Before You Criticize…

Great Smokey Mountains, October 2006. Picture by Cecil May, 3.

We have two groups of college students here at the moment. On a second visit is Randy Gore and five energetic students from North Carolina State. They arrived this afternoon. Last time he was here was back in May, so things have changed quite a bit. Also here is Charles Schaffer and a good group of students from Tallequah, Oklahoma. They drove all night last night to be here first thing in the morning. Today the students worked in the yard of an elderly woman in very poor health, helping put up a chain link fence around her yard. This is important for her because of her dog that she has a hard time managing without a fence. There is no way this lady could chase her dog if it escaped. Pet owners will testify that these little creatures become important family members….especially for the elderly who live alone and depend on their company. Another part of the crew worked at the church building, tearing down ceiling tiles down both halls and in the foyer. Tomorrow we hope to begin placing sheetrock in their place. Painting continues as we await carpet samples and chair fabric samples.

Among the blessings I enjoyed today was a lunch with Al Sturgeon and Roy Stephenson. Roy is an old friend that I first met when I was a student at Magnolia Bible College. He was preaching in Eupora, Mississippi. His father in law, Wyatt Kirk, was a tract writer and preacher. Roy loaded up a couple of us students with lots of tracts and materials to use. We spent time together at Sardis Lake Christian Camp where I remember once that Roy wrote something like 15 verses to the tune of “Seek Ye First”. He and his wife DJ are both good singers. I was reacquainted with Roy as he was the minister for both the Orange Grove and Ocean Springs churches of Christ on the Coast during the time I have been at Central. Roy is compassionate, kind, and a genuine Christian who does not put on airs. And he is over 7 feet tall! It was a good visit. I neglected to get a picture, if you can believe it! Oh, and it was good to see Al as well….but that is always the case.

Loving the critical and hurtful brother or sister in your church is one of your biggest challenges. An equal challenge is not becoming one of them in response. In fact, a handful of critics (and there are usually only a few) can occupy your mind. Answering them indirectly can consume your time and turn your spirit bitter. Critics want something. However, they do not accomplish what they really want because they make some big mistakes. So, they keep on croaking out their criticisms, see nothing happen because of it, feel overlooked, and then croak some more. So, I have some suggestions for critics that will help them with some skills they missed in the school of life along the way somewhere. Before you criticize

*Remember That Your Point of View Is Not The Only One. You may be right in your perceptions, but maybe not. Spend some time thinking about the point of view of the person you are criticizing. They are likely not evil people, but they have taken a viewpoint that is different than yours for a reason. That doesn’t automatically mean that they are wrong. If we can at least admit this possibility, then we are curbing our critical spirit already! You do not have to agree with them, but understanding the other person is a real asset toward resolution.

*Have A Friendly Chat With The Person. Perhaps you need to walk a mile in their shoes. You won’t be able to do that until you spend some time with them and get to know them better. Be nice, but feel free to be bold and ask. Open up the discussion at a time when you can both have time to express yourselves and be able to talk things through. There is nothing wrong with DISCUSSION. Talk things out! Be passionate about it, but not mean-spirited. Too often critics just assume they know what the person would say, and thus rob the person of a chance to give an explanation.

*Decide How Important This Issue Really Is. Sometimes people get all in a tear about something ‘down at church’ when the things that they are upset about are things not even found in the Bible. Traditions are not bad in themselves, but they become bad when they divide people from one another. Is this just a preference? Then express it and let it go. We all have preferences, and yours is no more important than anyone else’s. I’ve seen sad cases when people have taken traditions and preferences and attached Bible verses to them in a weak attempt to try to make everyone else conform to their wishes. Let’s hope everyone reading this blog has grown up beyond that kind of childish behavior.

*Ask Yourself If You Have Paid Attention To The Problems In Your Own Life. So many critics I have met seem to be oblivious to the gigantic problems in their own life. Especially those critics who focus on doctrine / theology. Not always, but usually the big struggles in their own life suggest that maybe they need to put the teachings of Jesus into PRACTICE before trying to TELL someone else what they ought to do. Why don’t you become a friend to the person you criticize so harshly, and ask them to pray with you about your own dilemmas. Grace is a great leveler of the playing field of life. In other words, are things so righteous in your own life that you have time to tend to someone else’s problems? Have you been busy winning someone to the Lord? Why not?

