Cathead Biscuits and Cave Spiders

worldform.com

Photo from: worldform.com

Pushing and grunting did no good. Kicking did no good. Three twenty something year old men could not push a snag down a mountain in northern Tennessee. Though dead, the tree was still standing and we struggled to move it. “Come on, we can do this,” Ash said. The resolve to our purpose of knocking this deadwood off the cliff would certainly be rewarded with a manly feeling of achievement. Commitment to the task culminated in the tree rocking back and forth. Woody debris fell from its sides. With each push and moan the base of the tree became weaker. Anticipation grew. We knew it was going down.

A desperate chittering and clicking at the top of the tree forced us to stop and look up. A frightened squirrel flittered back and forth at the top investigating the demolition. She leaped into the air and displayed a graceful glide down the mountain. What a site! This flying squirrel was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. The parade was not over. One by one, her pups climbed into view, hurled themselves into the air, and coasted down the mountain to their mom. Not one, not two, but four of these babies put on a show of magnificent beauty.

We stood in awe and humility, astonished that while we loved nature, we had no respect for her. We had nearly destroyed their home. Together we agreed to move on and let the tree stand.

Our first day ended and we hiked our way down the mountain to Mike Ashburn’s Grannie’s house. Grannie’s home was typical in rural Tennessee. Built in the 1940’s it was an old clapboard siding home with a tin roof and neighborly front porch. Her life was set in the old ways, unfamiliar to me. Echoes of hardship grooved a patterned face acquainted with rural life. Her home was small but open and welcoming. I shall never forget the pencil portrait hanging on her living room wall—two old mules, husband and wife. Someone had given it to her to remind her of her husband who had passed many years before. I could tell by the way she talked, she loved that drawing, but not as much as she missed him

Though it was late spring there was coolness in the mountains that would bite you in the butt if you didn’t cover up. We slept on old feather beds covered in handmade quilts. At the end of the bed was a thunder mug to keep us from trekking the darkness to the outhouse. Most enchanting was the fireplace sitting on the floor against the wall. It was not a wood fireplace. I was so tired from hiking the mountain that first day, sleep overcame this unacquainted odor of sulfur from coal. Morning brought a refreshing air about it. While snuggling under the quilts I could hear Grannie wrestling pots and pans in the kitchen.

 Cathead Biscuits - dmataflour.com

Cathead Biscuits – dmataflour.com

Yes, there is a God. Hearing Ash hug his Grannie, I walked into a favorable aroma of fresh bacon in the kitchen. I was ready for an amazing breakfast. With the aforementioned came farm fresh eggs, and cathead biscuits. I don’t remember what kind of jelly she pulled from her pantry but it was homemade and delicious. In case you don’t know why they are called cathead biscuits, it is because they are about the size of small cathead and very fluffy (recipe: http://www.mtnlaurel.com/recipes/766-old-fashioned-cat-head-biscuits.html)

Our purpose for being in Tennessee was to go caving. I had never experienced this sport but was eager to try. Grannie warned us to be careful. “There have been people lost in those caves and never found,” she said. Her caution made us a bit nervous. Still, we were young and stupid and moved on in our manly pursuit.

Photo from: Penterest

Photo from: Penterest

The first cave greeted us with a huge, amphitheater entrance. We entered walking tall and daylight showed our way. The path began to narrow to a point where we had to crawl on our knees. Not too far in, the ceiling started moving. Huge cave spiders crawled upside down. I knew they would not hurt me but it was still creepy wondering if one would fall on my back and into my clothes.

We arrived at a point where the stark reminder Grannie had given earlier made us aware of possible danger. We were able to stand again and walk through eight to ten foot tall cavern trails. Awareness that water had, over time, carved these rugged walking channels brought caution. Yes, we had marked our journey so we would know how to get back to the mouth of the cave, but what should we do if water arrives? This thought initiated our climb to the top of these walls scooting forward with only spread out arms and legs holding us above the floor.

A small opening, illuminated by our flashlight, suggested we climb in to see where it would go. On our bellies we crawled a few feet before I said, “Stop!”

“What’s wrong?” my little brother, Dick, asked.

www.richard-seaman.com

Photo:                    richardseaman.com

“Back up, I am face to face with a bat.” My light shined on a bat, just inches away. I am glad I saw it before I climbed through and knocked it awake. I shudder to think my reaction to that proposition. The response would not have been a calm one, I assure you.

Ash told Dick and me this cave was very long. No one knew where it came out. Dye was placed in the channels many years before and it turned one of the rivers red. There was still no sign where the cave ended. The suggestion was that the cave traveled under the river and seeped up into the riverbed through an underground spring. We enjoyed the cave for several hours, memories of this one time event were gradually embedded in my mind. We had one more cave to explore but desired a much-needed rest for our throbbing muscles. We went back to Grannie’s for lunch and enjoyed her company while she listened to our adventure.

