Valentine’s Day: “Oh, are they having that again this year?”

My sister Carolyn sent me a list of lame excuses men use as to why they didn’t get their sweethearts anything for Valentine’s Day. “The Hallmark store was closed and I refuse to give you anything but the best.”

That sort of thing.

At the end, her list cited a quote from the old comic Red Skelton.

“All men have flaws; but married men find out them a lot sooner than others.”

You think that’s funny, but it’s not.  A lot of truth to it. And good truth, may I say.

This will be my first Valentine’s Day without Margaret, who left us for Heaven a few days ago. My first anything without her, as a matter of fact.  And I was thinking….

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day: “Oh, are they having that again this year?”” »

Signs of healing begin to appear

“He healeth all our diseases…” (Psalm 103:3)

In the old Western novels, cowboys are taught that once a wound begins to itch, healing is on its way.

On January 23, a little over two weeks ago, my wife had what appears to have been a pulmonary embolism which triggered a cardiac arrest.  That was a Friday and on Wednesday night, with the counsel of doctors, my family made the decision to unplug life support.  My wife of nearly 53 years had not responded to any of the stimuli and treatments.  A physician friend said to me later, “Your wife died in the nail salon on Friday.”

It would appear so.

I’ve wept ever since.  We had a memorial service on Monday, February 2, and family members have been helping me with a thousand and one details.  Two wonderful ladies from our church spent the day here last Friday cleaning the house from top to bottom.  I’m still eating meals people brought.

And I’m still weepy. I asked a friend, “When do the tears stop?”  She answered, “I don’t know yet.  Jim’s only been gone 14 years.”

I do not grieve for Margaret. She was living with such pain and infirmities, and now that is all gone.  She is with the Lord, out of this pain and misery and dancing with the redeemed of the ages, if God’s Word can be believed.

I’m betting my life that it can.

A large number of people assure me they are praying for God’s healing for me.

Healing.  What a nice concept.

Continue reading “Signs of healing begin to appear” »

Today my wife told me she loved me

“Herein is love, not that we loved God–but that God loved us and sent His Son…”  (I John 4:10)

I found the note today–five days after Margaret’s funeral–where she had listed in her handwriting some of the reasons she loved me.

Here’s what happened.

Just before Christmas, our pastor, Dr. Mike Miller, told the church how one year his wife Terri filled a jar with 100 notes, each one telling why she loved him. Each day he drew out one and read it and basked in the glow. He was reluctant to draw out the last one, he said, and has left it there ever since.

Margaret and I teased about that afterwards, as to whether we could do it. I told her I could list a hundred reasons she loved me.  She laughed that she might have trouble getting to a dozen.  Then, over the next few days, if one of us did something the other didn’t care for, we would tease, “Okay. One less reason” or “You’re now down to 5.”

It turned out she actually was making such a list.

And today, I ran across it.

Continue reading “Today my wife told me she loved me” »

A guide to mistreating worshipers

“….they treated the Lord’s offering with contempt” (I Samuel 2:17).

The first rule of worship leadership should probably be stated as Try Not To Get In Their Way.

When  people come to worship, if you cannot help them, at the very least try not to interfere with what they are doing.

The sons of Eli the High Priest were nothing but trouble. Hophni and Phinehas–who doesn’t love those names!– “were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord or for the priests’ share of the sacrifices from the people” (I Samuel 2:12-13).

God literally calls them SOBs.  “Sons of Belial” is the Hebrew expression translated as “wicked men” or “corrupt.”

Scripture has not a single positive statement about these miscreants.

Continue reading “A guide to mistreating worshipers” »

Don’t be afraid. Your life depends on it.

“And the angel said (to the shepherds), ‘Fear not.’  And the shepherds said, ‘Are you out of your mind? We are frightened out of our skulls!!’

Okay, I made that up. But it makes sense to me.

Sometimes being frightened is the right reaction.  Being scared is not always wrong.

What scares people the most?  You might be surprised. It isn’t terrorism, earthquakes or tsunamis.

According to one report, it’s walking alone in the dark.

I remember a time when I was fifteen, walking home from my uncle’s house, maybe a half mile. The darkness was absolute.  I had to feel my way along the old country road. Trouble is, halfway home, I had to pass George Lawson’s house and he had a massive dog that was beyond frightening.  As I was approaching the general area of that house, I walked as quietly as I could.  Then, without warning, suddenly the dog was there, not more than five feet from me, splitting the night air with a howl that could be heard in the next county.  You’ve heard of “jumping out of your own skin”?  If it was possible, that’s what I did. I ran the rest of the way, taking my chances on staying in the road.

So, yes, walking alone in the dark can be a fearsome thing.

The Sunday Parade magazine, the insert that accompanies the Sunday paper, for January 18, 2015, outdid itself this time.  The cover article by Maura Rhodes asks in large letters no one can miss, “What are you afraid of?”

Continue reading “Don’t be afraid. Your life depends on it.” »

What my wife would tell pastors’ wives

This is being written two days before my wife’s funeral.