*Do You Love The Person You Are Criticizing? Be careful! If this were your son or daughter, would you be a bit more lenient with them? Would you give them a little more time to come around if they were your mother or father? If they were your wife or husband, would you take a long-term view of resolving the conflict and work toward small positive steps? It’s easy to pounce upon a stranger. Who cares if it makes them angry? But someone you love…well…that’s a different story. Love does not mean we withhold a bold conversation if one is needed. But it does change how we speak to someone else, and it does change our willingness to be apart from them.

*Explore What Others Are Saying. We may not realize that we’re the ones operating in the dark. Do some reading. Talk to some other people about subjects that trouble you. Realize that you are not the only one who thinks as you do, and neither is the person you are criticizing. That does not determine right and wrong, it only lets you know that there must be something to discuss on the matter and find out what those things are.

*Pursue Bible Study, Not Just Bible Re-reading. Ask questions as you read through the Scriptures about the subject that’s bothering you. Look at the ‘proof texts’ you would normally use to address this subject. Do they really say what you think they are saying? Are you reading ideas / thoughts / words into the text? Let the Scriptures lead you, not the other way around. And always let the Spirit lead you, which will be evident by His fruit on display in your heart and life.

*Pray Often. Pray for those whom you criticize. Pray for mercy. Pray to use ‘righteous judgment’ – there is such a thing. However we usually misuse that Bible thought and exchange it for something that is often a long way from ‘righteous’. We have the ‘judgment’ part down right! Pray for wisdom. Pray for opportunities to do something better than dissect someone else’s actions or thoughts.

*Love Always. I mentioned it a few times, but love always. Love is not easy. It is not a baby word or a namby pamby cotton candy fluff ball. It is a true reflection of discipleship. It will move you to treat those with whom you disagree with respect and dignity.

*Be Prepared To Experience Something Different. I believe that if you will approach things with these things in mind, you will find a different reception. Complainers will always complain. Everyone learns to ignore them. Step out of the crowd by becoming a loving brother or sister who is an active part of the church, who demonstrates genuine care. Your experience will be much different. Someone will actually listen. And you might get what you want for a change. But if not, you will have been heard, acknowledged, and respected.

 If I speak in the tonguesof men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.










-Sunset on Dough Joe’s Coffee Shop Porch-

 It’s been a busy couple of days around Central. We have moved a bit further in our building repairs. Paul England and crew worked on our overhead lights and got them in good shape. Elsie England painted a good bit in the foyer. We’ve ordered our screen for the front of the auditorium and set in motion the shipping of carpet samples and chair fabric choices. It is very exciting to see all of these changes coming about so quickly.

We had a good night tonight as we gathered together for the Central Family Devotional. One aspect that made this such a great night was Colton’s baptism. Colton and a friend of his met with me last week to talk about being baptized. Colton decided to go ahead and be baptized tonight. He has a great heart and I think he will be a big asset to our youth group and the church as a whole. He was brought by some friends who are members at Central. The powerful testimony of friendship is a great way to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those we love. Anyhow…we rejoice with Colton and those who have been bringing him to church with them. There are pics of Colton and work around the Central building on my picture page (linked to the right).

I know it’s trivial, but what’s to like about DEAL OR NO DEAL? After all, it’s a very slow game with overdone musical cues and fancy lighting. What’s up with those shiny attache cases everywhere? And the fabulous models…come on … who can do better than Vanna? Ultimately it’s a greed-controlled game where greed is cheered on. Howie Mandel is supposed to be funny, not a hairless somber toned mercenary for ‘the banker’.  So, I’m going to just have to watch this relentlessly to see if they change any of those details to please me. Until then I will continue to try not to like this show.

Some have asked about my health, a dangerous thing to do these days. I’m getting quite a list. I have some kind of veinous problem in my left leg that seems to be flaring up more and more often. It is accompanied by nausea, fever, and sometimes tremors. I went to the doctor yesterday and they did an ultrasound to confirm that I had no blood clots. I’m taking an antibiotic and they did a blood panel. Next week I’ll see a vascular specialist to see if he can recommend any permanent solutions. In the meantime I’ll meet with the surgeon for a consult on a possible carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. I’m only 42….and falling apart already!

