Last week I wrote that Easter Sunday will be our last day in this church where we have served since September of 1990. In mid-May I will become the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans (BAGNO). Having pastored since 1962, I expect the transition to be difficult at first, but am excited at the opportunity to spend more time with the local ministers and to get to know all our 125 (or so) churches and missions.
The question has already arisen: What will happen to ‘The Matter of Fax’ article we’ve been producing each Tuesday since late 1996 (and which our church office staff has been e-mailing to some 3,000 recipients)? Thanks to my sons Neil and Marty, we do have an answer.
If you want to continue receiving the Matter of Fax, just send a blank email message to and then reply to the confirmation email it will send you.
Earl Hodges has taught physical education in our weekday school for all the years I’ve been at this church, nearly 14 now. On the side, he runs a karate school. And writes for the Times-Picayune. And serves local churches as a part-time minister of education. At the moment, Earl is enrolled in a local theological school where he is taking a course on great revivals through the centuries. And he’s studying Spanish. At 55, Earl Hodges has found the secret to staying young: never stop learning. Keep on expanding, learning, growing, pushing yourself.
Carl J. McKeever has long been my role-model in this. Dad will be 92 on April 13 and his mind is as sharp as ever. He reads constantly—not books, but newspapers, magazines, and articles people send him. Every morning he works the puzzles in the paper with his coffee, just after devouring the newspaper. Granted, the (Jasper, Alabama) Daily Mountain Eagle is not a five-pounder like the Washington Post, but it’s Mom and Dad’s lifeline to the outside world. I’ll spend this Friday night with them, and about the time I sit down, Pop will hand me a stack of clippings he has cut out and saved. He’s always growing new wood. Staying young. Considering that he cut short his formal education at the seventh grade in the early 1920s to go to work in the coal mines—where he labored for the next 35 years without missing a day from sickness or injury—he’s fairly impressive. If I do say so myself.
The play “Thunder Rock” flopped in New York City, but in London, England, inthe fall of 1940 it became a sensation. In the story, a lighthouse-keeper on Lake Michigan reflects on the passengers whose ship went down near there in 1848. Throughout endless days and lonely nights, he re-creates these forlorn passengers who had fled Europe as immigrants and now in this wreck had lost what little they owned. They were discouraged, the world was against them, their hope was used up.
The lighthouse-keeper imagines he is personally addressing the passengers. He urges them to hold on. There is plenty of reason for hope, he assures them, because at that very moment in Illinois there is a young man named Abraham Lincoln. Madame Curie has been born. Florence Nightingale is alive. Pasteur is in Paris. Lift up your spirits, he calls to them. There is good news just ahead.
“The Miracle” is a movie about the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team’s win over the Soviet Union in the middle of the Cold War. I was one of the millions who watched the original—camped out in front of my television on that Friday night, sweating and cheering and chanting “USA, USA.” I will never forget the drama and exhilaration of that event. So I went to the cinema the other afternoon, knowing more or less what to expect. What I got was a sermon on leadership.
I’m grieving again. The morning newspaper confirmed the late night phone call telling of the death of a 14 year old boy, the son of a long-time friend. He was riding one of those accursed ATVs, the four-wheelers supposedly for farmers and hunters but which we mostly see kids riding alongside highways. He took his eyes off the road and hit a tree. A senseless, needless death of a precious young man.
I remember the first time a young person in my church wrecked while riding one of those monsters. She survived the accident, but after scraping the highway with her face, she left part of herself there forever. That was 20 years ago and I still grieve for her.
This puts me in a predicament. I want to urge parents not to allow your children to ride these suicide machines, but I do not want to dump more pain on moms and dads who made this ultimate mistake and will carry their sorrow to their grave. If you’re in that category, please forgive me for the bluntness of what’s coming.