Have you met the members of my congregation?

I belong to the greatest church in the world.  We have an eclectic group of members and leaders. You would love them.  Here are some of their names….

First off, our pastor is Rev. Turner Byrne.

The deacons are Rod(ney) N. Staff, Moe Love, Noah D. Word, and Ruffin Tumble.

The Sunday School teachers are I. M. Humble, Chester Drawers, Hal E. Looyah, and Shuck D. Corn.

The church council includes I. M. Wright, R. U. Ready, H. Evan Sent, and Joiner R. Flock.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery

If you’re ever sitting around with two or three preachers, ask for their funniest stories, the most memorable wedding or funeral they’ve done, something like that.  Pull up a chair because you’ll be here for an hour.

I don’t have any funerals where the “honored guest” got up and walked out, or where the wrong person was discovered to be in the casket, or such foolishness as that. And for good reason.

Funerals are highly structured affairs, regulated by state law and overseen by a whole battery of mortuary employees and family members.

When we gather at the funeral home, the family has already been in conference with the mortician on how they want things done. The funeral directors stand nearby to make sure all goes according to plan. As a result, there is usually very little wiggle room there, space for the unexpected to occur.

And that’s not all bad.

I did this one funeral…

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The best time I ever had in nearly 60 years of ministry

“What is the best time you ever had in a long lifetime of ministry, Joe?”

Wow. I don’t know.  Let me think about it….

A ride in an Air Force jet? The only reason that plane ride in the T-38 was so much fun is that I did it, survived it, then looked back and remembered it with pleasure. Columbus AFB Wing Commander Colonel Chet Griffin said, “You’ve been ministering to these student pilots all these years; you ought to learn something of what they go through.” As I say, it was great fun–in retrospect. (smiley-face goes here)

Chet and his lovely bride Eva Lee are beloved friends now for nearly a half century.  I was their pastor twice, during their  two assignments at Columbus, and we forever bonded. Over the years we have visited with each other, and still keep in touch.  Chet is a Sunday School teacher of the highest grade, and was used of the Lord to reach numerous Air Force officers for Christ.  He still teases me about that plane ride. Btw, my pilot that day was Captain Bob Orwig, now a Ph.D. professor at North Georgia and a dear friend, with his wife Linda.

Mission trip? The 1977 trip to Singapore (via Chicago, Anchorage, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and finally my destination) and back was part of a long, long process of drawing an evangelistic comic book for the missionaries there, then coloring each of the many pages (with acrylic and tiny brushes!), and printing up 10,000 copies for their use. It was a job! It was fun mainly in retrospect because we did it, it was most unusual, we would never be doing anything like that again, and we survived it.

Getting to know missionaries like Bob and Marge Wakefield as well as Ralph and Ruthie Neighbour was a special delight.

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Anecdotes a preacher would kill for

Anecdotes are short, catchy stories, the kind pastors and public speakers insert in just-the-right-spot to pep up a message. The word comes from the Greek and literally means “things not given out.”  In other words, “unpublished.”

Winston Churchill called them “the gleaming toys of history.” They are hard to define, but we all know a good one when we find one. Here are a few of my favorite stories…..

One. During the 1957 World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees, slugger Hank Aaron came up to bat. Yogi Berra, the Yankee catcher, noticed he was holding the bat wrong. “Turn it around,” he told Aaron. “So you can read the trademark.” (That’s the usual wisdom on how to hold a bat.) Hank never looked back, but said, “Didn’t come up here to read. Came up here to hit.”

And brother, did he ever.

Two. A patient afflicted with chronic depression called on the famous British physician John Abernethy. After examining him, Dr. Abernethy said, “You need amusement. Go down to the playhouse and hear the comedian Grimaldi. He will make you laugh and that will be better for you than any drugs.” The patient said, “I am Grimaldi.”

Great comedy is said to emanate from great suffering.

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Entering the ministry? Bring with you a good sense of humor!

Don’t just sit there. When you could be soaring with the eagles!

Why sit we here until we die? (2 Kings 7:3)

Every pastor has a story or two he used to tell but which was lost because of the years and circumstances.  I told this one a few times over twenty years ago and just ran across it in Chuck Swindoll’s book of 1500 stories, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.

Back in the summer of 1982, Larry Walters, truck driver, had too much time on his hands without a clue what to do with it all.  Mostly, he sat in his back yard drinking beer and thinking.  One day he began to wonder what would happen if he were to get himself several surplus weather balloons, tie them together, and go aloft.  He could spy on his neighborhood, and wouldn’t that be fun?

