Who Won the War?

Last Thursday afternoon, as CBS-TV’s resident curmudgeon Andy Rooney sat on the panel at the World War II Conference, someone in the audience asked him why so many veterans who returned from the war were reluctant to talk about it, while he and others write entire books about their experiences. “I’ll tell you why most of them don’t talk about it,” he said. “They didn’t do anything worth talking about. They served in the 10th Shoe Repair Batallion.” He explained that only about 10 percent of the members of the armed services actually shot at the enemy or were themselves shot at.

Now, I realize he said it that way to make his point, and being a journalist/humorist, he doesn’t mind offending you a little in the process. But it was offensive.

The members of the “Shoe Repair Batallion,” as he put it, are the soldiers and sailors who fed and clothed the men on the front lines, who served as medics and truck-drivers and communications people and mechanics. In other words, you couldn’t have won the war without them.

There’s a good point from early in the life of the future king David that works here. David and his six hundred men (perhaps not unlike Robin Hood and his merry men, outlaws and living on the lam) were chasing some bad guys who had raided their camp and taken everything they owned as well as their people. Day and night they traveled. Finally, some of David’s men were exhausted, so he allowed them to stay behind and guard the baggage which allowed the others to travel lighter and faster. A day or so later, David and his victorious four hundred return. They’ve recaptured all their people, made short work of the enemies, and taken all their treasures. That’s when a dispute arose.

The four hundred who had actually faced the enemy insisted that the two hundred who had stayed behind would not share in the bounty. “Give them their people back and their possessions which were stolen, but nothing more,” they protested. David held up his hand. “You must not do this, my brethren, with what the Lord has given us.” Then he instituted a principle which has come down through the centuries as the ultimate in fairness.

“As his share who goes down to battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” (I Samuel 30:24)

Continue reading

First John 2:23 – Who Taught Us To Call God ‘Father’?


Who Taught Us To Call God ‘Father’?

When I was a freshman at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, in the late 1950’s, our chaplain was a lovely cherubic gentleman who looked a lot like Winston Churchill. Dr. Gresham was a superb speaker and was admired by everyone. Now, I was 18 years old and 3 years away from the call into the ministry, but I remember like it was yesterday something he said about “God the Father.”

“Occasionally, I hear people say, ‘I believe in God the Father but I do not believe in Jesus Christ.’ I always ask them, ‘Who taught you to call God ‘Father’?’ Because it was Jesus. You can search the writings of antiquity and you will not find anywhere the teachings that God is our Father. The Old Testament has a couple of places where the Jews referred to Him as the Father of Israel, but no individual ever looked up toward Heaven and addressed Him as ‘Father.’ It was Jesus who gave us this privilege.”

You will recall that when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He said, “When you pray, say, ‘Father….'” That was new. Now, I’ve not done the research but I’ve heard that the Koran has over 90 names for God, but not one of them is Father.

(NOTE: The reason I attribute this to Dr. Gresham instead of just proclaiming it myself is simply that I have not delved into all the historical writings in various cultures on God, and have no way of knowing whether what he said is true or not. I want to believe it; it sounds right. Our history professor, Mae Parrish, said she had never caught Dr. Gresham in a historical inaccuracy, and she was not particularly favorably inclined toward preachers.)

Continue reading

First John 4:10 – Love, Love, Love–Is Christianity So Sentimental?


Love, Love, Love–Is Christianity So Sentimental?

Back in 1968, Joe McGinnis worked on the Richard Nixon campaign for president. Later, he wrote a book on what he observed, calling it “The Selling of the President 1968,” a takeoff on the Theodore White books “The Making of the President 1960,” 1964, etc. McGinnis said they packaged and sold Nixon like he was a brand of cigarettes. And he told one little story I’ve been telling ever since.

The campaign’s advertising agency prepared a one minute television commercial depicting Nixon’s views on the Vietnam war. They took a series of black and white photos from the way and lined them up, then had the camera pan down them. What you saw on the TV screen was all these photos going by, and you heard Nixon’s voice telling what he would do about the war if he were elected. The final photo showed an American soldier in full battle gear and wearing a helmet with the word “LOVE” scrawled across the front.

Now, remember that this was in the days of the hippie movement, free love, etc. As soon as the commercial began airing on TV, the campaign headquarters started receiving irate phone calls from Nixon supporters. “Get that hippie off that ad,” one said. Another said, “That is no word for a soldier to wear on his helmet when he’s going into battle to kill or be killed.” Well, when you’re running for president, you don’t want to offend needlessly, so the Nixon people told the ad agency to pull the commercial and change the last photograph.