When Ash told her we were going to the cave by another grandmothers home, this upset her. She raised a second red flag. “That cave is too dangerous. Some have even drowned and washed into the mountain and never been found. There are underground springs that gush through the rock this time of year without warning.” She didn’t beg us not to go, but her voice pleaded.

Okay, so now we have fought off cave spiders and a bat—worried about getting lost in a huge cave that has no end, and now we have to be fretful about an underground torrential river burying us in the mountain for eternity? These are the thoughts I kept to myself on the drive to this cave. I was unsure I wanted to continue this exploration. But, being the man I was, I sucked it up and persevered with the other two manly men.

https-_farm9-staticflickr-com

Photo: https-_farm9-staticflickr-com

The entrance to this cave was smaller and extremely wet. We were still able to walk in. Once inside, the area was small. There was an opening in the wall just large enough to crawl inside. Filled with thoughts of this being my last day on earth, I went last. There was a choice. Go right, or, go left. The right tunnel would take us uphill, the left tunnel would take us downhill. Uphill was chosen. We slow crawled on our bellies through a narrow passage with shoulders rubbing both walls. The floor held about an inch of, “colder than a frog’s butt,” standing water soaking our clothes. The chill prompted me to remember Grannie’s warning. There had already been water rush through here, and not too long ago, I thought out loud. “I’m backing out and getting out of here,” I said. Crawling backwards was slow. I didn’t think I would ever reach the entrance. When I did, I climbed through to live another day. My words must have been what the other two wanted to hear; they were right behind me.

We met Ash’s other grandmother, a beautiful Appalachian woman. We stood outside her home to visit. Our clothes were too nasty to go inside even though she asked. Wet and cold we left for Grannies. We spent one more cold night snuggled down in feathers and covered in quilts. We left for Anderson (IN) early Sunday morning.

This was an adventure I will never forget. Considering the unpleasant thoughts of death at any moment, I never want to go caving again. Once was enough.

 

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SPONTANEOUS VACATION

Our Oldham family was by no means well off in the early 1950’s. Of course my two brothers and me never knew that. We thought we were just right. The only thing I can remember that would indicate otherwise was when Dad said something I have never forgotten. “These rich folks that live in $20, 0000 homes have it made.” Why I remember that, I don’t know. I guess it was the first indication that I was born into a poor family in south Louisiana.

Even still, I did not understand the implications of these words, at the time, and continued playing with my friends. I loved the era and the upbringing in which I grew up. Living a life of understanding black-eyed peas, fried SPAM, and cornbread was good for me, I still find them delicious. However, it was these years of innocence that I now look back upon as an adult and appreciate the very few real vacations that we took as a family.

Dad worked full time for the NATB (National Automobile Theft Bureau) as a Louisiana State Trooper. He took a second job pastoring the small Church of God in Tickfaw, Louisiana. Mom worked as a bookkeeper. With these three incomes we were able to enjoy vacation moments that were short and adventurous. Sometimes we went fishing at Old River or False River on the western side of the Mississippi River. These used to be a part of Old Man River until he changed course and cut them off, making nice fishing lakes. Otherwise, if we weren’t fishing in someone’s pond, or the creek bottom, we were swimming in one of them—if we could shoo the snakes away.

Andy, Bill, and Meriam Oldham June 1955

Andy, Bill, and Meriam Oldham
                                    June 1955

Yet the spontaneous outings Dad created were the ones I am most fond of. The one captured in this photo is just one of many such impromptu adventures. We were driving through the country roads of south Louisiana when Dad saw a Forestry Fire Tower and pulled in the driveway. As usual Mom said, “What are you doing Edward?” My older brother Bill and I stood to attention when we heard the answer.

“I’ll be right back.”

In a few minutes Dad waved goodbye to the Forest Ranger and returned to the car.

“Come on boy’s, we’re climbing to the top.”

Bill and I hopped out of the car and raced to the bottom of the stairs. The walk was exciting at first, but it did not take long for a four and six year old to tire out. Dad snapped this photo while we were resting. After catching our breath we climbed to the top and looked in every direction, over thousands of acres of trees.

Even though I was a month from turning five, I have never forgotten this small memory. A smile calms my grin each time I see a fire tower.

A New Goliath – Part 3

Goliath Defeated

“Then your light will break out like the dawn,

And your recovery will speedily spring forth;

And your righteousness will go before you;

The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”

Isaiah 58:8

In Part 2 we discussed whether we have a right to be afraid, and should we stand against those who want to kill us. If we remember the fear David experienced while he was running for his life we understand that at times we do have fear in our lives. This is not God’s perfect will for us. His will is that we enjoy an abundant life. The way we receive this life is by living within His will. We know His will by His Word, the Bible. We also know His will by communing with him on a personal basis. Communion with Him is how we overcome Goliath when he tries to frighten us into submission. So this brings us to the last question. This is the same question David asked in Psalm 11:3, our premise for this series.

What can the righteous do?