Join in some ongoing discussions….

Danny Dodd says it’s all about Presence.

Greg England tells us how to make someone’s day.

Bobby Cohoon reflects on a time when it could be too late.

John Alan Turner asks about the location of our treasure.

Wade Tannehill longs for a church without walls.

Peace from a picture? Ask Dee.

Tommy Dublin’s Wife Carrie Starts a New Blog.

Tommy Dublin Gets Himself a New Blog!

Thanks for reading. My yawns are telling me it’s time for bed. God bless you richly!

Still Enough To Hear

Still by Reuben Morgan, Hillsong Church, Australia

Hide me now
Under your wings
Cover me
within your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know his power
In quietness and trust

STILL became sort of a theme song for me after the storm. It appeared on one of the Zoe Worship CDs, and that’s where I heard it first. Hillsongs  artist Reuben Morgan is the author of the words and music. Just look at the words. They are the perfect encouragement for the Katrina-damaged Coast. It is only through the power of God – most often displayed through the incredible talents of His amazing volunteer force – that we have been able to recover. At almost 14 months since the storm, we look forward to hosting groups from South Carolina (second visit) and Oklahoma this weekend.  One of my brother’s friends just came to Pascagoula for six weeks in a work assignment. He is from Texas and says he didn’t realize there was so much reconstruction going on here. We have said from the beginning that no one around the nation knows about Pascagoula, but it still catches me by surprise. In all of the things we deal with here, we continue to learn the truth that we must be still enough to hear God’s voice.

I have a short speaking trip with some open spots coming up soon. Here are some of those open spots, and if you would like to have me come and report about what’s happening here in the recovery effort, I would be happy to do so. Just contact me ASAP!

October 29th PM In the Atlanta area

November 1st somewhere between Atlanta, GA and Chatanooga, TN

November 5 PM in the Athens, TN area

Thanks to friends and fellow bloggers Dee Andrews, Tommy Stewart and Donna Gossett I have been invited to participate in the GraceNotes blog. I have received invitations before, but just felt I could even think about doing it. I admire the other writers who are associated with that blog and I am grateful for one more invitation to contribute there. Now to come up with something worthwhile to post there!

What’s going on at Central? Glad you asked. We had a great worship time yesterday which included some volunteers from the Berry’s Chapel Church of Christ in Franklin, TN. This was their first trip to Pascagoula and we hope they return. I preached from Acts 15, but have not posted it to the podcast yet.  (Actually I have a software issue between my digital recorder and the computer … I’ll get it resolved at some point!) Unfortunately during the service I began to feel ill, fever was taking hold and nausea began to come in waves. I made it through the sermon and class and went home to lay down for the rest of the day without much relief. One good thing that made me feel better was the awesome win the Saints accomplished in the last 3 seconds of the game! It’s our year, folks! There’s something healing about our team doing so well. But not healing to my body. I’ll see the doctor tomorrow morning. Sunday evening about 18 of our folks went over and worshiped with the Gautier Church of Christ. On third Sunday nights we are visiting area churches. Dorice Mitchell is the minister for that church. He was at Central for about 30 years…so it was good for us to visit with an old friend.

Today was a rainy day on the Coast, so the work inside the building progressed. Elsie England painted some of the walls in the foyer. Elaine Kilbern and Jim Ingram scrubbed glass panels from the lighting fixtures in the auditorium. An electrician working with England Construction fixed our lights on the side (that haven’t worked since the storm), began replacing ballasts, and sealing up a place in the lighting area that should have been sealed when it was installed.  Maybe others were there to help, but those are the ones I know about. I always hate to mention names because I know I’ll leave out someone who deserves a mention.

A couple of elderly ladies we have helped since the storm invited David and Elaine Kilbern to a revival at Riverside Baptist Church tonight. They chose to visit and enjoyed seeing many people that we have helped in the past year. Several of those present expressed their gratitude for the Central Church of Christ and for David’s work. This was even expressed from the pulpit during the assembly. I’m glad that David was able to be encouraged by that. We will never really know what an impact we are having on this community.

