What my dad said about fathers

“Who can find a virtuous man? For his price is far above diamonds” (Not Proverbs 31:10, but it well could be.)

My father was Carl J. McKeever (1912-2007).  No one who met him ever forgot.

Like two of his four sons–the two who became preachers!–Pop was a talker. He was interested in a thousand things and enjoyed good food, hearty laughter and great conversation with friends. And he loved to write.

What’s interesting about that is he had a seventh grade education. As the oldest of an even dozen children, he left school to help support the family when he was 12, and entered the coal mines to work alongside his father two years later. His formal education may have ended, but dad was always learning and thinking and paying attention.

Most of his writing was done on note pads, in a lovely script which schools taught back in the 1920s. Something called the Palmer Method. Up to his death at the age of 95, his handwriting was impressive. Those notes he wrote were legible and intelligent, and remarkable for a coal miner.

I’m leading up to sharing one of them with you. My brother Ron handed me this in Pop’s handwriting during our brief visit at the restaurant in Jasper, Alabama.

Continue reading

When the minister is tired, watch out!

(Written a few years back. I decided to leave it intact and post it as is.) 

“Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat down by the well….” (John 4:6).

Jesus grew tired, so don’t be surprised if you do, too.

Jesus needed rest and wanted a little solitude, and you and I are no different.

Give yourself permission to be human, friend.

As for me, it’s Monday night and I’m tired.

How did I get this way?

Continue reading

If you’ve been in the Lord’s work very long, your scars prove it

From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

“…I bear branded on my body the owner’s stamp of the Lord Jesus” –the Moffett translation.

“…I bear on my body the scars that mark me as a slave of Jesus” –Goodspeed.

At Mississippi State University, the Kenyan student carried horizontal scars across his face.  “Identification marks for my tribe,” he explained to me.  Wow.  Tough clan.

We were returning from the cemetery in the mortuary’s station wagon.  The director and I were chatting and perhaps could have been more observant.  We did not notice the pickup truck coming from our right and running the stop sign at 30 or 40 mph. We broadsided the truck.

My forehead broke the dashboard.

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

Want to hear a funny story about a wedding?

When you’ve been in the ministry as long as I have–I began pastoring when JFK was president!–there are few things you haven’t seen or experienced.  This one is about weddings I have done (or had done to me!).

There was this one wedding….

–Which was attended by Sandra Bullock. I didn’t know it at the time, and learned it later. The famous movie star was all of 10 years old. The bride was her aunt or a cousin of her mama’s or something. (I wonder if she remembers me. lol. )

–Where I called the groom by the name of the best man. Oops. (Thereafter, I wrote the names of the bride and groom in large letters at the top of my materials.)

–Where I dropped the ring. For years in rehearsals, I would instruct the bride and groom, “If it drops, let it go. No one will know and we’ll get it later.”  So, when it happened  I’m the one stooping down to pick it up. Oh, well. Not that big a deal.

–Where the groom was wearing cowboy boots with his formal tux. During the picture-taking, I said to the bride, “Debbie, you should have worn yours.” With that, she hiked her dress up and showed me. She was wearing her boots too.

–Where the bride fainted. See below.

Continue reading

Be patient: You never know what that fellow has gone through

While attending a conference on the campus of a Christian college, I sat in the auditorium with several hundred other ministers and their families.  The pre-session music was provided by a man playing a violin, and doing it rather poorly, I felt.

I am not a musician nor the son of a musician, but I can usually tell when a violin is being played well.  And particularly when it isn’t.

As the music ended, our host stepped to the microphone. “We want to thank Mr. Hoskins for playing the violin for us tonight. One month ago, he was in an automobile accident in which his car was totaled. In fact, for a while it appeared that he had lost the use of his hands. So, the music tonight was special for a lot of reasons.”

As the congregation applauded, I slumped down in my seat and hoped the shame I felt did not register on my face.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Lois Kilgore McKeever: My tribute to my mother

Lois Jane Kilgore was 17 when she agreed to marry Carl J. McKeever, a 21-year-old she had been seeing for three years. She was a farmer’s daughter with a 9th grade education; he came from a long line of coal miners and dropped out of school in the 7th grade to go to work. He was the oldest of 12, she was the middle child of 9.

They surprised the preacher and got him out of bed that Saturday night, March 3, 1934, and asked him to perform the ceremony. There was no premarital counsel, no fancy surroundings, and for a time, no honorarium for the preacher. Two days later, the coal miners went on strike. An inauspicious beginning for marriage.

Lois had no idea what she had gotten herself into. Nothing from her sheltered, happy upbringing in the church-going farm family had prepared her for married life with that Irishman with the temper, a love for the sauce, and an unruly mob of siblings of all ages.

Continue reading

Some preaching is a waste of time

I love some of the specialized channels on Sirius XM satellite radio, and was pleased when they devoted a channel to Billy Joel’s music.  He had some great hits we all love. The problem is he also recorded a whole lot of junk.

To enjoy the occasional hit, you have to endure all the mediocre stuff.

Same with novelists. Our favorite writers can turn out some real bombs. You wonder why they don’t write only best-sellers.

The answer, of course, is that when they’re writing the books and recording the music, they have no way of knowing. If, as Paul said, “we see through a glass darkly,” it’s equally true that we write books and compose songs without a clear idea of the result.

When I was young in the ministry, I spent three years on the staff of a large church and got to see upclose how things are done. Most of it was great and educational; all of it was interesting.

Continue reading

In my pain, I said, “Lord, I’m ready for that life-changing phone call.” The phone rang.

My ministry in that church was uphill all the way.  Everything was hard, it seemed. There were few rest stops, places where we could take a breather and enjoy a sense that we are accomplishing something significant for the Lord.

The church had few financial resources due to a heavy debt load, made worse by a major split in the congregation 18 months before I arrived as pastor.  The ministerial staff had little money for the outreach and educational programs they wanted to do.

It was a tough time in the life of that church.

Perhaps I was tired.  Or discouraged.  Or needed a boost of some kind.

Anyway, one day,  on the way back to the church office from lunch I prayed a prayer unlike any I’d ever prayed before.

Continue reading