Monthly Archives: January 2013

Item #1,043

Master List #1,043—Standing on the Church Roof during a Thunderstorm (see Items #1, 18 and 549). Today I am adding #1,043 to my endless list of “Things They Did Not Tell Me About in Preacher School.” After months of drought, a winter thunderstorm rolled across our area. A very nice gully washer, as they used to say. The storm lasted about two hours followed by a long steady rain. When the morning low near the end of January is 63° in Tulsa, Oklahoma, something in the air is about to meet a cold front. This brings me to Item #1—The Pastor is Responsible for All Things that Happen at Church, Even if it is God’s Fault. It took me scores of times before I figured out Item #1.

I inherited Item #18 from all of my predecessors. The pastor’s office came with a freestanding closet. It was a good place to hide lots of stuff. From the closet’s rod hung an old pair of (leaky) waders. (Note: Item #17—Test Everything Once Before Doing It or Using It in Front of the Whole Church.) I learned that the real reason for the closet was to hang various changes of clothes. Item #18—Keep Extra Clothes, Ties and Shoes on Hand, Just in Case. I learned this after I had the closet dismantled and turned into book shelves.

Item #549—Always Check the Downspouts, Even if it is Not Raining. I learned this lesson from some of our men who regularly cleaned out leaves and bird nests from the downspouts. I learned that in the winter metal downspouts will freeze, forcing water to seep into the walls. Today when I looked at the downspouts during the thunderstorm, they were barely flowing. Remembering Item #1, I sprang into action. All of my work clothes had shrunk, possibly from the humidity. All of the lost umbrellas were missing. I found a pair of shoes, took off my socks, rolled up my pant legs, armed myself with a broom, climbed three floors and stepped out on the roof. The drains were not clogged. It was the close clap of thunder that sent me scurrying back inside looking like a wet dog.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Don’t stand on the roof in a storm. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Day Dizzy Dean Came To Church

Just a few weeks after he had been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the celebrated pitcher Dizzy Dean arrived at our church—to lay a brick. Our pastor at the time, Rev. Patrick (Pat) Murphy, had a promotional idea to stir up some interest in the church and raise some funds for the completion of a new sanctuary. The building project had begun in 1949. Things were going slowly. That spring of 1954 the pastor invited Dizzy Dean to church. Pat Murphy was from Arkansas and was acquainted with some of the Dean family. Pastors occasionally Dizzy Dean and The Red Brickhave bright ideas like this.

I told this story this past New Year’s Eve as part of a memorial service for Herb Brixey. Ten-year-old Herb Brixey was chosen to go with Dizzy Dean and the pastor up on top of the roof of the northeast office where Herb handed the baseball player turned announcer a red brick. With wet mortar and trowel, Dean carefully placed the red brick up high on the east wall facing Yale Avenue. Pictures were taken, autographs were signed and then it was over. The workmen proceeded to add the beige-colored bricks that matched the rest of the building. If you stand across the street from the church and look real closely towards the upper north side of the big stained-glass window, you will not see the red brick.

I suspect that the pastor went to sleep pleased with the day’s events. But that very night some displeased church leaders had the red brick removed. The pastor’s comments were not recorded. Some years before Herb had his double lung transplant in 2000, he and I were cleaning a closet and old tunnel near the back of the sanctuary. There we came upon a mortar-encrusted red brick. We decided this was “The Red Brick.” He wanted the church to keep it as a reminder of the day Dizzy Dean came to church. I think of it as a cautionary tale of a bright idea not completely talked through with those most affected.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Actions affect others. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The ‘Now What Do I Do?’ Moment

In mid-November of 1973 I had a “Now what do I do?” moment. I had been at the church six-weeks. My title was associate minister. Our senior minister, Dr. Robert Willets, had experienced a very hard year or two. He asked me to help him by preaching at least one service every Sunday and overseeing the youth and church education programs. So that Sunday in November, after publicly affirming my ministry, he announced he was resigning at the end of December to take a pastorate in Ft. Washington, Maryland. A pulpit committee was elected and I was asked to serve as the transitional interim pastor.  The very week after the pastor moved away, some of the church leadership asked the minister of music to resign. To say I was overwhelmed by it all is an understatement.

