a little late. I decided to take a walk and I left Sharon a note saying where I was. I spent about an hour trying to get my heart rate up while Sharon took full advantage of the New Year by sleeping very, very late. 
I was already watching college bowl games when she made her way into the kitchen. I had wanted to take a trip to Tuscaloosa, sorta have a date with Sharon.
I had already deducted that there was not going to be any hawg jowl and black-eyed peas for dinner so I prepared me some buttered toast smothered with fig preserves. Daphne Stockman gave me a jar for Christmas on the promise that I ration them as to not get my sugar up. I am a firm believer that grilled buttered toast lowers the sugar in the preserves, but I promised Daphne that I would eat one fig at a time.
Sharon was busy taking down Christmas decorations when I commented that I had hoped that we could go somewhere and have a good New Year’s Day dinner. Sooner than a second and a 109-yard Auburn touchdown return, Sharon said she was ready to go. Trouble was that I was not.
I had neglected to shave and shower and I was sweaty, smelly, and whole lot grungy from my morning walk. I told her that I would have to shave and shower. She said okay, so I did.
We drove to Tuscaloosa with no place in particular to go, so we decided to go to Sam’s for some fresh strawberries and cherries. You guessed it. Sam’s was closed so we went to Walmart. Inside the Tuscaloosa Walmart, I decided to prop against the frozen food coolers while Sharon tried to locate some cream corn seeing there were no fresh cherries or strawberries. Loving to observe people, I saw my second young lady with pink hair. The first one I saw earlier at the Knoxville exit. I thought it weird, but when I saw that the lady was from Ontario, Canada I said that figures, weirdo! The second entered the Walmart with us, but she was with a young man and I thought both of them must students at the University of Alabama. You know college students do weird things while trying to find their identities.
I saw a man who I thought might be Hare Krishna. He wore a turban and looked as though he was from India. He bought strawberries. Hey, Tuscaloosa is a multicultural town so I said what the heck.
While my posterior was chillin’, I noticed a man decked in Alabama paraphernalia looking at me and I noticed that he looked an awful lot like Donald Lee Thompson from Friendship Baptist Church, but this guy had spiked blonde hair protruding from an Alabama visor. He sure was smiling and when he approached close enough for me to see him real good, it was Donald Lee. Liz and he had been to one of those “Wings” restaurants to watch all the New Year bowl games at one time. We did chillin’ until Liz and Sharon arrived laughing about running into one another. Goes to show you that you had better be careful where you go and what you do.
I tried to go to the restroom, but a little fellow dressed like a diehard Alabama fan told me that management complained the restroom needed cleaning and he mopped it and he closed it off. A man who had a New Orleans accent and I could not understand why the little man did not want us to enter. The New Orleans guy said this is a heck of a note. He was stuck in Alabama trying to get to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl and he needed to use the restroom. I told the little man if he did not let us in that he might have another wet floor to mop. He refused to budge, so I said I could wait.
Sharon and I finally decided to eat at the Outback restaurant. It was kinda a romantic date for a few moments. When I returned from the restroom, our moment of being alone got crowded. A colored family, a man, his wife, two crying babies, and an older lady on a walker, sat in a booth across from us. Adjacent to us were three ladies who appeared to be grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter. Beside them was a family of three from Massachusetts. Beside the crying baby booth was a young couple trying to have a moment alone as were we. Sharon and I were surrounded in an otherwise empty restaurant.
As I swooned Sharon and as I watched the Rose Bowl football game, the evening got interesting. One of the crying babies fell in to the booth with the young couple. The young couple told their waiter that they had been given the wrong steak. The waiter told them he would get the manager who told the couple that it was the right steak. Sharon it was the wrong steak.
Sharon and I overheard the three ladies. The grandmother and daughter thought their chicken was ruined. Go figure, ordering chicken at a steakhouse. The table of three ladies called their waitress, who was also ours, and told her the chicken tasted funny. The waitress told them that the chicken was marinated in a mushroom sauce and that made the chicken taste different.
The poor manger tried to offer another plate of chicken, but the ladies refused. Sharon said her steak was delicious. Mine was good especially after hearing the crying babies, listening to complaining customers, taking notice of the apologetic manager, and paying attention to the reasoning of the waiter and waitress. Life has some funny twists and turns. Life, most assuredly eternal life, is the best thing that God has given us. If godly principles control us, life will become an expression of those plans even if they are in the impatience and frustration of the Outback!
For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light (Psalm 36:9 KJV).
 
December 17, 2013
Every time I see the Christmas picture of my baby brother and myself, I remember the Christmas morning as though it were yesterday. There we are in our worn out t-shirts and grinning. My baby brother Glenn is seven and I am fifteen. We are holding our Christmas presents. Mom had told us that we would not be getting very much that year. I am holding a little wooden box that contains a red corncob. The outside reads, “Emergency toilet paper.” I lost that present in the house fire. I had it in Sharon’s hope chest. Mom had promised me a car that year. I was holding it too. It was a tiny matchbox car.
Momma got a big kick out of the gifts. I know you might be thinking that was her gag gift, but that was really my Christmas present that year. I told momma that she did not have to get me a present but make sure my brothers and sisters got something under the tree. I knew that it was only a temporary setback in the Hopper family because some years momma was able to get us some nice gifts.
I remember staying up late one Christmas waiting on Old Saint Nick to come. I know that momma and daddy must have wondered if we would ever go to sleep. When we did, it seemed as only a moment when we went running into the living room to find Huffy bicycles under the tree.
About the time I was getting the corncob is about the time I realized that momma would go deep into debt to buy Christmas and spend (no pun intended) the next 365 days paying for that magical morning. I knew that we did not have the money to buy presents. We had what money cannot buy and that was love for each other.
Momma accused daddy of being Scrooge. I realized later that he was not a Scrooge, but was actually a Bob Cratchic. Bob was the one that worked for Scrooge in the movie, A Christmas Carol. Right now I am playing the Ghost of Christmas past as I write. I warn Sharon and the kids every year that I think I feel a Scrooge moment about to come upon me when we go Christmas shopping.
I remember momma crying at Christmas from time to time. She wanted so much to have a nice home filled with Christmas decorations. We had to find her a cedar tree that looked like a Christmas tree. She would decorate it balls, ribbons, silver icicles, strings of popcorn, and other junk as dad would say.
Momma and my sister kept the house so hot with the one gas space heater that daddy, my brothers, and I stayed outside most of the time. When momma started decorating the house, we all stayed outside even more. That is a tradition that Aaron and I carry on today. When Sharon starts decorating the house with Andy’s guidance, Aaron and I go outside and stay. Our job on Thanksgiving morning is to retrieve all the Christmas junk from the garage attic and place it in the specific place we are told to stack it.
We fetch hammers, nails, wire, and other paraphernalia, but quickly exit the house when fulfilling our Christmas obligations. Aaron and I could care less about a tree.
In fact, Sharon’s Christmas tree stood on the front porch an entire year because Aaron and I knew she would want it retrieved from the back porch storage. You won’t believe it, but a Mocking bird built a nest in Sharon’s tree.
At the beginning of Thanksgiving week, I modified Sharon’s Christmas tree because of Pam’s brilliant idea. Pam was decorating the office Christmas tree and made the comment that she wished that Christmas trees had wheels where she could move it without a big hassle.
I had a brilliant moment of inspiration. Several months ago, my office chair collapsed while I was leaning sideways. The office chair was rated for a two hundred fifty pound man. Since I weigh more than that, I had stressed the designer’s recommended specifications, which resulted in an office chair failure. I tried on several occasions to repair the chair, but the aluminum alloy frame holding the seat shattered like a broken eggshell. The seat and the wheels were good.
Led by Pam’s stroke of genius, I mounted the office chair wheels to the bottom of Sharon’s tree. To say the least, when I proudly presented my latest invention to Sharon, she was not impressed. She said it made the tree too high. There were some references to my rigging, but I won’t go there. Well, it wasn’t too high. The base of the five wheeled office chair allowed the tree to stand lower than the tree stand.
Sharon contemplated buying another tree, but before she could, Aaron and I rolled it into the living room. When Andy arrived on Thanksgiving eve, I showed him my invention. He said that when he decorates for businesses and large corporations for Christmas that their large Christmas trees are mounted on wheels to make decorating easier. With Andy’s seal of approval, all is well. There is peace on Earth, I mean in the Hopper household. I wonder if I should get a patent. I know that it won’t be long until another office chair failure.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger Luke 2:13-16 KJV
May the Peace of God be with you and your household.
 
December 10, 2013
As a kid, I imagined that one day I would be far, far away from home during Christmas. I do not know why I had that feeling other than it is reminiscent of some Christmas movie I watched or some tale I heard. I often imagined that I would be returning from a war and that I would surprise mom and dad by arriving on a snowy Christmas morn. Hey, I know it is Alabama and snow on Christmas morning would be imaginary, but remember it is my imagination and I did live in Illinois when I was in my formative years.
I think that poverty and alienation were two factors in having this Romanized fantasy. It was a way of taking a dire situation and having hope when dealing with hopeless circumstances.
I could see myself, in uniform and duffle bag tossed across my shoulder, making my way to the old home place in Sugar Ridge. When I watch a movie that has elements of my imaginary thoughts, tears seep from my eyes. Part of that emotion roots in the reality that mom and dad are long gone and there will be no return home to them. The old place lies in ruin and decay. Rotting boards, a collapsing roof, and consuming vine tarnish memories of what was once a place of life and festivity. Now, that place I once longed is reserved for the place of memories and mind's eye.
It only comes to life only when I write articles or tell of something that happened related to some spiritual truth I found or experienced. Ever once and a while, I dream of returning to an old job or going back home. It seems as though I cannot get to where I need to be. Something or someone usually interrupts my efforts to get to my destination. In my dream, no one seems to care that I am struggling to be at the appointed place and time. Like some character in Alice in Wonderland, I’m late, I’m late . . . About the time I dream that I am about to reach my destination I wakeup.
Dream interpretation says that I am struggling to reach a goal and I am frustrated because I cannot reach it. I think that I am longing for things to be as they were in the past and trying to make restitution for past mistakes and blunders.
There are some things in the past that I would like to see again, but there is so much in the past that I am thankful is behind me. One reason I would never like to start over again is that too hard the first time and I do not want to repeat the process.
Christmas past uproots too many unpleasant memories of having no gifts under the tree, too many weeks of dad being on layoff, and too many memories of momma crying because things were bleak, drowning out the few precious moments of Christmas past.
We look at the past and become nostalgic, we look at the present and become disillusioned, and we look at the future and become anxious. We know what we have done in the past and we can learn, grow, and make adjustments. We are in the process of living today because of the experience of the past and the anticipation of the future. The future will bring new challenges along with new opportunities.
My imaginations are almost exclusively in the past, but at the same time, they are always something that I think is going to happen in the future. Ironically, most of the places that I dream I am running late do not exist physically any longer. They exist exclusively in my dreams and memory.
Life is short, but also funny. Last year at this time, I was looking forward to 2013. The number 13 is my favorite number and I just knew that it would a wonderful year. As of today, it has not been as I had anticipated. It has been as my dreams. I’m trying to be somewhere and not able to get there. There have been many good events for 2013, but there has plenty in which to mourn.
I pray that as my day, Friday the 13th, comes, it will be a good day because it will be another day that the Lord has given to me. That gives twelve days to Christmas and nineteen days to a new year.
As 2013 becomes the past, I pray we leave it behind and look forward to the journey the Lord has prepared for us. God is always on time. Who knows? This coming year may actually be 2013.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven Ecclesiastes 3:1
Remember how short my time is Psalm 89:47
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son (Galatians 4:4a)
 
Merry Christmas from the Hoppers
 
November 20, 2013
While thinking about Thanksgiving, I revisited some sermon illustrations and one-liners that help me have a perspective about life and thankfulness. Here they are:
 
Several years ago, a teacher assigned to visit children in a large city hospital received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy’s name and room number and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him in his homework so he doesn’t fall behind the others. 
It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got inside the boy’s room that she realized it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She felt that she couldn’t just turn around and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with your nouns and adverbs.” 
The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” Before she could finish a profusion of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him, but every since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s decided to live.” 
The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears, he expressed it this way: “They would not send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”
 
We never know the impact of our words! 
 
In his book, Living on the Ragged Edge, Chuck Swindoll gives this story. “After the Boston Marathon a year or two ago I went to a party given by some participates in their hotel suite...Eventually I fell into conversation with a white-haired man named Noram Bright. Bright was nearly sixty-five years old, yet he had run the race that day in an astonishing 2:59:59 and had finished 615th place thereby defeating two-thirds of the field. Many younger runners at the party, exhausted by the race and feeling creaky, were sitting down or lay sprawled on the rug, but Bright stood and talked animatedly. He was planning to go abroad soon for some races in Europe, he told me, and was looking forward to the change of scenery. Opening an orange knapsack he had stowed in a corner of the room, he began showing me maps, brochures, and entry blanks he had gathered in preparation for his trip. He was enthusiastic as a teenager.” I would say Bright was living an abundant life.
 
Never quit! 
 
I love football. I think that is why I love the fall. I do not like pro football. One of the biggest reasons is the system today. Many of the players were raised in low or middle-income families, who have struck it rich in sports. They go from the outhouse to the penthouse with the stroke of a pen. That old Chevy truck is offensive and is replaced with a $250,000 Maserati. His house is too small and only a 10,000 square foot home will do for him and another for his parents. Never mind that he has just turned 21 and has never held more than a summer job. Clothes from Rodeo Drive replace blue jeans and tennis shoes. After one year on the NFL as a rookie sensation, his paltry $1.5 million contract is insufficient. He must renegotiate so he refuses to go to training camp until he is duly compensated. The front office cannot talk to him personally since he has an agent. The agent must check with the accountant to find the player’s balance since he has not drawn a check in awhile. He continues his flamboyant lifestyle. One year ago, he lived in a dormitory. Now he has an agent, accountant, maids, personal trainer, and an assortment of others, each of these people drain the big bucks of the star.
 
It is not how much you make, but how you spend it
 
 
November 7, 2013
The Hoppers were never big on holidays because we used them as days to catch up with work around the house. At other times, we would be cutting, splitting, loading, and unloading firewood. Daddy always reminded my brother and me that cutting firewood warmed you twice. When we asked how, daddy would say it warmed you when we cut it and it will warm us when you burn it. Looking back, I have fond memories of spending a cold day in the woods working with daddy and my brothers. I really miss it!
I usually grill out steaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I remind folks I can get turkey and ham when I visit relatives. There are not many leftovers when we grill.
When I was growing up we did not cook out, but we did slaughter hogs and roasted some tenderloin on the fire before the pig had time to get cold. There is nothing any better than homemade sausage and momma’s biscuits. Part of the fun of slaughtering hogs was grinding the sausage and having momma tweak the seasoning of the sausage trying to get it just right. We were her Ginny pigs having to sample each batch until she got it just right. If you have never eaten a sausage biscuit outside in the cold with your hands smelling like pigs, your nose running, and your tongue burning from steaming coffee, you ain’t ever lived.
The Hoppers loved eating during the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas were the two holidays that momma cooked special: fried pies, homemade cookies, and cakes. Every day , when we could afford it, momma cooked a seven course meal for supper. Two things always on the table were green purple hull peas and fried Irish potatoes. I once told momma that if I ever got grown I would never eat peas and taters again. I hate I told her that and I sure do miss momma’s peas and taters.
On Thanksgiving and Christmas momma “showed out.” There was something for the most finicky eater. Momma could fix the best dressing. Every year she would almost ruin it by cooking it. We liked it raw and loose. Sometimes I would sneak some out of the pan and eat it before momma browned it. I always accused her of burning it.
Momma always insisted that she had to cook it. Everything she put in it was already cooked. The broth, the cornbread, the crackers, the bread, and the eggs were cooked so it was not raw and we did not like it like a cake, but momma had to put it into the oven to brown it. If mamma was happy, then everybody was happy.
Everyone ate at the table or tables. It was family time. Daddy always, even the years as a lost man, called on someone to say grace. Every time we put our feet under the table, we gave thanks to God for providing us with something to eat regardless, how far down on the hog we got or how bare the cupboard was. I remember the days when there was no hog, no milk, nothing but bare shelves, so we were thankful when daddy and momma were able to provide a bountiful meal.
Thanksgiving is truly a time for being thankful, yet we live in a very unthankful world. We live in a time of entitlement. God blessed and we worked hard to have plenty. God has blessed us much as a nation, but many do not realize this. Thankful hearts recognize the blessings of God at all times. Momma and daddy taught us to be thankful in times of want and in times of plenty.
As believers, we have an obligation to teach unthankful people a lesson. The Apostle Paul writing to Timothy gives thanks even though the apostle’s future was bleak. Paul faced death by execution. “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;  Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.”
Here are some things which he gave thanks. Paul was thankful to be a believer with a Christian family to have true joy, true devotion, and true prayer. He was thankful for friends bonded by tears, by happiness, and by yearning. He was thankful for a faith that came from teaching the Scriptures. He had a faith that came by being one believer witnessing to many unbelievers. Paul had a faith rooted in the promise from those of Timothy’s family that would be from generation to generation.
 
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given
Jesus Christ, His Son.
 
Thank you churches of Bethel Baptist Association for the joy you share when Sharon and I visit. Your devotion to Christ and your prayers for us are an inspiration of faith. Thank you pastors of Bethel Baptist Association for your friendship, support, encouragement, and prayers. Thank you churches for continuing to worship from generation to generation.
 
 
October17, 2013
The other day several pastors were discussing how much church has changed during our tenures. The topic quickly became Halloween. As preachers, we could not remember the transition from Halloween to Harvest Festivals or from Trick or Treat to Trunk a Treat.
I remember when my home church did Halloween Haunted Houses. One year I chased people all around the church with a chainsaw. I had removed the chain, but people did not know that. The reason for the panic was that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a hit in horror movies and has since become a cult movie with numerous remakes.
On another Halloween, I played the Grim Reaper or what is known as the Death Angel complete with black hooded robe and sickle. Andy, our oldest son was small and did not want to go to the Haunted House so I dropped him by our friend’s house to stay with Jonathan who was the same age as Andy. I forgot that I was in costume as I took Andy up the steps to Jonathan’s grandparents who lived across the from the church.
Poor little Jonathan ran out to meet Andy whom I held by the hand because he was scared of the dark. Poor little Jonathan saw me and I cannot imagine what he thought when he saw Andy being led by the hand of the Grim Reaper. He probably thought that the Grim Reaper was collecting little boys. Jonathan tried to run. His little body was running, but his feet were glued to the porch and his legs did not move. Ms. Betty Jo, Jonathan’s grandmother, told me I was cruel and Andy asked me what was wrong with Jonathan. Suddenly, I realized that I was in full costume.
The whole church involved itself in the Haunted House. Everyone, preacher included, made it a great event. There were witches, ghosts, gobblings, vampires, Frankensteins, and monsters. There were pirates, haints, mummies, and skeletons. There also princesses, lions, and many other masked beings of Halloween. It was a time that the church family had a great time serenading, trick or treating, and going bump in the night.
Another haunting moment stands out in my memory. The youth decided to turn the two-story educational annex into a haunted house in which innocent souls could tour. On the second floor, which was at ground level on the front, was a walk through. 
At the bottom of the steps leading into the basement, the youth decided to make a tunnel made of cardboard boxes. Innocent souls had to crawl on hands and knees through the boxes. At strategic places, all kinds of scary creatures would attack poor victims that took a wrong turn in the tunnel/maze. The fun part was that no one could run.
However, it was at the walk through that became the scariest. Back then, the powers that be over Sunday School growth convinced churches that classrooms should have three rooms, an assembly room in the front, and two classrooms behind.
It was in the assembly rooms that we had haunted rooms. The first haunted room became the most feared by default. In the assembly room, there was a witch stirring a brew in a wash pot. For special effects, there was dry ice in the pot that appeared to be something boiling, but was just fog from the dry ice. The fire was one of those fancy fake fires that looked like logs burning. The witch would smile and let out a hideous laugh.
The two rooms behind the assembly room were empty. By mistake, seeing there was no tour guide and travel at your own risk, Ms. Deanie ventured along with Ms. Mary Jane and they accidentally entered the dark and empty classroom. As they stood there waiting for some scary Halloween creature to attack, they panicked. Anticipation of something about to happen, along with silence and darkness coupled with the fear of the unknown, gripped them with so much trepidation that Ms. Deanie grabbed herself, screamed a blood-curling squeal, and ran out the door, past the witch, down the hall, out of the door, out of the building, through the parking lot, and into her car. She had to go home for a change of clothes.
The amazing thing was that there was absolutely nothing in the room. Everyone had worked so hard to have a scary area and the winner went to an empty room.
As with life, our age of innocent Halloween serenading and costume partying ended. Evil people with evil minds started worshipping the diabolical one with satanic sacrifices and rituals and the church had to change the way we celebrated Halloween. In fact, the church completely changed the name to Fall Festivals to shun every appearance of evil. Abstain from all appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22 KJV).
 
It is just like evil to take what was is good and pervert it. When I read Scripture that speaks of outer darkness, I think of Ms. Deanie and her imagination in total darkness.
Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:13-14 KJV)
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day (Jude 1:6 KJV).
 
October 10, 2013
Sunday afternoon I spotted an animal on the side of the road. I had a few moments to kill, so I decided I would venture into uncharted area of the southwest corner of Marengo County. After a few miles of beautiful scenery and no houses, I saw this creature trying to hide on the right-of-way of the county road. When I got close enough to see the animal, it was a mangy dog. The dog looked as though, “I have the mange, do not look at me, I’m unclean.”
As a kid, I saw several dogs that had the mange. When we had one, daddy usually poured burnt motor oil on it. Sometimes it cured it, but most times it did not. You might ask why we didn’t take them to the vet. Well, daddy could not afford to take us to the doctor little on take a mangy dog.
My only experience with a mangy dog was with a Dalmatian named Pierce. Pierce was officially Midnight Caller Pierce according his registration papers. My kids acquired Pierce from a family that lived in the town of Jemison. They gave us Pierce because they did not want him to stay penned.
Pierce could not stand to be in a pen. His owners had to keep Pierce on a lease. He developed a fungus in his throat from choking himself in an effort to escape. Since we lived in the country, we turned Pierce loose and gave him free range. It was not long that Pierce’s throat healed.
Piece was a beautiful dog. As with the whole Hopper family, Piece gained weight. He had a shiny coat and a big chest. He loved the kids and was very playful. The only bad habit he had was that he would chase cows. He did not hurt them. He liked to torture them with his barking and nipping at their heels.
One day I noticed that Pierce’s coat looked strange. I realized that he had the mange. It did not take long before he looked horrible. I decided to talk with some friends who were coon hunters
I finally ran into “Buck” who was an avid coon hunter and had owned several expensive coon dogs. When I told him about Pierce, Buck said that he had several dogs with the mange and that his home remedy would cure it. When he told me the remedy, it almost sounded like something out of Biblical times.
He said that I needed to buy a pound of sulfur, get a gallon of cooking oil used to fry fish, and find a piece of rope. Buck said tie Pierce to a light or electrical pole and make a paste using the sulfur and fishy smelling and tasting cooking oil. He said coat Pierce all over with the paste. He said be sure not to tie him close to anything where he could rub off the paste. Pierce was to eat the sulfur.
I was curious about the procedure because it seemed odd. I asked Buck why. Buck told me that fleas caused the mange and that the fungus and fever they created was on the inside of Piece. The sulfur would kill the fungus. The fish flavored cooking oil gave the sulfur a taste that Piece would lick. It sounded strange, but I tried it anyway. Pierce looked funny with his yellow paste coat. After a couple of days, I could see improvement to Pierce’s coat. In no time, Pierce had a healthy shiny coat.
After seeing the mangy dog in the Nicholsville-Putnam area, I thought about the folks in the Old Testament who were covered with something like the mange, called scall, or what is known as scabies. Those folks would see the priest who would give the “Buck like” instructions for a remedy.
The book of Leviticus describes scabies-like symptoms, which sounds like the mange.  Paintings from ancient Egypt also depict the scabies mite. Aristotle (384 to 322 B.C.) also spoke of scabies.
Scabies are tiny eight-legged mites that burrow in the skin of their hosts. The mites live for 24 to 36 hours spreading through skin-to-skin contact and deposit eggs in your skin.
In recent years, there has been an increase in scabies and bedbugs. One statistic said 93% of households have bedbugs. The cure was isolation in Biblical times.
If a man or woman have a plague upon the head or the beard; Then the priest shall see the plague: and, behold, if it be in sight deeper than the skin; and there be in it a yellow thin hair; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a dry scall, even a leprosy upon the head or beard. And if the priest look on the plague of the scall, and, behold, it be not in sight deeper than the skin, and that there is no black hair in it; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague of the scall seven days: And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the plague: and, behold, if the scall spread not, and there be in it no yellow hair, and the scall be not in sight deeper than the skin; he shall be shaven, but the scall shall he not shave; and the priest shall shut up him that hath the scall seven days more: And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the scall: and, behold, if the scall be not spread in the skin, nor be in sight deeper than the skin; then the priest shall pronounce him clean: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean. But if the scall spread much in the skin after his cleansing; then the priest shall look on him: and, behold, if the scall be spread in the skin, the priest shall not seek for yellow hair; he is unclean. But if the scall be in his sight at a stay, and that there is black hair grown up therein; the scall is healed, he is clean: and the priest shall pronounce him clean (Leviticus 13:29-37 KJV).  
 
September 26, 2013
Have you ever had a good day suddenly turn into frustration? Today was one of those days. It started before my trip to Sam’s in Tuscaloosa, but it was at Sam’s trying to find Sharon some apple blossom antibacterial dishwashing detergent frustration stormed in my day.
I don’t think the powers that be for Walmart and Sam’s really know how frustrating their constant changing of product locations is for employees and customers. Then again, they my get their kicks from doing such things.
I remember trying to find some dried cherries, which are good for arthritis. One would think that dried cherries would be in the fruit section of Walmart. Wrong! They are located next to flour products.
One Christmas on the way to Gulf Shores, I was instructed to stop at the Foley Walmart and buy some cranberry sauce. I looked high and low to no avail. I finally asked a lady shopper if she new where they may have hidden it, but she did not know. I asked a Walmart associate, but she did not know. I was just about frustrated enough to buy fresh cranberries and crush them myself but another lady over heard my dilemma and told me where I could find the cranberry sauce. Once again, it was in a secret Walmart area.er 10
Webster’s dictionary defines frustrate as “prevent from succeeding, keep from doing, or being a failure.” The Greek word for frustrate is ekkopto meaning, “to cut off, to cut out.”
I remember being in a “Take Two” safety class where the facilitator asked for the definition of frustration. I said, “Mill room.” Everyone in the class agreed.
Gerald, the facilitator asked, “What’s the mill room?”
The mill room housed six finish mills for grinding a mixture of clinkers, limestone, and gypsum to make cement and mortar mix. Clinkers are limestone, sand, and iron ore ground and then cooked in balls in a kiln.
The mills were large tubular cylinders filled with three-inch steel balls spinning round and round. The mill room was loud and dusty. Everyday laborers went into the mill to sweep, pile, shovel, and push wheel barrels of cement waste and dust that leaked or spilled from the mills, discharge chutes, and pipes. One could never see any progress. The waste and dust were the same after a few minutes. Everyday was the same. Every day was the same!
The mill room was busy work since each employee was guaranteed forty hours each week. Anytime someone’s job was down, off to the mill room with earplugs, respirators, hardhat, safety glasses, a shop broom, number two flat shovel, and wheel barrel. Everyday same job, same result. FRUSTRATION.
Now, back to Sam’s. My buggy pulled to the right. I constantly had to push harder on the right side. I put five gallons of hydraulic fluid on the left side, but it still pulled right. I put a large container of All liquid detergent on top of the fluid and it still pulled right. I went up and down aisle after aisle trying to find the Palmolive detergent. I did some more shopping and returned another time across the store fighting the right turn determined buggy to find the Palmolive detergent. I could not find a Sam associate. I guess someone placed them in an obscure place.
I fought my way to the checkout line. The cashier said I could keep everything in the buggy. I gave her my Sam’s card. Guess what? She told me that the Bethel Baptist Association Membership card had been renewed and that I would have check with Customer Service.
At Customer Service, there were five people ahead of me. I waited patiently trying to figure out how I was going to tell Sharon I could not find her apple blossom Palmolive dishwashing detergent.
Finally, a young girl behind the counter asked if she could help. I told her that the cashier said I needed to update my membership card. She checked and told me that the membership fee had not been paid. I assured her it had she said it had not. After a frustrating moment with her, I paid the fee only to find that now there were three large carts filled to capacity in my line.
When I got back to the office, Pam gave me the information where the membership had been paid. I called Sam’s customer service and talked with a representative. I just thought I was frustrated. She said that if I would bring back the receipt or a copy of where we paid the bill, that customer service would give me the money. I informed her that it was not my fault, Linden was a long way, and that she could promptly credit our card so I would not have to make the trip back to Tuscaloosa.
When I think about it, it is the evil one trying to kill my joy and hinder my thoughts before I preach tonight at Aimwell’s revival. This frustration too shall pass. I get to have my say Monday with the Customer Service manager who was conveniently out of town.  Pam tried to interceded for me, but she became frustrated when told the manager was not there.
Monday I could use the Scripture and use ekkopto as found in Matthew 5:30a, but it would not be my right hand that I would like to cut off. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off . . .
So, until Monday, my thoughts will be on Exodus 14:14.
The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
 
September 12, 2013
The other night I met a couple at Three Amigos Restaurant to plan a wedding. Waiting for their arrival, I noticed a familiar face sitting behind me. It had been at least forty years since I saw Benny Lee. He was our crew leader for a summer job I had with Hiwassee Land Company back in 1969. For a few minutes, we caught up on Hiwassee memories.
Hiwassee Land Company had a ninety-nine year lease from Traveler Insurance for thousands of acres in Chilton and Shelby counties for the express purpose of growing pine timber. The local representative for Hiwassee, Dollis Ray, talked with our high school football coach to find some conditioned young men who might be used to initiate a new process to help pine timber grow. Coach sent several of us to interview for this summer job.
I will never forget the interview. Mr. Ray said that he needed some good young men who knew how to work and were in great physical shape. He said the work would be hard. I asked how hard is the work. Mr. Ray asked, “Have you ever helped load hay or paperwood?” I said that I had done both. Mr. Ray said it was harder than throwing hay or paperwood.
That takes us back to Benny Lee. Benny Lee was a good crew leader. He explained the process of what we would be doing. Our objective was to inject hardwood timber with weed killer. I think back and it was like Roundup weed poison. It was powerful. The poison did not affect maple. For hickory and dogwood, we had to girdle the bark and pump in the poison. The rest of the hardwood we had to penetrate the bark every two inches around the tree. The poison would kill the trees without disturbing the pines. 
On the first day before dinner break, Benny Lee had us girdle a huge hickory. About three feet above the girdle, he removed a large part of the bark. Hickory wood is white behind the bark. After dinner, he took us back to the tree. It was a hot June day and Benny said the tree would be absorbing a lot of water. When we got to the tree, there were black streaks running up the tree in the place where the bark was missing. Benny Lee said that was the poison going up the tree. In thirty minutes, the leaves of the giant hickory were wilted.
Injecting hardwood was hard work. Benny Lee bragged that the two summers that we worked we killed more trees than any other crew of boys he ever worked did. Benny was easy going and was a very good teacher.  One time he asked me to chew on a root. I was a little hesitant, but after he chewed on one, I did. He asked, “What does it taste like?” I told him that it taste like Vick’s salve.
Another time, he asked me, “What do you see different about the hillside?” I said it looked like a road was once here. He handed me a railroad spike and said that it was a railroad spur from the L&N Railroad to Lay Dam on the Coosa River when building the dam.
Benny Lee was a skinny version of Paul Bunyan. I can still picture him with a double bitted ax tossed across his shoulder blazing the trees where we were to inject. He allowed a bunch of rough neck boys the opportunity to be boys.
We laughed about the time I brought a pair of boxing gloves to work where we could box during dinner break. It was fun beating one another up at dinner, swinging out hickory trees, and throwing crab apples, plums, green pinecones, and buckeye balls at one another. We got to push over dead trees, watch snakes fight, find baby buzzards, and play in creeks.
Every now and then, we would fine abandoned sawdust piles from long gone sawmills. Benny would let us play king of the mountain. Benny Lee would laugh at us trying to work the rest of the day with sawdust in our underwear.
Benny Lee said looking back that Hiwassee had destroyed billions of dollars worth of hardwood timber. I am not a tree hugger, but I did have a problem destroying so much timber. When I think of all the beautiful timber we killed, I think what a waste. Benny Lee told us that it was not cost efficient to try to harvest the hardwood because it would hurt the pines. In areas dominated by hardwood, helicopters spayed the timber with poison. Little did anyone know back then that hardwood makes a better computer paper than pine.
The sad thing is history is full of dumb ideas thought to be doing good, only to fine out later that it was a mistake or foolish.
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn (Matthew 13:24-30 KJV).
 
August 22, 2013
The other day when our friends from Texas were visiting we were having a family discussion around the supper table. I had grilled hamburgers and hotdogs over a hickory fire. They were delicious.
As everyone built their hamburger to their liking, the subject of Sharon’s famous hamburger arose. I once told Sharon that when I was young, we could not afford hamburger meat so I would make a hamburger without the meat. She would laugh at me and say that was crazy. I told her not to knock until she tried it.
When we moved back to Alabama from Illinois in 1960, Dad could not find work. There were many times when we had little or no food in the house. There had been a short time when we first moved to Illinois, that we had little or no food, but dad quickly got work there and we had plenty.
One of my favorite sandwiches is bread with butter baked in the oven and then sprinkled with sugar. I remember momma with tears in her eyes saying to my sister and me that there was no food, but how good the sugar coated buttered toast was. When food was in short supply, mamma would always say she was not hungry give us her food. She did that night with the buttered toast.
Back in Alabama, there were several times that there was no food. Momma would always remind us that God would take care of us. I remember one morning that the cupboard was bare. We heard a vehicle in the yard and my sister, two brothers, and I went to see who it was. It was an old 1950 baby blue Plymouth Deluxe, my Grandpaw Chapman’s car. By the way, it is the same car that my daughter Angela had the fire department retrieve from our burning basement.
Grandpaw had bags of groceries for us. That morning we had milk and cereal for breakfast and other delights. God used Grandpaw that morning. A time or two later, my aunt would bring us food.
Daddy always felt bad that other people had to provide when he could not. Grandpaw just encouraged him to keep looking for work which daddy finally did. We soon bought a tractor and traded for some pigs. After that, we had plenty of food.
At the family discussion, we told our guests, that one time Sharon took time and skill to create her hamburger. She had all the fixin’s a person could put on a hamburger. Sharon and her dad have this knack for making food look delicious when they eat. They use the expression “lambing good.” All I know is that means it is delicious, I think.
Sharon was about half way through eating her hamburger when she realized that she had failed to put her hamburger patty in the sandwich.  I told her, “See it is pretty good without the meat!”
When one does not have an abundance of food, one can be creative. My family tells me that I eat like a pig. It is not so much the sloppiness, but the things I eat. The other day I fixed a potato salad hamburger. I put the leftover potato salad on the meat in a bun. It was pretty good. Growing up I fixed many mayonnaise and sugar sandwiches. One of my favorites is a peanut butter and cinnamon pickle sandwich. My sister takes cucumbers and red-hot candies to make the pickles. It is a Chilton county version of apple rings.
When there is a shortage of bread, I have combined bananas and turkey meat in the same sandwich. Remember; don’t knock it till you try it. With a shortage of hamburger and plenty of hog sausage, a sausage burger is real good.
Another good sandwich is leftover cold dried butter beans with catsup. A mustard mayonnaise sandwich is good in pinch. Leftover meatloaf spread with mayonnaise is real good. My philosophy is, if is leftover, it can be a good sandwich. Watching one of the food channels I found out that there is a sandwich named the “Bobby.” It is made with leftover turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and mayonnaise placed on sub sandwich bread. After the program, Aaron said he could not believe someone made sandwiches like me. He commented the other day that he would like to try a “Bobby Sandwich.” It looked good.
You will not believe it, but a story about Eddie Rickenbacker inspired this article. Rickenbacker was a WWI flying ace that downed 26 enemy planes. In WWII he worked in the Secretary of War Department and during one of his visit to troops was shot down in the ocean. For twenty-four days he drifted. About to starve to death, a seagull landed on his float. He killed it, ate it, and lived to be rescued.
Rickenbacker’s story inspired a devotional titled “When the Seagull Doesn’t Come.” The devotional is a reminder of faith in God. God will never leave us nor forsake us.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength . . . (Habakkuk 3:17-19a KJV).
I don’t know if momma knew these verses, but she understood the principle of faith.
 
August 8, 2013
Paul Harvey, in his commentary “The Rest of the Story," tells of a WWII military serviceman stationed in Europe. He wanted to buy a present for his fiancée.' He had limited income so he went to a pawnshop to see what he could buy. Having no luck finding a diamond ring, he bought an amber bracelet for less than two hundred dollars. 
Through the years, the bracelet became a sentimental piece for the couple. The man decided to do something special for an upcoming anniversary. He thought it would be nice to have the bracelet restored. The bracelet had a broken hook. 
He took it to a jeweler to which the jeweler asked if it was for sale. The man said he wanted it repaired. The hook broke again so the man took it to another jeweler who asked if it was for sale. After a third trip to another jeweler, the man received the same query if the bracelet was for sale. The man said, “Why?” The jeweler said, “You do not know?” The man gave him a magnifying glass and said read the inscription. It was engraved, to Josephine from Napoleon.
While at the University of Montevallo, I took an art class. Boy did I feel out of place! I am not an artist when it concerns painting. The class, the History of Art, was one of the criterions for the Bachelor of Art degree I was earning. Tommy Karn, my Director of Missions at the time, suggested that if I was going to attend Seminary, that I should get a Liberal of Arts degree. He said that I should get the degree in something that would aid me to be a bi-vocational pastor.  I elected history and English and my college advisor suggested that I take the History of Art classes. 
I was totally out of place in art. Everyone and everything there seemed to be in the abstract and I am concrete. I think being a concrete person had something to do with working at the cement plant. JUST KIDDING! I felt out of place being a preacher in a class of future Picassos. I found art history fascinating and learned how to love and appreciate art.
On one occasion, I went to an art exhibit at Bloch Hall, the art building. Luke, an oriental art student, was the featured artist. I was amazed at his artwork. At first, I thought it was some kind of abstract paintings. The colors were beautiful. There were bright pinks, whites, blues, and so forth. They appeared to make no sense. Each one of the paintings had a title. I looked at one entitled “Sailing Ship.” I remember studying the work very carefully trying to see a ship. It was not there I thought. 
As I looked at it for several minutes, I began to see this beautiful ship with gigantic sails, the ocean, and the clouds. It was magnificent. It was one of those paintings that you had to look, then back away, to see the real beauty. 
Now, understanding the style of painting Luke had on display, I went to another titled “Dragon.” Again, the canvas had these brilliant colors of pink, yellow, and white boldly stroked and spread across it. I could not wait to find the dragon so exquisitely positioned there. Suddenly, there was this giant Chinese dragon prancing across the canvas. The artwork was special. I had never seen such beauty in art. Everyone in attend that afternoon commented on the genius and talent of Luke. Even the president of the University bought a painting that day.
Art History was not the only class I felt a little awkward. Another was an English poetry class. Poems have a way of soothing the soul. David and other Psalmists of the Bible are reminders of the power of poetry.
In this particular class, we examined the poets, their works, and the poems interpretations. Simple poems are really complex and revealing the more that you dig. One of the things that I lost in the house fire was my notes from this class. I developed a deep appreciation for poetry and I have written several poems because of the class’s influence.
Having missed a very intriguing class one Friday, my Methodist preacher friend and fellow returning adult named Billy wanted me to share with him what he had missed. The professor for the class was absence and had one of his secretaries in his place to have us do some busy work. Billy and I decided that we would ask the secretary if we could go to the business lounge where I could “catch” Billy up on the interpretations of the poems.
I will never for get the look on her face and her answer. The look was one of “I don’t believe a word you are saying” and the response was “sure you do.” “You are trying to get out of class to talk about football.”
I guess Billy and I did look a little bit too much masculine and not dainty enough to be reading poetry. She did let us go, but I do not think she was totally convinced. Billy and I did make an “A” on the test regardless of what the secretary thought.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10, KJV).
The Greek word that Paul used for workmanship is poiema, the word we use for poem. Bracelets, art, and poetry are creations of the artist. What does that say about God and us?
 
