Category Archives: Church life

The Master Gardener

We have a master gardener who lives next door. James’ idea of a fun thing to do every evening is mow and edge his front yard. He is passionate about his flowers and plants. Spending time at Tulsa’s Linnaeus Teaching Garden has opened his eyes to the possibilities of beautiful things everywhere. This year he decided to have a vegetable garden featuring tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. Of course he added other fruit and vegetables just to see how they would do. His sunflowers were spectacular. We ate some of his tomatoes at supper last night.

He began as a toddler watching from a front window as his father mowed the grass. Soon he started using sticks and brooms to imitate his dad trimming and edging. Someone got him a toy lawn mower. This summer James turned seven. He checks his garden every day—watering, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting. He knows more about my in-ground sprinkler system than I do. He can identify every sprinkler head and its spray pattern. He can diagnose every sprinkler problem and knows how to repair or replace it. He has a personal collection of sprinkler heads in his garage. He keeps asking his parents to get a trencher so he can lay out a sprinkler system of his own. James has a passion and a focus, yet like every kid he loves to act silly, tell jokes, make people laugh and play with his little brother.

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James is a remarkable boy because his eyes and heart are open to the beauty and wonder of creation. Our hearts are the garden of our soul. What do you see when you look upon your heart? How well are you tending it? What have you planted within it? How do you nourish it? What needs trimming or weeding or pruning? What is your heart producing today?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Look to the Master Gardener. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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To God be the Glory

            Last Sunday, February 23, was an historic day in the life of our church. There was a positive, energetic and prayer-filled spirit. There was a strong attendance for our very first 10 o’clock worship service. The new monitors worked like they were supposed to, Dr. David Willets brought an excellent message, and the new Pastors’ Class was well received. Our 11:15 Sunday School hour more than doubled our Bible Study attendance. The Monte Los Olivos congregation filled the two center sections of the Sanctuary for their 11:15 worship service. About 40 children and teenagers were welcomed to their new Sunday School classrooms. To God be the Glory.

            In 2012, by faith, we invited GracePoint Church to minister with us. The People’s Pantry was relocated to our building and our Clothes Closet ministry was reestablished. Last year we began a deeper Wednesday evening ministry with the Pantry and our neighbors. Ben Shepard offered to provide a Wednesday evening meal for anyone who participated in the Pantry ministry. The effort has expanded with a number of faithful workers coming along side to help with the meal for our neighbors. We work together delivering Meals on Wheels, singing in the choir and worshiping together. On Wednesday evenings Monte Los Olivos has added a 7:00 p.m. Prayer Service, and Youth and Children’s Bible programs. Great things He has done.

            There continues to be lots of preparation work behind the scenes to allow God to use our church to proclaim a greater witness to our community. By intention there are three things that we are not doing: 1) we are not merging churches; 2) we are not combining budgets; 3) we are not changing any church names. We are networking together. We are working alongside each other to promote our common ministries and mission efforts. We are launching more intentional discipleship training and evangelistic efforts across the congregations and into our neighborhood. So loved He the world that He gave us His Son.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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For He Alone Is Worthy

Front Yard NativityWe seem to be the only house in our neighborhood with an outdoor nativity. Most of the houses around us are decorated with all kinds of lights and displays, with an occasional star mounted up high. Santa and the reindeer are everywhere. So are snowmen and miniature Christmas trees. But the display on your lawn or in your window does not mean much unless Christ is in your heart. So I look to some of my favorite carols to point the way to the newborn King.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. The unsuspecting town, filled with grumbling taxpayers and weary travelers, becomes the focal point of God’s divine plan of redemption. The King is coming.

Come Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free. From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee. The King is born with a kingdom mission of forgiveness, salvation and grace. Cast your deepest, darkest burdens before Him, and He will give you rest.

O come, desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind. Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace. The King, who is the Prince of Peace, longs to heal the broken hearted, mend broken relationships and fill the world with Good News of great joy. Trust His word. Trust His love.

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for a slave is our brother, And in His name all oppression shall cease. The King’s life example, His unmatched wisdom, His cruel death on our behalf, and His resurrection overcoming all sin, guilt and even death itself, cause us to bow before The King of Kings on this O Holy Night.

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

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Reflections

It was nearly midnight on October 1. Dorothy and I felt a bit like Mary and Joseph after being turned away by all the old Route 66 motels on Tulsa’s 11th Street. Our baby was six weeks old. We had spent the whole day helping movers load the moving van and then we unexpectedly learned that they were going to drive overnight to Tulsa to unload the van at our little duplex first thing in the morning. That’s when the scrambling began. We filled our trusty ’64 Rambler with the baby and the rest of our worldly goods and left Ft. Worth behind. But now it was midnight. We stopped at the Desert Hills Motel, where we had stayed before, but something called the Tulsa State Fair (not Tulsa County Fair, I learned) was in full swing less than a mile away, so every room was taken. We eventually found a room on the seventh floor of the downtown Holiday Inn. What a short night!

Very early the next morning we had to load everything back into the car and get across town to the new place. The moving van was already waiting. We spent the morning unloading and setting up the place. Eventually Dorothy said that we needed to go shopping right then. Why? We had this little baby and our place had no washer, dryer or refrigerator, and there was something about babies and laundry and eating that need tending to. So on our first full day in Tulsa – it was a Tuesday – we bought the appliances and had them delivered the next day. Wednesday night I was welcomed by Dr. Bob Willets and the church people to the evening prayer service. I delivered my first sermon as a minister of our church on the first Sunday morning of October 1973. The Scripture was from 1 Corinthians chapter 1. That day I began a verse-by-verse study of that book which lasted into the following February.