Dorothy and I took the days right after the New Year to go visit family in Texas and to meet with some of our friends and mentors to listen to their thoughts.  There was much praying. When we returned to Tulsa we were thrust into church crisis-management over the music minister position.  With three whole months of pastoral leadership under my belt, I announced I was going to bring a “State of the Church” message near the end of January. The question I was seeking to answer at that time had become “Now what? Where do we go from here?” In that message I sought to review the church’s past year, provide a realistic assessment of the current situation, and bring a word of hope and vision for the church’s future.  By the next January, and each January since, I found that I and the church needed another honest and clear answer to the “Now what?” question.

Sometimes things have happened, issues have arisen, and events have occurred that thrust us into the unexpected “Now what?” I have found that I need to be honest about my circumstances, seek the counsel of godly friends, and discover God’s plan for my next steps through His Word and much prayer. What do you do when you have to answer your own “Now what?”

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Let Him direct your path. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Study Course

1963 Study Course BookWhen I was in the seventh grade I was introduced to the Baptist Study Course Book. Our family had moved from the Methodist church into Baptist life—baptism by immersion for all. We became wholeheartedly Baptist. Soon I was attending something called Training Union. This, I later discovered, was the discipleship and leadership training program for all believers. We each received little hard-covered gray books of our very own. Most of them were overviews of the various books of the Bible, with questions to be answered at the end of each chapter. All of the Study Course books were written by prominent pastors or seminary professors. Some of these books covered Baptist distinctives, beliefs, and church life. For many years I dutifully wrote out my answers to each question. By the time I was 14 years old I was being asked to help teach Royal Ambassadors, and then a Fifth Grade boys Sunday School class.

We usually held one church-wide study course per year, followed by quarterly studies in Training Union. In Oklahoma the thousands of teenagers who attended the Falls Creek Assembly each summer also studied these topics. In the seventies the Falls Creek books included the new songs of the times and were paperbacks with psychedelic covers designed to make them look “hip,” and all of the young people received official credit for completing the book. But many complained, adults included, that study courses were a lot like school work and participation went the way of Training Union. What remained became the January Bible Study, an annual opportunity to delve Biblically deeper together as a congregation.

Church-wide discipleship and leader development, I believe, have suffered from the loss of these deeper studies. Historically Baptists have turned discipleship and deeper Bible study over to the Sunday School, which is now going the way of Training Union for most church members. I encourage you to consider connecting to consistent study of God’s Word.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Grow Biblically deeper. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

PS   If you live in the area, I encourage you to participate in our Winter Bible Study on The Beatitudes of Jesus this week led by an outstanding teacher of God’s Word, Dr. Wendell Lang. Braden Park Baptist Church, 5th Street and Yale, Tulsa, Ok.  Sunday January 13, 10:50 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. and Monday and Tuesday evenings, January 14 and 15, at 6:45 p.m.

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Have a Happy New Year

I have never had much success with New Year’s resolutions about diet and exercise. I’ve tried but something always comes along, like breakfast, lunch, coffee break, supper, and the weather, so there just is not enough time to get around to my resolutions. Also, I do not like to be nagged by my inner resolution keeper. I have found a more helpful way to have a happy New Year.

I thought about blaming God. He made me this way, right? Then I considered blaming other people. They always want me to please them. I tried being angry at myself and agitated with the world at large. I blamed the devil, but he just grinned. Changing the subject is only a temporary fix. Finally I discovered the bliss of denial. But somehow even denial does not give me a happy new year.

Based on Romans 12:1-2 and the blessing from Ephesians 3:20-21, I seek to follow this pattern for each day. (1) Confess by name my weakness and seek God’s strength for the day. (2) Honor God with my body. (3) Honor people in my speech and actions. (4) Practice openness and generosity. And (5) pray, pray, pray.  Life is a daily walk, not a list of things to do. Life is built on loving, open relationships as we share our stories and dreams.

If you need a resolution or two, I suggest that you plan one impossible dream for this year, and find a way to fulfill it. Commit to a spiritual growth step. And never stop saying “Thank you” and “I love you.”

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Have a Happy New Year. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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