The agency was reluctant to make the change. Their people had thought what an interesting young man that soldier must be to go into battle wearing the word “LOVE” on his helmet. But they complied and put a picture of a soldier with a generic helmet on the ad.

The upshot was a few days later, the Nixon people received a letter from that soldier’s mother. She said, “It was so nice of you to use my son’s photo. He’s on the other side of the world and I worry about him. It made my day to see his picture on the television screen.” The letter was signed, “Mrs. William C. Love.”

Can’t a fellow even wear his name on his helmet?

I use that story to illustrate how the wonderful concept of love has fallen onto hard times. It’s used in a thousand ways and many of them bad. Perfect love, the ideal, what God intended in the first place is what I John is all about.

Continue reading

First John 3:1 – We Shall Be Like Him


We Shall Be Like Him

The British poet Francis Thompson–forever enshrined in the hearts of Christians for his “The Hound of Heaven”–was in France and ran into an old friend. He called her name across a crowded sidewalk and she came over. “Shhhh,” she said. “Don’t call me by my name. I’m traveling in embryo.”

Thompson laughed and said, “I think you mean you’re traveling in cognito. In embryo means you’re not born yet!”

Reading I John 3:1-2, Christians see how both of those Latin terms apply to us. “In cognito” means “unknown,” and John says “the world does not know us.” “In embryo” means “unborn,” and he adds, “it has not yet appeared what we shall be.”

Continue reading

Reasons to Pray This Sunday Night

Sunday morning, little First Baptist Church of St. Rose, Louisiana, about 5 minutes west of the New Orleans airport, honored its longtime pastor Rev. W. O. Cottingham and his incredible wife Alpha. They birthed that church in 1959 and led it until the middle of 2005, when they retired for health reasons. Former members, friends, and family drove in from long distances to be there to honor them. W. O.’s cousin and full-time music evangelist Ronnie Cottingham of Mississippi led the worship and sang, and I preached the morning message. The sermon from Hebrews 6:10 was a new one for me, but I think I was more blessed than anyone there. (Ask any preacher. You know when you have one from the Lord!) We printed the outline here a day or two ago.

As the director of missions, I have an unofficial membership in each Southern Baptist church in metro New Orleans, and so try to use that advantage to say something to the churches which almost no one else can. I reminded this congregation that it’s hard for a church to change gears after nearly half a century of the same pastor, and to follow a new leader. “And yet, Larry Pittman is your pastor. He will not do things the way Brother Cottingham did. The question is whether you will let him be himself and lead out.”

In similar situations to this, I frequently tell a church that when I left the First Baptist Church of Kenner in 2004, after 14 years, I was replaced by a 27-year-old pastor, Tony Merida, who had never pastored before. I let that sink in, then add, “In a church business meeting to discuss him, someone said, ‘He doesn’t have any experience.’ Someone else said, ‘Well, he’s about to get some!'” Then I tell them, “And he’s wonderful. He’s my pastor.”

Pray for this church and Pastor Pittman.

Continue reading

Over at Gloria’s House

(This is an article from the Times-Picayune, written by Christine Bordelon. The two women in the story are connected by us. Gloria Twiggs is a longtime member of my church, FBC Kenner, and Karen Adams and we have e-mailed back and forth about her group’s ministry in New Orleans. It ran in Sunday’s paper.)

When Gloria Tiggs suffered a broken heel and fractured scapula after she fell off scaffolding while floating drywall in her Hurricane Katrina-damaged home, the future of her home repairs was in doubt.

As luck would have it, Twiggs, 61, a telephone switchboard operator at the Kenner Police Department, had come in contact with Karen Adams, a former New Orleans resident now living in Pennsylvania, and helped her organize a shipment of donations (paper products, bedding, towels, cleaning supplies, etc.) that were distributed from First Baptist Church in Kenner in February.

Adams and Twiggs remained in contact and when Adams realized Twiggs, too, was in need–her home had a foot of water inside and five feet of mold when she returned–she put her on the list of homes to repair on a special, nine-day ‘Christmas’ mission recently completed.

With 50 volunteers in tow from various churches in Pennsylvania, the mission group left in its wake a restored church, gutted and repaired homes in Metairie, Kenner, and eastern New Orleans and happy children in St. Bernard. For Twiggs, volunteers completed plumbing and roofing work and more at her Kenner home.

“It has been an unbelievable blessing,” Twiggs said. “Just to see them work, they were just wonderful. Everything I asked them, they did. I am just humbled by their kindness and generosity.”