July 25, 2013
You may recall that a year ago Sharon and I lost our Chilton County home to a fire. When I return home the number one question people ask me is when are we going to built back. I tell them that Sharon and I do not know what we what to do at this time. I plan being Director of Missions for Bethel until God or the Association says it’s time to go.
Sharon and I have considered several options, one being buying and building in the Linden area. The longer we serve here, the more we want to stay here. The longer we stay the more relationships we build. Our options are many for the moment.
We purchased some adjacent land and a mobile home about a year before the house burned. I tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the mobile home. It is a 1988 model and it needed more repair than I had time to perform. With the house gone, this became our bungalow.
A week or so ago on a rainy day, Aaron and I were tearing out the old, nasty, stinky, nicotine filled, and sticky carpet and linoleum. Aaron made the comment that I should just burn it down.
Well, I would like to do that except that I had to buy the mobile home to get the land. The bank would not take burning it too kindly. In response, I told Aaron that I had to admit that the mobile home with its entire nasty problem was better than the house in which I grew up.
I grew up in a shack. Most people have sheds and barns that are far more nicer than my home. It was not stinky or nasty; because momma made sure that our shack was clean. There may have been sheetrock falling from the ceiling where the rain on the tin roof leaked, but it was clean sheetrock. The mobile home has two bathrooms, where our shack had none. The mobile home has central heat and cooling. The shack had a pot-bellied stove and window fan.
Aaron then said I sounded like a couple of my aunts and it was not a compliment. After a barrage of arguments between Aaron and me, his sister Angela said that dad was only putting things into perspective. I was pointing out that is was better than I had growing up. 
 I have been very fortunate to have lived in a nice brick home most of my married life. I am thankful for God’s blessings and the privilege of living in a very nice brick home in Linden courtesy of Bethel Baptist Association.
Sometimes people forget their raising. Most young people today do not understand the sacrifices that have been made by their parents and others to provide them with the luxuries they enjoy and take for granted. This is evident in the slow and steady deterioration of our nation. OS Hawkins, the President and Chief Executive Officer of GuideStone Financial Resources, calls it a systematic and degenerative decline in traditional values.
He states in his devotion, The Joshua Principle, the American church has awakened to the reality that there are at least two generations lost to the church. There are five prominent characteristics of these “lost generations.”
First, because of the culture of massive divorce, individuals from the lost generation are crying out for meaningful relationships. When I was growing up, divorce was viewed as the unpardonable sin and very rare in the community.
Second, they cry for instant gratification and complain when they have to wait. Gone are the days of patiently planting, growing, cultivating, harvesting, and preparing a slow cooked meal. Gone is the idea of saving before you buy an automobile, home, or any other large purchase. 
Third is an entitlement mentality. One is government entitlements and the other is parents providing children with anything they want without kids working for it. Daddy taught us to never wait, depend, or rely on the Federal government to provide or take care of us. He taught us to seek opportunity to work and earn what we needed.
Fourth, they want guilt-free living. They go to bed with a conscience that longs for a moment to be lived over again. When I was growing up there were consequences for doing wrong. If you did wrong, it was confronted, dealt with, corrected, and settled before the day was over, if possible.
 Fifth, they search for prosperity, but have little hope of attaining it. They are the first generation in American history, that overall, will not raise their children in a home as nice as the one they had when a child. When Sharon and I decided to build, we knew that vacations, new clothes, eating out, and other things were secondary to owning a home. I never will forget the night we kneeled before the moss rock fireplace and prayed a prayer of dedication, giving our home to the Lord. On the night it burned, I thanked him for loaning it to us for all those years. My perception is that the Lord that gives the perspective.
The church is the only one that holds the key for the “lost generation.” Paul reminds the church at Ephesus saying, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7 KJV).
The verse offers a personal relationship In Him, in something present, we have redemption, something provided through His blood, in something profitable the forgiveness of sins, and something purposeful according to the riches of His grace.
 
July 4, 2013
The other day I had a flash back to an eventful day at the river. I do not spend much time in the river since I saw the movie Jaws. You notice I said in the river. As a kid, I never gave a second thought to jumping into a creek, pond, river, or lake, but the movie Jaws changed all that.
It is a good thing I had never seen the movie when I dove into the lake at Rainbow City. I went running down the pier and took a dive that would have been the envy of most Olympic swimmers. Sharon and her cousins said when I dove in the river, the shad jumped out. The sight was hilarious. I know what you are thinking, but I was tall and lanky back then and the lake was large.
When I surfaced, Sharon and her cousins were screaming in excitement. I was clueless to what was happening, but when those shad were trying to get away from me, they were striking my boney legs and I thought I had jumped into a school of piranha. I panicked and got out as quick as I could.
I have always wanted a home on a creek, pond, river, or lake. It is soothing and tranquil watching the water. Sometimes when I have the time, I will spend a few moments of solitude watching the Tombigbee River flowing through Demopolis. Watching the river is therapeutic, especially at night and eating a Big Jack, fries, and hot apple pie.
I remember the Montgomery riverboat ride the night we had my twentieth class reunion. Seeing the lights as we approached Montgomery on the Alabama River will always hold my memory as that romantic the moment unfolded. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day with classmates.
I spent most of my summer Sundays after church at Bulldog Bend on the little Cahaba River. At Bulldog Bend there was a swing hanging from a tree overlooking the bend in the river. In the middle of the bend was a platform made of metal drums and wood. It was held in place by two cables attached to another cable that spanned the river.
To swing meant to climb a two-stage platform built beside the tree. The swing looked like a triangle mounted on a rectangle with a center bar. My friend JJ, from another story, had mastered the art of exiting the swing before it peaked and could sail through the air, baggies flopping in the wind, out to the platform. Another friend, Butch, slapped the platform on his way down.
Swinging on the tree swing was difficult. My friend, “Butter Bean,” did not have enough arm strength to swing from the tree platform. The downward force was too great and Butter Bean would bounce and flop off the bank into the river.
The floating platform was about ten feet square. That is where the girls watched the boys display their aerobatic skills as they exited the swing. The guys watched the girls. Ultimately, someone would want to play king of the floating platform. It is the water version of “king of the hill.” Someone would grab the two cables that anchored the platform and start it to rocking. Eventually it would turn upside down.
One Sunday I was on the float when someone turned it over. As went flying backwards, the two cables that held it in place trapped my outstretched arms and legs to the upside down float. I took gasps of air each time I bopped to the surface. I glad had a plan for me.
Talk about flying through the air. Let me get to that eventful day at the river. One summer around a weekend or two before or after Independence Day, my buddies, Donnis, Larry, Rickey, Tony, and I were skiing on Lay Lake. We happened upon some classmates that invited us to try their slalom board. Don, one from their group, was a master at the slalom board. George, another one of their group, had a souped up ski ridge that would fly. Don and George would ride the board as the boat did a “pop the whip” move. They could circle the boat twice, sometimes almost three times while standing the whole ride.
They invited us to try. Our group could not ride it sitting down. Tony, who is now my brother-in-law, and I decided, with a little encouragement I might add, to ride the slalom board together as George and his crew “popped us on the whip.”
The first time Tony and I sailed around the ski boat we thought we had it made. That was until my leg slipped off the slalom board and swiped Tony off like a cartoon character. I can still hear Tony yelling, “LEAN, LEAN, LEAN” as we disappeared into the cold murky waters. After a third attempt, we were able to circle the boat.
My cousin Larry went solo. For some reason, I think it my have been to show off to the bathing beauties on the bank, George “popped the whip” with Larry towards the public landing. What happened next is unbelievable. When George slung Larry around the boat, Larry did three cartwheels on top of the water before plunging into the Lay Lake. We feared that he was going to cartwheel onto shore.
Every time I read about Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee, I think of Larry cart wheeling on Lay Lake.
 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29 KJV).
Have a great and safe Independence Day.
 
June 23, 2013
May 18, 2013 Union Springs Baptist Church of Randolph, Alabama celebrated 100 years of ministry. The church celebrated by reminiscing through testimony, pictures, song, and preaching.
April and May in the South is a time for decorations and homecomings. Union Springs dies neither. I will never forget while in Seminary hearing some preacher friends speaking of Decoration Day. They were not too fond of them. Having grown up in a church that did not observe this day, I had to ask what Decoration Day was.  I did not want to appear dumber that I am, I tried to listen long enough to try and figure out what it was. I finally garnered enough nerve to ask my friend Hugh. Hugh, very blunt and needing a few more classes on tach, said, “Worship of the dead, dummy.”
I did not know what worship of the dead was. Hugh and others gave me a quick lesson the 1001 ways that churches celebrate Decoration. They could not believe that my home church did not observe it.
Union Springs stop observing Homecoming in the mid 1960’s. The first time I remember a celebration was a 75th Anniversary and then a 90th one. There have been plenty of changes. I remember that in the Seventies that the church voted to hide the Peavey speakers behind some speaker cloth because Peavey looked too rock and roll. The only musical instruments were the piano and the organ, guitars, drums, tape music, and trumpets were prohibited. To applaud after a special was sacra religious. To raise a hand, say amend or hallelujah guaranteed a stern look and grunt from a deacon or two.
That era is gone after one hundred years.
It was good to see some changes, but the biggest change was people. Yea, women with two first names such Betty Mae, Betty Jo, Betty Jean, Sara Nell, Patsy Ann, Mary Jane, and Judy Kay were there and folks talked of Fannie Ruth, Kitty Sue, Dorothy Faye, and Ruby Nell’s passing when seeing their pictures.
Many have passed in 100 years. I remember Brother Arch Crumpton. For many years he and the preacher were the only me in the church.  Brother Arch would walk to church, about four miles, start a fire in the pot-bellied stove, return home, and bring the family to church on a wagon. The church honored his daughter Myrtle at the Anniversary as the oldest member of the church.
I remember having Ms. Myrtle as my junior (I think that would be 3rd and 4th grade today) Sunday school teacher. I remember stepping over boards used for flooring the newly built Sunday school room in her class.
Had it not been for the faithful women of Union Springs Baptist Church, there would be no church today. Myrtle Hayes, Callie Plier, Adderene Pate, Tommie Mitchell taught me the Word of God. I remember while in Seminary classmates would ask, “Where did you learn that?” I responded very slowly, “S U N D A Y S C H O O L.”
As men were saved, guys like Bill Langston and Heedy Hayes taught me missions through the RA’s (Royal Ambassador). Union Springs was one of the top supporters of the Cooperative Program, the Alabama State Board of Missions, and Chilton Baptist Association. The Union Springs is very instrumental in preparing me to be your Director of Missions.
I remember international, North American, and state missionaries sharing their work during times of worship. I remember crying the night Union Springs showed the movie, Bill Wallace of China. We got so involved in missions that we had a crew of men travel to the Mobile area to repair a roof of a church destroyed by Hurricane Fredrick. One of our members, Wayne Dutton, went on a building mission’s project to Bogotá, Columbia @ 1980 and set in motion the beginning of building mission trips that continues to today. Union Springs helped initiate the Chilton Baptist Builder, which will be working in Indiana in a couple of weeks.
My involvement with the Chilton Baptist Builders led to my call into the ministry. My first recall of being at Union Springs was when we first moved back to Alabama from Illinois in 1960. The little white church did not have Sunday School rooms, but they did have wires, which crisscrossed the auditorium. Red curtains help to separate four areas designated for classes. I do not remember who preached or the sermon topic, but I remember singing a song about a worm and a cross.
 
Alas! And did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
 
Union Springs called me as an RA leader, a Sunday School teacher, and as a deacon. Union Springs licensed me to preach, and ordained me into full time ministry. They gave me a scholarship for college and members such as Tach Mims, James Scott, and Callie Plier helped finance me early in my ministry. I am fortunate to have been part of the 100 years of Union Spring’s ministries.
The Psalmist says it best when questioned, “Where is your God?”
 
When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday Psalm 42:4 KJV.
 
June 13, 2013
The old rock and roll song by Sam Cook goes like this, “Ooh, aah, ooh, aah
Ooh, aah, ooh, aah (Well, don't you know) that’s the sound of man working on the chain ga-a-ang, that’s sound of man working on the chain gang.”
The number of sounds the brain can distinguish through the human auditory is unlimited. Sound is amazing and modern technology can take Sam Cook’s song, digitally redo it, and make it better than the original.
Aaron and I had a “surround sound system” that made movie watching marvelous. With it, we would hear all the sounds as if you were on location. Guests to our home would jump when hearing a sound from behind them when watching a movie.
Even with all the technological advances in sound, hearing aids cannot duplicate human hearing. The science of psychoacoustics is the study of sound perception by the human auditory system. In normal hearing, the eardrum and brain processes sound and eliminates the clutter and background noise. The most common complaint from hearing aid users is that they hear too much background noise, which is the same problem that those of us with high frequency hearing loss have. I have to watch a person’s lips when in a crowd. 
Hearing is a vital part of living and those of us that cannot hear or are hearing impaired are at a disadvantage. Sharon and Aaron will hear high frequency noise and ask, “Do you hear that?” And I say, “Hear what?” Sharon and Aaron think by shouting I can hear them when in reality loudness is not the problem, tone is.
I never will forget the time I took a hearing test for work. The nurse administering the test said that I had high frequency loss. This common among men due to guns, saws, engines, etc. The nurse said that I lost the ability to hear certain female sounds to which Sharon responded, “How convenient!”
Listening to sounds can be frightening. A sound of a woman or child’s scream can be blood curdling. A siren reminds us that someone has been killed, is dying, or injured. The sound of thunder sends some people into hiding. The sound of an explosion will make us jump and cringe. The sound of strong winds steer our emotions and we fear a possible storm. The flutter of a covey of quail can startle an innocent walk in the field. An angry dog growling signals fear, hearts start pounding. Horns blowing in traffic initiates panic. Tractor trucks jake braking after midnight causes on to sit up in bed with your eyes wide open.
Sounds can be irritating. The sound of water dripping from a faucet will keep us awake or it will make us irritable. The sound of a crying baby (a spoiled cry) draws our attention. The buzz of a mosquito is aggravating. The buzz of a fly is annoying. The sound of fingernails scratching a chalkboard makes a horrible sound. The sound of a carpenter bee digging in Western cedar deck will ruin a quiet moment. Sounds of vulgarity booming from car stereos are disturbing. 
Sounds of people talking on cell phones in checkout lines are most irritating. Late at night, the sound of a tick-tocking clock makes the night long. The ding-donging of a clock at three in the morning can usher in a long day. The continual crowing rooster can end the most delightful dream. A barking dog in the middle of night brings out the worst in most of us. A chirping cricket will ruin most chances of falling asleep. A woodpecker tapping a tree and get on your nerves. A tree frog continual chirping, croaking, or whatever sound they make can get old after a while.
Some sounds are pleasant. Birds singing and chirping on a beautiful morning can be invigorating. The sound of water running across rocks soothes the wearied mind. The sound of water bubbling in an aquarium is therapeutic. The sound of a breeze in the trees brings a breath of fresh air. The flutter of humming bird wings is enjoyable. Dripping rain can be rhythmic.
Some sounds are in the ears of the beholder. The sound of a Harley –Davison Motorcycle is that of the flutter of angel wings. The mellow sound of a dual exhaust is hypnotic. The music of an ice cream/popsicle truck makes your mouth water. The sound of construction invites anticipation of something new. The sound of a helicopter or jet makes one search the skies. The ding of an oven reminds us of something to eat. The rattling of jar rings can be the sound of kids playing or the sound of momma canning, especially if you hear the peacock on the pressure cooker pulsating.
Sounds can be sad. Daddy said the saddest sound was the playing of Taps on a horn at night. The sound of a twenty-one gun salute means the passing of a soldier. The weeping of a parent over a child or the loss of a child is heartbreaking. The sobbing of a hurt or lost child ushers tears or a heartfelt moment. A fiddle or harmonica can create sounds of sadness. The sound of my dad’s last breath ushered sadness. The moaning of a dying person or animal saddens the hardest of people.
In high school science class Mr. Delton Lowery asked, “If a giant tree falls in the forest where there is no one, does it make a sound?” Most students said yes. The answer is no. To hear the sound waves created by the fall there must be a receiver of the sound waves. Hence if no one is in the forest, there is no receiver and the crashing tree makes no sound.
 
 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear Matthew 11:15 KJV
 
 
June 11, 2013
Seventeen years ago, Friendship BaptistChurch in Clanton started a new event that became an annual event. The church planned an old-fashioned picnic the Sunday before July the Fourth. We prepared barbeque, baked beans, tater salad, ice-cold cokes, and homemade peach ice cream. We planned sack races, pitching horseshoes, and volleyball.
What made this particular Sunday special was we learned that the Olympic Torch Relay would come through Clanton on this date. Later we discovered that Clanton would be one of the stops for the Torch.
Chilton Baptist Association decided that it would be a great evangelistic event because CNN planned live coverage of the stop. Every church in the Clanton area agreed to wear a T-shirt with their church logo. I still have mine even though it is much smaller today seventeen years ago. It had an eagle, red, white, and blue stripes, and stars. Most folks commented that it looked like a Harley Davison Motorcycle T-shirt. Across the back, it had Friendship Baptist Church. The Association designated June 30, 1996 as “Tennis shoe and T-shirt Sunday.” 
The Olympic Torch coming to town was the talk of everyone. I did not think much of it until I sighted the Torch. Something wonderful happened as the torchbearer came running down the hill into the Clanton City Park. People began cheering and I could feel chills running over my body. Suddenly I realized that I was part of history. The torch may never visit Clanton again, but on Day One, April 27, 1996, the Olympic Torch Relay started in Los Angeles, California and On Day 65, June 30, 1996, the Torch rested in Clanton, Alabama for a few moments. Promoters of the Torch Relay asked our Director of Missions, Charles Christmas, to have a prayer for the Relay. One of the provisions was there was to be no preaching. Dr. Christmas had a wonderful plan. As the CNN cameras scanned the event, church T-shirts were always visible. Dr. Christmas had one of the most evangelist prayers I have every heard. CNN did not know it, but Dr. Christmas presented the Gospel message in his prayer with the eloquence of Peter and his first century Pentecostal message. “The T-shirt/Tennis Shoe Sunday” was a great evangelist event.
After a few moments of rest, the Torch continued its journey. The torch’s journey began with the lighting in Olympia, Greece. The Olympic Games Organizing Committee determined the route, as well as the theme, modes of transportation for the torch, and the stops that it will take along its way to the Opening Ceremony.
The torch travels from country to country by plane. Once it arrives in a city, it usually spends one day going from torchbearer to torchbearer on foot. Sometimes it goes to place by car, boat, bicycle, motorcycle, dog sled, horse, or virtually any other type of conveyance. 
The torch went through my hometown of Jemison before arriving in Clanton. Jemison folks thought they would get the jump on Clanton folks (you know how towns are rivals). A crowd gathered in Jemison to cheer the runner hoisting the torch high in the air. Suddenly, a motorcycle with the torch zipped through town. Jemison folks, who had not intended to be in Clanton, were in a panic trying to get to the park in Clanton. A couple of miles before town, the motorcyclist passed the torch to a runner.
“On certain legs of the relay, the torch must be housed in a special container. For a trip across the Great Barrier Reef before the 2000 Olympic Games, a special torch was designed to burn underwater. On airplanes, where open flames are not allowed, the flame is typically stored in an enclosed lamp, much like a Miner's lamp. At night, it is kept in a special cauldron until the relay begins once again the following day.”
It is considered a great privilege to be chosen as a torchbearer. Athletes, actors, musicians, sports figures, and politicians have all carried the flame.
Almost anyone can carry a torch that is at least 14 years old and is able to carry it for at least 437 yards. Handicapped people have been torchbearers. Some have carried the torch while riding in a wheelchair. The torchbearers are usually persons that have made a significant contribution to their community and because they personify the theme of that particular Olympics.
A caravan accompanies each torchbearer with security personnel, a medical team, the media, and extra torches in case the torch the runner is carrying goes out. At the end of the relay, the last torchbearer enters the Olympic stadium in the host city. Their identity is usually kept secret until the last moment. The final torchbearer is usually an Olympic athlete, sports figure, or an individual who has made a very special contribution to society. That individual runs around the stadium track once, then lights the Olympic cauldron, signaling the official start of the Olympic Games. When the competition ends about two weeks later, the flame is extinguished at the Closing Ceremony, marking the end of the Games.
As believers, we carry the Torch of Jesus. Passed from generation to generation, we hold it today preparing to pass it tomorrow. 
The Psalmist says, “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.” 
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us Hebrews 12:1.  
 
May 16, 2013
Someone asked me the other day what denomination I would be if I were not a Baptist. I replied, “Lost!” I was joking. I have considerable thought of being a Southern Baptist heritage. I am Southern Baptist because of the theology, the missions, and belief in the Bible.
 “IF,” as defined by Webster’s New Compact Dictionary is a conjunction meaning, “On condition that.”
I thought of some of the “If’s” I have heard in my life:
Daddy would say:
If a frog had wings, he would not bump his butt when he hopped.
If certain land owner had a feather, and I had his land, we both would be tickled.
If everybody else jumps off a cliff, are you going too?
If it rains before seven, there will be sunshine before eleven.
If there is a circle around the moon, count the stars inside and that is how many days before it rains.
If it thunders in February, check the date, it will frost on that day in April.
If the water is not hot enough, the hair will set on the hog and we’ll have to shave it.
If you hang around Ricky and Donnis, you’ll get in trouble.
If you get put in jail, you have to stay there.
If you put your feet under my table, you’ll do what I say.
If you dip out of the bowl, you better eat it all.
If someone says pass the peas, you better pass it, and you better not dip it before they do.
If you drink sow’s milk, you can see the wind blow.
If you don’t stop walking on the sides of your feet, you’ll be cripple by the time you’re fifty.
If I could buy that fellow what he is worth and sell him what he thought he was worth, I never have to work again.
 
Momma would say:
If someone else can do it, you can.
If you going somewhere put on clean panties, you might be in a wreck.
If you don’t mind me, I am going to tell your daddy.
If I have to get on you in church, I’ll whup you when we get home.
If you don’t straighten up, I going to have the whup the Ricky out of you.
If you loved me, you wouldn’t treat me that way.
If you don’t stop hitting your brother, you’re gonna have to cut me a peach limb.
If you don’t eat, you’ll be sick.
If you keep pestering your sister, I gonna make you stick your nose in the corner.
If you don’t stop acting ugly, the boogieman is gonna get you.
If you get sick from playing in the rain, I gonna kill you.
If you and your sister don’t straighten up, I’m gonna make you sit, hug, and kiss each other.
If you put salt on a bird’s tail, you can catch it.
If you are not serious about a girl, don’t kiss her.
 
Teachers would say:
If you don’t stop talking, I going to give you ten demerits.
If you don’t get your homework, you are going to fail.
If you leave paper in the desk, you will have to clean erasers.
If you are late again, you will have to write lines.
If you continue looking at the typewriter keys, I will put mule blinders on you.
If you do not stop running in the halls, I am going to paddle you.
 
Coaches would scream:
If you don’t hustle, you will run laps.
If you cannot take it, go to the house.
If you do not block your man, you will give me twenty-five pushups.
If you do not play good tonight, we will practice Sunday night.
If you let your man outside, the whole team will do suicides (a form of running for punishment).
 
The Bible states:
 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (II Chronicles 7:13-14).
 
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24).
 
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear (Mark 4:23)
 
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (I John 1:6-10).
 
 
April 18, 2013
Several years ago, I received a card that informed me that I won one of several gifts. The gifts included a brand new Ford Bronco, a big screen TV, $2000 cash, or a two-week vacation on the Caribbean. All I had to do was call a toll free number to receive my new gift. So, I did.
You will never guess what happened! I won! I gave them the number on the card and the voice on the other end said, “Congratulations Mr. Hopper you won the New Ford Bronco.” He wanted to know my name and address and the information was in the mail. It would be the information on the Bronco. He wanted to know the nearest airport where he could send tickets for my wife and me to fly to exotic Las Vegas and be part of giant celebration they we doing in my honor.
All kinds of visions danced in my head. I had never won anything. Sharon and I needed a car. I could not believe that bobby’s ship finally came. I said, “To heck with that rich uncle and his box of money.” I had a new Bronco.
All the excitement was the best thing that could have happened to the Hopper family. Then, the voice on the other end of the line asked, “Mr. Hopper are you acquainted with New Lifestyle vitamins?” He said the gifts were part of a promotional for the vitamins. He said that it would be great if I actually used them. I did not know about them, so he asked if I would purchase some. Me being the man of integrity I am, I decided that I would buy some. I asked him how many I needed to buy. He said a year’s supply. I said okay, how much? He said $650. That was a lot of money for Sharon and me working for minimum wage at the University of Montevallo. To tell you the truth it was more than we both made in a month. I weighed the cost and said $650 is a small price to pay for a brand New Ford Bronco. I gave him my master card number and he said that he would send me a 30mm camera to take the family’s picture to send him to him to use in the promotional.
Before the camera and vitamins arrived, the voice from Las Vegas called. The charming and persuading voice on the other end said that since I won the New Ford Bronco, the committee wanted me to purchase another year’s supply. I smelled a rat. Suddenly I had long ears and went Hee Haw. I told that charming voice on the other end a flat and very less charming no. Shortly I received my cheap 30mm camera, a year’s supply of vitamins, a book of coupons for all the film I would ever need for the camera, and an envelope. I thought I finally got the plane tickets to fly to Las Vegas. What I got was two tickets to the Caribbean.
I called Las Vegas and the representative told me in order to be eligible for the Bronco I would have to buy more vitamins. I was not about to buy any more. Suddenly, I had this sick feeling. They snookered me. I bought a bill of goods and an idea for $650, but I did have two cruise tickets. I contacted a travel agent only to find that they were not worth very much. They were actually a two for one cruise. I never wanted to go on the cruise anyway. I wanted my Bronco.
I called Las Vegas and told them I did not want the vitamins. They were not any good and I wanted to do an Elvis and “Return to sender.” They told me they could not accept the vitamins back for fear of tampering. They did tell me I could exchange my cruise for another gift. I told them they could exchange it for a Bronco, but I settled for a $650 answering machine.
Not long after this film-flam, I read an article in the Area Magazine, the rural electric cooperative mail-out. They told of several people who had been snookered. The article said beware, but they already got me. The article said to contact the better business bureau or state attorney general. 
I called Las Vegas again. This fat boy from Alabama acted like Slim from South Alabama in the Jim Croche song. I called to get my money back or I was calling the better business bureau and the Alabama Attorney General. I got $190 dollars back, an answering machine, a 30 mm camera, coupons for film, and vitamins. I never got the Bronco, but I did learn some valuable lessons.
 
Romans 7: 14-17. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.   For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.   If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
 
Paul says that he was sold on sin. That means that he was sold an idea, but he got something he really did not want. I know the feeling Brother Paul.
 
April 4, 2013
I looked up on the wall of the office this morning and made a startling discovery. I have been in the ministry over thirty years. The date on my Certificate of License is dated 27th day of February 1983.
Moments earlier, I read an article in the Cooperative Farming News, From Pastor to Pasture: That Must have Been 20 years Ago! Glenn Crumpler, author of the article said he heard a family member say of an event, “That must have been 20 years ago.” He said that when as a kid he could not imagine how someone could remember something that happened twenty years earlier. Ironically, he said that happened 45 years ago. Life is short.
Thirty years ago, I would hear preachers say that they had been in the ministry 20, 25, 30, and 40 years. I remember thinking that is a long time and that I wish I could be in ministry that long. Well, I is there! That’s not correct subject-verb relationship, but it is true. Time does fly. Life is only a vapor!
Ministry has made significant changes in thirty years. When I was pastor at Gallion, a person from the community came to church for the first time in twenty-five years. After the morning service he told me that church had changed some much since his last visit. He said he thought he had been to a nightclub instead of a church. I looked puzzled at him. He said that the music and the humor in my sermon were like that of a comedy club.
I understand his rationale. The last Christian youth concert I attended I commented that when I was a teenager momma did not allow us to attend rock and roll events at school and now we have them at churches.
Speaking of changes, the other night at an Associational event, someone asked if she might make a suggestion. We are always open to suggestions because Associational Ministry Directors, Pam, and I always evaluate our events. This person suggested to us that we not to schedule associational events that interfere with sporting events. This question happens more often that you might think. One time before, I was scolded by a member of one of our churches for having an event during Spring Break. Bethel Baptist Association ministers in six different school districts, which at that time did not observe spring break at the same time.
Back to the sporting conflict or may I say spiritual conflict. I learned in thirty years of ministry as a pastor, that any event the church schedules conflicts with some activity outside the church. I ensured the questioner that we do our best to dodge as many possible conflicts as we can. We would never have any ministry events if we tried to dodge conflicts.
My concern here is when did a sporting exercise for a child take precedent over spiritual training? A majority of student athletes will never use their sporting exercises in the professional arena, yet most parents spend more money and time at the ball field than they do for God. 
When did our communities become consumed with sports and recreation? I played football, baseball, basketball, and volleyball while growing up. My dad loved sports and enjoying watching my brothers and me play ball. Dad taught us that it was a game and that work and chores around home and school came before sports. Sports were extracurricular events.
I have walked home, around seven miles, after practice to slop pigs and load firewood many times. I have missed games because dad and mom were at work and I did not have a way to go.
Coaches, schools, and clubs would never allow practice or games to interfere with church events. Coaches would always allow players to leave early if there was a revival or church event that an athlete needed to attend. This is not the case today.
The issue at the associational event was not with the interference with the athlete playing an event, but with priorities. I am burdened that parents do not see spiritual development as more essential than worldly development. I want to weep when I see dads taking their boys hunting instead of to worship on Sundays. My dad was a lost man, but he prohibited us to go hunting or fishing on Sundays. Dad taught priorities.
Before I became a pastor, I volunteered to attend an associational brotherhood training event. The event was on a holiday, but because I worked rotation at the cement plant, I was not off and was scheduled midnights.
My midnight shift allowed me to attend the workshop and not miss work. Before leaving to attend the workshop, I received a call from the plant that the second shift man did not show and I needed to come in four hours early, six o’clock pm. I told the second shift foreman that I could not come in early. He wanted an excuse. I said that I had committed to our church brotherhood director that I would attend the workshop and I was taught to keep my commitments. He reminded me that that I was turning down double time and half pay because I was being called out on a holiday. I reminded him that my commitment was greater than the pay. I am not bragging, but speaking of commitment and priorities.
Associational Ministry Directors, Pam, and I have a yearly planning day where we try to avoid conflict. We publish this calendar as early as possible where Church Executive Lay Members can share them with their churches. Conflict is inevitable, commitment is inconvenient, and choice is a matter of priorities.
A day or two ago someone inquired of my commitment, I quoted a sports writer and poet, Grantland Rice, poem “Alumnus Football”:
For when the one great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes -not that you won or lost-
But how you played the game.
For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (II Timothy 1:12b KJV).
 
March 21, 2013
Have you ever put yourself in a sticky situation or gotten into a tangled mess? I do from time to time. Recently Aaron and I were “Super Gluing” a plastic part on the oven. It made me think back to my first job a Keystone Metal Moulding in Clanton after graduating from high school.
There was this guy named Jerry that liked to pull pranks on young, naïve, and unsuspecting new hires. I had never heard of “Super Glue.” Keystone used this new glue to adhere vinyl to anodized aluminum. Jerry told me to hold out my finger to which he placed a drop of this glue. He proceeded to tell me to hold my finger to my thumb. Well, dummy me did as I was told. Jerry the jokester laughed when he told me to try to open my finger and thumb. I could not. Most of Jerry’s victims panicked and ripped their fingers into the quick. I felt foolish, but did not panic. I spent several minutes with my finger and thumb soaking in acetone before the Super Glue dissolved.
I told Aaron the story giving a few minutes for the plastic oven part to dry. Guess what? I could not put the plastic part down. I had glued my thumb and finger to the plastic part. Having been down that idiotic path before, I sent Aaron, who was laughing, to the bathroom to retrieve Sharon’s fingernail polish remover, which contains acetone. After a few minutes of slowing massaging the fingernail polish remover between my fingers and Aaron slowly cutting the glue, I was released from my own entanglement. 
Speaking of tangles, I am always amazed how electrical cords can become so tangled. After undoing a tangled extension cord, I stepped to start the process of rolling up the cord and tripped over the extension cord. I had wrapped the cord around my feet. I don’t think I could have done better it I had tried. I laughed because that was not my first time to tie my feet together by accident.
A Sunday or two ago, we were visiting Calvary Baptist Church. Pastor Irby had a great sermon on drug and alcohol addiction. One of the verses he used was from Proverbs about being caught in our own traps or snares. I immediately thought of an incident at Gallion Baptist Church.
While pastor there, I received a frantic call from the church pianist, Janelle Baker. Bill, her husband and music director, was gone and she had a critical situation. Aaron and I jumped into the truck and went to her rescue.
When we arrived, it was ugly what we found. Bill and Janelle’s favorite beagle, Tuffy, was in a mess. Bill’s rod and reel stood against the garage wall. Tuffy, for some odd reason must have thought she was a fish and decided to catch the fishing lure dangling from the rod. The light brown beagle was red with blood from its mouth and all four paws. Tuffy, other than covered with blood, appeared to be praying with her front paws attached to her mouth. It was bad, but cute.
The best we could decipher was that the beagle got one of the treble hooks in its mouth. When she tried to get it out with its paw, it got hooked. She repeated the process with all her paws. I did not know what to do as the Tuffy whined and whimpered. I had caught a many of catfish, but it was my first “dogfish.”
I asked Janelle if Bill had a pair of wire cutters or pliers. She did not know, so I sent Aaron back to the Pastorium to get my tool bag. When he returned, Janelle and I had calmed Tuffy somewhat, I preformed emergency surgery as Janelle and Aaron held Tuffy.
One by one, I cut the barbs off the treble hooks. Aaron and I giggled. It reminded us of the time I cut a hook from his nose. Jamie, his cousin, hooked Aaron in the nose as she cast her red worm while bass fishing. Aaron had to stand still with a red worm wiggling against his nose as I cut the barb from the hook. That experience enabled me to cut the eight barbs from Tuffy only she was not as obedient as Aaron was.
The episode with Super Glue, electrical extension cords, Tuffy reminds me of our lives and sin. For some odd reason of humanity, we get tangled with the snares of sin. When we try to free ourselves, we are glued, tangled, and hooked even more.
When death and the grave had entangled our Lord, the power of the Resurrection released Him from death and the grave. That power is the power that frees us. Like Tuffy, the harder we try to free ourselves, the more tangled we become.
This is how the God’s Word version of the Bible translates Proverbs 5:22, Irby’s text on “Snares of the Enemy,” A wicked person will be trapped by his own wrongs and he will be caught in the ropes of his own sin.
 
He (Jesus) is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay (Matthew 28:6 KJV).
 