I’ve got a lot of things on my mind to post here this week. I want to continue my thoughts about the church from the previous post. I also want to post my review of Chapter 4 of Kingdom Come. I’m sorry I’ve been so long about that. I also want to do reviews of two new CDs that I recently purchased. I’m breaking out in a sweat thinking about all of that! I better get busy! But, sometime I’ve got to be Still Enough To Hear!

I’d like to share some blogs that caught my attention.

Danny Dodd wonders why our college students are heading out of churches of Christ and into heavily traditional churches.

Gary Kirkendall asks pertinent questions about instrumental music. I think it is great to ask questions. That’s a way that we grow. Every time I post something like this, though, someone wants to know when Central began using a piano. Just for clarification we are an acappella church of Christ and always will be. Some of us are that because of conviction, and some of us because of tradition. I personally do not regard it an issue that relates to salvation. There are probably some members at Central who think differently on this matter than I do.

Patrick Mead is sure to put a smile on your face with this post.

Larry Mouser discusses the attitude of My Way or the Highway!

Minimum Wage is under discussion at Larry James’ Urban Daily.

Join some fellow bloggers in a discussion of Philip Yancey’s Prayer, Does It Make A Difference? Starts October 21.

Separating the past from the present, Royce Ogle reminds us of who we are.

Infant Baptism and Original Sin, Preacherman tackles tough topics.

Nancy French’s New Book may be in a bookstore near you!

Make your own lightning graphic!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Healing Rain

Michael W. Smith, Healing Rain

Healing rain is coming down
It’s coming nearer to this old town
Rich and poor, weak and strong
It’s bringing mercy, it won’t be long

Healing rain is coming down
It’s coming closer to the lost and found
Tears of joy, and tears of shame
Are washed forever in Jesus’ name

Healing rain, it comes with fire
So let it fall and take us higher
Healing rain, I’m not afraid
To be washed in Heaven’s rain

Lift your heads, let us return
To the mercy seat where time began
And in your eyes, I see the pain
Come soak this dry heart with healing rain

And only You, the Son of man
Can take a leper and let him stand
So lift your hands, they can be held
By someone greater, the great I Am

Healing rain, it comes with fire
So let it fall and take us higher
Healing rain, I’m not afraid
To be washed in Heaven’s rain

To be washed in Heaven’s rain…

Healing rain is falling down
Healing rain is falling down
I’m not afraid
I’m not afraid…

Healing. We all need some healing from God’s merciful touch. Our own hearts need healing. Our families need healing. Our country needs healing. And our churches need to be healed as well. Somehow we have arrived at a place where we have time to demonstrate a fascination with trivia while those within our touch remain in pain. As I read through the gospels I notice that the only one that gives a leper the time of day is the Son of God. The rabbis and the teachers are too busy counting beans to notice the bloody body on the side of the road. The disciples themselves are shooing away children so that that Prince of Peace may perform his miracles without interruption. The Romans go about their state business, without so much as a glance at the lame man at the gate. Good thing one lame man had some friend to drop him through the roof to be placed strategically in front of Jesus. The crowds who were ooohing and ahhhing at his teaching certainly couldn’t be bothered to get out of the way. And we are no different.

Just watch us as we territorially claim our pews at the church. Can you believe we actually talk about “our pews” and who is sitting on them? And we focus on what people are wearing, noting who has something new and who should have given second thought to their current outfit. We note the hair and the smell and the shoes of others. It’s either too cold or too hot in the church building. Someone prayed too long, or they used a phrase I didn’t like. The preacher is too cynical, or too sarcastic, or too boring, or too loud, or too soft spoken, and why doesn’t he stand still? Why do I never hear sermons like we used to hear? What version of the Bible is he using this week? You would think that someone would take that noisy kid out. Don’t they know they are going over time? And by that time the ‘worship service’ is over and we head out the door.

