It was a wonderful gift given by some dear friends. They were downsizing and moving into the senior housing at the Baptist Village in Owasso, Oklahoma. Vernon Smith and his wife Esther helped organize our church in 1935. Vernon was a banker, a deacon, church treasurer and the first choir director. Esther’s funeral service in 1975 was the largest I had ever officiated. Later, Vernon married Ollie Shannon, whom he had rediscovered at their high school reunion. When Vernon and Ollie decided to move to the Village, they offered us their grandfather clock.
Grandfather clocks need to be moved gently. There is a pendulum, heavy weights and chains, and delicate moving parts all housed in a cabinet nearly seven feet tall. It fit perfectly in our front hall just down from the bedrooms. It chimed every fifteen minutes, longer and longer rings until it “bong, bong, bonged” the hour. It nearly drove me crazy. I knew when it was 2:15 or 4:45 a.m. in my so-called sleep. Overnight guests would comment on the clock. The Westminster Chime is the classic ring that it is set to. Also, there are options to set it to the Winchester or the Whittington Chimes. I tried them all—still less sleep. Then one day, I adjusted.
When I set it back to the Westminster Chime, I barely noticed 3 a.m. Before long I was sleeping through the night again. One day Vernon asked me how I was adjusting to the clock. He proceeded to tell me about the secret little hook that prevents it from chiming at all. By then it was too late. Twenty-five years have passed listening to the grandfather clock. It keeps perfect time. The sound of the chime has become so familiar I rarely hear it at all. I have adjusted to its rhythm and sound. I wonder sometimes if the chimes were turned off, would the quiet keep me awake? What keeps you awake at night? Maybe there is an “adjustment” waiting for you.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Listen closely. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Vacation Bible School brings to mind old images of marching around the church with flagpoles and a big Bible, of popsicle stick crafts, songs, Bible stories, and red juice and cookies. Once upon a time at our church VBS was scheduled from 9 to noon and it was two weeks long; or was that two long weeks? In the ’70s, we shortened the VBS to end on Wednesday of the second week with a Parents’ Program that evening. In the ’80s and ’90s, we changed to an evening format, Sunday night through Sunday night. The late 1990s brought Bible School Sunday through Friday evenings. These last two years we offer it Sunday through Thursday night. Every year VBS is very much the same, yet every year it is completely different. Young lives are impacted, memories of God and church are made, and the workers discover moments of joy and energy, even as their bodies grow tired and weary.
This year we are learning how to “Stand Strong.” God’s love helps us to stand strong. Family and friends help us to stand strong. Prayer helps us to stand strong. Trusting God helps us to stand strong. The Bible helps us to stand strong. Did you notice how much help we all need everyday to stand strong? During this VBS I am wondering how much the pride of self-sufficiency keeps me from recognizing all the resources available if I would only ask.
There will always be a place for something like Vacation Bible School, yet the trend seems to be that fewer churches are providing the VBS experience. Some churches are exploring alternative formats like three-day schools, or five Sunday evenings. Others are replacing VBS with sports camps and enrichment programs. Part of the issue is the cost of materials, part is the availability of workers, and part is the full schedules that boys and girls have in the summertime.
The overall goal is to assist in the spiritual formation of young lives, and the spiritual transformation of families and communities. And we always learn a lot from the children.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Help some one to stand strong. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I met a real prophet of God once. I do not believe he thought of himself as a prophet. He just sought to live what Jesus taught. In doing so he influenced the course of America’s history. His name was Will D. Campbell. You ought to look him up and read some of the stories about him following his recent death at age 88. Born to cotton farmers in rural Mississippi, he was ordained a Southern Baptist minister at 17, served in the medical corps in World War II, graduated from Yale Divinity School, drank moonshine with friends from the KKK and was the only white minister invited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. A few months later he helped escort nine black students through angry crowds to school in Little Rock. He was in Birmingham in 1963 when the hoses were turned on the people. I met him in the summer of 1999.
Calling himself a “bootleg Preacher,” Will Campbell abandoned the politics of organized religion, yet he had a profound insight into the ways of ethical Christian living. True prophets of God cannot pastor local churches, theirs is a wider calling. He lived in rural Tennessee where he wrote his stories, believed that Christ died for the bigot and the devoted alike, and sought to bring “reconciliation” to all people. The New York Times reported, “(He was) a preacher without a church who presided at weddings, baptisms and funerals in homes, hospitals and graveyards for a flock of like-minded rebels that included Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dick Gregory, Jules Feiffer and Studs Terkel. Most of his scattered “congregation,” however, were poor whites and blacks, plain people alienated from mainstream Christianity and wary of institutions, churches and governments that stood for progress but that in their view achieved little.”
We met at a Baptist gathering where he had set up a couple of leather chairs, two small tables and some of his books. He invited me to sit with him and he asked a lot of questions about ministry in Oklahoma. He autographed a book giving me the challenge to “Fight ‘em off!” I took that as an encouragement to stand for the right, no matter what the cost.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Stand strong. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
One day as I was riding in a train a couple of mice scurried under the seat and down through the rest of the car. It was dark outside and the little creatures were foraging for crumbs. The two ladies traveling with me immediately wanted to find higher ground. I tossed a couple of peanut butter crackers down a hole in the flooring assuring the ladies that would keep the mice busy until the porters could pull down the beds. They choose the top bunks. Everyone slept well on that rocking train that night. It was a 14-hour ride from Calcutta to Sambalpur in the state of Orissa, India. Our three-member team met up with missionary Ed Sanders, who had organized our time in Sambalpur. After six days teaching the ways of Christ in four or five very rural villages, we boarded our train back to Calcutta. There were tender moments of prayer, faith and spiritual victory in the lives of many people.
We flew from Tulsa to Houston to Orland to New York City. From New York we flew to London where we had a two-hour layover. It was then on to New Delhi followed by Mumbai (the old Bombay). In Mumbai we boarded buses; there were about 100 of us on that plane headed to various parts of India. We were taken to a hotel where they gave us rooms to shower and rest, followed by an orientation luncheon. A couple of hours later our team was back on a plane flying to Calcutta. The plane arrived late so our taxi drove at breakneck speed through the city to the train station. We raced to our train, boarded with our luggage in hand. Before we could find our seat, the train was moving out of the station.
When we returned from Sambalpur, we joined hundreds of Baptists gathered to celebrate the bicentennial of William Carey’s arrival as the first of the modern missionaries. Our team spoke in Calcutta churches and ministered with the people at The Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center. Lives were changed, believers were encouraged and churches were strengthened throughout India. That happens today where we live. Down the street there is a family in despair. Two blocks away there is a pregnant teen about to be turned out on the street. There is a hungry grandmother raising two grandchildren all by herself in a rent house to the south. How far do we have to travel to do missions?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Meet a new neighbor. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.