An hour ago, the pastor who married Margaret and me nearly 53 years ago sent a note of his love and prayers.  Bill Burkett is 90 now, living in Kentucky, and seemingly as sharp and gracious as ever.

I told him, “You would have been proud of Margaret.  She was a wonderful pastors’ wife.”

I know a lot of the Lord’s people who would attest to that.  Over a period of 42 years, we served seven churches in four different states. Every church situation differed, the needs varied, and her roles fluctuated with each.

Once, after we’d been married perhaps 15 years, at my suggestion Margaret met with a few wives of pastors in an informal setting. The stated object was for fellowship, but the result was usually mutual encouragement and more.

Continue reading “What my wife would tell pastors’ wives” »

Margaret Ann Henderson McKeever (June 9, 1942 – January 29, 2015)

“Beauty is deceitful and popularity is vain. But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her own hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:30-31).

Margaret would be embarrassed to know I used Proverb 31 on her.

But she was in many respects every ounce that strong woman to whom someone is paying tribute.  She had to be, considering all the hurdles she cleared, the obstacles she overcame, the setbacks and hardships and difficulties life handed her, all of which she met head-on and surmounted.

I wish you could have known her in her prime.

She could be fierce in her faith and soft in her sweetness, and focused like a laser when she set her mind to do a thing.  Only in her later years did the burdens begin to outnumber and overwhelm her.  Even then, she was a fighter.  Her calendar is filled with appointments I am having to cancel–meetings with therapists, nutritionists, pain management clinic, physical therapy, a psychiatrist, and a few other things. She was not giving up, she was not going down without a fight.

Joe married a fighter.  April 13, 1962.  A Friday night in Birmingham, Alabama.

She would have to be a fighter. She was tying herself to a young preacher who hardly knew how to be a husband, breadwinner, pastor, or a father, and much less a caretaker, lover, best friend.  I would have to learn all of this, and some lessons came harder than others.

Continue reading “Margaret Ann Henderson McKeever (June 9, 1942 – January 29, 2015)” »

A few notes about my wife Margaret

Margaret is still with us as I write, so this is not an obit.

I just wanted to express more fully the appreciation of our family for the faithful prayers of countless friends far and wide who have lifted her and us to the Father since Margaret’s massive heart attack last Friday around noon.

WHAT HAPPENED...

Friday morning perhaps around 11 am, Margaret had driven herself to the nail salon for a pedicure.The ladies there say she had just seated herself on the chair when she began coughing. Then, she passed out.

They ran next door to the laundromat and asked for help. Someone called 911. The Harahan police station is a block away, and they responded immediately, followed by the firefighters.  They started CPR, and rushed her to Ochsner’s Hospital, some three miles or so to the east.

The hospital called my house. “Sir, you need to come to the emergency immediately.”  Daughter-in-law Julie had to drive me since we have only the one car.(I was afraid Margaret might have been in an accident. She’s driving very little these days and has been getting around with a walker or cane. But this drive was short and the parking was easy. Still, I was concerned.)

Continue reading “A few notes about my wife Margaret” »

My single biggest problem in crisis ministry

Take last evening for instance.

A friend who is on the staff of a large church in the northern part of our state emailed about a family basically living in the ICU ward of a local hospital in our city. Doctors have told the parents nothing more can be done for the daughter. So they are standing by, waiting for God to take her.

My friend had planned to drive down to see them, but because of a cold decided it was best if he canceled and asked me to call on them.

An hour later, I was in the hospital room with the family.

The patient was either sleeping or heavily sedated and several family members and friends were seated around the room, talking softly.  They greeted me warmly, having already been informed that I was coming.

Now, two things about this family I found amazing.  They have lived in the intensive care units of their hospital back home and the one here for over 40 days.  And yet, they have such a steady peace and beautiful joy about them.

Continue reading “My single biggest problem in crisis ministry” »

How to bring down a church bully

Church bullies have always been part of the ecclesiastical landscape.

They had them in the first century, as evidenced by the tiny epistle of Third John. A brute named Diotrephes was ruling his congregation with a strong hand.  The Evangelist John turned the spotlight on what the man was doing, which ordinarily is sufficient to arouse the congregation to unseat the man. John ended with a promise: “If I come, I will call attention to what he is doing.”

Don’t miss the understatement of that: “I will call attention to what he is doing.”

That will be quite enough.  When the Beloved Apostle (for so was John known in the early church) stands before an adoring congregation and informs the membership what their so-called leader has been doing behind their backs, they will deal with him.

That has always been the Lord’s plan:  Tell the church, expose the brute, expect God’s people to do the right thing.

We’re not talking about taking matters into our own hands or doing anything heavy-handed.

Even though the flesh wants to drag the church boss out back and give him “what for,” that is never the right approach. Nor should we plot and maneuver and scheme behind closed doors. The Lord’s people must never adopt the deceitful tactics of the tyrants.  We are to be “as shrewd as snakes and as gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

American history provides a near-perfect example of how to bring down a bully. It’s not a simple story, but I’ll do my best…

Continue reading “How to bring down a church bully” »