While praying and searching over the last several months the Lord has placed several thoughts in my heart. I am excited! When these revelations hit me it was like a hand slap to the back of my head. These are nothing new. This is how every man of God in the Old and New Testaments defeated his Goliath. As Christians the following revelations are what we should be already be doing, everyday.

What a wake-up call. If we are not doing these things then we are not prepared for any Goliath, let alone this one. Search your heart and see if you are doing these things. I know there must be many more to add to this list. Feel free to add anything God lies on your heart.

  1. Choose: Make a decisionyou are either in, or you are out. Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
  1. Live through him–remember who we are

We have been given permission, the freedom, the liberty, the ability to become, and the power to conquer.

We are fellow helper’s to the truth.

We are the vehicle the Lord uses to bring someone to the knowledge of salvation.

We find our peace, joy, comfort, guidance and direction through Him.

We are adopted children and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are justified by faith

Jesus is our wisdom and righteousness in everything we do and say.

He will reward us if we diligently seek Him.

We have our hope in Him.*

  1. Do NOT lose heart: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18so we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
  2. Encourage one another and fellowship together. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” In other words you should already be doing this and now is not the time to quit. Ephesians 5:19-21 speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Encourage unbelievers. 1 John 4:16 “…we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

Are you living your life as the fragrance to God? Are you living your life as an example to the unbeliever?

  1.   Love one another. John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
  2.  Love those who hate us. Matthew 5:44 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Matthew 5:43-48You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is not something we just say, it is something we must do. If this New Goliath comes against us there will be those, both saved and unsaved, who will need our comfort. Are you living your life in a way that these will feel comfortable approaching you?

7. Be obedient to God’s Word, especially when we don’t understand it. John 14:15If you love me, you will keep my commandments I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Remember the Old and New Testament saints we mentioned in Part 2? They are examples of obedience. Hebrews 12 gives us a list of so many who give us an example of faith. Remember, “. . . without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exist and He rewards those who seek Him.

8. Pray!!! Pray!!! And Pray Some more!!! James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. We have heard this verse many times. Do we believe it? This is verse is so important to understanding John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

As one evangelist has stated so bluntly, we do not have answered prayer because we are too lazy to pray. Is this true in your life? We should assure ourselves that we stand with the righteous. When we ask in prayer, we must ask in travailing prayer much as Jesus when sweat drops fell from his brow in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is sincere prayer. This is not a head prayer, but a heart prayer.

9. Be compassionate. Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Telling others about Christ is our foremost responsibility. God trust us to be obedient and win others to Him. When is the last time you shared the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ/

A another wake up call: Ezekiel 3:18-19 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. “But,” if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. It is of utmost importance that we understand this. People are dying and we may be their only last hope of salvation.

10.  Be confident, stay in the race, never quit, and look toward the reward. Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. Sometimes we must suffer. This is part of our calling. But, as 1 Peter 5:10 says, And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. He is always faithful to reestablish us. Remember Job?

11.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit, He is our Helper John 4:23-24 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Remember these things:

Romans 8:16: The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

1 John 5:6-8: And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.

Galatians 5:16-19 Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

12. Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority,. . .” Why? “. . . because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” Hebrews 13:17.  

13. Teach your children and grandchildren Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Deuteronomy 4:9“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— Deuteronomy 6:6-9 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

14. Expect God to fulfill His promises. Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments 1 Corinthians 1:9 God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful 1 Thessalonians 5:24 The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. 2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

15.  Give thanks in all things: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Psalm 34:1 I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Notice, when evil men came against Daniel, he gave thanks as he had always done.

16. Praise God! 1 Chronicles 16:8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

17. Again, of utmost importance, remember Who our real foundation is, it is not this world. Government did not build these foundations. God did. Genesis, Chapter 1ff.

2 Timothy 1:9-10 Remember who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Ephesians 4:1 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

I mentioned at the beginning of Part 3, if you have any you would like to add please feel free to do so. There are so many! PTL

Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.

Psalm 20:6

  • *https://theunfetteredpreacher.com/2016/07/25/that-we-might-theunfetteredpreacher/

 

The Determined Race

Google Photo

Google Photo

“An athlete is not crowned unless

he competes according to the rules.”

2 Timothy 2:5

 John was excited about field day at his school. The race was all he and his two best friends could talk about. He was determined to win. A thunder of happy kids stood around the field. Every child’s ambition was the proverbial Blue Ribbon.

Josh was a taller and towered over John. He was favored to win. Jake was shorter than both boys. The pistol fired. As his Dad I wanted John to win. I stood at the finish tape screaming, “Come on John!”

He was running as fast as his eight-year-old legs would go. He crossed the finish line in second place and I hugged his neck. He was so happy! “Did you see that Dad? Me and Josh and Jake were the top three winners!” He didn’t care about being first–only that he had finished the race. He stood in line to receive his red ribbon with a smile of grandeur and the three of them poked each other in fun. I was so proud.

On the way home he talked about the race. “I have figured it out, Dad.”

“What?” I asked.