March 7, 2013
 
Down the hill, facing the East is a pink granite headstone in West Chilton County. 
The headstone is unique among the gray granite headstones in the Union Springs Baptist Church Cemetery. The name etched in the pink granite is the only headstone with that name.
I served on the Cemetery Committee for many years. One of the things the committee did was remodeled the cemetery. Don’t laugh, it was in terrible shape. Families had staked out their territories. Bricks, bushes, wrought iron fences, galvanized pipes with chains, and huge flowerpots marked the boundaries. Some family plots had pebbles, some white, other colored. There were rose bushes, daffodils, sweet gum trees, and junipers.
Cleaning the cemetery was an annual event, usually before the Easter weekend. Men and women arrived with rakes, hoes, shovels, wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, weed eaters, and tractors. With the eagerness of worker honeybees, everyone descended on the cemetery to make the resting place of the dead a thing of beauty for the living. I remember moments when I would see people weeping over a grave as they cleaned around it. Most people cleaning the cemetery had loved ones and friends buried there.
Years before the remodeling, the only tool needed was a yard broom made from dogwood saplings. The cemetery, as most yards did not have grass, so most people sweep the bare ground with the yard broom. A bare graveyard with thousands of sweet gums balls makes for hard work. Sweet gum balls in grass, in white pebbles, and all the stuff mentioned above makes it harder.
Even though my dad was not a Christian, he always helped with cleaning the cemetery. In fact, we did not have to beg him to come to church on Easter. I wish more pastors and believers would be more sensitive to families that have a dad or others who only attend church at Easter and Christmas. For a family pleading with tears for a husband and dad to attend church only to have that loved one ridiculed when attending is heart breaking. I know that I was so happy when daddy went to worship with us at Easter and Christmas.
Years before there was a Cemetery Committee and remodeling, one Saturday we were cleaning the cemetery. I have to believe that this catalytic event initiated both. Here is what happened. There was discussion on the difficulty of the annual cleaning. All the stuff in the cemetery had deteriorated with time. Families did not want their sacred territories disturbed, so anyone who violated this unwritten rule was severely reprimanded. As a point of interest, most of these sacred territories belonged to folks who never attended the church. You might say they had been grandfathered into ownership. Their granddaddies planted those trees, and placed all the other stuff. Their descendants continued this process until this incredible moment in time.
Holy indignation built in the cemetery among those who were entrusted with cleaning in preparation of the Holy Week. Holy Sacraments of the cemetery were about to face an episode likened to Jesus cleaning the Temple.
A sweet gum tree towered above a grave on a bare bank. Erosion and sweet gum balls presented a growing problem. Some men of the church huddled in deliberation to conjure a remedy. The verdict was the tree needed to go, but gripped with fear of retaliation from the Sacred Society of Cemetery Relics and Botanical Substance, no one volunteered.
Daddy, who listened at a distance because he was not a member of the church, asked, “Do you want the tree cut down?”
They replied that they did, but feared the repercussions.
Daddy looked at me and said, “Go get the chainsaw.” I went home to get the McCullough daddy used when he logged for a living. Daddy reminded me of Jerry Clower’s cousin Marcel Ledbetter, who used a McCullough to get a soft drink, as he fired up the chain saw and felled the towering sweet gum.
Yeah, the family that said they planted the tree was upset. We did not have to worry about them quitting church because they never came anyway. Eventually, all the sacred relics and botanical substance were gone as were those who wrestled over the decision and those who retaliated. Manicured and groomed, the cemetery looks nice today.
I often shed a tear when I visit that pink granite tombstone with the name Hopper on it. I snigger when I stand at the foot of daddy’s grave. It is just a few feet from where he created the stir in the cemetery and among those from both sides of the issue.
The old song reminds us that when the Lord returns, the cemetery will be a mess with graves bursting open.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. (John 11:25, 34-35 KJV)
    
February 28, 2013
When I received a call about Ray, an old friend, dying in the hospital, I immediately went to see him. While in route to Shelby Baptist Hospital, my mind raced with all kinds of scenarios concerning his demise. I had not heard from Ray in a while. You, as well as I, sometimes let valuable time slip away without talking with old friends. You do not mean for it to happen, but it does. We get busy and time flies.
Ray and I made friends when his wife, Jodi, and he started attending my home church. We were the same age and our children were the same age. Jodi was a childhood friend of mine. Ray accepted Christ as his savior because of a revival that started with a study of the Book of Revelation. Brother Cecil Swell, pastor of West End Baptist Church in Clanton led the study. I wish I had his notes because it was a wonderful study.
Someone had invited Ray’s brother-in-law and Jodi’s brother, Bobby, to the study. When Bobby heard the teaching of Brother Cecil, he was scared to death. Bobby was one of those guys that was scared into the kingdom of God. 
Because of Bobby’s salvation, most of his family became Christians. It was reminiscent of the Philippian jailer in the Book of Acts were the jailer and his whole family were saved and baptized. Ray was one of Bobby’s family members, but the range of Revelation spread well beyond Bobby’s extended family.
Ray was eager to hear, study, and learn God’s Word. I remember spending hours in Bible study with Jodi and him. Our friendship grew as he grew in the Lord. He lived nearby so we jogged together; lifted weights together, ate meals together, and visited together.
I never will forget a Thursday night visitation. Ray and Gary (Scooby) went on visitation with me. Ray witnessed Scooby as they worked together and Scooby became a believer. Both of them were what we term “on fire” for the Lord and they could not wait to share their new faith.
I led them to the house of a fellow that we all knew. I had been there for several visitations, but had no luck. I thought that these “new boys” might have a great influence knowing that they used to drink together. When our acquaintance opened the door, he started cussing, ripping, and tearing into us. I knew he meant no harm, but Ray and Scooby ran as if they met the boogieman. Suddenly, I found myself all alone. Our friend had been snorting a few ounces of alcohol, so I said I would come back later and went to retrieve my two new converts who were hiding behind a car. I reminded them that they were like that at one time.
This was before I surrendered the call into the ministry. I firmly believed that Scooby and Ray were being called into the ministry, not me. They had wonderful testimonies and were growing spiritually by leaps and bounds. I could see God at work in their lives. Even their wives expressed that they did not know if they could be “preacher wives.” 
I did become a deacon and I realized later that I was the one being called into full time ministry. Scooby later became our Sunday School director and Ray became a deacon.
Ray eagerly learned and understood the ministry of being a deacon.
Ray and Jodi’s marriage had started on shaky ground having divorced and remarrying about the time of their salvation. Their commitment to the Lord temporary healed a strained relationship.
As time slipped away, about ten years, the pressure of marriage, kids, and ministry increased. Ray and Jodi separated a second time. Ray volunteered to resign as deacon.
With the divorce final, Jodi married another man and Ray started drinking and slowly slipped back into his old ways. He dated a younger woman and she became pregnant. Ray unfortunately chose alcohol for relief and overdosed trying to escape. With no one to help him, Jodi, with the encouragement of her new husband, stood by Ray’s side in the hospital until he died. Jodi is the one who called me thinking I could encourage Ray.
Jodi met me and gave me the bad news that he would not live very long. I will never forget the look in Ray’s eyes as I tried to communicate with him. He acknowledged me with a penetrating stare from his lifeless body. He was dying with alcoholic chronic pancreatitis or alcohol poising. His body could not digest the excessive overdose of alcohol.
I spent as much time allowed by the hospital that afternoon with Ray and Jodi. Jodi lost the father of her children and I lost a dear brother in Christ. There was some much that Ray and I need to catch up on. I do not know how much Ray comprehended, but one last time our eyes focused on each other as I told him I loved him. I thank God for having known Ray and regret I could not help him.
It has been almost twenty years since Ray died the way he did and I have been asked, “Do you think Ray was saved?” I know he was, but he lost his vision and gave up. Eugene Peterson expresses it in The Message, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what God reveals; they are most blessed.
The King James Version says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18).
 
February 14, 2013
The other day, just moments away from conducting a funeral, I talked with Mel one of the funeral home directors at Martin Funeral home in Clanton. I have known Mel for a long time. His dad is the probate judge up home. Mel, his dad, and uncles operate the funeral home in Clanton. They are very professional, highly respected, and deeply compassionate.
Mel and I go way back to 1982 when I was counselor for the Chilton Baptist Associational Youth Camp at Cook Springs. The camp is between Birmingham and Pell City. I had a group of fourth grade boys, Mel being one of them. I remember that week as if it were last week. Mel had a scared upper lip. At that time, he was a little shy, a little self-conscious, and somewhat, but not completely, withdrawn because of it.
Mel has transformed into an outgoing young man. Mel and his family do a wonderful job with funerals.
Mel, Dr. Rex Kent, former FBC Demopolis pastor, and I spent a moment reminiscing as members of the Oaks family spent time with people paying last respects to AC. When I return to Chilton County for funerals, Mel and his uncles say to me, “This must be a big funeral when they have to call the ‘Big Gun’ in to perform the ceremony.” Friends up home are proud of me, I think. They always say, “I knew you would be a big preacher some day.”
Rex listened as Mel and I reminisced about camp, funerals, and being from Chilton County. Mel told the story of funeral he did for a certain family in the Jemison area. In fact, the family for which I reserve the right of confidentially was one I visited while pastoring my first church. They were members of the community.
I will never forget my first visit. I found an elderly woman in a wheelchair in one of the filthiest houses I have ever called on while visiting for the church. When I visit, most hosts will ask me to forgive them for not having a clean house. If they only knew how some houses look and smell, they would think their homes were fine. All they need is to go on church visitation to realize the how bad things can get.
The house was at the end of an old red dirt road. A flock of geese greeted me and I had to dodge goose droppings along the way. The house was surrounded with junk and trash. A short man in a pair of worn and dirty overalls and sporting an old fedora greeted me. He introduced himself and directed me inside.
As I entered the house, it reeked of foul odors. The little man had a peculiar smell, but nothing like what I was about to experience. In the house was a blend of aromas from gangrene, cat mess, human waste, dog feces, bird excrement, goose droppings, and a blend of urine. Most of this was evident because it covered the 1960’s green shag carpet. Every piece of furniture had an oily film on it and the smell of Prince Albert tobacco was minute compared to the other aromas.
Now, I have a strong constitution as the old timers say, but as I tried to witness blowflies buzzed, the cats rubbed my leg, the dog panted in the heat, the birds fluttered in their cages, the summer heat sweltered, the geese squawked, and my stomach churned. The longer I sat there, the more I felt the need to vomit. I had to excuse myself by saying I needed something from my car and went outside to catch a breath of fresh air and try to keep my dinner down.
Going back outside was a trip of adventure also. This trek was solo, no little man to hold back the geese. Dogs don’t brother me, but geese do. It is a phobia from childhood. As I tried to get fresh air, the geese honked and squawked as they rushed toward me. All I will admit is they will not do it again, I guarantee that.
I frequented the home while pastor in the community and it never got any better. The family did not care or was so accustomed to the filth that it did not affect them.
Mel said that when the woman died, the funeral was unbelievable. He said that the woman was filthy, the funeral procession hilarious, and funeral ceremony odd.
It seems that the only family for the funeral arrived in a worn out and broken down motor home like that of Cousin Eddie in the Chevy Chase movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The family rode in it behind the hearse in the procession. A large Confederate Flag waved in the wind on the rear of the motor home.
Since they had a preacher to conduct the funeral, they decided that they would kill two birds with one stone, no pun intended, and have a wedding. That’s right. They asked the preacher while they had all the family, the church, the marriage license, and him to conduct a wedding. They left the church in a decorated motor home, Conferate Flag waving. I am not making this up. There is no way to make up a story like this.
You have to remember, two pastors and a funeral home director discussed this just moments before praying with a family and conducting a funeral.
Ministry is multifaceted. For most pastors, weddings and funerals are the most stressful. I can only imagine doing them together.
 
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me (Matthew 25:34-36 KJV).
I wish there was a line that said, I was filthy, and ye visited me.
 
January 31, 2013
Well, 2013 is up and running. The Mayan’s got it wrong and the world did not end. I, as a history buff, could not understand why the fret over a Mayan calendar that seemed to anticipate the end of the age on the twenty-first day of December. The end of the Mayan calendar's 13th Baktun was superstitiously feared as a harbinger of the apocalyptic apocalyptic 2012 phenomenon 2012
Triskaidekaphobic, the fear of 13, was coined in 1911. The superstitious sufferers of triskaidekaphobia try to avoid bad luck by avoiding anything numbered or labelled thirteen. For instance most buildings do not a 13th floor. 
Paraskevidekatriaphobia I am not Triskaidekaphobic or Paraskevidekatriaphobic.
Let me share some reasons why I did not worry about the end on December 21, 2012. First, I believe that the rock and roll group the The Fifth Dimension first sung about the Age of Aquarius back in the 1960’s. The date of the Mayans was the time in which the age of Pisces ends and the Age of Aquarius begins. I am not into astrology, but I did like the song.
 
When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!
 
Second, since the Mayan calendar was carved in stone, it may have been that the chisel was worn out or they lost it. Archeologists say that the calendar did not predict the end, but a political change in Guatemala at that time. I think that the world has a distorted view. It is amazing that experts think that the Bible is out of date and out of touch with modern times. People say that the Bible is irrelevant, but those same people will believe some ancient carving in a paganistic and undeveloped country that predicts the end of the age. Go figure!
Finally, the Mayan calendar is a New Age concept. Baptists and New Age are not on the same page theologically. The New Age religion roots in the desire for social transformation in times of economic downturns and environmental tragedies. Uncertainty about the future drives interest in supernatural answers. A recent reality is in the environmental changes were beyond the control of our technology. Mankind has, and will continue to have, the feeling of hopelessness in times of disaster.
Students of the Bible understand that the end of time is not known. The end is certain, but the time of the end is not revealed. We are to be ready when the Lord returns.
When asked about the end on December 20, I was reminded of something daddy told me many years ago. He would always ask, “If the sun does not rise tomorrow, what can you do about it?”
I am looking forward to 2013. I anticipate some great and wonderful things for December 13, 2013. Thirteen is my favorite number along with the number seven. December 13, 2013 is a Friday the 13th and my birthday.  I wish that we had an additional month this year where we could have 131313. I feel that 2013 is my year of great things.
Unfortunately, most folks are Triskaidekaphobic. There are some things about the number 13 in the Bible. At the Last Supper, there are thirteen in attendance. In the 13th Chapter of John, the Last Supper is the focus. In Revelation 13, the Beast and his number, 666, are identified. First Corinthians 13:13 states, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
The longest name of a Bible book, Thessalonians, has 13 characters. The Hebrews marched around Jericho thirteen times. In Revelation, the seven churches have 13 rewards.
In mathematics, the number 13 is the sixth prime number.
My devotional memory verse this week is Jermiah 33:3, Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
I would say Jeremiah 33:3 makes me happy. God is in control of 2013.
 
January17, 2013
It is funny how things pop back into your mind. Sometimes it is something you may smell, it is a word, or name spoken, or it is an event unleashing a flood of memories.
The other day a load of pine timber passed in front of the Bethel office. Suddenly, I was transported back to the pulpwood days of growing up in Chilton County. Stumbling through the woods, tripping over vines, and falling over stumps with a ten-inch stick of pulpwood on your shoulder is comical now, but frustrating back then. I did learn to fall gracefully without injury. It was great off-season training for football.
When a truckload of pine lumber passed me the other day, I thought about all the houses that I helped Brother Bill Langston build. Building houses was much more fun than loading pulpwood and carpentry paid more too. Lumber is much cleaner than pulpwood. Shoulder loading pine timber from woods burned annually results in smutty necks and arms that are very hard to clean, especially when you wash yourself in a washtub or pan. Pine rosin from pulpwood and fresh sawed lumber is hard to remove. Usually, you wear it off.
I received a call the other day informing me that a member from the first church I pastored passed away. The family of AC Oaks wanted me to have a part in the funeral service. It is important when a member of a church that you pastored thirty years ago wants you to say a few words. I feel fortunate in that every church I pastored, I left it on good terms and could return. I know that there are churches that do not want former pastors back and there are pastors that do not want an invitation to return for any reason. Thirty years in the ministry seems like yesterday. When I first started, it seemed unattainable.
AC was a true friend and mentor at the beginning of my tenure. As I met with his wife Peggy and their children I immediately thought of all the good times I share with them. Sharon and I had the privilege to commune with them more time than I could count. Fellowship, the church we all ministered, was a small church of about fifteen in attendance. 
I remember the first Sunday I met the Oaks family. I attended school with AC’s children and was attending the University of Montevallo with his daughter-in-law. I had seen AC on many occasions, but I never had met him personally until that first Sunday I was at Fellowship to supply. 
After supplying for three Sundays, Fellowship extended a call to me to be pastor. It was a challenge and opportunity to live out my calling. The church had been in existence for a short time. Fellowship started the Baptist way, a church split. Sixty-eight members left a neighboring church and started a new church in an old and outdated Methodist church.
Full of enthusiasm, members of Fellowship dug a basement beside the old church. It did not take long for the excitement to turn to an exodus. When the money ran out, it took the motivation and members with it.
I became their third pastor. There was no money, no motivation, and no morale. The church was three months behind on the church payment, the butane gas was empty and the gas company would not refill, and the electricity was in the process of disconnection.
AC and family were pioneers. That is what a member of the Alabama State Board of Missions called the remaining members. AC was dedicated to Fellowship. AC was an emotion man. I think that his frequent bouts with sickness personified his emotions. I thank God for his wisdom and leadership. In less than three years, Fellowship Baptist Church paid all delinquent bills, purchased a new piano, waterproofed the abandoned basement, and had two thousand dollars n a building fund.
I remember one Sunday that the old church was so cold that there was frost on the piano. We had a modified Sunday School and Worship and everyone went to AC and Peggy’s to thaw. Another time there was a blizzard during an associational brotherhood breakfast and before the men could attend morning worship, we cancelled church. AC and I went to the church to be there incase someone came that morning. The church was near Interstate 65 and we thought someone might be stranded and need a place to weather the snow and ice.
There are plenty of stories. One we celebrated at the wake was the cantata we did. We had more in the cantata than were in the audience. We laughed about cantata, but we performed it for the Lord and five church members. AC thought the cantata was great.
One morning a young girl rode a small motor scooter round and round the church. We played that the scooter stop annoying us. God honored the prayer and the scooter quit.
AC supported me when I was a novice pastor. He encouraged me in the ministry and we talked many time through the years. I thank God for AC and our relationship.
When I think of Fellowship Baptist Church and AC, I remember Paul’s words to the Church at Philippi: I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6 KJV)
 
December 13, 2012
I looked into the eyes of parents and children Saturday Night during Linden’s Christmas Parade. Some were screaming in anticipation of candy, beads, or a T-shirt. Some were downright ugly in there pleas for these condiments of Christmas.
Santa and his little helper tossed beads, candy, pencils, T-shirts, and stuffed animals toward what are normally, upstanding citizens, of the hamlet of West Alabama. Mixed with the screams for objects of Christmas cheer were the occasional shout about the reality of jolly fat man dressed in red and white atop the fire engine.
There in the crowd was a mother snatching the gift from her son and a dad holding a small child that was too timid to scream at those on the parade floats. Scuffling boys competed for pencils and beads as police and volunteers directed traffic insuring that everyone had opportunity to get the simple gifts dispersed by Old Saint Nick and his small assistant.
It is said that the Christmas season brings out the best in people. I saw that disappear for a few moments in the parade. The debacle of momentary insanity on the crowded sidewalks of downtown is akin to catfish in a pond at feeding time. Everyone is grabbing for penny Annie candy and cheap beads. Santa had to instruct a man that the purple hippo tossed to a small, shy little girl was her not him. He looked miffed, but the joy of the little girl gave through her smile was priceless. Santa had tossed her a stuffed animal.
I have to ask the question why do people act so bizarre at events such as parades. As took my early morning walk the following morning, beads, various hard candies, and wrappers desecrated the streets that were decorated for Christmas. Gone were the vendors, most of the rides, the laughter, and the excitement. Now, the hum of a generator stirred the morning fog. Linden looked like a desolate place. Pieces of dropped and discarded food were now the property of ants and other assorted insects collecting for the approaching storm. Dogs, cats, and many other varmints feasted on the waste of having a good time and celebrating Christmas.
I suppose that Bethlehem was like that the morning that Jesus lay in the manger. The night before was bustling with excitement. People from distant lands returned home to complete the census for the Roman government. I wonder who my ancient counterpart was the morning after the Shepherds and the Heavenly host had visited the place where the Messiah was born. I wonder what sounds hummed that morning and if Bethlehem looked like a deserted place.
I am inclined to think that very little changed that morning in Bethlehem, but I am sure that the Shepherds did more than hum. They were witnesses to the birth of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Lots of hard work goes into hosting a parade and I am thankful to live in a town, county, and country where we have parades celebrating magnificent moments in our being. My prayer is that God’s people share the true meaning of magnificent moments to a world that wants and settles for hangouts.
The look in the eyes of spectators is haunting. Screaming, pushing, and shoving for what the poet A. E. Houseman termed “endless rue” is the nature of society. The real purpose of the parade is priceless. God gave us Himself.
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son (Galatians 4:4a KJV).
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger (Luke 2:11-12 KJV).
 
Remember in a time where fear and anxiety rule, God remains King of kings and Lord of lords. Candy, beads, and things are the condiments of Christmas. Jesus is the true gift of hope and peace.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
 
December 03, 2012
The Christmas season initiates the coming of the New Year. It is appropriate that Jesus’ birth marks a new covenant between God and His people. On that note, I want to encourage you to help make a new ministry in Bethel Baptist Association a reality and success. It is Ebenezer Christian Seminary.
The Gordon & Berta Lee White Center of Biblical Studies, which is a Division of Ebenezer Ministries, now has the physical facilities and the instructors to offer laypersons and Bi-Vocational Pastors high quality seminary training. There are, however, significant differences between this seminary and most education institutions in the seminary bracket. This program of education and training is designed for the busy layperson and Bi-Vocational Pastor who has only a limited amount of time, but who wants a high quality theological education. The layout of the program will offer the opportunity of gaining a better knowledge of the Bible, theology, church history, church leadership, evangelism, missions, and world religions all designed to make your church life, your home life, and your personal life more satisfying, along with a well rounded theological education.
Have you always wanted a seminary degree? Well, here is your opportunity. In three short years, with learning made fun, you can earn the Degree of Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, Master of Arts Degree in Biblical Studies, or the Doctor of Ministry in one year beyond the Master’s Degree, issued by The Ebenezer Christian Seminary, a Division of Ebenezer Ministries.
In order for you to graduate from The Ebenezer Christian Seminary and receive the Degree of Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, you must complete three full years of study. This study includes nineteen different subjects, which will give you a well-rounded Theological education. To complete the Master's program will require two years of study with twelve courses. We have also established a program that if it is necessary for you to miss one of the classes you can contact our Seminary Director and make up the class by using the DVD for that class along with the syllabus. In other words, even if you have to miss, you can always make it up. The Doctor of Ministry requires two years beyond the Master’s. See your Major Professor for courses and time of meetings.
The following is an overview of some of the significant advantages of this educational program:
1.      Excellent physical facilities, located at Bethel Baptist Association in Linden, Alabama.
2.      Well qualified instructors.
3.      Classes are one hour in length.
4.      Courses run for four consecutive Tuesday nights or Thursday nights from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
5.      Between five and seven courses are offered each year, depending on the degree sought.
6.      Excellent library resource on campus.
7.      No tests or term papers required for the Bachelor's Degree, but class attendance is required. We have other requirements for our Distance learning, Master's Degree, and Doctor Degree students. Please visit www.ebenezerseminary.com for details on our Distance Learning Program
8.      Modest tuition of $50.00 per course.
9.      The student can take one course or as many as desired. The cycle of training repeats itself every one to three years, depending on which Degree is sought. You can start your training anywhere along the line and complete in the time frame required for that Degree. Find your time of start in the curriculum and go forward from there, whether it be first, second, or third year. The Master's Program is the same, except it runs for two years, and the Doctor’s program two additional years.
10. The Bachelor's program runs three years with nineteen subjects offered. The Master's program runs for two years with twelve subjects offered. There is another schedule for the Doctor’s program. 
11. Each class is conducted in a friendly, comfortable Christian atmosphere with snacks on hand for your refreshment.
12.  The student that completes the full program will receive the Degree of Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, the Degree of Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, or the Doctor of Ministry issued by The Ebenezer Christian Seminary, a Division of the Gordon and Berta Lee White Center of Biblical Studies, which is a Division of Ebenezer Ministries.
If you are interested or know someone that would benefit from these studies, we have the catalogs at the office. Our first class, A Look at the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, starts January 3, 2012.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (Second Timothy 2:5 KJV).
 
November 13, 2012
As the football season draws to a close and the football bowl season starts, we know that it is the holiday season. It is a time of giving thanks, celebrating Christ, ending another year, and making new resolutions.
Family gatherings, festive merriment, and financial exertions will deplete our good nature, drain our energy, and depress our banking accounts. Each of us will enter the New Year tired.
Take a moment to reflect on the game of football. It has been said that at a college stadium, there are twenty-two players in need of rest and ninety thousand spectators in need of exercise and that is at the game not counting the hundreds of thousands that are watching on television.
The truth is that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is everything but a time of Holy day reflection. Most everyone will start the New Year tired and exhausted. As my daddy would say about vacations, “Son, I got to go back to work to rest.”
If you are like me, there are times when I have been tired and in need of rest when the unexpected happens. Suddenly, totally exhausted we must find energy to continue.
While attending the University of Montevallo, I found myself in that situation on several occasions. One of those times, I was working full time at the cement plant, taking a full course (12 hours) at the University, and pastoring the Brierfield Baptist Church. I worked rotation shifts at the plant and had to swap my day shifts and evenings for evenings and midnights. Truman, the co-worker that I swapped, loved the conditions. I needed to do what I thought would help me live my call in the ministry.
After working a Saturday midnight, I went home, took a nap, got up, showered went to church, preached, ate dinner, took a nap, went to church, went home, and went to work Sunday midnight. Monday morning I showered at the plant, and went to classes at the University. My last class was physical education, a course in tennis. I played tennis with an eighteen-year-old girl who beat me. I was thirty-five and running on caffeine having not slept much since starting midnights.
I got home needing to get some rest before working Monday midnight. Getting ready to sleep I got a call from the cement plant to report to work. The evening shift man did not report to work and there was an emergency. I tried my best to convince them that I had no sleep and could not work. I was an oiler on the cement kilns.
Have you ever noticed how plant safety or any other employee rules go out the window in times of emergency? The evening supervisor told me that if I needed to sleep, I could sleep in the control room. Sleeping on the job meant termination on normal days.
I went to work and pulled a double, working the evening shift and the midnight shift. I was tired on Tuesday morning. I took a good hot shower at the plant and went to two classes at the University. When I got home Tuesday afternoon, I died for a few hours. By the way, I did not sleep on that double shift. I worked for those sixteen hours.
Life is full of times when trouble comes when needing rest. We have all been there.
After a very exhausting day of ministry and work, Jesus instructed the disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee. While in route to the other side, a violent storm arose. The area in which the disciples were caught in the storm was not an area where storms usually occurred. It was dark and the boat tossed back and forth causing the disciples to panic. It is bad when veteran fisherman panic. Jesus was asleep in the bottom of the boat, but He got up to serve.
There is a lesson for us. The disciples forgot that hope, Jesus, was in the boat. They wanted to rest but they had to serve, wanted to rest but had to work, wanted to rest but had to pray, wanted to rest but had to continue, and wanted to rest but had to glorify God.
And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, what manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:35-41 KJV)
 
 
November 1, 2012
The other day I studied my hands. Gone were the callouses from hard work. I remember using fingernail clips and scissors to trim the callouses. Sometimes the callouses would crack open and become sore. At times, my hands would be so rough that I could not rub my hands across fine linen without snagging the material. Loading paperwood, using wrenches, and handing hoes, picks, and shovels make callouses.
Gone are oil and grease stains. My hands were always in something greasy or in burnt motor oil. Growing up poor, my daddy, brothers, and I did a lot of repair to worn out and broke down equipment. Burnt motor oil and dirty grease are two of the hardest things to clean off your hands. Grease and oil under the fingernails will stain the nails. An old friend, whom I saw at a wake this week, taught me to scrape hand soap under my nails before working in grease and oil prevents stains. Clean oil and WD 40 will also help clean-burnt oil and nasty grease.
Gone from my hands were the stains and smells of “hawg killin’.” Pigs love nasty. Scaldin’ and pullin’ hair on a 300lb nasty pig will stain your hands. I had to wear off the smell and the stain.
Gone are the splinters, the black fingernails, cuts, and scrapes. I have had some booger splinters. I had one go deep under a fingernail. Momma had to cut the nail deep into the “quick,” almost the whole nail, just to use tweezers to pull it out from under the nail. I remember pulling the nail off my middle finger when I shut it in the front door. My hands have been so sore that it hurt to use them.
That’s enough about my hands. I shake a lot of hands and I take notice of the hands I hold. Hands reflect the person. I noticed the calloused hands of a lady the other day. It had been a long time since I felt a female hand that calloused. I knew the lady worked hard with her hands.
I notice that many of my colleagues in the full-time ministry have soft hands. They tend to be very protective of their hands and have a flimsy shake. I think to myself, oooh. I notice that some of these soft-handed colleagues have small bottles hand sanitizers and cleanse their hands after shaking hands. Sometimes I wish that these colleagues would have a clinic on hand sanitation for some of the folks in fast food restaurants business.
Most folks have firm handshakes. Every once in a while, I get a fellow that wants to show me how strong he is and how weak I am. You know the one that squeezes your hand where your fingers twist together and if you are wearing a ring, the impression of the ring lingers on the finger for a while. A doctor friend showed me how to prevent “My hand is a vice, you whimp” technique.
I try not to hurt the hands of people when shaking. Arthritis has cripples some hands. Some hands are small and tender.
As I examined my hands I thought of the song, Daddy’s Hands, Holly Dunn recorded.
    
I remember Daddy’s hands, folded silently in prayer.
And reaching out to hold me, when I had a nightmare.
You could read quite a story, in the callouses and lines.
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind.
I remember Daddy’s hands, how they held my Mama tight,
And patted my back, for something done right.
There are things that I’ve forgotten, that I loved about the man,
But I’ll always remember the love in Daddy’s hands.

Daddy's hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy’s hands, were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands, weren’t always gentle
But I’ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy’s hands.

I remember Daddy’s hands, working 'til they bled.
Sacrificed unselfishly, just to keep us all fed.
If I could do things over, I’d live my life again.
And never take for granted the love in Daddy’s hands.

Daddy's hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy’s hands, were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands, weren’t always gentle
But I’ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy’s hands.

Daddy's hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy’s hands, were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands, weren’t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love...
In Daddy’s hands.
 
I think of my daddy’s hands when I hear this song. His hands were big and strong. I also think of Jesus’ hands. I have to believe that his hands were calloused and scared from years of carpentry. I wonder what the Roman soldier thought as he nailed Jesus’ hands to the cross. I am sure it was not the same as those that Jesus touched.
Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them (Luke 4:40 KJV).
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God. . . (John 13:3 KJV).
 
October 25, 2012
Has anyone ever asked you to do something and you thought, “that’s too simple and it will not work.” While reading my devotion I came across the word “exponentially.” What was odd, I heard “growing exponential” in a sermon the day before. Sometimes when I do not know what a word means, I generally see how it is used in the sentence. This time, since it crossed my path twice, I looked it up. The definition did not help so I looked to see a common sense use of “exponentially.”
What I found was an old math equation using a penny. It goes like this: Would you work for a day for a penny if I doubled it every day for 30 days? Most people say no. In fact, I asked Pam and she said no. I would!
If I work for a penny a day, $0.01, and double it each day on the thirtieth day, I would be paid $10,737,418.24 for that day. Did I ever tell you that algebra was the easiest subject I ever took? This exponential function can be represented by the equation: f(x) = 0.01(2x) where x = the day number. If you plug in 30 for x, you get f(x) = 0.01×230 = 10,737,418.24. The problem, no pun intended, is the simplicity of a penny a day.
Take my friend Keilan. After winter shut down at the cement plant, Keilan and I were in the process of starting up the cement kilns. The coal hoppers had a slide at the bottom above the coal mills. Normally it took someone hammering the slide out of the hopper. It was hard to open when the hoppers were empty and very difficult when tons of coal was on top of the slide. Knowing how problematical it was, I had greased the slide before pushing it in place when the hopper emptied for shutdown. The shift supervisor instructed Keilan to make sure the slide was out while the tanks were empty.
Keilan could not find a sledgehammer. Usually, they were everywhere. I inquired why he needed a sledgehammer. Keilan could be easily frustrated; worried coal would be put into the hoppers before he could get the slide out. He had a few special words for me and again asked if I knew where there was a sledgehammer. I asked him if he had tried to pull the slide out of the hopper. I got a few choice words explaining that it was impossible to do that.
Keilan did not know was while he was in search of the hiding sledgehammers I went to see if I could pull out the slide knowing I had greased it while the hopper was empty. It pulled right out. I pushed it back in for a little fun with Keilan.
The bamboozled Keilan returned with no sledgehammer. I asked again if he had tried to pull out the slide. After a few more inapt words from him and some persuading words from me, Keilan consented to try to pull the slide. 
If I had not caught him, he yanked the slide with the fury of an agitated Hercules; he would have gone over a safety rail and fallen twenty feet onto concrete. It was funny and Keilan and the slide, which weighed about seventy-five lbs., were heavy. I think Keilan would have tried to kill me, but he was too indebted since I caught him. Again, the solution was too simple.
On another occasion, my friend Bailey, a carpenter at the University of Montevallo, had spent several days and several dollars taking his infant daughter Ashleigh to the pediatrician to cure oral thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth caused by an overgrowth of fungus. I worked four years with Bailey. A co-worker and I said the old timers called it “thrash” and that he should take Ashleigh to a “thrash doctor.” That’s where I took my children. My Grandmoe Chapman was a thrash doctor.
Bailey was a college graduate and was reluctant to believe what he termed voodoo and old wives tales. Ashleigh grew worse, Bailey spent more money, and we encouraged him to use a thrash doctor.
One day an officer from the University police department visited the carpenter shop for a cup of coffee. The morning conversation was the status of Ashleigh’s mouth and Bailey’s checking account. Hearing our advice to see the thrash doctor, which do not charge for services rendered, Officer Satterwhite advised Bailey to take her to the thrash doctor. Not believing my co-worker and me, Bailey took Ashleigh to Officer Satterwhite’s mother, a thrash doctor. One trip healed Ashleigh. The solution was too simple.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (II Kings 5:9-14 KJV).


 
 
 
October 11, 2012
Returning from a conference in Montgomery, I made a pit stop at a service station across from the Air National Guard. I always stop there. In fact, when Sharon and I were returning from our anniversary get-a-way, we stopped there. We saw some folks from Forest Hill stopped there also.
As I drove into the parking lot, I noticed that there were several people at the gas pumps, a tanker truck was filling the store’s holding tanks, and people were doing as I was. I noticed one of the clerks standing in the door talking with a customer. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, I witnessed this before at this particular station.
As I approached her, I say excuse me. She said, “I’m sorry the station’s system is down.” I thought she was referring to the gas pumps because the external gas tanks were being filled.
I told her that I wanted to buy a soft drink and a candy bar. She said she could not make any transactions because the system was down. I told her that surely she could figure the cost of a soft drink and a candy bar. She said she couldn’t.
All of a sudden, my mind raced back some twenty to thirty years earlier at a Sears Department store in Vestavia. On that day, there was a thunderstorm and the electricity had been off for just a few moments. I was in the check out and the clerk said she could not check me out because the register was not working. Now remember, this was when scanning items was in its infancy. I noticed that the old cash register was still at the check out counter. I asked the clerk if she could use the old register or a calculator. Her answer shocked me. She said she did not know how to use them.
Another thought I had was an episode at the old Food World in Demopolis. Sharon and I for years would do grocery shopping late at night. Being from “the sticks” in Chilton County, we had to travel thirty-five miles to the Food World in Pelham. Not getting out much, we would make the trek about once a month throwing in an opportunity to eat at Quincy’s Steak House. We just got into the habit of going at night.
At the Demopolis Food World, we were in the checkout line around ten pm when the Food World central office in Birmingham shut down all computers to do a recalculation or calibration.
It was mass chaos. Some folks were in the process of checking out. All open registers were two to three deep with buggies and no one knew when the system would reload. Several people got irritated, left their buggies, and went home. The system came back up just as some were exiting.
As I write article, Pam is having trouble with logging church letters. The Adobe Reader system continuous shuts down. I spent thirty minutes with her trying to update or reinstalling the Adobe Reader. Our office work depends on the system working. The process of updating and adding programs to the system never ends.
After the system shut down in Montgomery, I read this statement in the October 1, 2012 issue of Time Magazine: “Technology makes us forget what we know about life.” Our technological know how is preventing us from the everyday know how of living.
These system shut downs remind me of predictions of the future from preachers, writers, and old folk in the past. They said that the Bible speaks of a time when there will be plenty, but no one can buy. The service station had plenty of merchandize, but no one could purchase it. It is frightening see how easy the world as we knew could quickly shut down. With each passing day and each advancement in technology, we become more vulnerable to system shutdowns. When one thinks of that possibility of vulnerability, how easy would it be for a person or group to disable and dismantle life as we know it?
Life is not about systems. Systems fail. We must remind ourselves that we cannot allow systems to uneducate or dumb down us about life and how to survive. The Scriptures remind of a time when systems fail:
 
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine (Revelation 6:6 KJV).
 
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six (Revelation 13:16-18 KJV.)
 
Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse says the above verse means, “The poor are getting poorer; and the rich are still able to retain their luxuries.” He continues, “One of the great criticisms of the present time is there is scarcity in midst of plenty. This is the situation which will be accentuated a thousandfold when the Antichrist begins his reign. It is social maladjustment.”
Dr. M.D. DeHann says that the oil and the wine are symbols of wealth and the wealthy will have sufficient food for a time. The poor will give a day’s wages for wheat and barley and the rich will be left untouched until the money is gone. 
Dr. DeHann wrote these words in 1948. Dr. Barnhouse wrote his in 1971.  We are witnessing seeing signs today.
These verses show us that in the future there will be plenty to buy, but most will not have the resources or opportunity.
 
September 27, 2012 
Have you ever had this brilliant thought or idea but did not take the time or have a means to write it down? Sometimes I will read or hear something that gives me an idea for an article or sermon thinking I will remember only to forget it when I need to recall it.
The great theologian, preacher, and writer Hershel Hobbs grew up in Chilton County and was the principal writer of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message. He said that he would take time to write himself notes when he heard or thought of something inspiring. He had a great system writing books. He wrote his books one thought, or sentence, at a time. Sometimes he wrote a paragraph a time. My system is I write at one sitting.
I often get inspiration from reading, from everyday occurrences, from hearing sermons, and from observing people. Sometimes things happen that I never forget and at other times, I quickly forget them.
The other day as I entered the carport, I reminded myself that I needed to purchase some new filters for the air-conditioner system for our home in Jemison. I stopped and giggled, remembering that the house was no longer there losing it to the fire in July. I remember minute details of every part of the house. Now these things are memories of something that no longer exists.
I can close my eyes and see the cement plant and the area where I operated the cement kilns. I see the handrails, the overhead hoists, the catwalk, and the kilns rotating as a roaring flame blazes within them. These no longer exist. Now, they are images of my mind or details of something that I write.
There are multitudes of things I experienced that I wish I had captured them on film, in a recording, or just took the time to write about them. Often, there was no availability of pencil and paper. Words of inspiration need to be penned or etched in our minds, but also written down.
Failure to pass down words of inspiration deprives society of motivation, stimulation, and encouragement. Reading this article you may recall the words from people long ago that inspire you today. Remember, if no one takes the initiative to write down an occurrence, over time it is lost, embellished, becomes legend, or is distorted. Most nations fail because they do not read history.
Have you ever noticed how you cannot recall an event or a person then suddenly something triggers your memory and all at once your minds floods with total recall of the experience.
A few Sundays ago, I preached homecoming at a former church. While I was pastor there, the church built a family life center. The congregation did most of the work. In recent months, the church has experienced some electrical problems. A member of the buildings and grounds called me to see if I knew where the schematics for the electricity were located. I helped do the wiring. There was no electrical blueprint. What we had were hand drawn by a member, Richard, of the building committee 15 years ago. Richard died several years ago and no one knew where they were. I told the building grounds member that Richard had folded them and placed them on top of the control panel. There were unsuccessful in locating them.
The Sunday of my visit, they inquired again as to the schematics whereabouts. I went to the control panel and over the past 15 years, someone moved them to an adjacent piece of ductwork. I could see Richard folding the schematics and saying to me, “I’m putting these here so if we have to work on the wiring, we won’t have to look for them.” 
God created us to respond to sight, sound, touch, and smell which trigger or memory. Every time I smell fresh cut pine timber, I think of cutting and loading pulpwood or helping frame a new house. When I smell yeast rolls cooking, I think of the lunchroom at Jemison High School or Ms. Ruby Smith’s cinnamon rolls. Now that I have written of them, once held captive, these moments are released to create encouragement.
Transferring a thought or an idea to someone or making a hard copy takes a moment. We live life in magnificent moments. Those that capture those moments provide us with guidance and tangible snippets enabling us to face the uncertainties of life. A moment of collecting thoughts can become a way of life or the change of course for those that are inspired by it.
The other day Sharon and I were looking for information for the insurance company in settlement of losing the house. Sharon found my mommas last will and testament. For a few moments, I revisited some things momma wanted done at her death. Captured with ink on paper by my sister were some of the last words that momma spoke.
Hand drawn schematics, last will and testaments, notes scribbled on paper assist to jog our memory. Words of inspiration come are diverse in origin. God’s Word is the greatest source for inspiration. I am glad that the writers of our Bible took time to scribe God’s Word for us to read.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name (John 20:30-31 KJV).
PS: When I started this article, I could not recall any thing inspiring.
 
