Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The Vince and Roxanne story...

Vince wanted something more in his life. He was engaged to Roxanne and they each had a little boy. He wanted to be the right kind of man for his family. One day he was driving past Southern Hills, saw all the cars, and decided to visit. Loved the way we sang, loved the simple way we talked about God, and loved the people he met.

When he told Roxanne, she wanted to come too. She had grown up a Christian but had wondered away from her faith.

God had people in just the right place to help. Roxanne told a friend at work that they were visiting Southern Hills. Her friend told her that was where she and her husband went. Said they could come with them to their Bible class.

Roxanne called her Aunt to ask advice because she knew her Aunt was a Christian. Aunt Kathy said her cousin, Marsha Ridgell, went there and that Marsha and Steve helped people know Jesus.

So Roxanne called to ask if I could: marry them, do some pre-marital counseling, help Vince know Jesus, and help her find her way back to the Lord. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Vince was baptized a couple of weeks ago and Roxanne confessed her desire to come back to the Lord. I'll be doing their wedding in the near future.

So God used Julie and Jerrod, Lane and Kathy, Steve and Marsha, Phyllis, a church passionate about Jesus and worship, and a lot of elders and wives who made it a point to meet and welcome them and then showed up at the baptism.

Go God. Go Vince and Roxanne.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


What I learned from my son about race...

Joe Don was in first or second grade when it happened. One of the couples we ran around with, traveled with, and did ministry with were Josh and Doris Owusu. Great spiritual journey story. They had a son, Drexell, who was about JD's age so they spent a lot of time together. Josh and Doris were from Ghana and they were very dark complected. Very.

Marsha was cooking supper when Joe Don asked the question: "Mom, did you know Drexell was black?" She said yes, as a matter of fact she did know that. Joe Don was fine with that answer and off he went to play.

But for a long time we wondered what prompted that. Who told him Drex was black? Or did Joe Don just notice it and think it was cool. Was it just a fact like Drex was taller. It wasn't a big deal at our house. In fact, it wasn't a deal at all. So we didn't make a big deal about it. And it sure didn't faze our son.

But here was what it reminded us to be aware of: we live in a world that wants to point out the differences between us. We felt like someone may have tried to take away some of our son's innocence.

It's a tough world and prejudice still exists. But we also learned that what is taught at home is more powerful than the world. And we never had talked about race. Hadn't needed to at our house. The Owusu family was our family. Their home was our home.

So when we did start to talk about race as they got older, we made it a point not to focus on the superficial -- like skin color. We talked about how alike we were. God made us all. God loves us all. Jesus died for us all. As they got older, we talked about how we all shared the same baptism and recieved the same Holy Spirit. We are true brothers and sisters in the family of God.

Pretty much the same stuff I say today. And what I think my kids are teaching their kids.

And what we Christians know. What will make the world a better place. Not better race relations, but better Jesus relations. That is what will stop the sin of racism. And every other sin.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Incidents that formed my view of race, Part 2

It was in the Spring of 1969 and my senior year in High School. Oddly enough, I do not even remember how this started, but for several weeks I led singing at an all black congregation, Mountain View Church of Christ, near my home in Duncanville, Texas.

Loved their enthusiasm in worship. And yes, I know much of that was because I am somewhat exuberant myself. I am really not sure I led as much as I started songs and tried to keep up after that. they even let me preach a couple of times and they sure could "amen".

I loved my home congregation and I loved them so I thought it would be a great idea if I could get them together, so I invited them to dismiss their evening worship one sunday and come over to worship with my home church. I didn't even think about mentioning this to anyone else.

And they come. In a car caravan. All at once. About 30 of them into the building. I am not sure how much might have been prejudice, how much might have been shock, or how much might have been confusion ... but for a moment or two nobody seemed to know what to do.

I will always remember that my Dad -- who was one of the elders -- walked right over and started introducing himself, just like he would to anyone else. So then everyone else did also.

I know in East Texas in the late 60's there had to be some racial prejudice even in the church. But I learned two great lessons that night. One was that a Jesus action will lead people to do the right thing. Two, in Jesus we are much more alike than different. Same faith in Jesus, same baptism, same God to worship.

Fellowship and worship: two lessons I am glad I learned.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Thoughts on turning 60...

Yes, it is true. Sunday I will be 60 years old. Everyone seems to think this is a big deal. I don't, but since everyone is asking... here are a few thoughts about it.