Many of the Pennsylvania volunteers–ranging in age from 14 to 83–were regulars on mission trips, but this one struck a special chord with several.

Continue reading

Notes on the World War II Conference, or “How to Run a Meeting”

Saturday, my assignment at the National World War II Museum was to be a monitor in a section known as the Contemporary Arts Center. I showed up at 2 pm for my 2:30 start, not having done this before and wanting to be briefed by whoever had the position prior to my shift. I signed in, got my badge, and worked my way through the massive crowds to the CAC. “Stand here and open the door for people,” said Walt, my supervisor. Okay. I can do this. An hour later, he moved me into the CAC to check people’s badges or bracelets to make sure they were in the correct place. That’s where I stayed the rest of the afternoon, monitoring two sessions with several veterans on each panel.

The first panel discussion involved three fighter pilots in the War and was scheduled to go from 2:45 until 4:00 pm. Here’s what happened. The first pilot was fascinating but spoke in short sentences and brief paragraphs. Ten minutes into the program and he’s through. Then the second one spoke. Different story. He was a good storyteller and had a terrific story to tell, one that went on and on. He had become an Ace in the war, shooting down 5 enemy planes. As he moved his story from scene to scene, I glanced at the moderator, a professor I suppose, standing at the podium and charged with moving the discussion along and keeping it on schedule. At 4 o’clock–the announced time for this session to end–the Ace is just getting wound up. On and on he went. At 4:15 pm, some people are getting up and leaving and a few are arriving for the next session. At 4:20 pm, the museum people turned the lights on full, hoping he would get the point, I guess. He finally did and everyone clapped. Meanwhile, pilot number 3 had sat there silently the entire time. He had come all this way–from wherever he came–and the second speaker had used all his time. As the crowd applauded, he held his hand up and the emcee quietened everyone. The pilot spoke two sentences–I didn’t get what he said–and that was that.

Museum people standing near me in the rear could not believe what was happening. “We instruct our moderators how to lead these meetings,” one said. Another said, “Someone is supposed to be down front holding up signs saying ‘five minutes’ and ‘one minute.'”

Now, the crowd loved the fighter ace and they had sat on the edge of their seats, drinking in his stories. Problem was he completely shut out the third guy. Was it thoughtlessness or selfishness or old age or what? Perhaps it was a failure to properly brief the speakers. I don’t know.

“I can assure you that moderator will never be asked to emcee another panel here,” someone behind me said.

Continue reading

What to Do When You’re Hungry

(I found this in a pile of papers. It’s something I wrote a while ago. You might have a use for it.)

This morning I awakened early, got dressed, and went for a walk in the neighborhood. This is an excellent time to pray and think about Sunday’s sermon. When I returned home, I began feeling weak, so I awakened my wife and said, “Honey, I’m hungry. What should I do?”

She answered, “Take a bath.”

I did. But no sooner had I stepped out of the shower than the hunger pains returned. So I said, “I’m still hungry.”

“Try getting some clothes on,” she suggested. I said, “That’s a good idea.” But it did not help. There I stood, fully dressed, and very hungry.

This time Margaret said, “Well, put on a sweater. Maybe you don’t have on enough clothes.” I did, but it didn’t help. I was hungry enough to eat a bear.

“Try reading something,” she said. So I found my Bible and read three chapters. Then I read this morning’s newspaper. Still, I was famished.

“What else can you suggest?” I said. We seemed to be running out of ideas.

Continue reading

Whatever It Takes

Friday was “Grandparents Day” at the school, so Margaret and I showed up at 10 am and spent the next couple of hours visiting with children and teachers, having our pictures made with these 3 little McKeever geniuses, listening to their handbell choirs, and checking out their classrooms. The kids have made arrangement for Grandpa to come back some day and draw sketches of the children in all three classrooms. (Hey, it’s what I do.) Twelve-year-old Grant remarked, “One of the teachers lives in our neighborhood. She said she has driven down our street and seen the elderly man pushing us on the green swing under our tree.”

Elderly man. Thanks a lot. Let’s see now…what were we saying in the previous blog about ageism?

Thursday afternoon, I spent three hours at the World War II Museum attending the international conference on that war. The main auditorium was crowded as expected for Andy Rooney’s appearance. I’ve read the book on his wartime experiences as a reporter for the Stars and Stripes, but hearing his stories in person was special. “I had the best seat in the War,” he said. “I could travel anywhere with few restrictions, and talk to anybody. It sounds terrible to say since so many millions were killed in the Second World War, but it was the most exhilarating time of my life.”