 
September 13, 2012
As I write this article, I write with sadness. The person most responsible for my writing, Dr. Calvin Miller, passed away a couple of weeks ago.
I received an e-mail from Dr. Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School a few days prior to Dr. Miller’s death asking me to pray for Dr. Miller having quadruple by-pass surgery. He was in intensive care. I sent Dr. Miller a get well note. The next e-mail stated that he was recovering and requested that he have no visitors.
When I received a third e-mail, I had this sick gut feeling as I opened it. My intuition was correct. Dr. Miller passed away while in intensive care.
Baptists lost a great Theologian, a great orator, a great writer, and a dozen other talents of his genius. Sharon asked him if he was first in line when God handed out gifts. The man could paint, play the piano, and write poetry. His home looked like a botanical garden. When asked about it, he said he designed it and did all the work with the exception of running the heavy equipment.
Baptists lost a great leader, but I lost a friend and mentor. One evening at a cookout at his home in Trussville, he shared with his students some qualities that each of us possessed and encouraged us to extend those gifts and gain some new ones along the way.
It was an amazing evening with Dr. Miller. I could not believe that he had invited Sharon and me to his home. I do not remember the first time I heard of Dr. Miller, but I remember reading one of his many books. He also had an article in the SBC Life magazine.   I remember telling a SBC Life representative that fifty percent of the reason I read the magazine was Dr. Miller’s article. The other fifty percent was Dr. Charles Lowry’s article. Both do not write any longer and I do not have any reason to read it.
I do not remember the first time I met Dr. Miller in person, but it was a thrill to meet him. It was a greater thrill to have studied under his teaching. He taught me so much about the mechanics of preaching and all the spiritual preparation that the art of preaching involves.
In preaching class he told me that I had great movement in the pulpit. He said that movement should be an important element of preaching and that God had gifted me with movement. He said that I had the gift of preaching. That night at the cookout at his home he surprised me with another statement.
While sitting around a fire, he said Bobby, you are a good writer. I was shocked. I struggle with writing. One reason is I am a terrible speller with a very limited vocabulary. I sat there in amazement because of the ten students around the fire; I felt the least of writers. That night he said that I should do more writing.
One of the biggest things I have ever written was my dissertation for my doctorate. I waited two years after the class work to do the dissertation. I blocked off two weeks after doing my project to write it. I had two English teachers, one from the University of Alabama and one from Greensboro High School, from my church in Gallion to grade it before I turn it in to my doctoral committee at Beeson. My committee was Dr. Robert Smith, chair, Dr. Louis Drummond, and Dr. Calvin Miller. The English teachers made a few suggestions, but found the dissertation to be without error and wanted to know if I wrote it by myself. I get that response quite often.
When it came time to face my doctoral committee for what is called “Orals” or oral examination, I waited in a cold sweat outside the examination chamber which felt like a torture chamber. When Dr. Drummond saw me, he said that Dr. Miller had a “bone to pick with me.” Now I was scared. I will never forget what Dr. Miller did. As he approached me, he grabbed me by the lapels on my suit and pulled me toward him.
He said, “Bobby, if that is not the best dissertation that I have ever read, it is the second best that I have ever read.” I stood there in amazement. Suddenly, I experienced calmness for the orals.
During the orals, the committee talked of what a great dissertation it was. I had heard of how committees would chew up the dissertations and the students making them rewrite and resubmit them. Dr. Drummond said excellent work. Dr. Smith said it was good, but he wanted one more paragraph on the Holy Spirit knowing that Baptists were a little intimidated by the Holy Spirit. Dr. Miller was the only one, including the two English teachers, and two spelling and grammar checks that found a mistake. I used “we” instead of “were” in one sentence. It read okay, but Dr. Miller knew it was the wrong word.
Dr. Miller did say that the dissertation was the most doctrinal and theological sound that he ever read. I have sticky notes on the original dissertation were Dr. Miller placed them.
I wondered how I could Dr. Miller to Bethel. One day he called me. He said,” Bobby, you know that you are the only Beeson graduate to be a Director of Missions?” I said, “No sir.” He said I would like to come speak to your pastors and their wives. He came and I was thrilled.
The last time I spoke with him, he told me to continue to write and that he enjoyed my two books.
Thanks for the encouragement Dr. Miller. Most of all, thanks Dr. Miller for being a mentor and friend.
 
 
August 23, 2012
Do you enjoy your job? Has your vocation brought real satisfaction? Most people dislike their work. I read a list of the 10 most disliked vocations. At the top of the list was Security Officer. I immediately thought about some of the Security Officers I have known.
My first experience with a Security Officer was at Keystone Metal Moulding in Clanton. I cannot remember his name, but he was a short thin man. He had an abundance of information for an eighteen year old. Every day about 2:30, the time arrived to start the evening shift; my security friend would stop me and share a nugget of wisdom.
His experience of operating a service station, you remember those gas stations that checked your oil level, checked your tire pressure, and cleaned your windshield, created an opportunity for him to meet people from all over the United States. I remember that he did not have much respect for Yankees. He reminded me occasionally that Yankees traveling through the South had a distain and a host of derogatory remarks for Southerners, especially Alabamians.
He once told of an occasion were he tired of hearing the same old Yankee put down and responded with a very appropriate rebuttal. Many years later, I used his rebuttal, now I had to clean up the language, at a toxic waste rally in Calera. I was asked by the community group CARE (Citizens Alliance for Respect of the Environment) repeal a State issued permit for the dumping, the storing, and the burning of hazardous materials at the Calera Cement Plant. Unknown by the citizens, the permit included both toxic and radioactive materials, in central Alabama. The morning after using the rebuttal, a professor from the University of Montevallo caught me at the Montevallo Hardees. He asked if what I said was what the exact words of security officer said. I said yes, excepting that, I used two medical terms in place of two slang terms. By the way, that night at the rally I got a standing ovation for my famous edited quote.
Speaking of the cement plant, I had a memorable experience with another unforgettable security guard. This one took his job just a little too serious. Webb was a short, overweight, chain smoking, weapon fanatic who reminded you of Sergeant Shultz of the Hogan’s Hero sitcom of the late 1960’s. The only difference Shultz “knew nothing” and Webb knew everything from microbiology to the secrets of the universe.
He watched the main entrance of the plant like a hawk. He stood with his feet pointed out and rocked back and forth. He talked to himself. He appeared never to bathe and his elbows looked like patches on the sleeves of a sports coat. 
No one liked Webb. He was consumed, or maybe possessed, with automatic weapons, grenades, bazookas, and all manners of total and final destruction. To be trapped by him in his small security building was pure torture. 
Webb was in his mid forties and besides being the poster boy for obese Alabama, he lived with his mother. Sometimes he would inspect our lunch pails when leaving the plant, trying to catch someone stealing from the plant.
One day an employee, Lucas, teased Webb about stealing a can of WD40. Webb being the Pharisee of security guards about rules and regulations quoted from the contract concerning employees removing items from the plant. Any item removed had to have an authorized permission slip.
Webb watched Lucas like the proverbial hawk. Most employees could have taken almost anything during those few days. Webb’s eyes were fixed on Lucas. Finally, the showdown came just like two gunslingers from the Old West. As Lucas left the plant, he sprayed some WD40 at Webb.
Two days later as I drove to work, the plant entrance was blocked. Being the simply minded person I am, I thought there had been a train wreck since the tracks were at the main entrance. As I inquired of the situation, I learned that the employees of the plant were on what called a “Wildcat Strike.” I did not have my probationary time completed. Although the guys encouraged me to go to work, I knew better than to pass a union’s picket line. So, for twenty-three hours Webb and Lucas shut the plant down all because of a discarded WD 40 canister. Discarded WD40 cans were all over the plant. I learned later that Webb should have been concerned with outside contractors that permanently borrowed welding machines that he watched leave the plant.
Lucas went back to being electrician and Lieutenant Webb went back to being the most trained and over qualified security guard to wear a security uniform.
I believe that most people that dislike their jobs are not living out God’s call for their lives. If you find your niche and enjoy what you do, work becomes more enjoyable. If you work for the money and dislike the work, it makes for a long day.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness (Isaiah 55:2 KJV).
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24 KJV).
In memory of “Red Childs” of FBC Demopolis who enjoyed my articles, especially cement plant stories.
 
August 9, 2012
Time Magazine has an article entitled Sign of the Apocalypse. I was made aware of the Sign of the Apocalypse the other day when I made a trip to the Chilton County Water Authority in Thorsby. It was one of those deals where I had to be there. I had called to see why the water authority had turned off the water to a piece of property that I bought adjacent to my home in Jemison.
It is the policy of the authority to turn off the water when there is a land transaction. I had bought the property a year ago and I was ignorant of the fact that the water authority had such a policy to lock and eventually remove the water meter. I was one of the original property owners that helped create the county water system and I had a place for a meter on my property but never used it because I have a good well.
After a few months of not needing county water, the water authority removed the meter. When I called concerning the water and the missing meter, the authority told me that they had removed it and that I had to show proof that I bought the property. I had to produce legal documentation that verified that I owned the property and I had to produce a photo ID to prove I was who I said I was and that the reconnect fee was $100.
When I arrived at the Chilton County Water Authority, I thought I had mistakenly entered a convenient store late at night. I had never been in the facility, but I had passed it on many occasions. In fact, I went by it every day that I went to church as pastor of Friendship in Clanton. I never would have imagined the tight security inside. The secretaries were behind what I detected as bulletproof Plexiglas.
The secretary behind the glass knew me; I had graduated with her brother. I told her that I needed to see a Ms. Fox. Ms. Fox was the one that told me to gather all the information to have the water service reconnected.
Ms. Fox told me that she did not handle the reconnecting process and the classmate’s sister would be the one to have the serviced reconnected.
I had a briefcase full of information. I produced a copy of the deed and property description. I produced the legal documents where the lawyer processed the sale of the property to me. I had to give my driver’s license, which was my photo ID. Then underneath the glass in the contraption that resembles those at the all night convenient store where you slide your money for your purchases, the secretary slips me a piece of paper and tells me to write down my social security number.
I told her that when I borrowed the money to buy the property that I did not have to do all the legal paperwork that I was required to do to have a water meter reconnected. I slid a check for $100 in the contraption.
I know that things have changed a good bit since I left there twelve years ago. I thought, man they must have some more issues with people and their water bills. A couple of shady characters did come in while did the paperwork. Growing up there, I realized they were just some “good old boys.” My mind was boggled with what is happening in the world where I have to produce all this legal mess for water and people are protesting showing an ID when they vote. Water is vital, but so are the people we elect into office. Water fraud is bad, but voter fraud can be more destructive.
I told my friend, the secretary, that I know that it is no account good for nothing people that cause all the hassle with everything we do today.
To give an example, Aaron and I stopped at Advanced Auto in Alabaster Saturday to purchase some spray that would seal a leak in the plastic overflow bottle on his pickup. The guy helping us showed us the different products for doing the job. He removed a package and said I recommend this. I looked at the package and it appeared to be empty. I said it looks empty. Sure enough, someone had entered the store, carefully slit the package, and removed the contents. The guy behind the counter said that one guy walked in and commenced to put tools in his pants. He said people do it all the time. We live in a fraudulent and putrefaction society.
I had a friend that had stock in the Clanton Walmart. He said that the home office sent their security team to Clanton to check the security of the store. Walmart securities loaded two tractor-trailer loads of items from the store and were never caught. They had stole lawn mowers, big screen televisions and hundreds of other items and no one caught them. My friend told me that the Walmart figures thievery into to operating of their stores.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2 Timothy 3:1 KJV ).
 
July 26, 2012
Last Sunday I experienced the presence of God in a remarkable way. I was scheduled to preach three services at Greensboro Baptist Church, but God had other plans for my family and me. My devotion for today, Proverbs 19:21 solidified my weekend encounter with the presence of God. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
The weekend started with my favorite day, Friday the 13th. My favorite number other than seven is thirteen. It was a good day which I spent working around the Pastorium. Aaron and I continued working in the yard, splitting wood and grilling hamburgers, Saturday. Sharon was away for the weekend visiting her parents and our daughter and grandson.
After an exhausting morning of cutting and splitting wood, I try to stop around noon when I am to preach on Sundays, Aaron and I enjoyed our grilled burgers, gazed at the rain front the front porch, and watched old television programs on You Tube. The burgers were delicious, the rain therapeutic, and the old episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, and many more programs from yesteryear was fun. We retired for the night around 10:00 pm.
As I slept, God was changing my plans. Aaron woke me about 11:48 pm saying, “Dad wake up, this is not a dream. The house at Sugar Ridge is burned down, but momma got out and she is okay. She is scared that you will be mad she burned down the house.”
Instead of preaching God’s Word, for the next few hours I experienced the truths of His Word. I told Aaron that everything would be okay and that we need to comfort and console Sharon.
We did not rush. I reminded Aaron we did not need any more accidents. We got there at 3:00 am. The local volunteer fire department was gone and Sharon, Andy, Angel, our grandson Jon Grady, and son-in-law Dorman were watching the main level of the house smolder. The fire department diagnosed the fire extinguished after 100,000 gallons of water at 300 psi. It was not.
Aaron and I, along with the rest of the family watched the main floor ignite, burn, and fall into the basement. Sharon, in shock and blind due to no glasses, stared at the fiasco.
I sent her back to Linden with Aaron, Andy returned to Birmingham, and Angela, Dorman and a sleeping Jon Grady spend a few final moments watching 35 years of blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice radiate the dawning horizon. I encouraged Angela and Dorman to go home and get some sleep before daybreak.
I pulled up a chair rescued from the burning basement and for the next few hours watched a lifetime of work, saving, and collecting disappear. As a family God blessed us by miraculously sparing Sharon.
After watching a movie with Jon Grady, Sharon went to bed around 9:30 pm. Sometime near 10:30 pm, Sharon said God woke her. She heard a crashing sound and rose to see what happened. When she opened the bedroom door, she realized the hall filled with smoke. She hurried back and put on her blue jeans. Fortunately, her key to her SUV and cell phone were in her pockets. He removed a pillow from its case, wrapped it around her head to save her hair, covered her nose and mouth to prevent inhalation of smoke, and held it there with her teeth. She walked on her hands and feet, her knees are bad, through the hall for 15 to 20 feet, turned right in the great room, and went out the front door. As she turned, she realized that the crashing sound was the roof caving down into the great room and there was a fire in the open stairwell to the basement. She says she does not know how she escaped. All alone in darkness illuminated by a fire, barely clothed with a nightgown and blue jeans, barefooted, and sightless she called 911 and our son-in-law. I could only imagine the horror she experienced.
As I mediated on all these things, I realized how good God had been to us. For thirty-five years, He loaned us a beautiful place and allowed us to host many Christian friends, missionaries, evangelists, and church leaders.
I thought how wonderful that the last Hopper Christmas was there on New Years Eve and that just a few weeks ago, Jon Grady’s fourth birthday party was there. There were hundreds of thoughts about the past, the present, and the future racing through my mind.
A cousin, Stevie from an old article, interrupted my thoughts with an invitation from one of the two aunts that were my security system while on assignment to Bethel Baptist Association. He said, “Mamma cooked breakfast for you.” I spent a few moments with them and returned to bid a final adieu to what seemed as family member. About 500 feet from the house in the front yard was a charred piece of pink paper, an index card. I picked up what I thought was trash and found it to be a note from God. On it was a child’s fingers and thumbs prints made to look resemble a worm, right finger and thumb, and bugs, left thumb and fingers.  It had a Bible verse above the bugs and worm. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble Psalm 46:1. I smiled and looked toward the beautiful morning sky and said, “Thank you God.”
 I turned the card over and it had Angela’s name on the back and was from her childhood years. I do not know where or when it was stored, but the God who woke Sharon from her sleep, carried her from the fiery furnace, gave our family peace, and delivered me a note is the God whom we dedicated the house on December 13, 1977. For thirty-five years, He allowed us to share some wonder times, collect some valuable possessions, and accumulate some unforgettable memories. Some of those memories I have shared in previous articles and there will be many more to come.
Many have asked us how do we maintain a positive outlook. Angela says, we lost things, but momma was saved and we have a God, family, and friends who love us. Andy says we lost the house we still have each other. Aaron says, “There is more to life than things.” Sharon says, “God woke me.” I say most everything can be replaced and it’s a new beginning.
Thank you for all the phone calls, cards, and expressions of love in our time of loss, mourning, and time of new beginnings.
 
July 19, 2012
Sitting on an old school bus sit out under the garage at the in-laws, I was moved by the aerial activity of flying wasps. No, the wasps were not my problem. It was the husband of my niece and my father-in-law who were trying to kill the flying creatures of pain and death. With each swat of the broom or the swing of a swatter, the intensity of the angered wasps made me feel uncomfortable.
Wasp stings are not my favorite pass time at the in-laws although I have received some stinging remarks from the in-laws and their extended family over the last forty plus at these family Fourth of July family reunions and picnic outings. As written in a previous article, I have had numerous stings from bees, fleas, horse flies, sheep flies, yellow jackets, and red wasps. I worried that someone who is allergic might have been stung. I read and I heard that bee stings are good for arthritis. I do not have allergic reactions, but I do have arthritis.
Just the other day I was weed eating a fencerow when I thought I was having a severe attack of gout or sharp pain of arthritis in my right ankle. My thoughts were, “What I have been eating to have the gout?” I thought maybe I lucked out and it would be just pain from a wrong step on the unleveled ground. After two or three sharp pains, I decided to take a look at my ankle. Is that a man thing ignoring pain?
I raided my pants leg and discovered a yellow jacket buried deep into my ankle. To my surprise, I was in a yellow jacket nest and received only one dose of arthritic medicine. Looking back, I have mixed emotions. I am glad I had the pain of just one sting, or sad for just a small dose of painkiller? The ankle did feel better after the swelling subsided.
A week or two before the yellow jacket arthritic treatment, I was attacked by a red wasp. He flew into my sleeveless shirt and stung my chest in that tender spot between the armpit and the, well you know, the chest. By the way, I do not have arthritis there.
Getting back to the interruption of my leisure moment and my time of meditation in preparation of spending the Fourth of July with the in-laws, I sat entertained, but concerned, at the mishaps of trying to hit flying wasps.
Moments before the aerial display, my nephew-in-law had spayed a single nest with two wasps with insect killer. He knocked down the nest and secured our safety by crushing the two dead wasps with his foot.
After quick survey of the ceiling of the garage, the home base of the Kamikaze wasps was located. As with the concealment of any enemy station, the wasps had planted a nest in the electrical discharge insect control system. Your know, a “Bug Zapper.” The device attracts and kills flying insects that are attracted by light. A light source attracts the insects where they are electrocuted by touching two wires with a high voltage between them. The name “zapper” come the zap sound produced when an insect is electrocuted.
Research shows that the process of electrocution spreads a mist containing insect parts up to seven feet. Bacteria and viruses that can be inhaled by contaminated air around the bug zapper, or settle on the food of people eating near the device. Another drawback is the traps are not effective at killing biting insects. Many harmless and beneficial insects are electrocuted.  Wikipedia says, “A study over a summer found that 13,789 insects were killed, of which 31 were biting insects.” It makes me wonder if the red wasps took advantage of the design flaw and build their nest at night during the time harmless and beneficial bugs were zapped.
I think it may have been because there was no power to the bug zapper. No electricity, no electrocution. No power because the power source was broken.
I know by now you are wondering where is the spiritual connection.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also (Matthew 13:24-26 KJV).
 
Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:15-21 KJV).
 
June 28, 2012
For Mother’s Day I had a long list of things that momma said. I cannot do the same for Father’s Day. Daddy told me more things than momma did, but most of them cannot be published in this article. Daddy’s vocabulary was mostly vulgar words, barnyard terminology. His language was crude and base before his salvation. Daddy was very outspoken and one did not have to wonder where or how he stood on a subject. Here are a few words of wisdom that are permissible:
Your generation has no gumption.
Kids your age are sorry and don’t know how to work.
If the sun don’t come up, what are you going to do about it?
If you don’t stop walking on the sides of your feet, you’ll be cripple by the time you fifty.
You’d better say yes mam, no mam, yes sir, no sir.
Always take up for those who can’t take up for themselves.
You better not make fun of handicapped or disabled.
Dead folks can’t hurt you, it’s living ones that do.
If you made the bed, you gotta sleep in it.
It will rain with the Master gets ready for it to rain.
Cutting firewood warms you twice.
If you get in jail, you will stay there.
Don’t point that gun at anything unless you intend to kill it.
You can stay at home as long as you want, but you got to help your momma with groceries.
Take that hat off at the table.
Somebody say grace (This was for every meal.)
There is no such thing as a free meal.
If the government gives you something, they will tell you how to live.
You will vote and register for the draft, too many men and women died for our rights.
Treat people like you want to be treated.
A bought lesson is a learned lesson.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
In a hundred years, who gives a care?
 
Daddy taught me about life. My love for history, motorcycles, and hot rods come from daddy. He taught me how to split firewood with an ax and how to run a chain saw to cut paperwood. He taught me how to repair junk, which Sharon now refers to as “Ridging” but I call it “fixin’.” He taught me to respect people, especially adults and old folks. He taught me respect of guns and how to use them, especially killing hogs, and then butchering them. He taught me how to handle a bully; you beat the snot out of them. 
He taught me generosity. I remember when planting corn by hand daddy would say, “One for the Master, one for the birds, one to rot, and one for me.” Daddy shared our garden with everyone. He was always willing to folks a “mess of corn, peas, okra,” etc. When folks helped us “kill hogs,” daddy always made sure that they got a “mess of meat.” He knew whom and who not to tell, “Get all you want.” Some people were like a plague of locusts when given the opportunity to “get a mess.” Daddy lived this way: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (II Corinthians 9:6 NIV).
The Bible speaks of generosity:
 
Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. Deuteronomy 15:10
 
The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; Psalm 37:21
 
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God (II Corinthians 9:11-12 NIV).
 
Thank you for your generosity to the Bethel Baptist Associational Offering. We praise God for your sacrifice. Twenty-two of our 35 churches gave $13499.71. There were some businesses that gave $1200. Pam and I do not have the words to express our thanks. The response has been marvelous.
 
June 14, 2012
Even though I carry the Hopper name, I resemble my mother’s side of the family. Grandpaw Chapman, momma’s daddy, was a tall lean man and mom had his features, but her brother and four sisters were short as was Grandmoe Chapman.
Grandpaw called my momma “Long Legged Sally” and she was the other son. Momma could out wrestle, out hit, and outwork her brother and sisters. She was bonafide “Tom Boy” and Grandpaw chose her as “the pick of the litter.” It was no secret that momma was his favorite. Momma also was a Daddy’s girl and loved Grandpaw very much.
I remember when daddy was unemployed. Grandpaw would drive up to our house and have a load of groceries in his 1950 Plymouth for us. I have fond memories of riding in the rear seat of his that old Plymouth as he and momma went to the Calera State Bank to sign co-sign a loan for momma. I still have that old Plymouth. That car, the property where Sharon’s and my home is, my looks, and memories are the only things of Grandpaw Chapman that I have.
Grandpaw Chapman was born in 1892 and died of cancer in 1964. He served in the Army, but never saw action in World War I due to having the measles. He worked at a sawmill and farmed. He never owned a tractor and farmed using a mule.
A family friend, J B Popwell, said that when he was a little boy that he saw Grandpaw Chapman plowing in the field and the mule sulked and refused to plow. Grandpaw beat the mule and the mule sat down. J B said Grandpaw grabbed the long ears of that old mule and bit the mule’s nose. J B said Grandpaw drew blood and had meat from the mule’s nose in his teeth. J B said the mule reared several times trying to shake Grandpaw from his nose. 
It makes me wonder about Balaam, hired by the Ammonites and Moabites, hitting his donkey while on his way to curse the Israel. I do not think that Grandpaw was on his way to curse someone, but if I know my Grandpaw, there was a whole lot of cussing directed at the mule.
Grandpaw Chapman did not receive Christ as Savior until he was on his deathbed. His conversion was the first time I ever heard of “Death Bed Confession.” Brother Calvin Crocker was faithful to visit Grandpaw and shared the plan of Salvation with him. Grandpaw did not live long after his conversion.
Grandpaw was the first family member I remember dying. Momma was very heartbroken at his death. I had never seen her cry like that before. Moved by immense emotion, she wrote a song about his dying. She would sing it many times after his passing. When momma died, her cousins sang the song at her funeral. I hope you enjoy it.
 
I'll never forget when dad pasted away
Not a word from his mouth to us he could say
He knew that we loved him and listened to us cry
but now he is resting way up in the sky
                   (Chorus)
There's a bright star that is shining
it's shining so bright
It went to heaven early one night
The angels are singing with God's Great Band
And I know Dad's resting in the Promise Land 
 
There was a black cloud gathered in the Northwest,
for God was telling us he knew best
He sweep down here and carried him away
And now he is resting with God today
                  (Chorus)
There's a bright star that is shining
it's shining so bright
It went to heaven early one night
The angels are singing with God's Great Band
And I know Dad's resting in the Promise Land
 
Mother is weeping since Dad went away 
She is hoping and praying that she'll meet him someday
She is so lonely and always will mourn
Until she shall meet him around God’s Throne
                  (Chorus)
There's a bright star that is shining
It's shining so bright
It went to heaven early one night
The angel's are singing in God's Great Band
And I know Dad's resting in the Promise Land
 
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord (Zechariah 2:10 KJV)
 
Happy Father’s Day
 
May 24, 2012
What was going through the mind of that nineteen-year-old soldier in that foxhole somewhere in Italy? Among all the carnage, in all the cries, in all the agony, and the all the stench of dying and death, did he cry out to God? Did he know the two soldiers that were beside him? Did he know that their sacrifice would be his deliverance? What made him think of hiding beneath them? Was he in a panic? Was it an act desperation?
Such are the casualties of war. Did he struggle with surviving when so many paid the ultimate sacrifice? How long did he deal with the guilt? Is that the reason he never talked much about the war?
I wonder how many of the enemy did he kill? How did he feel when taking the life of another? Did it give him any consolation realizing that it was an act of war? How close was he to the enemy when he took their life? How did he do it being so young?
How did the war affect his life as a son, a husband, a dad, and a granddad? Is that the reason he showed little or no emotion? Is that the reason he debunked war movies and television war episodes as not how it really was? How was the movie Patton, the only movie he ever watched, significant? Was it because he served under General Patton that he watched the movie?
What made him decide to risk incarceration if his sons did not want to go war? Was his view of politics and war polices the root of the decision to protect his sons? Was it love for his sons or the distain of war that determined his unyielding decision? What prompted him to give his sons the option of volunteering or rejecting the military draft?
How much of his vulgar life after the war was a direct result of the horrors of war? Was he happy to be alive or was it eat, drink, and be merry with wine, women, and song? Why did he take that journey of life and not the one of being thankful for God’s grace?
Did he feel God’s presence during the war? Was it the prayers of his mother that sustained him and delivered him back home? Did he realize his survival was God’s plan for his descendants? Do his descendants realize the magnitude of that event day in that Italian foxhole?
Do citizens of our nation know the high cost of freedom that emanates from thousands of similar foxholes experiences and situations? Is there the realization in our nation that thousands of unknowns like the two in the foxhole provide the multitude of amenities that we enjoy today? When they see our flag, Old Glory, are they reminded of the blood spilt over the face of the earth by our soldiers? Are the blood soaked battlefields the only recognition that many unknowns receive? Is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier enough acknowledgment or thanks?
Do citizens of the United States understand the cost of the privilege to cast a vote? Are those participating in the protests and the occupying of Wall Street and other venues aware of those who died that they might have that right? Do those who operate abortion clinics understand the sacrifice of life that babies might have the right to life? Will there be honor given to the old soldiers that fade away?
How many will celebrate Memorial Day without giving one nanosecond of thought of the cost of freedom? How many dads, moms, sons, and daughters will shed tears for a fallen soldier that did not return home? How many will touch names on the Memorial Wall, a tombstone, or a brick?
Dad, who were those two soldiers you pulled over you and took the bayonets for you in that foxhole? Will anyone, other than me, remember the price they paid over seventy years ago, just as they forget the price of Calvary?
Should not the multitude of words be answered? (Job 11:2 KJV)
How long can our nation exist if we fail to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom? 
Remembering their sacrifice on Memorial Day.
 
May 10, 2012
The other night at a men’s rally, the speaker told of a poster his daughter made for her college dorm room. Her favorite posters are those with Tim Tebow on them. I would say of all the posters that college girls could have, a Tim Tebow poster is pretty good choice.
To the dad’s surprise, the poster was not of Tim Tebow. Instead, the poster was a list of the things that the dad had told is daughter as she was growing up. He said it made him think, what I have told her and what he should have told her.
At the 100th Anniversary of Dixon’s Mills Baptist, a representative from the Alabama Baptist Historical Society said people should write down the words of church members because so much is lost after a long period of time if it is not recorded. With a hundred years behind, there had to be many tremendous events of Dixon’s Mills Baptist Church that future members need to know.
Very few people spoke at 100th Celebration. I think it was the magnitude of the moment and trying to remember what had been said and what had been done. Brother Richard Martindale’s granddaughter took notes where at future celebrations there would have a recorded history of words from those who did speak.
I remember one of my history professors at the University of Montevallo saying, “If you do not write down an event, it never happened.” Word of mouth will turn to hearsay, tale, fable, or legend if events are not documented. There have been events in our lifetime that proved to be false when people discovered documented evident to the contrary of hearsay
As I reflected on Mother’s Day, I thought of a list of things that my momma told me and decided to write them down. As I reflect, some are humorous, some are profound, and some prophetic. Here it goes a few:
            You reap what you sow.
            You cannot go swimming until you learn how to swim.
            You can do anything you put your head to do.
            You need to pray that God leads you to girl to be your wife.
            Be sure to wear clean underwear in case you are in an accident.
            If you fall out of that tree and break your neck, I am going to whup you.
            If we were picking our nose she would ask if we were cleaning out the dance hall.
            If you get hurt, don’t come crying to me.
            If someone else can do that, you can do it.
            If you runaway from home, I will beat you to death.
            If you run while I am trying to whup you, I beat you when I catch you.
            If you don’t do it right the first time, you will have to lick that calf again.
            Never kiss a girl unless you are serious about her.
            Good girls don’t call here and ask for you.
            I may not can see you, but God does.
            I got little eyes everywhere so that I can see you.
            I am going to beat you till you cry.
            I hate the name Roe. (Roe was her first name.)
            I been so mean the grass will not grow on my grave when I die. (It does not by the way.)
            What is said in this house stays in this house.
            What ever you do, do your best.
            What you’re doing will come home to you one day.
            What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
            Payday comes one day.
            Don’t let the sun go down being mad at someone, you may never get a chance to say     you’re sorry.
            Use good words, they taste better when you have the eat them.
            Don’t let nobody tell you that you are not good enough.
            Mama told my sister not to wear a dress to the garden because the potatoes had eyes
            “Say Calf Rope” (When she was wrestling us and holding until we said, “Calf Rope.”
            Go cut me a switch!
            Just wait to your daddy gets home.
            When you have kids, you will pay for your raising.
            Ya’ll will probably have to hire people to come to my funeral.
            Nobody may love us, but we love one each other.
            Read your Bible and pray.
            One day I gonna be gone and you will be sorry you said that to me.
            Stick you nose in that corner and stand on your tiptoes until I tell you to stop.
            God will take care of us.
These are only a few that brothers and sister could remember. There were some others, but I cannot write them in this article.
I remember last Mother’s Day, I preached at Pine Hill and I mentioned Coach “Bear” Bryant’s Bellsouth commercial. When taping the commercial, he said, “Be sure and call your mom, I wished I could call mine.” The producers that it was corny, but the more they played it the more genuine it was.
After the service, the sermon and the commercial went viral.  Viral means it was on the internet. Words I said and words of the late “Bear” Bryant captured for all to read, see, and hear in a matter minutes. I am glad I told time to write down things momma said.
Proverbs 31:1 sums up the word of a mother pretty good. The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him (KJV).      
           
April 19, 2012
Dr. Paul Miller, retired Director of the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home and Family ministries, once said, “Baptist people respond when they know there is a need.” 
I can testify to that. In the churches that I have pastored, the people always responded in an abundant way when a need arose. One of my former churches, the smallest and most generous I pastored, would always send a hundred dollars to someone who had surgery or had an extended time in the hospital. Their reasoning was that they could use the money, more than a potted plant, to offset cost of a hospital stay and the family expenses of eating, traveling back and forth, and paying deductibles.
I know that benefit singings and special offerings are popular among many churches across Alabama. Many churches have fund raising events such as a fish fry, a Boston butt sale, yard sales, or car washes.
My home church and those who helped ordain me as deacon and as pastor, believed that tithes and free will offerings were the Biblical ways to handle monetary needs in the church. I have participated and will continue to participate in church fund drives. My reservation has been and will always be that I think that the family of God can generate the money due to our faith in God.
Not too long ago I upset a young man at the Clanton Walmart. He wanted to know if I could contribute to the children fund drive for his church. Not knowing the name of the organization or familiar with the belief of his church, I refused to give. He tried to make me feel guilty by quoting the Scripture relating to “Do not suffer the little children.”
I do not know about you, but when folks start taking Scripture out of context, I get a miffed. My first question to him was if it was really a ministry to the children, what was the need? Second, I told him that I was not going to give money to fund his dream. He could dream on his own money.   Third, I said that churches should fund their ministries, I still do not know if his was bonafided ministry need, that his church should use their tithes and offering. Last time I checked early believers in the book of Acts sacrificed to support the ministries of the church.
I wish I could tell you that young man took my advice. I do not think his words were good advice. He used angry words. I did not feel guilty.
Another area of concern is when there is a special offering and someone thinks it is to large to give it to the person or entity for which is given. I know of a situation where a church took a love offering for a revival preacher and held back some of the money because a person on the finance committee thought the offering too large. Well, the legality of the offering was if was designated to the revival preacher, then that is where it goes.
I advise churches to have someone who understands church finances and offerings to give them guidelines and advice on such matters. We periodically host Associational training events on legal and financial issues. All organizations should do what is proper and right, especially the church. Like Forrest Gump, that’s all am going to say on that.
I do want to say that at the last executive meeting the Bethel Baptist Association that the Missions Committee and members of the body voted to help current financial crisis we are experiencing. For the past 12-18 months, we have been operating with an inadequate budget. Actually, we survive week to week and have no operating reserve or balance. Most organizations maintain a month to month and a half operating balance. At the time of the meeting, the association was three weeks behind on payroll, three months behind in giving to the Children’s home, and one quarter behind with the Canadian Missions. We know the money will come and we eventually balance the budget.
The Executive body voted to have a Special Associational Missions Offering May 20-26 during the Associational Mission Week. The goal is $20,000.00. That may seem huge, but it translates to $571 per church if 35 churches give equally. Breaking it down even more, a church could give $4.27 per resident member since there are 4,518 resident members, or $2.72 per member since there are 7, 348 total members in Bethel Baptist Association.
Please prayerfully consider this offering and help support this offering.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10 KJV)
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need (Acts 2 44-45 KJV).
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come (First Corinthians 16:2 KJV).
           
April 05, 2012
Saturday night on my way home from a wedding in Birmingham I stopped by the Union Springs Baptist Church cemetery. It was dark, but I wanted to stop because I did not know if I would have another opportunity to go by there before Resurrection Sunday. I try to visit every chance I can. I promised mom and dad that I would visit their graves. I place a flower or flowers on momma’s grave. I always would give her a flower when I would visit her when she was alive. I would get her daffodils, roses, jonquils, crept myrtle, dogwood blooms, and many other blooms. Dad would always say, “Don’t put flowers on my grave; give me flowers while I am alive.” He was really saying spend time with me now.
Since it was after dark, I did not stay very long. No, I am not scared in the graveyard at night. Daddy taught never fear the dead; it is the living that will hurt you. I was afraid the pastor of Union Springs might be alarmed with a car entering the cemetery. I do not know what my home church was thinking when they built the Pastorium beside the cemetery. My home church has been fortunate to call pastors with families that did not mind living beside dead. It may be that most pastors have served dead churches that have manipulating members and it was a relief not having the dead causing any trouble.
As I surveyed the cemetery, I thought about all the people I knew that were now resting there. I have worshipped with them, fished with them, laughed, and cried with them. Buried there are those who taught me Scripture, taught me about life, and taught me about dying. Some in the graveyard I was with them when they were dying. I watched some of them suffer horrible deaths from cancer. There were those who died violent deaths from car accidents and several died from heart attacks. There is a childhood friend who died from a motorcycle accident, the friend who died from alcohol poisoning, and the friend that died from aids. 
There is the friend that said she knew God called me to preach long before I knew it. There is the friend that told me that she would always be praying from me when I stood to preach. There is the old friend that gave me a London Fog rain jacket when I surrendered to preach.
Scattered all over the cemetery are neighbors, family, and a few unknowns of long ago. There are infant graves, senior adult graves, teenage graves, and graves of all ages in between. Some have huge tombstones, some are simple markers, and some are marked by a small metal nametag.
Visiting the graveyard, I remember some of the deceased laughs, some of their funny sayings, and some of their unique smiles or distinctive physical attributes. The graves there mark those that I have made my journey of life. I started making my trips to this cemetery when I was in my mother’s womb, the day they buried my great-grandmother Crumpton was the day before my birth.
As I look at the pink granite tombstone of momma and daddy, I took a moment to think about the short time I had with them and how short this life really is. It is hard to image that this Easter daddy will haven been dead for twenty-eight years or that momma will be dead twenty-five years. Daddy died the Friday after Easter Sunday 1984. Easter had a greater meaning that year. I remember walking out of the hospital when moments earlier, around four o’clock in the morning, the nurse pronounced daddy dead. The sun was shining brightly, not yet broken the horizon. Birds chirped and sang beautiful songs. The aroma of spring, as was the dawning of a new day, was breathtaking. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the reality that daddy was in beautiful heaven. My day was zilch compared to his. As I walk among the dead in the cemetery at night, dad’s spirit walks with the throngs of the living in heaven where there is no night.
I made the trip to the cemetery that night to say, “Mom, dad, I will see you on Resurrection Day.” I then journeyed back to Linden.
The beauty of Resurrection Sunday is that we, as believers, hold to Jesus’ promise of the Resurrection. The power that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that will do it again for all believers one day.
I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live . . . (John 11:25bKJV).
Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen . . . (Luke 24:5b-6a KJV).
 
