I received a telephone call last May telling me that “Mr. John” would not be needing any more Meals on Wheels dinners. His daughter said that the family was taking over his care. Mr. John, a kindly grizzled man in his 80’s, had been dealing with cancer and its side-effects for a number of years. For all of those years Mr. John had been receiving a hot nutritious meal delivered three times a week by different volunteers working out of our church kitchen. On some occasions I delivered the meal to him. He was usually alerted that his meal had arrived by the loud barking of his neighbor’s dogs. He would meet the volunteer at the door with a yellow basket in hand to take his meal, milk, bread and dessert back to the table.
We have been serving together with our neighborhood churches as Eastside Meals on Wheels since 1978. Last month representatives from all five churches gathered together at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to celebrate our 34th anniversary. The pot luck meal brought salads, vegetables, meats and desserts from Will Rogers Methodist, Our Savior Lutheran, as well as Yale Ave Presbyterian and Braden Park Baptist. Our own Waneta Reynolds told of how our first organizational meetings came about. We shared funny stories about unusual experiences delivering some of the meals. And we then heard the story of Mr. John.
It was after the Memorial Day holiday that we were asked to stop his meals. A couple of days later Mr. John protested and asked that we might deliver at least one more time. We made the arrangements and a volunteer showed up with his meal. Mr. John was propped up with his basket. He told the volunteer he wanted her to “Thank all those people with Meals on Wheels. They were so nice.” He died four days later, but he had said thank you.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Say thank you. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I was browsing in the local Cokesbury bookstore last week when I came across the most recent release of a favorite book of mine. I was impressed that fifty years after it was first published, this book is still being used by countless aspiring preachers as a guide in communicating the Gospel message. This book was written by my wife Dorothy’s second cousin, Charlie Koller.*
He was born in 1896.
Born in Waco, Texas, he grew up as a member of Waco’s German Baptist Church now called Central Baptist. Dorothy’s grandmother, Elise Koller Niederer, organized the Woman’s Missionary Union at that church in 1910. Her grandparents were so impressed by the dedication and faithfulness of this man that they named two of their sons after him. Charles William Koller went to Baylor and studied law before following the call to preach and earning his Doctor of Theology degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He later served as the professor of preaching and president of the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago for more than twenty years. Dorothy introduced me to him once at a church anniversary in Waco.
The book, now titled How to Preach Without Notes, provided the framework for understanding expository preaching, which is basically reading the Scripture, relating the background of the passage and the application of its meaning for today. He emphasized how deeply one must study and prepare before standing to preach. By preaching without notes rather than reading from a prepared manuscript, the preacher could take what was in his head to his heart before speaking it to the people. The book is his seminary course on preaching. The chapter on how to file sermons in folders and manila envelopes has saved many a preacher’s Saturday night. The last half of the book contains 15 of his sermons. I had wonderful preaching professors in college and seminary, but Dr. Koller’s book shaped me profoundly, and I am grateful.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Hide God’s Word in your heart. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
* The photograph is a picture of Dr. Koller and his wife Selma taken at Easter, 1940, following his sermon at the 50th Anniversary of Central Baptist Church, Waco.
My first dog was named Nickel because his mother was named Penny. It seemed logical at the time. I called him Nicky. Nicky was a mixed terrier. He loved chasing mice down holes and digging up anything he could find. We had him for a few years before he was hit by a car and gravely injured. The vet “put him down.” I was heartsick. Do dogs go to heaven? I was reminded of this recently when I came upon a story about a woman’s grief. After her dog died she confessed that she missed her dog more than her father.
Dogs have a way of demonstrating unconditional devotion to their owners. The woman’s father, it seems, was distant and judgmental. She could talk to her dog but not to her father. Her father died. Her dog died. She felt guilty, sad and angry about the whole thing. Do dogs go to heaven? Her dog was affectionate and would curl up next to her whenever she sat down or went to bed. She and her father could not even hug each other. Her father was not a bad man or abusive. He just retreated into himself and never did live up to her expectations of being an affirming, loving Dad. Our girls grew up with a dog named Dusty. He died of old age.
When the girls were pre-teens one of the young adults from the church took them home for us one Sunday evening. Dusty lived in our backyard. The girls could not get in the house, so they all went around to the backyard to wait for us. Dusty, seeing a strange man in the yard, immediately sprang into action. He started barking and positioned himself between the girls and the stranger until we got home. He was their protector. They never forgot his spontaneous devotion. Of course there are dogs in heaven—and cats, horses, lions, lambs and other incredible creatures of God’s making.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Love on your family. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Deacon Swain told his kindergarten teacher that he was going camping with his grandpa over the Labor Day weekend. She said, “You’re going camping with Papa D?” “How did you know his name was Papa D?” “I was your brother’s teacher.” So Deacon and I went camping. Actually, we stayed in the Minister’s Cabin at Tulakogee Baptist Assembly on Lake Ft. Gibson. I booked the cabin for four days of personal retreat starting on Thursday night. The primary purpose of our camping trip, Deacon informed me, was to go fishing. He and his Mama D joined me on Sunday evening.
On Monday morning we headed off to the bait shop. I asked him about the kind of bait we should get—minnows, crickets or worms. “Get worms. Fish love worms.” We explored a couple of good fishing spots, settling on the fishing dock at the camp. Deacon explained to me that when we caught a fish, we were to “take out the eye balls,” cut it up and take it to Mama D to cook it. He told me all about fishing with his own little rod and reel. Then I opened the box of worms.
“Ewww!” went the voice next to me as I baited his hook. We set the bobber, and he cast it in the water quite to his satisfaction. I started to bait my hook. “Papa D, I can’t see my bobber.” His pole was bent nearly in half, the bobber surfaced then disappeared again. He had caught the big one. Really, it was about three pounds. “Ewww!” Deacon, it turns out, is more impressed with the idea of fishing, than actually dealing with a big flathead catfish. He did not want to cut it up or even get close enough to have his picture taken with it. So we set the fish free. A little while later he caught a smaller catfish. Soon he was finished for the day. He had caught a big fish! We will go fishing again.
I know people who are impressed with the idea of being a disciple of Jesus, yet, when it comes to actually living the challenging, gritty life of a disciple, “Ewww!” They love the heaven part, tolerate church people sometimes, and ignore God’s words. Authentic disciples keep after it, and help make disciples. You know, “Take up the cross and follow…”
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Go fish. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.