“Josh is taller with longer legs. I am in the middle with middle legs. Jake has short legs. So, that means that who ever has the shortest legs will always win because they don’t have to step as far while they are running.”

What a great theory from a child. He finished with the prize he believed he deserved for his effort.

Paul said,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness,

Which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day,

And not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

2 Timothy 4:7-8

So now I ask you, as a child of God, are you even in the race anymore? Peter was. He drew closer to Him as he walked three years with Jesus. He left his boat when he was called. Jesus asked Peter who He was. Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; he heard the voice of God. Jesus called him the Rock upon which He would build His church. Peter knew Jesus. He desired to know Him more and draw close to Him.

Why then do we later see Peter following Jesus at a distance (MT. 26:58)? There had been a gradual, subtle increase in his pride and self-confidence (26:33). He became reckless (vs. 40). He began to act without thinking (Luke 22:51). Peter was ready to go to prison and to die for Christ, or so he said (Luke 22:33).

Google Photo

Google Photo

Jesus was arrested. Peter followed at a distance. He denied Christ, three times. The cock crowed. Peter wept bitterly (Mt 26:54-62).

Does this sound familiar, maybe in your own life? Were you once so close to Jesus you were inseparable? Did you become over-confident? Did you deny Christ? Did someone say something about you and your left? Do you feel horrible at what you have done with Jesus? Do you feel like you cannot be forgiven? Are you now following Him at a distance? Have you done like Peter and just gone fishing?

Though Peter denied Christ he sought forgiveness and drew nigh to the Lord. He got right back in the race. He took his stand with the eleven and began to preach the Gospel. Three thousand souls were added to the Church. He healed the sick and lame. He was determined to put the past behind him and run the race.

He had made a mistake. He did not give up on what he knew and loved. Just as he had told Jesus he would do, he went to prison and eventually died for Him. The point is this. You cannot follow from a distance while waiting to see the outcome, and expect to win the race God has given you.

You need to get back in the race today. Be determined. He is waiting to forgive you and to bless you in your life and ministry. He knows the plans He has for you.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” ‘declares the Lord,’ “plans to prosper

And not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Google Photo

Google Photo

 

 

ON MISSIONARY EGGS AND SACRIFICE

Thanks to Google Pics

Thanks to Google Pics

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25 ESV

     This old porch swing brings back so many memories of Dad. He loved to sit out here and just talk. He talked about anything, and loved to tell his life stories. I will never forget one story he told of what I call Missionary Eggs. The story took place during the Great Depression when the members of the Ladies Missionary Society were concerned that they could no longer give to missions because each family was in such a bind financially. Gathering one night to discuss ways they could give, they hashed over many ideas. After a lively and energetic discussion, the decision was made to donate all the eggs laid on Sunday’s. These would be sold and the proceeds would be given to missions.

      The ladies were excited and hens became more productive each day of the week. Pooling their monies into one account caused the missionary societies fund to grow quickly. Eggs sold for 10¢ per dozen during those years but these ladies decided to step out in faith and charge 12¢. After all, it was for missions. God began to bless their sacrifice. After several months, with good results, the ladies met to discuss how they would donate their reward. One of the ladies stated that it seemed like the hens were laying more eggs on Sunday than any other day of the week. They chuckled in agreement. She went on to say her family needed a lot of help and she couldn’t see her way to keep giving on her most productive day. (What? God is blessing this day isn’t He?) The excitement died. A few eyebrows were raised and grudging attitudes ensued.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20 ESV

     Over the next few weeks anger and bitterness arrived providing silent authorization to cease giving eggs to missions except by the sanctified few. Resentfulness began to raise its repulsive countenance while the Prince of Darkness smiled when the ladies missionary society found it had a few less members at the next meeting. Those who stopped giving felt like their sacrifice was not sufficient compared to others while those who were faithful continued their commitment, but began to look down on those who no longer gave.

     It can be very disheartening when we don’t understand how someone can make a commitment and then break it just because tough times arrive. We begin to view others who don’t or can’t make the sacrifice as not really committed to God.

    When recalling the story of Cain and Abel we can see two brothers who gave their sacrifice to God. Cain killed Abel because he believed God saw Abel’s sacrifice as better. When we look closely we can see that the truth was in Abel’s heart, not his sacrifice. We can see that both gave and acceptable sacrifice but when we look at the heart of each we see that humility and faith in God made Abel’s sacrifice right in the eyes of God. Cain’s heart carried resentfulness and bitterness and he allowed it to become full of hate, resulting in the murder of his brother. When our hearts are not right with God then our sacrifice, no matter what it is, is not accepted by God.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32 ESV

     We should never judge someones heart, or their sacrifice. God will determine if it’s acceptable. Do not allow the resentment and bitterness that set in among the Ladies Missionary Society into your mind and heart. You see, even those ladies who continued to give their sacrifice noticed their heart began to change. It took an open forgiveness, and a lot of tears. The pride tangled in some throats enough a bush-hog was needed to clear it. A sweet, loving and sincere repentant of  heart in each lady  everyone’s character right again. Only then did Satan flee and God continued to bless their giving.  Once they remembered God is looking at their sacrifice individually the society was made whole again.