 
March 13, 2012
I had the opportunity to perform my niece’s wedding this past weekend. I always remind the couple that the wedding is a magnificent moment for them and their families. It is a new journey on the road of life. It is a time of worship, a time of new beginnings, and a time of celebration.
For the Hopper family is a time of “Puttin’on the Hawg.”   You might say “Putting on the Dog.” We do not do weddings in the tradition of most folks. Yes, we have all the dainty foods of most weddings, but we take it just a step further.
Here is how we do it. Once the date is set, I, the preacher of the family do the marital counseling and offer my cache of wedding ceremonies. I have the spiritual responsibilities of Hopper weddings. In fact, I have Hopper wedding in November for a nephew at the same church. 
My sister, mother of the niece and nephew, usually decorates the church and a fellowship hall and cooks most of the food and the wedding cake. She sure had a delicious wedding cake this time. My sister also hired a DJ (disk jockey) to play music. No, the DJ was not at the church, but at the Jefferson State Performing Arts Hall.
One of my brothers, and his father-in-law grilled one hundred chicken halves and pulled the meat. He marinates the chicken in a secret sauce. You do not need any barbeque sauce to moisten the chicken when cooked in this family secret sauce. As with any true Southern barbeque, the secret is in the sauce. 
If you are wondering about “Puttin’ on the Hawg” and I am writing about chickens, my other brother cooked a 150-pound pig. Yes, he slow cooked a whole hog. In the dining hall, there was a whole hog, with an apple in its mouth, on the serving table. Can you tell it was not a Jewish wedding? His wife cooked potato salad, baked beans, and slaw. All other family members help serve and do cleanup.
We have always shared God’s blessings with anyone who attends one of our gatherings. That’s the way it is when the Hoppers have a wedding or any other kind of get together we invite everyone and anyone.
When I entered the celebration the other night, I saw an old friend. We call him “The Comiss” because he is one of Chilton County’s Commissioners. As I passed him on the way to the DJ to make a special announcement, he called out to me saying, “Hey Hopper, you sure have made a fancy preacher.” I mingled with the guests. After a while, I asked “The Comiss” and his wife if I might sit with them and reminisced. 
Heddy, “The Comiss,” was the first person that invited the Hopper family to church.  I will never forget that night. Heddy had only been a Christian for a short time, but he immediately started sharing his faith. Looking back, he was very young, less than twenty-five years old.
I was ten or eleven years old when he visited our house. I was lying on a ragged couch in our old shack of a house. I remember that I had on an old jacket without having on a shirt. My brothers, sister, and I always took off our school clothes and put on our ragged clothes when at home. 
What amazed us about his visit was that he was inviting us down to the place all the rich and well-to-do people were going. We could not understand why he would do something like that. We were poor, lived in a shack. Church had better sheds and barns than our shack. I felt embarrassed that night. I remember looking up at the deteriorating sheetrock ceiling, the worn tar exposing linoleum, and the old propane gas space heater and wondering why he wanted us to come to church and hear more about Jesus.
We did start going and Heddy would become my RA leader. After I married, he and I would decorate the church for special events. We would take swimming pool filtering equipment and clean the dirty creek water that we pumped out of the fire truck into the baptism pool.
He and I were elected deacons at the same ordination. We fished, hunted, worked, played, and most of all, worshiped together. We sang in the choir, took the RA boys deep-sea fishing and all night camping, and went on church visitation together.
I cannot help but think about all the push on evangelism today. I am glad folks like Heddy share their faith. I am leery of more emphasis on evangelism without discipleship. I thank God for a church and a friend that did more than invite to come to church, they were mentors who discipled me.
During the wedding ceremony I reminded everyone that we in a worship service. In fact, When Heddy invited the Hopper kids to church; he was introducing us to Jesus, the groom, in anticipation that we would become part of the church, the bride of Christ.
The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage (Matthew 22:8-9 KJV).
 
March 01, 2012
When you hear the work “Snickers, the name says it all.” I think of a candy bar manufactured by Mars and launched in 1930with the slogan, “Hungry? Grab a Snickers.”
The delicious Snickers bar claims to contain more nutrients than fats with nougat, caramel, roasted peanuts and milk chocolate. For a little trivia, Mars Candy standardized he name “Snickers” in 1989. Snickers was name of a horse that belonged to the Mars family. I know when I worked midnights that a Snickers bar and a Coke were a great pick-me-up around four o’clock in the morning.
“World’s best Cookies” and “Delicious Cookies” are self-explanatory. Remember the “Ugg” boots. Their slogan was, “Ugg Boots, the name says it all.” How about the classic slogan from Smuckers Jelly? “With a name like Smuckers, it’s got to be good.”
I know you are wondering where I am going with this. Well, take the name Southern Baptists. There is a ploy by the folks behind the Great Commission Resurgence Committee to change the name of Southern Baptists because it is offensive to people. I personally believe what is offensive is that the name Southern Baptists has more to do with a Theology and Doctrine that Jesus is the only way of salvation. That offends many that believe in multicultural beliefs and religious plurality. I am sorry that that offends people, but then Jesus reminds us in the Bible, that the name Jesus would be offensive.
Some say that the birth of Southern Baptist roots in the slave issue and that Southern denotes racism. If you recall, the Southern Baptist Convention offered an official apology for its past sins of slavery. The final Resolution of Reconciliation Resolution at the 150th Anniversary of the SBC in 1995 states:
Be it finally RESOLVED, That we pledge our commitment to the Great Commission task of making disciples of all people (Matthew 28:19), confessing that in the church God is calling together one people from every tribe and nation (Revelation 5:9), and proclaiming that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only certain and sufficient ground upon which redeemed persons will stand together in restored family union as joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Rev. Gary Frost, a black Ohio pastor, after the vote at the 1995 SBC annual meeting said, “On behalf of my black brothers and sisters, we accept your apology, We forgive you for Christ's sake. Amen.” If there was reconcilation, why does it continue to be offensive?
As with the Civil War, the slavery issue was one of many issues that contributed to the war. The same may be true with a hidden agenda by proponents of Calvinism lead the charge for the name change. Historically, Southern Baptists started as a blend of General (Arminian) Baptists, Regular Baptists, Separatists Baptists, and Particular (Calvinist) Baptist. The Southern Baptist Convention had more variables contributing to its formation than the slave issue. Southern Baptists fought then and strongly believe today in the autonomy of the local church. This is something that the current Great Commission stagiest fail to comprehend. 
Let me give you a good example. Some leaders pushing GCR were not Royal Ambassadors nor attended RA meetings and do not understand what it means to be a Southern Baptist. The present President of the North American Missions Board, while as a pastor, did not give to the Annie Armstrong Offering nor did he support his local association and now he oversees the Annie Armstrong Offering and Associations. Go figure!
Knowing this, some churches are remaining autonomous by either putting their Annie offerings in escrow or supporting their own North American Missionary out in the field who may have ties with the church.
Alabama Baptists, the name says it all. Alabama leads almost every category in the SBC when it comes to mission work as outlined in Acts 1:8. Directors of Missions across Alabama have confronted the GCR folks, especially the president of NAMB, and have put them on notice that our churches are autonomous and will continue to do the Great Commission and support the work that GCR folks intend to cut funding and eliminate.
I am urging every church in Bethel Baptist Association to send as many messengers allotted to the church and the church can afford to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans June 18-20 to keep the name Southern Baptist with out the disclaimer Great Commission Baptists. Southern Baptist is about a Theology and a doctrine. The name says it all. Having an informal nonlegal phrase as an alternative to the Southern Baptist Convention is another way of dismantling the Southern Baptist Convention.
Members of the Bethel Baptist Association have asked what the Association will do if the name is changed. Bethel Baptist Association is Southern Baptist and will be unless the members of the churches of the Association vote to change it.
Remember the Southern Baptist Convention only exists for two days a year. The local association is the only Southern Baptist Organization that exists all the time. That is one reason the goal of NAMB is to bypass Alabama Associations and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
Bethel Baptist Association existed before there was a Southern Baptist Convention. Christ is the head and the church is the body. There is power in the local church. Let’s commit to be in New Orleans and defeat the name change.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6)
Alabama Baptists believe there is one mission, The Great Commission, one program, the Cooperative Program, and many Great Commissions Ministries. If a church does not want to be Southern Baptist, join another denomination. N As for me I going to eat a Snickers.
 
February 23, 2012
I got a special note this morning from a friend who listened to the Tuesday morning Moody Radio broadcast. She said it was good to hear my voice. Some people tell me I have a great radio voice and that I should consider going into radio. I think that they say that because they can cut me off when they do not want to hear me. I often tell people that I have a great radio face to go with the voice.
I will never forget the first time I was on the radio. I did know it. Here’s how I found out about it.
I had surrendered to the ministry and I had opportunity to do supply preaching. I had been asked to supply at the Liberty Hill Baptist Church in Clanton on a Sunday night. Back then, I knew very little about hermeneutics or exegesis. Hermeneutics is a fancy word, or should I say a technical or Greek word, for the science of Biblical interpretation. For example, Paul writes in Second Timothy 2:15 “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Exegesis is the Greek word meaning “narrative” or explanation.” Paul and Barnabas exegeted to the Jerusalem council the wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles (Acts 15:14). Back then, my fathers in the ministry gave me sermon outlines. They said here is the skeleton. It is left up to you to put the meat on the bones. My sermon that night at Liberty Hill was JESUS. J, Jesus Justified us.  E, Jesus gives Eternal life. S, Jesus is the only way for Salvation. U,Jesus provides Unity for His people. S, Jesus Supplies our every need. It was a simple sermon by a simple-minded beginner.
The following Sunday morning I headed to the Chilton County jail. No, I was not arrested for disturbing the peace or preaching a bad sermon even though I probably should have been. I was going there to pick up a trustee who was a product of our jailhouse ministry. On the way, I listened to WKLF radio in Clanton. A well-known preacher from central Alabama, Hyman Atcheson was preaching. Reverend Atcheson is the father of Randy, a renowned concert pianist at Carnie Hall, and Wayne, author of Faith of the Crimson Tide and other books of faith.
I had visions of what it would be like to preach on the radio. I thought that I would never have the opportunity to preach on the radio.
I picked up the trustee and headed back to my home church. When I went into the sanctuary, Mrs. Georgia Crumpton greeted me. She said I enjoyed your message last Sunday night. I replied with thank you. I told her that I did not see her and I hate that I missed her. She said that she was not there and that she heard me on the radio. Earlier I wondered how it would be to preach on the radio and now I find out that I had been on the radio. Since that night, I have been on the radio, television, and the internet.
People all over West Alabama tell me how much they enjoy listening to the Tuesday morning announcements on Moody Radio. When I visit other associational meetings, people say, “I am so glad to put a face with that radio voice.” Many times when we meet radio personalities, their voices do not match how we imagine them to be. I remind them that I do have a great radio face. Many times people recognize me by my voice, my laugh. People ask me have you heard the voice of God. I say I recognize His voice just as if I would if mom or dad spoke to me, saying, “Bobby. . .”
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty (Psalm 29:4 KJV).
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27 KJV).
 
February 8, 2012
The start of my senior year the movie Love Story premiered at the drive in. It starred Ryan O’Neal and Ally McGraw. Being as our senior class was divided in a boy/girl competition. Of course, all the girls loved Love Story and the boys wanted to puke, I mean vomit. Forty-two years have passed and I still cannot stand to hear the theme song of the movie.
When Sharon and I married, I told her that I did not want that song in our wedding. She agreed, but when the ceremony started, I thought I heard that annoying Love Story tune. When I questioned, I was relieved that it was another “chick” tune.
The cause of my distain for the movie was not the actors or the plot. My distain was that all my female classmates that it was groovy. Groovy, now, that is an old one. When I watched the movie, I really liked Ryan O’Neal’s character, Oliver. Ally McGraw had those bushy eyebrows and a feminine and quick-witted Radcliffe College attitude. I think that it was the feminine and anti establishment movement of the seventies that turned me off to Love Story.
I know that you are not going to believe this, but I purchased a DVD of Love Story. The theme song is still irritating, but it is a good story of high society guy, Oliver Barrett IV, meets, and falls in love with blue-collar gal, Jennifer Cavelleri, who dies from leukemia. Disowned by Oliver’s wealthy dad, the couple struggle and cannot afford the treatments. When the dad realizes that, the couple is in love and in need, he rushes to help only to find that he is too late. He tells Oliver that he is sorry. Oliver restates the classic line from the movie, which Jennifer tells Oliver earlier, “Love means never having to say you're sorry.”
The greatest love story is God’s love for us. Unlike Oliver’s dad, God, as our Father, bankrupt heaven with His love for us.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18 KJV).
 
January 26, 2012
This morning on Moody Radio in Tuscaloosa, radio Disk Jockies John Rogers and Martin Houston talked about common sense or the lack thereof. I really feel that people are losing the ability to have common sense.   For instance, did you hear about the man who visited a psychiatrist?   He told the doctor that he was stressed and could not sleep. After a few questions, the doctor suggested that the man take a few weeks vacation. The man said that he and his family had just returned from two weeks in the Bahamas.
The doctor then suggested that the man might need to buy a new automobile or truck. The man responded by saying he just bought a new sports Mercedes convertible. The doctor suggested that he might change locations and build a new house. The man said I just built a million-dollar house at the country club.
The psychiatrist was bewildered because the man had everything a person could have. The psychiatrist asked, “If you have and do all these things, why are you so stressed?” The man replied, “I make only $250 dollars a week.”
Common sense says that one cannot spend more than one makes. Unfortunately, we as a nation do the opposite and are part of an unbelievable national debt. We are a credit card society that wants it now.
After the radio program, I ventured to an event at Judson College. The guest was Dr. Timothy George, Dean of the Beeson School of Divinity at Samford University. I had Dr. George for a class when I attended Beeson. He asked where I was serving and I told him Bethel Baptist Association. For several years I was the only Beeson graduate serving as a Director of Missions. Beeson, or should I say, a few professors were proud of that.
Dr. George asked where is Bethel saying that the last time we talked he said you were near Calera. Being we were in the auditorium of Judson College in Marion I thought that telling him southwest of here would do. He responded, “Is that near Tuscaloosa?” I said that it was about 75 miles south of Tuscaloosa and a good bit north of Mobile on the Highway 43 corridor. I realized that my common sense approach to the very intellectual Dr. George was not communicating. It is almost like the old saying, “You can’t there from here.” What throws people for a loop is I say Bethel Baptist Association and they automatically try to remember their Alabama history and geography realizing that Bethel is not one of the sixty-seven counties.
I felt like I was playing the “hot or cold” game with him. Every time he would name a town he was way off base and I was trying get him closer. He finally said, “Then, you are near Meridian, MS?” I said that I was closer to Meridian than Tuscaloosa.
We broke for delicious dinner. I cannot remember how the table conversation about Nanafalia came up, but a couple of pastors at my table said they did not know how to pronounce Nanafalia. I said it was an Indian name. All these men were of my generation so understood that “Injun” was what is the politically correct call Native American and not an owner of a service station or a motel. I told them that Nanafalia means long hill. One of the preachers asked where it was. I said on Alabama highway 10 between Sweet Water and Butler. Most had a puzzled look. I said Nanafalia is across the Tombigbee River from Ezell’s.
Someone said, “Then Ezell’s  is in Nanafalia?”  I said do not make that mistake because it is in Lavacoa in Choctaw County next to the Nanafalia Bridge.
So, I have had a day of Common Sense, Intellectual Conversation, Political Correctness, and Politics. The event at Judson was about God, the Church, and Politics. I realized that politics and common sense go together like oil and water. The event was good and helped me with my responsibility as Christian citizen. I left the meeting realizing that Romans Chapter 13 and Acts Chapter 4 are not contrary to each other when dealing with powers ordained by God, but reminds the reader that God owns everything. Common sense says that there are moral laws that govern society. These moral laws come from God. If government breaks moral laws, then we must obey God.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God . . . (Romans 13:1ff KJV)
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye . . . (Acts 4:18-19ff KJV)
 
January 12, 2012
Well, 2012 is finally here. The extended Hopper family spent New Year’s Eve celebrating our Christmas. This year it was my turn to host the extravaganza because there are five of us, we all take turns hosting Christmas. This year I decided to host it at our home in Chilton County rather than in Linden. 
There were a couple of reasons for the location change. One is that we all have homes in the Chilton/Bibb county area even though one brother lives in Robertsdale and I in Linden.
Second, I did not know if Marengo County or the City of Linden could endure more than three Hoppers. Third, my home/farm has enough room for frying fish, shrimp, and oysters, riding four wheelers, shooting fireworks, and parking cars.
It is hard to imagine that Mom and Dad started what has become a large extended family. I watched in wonder as my nephew’s little boy Mason explored my backyard. The wonder was not his exploration, but his importance. Mason is the first male Hopper great grandchild. He is not the first great grandchild or the first great grandchild male, but he is the first Hopper male. As I held Mason in my arms, it was a defining moment. I the oldest Hopper male, holding the heir to the Hopper name. A baby of the 1950’s was holding a new millennium baby. The new replacing the old. The thought of one who is in the final stages of his time is now holding the one who has yet to make a complete sentence. What made the whole episode special was as I held Mason he wanted a drink of my root beer. I gave him a sip and he confiscated my whole cup. He teased me by giving it back only to want another sip. As I put him down, he walked away with my root beer.
That is the way of life, new replacing the old. With that thought, I can’t help but think of a humorous incident that happened on Tuesday before New Year Eve.
Sharon, Aaron, and I rendezvous with friends from Llano, Texas at Gulf shores after Christmas. Our rendezvous point was the Waffle House in Gulf Shores. I don’t particularly care for the Gulf, but winter makes it nice. It’s not too hot, the shore is deserted, and the restaurants are very available.
It is always terrific to see our friends, so we gathered at the tables beside the high bar. For those who do not know, booths are not made for real men. Every restaurant where we went in Gulf Shores, I requested a table. I want to be conformable when I eat. I usually eat at the high bar at Waffle House, but when with more than three friends, I try to eat at a table for collective talking.
While there, Waffle House began to fill with snowbirds, which are Yankees or people from “Up North.” I do not know why, but for some reason people from “Up North” enjoy Southern hospitality, but they have never acquired any for themselves.
After enjoying a wonderful breakfast and catching up how everybody was doing and the adventures of traveling, I decided to pay the bill for breakfast. I learned a long time ago in Union work that the meal to buy everyone is breakfast. Dinner and supper are more expensive.
Everyone continued to share old times and drink coffee, water, or orange juice. As I waited for the waitress, I noticed that a snowbird roosted in my sit. Now mind you, I was not finished with my coffee. The snowbird sat down between Aaron and Ruby. Mrs. Ruby, my dear friend from Llano, did not know that I had gone to pay the bill. From the corner of her eye, she saw a glass of water sliding toward her plate. She was startled when she turned to see a strange snowbird in my place. To Aaron’s right, a female snowbird sat in an empty seat. Another snowbird, with his hands on the back of the chair, stood over Aaron. You talk about an awkward moment. I have had some very interesting visits to the Waffle House, but his one takes the cake, or I guess you could say takes the waffle. I am glad that Aaron is a gentle giant and has a soft spot for people “who don’t know no better” or there may have been an injured snowbird in the Waffle House.
As Aaron looked up at the snowbird, the snowbird asked if the seat was warm. I know snowbirds come South to escape harsh winters, but taking a young man’s, and his dad’s, seat is RUDE. Scaring an eighty-year-old woman from Llano is dim-witted. The moral of the story is that there is always someone waiting to take your place whether you are finished or not. If we live long enough we will see many more New Years.
 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (Second Corinthians 5:17 KJV).
. . . And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new (Revelation 21:5 KJV).
 
December 14, 2011
Can you believe that 2011 is almost over? The Y2K bug end-of-time Armageddon scare and the unknown of a new millennium are history. Babies born in 1999 become teenagers next year, or shall I say in a few days. Father time creeps along and invades our lives. Modern marvels and technological advances of the past decade slowly evolve into objects of antiquity. Suddenly the old is repulsive and the new is alluring. 
That is the nature of the passing of time. The world continues to spin along in its cosmic passageway and many of us think that it is spinning out of control. Life has become so complicated and so hurried that 2012 will usher in 2013 before we have time to catch our breath. Resolutions of slowing down and taking it easy will soon bow to pressures of deadlines and schedules.
The New Year is a time of reflection. For some Christmas 2011 was the first Christmas without mom, dad, a son, a daughter, a grandparent, or a friend. It is a time of remembering all those who did not make it into the New Year. 
Celebration of the New Year will take many forms. Some churches will pray in the New Year while others will sing or eat into the New Year. Some folks will sleep in the New Year while some will weep in the New Year. For most, New Year is a monumental event. For some people, New Year is just another day of the year. When I worked rotation, New Year was just another day. There was no celebration.
I remember working midnight on New Year. I had some bottle rockets left from July 4th and thought they might not be good enough for New Year. Land Mart, the store just down the road from the house, sold fireworks where he kids would spend some of their Christmas money. Our kids loved the cash, instead of useless gifts. I always monitored their spending when buying fireworks. I hated to see them blow away their cash. I subsidized their efforts occasionally when they did not receive as much as they did the last Christmas.
I am pretty sure that it was against company policy to have fireworks at work, but that never stopped us from bringing them. You know that boys will be boys. Kiln burners were notorious for dropping firecrackers, cherry bombs, and spinning chasers down on unsuspecting oilers. One kiln burner, Swann, dropped a spinning chaser one behind his oiler, Jones. Jones raced across the railroad tracks with the spinning chaser bumping him in the back. Pickett, a kiln burner, dropped a lighted pack of firecrackers behind Smithy, his oiler. Smithy danced a jig as he went down the street. Those are a few of the fireworks at the plant.
Getting back to the midnight shift, I had several packs of bottle rockets in my lunch box. I recruited an accomplice to help me light them and toss them into the cement mill room. This mill room had six giant ball mills that pulverized clinkers (ingredients of sand, iron ore, aluminum, and limestone cooked together to form cement) into powder. It was a very loud building. Since these mills produced powder, there was cement dust everywhere. It was a deafening and dusty situation. The slightest jolt would start an avalanche of dust from girders and beams.
My accomplice and I walked to the edge of the kiln burner floor, which was adjacent to the mill room, and commenced to fire a barrage of rockets into an unstable dust loaded mill room. Poor old Mr. Betts and Eddie Lee (Moving to Marengo County I discovered that Eddie Lee was Brooks Barkley’s brother) were trying to figure out what was happening. 
They could not hear the rockets as they zoomed toward them, but they could see the burning tail, the explosion, and the falling dust. They finally saw two mischievous oilers having a fun time at the dawn of a new day as the clock stuck midnight and ushered in a New Year. Mr. Betts and Eddie Lee laughed in the New Year that night.
Betts, Eddie Lee, Swann, Jones, and a whole host of others from the cement plant are gone. Their passing serves as reminder that time passes quickly. Midnight January 1, 2012 quickly approaches. Some compare time as midnight being the Lord’s return. What are your plans for midnight, the dawn of 2012?
And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle (Exodus12:29 KJV)..
At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments (Psalm 119:62 KJV).
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them (Acts 16:25 KJV).
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight (Acts 20:7 KJV).
 
December 01, 2011
It is hard to remember every Christmas season I experienced, but a few stand out in my mind. I remember Christmas 1957. Santa brought me an airplane. It was silver and black and had a friction mechanism that the more you pushed it before you let it go the faster it went. It also had red lights that blinked as it rolled along the floor. Unfortunately, it would not fly. I know because I threw it from the deck of the second floor in the apartment that we stayed.
I remember Christmas 1958. My sister and I got Zorro suits. Mom took pictures of us in them. We looked like matadors ready to fight the bull. I am pretty sure the pictures were of us, but I could be mistaken because we had on masks like those that the real Zorro wore in the Disney movies. No one knew who he was, so I not sure that is us in the picture.
Christmas 1959 was the last one we spent in the snow in Illinois. I remember that the tree had lots of presents beneath it. Mom took a picture of that one too. One of the presents under the tree is Huckaberry Hound. Huckaberry Hound was actually a target that had a gun with suction tip bullets. 
I remember that we got lots of guns, toy and real, for Christmas. That was before the naysayers said that guns caused too much violence. I guess the naysayers did not have my daddy as their dad. Dad never allowed us to point our guns, toy or real, at people and pretend to kill them. If we did, we felt daddy’s wrath.
When we moved back to Alabama, Christmas was not the same as up north. Alabama, Chilton County especially, did not have the same economical advantages of Illinois. That is why were moved north in the beginning. Back in Alabama, dad did not work during the Christmas holidays. 
I remember him coming home with this grim look. He would tell momma that he was on layoff for the holidays. He was the junior man on the totem pole where he worked and because business was slow, companies, I called them Scrooges, laid off workers until after the holidays.
I do remember one special Christmas. We wanted bicycles. My sister, brothers, and I had suspicions that Santa might not be the real deal. On this particular Christmas, we going to stay up and watch to see if Santa actually would come. 
We did not have a fireplace, but we did have a small pot-bellied stove in the southeast end of the house. We wanted to see if Santa could come down the stovepipe. It was real small, and crooked, and from all the pictures that we saw, Santa was real big. We wondered how Santa could keep his suit so clean climbing down chimneys without getting soot on them.
Back then, there were no presents under the tree until Christmas morning. We went to bed pretending to be asleep, but Mr. Sandman filled our eyes with sleep. We woke the next morning to see that somehow, some way, that Santa had left us new bicycles. They were Huffy bicycles. Mine was red and white twenty-six inches tall. I rode that bike everywhere I went for years. Of course, I made several modifications to that bike. I removed the front fender. I bent it in a wreak. I took off the chain guard. It got bent in a wreak. I took off the reflectors which got mangled in a wreak. I also bent the front forks. That bike was one of the greatest Christmas gifts I ever received. 
As years passed and layoffs came every Christmas, the magic of Christmas vanished. Magic is that way. Magicians can make things disappear. The Hopper family learned what the Magi, not magicians, did. They were astrologists that studied the heavens and realized that God, a King of the Jews to them, was coming to earth. They said that they had seen His star in the East and were following it. They said where is He that born the Kings of the Jews for we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.
We learned that Christmas is about the greatest gift that one can receive. It is the gift of Jesus. That is what Christmas is. It is Christ’s Mass or worship of Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us that God sending Jesus to earth was the mystery of the Old Testament revealed in Jesus. Santa, like Disney, may have a magical kingdom that will one day disappear. Jesus’ coming ushered an eternal kingdom that is marvelous and will never disappear.
Sometimes I, and perhaps you also, make a wreak of God’s gift as I did with my bike. My bike was a wonderful gift, but I abused it. God gives us the gift of Salvation and we experience life’s wreaks. I thank God for helping through my wreaks. How about you?
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matthew 2:1-2 KJV).
 
November 17, 2011
Tuesday morning at the Alabama Baptist State Convention, my thoughts went back over thirty-eight years ago to place now gone. I hope you know by now that I do have an Attention Deficit Disorder and my mind goes on a tangent. On this occasion, Dr. David Potts was giving the annual Judson College report. He had invited two of his students to share how Judson College was changing their lives. They were part of the team from Judson that gives donuts and coffee to visitors to the Judson College exhibit. No, I know what you are thinking. I did not eat any of those “hot” Krispy Kreme Donuts. Shame on you for having those thoughts when I sacrificed by not having any. See, I suffered a little ADD for a moment.
As Dr. Potts introduced this beautiful student, her last name was Davenport and I noticed she looked familiar. He said that she was from Jemison, my hometown, and her was church Mineral Springs, my brother is music director there. I realized that I did know her. That is what took me back thirty-eight plus years.
The place was concrete tables, underneath oak trees, behind Union Springs Baptist Church, my home church, which is located between Jemison and Randolph, Alabama. I was talking to James Earl Davenport. Up home, a lot of boys and men have Earl for their middle name. At Jemison High School, there was Dudley Earl Burnette, Rickey Earl Coles, Maston Earl Martin Jr., Ricky Earl Posey, and Bobby Earl Hopper in my senior class. I do not know for whom we are named, but Earl must have been popular in the early 1950’s. Oops, I went ADD again.
James Earl was six years older than I was. He already had a small son and daughter. We were having a church get together for young married couples. We were talking hot topics of that time. James Earl was worried about life and the terrible shape of our nation and world. “End times” were hot topics of that era and everyone was talking about Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth. I had a copy at the time. We were sure that the Lord would return any day because times were so terrible. When I think of that time, I never imagined that things would be as they are currently.
That evening, James Earl said that if he had it to do again, he would not have had children. He feared bringing children into such a horrible environment. I remember when our older two children were small that I would hear Sharon weeping at night fearing some foreign power would take Andy and Angel from us. I would remind her that if we taught them God’s Word, they could be another Daniel or Joseph of the Old Testament.
A few years down the road after that cement table conversation, I had the privilege of teaching James Earl’s son. He was a polite and teachable. He became a good student and had a scholarship offer to play football at Troy University. During the summers, he would work with his dad and me at the cement plant.
He married another one of our co-workers daughter and they had two girls and adopted a couple of children after their daughters were teenagers. One daughter and I did a wedding together in Springville. I did the ceremony and the daughter played the violin. She also plays violin with a Christian ensemble with my nephew. That nephew is the son of my music director brother at Mineral Springs.
I did recognize that student from Judson who was devoting her life to ministry. She is the sister to the violinist, daughter of the young boy I taught in Sunday School, and the granddaughter of the one who had second thoughts about bringing up children in a cruel world. Life takes funny turns.
I still feel the same about children today. Sharon and I wanted our children to make a Christian difference in life. The Word of God reminds us to be fruitful and replenish the earth. It is God’s way of having His people be salt and light in a decaying world.
When I had an opportunity, I visited the Judson Exhibit. There behind the fresh hot crème covered donuts was James Earl and Ann Davenport’s daughter. Now, she is a spokesperson for Judson College at the Alabama Baptist State Convention at Dauphin Way Baptist in Mobile. Standing before a couple of thousand believers, she encouraged us with how God was using her and how Judson was preparing her for ministry.
Some things are hard to envision. That evening the two Earls, James and Bobby, never imagined that the horrific world of that time would be so anti Christian, atrocious, and repulsive today. God continues to call people into His fields. The darker the days ahead, the brighter the light of God’s people shines. I can’t wait to talk to James Earl.
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Psalm 34:8-9, 11 KJV).
 
 
November 1, 2011
I will never forget the first time I realized that a turkey sacrificed his life for me to have turkey and dressing. I remember the episode well. Smoke swirled in the fall air and coolness surrounded you like a cold cloth wrapped around your head when running a fever. 
We were playing near the fig trees and the ash dump at Grandpaw and Grandmoe’s underneath an overcast sky. Grandpaw and daddy busied themselves sharpening an axe after splittin’ kinlin’ for a fire burning around the wash pot. They were boiling water in anticipation of scaldin’ a turkey. My cousins and I were very familiar with scalding hogs, but the turkey scaldin’ was a first.
It seems as though Grandpaw had raised a few turkeys. At one time people raised turkeys just as they did chickens. Turkeys are ugly fowls. It is hard to believe that some of our founding fathers wanted the turkey to be our national bird instead of the eagle. Can you imagine what kind of respect the United States would have received had the turkey been on our national bird? 
You do realize that there would have been no turkey and dressing had the turkey been our symbol of power and strength. Heck, most of the male citizens of Alabama would never have passed through the rite of passage into manhood by going turkey hunting. There would be no beards displayed on walls of many homes, no turkey feet would proudly exhibited in the den, nor would there be any tail feathers proudly flaunted in the living room where tall tales of calling a gobbler would be shared.
The industry of producing, marketing, and using a turkey caller would not exist if the turkey had been our national bird.  I cannot imagine what are forefathers were thinking when they even suggested the turkey as a national emblem of strength and power.
As I reflect on that morning at Grandpaw’s, I wonder if Grandmoe would had Grandpaw and daddy “ringin’ chickin necks” instead of “choppin’ oft” turkey heads. When I think about what momma said on many occasions, Grandpaw and Grandmoe might have had possum instead. 
Momma said they ate possum on several occasions. She said they would “catch em”, “cage em,” and “clean em” out by feeding them “Irish and sweet tater peelin’s.” For those that don’t know it, possums are scavengers that do not know how to get out of the road when a vehicle approaches. 
Daddy used to make fun of momma saying that before he married her the only thing momma had eaten was chickens and possums. Daddy did not have it much better. He ate chitterlings, mountain oysters, and pig feet with pickled collard greens. I bet some of you are getting hungry and cannot want for the Thanksgiving dinner. 
I guess knowing all these things helped my family to appreciate Thanksgiving dinners. Gathering around momma’s table was a feast fit for kings. There was joy around the table. Usually daddy got a turkey from his work and we grew corn, peas, butter beans, okra, sweet potatoes, pigs, chickens, and such which momma would transform into some of the finest meals. We were thankful. Looking back, I realize we were not a thankful then as I am now. 
I look back that special moment in time as Grandpaw and daddy were about to kill “Ole Tom” and think how things have changed and how we as a nation have digressed from “thank full” to “thank less.” Sometimes I think that I would enjoy being that small boy witnessing the first time a turkey gave his all for us to eat. Reminiscing about a simpler time creates a longing to share special times today. The Lord may be reminding me, and maybe you, that we grow in times of adversity, times of economical downturns, and times of hurting.
At thanksgiving dinner, momma would remind us that God loved us so much and we needed to thank Him for we had so much and many people did not. We were poor, but we had neighbors who had less than we did. I realize this is truer today than years ago when momma said it.
So will I compass thine altar, O Lord: That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works (Psalm 26:6b-7 KJV).
 
October 27, 2011
I remember one night my brothers, sister, and I got one the biggest surprises of our lives. Our Uncle Everett, Aunt Mildred, and cousins, Wayne and Judy, came for a visit. They had a great big cardboard box filled with toys, clothes, and shoes and it wasn’t even Christmas.
Wayne and Judy were older than we were and they decided to clean out their closets and toy boxes. Uncle Everett and daddy served in the army together. Coming home with daddy after doing basic training, Everett met Aunt Mildred. They fell in love and married when WWII was over.
Uncle Everett was a tinkerer. He had to know how things were made, tearing them apart whether or not they needed repair.
Aunt Mildred was my favorite Aunt on daddy’s side of the family. The distinct characteristic about her was her feet apparel. She wore what looked like a pair of orthopedic shoes and white socks. That is not that unusual, except that she wore them with dresses. Aunt Mildred could make you laugh just listening to her talk. 
I remember several years back that Sharon, the kids, and I went to spend Thanksgiving with Uncle Everett and her. Uncle Everett has gone to be with the Lord since that time. Aunt Mildred and he were wonderful Christians. What made that more wonderful was there were not many Christians in the Hopper family for along time.
That big old cardboard box had some great gifts for us. I remember there was a red corduroy jacket in the box. I was so proud of that dress corduroy jacket that I wore it for my fifth grade school picture. You know I found out later that that jacket was called a “hand-me-down.” When I tell people that I wore “hand-me-downs” they ask, “I thought you were the oldest?” I was in my immediate family, but way down the list with my cousins.
There was a Mattel toy gun with holster in the box. It was a snub-nosed 38. It had spring loaded brass shells with yellow plastic tips. When you fired the gun, the spring in the shell would release the suppressed yellow bullet tip and it would sail through the air.
There was a remote controlled, battery operated, replica of a police car. With the controls you could steer it, make the red light on top blink, and sound off the siren. It was fun. I could be a robber with a snub-nosed 38 and chase myself with the police car.
I remember that there other great gifts in the box, but I remember these three most because those are the ones I claimed. That pistol looked like the real thing. In fact, Mattel made their toy guns so detailed to the real weapon, that they discontinued their toy guns because of being associated with violence and began making real weapons. I never could figure out about that violence thing with toy guns. I guess that is because I had a daddy that made sure I understood the difference between make believe and reality. He helped me understand the meaning of receiving a gift or gifts.
As Uncle Everett, Aunt Mildred, Wayne, and Judy left that night, we realized we were special, and God’s people had blessed us with wonderful gifts. The best gift they gave was love.
When I received a call from Gallion Baptist Church, my former church of service, telling me that they were donating their old van to the Bethel Baptist Association, I felt blessed. Bethel Baptist Association has a van. This van can be used by any church in the Association. According to our insurance carrier for the van, any member of the churches of Bethel Baptist Association can drive the van if they have a valid driver’s license, have a ticket free driving record for three years, and have an understanding of the rules and the requirements for driving passengers on the van. I hope that the Bethel Baptist Association Properties Committee can have the logistics of the rule and requirements ironed out quickly where we can put God’s gift via Gallion Baptist Church to ministerial use.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift (Second Corinthians 9:15 KJV).
 
October 13, 2011
I loved spending time with my daddy. His life experiences were something that I wanted to know and to share. He grew up during the Great Depression without a dad. Granddad Hopper committed suicide when daddy was eleven years old in 1935. Granddad Hopper, gored by a steer and suffering a stroke, was plagued with depression and paralysis. By his early forties, he shot himself in the head with a shotgun. He believed he had no reason to live.
Granny Hopper, dad’s mother, was a sharecropper, widow woman, and a mother of eight during the Great Depression and daddy would tell how the family struggled to survive. I remember one of the houses that Granny Hopper lived in for many years. It was high off the ground, had wide crakes in the floor, and had no inside plumbing. In fact, the kitchen was a separate building adjacent to the house.
I thought it amazing that dad lived there most of his life. I was glad that it was not the house where granddad killed himself. I think that is why we lived in our house for many years without many modern amenities that other folks had, such as hot water and a bathroom. Dad was not accustomed to them.
Dad served in the Army during the second Great World War. He had been to Texas, California, North Africa, and Italy. He had been wounded by an exploding grenade and ripped open by a machine gun blast. He was left for dead and had been captured. He was in the hospital when General Patton became infamous for slapping a soldier.
I thought daddy was intriguing. He had been to so many exotic and interesting places. He knew so many different people from all walks of life. He would tell us some of the most interesting stories.
I loved to lay out in the yard with daddy in the evenings. He would come home from a hard day of logging. I have a vivid memory of him coming home all sweaty and dirty from working in the woods. After supper, daddy loved momma’s cooking, we would get an old blanket and lay in the yard and watch the sunset. 
The hill where we lived provided the most gorgeous sunsets. In the twilight, we would listen as the crickets and frogs serenaded us. We would watch the bats dive for bugs as the stars began illuminating the heavens. Daddy would talk of how the Old Master created all the heavens.
On our backs and looking in to heaven, we watched falling stars, planes traveling to and fro, orbiting satellites, which he called Sputniks, and sometimes far off lightning. He would thump a cigarette into the grass and tell us that the crickets were having a weenie roast as the smoke swirled upward.
When daddy started to work evening shift (three to eleven p.m.), our time times outside in the yard were fewer, but we spent time out there when we could. I could not wait for daddy to get home when he worked evenings. I was happy to see that he came home. I worried that something might happen to him because he worked with heavy equipment at the rock plant in Calera.
Daddy would always have something left over in his lunch bucket. It was usually a Colonial honey bun which he picked up on the way to work and did not have time to eat it or may he left it to see the scuffle between my brothers, sister, and I to be the first to open it. It was fun to share the honey bun, but it felt wonderful that daddy was home. Oh, the joy of seeing daddy come home. I knew daddy had to leave home to earn a living for the family and I knew he would come back. It reminds me of Jesus’ promise.
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:2-3 KJV).
 