I look good for a 70 year old, but at least I don't look much older than I did at 50. Gives me great hope for how I may look at 80.

Yes I realize most of my productive life is behind me but I don't dwell much on that. In fact, I don't think much at all about the past. Glad of the lessons I have learned, but don't see the point of living in the past. God has forgiven my mistakes so why dwell on them.

As for the good things, dwelling on them might keep me from all the great things I still have to do. So I don't just turn the page on the daily calendar, I pretty much rip it up.

And the greatest lesson I have learned is that whatever happens, it will be OK. God will see me thru. He always has. Tough times or great times, He has alwasy been there.

So I really haven't changed much. Still love preaching. The most fun thing I do is talk to people about Jesus. Love singing in worship. Same things I liked when I was 20.

Still have lots of energy and enthusiasm.

I have slowed down in a few things. I don't run in races anymore. I jog ... well, more like waddle, actually it is more of a walk. No more full court basketball. I don't play shortstop anymore. When I wear my glasses, I can hit one dove every 12 shots. Without them, I hope I see the dove. I drive my truck as close as I can to haul out my deer.

And there are a few things I treasure more and more every day. I still really enjoy being married to my best friend. I am so blessed by my four kids. All of them love Jesus, love each other, and love me. I enjoy my grandkids, and if the Lord lets me live to watch them grow up (and by the way, that if is not a death fixation, it is a Biblical view of life), I am going to really have a good time with all 5 of them. All four of my parents are still alive and functional. Every day I appreciate that -- and them -- more and more.

Finally, I am still pretty much a today kind of guy. I don't think much about the future. I don't wonder about how many years of productive ministry are left. I'll leave that to God.

So I expect that the day after I am 60 will be like all the rest. I'll thank God for the gift of life. I'll enjoy my family. I'll talk about Jesus. And I'll be happy.

How could it get any better?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Why I think the way I do about race...

Recently saw The Help. Good movie. Go see it. It got me to thinking about the three events that most strongly formed my thinking about race -- especially with African Americans. So I thought I would share them.

The first happened when I was 11 or 12 years old. My uncle (or maybe it was my Pap-pa) and I were at a feed store in southwestern Arkansas. The were barrels with checkerboards on them and many of the oldtimers would play a game while picking up their feed. I thought I was pretty sharp and I had learned to play checkers but I never could get a seat.

Then one day I noticed a seat staying vacant. After no one sat there for several minutes, I siezed my chance. Didn't even think to ask my Uncle. The player on the other side was a black man. It never dawned on me there might be a reason no one would play with him. And I was quickly aware that I had done something I shouldn't have.

You are probably hoping that this was a great story of racial reconciliation. Bit it's not. My opponent never said a word to me other than "your move". The game was over in just a couple of minutes. He humiliated me. I was mad, embarressed, and still sensing something wasn't quite right.

My uncle never said a word about it. We just left. And I didn't ask. I have since wondered how he felt about what I did. Did I make it awkward for him. I must have. So looking back on it, I realized a couple of things that influenced my thinking about race.

One is that racism is not always taught, but it sure is learned. I am not sure anyone said that no one was to play checkers with a black man. Some things were just understood. I am not even sure that those men would have realized they were racist. It was just the way things were. The Civil Rights movement was underway, but it hadn't really made it to that part of the world. Colored water fountains and restrooms were still in use. I am not sure anyone intended to treat people differently because of their skin color. It was just part of their environment.

But I learned a great lesson: people are people no matter what their color. That man wanted to humiliate me. There was no teaching this kid, no bonding across racial lines. I don't know if this was his way to strike back at the injustice of those times, or if he was just mean. For all I know, no one would play checkers with him because a) he was black, or b) he was mean. I have no idea how many times he sat in that store staring at an empty chair, waiting on someone to sit down.

But I also learned that day that black people were just like everyone else -- some were nice, some were not. Skin color didn't make the difference. It would have been a nicer story had I been able to say I learned that day that black people were sweet and nicer than anyone else. But the truth is, I had never thought about black people one way or the other. I guess that's why I never thought twice about sitting down. I saw an empty chair and didn't pay any attention to who was on the other side. I didn't think about it until it started getting quiet.

I am not sure I processed all that at the time, but it did make me aware that racism was real. And that the color of your skin had nothing to do with your character.

Next time I will share what happened my Senior year in High School.

So maybe you will think about -- and share -- some of those moments that shaped your thinking about race.

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