So as a Christian, do you harbor any resentment toward anyone? Look deep within your heart and ask God to reveal what may be a hindrance to your relationship with Him.

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.Matthew 5:23-24 ESV

Hey Dad! Hey Granddad! What a great example of love you will set for your grandchildren when they see the patriarch of the family on his knees in forgiveness and obedience to the Father. What a reward you will receive when you realize you are bringing your sacrifice to the Father with no hindrance of resentment or bitterness in your heart toward another. Again, what a great lesson you learn, and can even teach to your grandchildren in this way.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 ESV

May God give you the strength and the courage to go to that brother, or sister, and ask their forgiveness today.

Amen!

A Letter To My Best Friend ~

In March I was privileged to see my old friend Mo and his wife Nancy. We had a great time telling old stories and laughing our heads off at the crazy and ridiculous things we had done in our men made of steel years. While driving back to Mississippi I thought of another. I wrote a letter to Mo imploring one more laugh. I want to take a moment to share that with you now.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Andy & Mo

Andy & Mo

Hey My Friend!

I am sorry I have tarried in sending you this story Mo, please forgive? It’s a short story; nonetheless it is one of those we have forgotten until something in the present triggers this old pea brain into action. Let me see if I can jar your memory a little.

The war in Viet Nam had ended and I had just returned home from the Air Force base in Minot, ND. You invited me to go hunting on the land of a farmer you knew there around Anderson. We trucked through the woods and really enjoyed seeing ABSOLUTELY nothing to hunt. It was the friendship and fellowship that was most important. With the exception of a few black birds, or sparrows or something of the like, there was really no wildlife around anywhere. I do remember we found a playground of sorts that someone had built for kids and teenagers to play on. That was pretty cool too. As I recall you said the farmer built it for his grandchildren.

As we continued to walk through the woods, running our mouths and having a good time, we came upon a tree with the prettiest nuts growing on it. They were all over the tree and the ground. Neither of us had ever seen a nut like this so we began to pick them up and study them. You decided that because it was so dad-gummed pretty it had to be edible. First you tried to break one open by crushing two nuts against each other in your hands. That didn’t work so you put one in your mouth and began trying to crack it open with your teeth. About the same time you successfully heard a crack our good lord sent you and me an angel of protection from our own ignorant stupidity.
Out of nowhere came a voice.

“What are you boys doing on my land?”

“Hunting,” I said.

“Who gave you permission to hunt on my land?

Then, rolling the nut to one side of your mouth, you gave a reply explaining that you received permission from your farmer friend.
This farmer now assured us that we had crossed on to his land. Because the fence was down we hadn’t see the property line and he asked us politely to leave. We agreed.

Before we did however you asked, with a mouth full of nut particles, “Do you know what kind of nuts these are?”

Buckeye Tree Nut Seed

Buckeye Tree Nut Seed

The farmers horizontal grin widened almost vertically. I will never forget the look on your face when he said, “That’s a Buckeye, and it’s poisonous enough to kill a bull.”

With a look of terror you began to spit Buckeye all over me and the farmer, the ground, and anything else that got in the way of you casting out Buckeye like an unwanted demon. The farmer and I laughed our heads off.

It is a fond memory and one I was reminded of a Dick’s house (my lil’ brother) when I saw a buckeye tree with prettiest little nuts on it and lying all over the ground!
You can preach this Mo! The moral is simple. We must be careful to take care of our bodies, by knowing that what we put in our mouth is not poisonous. Too, we must be careful of what we place in our hearts and our minds. Just because it is pretty does not mean it is good for us. We must be watchful that it provides life and not a slow poisonous eternal death.

Love ya Bro, Thanks for a great day of eating and wonderful fellowship with you and Nancy. I hope we don’t wait another 34 years before we meet again. If we do, be sure to bring your hearing aids and jet propelled wheel chair–we’ll race through those woods of yours!

You friend and brother,
Andy

Mo & Nancy

Mo & Nancy

Living With Regret?

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Have you ever done anything you regret? Oh come on, you know you have; we all have. Recently, in my memoir club we challenged each other to pick one of those regrets and write about it. I want to share that with you here.

“I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:32 (NIV)

When I think of what I regret most, my first inclination is to bring all the negative aspects of my past to surface and choose one that is the most memorable in the graveyard of dishonor. I ask myself, is it good to open old wounds and slice through the scar tissue of anguish and compunction of these unfortunate decisions? If I must walk through this byproduct of life to winnow the chaff from the wheat I will do so with a contrite heart as I have learned that to dwell on these things is to once again relive them in condemned silence. I cannot bring myself to agonize and grieve over the most indelible and disheartening of regrets so I will share just one small detail of being a sixteen year old boy. To bring this account to the forefront of today I will choose to make it an affirmation and remind myself as to the good that has come from it.