September 22, 2011 
In an effort to stay within budget, I volunteered to build the cabinets for the Family Life Center kitchen at the Friendship Baptist Church in Clanton. The church bought the materials and I furnished the labor. I made them of oak with raised panel doors. Along with the cabinets, I had built an island for serving food and fashioned oak underneath the stainless steal sink to hide the plumbing. It was a big job, as was the entire project.
As I unloaded the cabinets on a Saturday workday, one of my deacons noticed that I had a worried look. With apprehension, he asked if I was okay. I think he thought that I was frustrated over the Family Life Center project and my involvement with it. I had been a subcontractor of sorts for it and saved the church 18-20% of the total construction cost.
I told him that my thoughts were with an old friend. The night before I received word that my friend JJ had been involved in a terrible accident where he worked. JJ was severely burned having third degree from his waist down, second degree from his neck down, and first degree on his face. Prognosis was that he would loss everything from his waist down.
JJ, a wheel inspector for ABC Rail in Calera, stepped on a four-inch gas line in performance of his duties. The gas line fueled the heat treatment department for the hardening or tempering of train wheels.
As JJ stepped on the gas line, it broke and gas filled JJ’s overalls and then ignited from the flames used in the heat treatment. Witnesses saw JJ rocket into the air about fifteen feet and then fell about thirty feet onto a concrete floor below.
Had JJ worn pants with a belt, he would have lost every thing from waist down according in ABC Rail Safety officials. University of Alabama Birmingham hospital doctors said the quick response of the ABC Rail Safety team covering JJ’s burns with shaving cream and the rescue team with the airlift unit saved his life. The shaving cream sealed and cleansed the burns.
When my deacon friend asked me if I was okay, I did not know much about JJ at that time. My information was that JJ was in critical condition and he may not live. I told my deacon friend that I did not know how to pray for JJ. I did not know whether to pray that JJ live or that Lord take him. I wanted to install the cabinets and get to UAB hospital burn unit to see my friend.
JJ and I had been friends all our lives. We were the same age, but were in different classes at school due to our birthdays. I cannot remember our teenage years with being around one another with baseball, football, and basketball, watching sail off the swing and dive into the Little Cahaba at Bull Dog Bend, or taking a ride in his Dodge Super Bee. I really think he came to the house to see my sister!
JJ loved playing cow pasture football because his mother would not allow him to play organized football. I have thrown JJ so many touchdown passes that I am afraid to give you a number. One Saturday we played football, supposedly light tackle, against some boys from Isabella at their high school football field. I remember JJ said he was so sore after the game that he could hardly go to work on midnights crawling from his Super Bee to his job on the overhead crane. We played football well into our thirties.
JJ had his share of troubles. His wife had been sickly for years and Aetna Insurance had paid the limit for her hospital stays and surgeries. JJ told me one time that he owed almost eighty-five thousand dollars to Brookwood hospital in Birmingham. His eldest son got involved in the Gothic culture and became a drug addict. That son later died in a drug related suicide.
After I installed the cabinets, Sharon, Aaron, and I visited JJ at UAB. I will never forget the sight we saw. JJ did not look human. Swollen and pumped full with fluids, JJ’s head and body was swollen beyond recognition. His eyes were as big as a man’s fist and his ears were as large as a man’s cupped hand. We cried. I will never forget that deforming image of my friend.
For weeks, I visited JJ at UAB’s burn unit. JJ suffered excruciating pain from the burns, from shaving good skin for skin grafts, and from the shoulder that sustained damage when he hit the concrete floor. On one visit, I witnessed JJ break into a sweat as he tried to stretch a rubber hose with the injured shoulder. He struggled to pull it an inch or two. 
Most people thought JJ would never work again, but he did. Instead of taking a medical disability, JJ would work at ABC Rail until it closed. He works at a pipe shop now. He remains an avid sports fan, playing a lot of golf.
JJ has been a deacon in his church for many years. I had the privilege of doing a marriage renewal for Gloria and him. I was with him at his son’s funeral. Through all that he has been, JJ has taught me faithfulness and hope.
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:25-27 KJV).
I remember being in agony as I prayed for JJ. Do I pray he live, or for the Lord to receive him? I told the deacon at Friendship that I finally prayed, Lord may Your will be done and You receive glory.
 
September 15, 2011
Dr. Charles Colson writes in one of his books, The Body of Christ, that the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is an individual commission. He goes on to write that the church needs to be more character centered than achievement centered. To understand more about the Church, the body of Christ, the book is a good read and Colson is very prophetic in his wisdom concerning the church and secular influences on the church.
Colson as you may recall was the hatchet man for President Nixon and as result of the Watergate scandal was sentenced to prison. In prison, he received Christ as his Savior. Since his conversion and release, Colson has been a very prominent Southern Baptist leader for Christ as speaker and author.
This morning as a read his comment or character verses achievement, I thought of a conversation I had with a pastor friend. He and I would attend Southern Baptist rallies, national and state, and instead of being energized, he would get discouraged. In his passion for evangelism, he became depressed because his church was not growing numerically. That is achievement oriented. This is how most Baptists, national, state, and local, judge success in our Convention, our states, and associations.
Keynote speakers at conventions are typically pastors who started with a few members and grew large churches. The typical storyline was, “we started with 50 or less members in an open area and now were are running 500, 1000, or more.”
I would quiz my friend about these claims. I asked, “Did you know that that church did start in a cotton field, but now there are subdivisions due to white flight and urban expansion?” I would ask him how many people moved in to his community within the last year. He would reply that people had moved out. I asked how expected his church to enlarge if the community was shrinking.
Another depressing concern for my friend was the inconsistence of his Sunday morning Sunday School and worship attendance. Again, this was achievement oriented. He continually complained that he would have a consistent attendance if he did not have so many members that worked on Sunday. He told me on several occasions that they needed to quit their jobs if they had to work Sunday.
I would quiz him again. I say quiz but it might have been me playing the devils advocate. I would ask him did he turn on the lights on Sundays. He said yes and I said someone was working at the electric plant for him to have lights.
I asked if he drove a car to his church on Sunday. He said yes and I said that many of the parts of that car were manufactured on Sunday and that the car may have been assembled on Sunday.
I knew he liked to eat out on Sundays and I reminded him that those people were working Sunday. I reminded him that I worked shift work for many years, which many of his members have, and had only one Sunday a month as an off day. I worked shift work as a bivocational pastor. I missed one Sunday morning, one Sunday night, and one Wednesday night every month.
My pastor friend preached for me when I missed these services. I reminded him that most of the conveniences, luxuries, and necessities are produced on Sundays. I told them that it was very costly and inefficient to start and stop a cement kiln so the operators could be off on Sundays. It took several hours to shut down a kiln and several hours to restart. That would make cement unaffordable. That is true for most manufacturing.
When we focus on the achievement, we forget character. The Great Commission challenges us to make disciples. I asked my friend if his members that worked shift attended, taught, and tithed when they were at church. His response was they do and even send their tithes and have a substitute teacher when they have to work on Sundays. I asked him, “Well, what’s your problem?” In reality, the members who were faithful in these areas were disciples by the character of their actions. Besides this, they were witnesses where they were employed. They were following the commission of Acts 1:8. They were witnesses at work.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8 KJV).
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen Matthew 28:19-20 KJV).
Colson says, “The first priority of those communities (Churches) is to disciple men and women to maturity in Christ and then equip them to live their faith in every aspect of life and in every part of the world.”
 
August 18, 2011
When is the last time someone asked you a puzzling question? You know, one that leaves you scratching your head and sends you mind a whizzing. The one I get the most is why did I leave the ministry. I get that question in a variety of ways. How come you do not have a church? Why don’t you pastor? What do you miss most since you got out of the ministry? 
It is amazing how many people, that is church people, Baptist people, and people in general do not know what a Director of Missions does. My favorite answer is that churches pay me not to preach.
Since I am out of the ministry, as people say, or do not pastor, folks want to know what I miss the most. I tell them I miss time with church kids. I have always had a great relationship with my church kids. As Director of Missions, I have performed dozens of weddings for former church kids.
Another thing I miss is the discipline of doing three sermons a week. I love studying and putting together a message from God to His people and those who need to hear His Word. 
Discipline is a way of life for believers. I am concerned that today’s lack of discipline among people will be tomorrow’s disappointment. It takes discipline to function in society. Today everyone wants it now. “It” covers just about everything in life. 
I had several instructors on discipline. There was Mildred Miller, my seventh grade history teacher. Monday’s homework assignment was one hundred facts for the chapter we were studying. Tuesday’s assignment was fifty questions and answers. Wednesday’s assignment was a combination of facts and questions. Then, there was a test. I loved history, but not because of Mrs. Miller.
There was Coach Lamar, my defensive football coach. Everyday there were pushups, monkey rolls, wind sprints, the camel caravan, the Burma rope, and these were for practice. There were other means of discipline when you could not get a play right.
I started at defensive end as a sophomore. For the first three football games people got outside Nutt Burnett, the other end, and me. For three weeks, the football team ran over either Nutt or me. You notice I said the football team. Nutt and I were the only two on defense. We knew they were running outside. Our job was to turn them inside. I can say with pride that after the after the third game, no one, I mean no one, ran outside on the Jemison football team for three seasons. I learned discipline to stay at home at my position and turn the play inside.
There was dad. He taught me disciplines of life. I remember one time after we had moved from Illinois back to Alabama we were returning home from Clanton. I was around six or seven years old. Dad decided to go the highway through Thorsby and Jemison rather than the shortcut of the dirt road. Dad would hardly ever stop and eat. We have drove for hours and never stopped to eat. The big reason was lack of money.
On this particular trip dad asked what I wanted from the Dari Delite. Up home, we had the Dairy Queen, Dairy Barn, Dari Lan, Dari Delite South, Dairy Delite North, and Dairy Lan Thorsby, all ice cream places. The Dari Delite in Thorsby still has the best ice cream in the state. I told daddy that I wanted an ice cream cone. When we got there, I noticed many tempting delights made with ice cream. While dad was getting me a cone, I decided I wanted a milk shake or malt. Dad returned to the car with the cone and I told him of my change of heart and tantalizing desire of my taste buds. He put the ice cream cone in my hand as we started home. I told dad that I did not want the cone and that I wanted one of those delicious milk shakes or heavenly malts. He said that I got what I wanted and to eat it.
I repeated that I not want the cone. I remember to this moment conversing with him via the rearview mirror. I sure you have had those conversations.
He said, “If you don’t want the cone, give it here.” I did with a smirk of defiance. I thought he would return to the Dari Delite and fulfil me the temptations of my heart and desire of my taste buds. Dad tossed the ice cream cone out the window. I will never forget the ice cream cone bouncing down US Highway 31 between the towns of Thorsby and Jemison as my sister smiled and enjoyed her ice cream treat. Dad’s words and actions were etched in stone that day and I pondered what could have been.
At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, "How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!  I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly." (Proverbs 5:11-14 NIV).
The other day I stopped at the Dari Delite in Thorsby and ordered a hot fudge sundae with walnuts in heavy syrup. I encourage you to visit it but be sure to have some discipline when ordering.
 
August 11, 2011 
When is the last time someone asked you a puzzling question? You know, one that leaves you scratching your head and sends you mind a whizzing. The one I get the most is why did I leave the ministry. I get that question in a variety of ways. How come you do not have a church? Why don’t you pastor? What do you miss most since you got out of the ministry? 
It is amazing how many people, that is church people, Baptist people, and people in general do not know what a Director of Missions does. My favorite answer is that churches pay me not to preach.
Since I am out of the ministry, as people say, or do not pastor, folks want to know what I miss the most. I tell them I miss time with church kids. I have always had a great relationship with my church kids. As Director of Missions, I have performed dozens of weddings for former church kids.
Another thing I miss is the discipline of doing three sermons a week. I love studying and putting together a message from God to His people and those who need to hear His Word. 
Discipline is a way of life for believers. I am concerned that today’s lack of discipline among people will be tomorrow’s disappointment. It takes discipline to function in society. Today everyone wants it now. “It” covers just about everything in life. 
I had several instructors on discipline. There was Mildred Miller, my seventh grade history teacher. Monday’s homework assignment was one hundred facts for the chapter we were studying. Tuesday’s assignment was fifty questions and answers. Wednesday’s assignment was a combination of facts and questions. Then, there was a test. I loved history, but not because of Mrs. Miller.
There was Coach Lamar, my defensive football coach. Everyday there were pushups, monkey rolls, wind sprints, the camel caravan, the Burma rope, and these were for practice. There were other means of discipline when you could not get a play right.
I started at defensive end as a sophomore. For the first three football games people got outside Nutt Burnett, the other end, and me. For three weeks, the football team ran over either Nutt or me. You notice I said the football team. Nutt and I were the only two on defense. We knew they were running outside. Our job was to turn them inside. I can say with pride that after the after the third game, no one, I mean no one, ran outside on the Jemison football team for three seasons. I learned discipline to stay at home at my position and turn the play inside.
There was dad. He taught me disciplines of life. I remember one time after we had moved from Illinois back to Alabama we were returning home from Clanton. I was around six or seven years old. Dad decided to go the highway through Thorsby and Jemison rather than the shortcut of the dirt road. Dad would hardly ever stop and eat. We have drove for hours and never stopped to eat. The big reason was lack of money.
On this particular trip dad asked what I wanted from the Dari Delite. Up home, we had the Dairy Queen, Dairy Barn, Dari Lan, Dari Delite South, Dairy Delite North, and Dairy Lan Thorsby, all ice cream places. The Dari Delite in Thorsby still has the best ice cream in the state. I told daddy that I wanted an ice cream cone. When we got there, I noticed many tempting delights made with ice cream. While dad was getting me a cone, I decided I wanted a milk shake or malt. Dad returned to the car with the cone and I told him of my change of heart and tantalizing desire of my taste buds. He put the ice cream cone in my hand as we started home. I told dad that I did not want the cone and that I wanted one of those delicious milk shakes or heavenly malts. He said that I got what I wanted and to eat it.
I repeated that I not want the cone. I remember to this moment conversing with him via the rearview mirror. I sure you have had those conversations.
He said, “If you don’t want the cone, give it here.” I did with a smirk of defiance. I thought he would return to the Dari Delite and fulfil me the temptations of my heart and desire of my taste buds. Dad tossed the ice cream cone out the window. I will never forget the ice cream cone bouncing down US Highway 31 between the towns of Thorsby and Jemison as my sister smiled and enjoyed her ice cream treat. Dad’s words and actions were etched in stone that day and I pondered what could have been.
At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, "How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!  I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly." (Proverbs 5:11-14 NIV).
The other day I stopped at the Dari Delite in Thorsby and ordered a hot fudge sundae with walnuts in heavy syrup. I encourage you to visit it but be sure to have some discipline when ordering.
 
July 21, 2011
One time my paw-in-law asked me why I attended so much school. It was a legitimate question. I started school at Beloit Kindergarten in Beloit, Illinois in 1959. I have the class picture, which has the event documented with an informational board in front of the class. This board shows the school, the date, and the teacher’s name. That’s school number one. School number two was Beloit Elementary. I do not remember much about that school. I played sick, ran away, and missed so much, that I did not have a class picture to prove I was there.   I have haunting memories of this old, I mean old and mean, teacher who made fun of my Southern accent. She made fun because I could not skip with both feet. I showed her I could skip. I skipped plenty of her classes.
I could walk to this school, but dad would take me occasionally. I remember one particular morning that I beat him, and my uncle Clifton, back home. I hid in a chair underneath the dining room table. When they discovered me, they took me back to school. I know this sounds like an old cliché, but I did walk to school in the snow and it was on a hill.
Along about March of that school year, 1959-60, we moved back to Alabama and to school number three, Jemison Elementary. Actually, the elementary, middle school, and high school were all together. I would spend 11 years and three months at Jemison.
Guess what? My first grade teacher, Mrs. Shirley, at Jemison was the splitting image of the one in Beloit. Mrs. Shirley made fun of my Yankee accent. You have heard of the man with no country. I was the boy with no dialect. I had a Southern drawl with a Yankee brogue.
I do not have any pictures from the first grade at Jemison. I want to think the school had already taken them and I got there too late. I must confess that I took up my old patterns of running away from school, except this school was seven miles from home.
I devised a plan using the school bus. Mr. Allen Posey drove school bus Number 34 He lived across from Land Mark. Most of you might recall that store from earlier article. Mr. Allen started there and made a big loop back to a local store. I would convince Mr. Allen that I was deathly ill and get his permission to exit the bus and walk back home. We had only one vehicle, which daddy used to drive to work. Once home, I was so sick that mom would nurse me and I would have a miraculous healing.
Mom was a miracle worker when it came to healing and a genius at figuring the schemes of little boys. She told me that I was not sick. Really, I was. I was sick of school and mean teachers that made fun of your speech and made you sit on a stool with a pointed fairly hat, a dunce hat, when you could not answer a question the class discussed while I was taking care of business in the outside toilet of Jemison Elementary.
One morning I was really sick, but mom made me go to school anyway. My throat hurt something awful. I remember that afternoon after school getting off the bus and walking home. I usually could beat the bus home by getting off at the store. I was burning with fever when I got home. I had the mumps!
I finally got a good teacher in the second grade, Mrs. Nettie Glasscock, had the best one in the third, Mrs. Avis Harthen, and had a great one, Mrs. Gentry, in the fourth grade. I started making straight E’s (Excellent) in Mrs. Harthen’s class and straight A’s in Mrs. Gentry’s class.
I tell students that if you hate school, they will make straight A’s. Those that make bad grades love school. They love repeating classes and staying in school longer. I graduated Jemison in May 1971.
Several years later while teaching Sunday School I attended the Howard Extension (now Samford Extension), school number four. When the Lord called me into full time ministry, I returned to school at the University of Montevallo for four years, school number five. I attended Bessemer Tech for two years while working in maintenance at the cement plant, school number six. I attended New Orleans Theological Seminary for four years, school number seven. I graduated from Beeson School of Divinity Samford University in December 2002.
After all those years of gathering wisdom and a few moments of reflecting, I said, “Paw-in-law, the more I go to school the dumber I get.” All my years of study has taught me that I really do not know anything. Boy, you miss a lot when you miss most of the first grade. The same is true when missing reading the Bible, Sunday School, or preaching.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (Second Timothy 2:15 KJV).
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12:12 KJV).
 
July 14, 2011
I do not remember ever being lost, physically I mean. There were several times I did not know where I was. Heck, one time after working midnights, I could remember who I was. Now, that was scary, but that is for another article.
I remember the eerie feeling of not knowing where I was, even though I could see the lights at my house and those of my grandmother and aunts’ houses. Here’s how it happened. Sharon’s dad and her two brothers wanted to go “coon huntin’” in the woods behind my house. It is ideal coon huntin’ woods with swampy conditions and Possum branch as the main tributary. Sure enough, we weren’t in the woods no time when the dogs treed a coon. The problem was we never seen one, even though the coon “dawgs” were barking, howling, and carrying on something fierce. That’s part of lure of coon hunting, or so I was told.
I remember walking around the tree and looking in the top at the same time. I realized later that that is a sure fire no no. After a keen search for a coon by my experienced in-laws, they decided to go down the branch. A bass pond lay at the mouth of Possum branch and I started what I thought was down the branch, away from the pond. One of my brother-in-laws said that he wanted to go down the branch, not to the pond.
Well, the “dawg gonest” thing happened. Yeah, I know that this is not standard American English, but I’m trying to recall it like it wuz, I mean was. Possum branch was running the wrong way. Somehow, in the looking up and walking around the tree, I crossed the branch. I was turned around, and for a moment, I thought I had entered a spectrum of time known as The Twilight Zone. I never let on to my in-laws. You know all the ridicule and such I would have received if they knew that I was turned around in my own backyard! It was so weird, hard to explain. I knew I was not lost, I knew where I was, only turned around.
A person being turned around was nothing new to the community of Bessie, the community I call home. My place is called Sugar Ridge, which is in Bessie, which is part of the area called Mars Hill. No, Paul did not preach there. Mars Hill is across the railroad tracks from Jemison which is sorta, that is Chiltonian for sort of, like being south of the Bogue and south of Linden and having no signs to tell you where you are. 
I grew up knowing where I lived without the help of signs. We did have Land Mart, not a landmark even though it was a Land Mart was a landmark, which is a store in Bessie where two highways cross. People were constantly asking, “Which way to Jemison, which way to Maplesville, Thorsby, Randolph, or Montevallo?” Some would even ask, “Where are we?”
That brings me to the inspiration of this article. In route home from Betsy Layne, Kentucky after a wonderful time with the Bethel Baptist Builders, we searched for a place to eat. We departed the motel after a delicious breakfast of bagels and cream cheese. It was to hold Sharon and me until we could get a real breakfast.
Aaron did the driving and we descended from the wonderful cool and pleasant mountains of Kentucky to the hot and humid hills and post oak of Linden. Aaron did not eat breakfast and, I guess, thought we had plenty. Along the way Sharon told Aaron several times that she was hungry.
Down the mountains of Kentucky and through Virginia, we looked for a Krystals. They were none. Sharon reminded Aaron she was hungry but there were no Krystals. Sharon finally said, “I need to eat!” We suggested a Ruby Tuesdays. Being we were using a high tech gadget called a GPS, Aaron and I asked the nice lady in the GPS, you know the one always telling you, “When possible please make a U-turn” to find one. If you ignore her long enough, she will change her directions to where you wanted to go anyway because you got there without signs for years.
The nice lady directed us off the Interstate and to a strip mall with a Wal Mart and several restaurants, one being a Ruby Tuesdays. Across the highway was a college. A hostess greeted us, took us to a table, gave us a menu, and said someone would take our order. A young man appeared at out table, told us his name, took our order for drinks, and went to get them. Sharon noticed a woman who appeared to be logging in orders from customers. She asked her, “Where are we?”
The woman had a bewildered look and said real plain and slowly, “R U B Y  T U E S D A YS.”
I belly laughed, Aaron, chuckled, and Sharon snickered, trying to hide it with her hands.
Sharon was not specific with her question, so she said,”I mean, what town are we in?”
We were in Morristown, Tennessee the home of Davy Crockett. You know Davy Crockett went to Washington to serve in Congress and to Alamo in San Antonio, Texas without signs. 
We had a good laugh, good food, and a good mission trip. The sad thing is most people do not know where they are in life’s journey. This time I mean spiritually. Take old Adam for instance. When Eve and he disobeyed, God asked Adam where he was. Now remember, God knew where Adam was. God was trying to see if Adam knew where he himself was.
And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? (Genesis 3:9 KJV)
Where are you in life’s journey?
We knew where we were, but we did not know where was.
 
June 23, 2011
I’m sure your have heard the old saying, “You don’t miss the water till the well runs dry.” Water is a precious necessity that we often take for granted. Back in the winter and early spring, I heard a bunch of complaints about it raining too much. I for one love the rain a whole lot better than watching things burn in a drought.
Cool water is refreshing and more satisfying than soft drinks or even Gator Aid. In recent days, hydrating one’s body with water has been imperative. While cutting grass, I had plastic bottled that I half filled with water and then froze. It lasts much longer while operating the mower or the tractor. The sun was scorching, but the cold water was a welcomed relief.
I remember as a kid helping dig our well. We had a pump down in the spring, but we mostly toted the water up the hill in buckets. Now for those who think that tote is an improper word, let me give you a quick lesson in the construction of words according to Dr. Dorothy Grimes of the University of Montevallo in her 201 English class.
In olden days, farmers would put their produce in sacks called tote sacks. Several years back, Le Tote bags were the in thing. Anyway, the farmers would put the tote sacks on their donkeys and then proceed to carry them to the market. Instead of going through the whole explanation as I just, they shortened the process to “tote.” Tote means to carry something and I bet you thought it was another one of those crazy Chiltonian terms from up home.
Well, when daddy tired of toting water, he decided to dig a well near the house. One day this older gentleman came to the house to help daddy find a place. Any old place will not do. The man carried a stick that resembled an enlarged slingshot, only was much thinner and he held it upside down from the way we held them to shoot rocks, chinaberries, and green plumbs.
Walking in the back yard, that skinny, upside down slingshot started shaking and all of a sudden pointed down. The man told daddy that was where the well would be. To make sure it was the right place, he turned the slingshot upside down again and started walking from another part of the yard. One again the thing started shaking and pointed down in almost the exalt same spot. I asked daddy what kind of stick it was and he said it was a “witching stick”; some call it a “divining rod.” Now, I was familiar with all kind of sticks. The most familiar was the sticks momma used. She called them switches and those suckers would find the water in your eyes.
Several days later I helped daddy unload a wooden beam, it looked like a small log, with handles on each end that were opposite from one another and a large pair of wooden X’s. He called it a well winch. For me that was a second new term for my vocabulary. We used the well winch to lower daddy and other men into the hole, which would become our well. Forty-six feet and several days later, we had water. Daddy bought a new well pump, build a well house, and we had fresh water from the well. That was the best tasting water.
Before Sharon and I bought our trailer, that’s Chiltonian for mobile home, or built our house I hired Rutherford Well Boring and Drilling to bore us a well. They were high tech, or so I thought. When Mr. Rutherford arrived at an appointed time, I had the place for my well all picked out. It was to be behind where our house would eventually be built. He said that I would have to bore the well wherever there was water. I asked him how he would locate it. He went to his truck and pulled out, yep, he pulled out a witching stick or divining rod as he called it.
My forty-six feet, thirty inch bored well is in my front yard. I built a pump house to look like an old timey well or a wishing well. Most people think that it is for decoration. I say, “No it has seven to ten feet of water flowing in at the rate of seven gallons per minute.” Boy, it is good tasting water and a lot better than the stuff that you buy in plastic bottles
It makes one think, when Jacob dug his well, did he use a witching stick? Naw, it was probably a divining rod!
Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink . . . The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:5-7, 11-14 KJV).
 
June 9, 2011
I had prayer this morning for the retirees of Linden City Schools. They told me to adlib for the “Reflections” part I had on the program. That was easy, since most of the stuff I do, as Director of Missions seems to be adlib. I was supposed to be on vacation, but WMVB (Moody Radio) needed my voice, Pam needed this article, and the school needed my prayer. I guess the school realized I needed to practice my public prayers, Pam needed to fill space on the back of The Alabama Baptist, and John Rogers needed me to fill a time slot with information from Bethel Baptist Association. That being said, my vacation plans are flexible, so I adlibbed, and changed plans for a few hours. 
Something caught my attention at the retirement celebration. One teacher served 39 years. That is significant. She began teaching a year after I graduated. Can you believe that forty years ago I graduated Jemison High School? It has gone so fast.
I remember at our fifteenth year reunion that our biology teacher was celebrating her thirtieth reunion year. We kidded her about being old when she taught and how did she feel about going to her reunion of THIRTY years.
I have not received any news about my fortieth reunion. I think some of my classmates may have matured a tad bit more that they would like to admit. I know that Miss Clairol is a personal friend of most of the girls, oh, I’m sorry, I mean senior adult women, in my senior class, and Father Time has caught most of us guys who have developed the dreaded furniture disease. That is our chest has dropped into our drawers.
Most of our reunions have been on a riverboat ride departing from Montgomery. The ride is forty-five minutes down river and forty-five minutes to return. It begins at twilight and concludes as night settles over town. The nighttime skyline of Montgomery is mesmerizing. The lights are absolutely breathtaking. I love the nighttime, especially in the winter when it is drizzling rain. It is a time of reflection for me.
Unconsciously, I think it has sometime to do with my arrival to earth. No, I’m not an extraterrestrial being even thought I may appear to be one. I was born at night during a freezing rain. I know that I cried that night because it was so beautiful. I think that’s way I cried.
Another thing is that I dated Sharon many nights underneath beautiful star filled skies. I got my first kiss from Sharon at night under a big oak tree in her front yard. I worked more night shifts than day shifts at the cement plant. I work better at night than in the daytime. If fact I am working into the night trying to finish this article for Pam.
Unfortunately, most people associate night with the negative or the bad. Some folks have trouble seeing at night. Driving at night is a big thing among senior adults. I remember over hearing one of our senior adult ladies at our Senior Adult Revival asking if a certain eligible senior adult man had his driving license and if he could drive at night.
Evil people work their evilness behind the cloak of darkness. Thieves do their thieving at night. Good, that is light, is often contrasted with Bad, which is darkness. Satan is the prince of darkness. That is the way life is, someone or somebody can ruin a good night.
Take old Judas for instance. Jesus and the gang were having a swell nighttime party and Judas had to do his dastardly deed and betray Jesus. The fourth gospel, The Apostle John, uses light and darkness figuratively. John says that when Judas left the upper room “it was night.” C. Welton Gaddy in his book Geography of the Soul says, “That is not merely an observation about the time of day; it was a comment on the condition of Judas’ soul.”
He (Judas) then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night (John 13:30 KJV).
The disciples knew their potential for betrayal because the Last Supper was a time of refection.
May 26, 2011
Everyone experiences days when things just do not go right. When I got in the shower this morning, I realized that there was no hot water. Aaron and I have suspected that there was a problem with the hot water heater. We do not know if there is a problem with the gas or with the apparatus, which controls the gas. That should have been my first omen that things were about to get worse.
As usual, I did my Bible study, devotion, and quiet time not realizing that I had committed a cardinal crime the night before, for I would begged forgiveness. I checked the house telephone to see who had called. There were the telemarketers, the usual calls from the kids, a call on the answering machine, and a shocker. I saw Forest Hill Baptist Church had called.
Have you ever had this sick feeling deep down in your soul? I immediately realized that I forgot I had prayer meeting last night. I committed to conduct prayer meeting for Marc, the new pastor, and now I had let him, as well as the wonderful brothers and sisters of Forest Hill, down in a disastrous way.
I became so discombobulated that I could function. I had trouble trying to open a door. I got so distracted by the fact of my stupidity and unfaithfulness that I had difficulty thinking. My mind focused on my forgetting something of great significance. Failing to keep a commitment is a serious no no in ministry. One’s word, or commitment, is of vital importance. I knew that I had to make an apology to Marc and to the members of Forest Hill.
In all my years of ministry, I have made a couple of these serious blunders and yours truly does not easily forget them. Letting people down that you love and appreciate is a hurting experience. It eats at you and you feel stupid. With that said, I want to ask forgiveness, publicly and professionally, for my serious moment of forgetfulness.
I had the prayer meeting on my calendar and a reminder on the computer. I failed to look at them. One other time I was late to a wedding because I did not consult the calendar. 
There as been times when I looked at the calendar and I missed an appointment. I missed an appointment with a couple planning a wedding because I marked Tuesday as they came on Thursday. Once I missed an ordination because of miscommunication on the date.
I would say that it won’t happen again, but it probably will unless the Lord returns or I go to meet him. My time of departure is an appointment that I will keep. There is no if, ands, or buts about it. In fact that is a time that all of us will keep. There will not be any apologies for being late for that appointment.
I’m glad I do not have that appointment on my calendar. If I did, I would be discombobulated and have a sick feeling with that kind of anticipation. I know that day is coming, I just don’t know when.
I did something eerie one day. I googled, or researched my name, on the internet. I saw where Bobby E. Hopper had died some years ago in Pennsylvania. That did cause a little concern and little thought of my mortality. I am glad Jesus forgave me and I hope that Forest Hill folks will forgive. Right now, I am having a hard time forgiving myself and thinking what else have I forgotten. Let me check my calendar and the appointments on the computer.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27 KJV).
 
May 19, 2011
Everyone experiences days when things just do not go right. When I got in the shower this morning, I realized that there was no hot water. Aaron and I have suspected that there was a problem with the hot water heater. We do not know if there is a problem with the gas or with the apparatus, which controls the gas. That should have been my first omen that things were about to get worse.
As usual, I did my Bible study, devotion, and quiet time not realizing that I had committed a cardinal crime the night before, a crime that I would beg forgiveness. I checked the house telephone to see who had called. There were the telemarketers, the usual calls from the kids, a call on the answering machine, and a shocker. I saw Forest Hill Baptist Church had called.
Have you ever had this sick feeling deep down in your soul? I immediately realized that I forgot I had prayer meeting last night. I committed to conduct prayer meeting for Marc, the new pastor, and now I had let him, as well as the wonderful brothers and sisters of Forest Hill down in a disastrous way.
I became so discombobulated that I could function. I had trouble trying to open a door. I got so distracted by the fact of my stupidity and unfaithfulness that I had difficulty thinking. My mind focused on my forgetting something of great significance. Failing to keep a commitment is a serious no no in ministry. One’s word, or commitment, is of vital importance. I knew that I had to make an apology to Marc and to the members of Forest Hill.
In all my years of ministry, I have made a couple of these serious blunders and yours truly does not easily forget them. Letting people down that you love and appreciate is a hurting experience. It eats at you and you feel stupid. With that said, I want to ask forgiveness, publicly and professionally, for my serious moment of forgetfulness.
I had the prayer meeting on my calendar and a reminder on the computer. I failed to look at them. I was late to a wedding because I did not consult the calendar. 
There as been times when I looked at the calendar and I missed an appointment. I missed an appointment with a couple planning a wedding because I marked Tuesday as they came on Thursday. Once I missed an ordination because of miscommunication on the date.
I would say that it won’t happen again, but it probably will unless the Lord returns or I go to meet him. My time of departure is an appointment that I will keep. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. In fact that is a time that all of us will keep. There will not be any apologies for being late for that appointment.
I’m glad I do not have that appointment on my calendar. If I did, I would be discombobulated and have a sick feeling with that kind of anticipation. I know that day is coming, I just don’t know when.
I did something eerie one day. I googled, or researched my name, on the internet. I saw where Bobby E. Hopper had died some years ago in Pennsylvania. That did cause a little concern and little thought of my mortality. I am glad Jesus forgives me and I hope that Forest Hill folks will forgive. Right now, I am having a hard time forgiving myself and thinking what else have I forgotten. Let me check my calendar and the appointments on the computer.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27 KJV).
 
May 12, 2011
I don’t know about you, but I find myself standing long lines at funerals, Wal Mart, ball games, restaurants, and theme parks. Long lines can be boring for most folks, but I have learned to have a little fun.
It all started years ago at Six Flags Over Georgia waiting to ride the Great American Scream Machine roller coaster. Lines were so long that people had to have their hands stamped with a time to return to get in line. The wait in line was so long that television sets were at each end the lines to watch programs if the person in front of you , behind you or on either side of you did not want to talk. It was fun meeting people from different cities, states, and countries.
Of course, with the introduction of a new ride, the Scream Machine was easy to ride. We would ride it, get off it, get back on it, and ride it again. In fact, I rode the Scream Machine 22 times with no hands. Now, that was fun.
Another thing that was fun when things got a little slow was to get an accompanist and point into the sky. Now, there would not be anything in the sky. We would point, nod our heads, whisper, and back away to watch how people would gaze into the sky. You heard, “I see it.” “There it is.” “How many are there?” “What did they see?” Yea, I know that is just wrong to do that, but it sure was fun to watch people watching the sky. The line did not move any faster, but it sure seemed as though it did.
Gazing is something we all do, especially when trying to “figure” out something. “Figure” is a good old Chilton County term for reasoning, contemplation, meditation, consideration, deliberation, reflection, or observation. You have probably heard the expression, “Don’t look at me like a new born calf staring at an open gate.”   Nowadays I caught myself staring because I am losing my eyesight, not trying to figure it out.
I remember working for Hiwassee Land Company during the summers between by sophomore-junior year of school. Our foreman, Benny, gathered us together to see something that most of had never seen before. We worked two summers in the woods killing hardwood where pine could grow and we saw very few snakes. On this particular afternoon, we saw two, a small king snake and a large water moccasin. Benny made us be real quiet as we approached the two snakes, which were in mortal combat on a small branch.
The moccasin had its mouth around the neck of the king snake. Benny whispered, “The king snake is going to kill the moccasin.” We stood there in disbelief. The poor king snake’s head was lifeless, but its tail was just a twixing. Slowly, but surely, the king snake wrapped itself around the moccasin. Then, little by little, the king snake squeezed the moccasin. In the silence of our gazing/staring at the snakes, we could hear the cracking of the moccasin as the king snake crushed him a little bit at a time.
Benny said that the king snake, the smaller, would eat the moccasin, the larger. We did not believe it, but the longer we watched, the limper, the moccasin became. Finally, the moccasin opened its mouth releasing the king snake. Like a calf staring at a new gate, we watched the king snake eat the moccasin. The mouth of the king snake unhinged and open wide as the king snake slowly swallowed the moccasin.
The Great American Scream Machine gazing at the sky and the king snake incident remind me of what Ty Pardon, pastor of FBC Thomasville, said at our Quarterly Men’s Meeting at Providence. He reminded us that the problem of the church is we stand gazing into the sky when Jesus said to be witnesses. Could it be that we are wanting and looking for the Lord to come back because Satan, the moccasin, has the paralyzed most of our ministries? Remember the King is not finished and one day he will crush Satan. Until He comes, we are to be witnesses not gazing or pointing into the sky.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:8-11 KJV) .
 
April 20, 2011  
In the aftermath of our storms of April 15-16, I was doing some reflection and evaluation. My thoughts were of an English class on Shakespeare’s King Lear at the University of Montevallo. Shakespeare used weather in his plays for various dramatic purposes. 
In the play, the emotions of King Lear manifest in the cosmos as storms. King Lear, as have we, experienced self-discovery. Lear enters a condition where when the mind is free, the body is delicate, away from his daughters, who have violated the customary obligation of a child to a parent, and with those faithful to him such as the Fool, Gloucester, and Kent. He exhibits a refreshing sense of resilience, challenging himself to tide the storm: “Pour on I will endure.”
As Lear leaves daughters Goneril and Regan, he runs directly into a storm. The storm mirrors Lear’s mood. The Fool does not see the storm as enlightening. The Fools comments are snide remarks to Lear: “Court holy water in a dry house is better than this rainwater.” He has the attitude that nothing can be gained and everything is lost: “This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.”
I am glad that we serve a God that is with us in storms. My wife, the Post Master of Nanafalia and TV celebrity, said when the tornado hit that it looked like a scene from The Wizard of OZ.  As she drove under her desk she prayed, “Dear Lord hold me and this trailer down. Thank you, amen.” She thought of Peter sinking in the water in the storm.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me (Matthew 14:30 KJV).
 
