Ten words to the victims (and veterans!) of the hurricanes

Sunday, preaching in Biloxi, Mississippi, I asked the congregation, “How many of you were living here in 1969 when Hurricane Camille changed this coastline forever?”  A lot of hands went up.

Then, “How many of you lived here in 2005 when Katrina destroyed so much of the area?”  Many more hands.

I said, “So when you think of neighbors dealing with hurricanes, such as Harvey and Irma, you know.  You’ve been there.  You can pray for them with a genuine compassion and a deeper understanding.”

Before they left the building, those people made generous contributions to their neighbors impacted by the hurricanes.

Each hurricane is different. Each takes its own path and blows at its own speed. And each one is similar.  They destroy and uproot and flood.  Those who experience even one such storm forever identifies with the victims and veterans of all those which follow.

With that in mind, it might be in order for those of us with scars from past hurricanes (for my family, it was Betsy in 1965 and Katrina 40 years later) to offer a word or two of encouragement to friends caught in the path of the latest of these monster storms.

Ten words, actually…

(We will try not to insult you with platitudes such as “work hard” or “try not to cry.”  You will work hard and you will cry, and God bless you as you do.)

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The pastor and his mother

Most pastors I’ve known have admitted that they were particularly blessed by their mothers.

I certainly was.

Lois Jane Kilgore McKeever grew up in church, met my dad when she and her sister were singing in church, and kept her six children in church until they were grown. (Of her four sons, two became preachers. Ron and Joe together have logged more than a hundred years serving the Lord.)

In those early years Mom got no encouragement from her husband (my wonderful dad), but she had us all ready on Saturday nights. My older brothers would pull out that number 2-1/2 washtub and fill it up.  We all bathed in the same water.  The joke was that the last kid died in quicksand.  Sunday mornings, we would walk a mile from our house to the church.

We were poor, but we were freshly scrubbed and our clothes were clean.  Lois McKeever was forever cleaning and cooking and washing clothes and cleaning house.  She kept the radio on to gospel singing and preaching, and could sing the prettiest alto you will ever hear.

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Advice to a young mother. Dad too.

From my journal of Wednesday, December 31, 1997.

In my morning radio program “Phone Call from the Pastor” (Lifesongs 89.1 New Orleans), I told this:

This is a message to a young mother of two boys I saw at McDonald’s on Airline Highway yesterday.  Your boys are perhaps 2 and 3-1/2.  You say they were born 18 months apart.  “They’re killing you,” I told you facetiously. “I hope you survive until they’re grown.”  But what I thought was, “I hope they survive.”

Their behavior is suicidal. They are well on their way to becoming society’s worst nightmare.  They are out of control.

You kept giving orders to the older one–sit down, be quiet, turn around, eat your lunch–and he kept ignoring and defying you.  There was fire in the little guy’s eyes.  He really did look like a miniature devil.

My heart went out to you.  My wife and I raised two little boys who were three years apart.  I know they can be very trying, especially on Mom.  So, what I’m about to suggest to you comes from some experience with this subject.

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Riding in cars with preachers

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).

Preachers log a lot of miles on their cars.

Most preachers tend to drive aggressively.

I’m a preacher. My little Camry, one year old this month, shows over 37,000 miles.

I work hard at driving well, but sometimes I wish someone riding with me would point out something I’m doing wrong or a bad habit I’ve fallen into, if they spot such.

Recently, on three occasions recently I found myself riding with pastors as we drove to their churches.

In each case, I did unto them as I want someone to do unto me. That is, I helped the pastor with his driving.  (smiley-face goes here)

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Love won.

“Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

My dad was an enigma.  From his youth, he was clearly someone special, otherwise my teenage mama-to-be would never have been drawn to him and her daddy, a shrewd judge of character, would not have consented for her to marry him.

The eldest of what would eventually be an even dozen children, Carl McKeever was intelligent, possessed with excellent common sense, strong in body, and handsome in appearance. But he had a temper which he could not always control and developed a fondness for drink. His mouth was foul, particularly when with his friends, and he had a mean streak in him.