A number of personalities scheduled to appear did not make it for health reasons. “Murrow Boy” Richard C. Hottelet, former Senator (and bomber pilot) George McGovern, and Enola Gay pilot General Paul Tibbetts were among the no-shows. I browsed the building, talked to a few authors, and bought some World War II postcards. “These are authentic,” the seller said. “A whole cache of them were found. Never used. The cartoons on the front were drawn by a fifteen-year-old kid.” A dollar each; I bought ten.

Standing in the rear of the auditorium, it was almost as much fun watching the crowd as listening to the panel of veterans and authorities. Several octogenarians were decked out in their original uniforms, and yes, they still fit. My wife is willing to bet the uniforms are new, but I disagree. In one conference room, a woman appearing to be in her late 80s was lovely in her Army WAC uniform, addressing perhaps 15 or 20 listeners. The unfortunate lady was competing with Andy Rooney.

In some of the sessions they were taking questions from the audience. What was funny about that is the old gentlemen who went to the microphones did not care a hoot about the opinions of the experts on the stage. They wanted to tell their stories. “Let me share a couple of my experiences with you,” they would begin. I looked around to see if the audience was growing fidgety and impatient, but no one was. In fact, when they finished, the crowd would erupt into applause, including the panel members.

Continue reading

In the Middle of a Miracle

Several of our churches are going through major and exciting changes this week.

Woodmere Baptist Church of Harvey is no more. As of this Sunday, Christ Baptist Church – Harvey comes into existence, meeting at 3000 Manhattan Boulevard. Their previous building in the Woodmere section of this New Orleans suburb now belongs to New Covenant Baptist Church. Meanwhile, this Sunday, Faith Baptist Church will be voting to acquire its first piece of property in its 7 year history.

Christ Baptist is pastored by Dr. Harold Mosley, professor at our seminary and recently pastor of Airline Baptist of Metairie. They’ll be doing lots of renovations to their new site which was formerly the House of Prayer Lutheran Church. Jerry Hamby is Associate Pastor and Bob Darcey is the interim Minister of Music. They’re without pews, so Sunday they’ll bring in the folding chairs for Sunday School at 9 am and worship at 10 am and 6 pm. We wish them well.

New Covenant is pastored by their founding shepherd, Thomas “Chip” Glover. He reported to our Wednesday pastors meeting that the church voted this week to purchase cots, sheets, toiletries, etc., in order to house volunteers coming to help rebuild the city and witness in the community. Thomas went into detail explaining the circumstances of their being able to acquire this church site, and rather than try to remember it all here, I plan to ask him to write it out and we’ll post it on this site. It’s a fascinating story of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Here’s a hint: the property was appraised for $885,000 and they bought it for $325,000.

Faith Baptist Church was formed several years ago when the First Baptist Church of New Orleans voted to relocate from its St. Charles Avenue location. The charter members of Faith felt the Uptown section of the city needed to have a continued witness, so they formed a church and made arrangements to share the facility of First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans on South Claiborne Street. To date, they still have not called a permanent pastor, but have been led by various interims. Professor (and former missionary) Tim Searcy is their present interim pastor. When Hurricane Katrina damaged the Presbyterian sanctuary, Faith moved to St. Charles Avenue and began renting space from Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church, where they continue to meet at 12:30 pm. Katrina sliced Faith’s numbers exactly down the middle, leaving them running 40 to 50 on Sunday mornings.

This Sunday they are voting on purchasing a plant formerly used by a Christian Science congregation. In the absence of Dr. Searcy–who is on a trip to the Holy Land with his son–they’ve asked me to preside at the Sunday afternoon business meeting.

I’ll be preaching Sunday morning at First Baptist Church of St. Rose as this congregation honors its one and only pastor from 1959 to 2005–Rev. W. O. Cottingham–in his retirement. This service had to be postponed due to last year’s hurricane.

In the Wednesday meeting, Cherry Blackwell promoted the Christmas Banquet for all our ministers and spouses, to be held on Tuesday evening, December 12, at 6:30 pm at the Ormond Plantation on River Road in Destrehan, a few miles west of Kenner. Child care will be provided at the First Baptist Church of Kenner from 6 pm on. (FBC Kenner is located at 1400 Williams Boulevard, with the educational building in the block behind the sanctuary.) Jim Chester who is an illusionist, story-teller, and preacher will be the evening entertainment. (Please note that “ministers and spouses” means all pastors and other church staff members, male and female.)

Continue reading