I just bought a book of childhood delights

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.

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Things I did once–and never again–in a 58 year ministry.

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!”

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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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Seven lessons I keep having to learn again and again and….

“…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!”

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Lasting images from the Birmingham SBC (June 11-12, 2019)

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.

Anyway…

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Some things that continue to bother me

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.

For instance…

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Things that no longer bother me

“Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.  Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me” (Psalm 131:1).

At least, I hope that’s true of me.

A young minister texted to say he was studying the various explanations and interpretations about the day of the Lord’s actual crucifixion, the number of days/nights He was in the tomb, etc.  “What is your theory?” he wanted to know.

I replied that I don’t have a theory, that for a lot of reasons such questions do not bother me.

He did not say whether that was a satisfactory answer.  But it’s the truth.

A lot of things I used to obsess about and study and address in sermons no longer bother me.  Part of it–I would hope all of it–results from a mature perspective of the world and the call of God.  Some things just do not matter to me that much.  If you the reader disagree, that’s fine and it’s your privilege.  I’m not saying the Lord makes all His disciples the same. The variety of His gifts and calls seems endless.

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Things I wish I’d said (and done) differently

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves….” I John 1:8

Looking back.

I do a lot of that these days.  I suppose it’s human, seeing as how I’m about to hit birthday number 79 in a few days. There are a lot of days back there to look at! I’m so grateful to be active and energetic and still in the Lord’s field working alongside younger men and women called to His work.

The days behind me far outnumber those in front.

I do not sit around wallowing in regrets, let me make plain.  But sometimes before rising in the morning, I lie there reflecting on times gone by, experiences in churches I served, remembering when my family was young, calling to mind conversations and decisions.

I have many a regret.

I wish I’d said ‘no’ to a lot of requests.  As a young husband and father and ambitious pastor, I accepted many an invitation to speak or travel or serve on a board because it felt like the very opportunity for which the Lord had called me and for which I’d been prepared.  But it took me away from my young children and my over-wrought wife.

Did I really need to serve as a trustee of that denominational board? It required me to travel out of state a half dozen times a year, two or three days at a whack.  Over a four-year term, that adds up to a lot of time away.

I think about the two weeks I spent in Singapore helping the missionaries conceive an evangelistic comic book at the time my three children were 10, 13, and 16.  Such critical ages, so formative, so needy of their father to be hands-on.  Poor Margaret, looking after them, doing all the things a faithful mother does, chauffeuring them to everything, and all the while working on her degree from the local university.  What was I thinking?

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How God called me into His ministry (My personal testimony)

“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?  Then said I, ‘Here am I, Lord. Send me.”  Isaiah 6. 

“I was not disobedient to that heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). 

I was 21 years old and a senior in college.  Our church was having a revival of the type you never hear about any more:  Two weeks long with over 400 people saved.  Pastor Bill Burkett baptized 250 of them.  On Tuesday night of the second week, the living God found me singing in the choir during the invitation.  “Jesus Paid It All.”  We were singing it non-stop as the flow of people to the altar seemed unending.  (We sang the same invitational song every night, so there’s no question on what we were singing!)

Suddenly, it felt like a curtain was being opened in my mind.  And the voice of God, that strong presence that I would come to know intimately over a long ministry, registered His presence and His message:  “I want you in the ministry.”  A thought completely new to me.  Something from outside, yet inside me.  Surprising, unexpected, not my voice.  But just as surely, I knew it was the voice of God.

It felt right.  Assuring.  Powerful.

I thought, “If this is really the Lord–and I know it is–it’ll still be here tomorrow night and I’ll go forward and announce it to the church then,” as was our custom.  And just that promptly the answer came: “This is the Lord and you know it is the Lord and there is no point in waiting.”  I remember thinking, “That’s true.”  I stepped out of the choir, walked down to the floor level, took the hand of Pastor Burkett and said, “God has just called me into the ministry.”  I have no memory of what he said.  He presented me to the congregation a few minutes later, along with all those who had come to be saved.  My friends came by to speak to me.

I was the only one surprised.

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Times I wish I had said ‘no’

It’s hard for us people-pleasers to say ‘no’ when going-along to get-along would cause fewer waves.

By  “people-pleaser” I do not mean as opposed to doing the will of God, but wanting the people around me to be happy if it is in my power to make them so.

“Why can’t we all just be happy?”  Smile, please.  Many of our readers are in that boat.  And some of us need to step out and take a stand on solid ground.

Okay, now.

My theory is that writing about mistakes made in my preaching/pastoral ministry of nearly sixty years is of more interest to the general reader and of greater value to the young pastor who wants to know where the potholes are in order to avoid them.  Even as we all learn from our mistakes more than from our successes, I suspect we benefit more from hearing of the failures of others than of their victories and successes.  I know it makes for more interesting reading! Anyway…

I’m thinking of two instances in particular when I should have put my foot down and said, “No, absolutely not” and held my ground.  As it was, I meekly went along with what others around me wanted–always wanting the people around me to be happy–and have lived with the memory of that ever since.

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