If you were to ask my family they would tell you that as a teenager I was never one to think things through before acting on impulse. Like any teenager I loved to spend money. When the opportunity to leave my first job as a chicken breader at KFC and be a stock boy at Madden Drug Store came along I jumped at it.

Two blocks from the store was a Pentecostal Bible College. Men dressed very nice and the ladies wore long dresses and piled their hair on top of their heads. I could not, for the life me, understand why a woman would wear no makeup and have such a heavy head of hair. I was about to find out.

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One of the ladies came to work with me and we hit it off pretty well including joking around with each other. One day I asked about her makeup and, why she didn’t wear any. She told me that her faith did not allow her to wear it. So, I took the opportunity to ask about her hair. She informed me that it has never been cut or even trimmed and, yes, it did become quite heavy sometimes as well as hot in the summers, and that it, too, was a part of her faith.

I was puzzled but accepted her explanation and went about stocking. One day we were behind the counter moving some things around when she bent over. I had a pair of scissors in my hand and when I saw her long hair the impulse to cut a piece of it was irresistible, so I did.
She snapped around and I handed her a lock of hair with a smile. Her eyes filled with the mercury of naked despair. Fear blended with a deep, red flushed face and merged with the anguish in her eyes.

“What have you done?” She shouted.

The grin on my face turned to confused melancholy. I couldn’t answer as I really did not believe it was that big of a deal. It was only a joke. She ran to the back of the store in tears, talked with the pharmacist and left. Several days passed before we worked together again. This separation gave me time to reflect on what I had done. I determined that I was not only stupid, but inconsiderate. I put my funny antics ahead of her personal and spiritual welfare. I had really hurt someone deeply without consideration of her faith. I felt like a jerk! I was a jerk!

When she returned to work I walked up to her and apologized to her. You know what? She hugged my neck. Tears rolled down her face. She looked me in the eyes and smiled. “I have prayed for you Andy, and I forgive you.” (Luke 22:32)

WoW! There is a profound lesson here. It is found in Christ forgiveness of Peter. He prayed for Peter. He strengthened Peter through that prayer. He taught Peter a lesson through that prayer—through that forgiveness. He taught Peter to turn back to what he had been taught and move on from that mistake and not hold on to the regret. He taught Peter to encourage others and strengthen them, “…And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

You see, this young college student did the same thing. She prayed for me. She forgave me. She strengthened me. While I am human and remember such stories as this one, I have moved on—strengthened.

Though so long ago, this regret follows my every step and has become a thorn in my side. Each time I see a Pentecostal woman with no makeup and long hair, I am reminded of my apathy for someone who did not deserve my ignorance and careless actions. For even though our faith is different we serve the same loving God.

“There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord”
(1 Corinthians 12:5).

I could go on and on about regrets and what we as Christians should or could do to handle them. I want to leave this message with you however and just ask a simple question.

Can you move on?

God has made the way for you today if you will follow His path. Turn back and when you do strengthen your brothers!

Blessings!

Farewell MS Jane

Ken & Keli Oldham with their precious children Grace, Zeke, and Titus

Ken & Keli Oldham with their precious children Grace, Zeke, and Titus

I am taking a moment to present an important part of my family to you this morning. Ken Oldham is my nephew. His wife Keli and their three children, Grace, Zeke, and Titus are all missionaries in Egypt. Not only do they serve in Egypt but all over the Middle East.  God has not only protected them but has greatly blessed them. His grandfather, and my Dad, was a beacon for Ken’s direction in the ministry. While Dad was alive he taught so much to Ken and Keli about ministry. The result was that when Ken turned 39 he went on the Mission Field at God’s calling. The really neat thing is that it was the same age my Dad took us to British Guiana on his first missionary assignment.

One of Ken’s most recent blog post blessed me beyond measure. I had to stop and think about the legacy I was leaving for my children and grandchildren. Her name was MS Jane. She never went to Egypt. No her ministry was right here, at home. As you read Ken and Keli’s farewell letter you will begin to understand what a minister she was. Take the time to reflect on your own heart and ministry  as you read it. Remember that when we are able we all can retire from earthly toils–we NEVER retire from God’s work and His plan for our life. Let me know your thoughts.

Farewell Ms Jane

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 03:03 PM PDT

Moments ago, i learned of Ms Jane Bradford’s passing from this life to the next.  I can’t help but take a moment to reflect on our relationship.

Ms Jane was like no other.  

I am sure we met at some state event before, probably initiated by her to, no doubt, discern my proximity to the Doug and Dale Oldham whom she knew well and greatly admired.  But I remember her first greeting of me at the Ryan’s Steakhouse in Decatur at a Caleb Club lunch held there with the intent of meeting Keli and I who were candidating at the Sixth Avenue Church of God that weekend.  She was enthusiastic to meet me and eager to make sure we knew her.