So I have been in a reflective mood this week about these 40 years together. Thank you for inviting me and allowing me into some of the most sacred moments of your family’s life. Thank you for welcoming us and giving us room to mature as a pastor and as a family. Thank you for loving us.  Thank you for ministering to us and helping us raise and teach our children and their children the holy things of God. You are loved, and I am so blessed.

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

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The Better Path

          In the late 1950’s the price of a gallon of gasoline jumped from about 19 to 26 cents. That was a big increase—about 37%. There was a crisis in the Middle East. Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, the free shipment of oil was threatened and then Israel and Egypt went to war. The U.S. and some of our European allies got involved. Eventually that Mid-east Crisis was resolved, but the price of gas never went back to 19 cents. Nearly every time there is a crisis in the Middle East the price of gas goes up. Sometimes it makes us more cautious about how much we drive. Sometimes we just get mad. Soon we take a better path.

             Around 1959 a man in our Florida church discovered someone was stealing gas from his car. His indignation, his pride and his anger led him astray. Ordinarily he was the funny one in my parents’ Sunday School class. He and his wife loved to host backyard cookouts and were first to arrive with food when the need arose. They had two or three children a little younger than we were. He was the joke-teller and life of every party. Then someone started siphoning gas from his car. His house had an open carport so he could not put his car in the garage. He finally settled on a way to deter his robber. This became war.

 One evening after dinner he set his trap. He stripped apart the end of a long extension cord and attached the bare wires to the bumper of his car. (In those days cars were made of metal.) He was going to teach that thief a shocking lesson. He thought of one more touch—water. He got out the garden hose and wet down the car and driveway. He plugged in the extension cord and walked around the car to survey his work. As he neared again the front of the car he slipped, or tripped, but caught himself with both hands on the hood. His wife ran to unplug the cord but it was too late. A family lost a husband and father. My parents lost a good friend. I learned a tragic lesson about anger and the high price of revenge. There is a better path to handle wrongs.

 Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Seek justice, not revenge. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Grandparent Camp

            My vision for a week of “Grandparent Camp” with our two older grandsons was classic. I envisioned five days of enrichment, grandparent bonding, and life lessons shared together. We were introduced to the concept of grandparent camp by long-time friends. Their grandchildren experienced a week of extended Bible school, arts and crafts, swimming in the pool and visits to local museums all presided over by their grandparents. Their grandchildren were perfect. Our first day of grandparent camp included an hour and twenty minutes in time-out. I needed the break.  It was a time of testing limits and pushing boundaries while their parents were out of town for a week. The grandparents who take on grandparent camp should not also keep working everyday. Coordinating Meals on Wheels, conducting meetings, preparing for a wedding, dealing with a work crew and a host of other demands kept intruding on my camp experience.

            2013-08-16 16.58.39The boys learned to adjust to their grandparents, mostly. They made it to a movie, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, and the Oklahoma Aquarium without incident. They practiced their piano lessons, ate their meals at a variety of locations, went to Meet the Teacher Night at school and took at least one bath. Overall they said they enjoyed the week. I, on the other hand, needed a nap.

            All of this reminded me of the number of grandparents in our community who have the full-time responsibility of raising their grandchildren. They do not have the luxury of turning the children back over to the parents. The parents are rarely in the picture, or are so caught-up in their own personal issues that the grandparent is the only hope for their child. Some of these grandparents were not all that successful in parenting the first time around. How many single grandparents do you know who are raising grandchildren; grandparents who are still working and trying to do it right this time? How can your family and our church help these grandparents? I suspect they might like for someone like you and me to listen to their stories and offer a prayer.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Visit with a grandparent. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Church Team

         There was a time when church ball teams were a league of their own. Baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball kept the church sports fans fit and busy. The church leagues were tough, emotional and highly competitive. I came across a trophy from our church’s champion baseball team of 1937. Those were the days when Tulsa church leagues played teams from all churches and were divided into two divisions that mirrored the American and National leagues. There was even a playoff series between the league champions. In 1939 our church team won it all for the Red Church League. This particular trophy lists the names of the players and their positions, plus someone had etched on it the proud record: “Won 36, Lost 8; Won playoff in 4 straight.” Our men’s baseball team won the championship again in 1941 and 1943 before World War 2 intruded too deeply into the roster. At least two from that roster went on to become ministers—one as a Tulsa pastor and the other as a missionary to Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

           2013-08-12 12.23.10 Digging deeply into a cabinet, I discovered a team ball from 1981. This was the year our women’s softball team won the Tulsa Baptist Associational League championship. The ball was signed by all of the players noting their positions on the team. This team played together for many years before merging into our co-ed softball team. Our church’s last sports team, formed in 2002, played in a non-church league. This was our adult co-ed indoor soccer team. Times have really changed. The church leagues are fading. Church sponsored children and youth sports ministries are leaving less time for the adult leagues. Were you ever on a church team?

I find that the men and women who were part of a church team almost always have a bond with each other that lasts for decades. They encouraged one another, they stood up for one another, they consoled each other in times of defeat, they celebrated the victories together and they fought through personal pain so everyone on the team might win. They played their position, they were faithful to each other, and sacrificed themselves so everyone else would succeed.

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

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