And yet, people were drawn to him.

We still have the hand-scribbled note on a piece of brown paper torn off from a grocery bag apparently, where Grandpa Virge Kilgore consented for Carl J. McKeever, age 21, to marry Lois Jane Kilgore, 17.

So, they must have seen something there.

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Dear Preacher’s kids….

“Now, it came to pass that when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel…. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice” (I Samuel 8:1-3).

Let’s talk about the offspring of the Lord’s shepherd, those sweet little lambs birthed into his beloved family in order to enrich their lives, to bless the church and to provide a fresh palette on which the preacher and his lady can demonstrate all it means to grow up in the fear and nurture of the Lord.

Those little monsters who terrorize the congregation with their out-of-control behavior.

Those darling babies and toddlers who are smothered by the loving attention of the entire congregation, and for whom teenage girls compete as babysitters.

Those juvenile delinquents who run up and down the aisles of the church and treat the sacred buildings as their own personal playroom.

Those teenagers who look so angelic on Sunday and test their parents’ patience during the week, the subject of ten thousand stories in deacons’ homes, who exasperate the seniors in the church hoping for a little peace and quiet this Sunday.

They put the gray hairs in their preacher-dad’s head and the great stories into his sermons.  They put the the lines in their mom’s brow and the thrill into her heart.

They occupy the major portion of their parents’ prayers day and night.

God bless ’em.  We love our PKs.  Our preachers’ kids.

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The one room in your house no one else knows about

“I’ve got a secret!”  –Popular television game show of the 1960s and 1970s.

Recently, a man I know wrote of the secrets his family was harboring as they struggled to deal with an addictive, out-of-control relative.

“You know how the family gets ready to host a guest and the house is clean and in order and nothing out of place?  The guest is impressed.  He wishes his house could be this neat and organized with nothing out of place.”

“But what he doesn’t know is that there is one room where you have stored all the junk and clutter.  If he were to open the door to that room, he would be amazed.”

That, he said, is how things are for a family that tries to keep up an image when they are about to come apart.

They push things back into that private room, whose door they dare not open.

It’s about family secrets.

Everyone has them, he said.

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The chaplain thanked God for our perfect marriage. I smiled.

I started this article on Monday, February 2, 2015, but never finished it. Today, Friday, October 2, 2015, I found it and decided to finish it. 

We had my wife’s funeral today.  She would have loved almost everything about it.

And may have, for all I know.

We have no idea what the “dead in Christ” know about what goes on here.

I’ve been home from the funeral 4 hours and had a nap, and am ready to live again, I suppose.  (Note:  Blogging is a form of therapy for me, clearly.)

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Joe is interviewed by Vanity Fair (sort of)

On the final page of Vanity Fair’s October 2015 issue, Whoopi Goldberg is interviewed. The questions are generic, sort of here’s-how-to-interview-anyone. So, I thought I’d give it a try and answer them myself. (At the end, I added a few more.)  Here goes….

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being in the place God put me, doing the work He gave me.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  Likewise, the best definition of hell on earth is to be out of His will.

What is your greatest fear?

Just that very thing: being out of his will.  I fear nothing so much as disappointing Him.  That could happen to any of us. None of us is immune to temptation. That keeps me on my knees every day.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Abraham Lincoln. I’ve been to his birthplace, the restored “New Salem” where he lived as a young man, to his hometown of Springfield, his burial place, and in Washington, D.C., to Ford Theatre and the house where he died.  I own many books on Lincoln.

Which living person do you most admire?

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For better or for worse: The power of a spouse

My friend Lydia was helping her 6-year-old daughter out of her Sunday clothes.

“Honey,” she said, “Did anyone tell you how pretty you look in your new dress?”

Little Holly said, “No. They thought it. They just forgot to tell me.”

I love the self-esteem that answer reveals.  Such parents–Terry and Lydia Martin of Columbus, Mississippi, my friends for over 40 years–surely did something right with this child.

Our task is to convey a healthy esteem not only to our children but to our spouses, our husband, our wife.

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