I think she called me “son” in that first meeting, and apologized for it then as she would often do.  Ms Jane never married and had no children; though she claimed she used the term “son” because I was so much younger than she, there really couldn’t be a higher term of honor from her to me.

Ms Jane could scold and confront me like a mother.  For dressing inappropriately as a pastor, and pointing out how much better the more respectable pastors would dress.  For challenging risky decisions that were sure to ruffle feathers.  Or for dozens of other unique conversations we would have.  She would later admit that it would drive her nuts that I really did have a good reason for everything that I did or didn’t do and that it just wasn’t a matter of youthful carelessness that needed elder wisdom and correction.

She would always compliment me in some backhanded way; “you might become a preacher yet,” she would say after a sermon she would like, perhaps to prevent me from getting a big head.  

Ms Jane was quite the musician and passionate about the organ and hymns.  Changes in church music were always a source of discussion and controversy between her and me.  I truly loved to watch Ms Jane play the organ because it was like watching a person on a time machine–every melody seemed to transport her to another time and place, and the smile on her face told me she was home, wherever & whenever that time and place was located.

Now with these previous comments, you may think I disliked Ms Jane, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I loved and sincerely liked Ms Jane, though no one was really sure why. 

It wasn’t because we both loved the Church of God because we loved it for different reasons; she loved it for what it was, often lamenting over all that was lost in either the passing of friends or great preachers, and saddened over any change from the historical.  I love the Church of God for what it can be, not denying the good of the past but rather hopeful that positive changes can be made to make for an even better future.  We would talk about these different perspectives, even occasionally agreeing.

I liked Ms Jane because she was passionate in her conviction and willing to be a risk-taker.  She didn’t just believe something, she would share it I a letter to the editor, speak up in a town meeting or at city hall, or even make a homemade sandwich sign and stand at a busy intersection to get her message out there.  I didn’t often agree with her messages, but I admired her passion to take the risks to share her belief.

I liked Ms Jane because she was a servant.  She served neighbors, the church, and strangers.  She volunteered to clean bathrooms when funding for janitors was low; she was a regular in the Angel Food program, she’d fund-raise or network for any cause, and she would do whatever was asked.  She and I served together as regulars in leading a worship service for a local nursing home.  She tried so hard to relate in the children’s outreach program though she couldn’t have been more different in background to most of those kids.  She knew those kids needed Jesus, and if she could contribute, she would do it.

I liked Ms Jane because even though she disagreed with me, she respected me enough not to be disagreeable in attitude, to affirm the relationship before and after each confrontation, and to always confront me directly instead of through some manipulation, power play, or word-of-mouth gossip trail.  I never wondered where I stood with Ms Jane.

If she didn’t tell me first, she typed it first and requested a meeting–yes, Ms Jane had and used an old type-writer for her correspondence.  She had an aversion to technology and may have never sat at a computer nor held a smart phone.  Emails would be sent to the Maples and they would graciously print her a copy.  She often said that some of these new ideas that used these “gizmos” were a part of the greater things that Jesus said we would one day do in His name.

I liked Ms Jane because the honesty led to great vulnerability with me.  Because she knew I patiently loved her even in the midst of our controversies, she respected me.  She even trusted me: with feelings of hope and sadness, question and doubts, and allowed me the opportunity to serve her in times of embarrassing need.

Ms Jane couldn’t be prouder of us than when we announced the end of our pastorate to serve the Church globally.  She lamented losing her relationship with us, but she rejoiced with our opportunity to serve in Egypt.  Having traveled to Egypt, she shared several pictures with us from her journey, as well as her memories.  She prayed for us, of that I have no doubt.  She gave to us when she could and she wouldn’t let us refuse the gift no matter how much we knew she needed it.  Truth be told, at a moment when I was uncertain that she would be able to make it any longer, I confessed that we were likely to be leaving the church for Egypt–that’s right 6th Ave, outside of family, Ms Jane knew at least 6 months in advance.  

In this latest wave of difficulty, we had to keep informed from afar; we couldn’t walk these steps with her, not this time.  We had hoped to see her again this summer, hoping one more miraculous recovery would lead to a happy reunion on this side of heaven.  But it was not to be.

Ms Jane’s faith has been made sight today.

Me Jane, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to kiss you goodbye.  I look forward to our next talk, though starting the conversation will be harder because you won’t be able to criticize my clothes ;). We’ll have much to agree on one day soon.

I’m sure a gracious and loving Heavenly Father had a new organ waiting for her; He likely watched and listened with joy as He watched her sit down to play a classic hymn, just the way that it was written.  Except The Lord will not see what I used to see–that heavenly organ won’t be a time machine–the smile on Ms Jane’s face is no longer longing for another time and place. No, the smile on and Jane’s face today is because she arrived there, right where she belongs.

If you would like to contact Ken and Kelli and bless them with your prayers in this world of uncertain safety, here is their information:

http://oldham-servant.blogspot.com/

~ Or ~

http://chogmissions.org/oldham

 “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”

George Elliot

 

 

Farms Don’t Have Dinosaurs

I don't like what I am hearing!

