Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God…. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy. (Hebrews 11:16,37-38)
It’s commonplace these days for the older generation–let’s say those of retirement age and beyond–to point something out: This generation of young people mistakenly think things have always been this way. Always this affluent. Ever this easy. Always this prosperous.
This generation has no way of knowing, other than being told or reading about it in histories, how recent are smart phones, laptops, rear-view cameras, airbags, and GPS. We not only got along without them for most of my lifetime, we didn’t even give it a thought. We thought we were doing very well, in fact.
I was born in 1940. I was a teen in the 1950s, the “Happy Days” generation, when a decent new car could be purchased for $2,000. When a relative once drove his new Lincoln Continental to a family get-together, we were stunned to see it had air-conditioning: Two plastic tubes coming up over the back seats blowing cold air into the interior. The car, someone said, cost $5,000. More than a year’s salary.
This is not going to be a “back in my day” retrospective, but give me a moment here please.
Saturday night in North Mississippi as I sketched couples attending the church banquet where I would soon speak, the woman said, “You are from Alabama?”
She said, “We’re from Alabama. Winston County.”
I said, “I’m from Winston County. Graduate of Winston County High School at Double Springs.”
She said, “We’re from Haleyville.” A much bigger town at the edge of the county.
We chatted about that, making connections. Afew minutes later, she was back.
“Your Facebook profile says you are from Nauvoo, Alabama.” A small town to the south in Walker County.
I said, “We lived five miles out of Nauvoo on a rural route. But I never lived in Nauvoo itself. We lived just inside Winston County, which meant we went to high school in Double Springs instead of Carbon Hill.”
Later, I changed the note on Facebook to say my hometown is Double Springs. Which it isn’t, of course. In one sense, I have no home town, having grown up in the open country, some 13 miles from Jasper, AL and 10 miles from Double Springs. And not only that….
Baseball used to be called the National Pastime. Whether it qualifies for that accolade now is a good question.
My opinion is the level of excitement generated in the typical game of football is twice that of baseball. And that leads many to conclude that baseball is boring. It is not.
On the other hand, the baseball season is six months long and involves 162 games. Whew. The NFL’s regular season lasts from September to January and has only 16 games. That means baseball has ten games for every one football game.
Baseball is not boring. It’s quiet and relaxing much of the time, and downright exciting the rest of the time. (Reminds me of how an airline pilot described flying: hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.)
My wife Margaret would accompany me to games, but not to watch. She did not understand or care for the game, but she would take along a novel she was reading. And she was a people-watcher. Meanwhile, I was totally into the game. And she was fine with that.
God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (Second Corinthians 9:8)
Over the years I’ve been doing this website–some 15 years now–I have occasionally written about tithing our income to the Lord through His church. Invariably, among the responses will come some hostile attacks, accusing us of preaching Old Testament doctrine, being legalists, misleading God’s people into a salvation by works, and other such foolishness. They could not be more wrong. Some people–like Judas–just cannot stand to see someone expressing love to Jesus by giving generously to honor Him.
“Why this waste?” said Judas (Matthew 26:8).
I decided I would tell you what I’m doing. I’ll save this draft and come back to it later and decide if I have permission from the Lord to post it or if I should delete it. (Later note: I removed most of the dollar amounts, but left everything else in.)
“How much are you all giving?” I asked that of my sister tonight.
The kid in me is romping and playing today.
Oaky Doaks was my favorite cartoon as a child. It’s the reason I’m a cartoonist today.
Cartoonist R. B. Fuller was an accomplished artist. His work is so perfectly executed, unlike the hastily done stuff of at least half the stuff on the comics pages these days. As a child in West Virginia in the late 1940s, I came across the daily strip “Oaky Doaks” and fell in love with it. In the strip, Oaky was a farm boy who, using some equipment from the barn, hammered himself some armor and went off riding his plow-horse Nellie to do battle with dragons, rescue damsels in distress, and confront evil everywhere. I loved everything about this strip.
When I would read the strip each day–remember, I was 8 or 9 years old at the time–my mind went into overdrive. I seriously entered that tiny world of the medieval knight with his silly sidekick King Cedric. It was delightful in every way. And, may I say, Mr. Fuller sure could draw beautiful women!
Then, when I was 11, we moved back to the Alabama farm where our newspapers did not carry that strip. I hardly noticed, I realize now, as I was involved in a hundred things. Only years later did I look back and remember my old friend Oaky and find that something inside me was treasuring him and missing him.
So, I went online.
On her Facebook page recently a friend asked, “Tell us something you have done which no one else in our group has done.” She got the type of responses you might expect: hang gliding, jumping from planes, singing in Carnegie Hall, etc.
That started me thinking about these years of service to the Lord since He called me in 1961. I’m confident I’ve done nothing no one else has, but it may be worthwhile to reflect on some of the almost one-of-a-kind things that have taken place in my ministry. (I’ve not ever done this kind of reflection before, so we’ll see how it goes. Smiley-face here.)
For what it’s worth, here are some that come to mind…
I have drawn a comic book for the missionaries in Singapore.
In the mid-1970s, I saw a note in The Commission magazine where they were looking for a cartoonist to draw an evangelistic comic for their work in Singapore. While I mulled it over, the phone rang. My wife said, “Honey, have you seen this? They need a cartoonist in Singapore!”
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.
“…you need again for someone to teach you….” (Hebrews 5:12).
It was a Saturday morning and because I was a pastor, it was a work day. Sometime around 8:30 am, I left the house. As I drove away, the cassette tape in the player began talking. I’d been listening to some self-improvement program and had left the tape in place. I got caught up in what the speaker was saying, which is why…
Not three blocks later, I was pulled over for speeding. Something like 40 in a 25 mph zone. It was a sickening feeling. I’ve had more than one speeding ticket in my life and I hate them. They’re the result of not paying attention, and they cost money which I don’t have.
As the policeman drove off, I started the car up and pulled away. That’s when the fellow on the cassette tape rebuked me. “Have you ever noticed,” he said, “that some people just never seem to learn?”
I laughed out loud. “Yes, I have. And I’m one of them!”
This is just for the record.
Bertha and I attended the SBC in Birmingham, arriving Sunday afternoon, June 9, and departing Thursday morning, June 13. I was one of 10 messengers from our church, the First Baptist Church of Jackson, MS where Chip Stevens is pastor.
I did not, however, attend any sessions of the SBC. (Had a controversy erupted which required my vote, I would have stepped into the auditorium and taken a part. But all was well.)
I had another function altogether.
For a number of years in a row, I attend the convention as the guest of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, a constant influence in my life since arriving on the campus in the summer of 1964. I have two degrees from there, have been president of the national alumni association, and have received a couple of distinguished recognitions from the seminary. For a number of years, I was a member of the adjunct faculty, teaching in the pastoral ministry division. I love this seminary. Bertha and I are presently active on the NOBTS Foundation Board. I send a monthly contribution to the Providence Fund for student support.
I wrote on this website an article titled “Things that no longer bother me.” Among them were the interpretation of certain Bible prophecies, the wasted energies of denominational politics, and the need to have an answer for every question.
But there’s another side to that coin.
Some things do bother me and keep me prayerful, studying, engaged, worrying (a little), and always concerned.
It bothers me that my grandchildren do not read as much as they should. Blame computers? It bothers me that the standards for television broadcasting keep getting looser and looser. Nothing is off limits, considered too dangerous or obscene. It bothers me that other people don’t seem to be bothered.
Bothered? How does that old song go? Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Well, for me personally not so much bewitched or bewildered. Just bothered.