I know that this is an exaggeration. It’s not that bad. Is it? Even if it is only a half-truth, it would be hard to deny that these kinds of things go through our minds when we assemble. And if those kinds of things are crowding our minds, I wonder if Jesus has much of a chance of getting there? And I wonder when it is that we might take a look around and notice the one who is dressed the worst, smells the worst, acts out of place, talks much too loudly, and isn’t much to look at. I mean we look for those people because there in our midst is an opportunity to share the love of God with someone who needs Him so desperately. Some of “those people” may have more faith than we do! They certainly cannot depend upon their money, jobs, families, and savings to get them through tough times. It very well could be that while we share our love with them, they could share their faith with us.

A Spirit-filled family of believers looks beyond these outward circumstances to the beautiful person within. More than that, we seek to reach the broken heart of people who need to know His mercy. We are never more the church than when we offer a kind word, a helping hand, a follow up call, and a genuine smile. And that is the kind of definition of ‘church’ that seldom gets any air time. A friend recently went to a christening at another church. The baby that was being christened was newly born into this family … longtime friends of my friend. It is a family that has had a horrific time recovering from Katrina. As a show of support and love, my friend missed assembling with us to stand by his friend in a time that was important to him. It’s the wrong time to ask about theological differences between friends. It is the right time to be the heart and voice of Jesus.

And that’s troubling my heart about the church these days. Not just Central, practically every church I know. And not just churches of Christ. Theological battles are raging between people reading the same Book. Lines are drawn in the sand and division becomes common. While we eat one another alive, tell me where is the church that does not ignore the poor people all around their building? Where is the church that is not operating to keep wealthy, socially-connected, employed-with-benefits kind of people happy and satisfied? Show me the church where decisions are made based upon the incredible needs of the community, reaching out in every effort to bless those who have no one to care. It is my theory that a vast majority of people in this country who call themselves “Christians” mean by that term that they are nice people who assemble most Sunday mornings at the same church. If this is so, even those who are theologically correct still do not qualify for the title they bear.

I know this is not always the way it is. There are many exceptional people who break the mold.

What I hear reported, though, is that in most congregations there are a very few people who are carrying the load of mercy. Our communities need the healing rain of God’s mercy and grace. But pinpointing problems is a lot easier than solving them. What do we do about it? More in the coming days.

Cool Wave

Above Video is of Snowfall in Chicago Yesterday.

Today a wave of cool air spread across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, bringing a dry and refreshing breeze. No snow for us, but it was only a few short years ago that it snowed on Christmas Day … in Pascagoula! I am one of those who love cold weather, so I’ll take cool! I’m jealous of my friends to the North and West who are enjoying the early snowfall. Of course I’ve never had to live in it and deal with all of the consequences.

It has been so exciting to have relief workers in during the past week or so. They bring with them a spark of energy we have truly missed during the past five or six weeks with no helpers. Because of a problem we had I was unable to update our church website for a while. I was able to get our work crew report caught up today.  We have workers scheduled through next July. That is so exciting!

Our teens are on a retreat out at Gulf Coast Bible Camp tonight. It’s perfect weather for a retreat. I know they will have a great time and learn something as they listen to Will Collins and Brittany Fish. Will and Brittany were recently engaged and I feel that God will use them in enormous ways in the Kingdom. They have such good hearts and they are followers of the Master.

Tonight we watched A Prairie Home Companion, the movie. I think fans of the radio show will enjoy the movie. I think everyone else will wonder why this movie was made. As it was I was disappointed that there was no ‘Lake Wobegon Days’ monologue. It was an interesting story, a device that gave us entrance into the world of the production of the show without seeming like a documentary. Legendary Robert Altman is the director and the all-star cast is delightful. The soundtrack is folksy and homespun, just like that which is sent out over the airwaves every week. Imaginative, but ultimately not very interesting if you didn’t arrive to the movie ready to enjoy the experience.

There are many words we have overused to such a point that they have lost all meaning. “Love” can be that way. It is a word we use much too loosely. Another word is “Awesome”. Everything’s “awesome”. You know we do not call our ministers “reverend” because that is a term that is reserved for God (Psalm 111:9, KJV). Not that it’s a title … just a description. But because of that description we do not call men by that name. “Awesome” is a term that describes God in many ways in Scripture, but we do not hesitate to tell people that they are awesome, that what they did was awesome, that a circumstance is awesome or that a plate of food is awesome. When talking about food and sports, we combine these divine adjectives: “Wow, that’s awesome, I love that!” We still do not use ‘reverend’ that way. But none of those is the overused word which has my attention tonight.