I don’t like what I am hearing!

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,

 but having itching ears they will accumulate

 for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

(2 Timothy 4:3; ESV)

I heard a prodigious scream. It meant one of the children had been hurt, or was about to be. After dodging a yellow Tyrannosaurus rex flying into the hallway, I arrived in their room to discover that a death threat had, for the moment, not yet been executed; no blood was splattered on the wall. Whew! As with most siblings’ perpetual disagreements, this squabble had circumvented toddler-aged common sense and stuck its nose in the middle of a normally quiet Saturday morning.

Traditional Farm Animals

Traditional Farm Animals

~VS~

Non-Traditional Farm Animals

Non-Traditional Farm Animals

My youngest and more traditional son was playing farm. He had his cows, horses, and chickens lined up inside the plastic-fenced corral next to the barn.  His older brother is a bit more creative and decided he would bring a colorful array of plastic dinosaurs to the farm. So, without asking or even discussing the idea, he proceeded to place the prehistoric icons right in the middle of the corral. After all, the more animals the more fun they would have, right? It would only benefit the farm.

In revisiting this nostalgic flashback, I realized that by the time I had reached their room a great battle over right and wrong had already emerged. Delaying intervention meant an even wider division between the two. Neither was willing to compromise on their definition of playfully correct. Each child blamed the other for his ignorance of how a real farm should look. It seemed that both were really angry and bitter, ready to leave and find a new farm where they are welcome, a farm where their lil’ ol’ hearts and ears could be tickled pink with affirmation of their correctness. A teaching moment had arrived, and I’d used the opportunity to teach the boys to understand that, though new ideas do break tradition, they are not necessarily wrong, and that even though it may be a better idea, you shouldn’t force it on someone without explanation or discussion. His brother wasn’t getting rid of the farm; he just wanted to add some animals.

There are times when getting two young children to understand each others point of view requires vigorous effort. Over the years I have discovered that it’s just as hard to get adults to understand each others points of view if they are unwilling to listen.

God’s people, the Jews, had become traditionalist, handing down from each generation different ideas of how to worship. They propagated oral laws to help define God’s written Law so men could better understand how to live more righteously.

The Word said to “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.”  Well, just what does keeping it holy mean? The high Priest and other leaders took it upon themselves to define ways to keep it holy. One example was that if you took over 400 steps on the Sabbath you were working, and therefore, not keeping the Sabbath holy (I don’t know who took the time to count the steps but that sounds a bit like work itself).

Though they meant well, through the centuries, they created a self-righteous pattern that led them away from God.  Now these Oral Laws became the way of salvation through ones ability to not only keep God’s revealed and written Law, but the Oral and traditional law as well.

Jesus brought a new paradigm. He came bearing good news.

 “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                                                                     (Matt.22:37-40)

 Now, to some extent these Oral Laws sound silly, but are they really? Do we not do the same with our views on the ways things should be done today? Jesus did not propose getting rid of the farm, or the Law. He simply reemphasized what the Law always said: Love your God with your total being. In other words wrap your arms, legs, heart, soul and mind around a loving God just as tight as you can and never let go. And the new law was to love your neighbor just as much as you do yourself. Notice He placed self, last.

Jesus wasn’t telling us that when disagreements arise we need to accept others’ ideas simply as a way of saying we love each other. Neither was he saying we need to see those who disagree as unloving. In society’s new world view, I believe they call it, tolerance? But then that is polemic for another post so I’ll save it.

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness,

strife, selfishness, or unworthy ends] prompted by conceit ‘and’ empty arrogance.

Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others

as better than ‘and’ superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another that you do of yourselves].                                                                                                                                                                                                                         (Philippians 2:3; Amplified Bible)

If we look at the great and foremost commandment again, we can see that Jesus brought the paradigm back to the beginning of God’s Word. Here he simply reminds us that our very heart, soul and mind should be devoted to God first. We should have a relationship so intimate in prayer and Word that we recognize His guidance over our own. We must desire to know God better. Our soul should be so thirsty for Him we become like a ball of cotton absorbing every ounce. Our mind should hunger for His Word as if we were on the verge of death by starvation.

So, what about division between church members, family and friends?  We don’t need to go back to the time before that childish farm. As Christians, it is time to evaluate ourselves and our congregations with this new example, given by Jesus. It is not a new standard, it is the very one He taught His disciples while in their presence. Are we following that standard and not compromise it away? Maybe it’s time to ask God to point out a few good and faithful saints that will pray with us on a regular basis for an old fashion revival in our congregations. Maybe it’s time to pray until it comes!

“… Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked                                          nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”                                              (John 16:23 NIV)

As a member of your congregation revival begins with you. Be encouraged. Stand up, and hold your head high so that those in your congregation are also encouraged.

 

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement

give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”

(Romans 15:5)