April 8, 2011
Springtime means warm weather replacing the cold death of winter with vibrant new life. This burst of new growth comes with a tendency of stormy weather. With the exception of local tornadoes and straight winds, we haven been blessed by not having damaging storms.
Unfortunately, the lack of destructive storms creates lack of concern and apathy in Disaster Relief.  Bethel Baptist Disaster Relief has benefited from the lack of storms, but at the same time, most of the volunteers have allowed their ID badges to expire. There is little or no concern for Disaster Relief recertification or training. When storms do come, and they will come, it will be too late for training. 
There is an opportunity to be a part of Cleanup/Recovery and Chain Saw training. Bethel Disaster Relief needs more volunteers in the event of a disaster, in the association, in the state, in the nation, or in the world. Prayerfully consider the training at York Baptist Church on May 13-14, 2011. It is easy to register. Go to www.sbdr.org and follow the instructions.
 
March 21, 2011
Weird things are happening in the animal kingdom now a days. The other day when it was raining so hard, I wondered if I had missed the animals marching toward Noah’s Ark. I know I have not seen them marching, but I did see and hear of some abnormal zoological events.
One day in route to the office from a delicious meal at the Faunsdale Café, I noticed a group, flock, or what ever you call a bunch of buzzards, sitting on the handrails of the Dayton water tower. I thought to myself, by the way I do that a lot, why are the buzzards there? It was too early for them to be on the roost. There were no dead armadillos on the catwalk, so undoubtedly the water was dead. It was kind of eerie driving beneath a group of buzzards overlooking deserted County Road 44.
While coming back from Selma on AL State Highway 66, I noticed a big bird sitting on a dead pine stump. The pine stump was about thirty feet high. I took a double take and realized that it was a bald eagle. I turned the car around and went back toward Stafford to check my eyesight. Sure enough, it was a bald eagle sitting so magnificently about the clear cut. I slowed the car and gazed upon this symbol of American freedom. It was not an oddity, but it was a rare sight.
Over around Uniontown, there was a mocking bird chasing a crow which was chasing a hawk. I have seen many different birds chasing crows, but that was the first time I saw the chased being chased. The hawk seemed unfazed by the attack of the crow, but the crow was flying like there was no tomorrow as the mocking bird darted flogging the crow. My first thought was all three must have been Baptists because they were sure not getting along.
In that same general area on a different day, I saw three harks sitting together on the telephone line. Two appeared to be full grown, and the third much smaller. I thought it very odd. I could not determine if they were resting, in dialogue, or too lazy to catch small varmints. It could have been that it was hawk parents laying down the law about junior’s first road trip to “Catfish Gut Goulash,” “Smelly Cheese Custard,” or if they were lecturing him on flying without a respirator over the “Coal Ash Dump.”
Sitting outdoors for a devotional, I kept hearing this odd sound. It sounded like a woodpecker tapping on a tin can. When I finally found it, it was a redheaded woodpecker pecking the electrical transformer. I thought that he must have a carbide beak or he was addicted to the PCB’s in the transformer and was tapping for a refill.
Speaking of transformers, one morning the office was dark. Pam and Steve thought the electricity was off which is kind-of-the-norm for Linden. After a quick survey, we realized that the office was the only building without “juice.” Juice is a Chiltonian term for electricity. I walked around back to see if a limb was on the line, another common problem in Linden. I could smell burning hair. Yep, you guessed it, Rocky the Fried Squirrel was working without an electrical permit.
It is unusual to see fried squirrels in the drive but not unusual to see wildlife carnage on the highways. I do not know what the problem was, but for some reason, an alligator decided to cross the Nanafalia Bridge from Choctaw County over to Marengo rather than swing the Tombigbee River. I wish I could have seen the cars trying to dodge the gator. I bet there was some rubbernecking that day. Word was that he almost made the trip. I was told that a log truck got the gator tale; I mean the gator’s tail.
The other morning Luke 17 was the Scripture for my morning devotion. When I read it, I thought about the buzzards on the Dayton water tower and all the other weird things I have witnessed in the past few months.
It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Where, Lord? they asked.   He replied, Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather (Luke 17:30-37 NIV).
 
March 10, 2011
I made a hospital visit to Demopolis the other day. As I stepped out of the pickup, the aroma of blossoms of Barrett pear trees flooded the air. Being global minded I was transported to a time long gone. I could smell the burning of a field and I remember gathering sagebrush, setting it afire, and slowly scattering the fire around a field surrounded by wild plums in full blossom. I could see daddy on the 8N Ford tractor straddling the fire, breaking the freshly burned field, and I could smell the heavenly scent of fresh dirt mixed with smoke rising from burned sage, weeds, and stubs of long gone crops.
Momma always worried that we would catch ourselves on fire. Did I ever tell you that momma was a worrywart and daddy did not worry about anything? Well anyway, my brothers and I were pyromaniacs, burning fields, burning trash, burning wood, and burning rubber. Burning rubber was fun until I bought that first set of tires.
The old timers burned off the woods each year to help control undergrowth and bugs. I do not remember having trouble with pine beetles when we burned the woods. All we had to watch was the smut.
We burned all the clippings, limbs, and brush we cleared. It was fun to tell tales by the fire after dark. Once again all we had to do was watch out for the smut. You ain’t lived until you see yourself in the mirror after standing around a smutty fire or using pine tops putting out wood fires or field fires started inexperienced pyrotechnical neighbors.
A fire is hypnotic. It consumes, destroys, and eliminates where new growth can spring forth with new life. Ain’t nuthin’ no prettier than new green sprouts shooting up in a smutty area. It has an indescribable green hue.
When one burns a yard, field, or the woods, there is hope for new growth. Life comes from that which was dead. I think that is the reason the Resurrection was in the Spring. That which was dead, comes forth living and vibrant.
As Ezekiel gazed upon a valley of dry bones God asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered, “O Lord God, thou knowest.”
I felt that way the first time I remember daddy burned the field. Daddy knew it would produce a bountiful crop in due time. Daddy gave me hope. It reminds me of a story I used several years ago speaking on having hope. It goes like this.
Several years ago, a teacher assigned to visit children in a large city hospital received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy’s name and room number and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him in his homework so he doesn’t fall behind the others.” 
It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got inside the boy’s room that she realized it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She felt that she couldn’t just turn around and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with your nouns and adverbs.” 
The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” Before she could finish a profusion of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him, but every since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s decided to live.” 
The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears, he expressed it this way: “They would not send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?” 
 
Let’s celebrate hope in the Resurrection Jesus Christ our Lord!
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army (Ezekiel 37: 7-10 KJV).
 
February 24, 2011
Hope is something that this world desperately needs. People are confused about hope. I think most people are like Stanley Johnson in the Lending Tree commercial on the riding lawnmower. If you remember, he says, “I have a great family, a four-bedroom house in great community. Like my car? It’s new. I belong to the local golf club. How do I do it? I’m in debt up to my eyeballs. I can barely pay my finance charges.” He seems to be living the American Dream until he looks into the camera and says, “Somebody help me.”
Stanley’s idea of hope was getting help and out of debt. He killed his hope by spending more than he made. Debt is a “hope killer” unless it makes you hope that you can pay the debt. People in debt “Rob Peter to pay Paul.”
I remember in one of the churches I pastored that a deacon wanted to give more to the church, but he could not because of debt. I asked him how serious he was to increase his giving. After a discussion, he decided either pay off his debt or consolidate his bills and have money to increase his giving. 
Numerous believers do not give due to indebtedness. I encourage couple contemplating marriage to live by the 80/20 rule. It is give ten percent to God, save ten percent for themselves, and live on eighty percent of their income. I tell them to base their income on thirty-two hours, rather than a forty-hour income. This principle allows you to have room for an unexpected event that you cause them to miss a day’s work.
Unfortunately, most believers do neither. The first place people cut from their budget is in giving. I think it is important to remember that the Bible teaches the tithe and that God holds us accountable for the ninety percent He has blessed us.
Momma reminded us of hope every day my brothers and sister were growing up. She taught us that a better day would come. We had to focus on the Lord and his plan for our lives.
I remember one time when daddy was on layoff. This seemed to be quite regular when I was young. Daddy would “Draw His Pennies.” The best I could tell was he did not have enough pennies to pay the bills. One day a man, the dad of one of my classmates, and another man dressed in a shirt and tie drove into the yard in a pickup. I watched momma cry as the two men loaded our furniture into the pickup truck. When they left, we did not have a living room or dining room suite as well as some other things. I felt sorry for momma as she pleaded with the men not to take her furniture. I found out at school the next day that my classmate’s dad got the furniture for hauling it away from our house.
I do not remember a time that daddy and momma were not in debt. Daddy had a tendency to make debt and then not pay for it. Sometimes it was due to a layoff, between jobs, or at other times pure negligence.
Sometimes when I see or read the news, it seems that America spends more than it makes. In recent days, there have been reports of America’s indebtedness to China. Our National Debt is astronomical. The Outstanding Public Debt as of 16 Feb 2011 at 09:29:29 PM GMT is: $14,142,147,989,931.15.
Speaking of the National Debt, I recall my friend “Big Ugly” complaining about it twenty years ago. He wanted Uncle Sam to print more money. I told him that he was part of the National Debt. After he gave me a few “choice” words of admonishment, I asked him if owned any money. He had mortgages on an auto, a pickup, and a mobile home. After a long discussion on economics, I helped him see he was part of the National Debt and that the government was a reflection of the people. If people do not have hope, how can a government of the people, by the people, and for the people give hope? 
Money is a medium of exchange. Escalating debt is greed. According to Charlotte Johnson’s article, “The Reason People Get into Debt” says, “In 2007, the average American household possessed $9,480 in credit card debt.” There are many reasons for this. She continues saying, “Although many people would shy away from calling themselves greedy, the simple fact is that greed leads to debt. The age old problem of matching or exceeding your neighbors' wealth status still exists. People often see something they want and hastily purchase it rather than saving for the item over time and waiting to purchase it when they have enough funds (or refusing to purchase it all together if it is unnecessary).
Greed is a “Hope Slayer.”
Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee (Psalm 39: 6-7 KJV).
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (Romans 8:24-25 KJV).
  
February 10, 2011
If you have ever been to my office at the Bethel Building, you know that I collect books. I’m glad that I do because books are on the endangered species list. Thanks to all the new electronic gadgets and the evolving cell phone, books will soon disappear. My publisher has conferred that books are no longer in demand and want my future writings to be in electronic format.
I have a good number of books that the authors have autographed. I have a signed copy of Herschel Hobbs’ My Faith And Message, which Dr. Hobbs autographed three months prior to his death. I will never forget my conversation with him at a senior adult retreat at Shocco Springs. We had some mutual friends. Dr. Hobbs spent his childhood in north Chilton County.
I always date the books that I read. I underline pertinent things that help to write articles such as this one. I have my own order to how the books are on my shelves and usually can find them without much searching. I know most of my books by color and size and it drives me bananas when I cannot find one quickly.
Since this is Valentine month, I decided that I would look for some Valentine cards that my children have given me through the years. I knew that I had some in one of my old Bibles. Instead, I found a Father’s Day note that Aaron gave me in 1999. It is a white piece of paper with heart stickers all over it. On the front, Aaron has written Happy Father’s Day!! in blue and he has drawn a red heart with I love you in it. 
Inside are twenty heart stickers on the left and the sticker page where the hearts were is on the right. Above the missing heart sticker page Aaron writes, “Your the best dad anyone can have you don’t drink and cuss and I thank you for being a good christian.” The back page has, “from Aaron I love you always. June 20, 1999”
There was a Valentine card from Andy. It looked like one a small child would draw, but was a published card. It said, “Dad, here’s a Valentine just to say “I love you.”” The inside reads, “No, I haven’t been drinking and I don’t want to borrow money. Happy Valentine’s Day.” Love Andy
Little Valentine Cards from Angel simply say, “Will you be my Valentine.” Sharon always gives a lovely card signed “I love you.”
I do not know if children still give Valentine cards at school. I know I had to give them to classmates that I really did not want to be my Valentine. There were those little girls that chased me that I really did not need to foster their thoughts about me being their Valentine. There were those pretty, little girls that I had very special Valentine cards. I took time to write special words to declare my intentions. Some of those little girls I really thought special felt the same about me as what I felt about the ones I did not want to receive a Valentine. Well, that’s love. Sometimes I have wondered, “Did I run too fast and from the wrong girls?” I’m glad Sharon could not run too fast.
Jesus has sent us a wonderful Valentine card, the Bible. The Bible is God’s love letter to you and to me.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 KJV).
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God (1 John 3:1a KJV).
We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19 KJV).
Matthew Henry stated, “As the Father loved Christ, who was most worthy, so he loved his disciples, who were unworthy. All that love the Savior should continue in their love to him, and take all occasions to show it...Christ’s love to us should direct us to love each other.”
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAYand as you might guess; I was not able to find all those hidden Valentines.
 
January 26, 2011
Charlotte Barkley (Linden BC) and I were invited to serve on the state Vacation Bible School team this year. To date we have attended clinics at Shocco Springs in Talladega and Ridgecrest in North Carolina. While we were at Ridgecrest, it snowed two to four inches the day before our departure back to Alabama.
I told a VBS trainee from Ohio that if that snow were in Alabama there would be a shortage of milk and bread. With a puzzled look, he asked, “What?” I said people in Alabama go “snow crazy” and stock up on milk and bread thinking they will be snow bound for days. Hey, it’s Alabama, maybe a week. A guy from Indiana said that he had been in snow since leaving for the clinic. The snow brought out the kid in everyone. Snowballs were flying everywhere. I was a prime target. Total strangers bombarded me. I told them that I was too big to be challenge and that they need to throw them at all the little people (short and small VBS Trainees acting like kids) playing in the snow.
VBS brings out the kid in all of us. One of the teachers at Ridgecrest asked her class who had been in VBS the longest. Since I am fifty-eight and attending VBS since the first grade, I replied fifty years. A couple of ladies had been in VBS a little longer than I had. My VBS days helped shape my Southern Baptist theology and prepared me to be Sunday School teacher, a Discipleship leader, a RA leader, a deacon, a pastor, and your Director of Missions. My home church and the churches that I pastored have always used Southern Baptist VBS curriculum from the Sunday School Board, which is now LifeWay. 
James Blakeney, State Promoter for VBS for Alabama State Board of Missions makes the following comments about VBS.
 
We know that Southern Baptist Churches are autonomous and choose what they think best meets their needs.  There are many good VBS curriculums (about eight or nine major publishers), but there are some distinctive characteristics about the LifeWay curriculum that churches need to be aware of as they make their decision.
·         Educationally sound – local Southern Baptist leaders who work with the age group write the LifeWay material.  This is true of the process from the beginning of the planning process.  I served on the ideation group for the 2012 VBS material.  He says, “There were local church leaders from seven states on the group.  Training is done for local church leaders through Associational Clinics by people who teach the age group in their own churches.”
·         Doctrinally accurate – In a time when churches want to be careful that material is Biblically based and doctrinally accurate, it is important to know who is writing the material you use and what they believe doctrinally.
·         Evangelistic – LifeWay is the only publisher who places the plan of salvation in every leader and student piece and encourages churches to provide a time for boys and girls, men and women to have the opportunity to say “yes” to Jesus Christ.  The videos, music, and teaching plan directs pupils toward a time of decision.  There is also encouragement for churches to do follow-up with families and encourages pupils to continue Bible Study through Sunday School.
·         Missions – The LifeWay material is the only VBS curriculum that encourages the study of Southern Baptist missionaries.  The missions’ rotation each year focuses on missionaries who serve with International Missions Board and North American Missions Board.
 
Well, you say that might be so but children get bored when they attend another church with the same VBS. First, there are two VBS plans each year and that means a choice of two. One is for larger churches and one is for small ones. Second, I do not think they are bored as much as VBS teachers are challenged.
Let me explain, Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, has a chapter titled The Stickiness Factor. In it, he talks of the educational power (Stickiness) of Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues. He writes, “The second thing that Blue’s Clues took from Sesame Street was the idea of repetition…An adult considers constant repetition boring, because it requires reliving the same experience over and again…Of course, kids don’t always like repetition. Whatever they are watching has to be complex enough to allow, upon repeated exposure, for deeper and deeper levels of comprehension.” A preschooler can watch or listen to something fourteen times before it becomes boring. That’s a lot of VBS in one summer.
That is why the Bethel Baptist Association offers VBS training for our churches. More children accept Christ as Savior during VBS than any other evangelistic event. What children learn at VBS prepares them for life. Check your VBS material!   I am glad that what I learned in VBS stuck and helped me in my Christian faith.
…and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children (Deuteronomy 4:10b KJV).
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 KJV).
 
January 6, 2011
Whew! Are you glad the Christmas shopping is over? My favorite day to Christmas shop is Christmas Eve. When Andy and Angel were small, I would take them along with Rachel, Brandi, and Allyson, my nieces, Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. We would have our pictures taken with Santa, eat at McDonalds or Arby’s, and hit Eastwood Mall. We would get home just in time for supper at Granny and Pawpaw Moxley. We had a blast looking at all the lights, hearing the sounds, and smelling the treats of Christmas. I continued this tradition when Aaron came along. It was fun until they all got too big for one vehicle.
This year I went on Christmas Eve eve. This is the first year I went alone. Boy there was a crowd in Meridian. There were so many folks Christmas Shopping that I went through three traffic light changes before I was past the light. One time there was no light, but people were generous to allow cars to enter the lane.
I continued my tradition of eating out at a restaurant. This time it was Chili’s Restaurant. It cost about the same as I used to pay for all those Mickey D kid meals or an occasional Arby’s. By the way, I never did see Santa.
The mall was crowded and the hot item for sale was anything related to cell phones. I was in several conversations before I realized that cell phone users and customers were talking to their ear. I did not need any cell phone paraphernalia but I did buy Toy Story 3 which we watched as a family on Christmas Day.
I am by shopping as I am about hunting and fishing.  People ask me do I hunt or fish. I tell them that I rather kill and catch. It is the same with shopping. I go to buy. I do research those things that I might be in the market to buy. I have never understood why people go to several stores and usually return to the first store and buy what they initially picked.
I have never been to haggle. I had a car salesman friend that I bought most of my vehicles. I would say, “Jerry, I want you to make a living but not all of it from me. What is the bottom price?” If I liked it or thought it fair, I bought it. If I thought it too much, I went home.
Shopping is an art that I have yet to master or for that matter to acquire. I heard a preacher on the radio the other day say that some people visit churches “shopping for a feeling.” I have heard that from a good many folks over the years. Some would say, “Preacher, we are just shopping around to see where we want to attend church.” I translated that as, “Preacher we are trying to find a place that will cater to all are needs.” The joy of visiting prospects is when they say, “Preacher, how long do we have to wait to serve when we join your church?”
Most people want to be served rather than serving. They want to feel good when they go to church. I remember a preacher friend telling one of the “feel good searchers” that one could not always go on feelings because from time to time he felt that he was lost, but the Bible affirmed it was not about feelings and was about what Jesus did and believing it. Joy comes knowing that even in the worst of times, Jesus did it all and God is on His throne.
Jesus came and purchased our salvation. Shopping for a feeling will lead to disillusion and disappointment. Serving is not about feelings, but about faith and sacrifice. 
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Romans 5:1-5 KJV).
 
December 9, 2010
On a clear night’s sky the shepherds were watching over their flocks. Joseph and Mary were lying comfortably next to Jesus on a bed of straw in the peaceful town of Bethlehem, a suburb of the big city of Jerusalem. The animals peacefully strolled around, and the world was full of joy... and...that is Christmas stuff.
 
The real Christmas story is: On a very hectic and troubled night a miracle happened. The Messiah entered a world of terrible political unrest. People hated, and did not trust, politicians who were quite corrupt. There were moves to throw them out of Jerusalem. Overspending by big government created huge taxes. The Roman Empire was in decline and centralization of government and taxation were maneuvers to stop the decline and to control and manipulate its citizens. The average wage earner could not keep a decent standard of living. Religious institutions were getting more and more involved with politics instead of meeting spiritual needs of people. Divorce was a common problem, almost at the fifty percent mark. Abortion was common with babies often seen floating through open sewer lines. The court system was corrupt; criminals were constantly going free on technicalities. Nations were constantly redrawing their boundaries; there was a nervous peace around the world. The educated were denying miracles and the supernatural. They believed science and technology were the best hopes for mankind and the future. The disparity between the rich and poor was getting greater and greater all the time. Even the healthy religious people were losing hope in the Messiah. For hundreds of years they had been told that the Messiah would come. In all this God makes His appearance in human flesh. The Angel of Lord told the shepherds that the Messiah had come. They would find him as a baby lying in a manger.
 
For some, merriment, cheer, jing jing jingling and fa la la la la are light years away as you struggle with heaviness in your lives.   Straining under the load of sickness, or keenly felt grief because of death, or trying to escape the fog of depression, or the trap of financial deficiency, or the pressure of the chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out gossip of carnal church members Christmas hope seems light years away. Hope comes when God’s people share the Good News which the Angel conveyed to the shepherds.
 
Thanks to June Humble and “all their little helpers” for spreading the Good News through Operation Christmas Child. The Bethel collection center received 10,705 shoeboxes. Thanks to all the Associations, churches, civic groups, clubs, and individuals that participated in this great ministry.
 
Thanks to Johnny Arnett for spreading the Good News through the Christmas Cantata PraiSing at Linden. It was great.
 
Thanks to all our Pastors who faithfully spread the Good News each Sunday in sermons and each day by example.
 
 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:1-14 KJV).
 
November 18, 2010
I get raised eyebrows ever time I tell folks the Hopper tradition for Thanksgiving. It does resemble the ones when I was at home. Momma would spend all day cooking for us. Daddy loved to eat momma’s cooking. In fact, everyone loved momma’s cooking except momma.
Vulcan Materials, the place where daddy worked as a heavy equipment mechanic, gave all of its employees a big Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving and a ham for Christmas. Momma would bake that turkey, fix turkey and dressing, cakes, pies, and every other kind of dish imaginable for Thanksgiving dinner. We celebrated being thankful. Dad and mom taught us the importance of being thankful for what God had blessed us.
Momma’s table was so full that there was hardly room for us to put our plates but we managed. Dad always set at the head of the table. Momma, when she sat, was next to daddy and my sister sat next to her. My two brothers sat to daddy’s left and I sat on the other end opposite dad.
The first rule was to say the blessing. Dad required the blessing even though most of our lives dad did not know the Lord. Once the blessing was said, the feast was on. Daddy had certain rules for eating. They were Hopper rules and not “Dear Heloise” rule of etiquette. 
One rule was if someone asked for a dish, that dish went directly to the requestee. If someone intercepted the dish and removed any amount of contents, dad would make the guilty party remove the food then proceed to lecture on the rules of passing the plate. Another important rule was never rake food from a bowl or dish. You must dip the food.
When one item of food remained, such as a biscuit, you had to ask, “Does anyone want that last biscuit?” If there were no takers, then you got it. If for some reason someone they wanted it, dad would ask, “How many have you had?” If you had what he considered plenty, the one asking for it would get it.
The biggest no-no of Hopper rules for feasting was if you dipped it, you had better eat it. Daddy constantly warned that our eyes better not be bigger than our bellies. He never cared how much you ate, but you had better eat what you got. In fact, when one of us did not want to eat dad would remind momma, “Honey they will eat when they’re hungry.”
I miss those days of sitting around the table and passing the bowls filled with momma’s cooking. Most meals at the house remain on the stove and we dip from pots and pans onto our plates and go to the table. My sister calls it “feeding the dogs” style of eating. Sharon says that it will suppress one from eating too much by having to go back. All I can say about that is I eat more because walking back creates more room for more food. I was much thinner when we passed food around the table. Mrs. Wilkes in Savannah, Georgia serves her guests like momma did and people think it is quaint and fancy dining.
A couple of Sundays ago, we had the privilege of eating at a nice restaurant operated by folks from New Orleans. They asked if we wanted to dine by passing the bowls, of course, we did and we loved every minute. It was good to say, “Pass the creamed taters.”
The Hopper Thanksgiving has changed. Andy will come and he and Sharon will decorate for Christmas. Sharon will cook a cake and some sweet potato pies. Aaron and I will leave the house, decorating is not our thing. At the appropriate time, Aaron and I will start a fire of hickory wood. When the coals are just right we will grill vegetables, squash, green tomatoes, onions, and yellow bell peppers. We will throw on some potatoes wrapped in foil and grill rib-eye steaks.
I remind people when they say “No turkey” that you can get turkey anywhere. It is good to start new traditions. Last year Sharon decided to have “traditional” Thanksgiving. We had the turkey, the dressing, and all the other stuff, but it did not fill right. She said she was not going to do that again.
From our home to yours, have a blessed Thanksgiving.
 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thessalonians 5:18 KJV).
 
November 11, 2010
Football championships are a tradition for southwest Alabama. I remember braving the cold night at the Hoover Met as that afternoon Sweet Water won the 1A championship and Demopolis won the 4A championship that night. Championship football is a way of life for the people of Alabama. Either Alabama or Auburn could pay for the BCS Championship. Auburn sits at #1 and this year’s Iron Bowl could be the biggest ever. The winner could take it all.
My alma mater, Jemison High School, played in the first ever Alabama High State Playoffs in 1967 representing class 2A. I was a freshman and played two plays all season. We lost to Lamar County 46-7 and finished second.
Several years ago, Jemison returned to Legion Field for the 4A Championship against Deshler of Decatur, Deshler, as Demopolis and Sweet Water, contents for the championship annually. Thinking back on that cold night, I remember Emmitt, a good friend, classmate, and co-worker rode to Legion Field with me.
Six years my senior, Emmitt had infectious personality, but he had several character flaws as well. I remember him being a ferocious fighter, but he would never finish a fight allowing his opponent too many opportunities to win. He liked to drink beer, had a tenacity to cuss, and loved football even though he never played that much.
Emmitt was a good and intelligent worker. He always did a good job and the supervisors knew they could depend on him. He was one of the utility men used to re-brick the cement kilns, which was a very tedious and vital job for the process of making cement.
Some of the men at the plant thought it unusual that Emmitt and I would go to the championship together knowing Emmitt’s lifestyle and mine. One time Emmitt came to work with two black eyes and a broke nose. When the guys inquired of his condition, he said that his wife’s ex husband put a 38-caliber pistol between his eyes and threatened to “blow him away.” Instead, he slapped him across the nose with the pistol. Emmitt and his wife’s ex were usually cordial until they got to drinking and fighting. Remember, Emmitt had a tenacity to allow his opponent an opportunity to over power him. That was the case here.
Emmitt and I had been friends forever, had mutual kin, and his wife was a classmate of mine. I had witnessed to Emmitt on numerous occasions. He always listened. That is why the trip to Legion Field was so important. His answer to my inquires were almost the same each time. He would say, “I want to live like I want until I get about fifty years old. Then, I will get saved and live for the Lord.” I think there a bunch of folks that have that attitude. There is a major flaw to this reasoning. The Spirit of God will not always strive with man.
Emmitt and I had a great time at Legion Field. He did not drink, smoke, or cuss when he was with me. He did respect me as his friend and my office as pastor. Jemison once again fell short of the championship coming in second to Deshler. Emmitt fell short of becoming a believer.
One day while visiting The Clanton Advertiser website obits, I saw where my friend Emmitt died with cancer. He was well past fifty and as far as I know never accepted Christ. I remember the last time I saw him. It was at his uncle’s funeral. He was about fifty-four years old. I reminded him of his words about being saved when he turned fifty. He relied, “One of these days.” I reminded him that I thought God was giving him another opportunity because of the occasion of the funeral. He wanted to put it off again.
My heart broke as I read the obituary. Cancer is such a terrible disease. When I think about people dying in that horrible condition, I cannot see how they do it without the strength of God giving them peace and mercy.
Championships are temporary, no one remembers who is second, unless is one who has fallen short. Then again, all of us have fallen short. The Spirit of God will not always strive with man. Do not be an Emmitt.
And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. (Genesis 6:3 KVJ)
 
October21, 2010
Our eyes are recording devices capturing images and storing them for retrieval when remembering or taking time for refection. The birth of that first child, their first bike ride, first prom, graduation, and wedding are pictures that stay with us. These “memo graphic” snapshots and “memo recordings” bring smiles or laughs.
Then, there are those pictures recorded in our minds we wish we had never seen. These images wake us in the night, preoccupy our thoughts in the day, and scare us in the twilight.
Some images trigger forgotten or suppressed images. Such is the case of Martin. I met him when I trained as a die setter for Keystone Metal Moulding Corporation. He was my lead man and die setting mentor.
Martin was frail and pale from a gunshot wound, a 22-caliber bullet pressed against his spine. He claimed that he tried to commit suicide. Most of the scuttlebutt around the plant was that Martin’s wife shot him. As a nineteen-year-old kid, I knew that one does not commit suicide by shooting oneself in the stomach.
Martin’s wife was beautiful, but very unfaithful. I had never been around very many adulterous people out in the sticks of my youth. My familiarity with running around was wind sprints at football and chasing pigs. I did discover that there were some very promiscuous people in my family and other family who “lived across the tracks.”
Keystone Metal Moulding Corporation was a very promiscuous plant. It was so bad that I would not tell people I worked there. It was an eye opener for this naïve kid. The things said and the things I witnessed at the plant would make Corinthian sailors blush. With this licentious environment, Martin’s exposure to mockery and tease were common as the daily news that another jealous husband was interrogating every male’s exit from the plant. I could not believe how Martin laughed and cut up when the unfaithfulness of his wife was the topic for the day.
To appease his wife, Martin bought her a new house trailer and a new 1973 Ford Gran Torino. The Gran Torino was the hit as a muscle car and it was good looking, red with a black vinyl top and mag wheels. I wondered how these things could corral an unfaithful wife, but I was unfamiliar with hedonist world of infidelity. I knew good-looking hot rods attracted girls, so why not a wandering wife?
Martin hitchhiked to work and I would carry him home after work. We worked the evening shift. One cold winter night it was sleeting. I have this “memo recording” of my old Plymouth’s wipers pushing the sleet on the windshield. Vacuum wipers have an unrhymed movement and the sleet rolled against the window.
Martin lived less than two miles from the plant. As we passed the Friendship Baptist Church parking lot, a church I would pastor years later, I noticed a Red Gran Torino under the security light. I said, “That’s looks just like your wife’s Torino.” He joked that she must be running around on him again and said, “That’s not her car.” I used to pride myself on identifying cars and I knew that it was his wife’s car.
Remember its cold, sleeting, and after midnight when I take Martin home. I pulled into Blacksnake Trailer Park to Martin’s trailer and there is no Torino there. I wait for Martin to enter the trailer door and then he motions me to come. The sight I saw is one of those things you never forget. There on a doormat on a cold trailer floor were three little girls curled together just like small puppies. One was wearing a diaper and the other two were wearing panties. They wore no tops just a diaper and panties. The oldest was three or four years old and said, “Momma’s out with a man.” 
My heart broke. The sad thing was that none of the three was Martin’s daughters and all three had different daddies. I stood there in amazement and disbelief. Martin was angry, but always defended his wife’s infidelity. Martin eventually lost all he owned and lived with his in-laws. The bullet against the spine and his wife’s unfaithfulness eroded his health. One night I received a phone call saying that Martin placed a 410 shotgun to his heart and committed suicide. I had never witnessed a man who loved such an unfaithful wife that he could not live without her. The memory of three little girls curled on a rug is an image I shall never forget and puts a face on Gomer in The Book of Hosea.
The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord (Hosea 1:2 KJV).
 
October 14, 2010
As believers in Jesus Christ, you and I experience divine appointments and magnificent moments of our being. These define who we are as believers and distinguish Christianity from religion. In a time of religious pluralism, we must hold to the principles passed to us from God’s faithful. We serve one true God. Religion is humanity’s effort to find a god. Religion is work oriented. Christianity is God’s initiative to save man and is rooted in God’s love, mercy, and grace, not of works less any man should boast.
C. S. Lewis comments that the human history of money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery as “the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. The reason why it never can succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.”  God is the center of our existence creating divine appointments and magnificent moments of our being.   
Life is a journey filled with joys and sorrows, aspirations and discouragements, victories and defeats, and successes and failures. Divine appointments and magnificent moments inspire us to focus on the thoughts and actions of Jesus Christ. When we turn our focus to self, the ‘be like god’ complex, we revisit Eden and the fall of humanity. Peace and contentment come only when we pursue God. Divine appointments teach us and direct us if we observe each encounter. That had to be the vision of those men and women who initiated Bethel Baptist Association.
Did they envision in 1820 the magnificent moment that we will share on October 18, 2010 at First Baptist Demopolis? At the missions fair, there will be exhibitions of ministry that existed only in the heart of God and the thoughts and dreams of those gathered at the first meeting. At that first meeting, there was no Southern Baptist Convention or an Alabama Baptist State Convention. Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong were yet to be born. There was no Cooperative Program, no International Mission Board, no North American Mission Board, or Women’s Missionary Union. There was a passion to work collectively and cooperatively. 
As Lottie Moon was serving in China, Miss Willie Kelly of Bethel Baptist Church in McKinley, near Thomaston, served there also. Bethel Baptist Church only meets once a year, but it is reminder of the faith and perseverance of God’s people. The faith of those before us inspires us to continue the propagation of the gospel. They would remind us to be effective in the task before us regardless of the opposition or the lack of reward. Just think of the hundreds, thousands, and perhaps millions whose names are written in the Book of Life because of believers in Bethel Baptist Association working, sharing, and sacrificing together.
In a time of chaos and turmoil, you and I have the privilege to share Jesus. We have the privilege of being part of Bethel Baptist Association. God will continue to give us divine appointments and magnificent moments of our being. Bethel Baptist Association has the opportunity to show a lost and dying world that in-spite-of adverse condition, economic anxiety, and future uncertainty, our eyes are fixed on Jesus. It is not about Bethel Baptist Association, but about God.
Until Jesus returns, God will continue to give us divine appointments and magnificent moments of our being. Programs, ministries, conventions, and other entities may change, cease, or combat, but the work of the Lord will continue. I pray that Bethel Baptist Association will continue to love God and neighbor by sharing.   I hope see you at the 190th Annual Meeting at FBC Demopolis. It is a divine appointment and will be a magnificent moment.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Galatians 6:9 KJV).
 
September 23, 2010
Brenda was dissatisfied with her church and longed to return to her Baptist roots. She wanted her young daughter to have the same Biblical foundation of faith that her mother had provided for her. There was something missing at her current church that the rural Baptist Church provided.
Brenda and her husband were faithful church members, were active in church work, and were practicing pharmacists. He was persuing a law degree and she was persuing her heart. They discussed her desire and he encouraged her to find a Baptist church that would help her in her journey.
He did have a criterion for her in choosing a church. First, the church of her choice needed to be one in town and not out in the country. Second, he wanted her to choose a church were the pastor had an education, preferable college, better if was seminary, and not one with a backwoods Baptist preacher. He had the same concern for their daughter, as did she.
Third, he requested that she visit the church where the local physician, a family friend, attended. Another friend, a local insurance agent, her baby sitter, and several other friends attended the same church.
Brenda decided to visit the church were their friends attended. When she arrived, she giggled as the preacher greeted her at the entrance. She giggled because the church that her husband wanted her to attend had a country preacher. Shocked by his countyr twang greeting, Brenda hesitated a moment. When she saw friends, she darted toward them. Her thoughts swirled in her head as she thought what kind of mess I have gotten into this morning. She could not wait to see her husband that afternoon when he returned home from work.
Brenda enjoyed the music during the worship. She was taken as the preacher took time with the children during what was called pastors’ pals. The country twang of the preacher had grasped her attention. Over and over, she thought of her husband’s admonition, “Don’t attend a church that has a backwoods preacher.” It was his suggestion to attend this church.
Brenda felt a little more at ease with the old familiar Baptist faith hymns, the warm welcome of strangers, and affirmation of friends. When the preacher announced his text, Brenda thought, “This sure will be interesting.” The preacher’s text was Revelation 6:5-6, “The Black Horse.”
Brenda had been a student of the Book of Revelation and understood how symbolic and controversial the Book of Revelation is. The country-bumpkin’ preacher had her attention. He spoke of demographics, famine, and poverty. He quoted Dr. Billy Graham’s book, Storm Warning. He spoke of twenty-six million people are at risk to famine in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Malawi, Angola, and Mozambique. He told how civil war rages and conspires with drought to create famine. He spoke of false religion and apostasy of the white horse, and war of the red horse leading to famine and pestilence. He told how the human sufferings of the black horse are ahead if we fail to keep the commandments of God. He preached of the starving in Africa and Asia contrast the $15 billion dollars spent on diet formulas and $22 billion spent on cosmetics in North America and Europe. He spoke of the problem is not all shortage, but distribution. He spoke of the poetry and literary content of Revelation and that resonated with Brenda.
Brenda could not wait to see her husband. She said, “You are not going to believe what I heard today. You know the warning you had about the country-bumpkin preacher . . .” 
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine (Revelation 6:5-6 KJV).
I saw Brenda and Mark at two funerals last week. They remain faithful servants at the church where they heard the country-bumpkin preacher. Brenda still giggles when she sees me.
 