Church. That’s the word. It is sometimes a noun, such as, “we are going to church” – referring to the building or else the worship service. I have heard it used as a threatening verb (“Your father is going to church you when he finds out what you did!”). We often, correctly, take note that the church is the people, not the building. I have heard from the time that I was a child that if the building burned to the ground or was destroyed by a tornado, we could meet under a tree and be just as much the Church as we were before. “Church” can become a doctrine. Marks of the true church, What is the church, The origin of the church, and who began the church are all topics I heard from preachers as I grew up. It should be recognized that as far as we know the early church did not own property or buildings. We only assume that it is allowable to own buildings, the Scripture is silent on the issue. Even though the Scriptures never mention these convenient places to assemble, some even have rules on what can and cannot happen within these buildings. Some have rules about the allowable attire of those serving the Supper. Some will not allow meals to be served in their buildings. Some will not allow a woman to speak within those hallowed halls. Many go to church buildings in order to pray because they sense it is in some way a holy place. It seems to me that all of life changes when we walk through those doors and we imagine that we are somehow in some kind of world where the normal things of life are put aside in order to do everything ‘decently and in order’ (a phrase so often misued that it has lost much of its meaning). With all of the emphasis we place upon church buildings, it is no wonder that “going to church” is a deeply ingrained feature of our vocabulary.

After Hurricane Katrina, we waited almost 14 months to make any real improvements on our church building. Like things are in every church, there was a mixed review of this strategy. Some liked it, some didn’t. However, the leaders were committed to the relief effort and helping people before we fixed up our auditorium.  Now that we are earnestly involved in repairing our building and we could see some major progress in a very short period of time, I want to be especially mindful that we do not forget what the church is. We have been studying through the book of Acts on Sunday mornings and noticing that the church is a Spirit-Filled family of believers who are committed to sharing the gospel with the lost world. Without our mission to reach the lost world, the church is nothing but a country club … or an educational facility … or a club made up of nice people who do nice things together. The true nature of the church is to be found in the places where Jesus found himself … at the table of winebibbers and gluttons, being annointed by whores, offering eternal life to thieves and divorcees.

What a disappointing ministry it can be. You invest in the down-and-out, and they leave you high-and-dry. You spend time and energy bringing a blessing to their lives, and in return you discover their lack of interest in the Lord who taught you to be a servant. Though it is true that the rich and middle-class folks sin and have a multitude of problems that only Jesus can solve, it is also true that the poor have lost their dignity and often do not have the resources to hide their sin from your eyes. It takes a lot of strength and guts to walk away from addiction. It takes a lot of humility and trust to speak openly about the struggle. The church is called to dine at the table with these broken souls, ministering to them from our experience. Yes, we are all broken souls. Sometimes we see wonderful transformations, sometimes they run away in shame and we never see them again. Either way, we are called to be the church … the body of Christ living out the Kingdom of God in our daily lives. We are a Spirit-filled people committed to sharing the good news of Jesus with lost people.

And that’s why the concepts of the church being the right organization that was started at the right time by the right people with the right rule of law is powerless by itself. When we focus on doing everything in the RIGHT way, we are overlooking the fact that it is our calling to reach out to the WRONG kind of people. That kind of thinking about the church produces people who come to a place expecting to receive affirmations that they believe correctly. Never have we been so close and yet so far.

These thoughts are not directly related to the renovation of our auditorium. They are specifically aimed at my own heart, and the hearts of our congregation. Will we embrace the mission of Jesus or not? Pretty walls and seating will not get the job done, nor will it hurt the effort. They are neutral aspects of the situation.

Well, this is getting long. And it’s the weekend, so I know that fewer people will be dropping by to read. So I thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday Night on the Coast

I shot this video of Gary Boswell and Rochelle Harper today at the blood drive (noisy background!)

Greetings, friends! Thanks for checking my blog for updates!