That’s why on July 2nd of that year he rigged up forty-two surplus helium-filled balloons from the U. S. Weather Service or some such agency.  He anchored them to a backyard lawn chair he’d bought from Sears in San Pedro, California.  Before lifting off, he thoughtfully brought along a pellet gun so he could shoot out a few balloons in case he began to fly too high.

To his utter amazement, the balloons lifted off with a bang. In no time flat he was soaring through the sky, eventually reaching 16,000 feet. That’s three miles, y’all.

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The day I was kicked out of Wal-Mart

I’ve waited a while to tell this, so the host pastor would not put two and two together and a) be embarrassed or b) feel he should march into his local Wal-Mart and confront someone.

I was doing a senior adult revival in a wonderful church in a small Alabama city.  Late that afternoon, on my way to the church I saw I was a little early, so stopped by the lccal Wal-Mart to pick up a sketch pad.  They have great pads at a reasonable price and I always try to have a couple of extras on hand.

As I neared the checkout stations, I noticed none of the ladies had a single customer.  I made some little remark about “which one shall I go to” and then one of them checked me out.  Still no customers anywhere near, so as I often do, I said to the checker in front of me, “Hey, smile at me and I’ll sketch you.”  It takes a minute or so.  “Draw me,” the next one said.  I had time, so kept on drawing.

I was on the third or fourth one when a woman walked up.  “Sir, you’re not allowed to do that.”

I said, “I’m not allowed to sketch them?  I’m not taking them away from their work, and I’m giving them a nice little gift.”

“You’re not allowed to take pictures of the employees,” she said sternly.

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21 things I do which may (or may not) be keeping me young at 78

“They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14). 

In no particular order–other than this is the order that occurred to me after going to bed last night (and getting up to write it down!)—here is what I do.  Don’t miss the addendum at the end on what I’m not doing right!  Might as well tell the rest of the story. Smile, please. 

One. I laugh a lot.  I love Genesis 21:6, “God has made laughter for me.”  Laughter is a vote of confidence in the Lord, that He is in control and has it all in His hands.  This means some of what you’ll hear around this house is pure silliness.  And I’m good with that.  Many years ago, as six-year-old Abby and I played at the swing in her front yard, she said, “We’re being silly, aren’t we, Grandpa?” I said, “Yes, we are. Why do we like to be so silly?”  She said, “It’s a family tradition.”

Two. I take a full regimen of vitamins. In the mid-1990s, when I’d gone a decade without seeing a doctor, I went with my wife for her appointment and ended up becoming a patient too.  One day the doctor gave me a list of vitamins and minerals (including the baby aspirin and a fiber capsule)  she wanted me to start taking.  As I left, she said, “Mr. McKeever, I think we have just prevented a heart attack in you.” Well, apparently so.  I have almost never missed a day, although the list of what I take has varied a little over the years as successive doctors have tweaked it.

Three. I have an annual checkup, complete with bloodwork.

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Dumb questions and smart-alec answers

This is Super Bowl week ni our part of Planet Earth.  In January 29, 2018’s USA Today, reporter Josh Peter wrote about “infamous Super Bowl” questions which sports reporters have been known to toss to athletes.

During Super Bowl week back in 1994, a reporter asked Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas what got him psyched up for big games.  “I read the newspaper and look at all the stupid questions you all ask,” he answered.

So, Reporter Josh Peter gave us some of his “most infamous” (translation: dumb, dumb, dumb!) questions from Super Bowl weeks in years past….

–“Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?”  The reporter was asking Quarterback Jim Plunkett to clarify the situation of his parents. Correct answer: Plunkett’s mother is blind and alive, his father blind but no longer living.

We read that and wonder what kind of crassness would prompt a normal human to ask such an unthinking question.

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No place for sarcasm in the Christian ministry

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

Mary Todd Lincoln was gifted in the dark art of sarcasm. Her sister Elizabeth said of her, “She was also impulsive and made no attempt to conceal her feelings;  indeed, it would have been an impossibility had she desired to do so, for her face was an index to  every passing emotion.  Without desiring to wound, she occasionally indulged in sarcastic, witty remarks, that cut like a Damascus blade, but there was no malice behind them.”  Lincoln’s biographer notes, “A young woman who could wound by words without intending to was presumably even more dangerous when angry or aroused.”  (Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln by Douglas L. Wilson).

Woe to the person bound in marriage to one gifted in sarcasm.  Lincoln bore many a scar from the blade his wife wielded.

Pity the church member who sits under the teachings of a sarcastic pastor week after week.  Such a pastor’s ministry will bear bitter fruit.

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