September 9, 2010
I cannot remember when I first fell in love with driving. It was not love at first drive. Momma taught me to drive in a 1950 Plymouth Deluxe. It was a flathead six cylinder with three-speed on the column manual transmission. I can still remember hopping out of the drive on to the highway. I had had practice driving our Farmall Cub in the field and it was much easier than the Plymouth. For instance, when changing gears on the tractor it stopped and the cutch was different, as was the shift. The Plymouth was still moving and going from first to second on the column took more coordination than the tractor. Pushing the clutch, shifting up, and releasing were complicated for a twelve-year-old. Yes, I was twelve and momma was hollering because I was trying to go into reverse rather than in second. I was puzzled how reverse and second were in the same place. There were not on the tractor.
Dad gave me the old Plymouth when I was fourteen. He had junked it as his work car. He said that if I wanted a car I could fix up the Plymouth. I did. I bought several old junk Plymouths for spare parts including engines, transmissions, mirrors, door handles, rims, and tires. Most of the time people gave the cars to get them out of their yards. I remember visiting trash piles in hope of recovering a good used fifteen-inch tire.
I spent the whole summer working to earn money to get a new paint job on the Plymouth. By this time, I had named her Jezebel, because she was so unfaithful and ornery. I went to the parts store, that’s what we call ‘em up home, and bought the paint and a neighbor, who was learning to paint cars, did the body and fender repair and painted it crystal blue in honor of Tommy James and the Shondells’ hit song Crystal Blue Persuasion.
The next summer I spent my earnings from picking and loading watermelons, cantaloupes, and hauling and throwing hay for blue rolled and pleated interior and carpet. I had me a hot rod. It would run eighty miles an hour downhill. You can only imagine how rough and safe a ride I had with tires from junkers that were not balanced. I know that the tubes had multiple patches, which threw the tires more out of balance.
I started driving the Plymouth to football practice before I had a driver’s license. It was a step better than all the walking, which I had done from the seventh grade until I started driving. The sheriff told daddy that it was okay, but be very careful. After I got my license, I drove carelessly. To this day, my brother-in-law tells folks that God must have had a plan for me later in life because there is no way that I should have lived with all the reckless driving I did.
I guess that is why I am writing this article. I did a lot of reckless driving and lived to tell it. I was returning to Linden from Demopolis on Highway 43. I was running the speed limit with the cruise control, which undoubtedly was too slow for folks headed south. Two cars behind me this lady thinks she is at Talladega Raceway because she is drafting the car behind me and makes her move to pass. I never saw the checkered flag. I did see the yellow line, which means no passing, it quickly becomes two yellow lines as she gets beside me, and there is a car headed north and directly toward her. I have to slow for her to return to the proper lane.
The car behind me says if she can, I can. He starts around me on a hill, two yellow lines, and a truck flying to Demopolis directly in his path. Once again, I slow to prevent a wreck. They had better be glad I was not in my hot rod Plymouth. I would have been very slow for them.
I do not think people realize the risk they are taking behind the wheel. I have been hit by a teenage boy in flying Trans Am, passing three cars, with two yellow lines on the road, and on a hill. I am glad my brother-in-law was a prophet. Had God been through with me I would have been killed. I have some ailments today because of that wreck twenty-one years ago. It is unsettling when people pass when there is no room for passing. Many lives have been altered and many killed by idiotic drivers who drive recklessly. All of us need to slow down, drive safely, and be considerate.
When I was hot rodding, folks would quote the Bible and call me Jehu. I know some that called me a Yahoo. Both would be true. I saw two Yahoos on Hwy 43.
. . . And the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously (II Kings 9:20b KJV).
Tongue and cheek humor: I always felt that I was doing good owning Hondas, the choice of Jesus and the early disciples and that God drove a Plymouth Fury and owned a Pontiac Tempest and Geo Storm. See what you think. Check out John 12:49, Acts 2:1, Jeremiah 32:37, Ezekiel 13:13, and Psalm 83:15 in the King James Version.
 
August 12, 2010
As a kid, did you ever think about running away from home? How many of you reading this actually tried running away from home? I informed my mom on several occasions that I was running away. Sometimes she offered to pack my bags, while at other times she threaten to beat me all the way home when she found me,
I never ran far from home. Usually I ran across the field thinking if momma beat me all the way home it would not be too much of a beating.
My favorite place of refuge was an old oak tree adjacent to where Sharon and I built our home. I would leave home crying promising never to return. Under that tree, I would think of all the injustice of home. Mom never understood me. I never ran away from home while daddy was home. He worked as a mechanic on evening shift at the rock plant. I think the only time I threatened to leave when daddy was at home that he told me if I left, never to come back. Mom was more sensitive. I knew she did not want me to leave. Dad was a different story.
Under that oak tree, I would look to heaven and gaze at the stars. I imagined all sorts of things. Wiping tears from my eyes and snot from my nose, I would host a big pity party. The only attendees were crickets, tree frogs, and mosquitoes. After thinking of all the things I could do with my life to make momma sorry she caused me to run away, I would sneak back home. I would peak in the window to see how much momma and my brothers and sister were mourning about my leaving. Most of the time it looked as though were having a “glad your gone party.”
Moping for a while, I would go inside. Momma was so glad to see her prodigal son that she fed the fatted calf and tried to kill the prodigal son. I guess that it why Jesus’ parable on the Prodigal Son is from the perspective of the father and not the mother.
Several years down the road of life, I wondered why I wanted to run away from home. I once told daddy that I wished I were a million miles away from home. When I did leave home, my whole perspective about home changed. All mom and dad were doing was showing love to their eldest son and preparing him for a long journey called life.
C. Welton Gaddy in his book Geography of the Soul says, “Our perspective of the world comes from our perspective of our home.” Home was the place I learned to read the Bible and learned how to pray. Home was the place I learned about life and about death. Home is the place I learned how to share and how to cooperate. Home is the place where I learned about pride, integrity, honesty, and commitment. My spiritual nurture came from home. Gaddy also says, “Spiritual nurture does not depend on physical structure.”
I understand that. Our home was a shack structurally, but spiritually it was a magnificent mansion.
In many of my articles, I speak of going back home. Home is not the same. If a home does not change, it spells disaster. Home as I knew it does not exist. Each time I work around the old home place, I understand the saying that you can never go back home. I have come to realize that when I go back home that I am not looking for what once was, but I have learned that if home is a place of nurture, where I learned affirmation and criticism, where my thoughts challenged and my spirit lifted, and where my thoughts and love for God developed, I can go back home. As Gaddy states, “We need to go back home . . . If we cannot return home, we will do well to carry our home with us.”
I realized that week after the Fourth of July. After visiting my aunt and uncle who live across from my Chilton County home, I told my aunt that I needed to head back home. She asked if I were spending the night. I told her, “No, I going home to Linden.”
She had the most baffling look. While up home, I refer to our Chilton home as Sugar Ridge and our Linden home as home. With that look of concern she said, “You’re not coming back are you?” I said, “That depends on the Lord.”
When Jesus returned home to Nazareth, instead of recapturing feelings of glad satisfaction, instead of finding a spot He loved to go, a breath of familiar air, or a place to prop His spirits, He discovered heartache. People who pampered Him and encouraged Him now wanted to kill Him.
For Jesus to return home, it was not to reminisce, but it was to remember His purpose.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:16-19 KJV).
 
July 28, 2010 
The gadgets that humanity has at its disposal have always shaped society and intellectualism. Overnight luxuries become necessities. If society is not careful, gadgets become idols determining what and how we worship.
Take the invention of the clock. Most of us live by the clock. A clock wakes us from our sleep. Our sleep time started by looking at a clock to see the time of night to analyze the proper hours of sleep we would need for proper rest. We needed to rest because we start work by punching a time card in a time clock.
During that time of work, clocks determine our breaks dividing our work time into strategic intervals of rest and time to refuel our bodies. We leave work by looking at a clock and once again punching a time clock.
We race home looking at the clock to determine what time to prepare supper. Once food has been prepped for cooking, we use the clock to determine how long each dish will have to cook. This determines what time we will enjoy a meal and how much time we have to enjoy the remaining time doing homework, watching TV, and other pertinent things before time to go to bed. It makes me wonder how humanity, especially Americans, operates without a clock. 
Speaking of a time clock, ABC Rail in Calera had an incident where men were in line waiting to clock out, which was against company policy and considered stealing. As a supervisor approached to give a royal chewing to the time stealing employees, a stealing, quick thinking employee confronted him by saying, “Looks like a company as big as ABC Rail could have two clocks that had the same time.” The supervisor turned and walked away, outsmarted, at least until the next time.
Another question is what was the necessity that prompted someone to invent a clock?
Well, it was the church. It was invented to see how much more time it would take the preacher to finish his sermon after saying, “Now in closing” when he really means I have five more minutes to preach because it is not after twelve yet. No, I am kidding. However, the Catholic Church at the Pope insistence initiated the invention.
Reading Clarence P. McClelland’s book, Quotations Marks and Exclamation Points (The Lakeside Press 1935), I reminded me of the clock’s origin. You know necessity is the mother of invention. McClelland writes, “Lewis Munford in his fascinating book The Technics of Civilization tells us that the first manifestation of the machine age was in the regular measurement of time and that the clock, and not the steam engine, is the key machine of the modern industrial age. He shows how the new mechanical conception of time arose largely out of the routine of the monasteries, particular the Benedictine monasteries. It was in the seventh century that the Pope decreed that the bells of the monasteries should ring seven times in twenty-four hours for devotions. Some means of keeping count of these punctuations marks in the day and insuring their regular repetition became necessary. This led ultimately to the invention of the mechanical clock which in the thirteenth century got out of the monasteries into the cities and brought a new regularity into the life of the workman and the merchant.”
Munford says, “Eternity ceased gradually to serve as the measure and focus of human actions. The clock, moreover, served as a model for many other kinds of mechanical works, and the analysis of the motion that accompanied the perfection of the clock with the various types of gearing and transmission that were elaborated, contributed to the success of quite different kinds of a machine.”
Did you notice some important there? “Eternity ceased gradually to serve as the measure and focus of human actions.” Spiritual things gave way to mechanical things. Humanity slowly moved from God centered thinking to mechanical thinking.
When Dr. McClelland wrote his book, the Great Depression was six years prior. That great catastrophe came after a period of great inventions and a frame of mind that technology could save humanity. It is pre-World War II.
There are those that say that new technology (cell phones, blackberries, etc) are the new gods that people have to have to survive. The god of technology will save humanity. I will say that I have been in some worship services and funerals where a cell phone captured more attention than a sermon point. I have even heard some folks, not necessary young people, who say they cannot live without a cell phone, computer, etc.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (I John 2:15-17 KJV).
What would Munford think today? Well, it is time to go!
 
July 14, 2010
You and I live in a time when TV commercials receive higher ratings than regular programming. Vendors and Madison Avenue Marketing compete for airtime during the Super Bowl. The network that carries the Super Bowl charges an unbelievable $2.6 million for a 30-second ad slot. Our government paid $2.5 million dollars for the 2010 census ad. The bottom line is the record number of viewers for the Super Bowl.
The commercials can be funny. A Snickers ad that shows Betty White being tackled is funny and continues to be a hit. Budweiser beer usually has some very humorous ads. They have enough money in their coffers to do so to make them funny.
The other night as Aaron and I were watching TV, Budweiser aired an ad for the Fourth of July. The ad shows Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and other men of that era at a backyard barbeque. It tries to be humorous, but it was offensive. It shows our founding fathers as bumbling idiots drinking beer and partying, something typical of today. Ben Franklin’s character accidentally tilts a cannon creating fireworks when it discharges. They say that we should do this celebration every July 4. Aaron commented on how disrespectful the commercial was about our founding fathers and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 
The men that signed the Declaration of Independence did so at great cost. Some lost their fortunes, some lost their property, and some lost their lives for signing their names on that document. A document and freedom we make frivolous today as evidenced in the Budweiser commercial and actions of many citizens.
Snickers went through a fiasco a few years back when they aired a commercial that was considered inappropriate by many viewers. They withdrew the ad, as have many other brand name products when there was public outcry against them.
We live in a nation where public outcry is changing. Isaiah reminds us, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” We see that unfolding before our eyes. We have a tendency to forget. Most people do not like history, but without knowing where we have been, we might have the tendency to repeat our past mistakes.
How did Aaron determine that the beer commercial was disrespectful? Many his age would have never considered that thought. I would like to think that it is because I have tried to teach him the real meaning of the Fourth of July and the great sacrifice that our forefathers paid for us to enjoy a grand holiday.
I think that it is important to tell our children about real people and kinfolk that have gallantly served our nation to preserve our great freedoms. Millions are enjoying the fruit of the work of those gone before us.
The Bible is tells the story of Moses and the Exodus over and over. Spanning centuries, the Exodus and God’s love for the nation of Israel in caring for them until they entered the promise land is as one of my professors put it, “a watershed event in history.”
When the nation of Israel would forget and stray, God, or His representative, would remind them of the great cost and victory of the Exodus.
When we make frivolous those events of great sacrifice and great significance, there needs to be condemnation. Freedom comes at great expense. Once, an old friend and I were discussing Salvation. She enjoyed needling me, especially about me being a Southern Baptist. She was bragging about her salvation not costing anything. I reminded her that it might not have cost her, but the cost of our salvation bankrupted heaven. It cost God everything.
Could it be that we are not teaching our children about the cost of our freedom? Are we profaning the sacred? When do we draw the line with humor? Will our freedom without remembrance keep us free? I think the Psalmist says it best.
Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God (Psalm 78: 1-8 KJV).
 
June 24, 2010
I remember the last day I worked for Blue Circle Cement Incorporated at Calera. As I left the electrical department, Truman Hughes stopped me. He asked, “How long do you think we will be out?” He was referring to a strike planned for the next morning, August 3, 1994.
I responded with, “Truman I have worked my last day.” 
With eyes of disbelief, he said, “No, really how long do you think we will be out?”
Once again, I said, “Truman, if we go on strike the company is going to replace us. I have worked my last day.”
Still not believing me, he said, “Do you really mean it?”
With my electrical tool pouch on my shoulder, I said, “Truman, if we are not back to work in two weeks it is over. I, like some others, will never be back. I have been in negotiations since February and the company is ready to replace us. They have told me that if we strike, I will not have a job. Look, I have all my personal tools with me. I have a few in my locker, but I have most of hand tools in this pouch.”
Negotiations had been tough. Chicago lawyers have distain for Alabama rednecks. Sitting across from an educated know-it-all who twists every article of a contract is deployable. Sometimes times we had to remind the lawyers that just because we talked slow does not mean that we were stupid.
Negotiations were long and frustrating with trips to Atlanta, Birmingham, and Anniston. Every time the negotiating committee returned to the plant, the men had hundreds of questions. We tried to give them as much information as we could without doing any damage to the negotiations. Hearsay among employees ran rampant throughout the plant.
The men wanted to strike immediately when the contract expired in May. The negotiating committee tried to hold them together as long as we could without hitting the highway. Many of the men thought that we were not trying hard enough in negotiations. They would remind us what they would do it they were on the negotiation committee. I offered to let them have my position. I never had any takers.
The anxiety was building with each meeting. Co-workers would heckle members of the negotiating committee. I remember an incident one morning while buying a coke in the canteen. Some of my friends, I use the term friend loosely, sounded like laying hens in the hen house. They were clucking as a hen does when laying an egg. I will let you imagination take you were they were going with that one.
Another time a co-worker cussed me from the time I got out of my truck, punched my time card, and entered the plant. He told me that I was not a man, had no guts, and that I was probably on the take by the company. As a footnote, when we went on strike, that same man was the first to cross the picket line.
The president of the union and good friend on the negotiating committee, Keilan, was worried sick about the situation. I remember riding back from Atlanta with him. I told him that the situation was bigger than we were. We knew that men wanted to strike and that the company was prepared this time. There had been two successful strikes previously. One was a twenty-four wildcat strike over a dismissed employee. The other was two-day strike resulting from three years of implementation, which involved pay cuts, holiday and vacation losses, and benefit reductions. The employees of the plant were confident, but the company had the workers and the money to outlast them.
On another occasion, Keilan and I were standing outside the bathhouse. He said, “Hopper, what are we going to do.” I reminded that we would make it.   As we talked, Eddie, another employee, walked by us. I said, “I worry for Eddie. He cannot get another job making $40,000-$50,000. He has no education and his age is a factor.”
Billy, an older machinist, walked passed by us. I said, “Billy is too old to get another job.” Then, there was Jerry Ruby. I said, “Jerry Ruby is in the same boat as Eddie, but you and are young enough and have enough education to start over.”
The men voted to strike. True to their word, the company bused in enough strike busters to run the plant. The men were strong until they missed their first payday. After a month of negotiations, the negotiating committee convinced the employees to return to work. Of 157 employees on strike, only fifty returned. Some of us, especially the negotiating committee, never did. I learned that although the majority rules, is not necessarily right.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:13-14 KJV).
 
June 10, 2010
The other afternoon, thunderstorms surrounded Linden as I started a fire to do some grilling. I love the sound of rolling thunder and the awesome beauty of lightning. It is a pungent display of what I imagine as minute exhibition of God’s heavenly power. I always imagine Moses on Mt Hebron when I see those vigorous clouds churning in the heavens above. I also think of the Second Coming of our Lord.
As the lightning grew intense, I realized that just about the time that the fire was perfect for grilling, that I might become a lightning rod and I would be grilled. A grill underneath big oak trees is not the ideal place to be when lighting is imminent.
The ground trembled as lighting created a brilliant streak just beyond Linden Baptist. It was spectacular. The next day, my neighbor said he saw the same flash of lightning. He said the lightning hit with a burst of fire and smoke.
Suddenly, there was a loud clasp of thunder and the rain started to fall. I told Aaron to get a couple of umbrellas and to bring the meat. I covered the bed of coals and the meat with a piece of tin as the rain intensified. Lightning continued to dance around Linden. I told Aaron that he might need to go inside and out of the lightning. I told him it would be better if the newspaper read “MAN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING,” rather than “FATHER AND SON STRUCK BY LIGHTNING.” He worried more about objects falling from the tree on the meat more than lightning striking us.
As the lightning subsided, the rain got harder. I told Aaron that it reminded me of the night my dad and I set a pole for an electrical service for a house Sharon and I were about to build. 
To have an electrical power source for contractors, the power company required that I have an electrical box with a disconnect switch mounted on plywood on a pole. My dad told me he would help me put it up when we got in from work. We did not know when we started that there would be a thunderstorm while we were setting the pole.
We had just tamped the pole into place when the thunderstorm erupted. Lighting was popping in the area and the rain starting to fall. People who are experts, you know how experts are; remind us if one can hear thunder, one can be hit by lightning. Well, the thunder was pretty loud and close. Just about the time daddy started screwing the electrical control box on the plywood, it started to rain harder. I can still see daddy’s big hands holding the screwdriver and twisting the screws in the back of the box into the plywood. As usual, I was holding something for daddy. This usually meant that he would say, “Hold it still son.” I had to hold it still regardless of how uncomfortable, awkward, cold, or hot the object or I were. I miss those days with dad, but relive them with Aaron. Now, Aaron holds for me although sometimes I hold for Aaron. He is so much like dad, a man whom he has never met.
Bad weather terrified momma, but bad weather did not bother daddy. Daddy taught us to respect the weather, but never to fear it. Daddy loved to hear the thunder and see the lightning. He reminded us that it was a sign of how powerful God is. He would say when God got ready for you, it did not matter where you were what you were doing, it was your time. Momma agreed, but reminded him not to tempt the Lord and that God gave him enough sense to take cover when it stormed. So, when it stormed, momma went to hide and daddy and the boys went outside to watch.
I think we were all anticipating the Lord wiping back the thunderstorms and opening a beautiful blue sky as He did when the disciples were in one of those violent thunderstorms on the Sea of Galilee. There is also a calming effect when a child sees courage in his dad. Dad did know when to make us go inside if he thought we might be injured. I do not know if momma knew it or not, but dad would say that we were not to tempt the Lord and that the Lord gave us a head to think.
I thank God that He gave me a dad who acknowledged the awesome power of God in thunder and lightning. Dad also acknowledged the greatest power is the power of salvation. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY
The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook (Psalm 77:18 KJV).
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:27 KJV)
 
May 27, 2010
Thirty-nine years ago, I experienced nervous anticipation as I entered the Jemison High School auditorium. Actually, I had been on edge all day. It was the climax of weeks of expectancy filled with numerous warnings of a bunch of do’s and don’ts. Weeks of preparation for a great climatic moment were now happening before me.
I was about to enter uncharted territory for my family and me with a feeling of “can this be real?” No one in my immediate family had ever been on this journey. No one in my family had received the honors and recognition that I was about to receive, but I was not sure I would receive them.
Weeks prior to this magic moment, things were not well at home. Mom and I were not on the best of terms. Looking back it was a mother’s love and son’s rebellion, a mother’s joy and a son’s fear, and a mother’s tug and a son’s release.
Things were not so good at school. I, along with other students, had grown tried of school, racial tension, and each other. There were so many expectations from everyone. Some were preparing for that big bash. Some were making plans to get a job, go to college, or go to Viet Nam. I just wanted to get out of school.
As I walked the hall, I realized that this night would be the last time I would see some of my friends and my classmates. All of us had the look of eager expectation and tearful eyes of separation.
Someone one asked, “Did you wear your shoes?” Yes, I wore shoes, but part of my fear for the moment was one of the “don’t” warnings. Counselors instructed everyone to wear black shoes only. I protested that mom had bought me a new pair of shoes. There were black and white dress shoes. I tried to conceal them from the terrible tyrants who controlled the magnanimous event of the evening.
The closer I got to the auditorium, the more my classmates celebrated. It was hard to celebrate with them because some of my friends and I were the reason for the buzz and the reason for my anxiety. Chuck Ellison sent my anxiety to new levels of fear when he proclaimed, “They’re not going to let us graduate tonight.” Yea, the big moment for my family and me was my high school graduation. It was a family first, or at least I hoped it would be.
The night before, under the veil of darkness, several of us delivered a gift to Jemison High School that will be long remembered in the annals of Jemison history. It was a labor of love and skilled deceit. Weeks before we planned to do something special to show our appreciation for twelve, some of us thirteen, years of hard work, hundreds of tests, hundreds of facts, questions, and answers, hundreds of hand written papers, and thousands of pages of homework. 
We found an abandoned outside toilet. Some call it an outhouse or privy. Up home, we just call it a toilet. It was a toil to get to it, especially at night. We painted it with bright colors of white, pink, blue, and yellow. One of my classmates, Ricky Coles, used his dad’s pickup to carry out the dastardly deed of hauling it to town. Ricky, the Pike brothers, the Ellison brothers, and yours truly loaded the toilet with the intentions of placing it on a small island curb at the main junction and red light of US Highway 31 and Alabama State Highway 191. We were all Beta club members and we decided that might get us in serious trouble with the police if we put it there. 
We hauled it around town for a long time until we figured out what to do. We all wanted to do it in honor of our time at Jemison, so that it when we decided to place it in the most inconspicuous part of the school. We put in under the flagpole in front of the school with a big note declaring it as a gift from the seniors of the class of ’71. We celebrated our dastardly deed by returning to Ricky’s house and downing a few glasses of ice, cold fresh milk. It was the Pike brothers’ first drink of fresh milk.
Chuck, to this day, says, “I didn’t think we were going to graduate.” I assured him that we would and we did. Life has been a thirty-nine year journey thus far. With that in mind, CONGRATULATIONS SENIORS OF 2010 as you begin a new turn in your journey of life.
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding (Proverbs 9:6 KJV).
 
May 13, 2010
As you read this article, I will have celebrated my twenty-third Mother’s Day without my mom. It will be my thirty-third Mother’s Day with the mother of my children. All these years I rejoiced with her in her time of celebrating wishing, I could have done the same with my mom. 
Mother’s Day is a day of celebration and reflection. I remember doing a friend’s funeral on Mother’s Day. It followed a rehearsal, a wedding, and a reception, my daughter’s college graduation, a baby dedication, and my son’s high school baseball state championship. All those events happening in a period of four days drained me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It was a difficult weekend. Not everyone has a joyous Mother’s Day, especially those who mourn their first Mother’s Day without their mom or the loss of a child. It is not any easier twenty-three years later either.
Here are some thoughts form previous articles. I hope you reminisce with these:
Thanksgiving and Christmas were the two holidays that momma cooked special.  Every day momma cooked a seven-course meal for supper. On Thanksgiving and Christmas momma “showed out.” There was something for the most finicky eater. Momma could fix the best dressing. Every year she would almost ruin it by cooking it. We liked it raw and loose. 
Momma always said she needed to cook it. Every thing she put in it was already cooked. The broth, the cornbread, the crackers, the bread, and the eggs were cooked so it was not raw and we did not like it like a cake, but momma had to put it into the oven to brown it.
At Christmas, Momma always managed to get us a tree. Actually, she made daddy cut a cedar from the woods. Some of them made Charlie Brown’s tree look magnificent. Momma would fuss a little, but she would transform daddy’s pitiful Charlie Brown tree into a beautiful Christmas tree. Daddy, my brothers, and I always vacated the premises when momma started decorating the house. It is a tradition that Aaron I continue as Sharon and Andy begin junkin’, I mean decorating, for Christmas.
One Easter weekend momma decided to surprise our pastor, Evie Megginson, with a bunny cake. As I entered the kitchen, and saw momma icing a long-eared bunny that had a bowtie, I asked momma, “Where did you get the Playboy Bunny?”
Momma, innocently, replied, “What is a playboy bunny? Your sister and brothers asked the same thing.” Momma warned us never to look at what she called dirty magazines. She knew about the magazine, but never associated the bunny with a dirty magazine.
What momma saw was a cute little Easter bunny dressed in his Easter suit of black tuxedo, white shirt, and black bowtie. She was clueless to his symbolic meaning to the dirty magazine and its revealing and degrading contents. 
When I explained the magazine to her, she was embarrassed and shocked. She was embarrassed that she was going to give it to the preacher and shocked that her not so innocent son knew too much about the bunny.
After I did a whole lot of explaining, momma, with the hands of a skilled plastic surgeon, redesigned the voyeuristic bunny into one more appropriate for the occasion. He became an innocent little Easter bunny. Our pastor, for many years, never knew that the cute little bunny had experienced an Easter transformation of his own. Brother Evie and his family enjoyed momma’s labor of love. 
October and Halloween, I’m sorry I mean, Harvest Festival time, were fun for momma, One year Mamma was in the hospital having my baby brother and I had specific orders from her. I was in the second grade and I had been elected harvest king. Mamma told me to be sure to take my little suit to have the king and queen pictures taken.
I convinced my aunt, you know how second graders are, that it was not the day to have my picture taken. Mamma sacrificed to buy the outfit. I remember it hanging under the plastic by the door as I went to catch the school bus. I knew I messed up the minute I got on the bus and saw a fifth grader with his suit hanging in the bus. 
Mamma was upset and I look like a little pauper in a shirt and blue jeans standing by my queen in the yearbook picture. I sure was glad to see my little brother. Mamma was so proud of him and did not spend too much time reminding how upset she was with me. It did not help when I did not tell her about the pictures the school had for sale of the pauper and queen.
Mamma enjoyed Halloween. We did not dress in typical devilish costumes. We dressed in old clothes and went serenading. One year Mamma dressed up like a toothless old man. She wore false teeth from age thirty to her death. Mamma was a tomboy growing up so she could act like a man with a very deep voice. I drove her from house to house and when we got to her mother’s house, grandmoe ran her away with a double-barreled shotgun.
Mom was a hoot. I wish I could have been with her on Mother’s Day. I hope you were.
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27 KJV).
 
April 29, 2010
My first pastorate was Fellowship Baptist Church in Jemison. I never will forget the first time I preached there. I, as many new preachers do, was supply preaching. Sammy Oaks, one of the most mature eighteen year olds I have ever known, invited me to preach. The church was without a pastor. When asked to preach I did not realize that I was preaching a trial sermon that morning.
Arriving at the church, I noticed that it was a beautiful location underneath some giant oak trees. There were concrete picnic tables under the trees and a small cemetery behind the church.
There were some unique features of the church. It had a large bell tower to one side of the church. Beside the tower was the front door of the church, which the members did not use. The church was built in the 1880’s and belonged to a retired Methodist preacher. It was very high off the ground on rock pillars for its foundation. Facing the front of the church, members started building a basement to serve as an educational wing. It had never been waterproofed and usually had water in the hole with it. I found out later that the church lacked finances to finish the project.
Inside the church was odd. I guess it was my familiarity with Baptist churches and not old Methodist churches. Some of the pews that faced the pulpit faced the cemetery. It is one thing to look at a not so handsome preacher and a sleeping and smile-less choir, but looking at the graveyard through the back windows! I guess it was a reminder that the little church was dying.
Another thing was there was only one classroom. They did not use the front door because it went to this room and they had folding chairs stacked behind it. I wondered why they had a window unit hanging from the outside front wall until I entered the classroom. Someone with creative skills, Sharon calls it ridging, made a metal duct that went from the air-conditioner, through the classroom, and into the back wall of the sanctuary where a piece of cardboard duct taped over the top of the outlet served as a regulator.
The sanctuary had white paneling that was dinghy. Sometimes we give no thought of the future, especially when things are on sale. The pews kept members awake by pinching the back of their legs. Pews on each side of the sanctuary faced the pews that faced the cemetery. One can imagine what kind of expressions were on the faces of those that looked at those who looked at the preacher, the choir, and the dead.
The oddest characteristic of the church was the congregation leaned to the left, not in doctrine or in politics, but due to the basement beside the church. With every rain, the foundation of the church washed in the hole of the neglected basement. Where the church had not finished the basement, months of neglect and periods of rain now did what the church should have done. It was backfilling the hole at the expense of the church foundation and the church was slowly sliding in the hole. I had visions of those on the left sinking into the earth as in the days of Moses.
Among other problems, the church was behind on its payments to the Methodist preacher, they could not buy propane gas until they paid their bill, and the power company threatened to turn off the electricity.
Sitting on the front pew pondering all these things before preaching that morning, my thoughts were I would sure hate to be the preacher at this church. After the morning message, Sammy asked me if I would consider becoming their pastor. I did the spiritual thing and told him that I would make it a matter of prayer.
During my quiet time, I prayed that God give me direction on the Fellowship decision. I was studying the book of First John. If you take time to read it, you find how I became pastor there.
God blessed my time there. We paid all the bills, started a building fund, and bought a piano. Did I mention that several keys did not work on the piano? We dug a sewer line that allowed water in the basement to drain, back-filled the basement to stop the erosion, and had a reconciliation service with the church from which Fellowship split.
Fellowship started with the wrong foundation spiritually as demonstrated physically by the foundation of the church. I wish I could say that the church is doing great, but it is not.  In fact, two pastors after me, a cultic group took over the church. 
It is so vital that churches have a firm foundation and know what we believe as Southern Baptists.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:49 KJV).
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18 KJV).
 
April 15, 2010
Cloudless blue skies are beautiful and remind me of special moments. In the area where I call home is a fly zone. On those beautiful clear sky days, by brothers and I would watch all sorts of airplanes overhead. Some would be small planes, especially crop dusters, flying close to the ground. Others would be military C130’s flying in groups of three roaring overhead with ground shaking rumble. Fighter jets would buzz by low in route to blow up Lay Dam. A local pilot those us it was part of the military practice to buss the river and dam, so they never really blew up the dam.
Sometimes the airplanes would be so high that all you could see was contrails. It was fun trying to find the plane. Suddenly, the plane would glisten in the sunlight and we could see the tiny speck running ahead of the contrail. We often wondered where the people were going and if they could see us. Having flown, I realized they could not. I remember the eerie feeling of no planes in the sky after 911.
Years ago Andy, my oldest son, and I were riding the church bus one Sunday morning. Andy was no more than six or seven years old. I rode the church bus, a converted school bus, as a helper to pick up kids who normally did not attend church. 
If you remember, there was a fad, craze, or period when Baptist churches converted school buses into ministries for church visitation and evangelism. I remember it was exciting when the church started the process of buying a bus. Baptist business meeting can be hilarious. 
We had Saturday morning visitation encouraging people to attend church with us. We had a busload of kids from time to time. We even had people who needed a ride to church ride with us. Sometimes there were several helpers and their children.
The most amazing thing was we had several children who had never attended church, did not have Bibles, and had never heard of Jesus. Some children we helped dress for church. I remember rounding up kids in the yard, washing their faces, hands, and feet, helping change from play clothes to church clothes, and believe it or not, getting a few out of bed.
Contrary to what most churched people think, unchurched people do not understand the language and customs of church, what ministers call the Language of Zion. It is okay that they did not know and it is our responsibility to help them know Jesus. If a person finds Jesus, he or she will learn the language and customs of Zion as we help them become disciples.
This particular spring morning the sky was a cloudless, beautiful blue with the exception of two airplanes in the sky. One of the little girls, about Andy’s age, said, “Look a big X in the sky.” Two jets crossing overheard left two huge contrails.
Without missing a beat Andy said, “Dad, that’s a Cross just like the one Jesus died. It is not an X.” It is amazing how kids, grownups too, see things differently. It made my job as bus helper, kid dresser, and worship preparer worth the effort.
I remember telling Andy that the reason we were picking up the other children was that they might learn about the Cross, the Crucifixion, and Christ.
That is God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS). It is sharing the message of Jesus to a lost and dying world through prayer walking, Gospel distribution, and Follow-up. Across Alabama is part of GPS and several Bethel Baptist churches participated. There have been some great testimonies as GPS climaxed on Resurrection Sunday. People filled churches, the gospel preached, people saved, and new commitments made. Now is the time of follow-up. Discipleship follows Evangelism. We invited, people came, and people changed from an X to the Cross. Let us disciple them that they might live the Great Commission.
As we go, more people will see as Andy did that morning that boys and girls, moms and dads, and grandparents across Alabama do not know Jesus or understand the Cross.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18 KJV).
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20 KJV).
 
March 25, 2010
I got a call about a year ago. Looking at the caller I D, I recognized it was my old friend and former church member John Lee.John was the Police Chief at the University of Montevallo. He became Chief during my sophomore year. His office was adjacent to the carpentry shop where I worked between classes. John was a regular for morning coffee.
During our morning coffee, John learned that I was preacher. He said he studied to be a preacher, but realized that the ministry was not his calling and became a police officer. 
During his first year, John called me in his office investigating how, as a student, that I had a faculty college parking decal. I answered that I got it during the summer break and by virtue of working in the carpentry department. Boy it made it nice to drive up to the classroom door.
As it is with all good things, somebody complained about my college perk, the faculty decal. John required me to get a student decal. He said his hands were tied and that he had enforce campus procedures and polices. I told him that it was not a problem and it was good while it lasted. After that, my friends in the carpentry shop used a university vehicle to transport me to and from class. Lose one perk, gain another I say. John smiled each time he saw me riding to class in the carpentry pickup.
John was an interesting Chief. He was driver for Governor George C. Wallace for many years. He had the voice of an old southern colonel or aristocratic landowner. He could tell some tales about governors George and Laureen.
John was also a gun collector, outdoorsman, and artist. He painted wildlife, particularly ducks. He competed for the Alabama State Duck Hunting Stamp annually. He won the state competition, against national, competitors in 1984 and 2002. He was in the top ten for the Federal Duck Stamp.
John moved from his campus house to a new home in the community where I pastored. He attended church one Sunday told me that he would join, but he was hesitant saying some big church was going to snatch me away. I laughed and responded, “No one wants me.” I stayed there eights years, five as John’s pastor.
After graduation, I would visit the University physical plant and their workers, especially the boys at the carpentry shop and Chief Lee.
In October before my spring phone call, Aaron and I visited with John. Aaron and John always talked “guns.” John told us he was about to retire. A few weeks later, I got an invitation inviting me to his retirement. The retirement gala was on January 30, Sharon’s birthday.
Sharon and I accepted the invitation and we went in anticipation of seeing old friends. I was shocked when I saw John. He had deteriorated greatly since my earlier visit a few months earlier. I received another shock when I looked at the program. I was on it. I had the innovation and opening remarks. Did I ever say that God takes care of fools and ignorant folks like me? Sharon and I just happened to be in our church clothes!
After the retirement ceremony, John presented each program personality with a gift. He gave me the 1984 Alabama State Duck Stamp print from his office. Sharon and I were very surprised.
Picking up the phone, I said, “Good morning John.” There was an eerie silence. I sensed something was wrong. “Bobby, this is Judy. John passed last night and he wanted Dr. McChesney and you to do his funeral.” Judy is John’s wife and Dr. McChesney is retired President of the University of Montevallo and bird-hunting buddy to John and Judy. 
“Bobby, I want you to be in charge of all the arrangements. John said you would know what to do.”
I did as asked, remembering what good friends John and Judy were. Judy gave me John’s 2002 Alabama State Duck Stamp print for doing the funeral service. Judy said, “Bobby, you know that your Duck Prints are very valuable now that John has passed? Reflecting on these things, I thought of Luke 14:7-10:
And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them. When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.
 
March 11, 2010
As I heard the unique sound coming from the steel guitar Sunday night at Forest Hill, memories of Sunday evenings raced through my mind. During the summer, my family gathered at momma’s for supper and after that some pickin’ and grinnin’.
Momma and my two brother played guitars. No, I cannot play guitar or any other musical instrument, but I learned to grin. My sister and I inherited our playing musical talents of playing from dad who could not play the radio without getting static. 
In fact, in Mrs. Gentry’s four-grade rhythm band class I played the triangles. The triangles looked like a dinner bell. My part was to hit the triangles, usually twice, during songs the class played. Notice I said hit, not play the triangles. Momma tried to raise me right, that is playing the guitar, but she said I did not have rhythm. You cannot get much rhythm hitting the triangles twice in a fourth grade rhythm band.
At any rate, we gathered every Sunday evening after church to play and sing. We sang anything we could remember such as church hymns, country/western songs, rock and roll tunes, and folk songs. There were songs like the Kingsmen Trio’s Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, and many more. We actually knew more church songs than other songs. We even made up a few songs. Sharon says I still do that when singing hymns at our churches. I always comment, “They rhyme don’t they?”
We loved to sing together. The choir director at my home church had my brothers and me learn several songs to sing for the congregation. My brothers never played their guitars. We sang either acappella that (without music) or sang with what they called canned music. 
My home church considered his canned music as from the devil. No, we did not make it devilish. My home church considered anything other than the piano and the organ as evil. One time a visiting youth group was going to play a trumpet. The deacons said, “You’re not going to play that horn here.” The son of one of the deacon’s said, “I wonder what they (the deacons) are going to do when the Trumpet of Lord sounds?” The deacon consulted with the pastor and decided to let them play the trumpets.
I guess most of our church thought that we were paying the devils his dues by playing the guitars on Sunday evenings. Momma, like each of us, was a sinner, a saved sinner. Momma played anything she picked up. She would play the harmonica, the juice harp, the saxophone, the piano, and the organ. One time she took a comb, wrapped it with wax paper, and blew the teeth of the comb like a harmonica.
One time daddy traded a steel guitar for a banjo. Momma played it too. Not having a steel guitar to play Hank Williams’s heartache songs, momma would take a regular guitar, lay it flat, and use a pocketknife to slide on the strings. It did not have the exact sound of the steel guitar, but it did the job and she sang she was lonesome she could cry as she slid the pocketknife up and down the strings.
The only audience we had was dad and ourselves. That is what we thought. One Sunday evening we stopped playing after singing several songs. Down in the holler below us, we lived on the hill, our aunts, uncles, and cousins hollered back, “Don’t stop, don’t stop.” We had no idea our kin was listening to Mars Hill’s version of American Idol.
Momma often reminded us that we could not afford many luxuries, but we could sing about how good God is. When momma felt depressed, she would start singing and playing church songs. We sang with momma until death, time, and different directions separated us. As I listened to the steel guitar, the other night at Forest Hill I felt a yearning for home as did the Hebrews did when they were carried away into captivity.
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? (Psalm 137:1-4 KJV)