Today started with a trip to Biloxi. Not long after Hurricane Katrina hit, and we were getting our building cleaned out and cleaned up, some pews arrived. I think the pews came from several different places, although no one seems to know where they all came from. I learned later that some came from the Rodenberg Church of Christ in Biloxi, and I do believe some others came from the church at Gulf Shores. We tossed in some mixed chairs and that is what we have been sitting on during our worship assemblies for 14 months now. When we flattened our floor and painted our walls, we had to remove the pews. It seemed a good time to return the pews to Biloxi. So this morning I rode over to Biloxi with four other men to deliver some pews. It was great to see my friend Joe Powers and get to greet him. He is one of the hurricane relief heroes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He is an eternal optimist and although he has done so much to help others, most people will never know his name. He is unconcerned about that, though, as long as the Lord knows his name! I was also able to meet the new preacher at Rodenberg, Lyle Willis. And as an added bonus, I was able to greet my friend and former minister at that same church, Roger Mills.

No sooner than I got back to the office, I headed out for Ocean Springs for a preacher’s luncheon at McAllister’s. There I met with Les Ferguson, Al Sturgeon, Roger Mills, Lyle Willis, and Cornell Johnson. Al Sturgeon has posted our picture and wrote a bit about our lunch together. You can find that post HERE. The picture here is of Roger and Lyle. Roger was minister at Rodenberg Church of Christ on two separate occasions. He is most beloved by the Christians on the Gulf Coast and he has retired to Florence, Alabama. We miss he and Thelma so much! Lyle has moved here and started his work at Rodenberg just a month ago. We look forward to getting to know him more as days go by. Roger reports that the people of Rodenberg love Lyle already and think so highly of him. I’m glad it’s that way.

I returned home just in time to head up to the Jimmy Gammill Blood Drive at Dantzler United Methodist Church in Moss Point. Jimmy is the grandson of one of our elders and his wife. Jimmy had leukemia, and has come out on the other side healthy and happy, at five years old. I don’t relish being stuck for blood, but it is always a lot of fun. The Boswells go all-out, especially Loree. She usually has a good crowd lined up to give blood. She also cooks big pots of chili and provides live entertainment, in the form of her husband Gary and local celebrity Rochelle Harper. I shot a few videos of their songs as they played…but one is too big a file for youtube … I also tried ifilm … but don’t know if it’s going to work yet.

This evening I went up to the dining hall where David Kilbern was frying up a ton of fish fillets and okra and there were lots of extras. I said ‘thank you’ and ‘nice to meet you’ to several folks I’ve enjoyed meeting this week. I am especially thankful for the friendship I’ve started with Lee Robison. He is a man with a godly heart. Tomorrow morning a group will leave early for home, Sturgis, KY. Awesome people with a wonderful group of kids. I enjoyed being around all of them during the week. They are a smiling, happy, service-oriented, Jesus-like people. After breakfast, Lee and his group will head back to Sarasota, Florida to be back in place at their church on Sunday (website HERE). The group from Eva, Alabama is here. The group from Colorado will go home Saturday. A dozen or so from Berry’s Chapel Church of Christ will  arrive tomorrow evening sometime, driving in from Franklin, TN. I believe Jeff Campbell talked to this group originally, before he left town.

Tonight we went to Wal-Mart where I picked up a movie that I missed while it was in the theaters. In fact, I do not think it ever played on the Gulf Coast. A Prairie Home Companion looks like it should be lots of fun to watch. I’m a fan of the radio show, so I’ll let you know what I think of it. Have any of you seen it? Speaking of movies, my copy of Second Chance arrived today. I mentioned it a few days ago. Along with the questions that movie raises, we should consider Gary Kirkendall’s thoughts on Why The Poor?

And looking around the blogs…

Ben Overby has made it to his new home and is getting settled in.

Marcia relates how thanksgiving should precede requests.

Marvin Phillips has Pascagoula on his schedule. Yay!

Milton deals with a difficult transition in life.

Caption Phil’s Picture!

Preacherman Ponders What The Israelites Thought About Heaven / Hell.

Rick Reflects on our inner pain, and how it is often the source of the way we hurt others.

Royce Ogle considers his life, a new ministry effort, and other ways that God has been at work in his life. Do not miss his appeal for help / prayers for the fledgling Bayou La Batre work.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting