Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another Week Gone By

This has been a rather downer of a week. Last week we returned home from Alabama to three days filled with long hours of office work—plus teaching Wednesday evening (I've just begun a series on Israel's National Anthem—Deut. 32) and doing another week's radio—and then driving to Ohio on Friday to teach over the weekend. We got back home on Monday afternoon and Tuesday I was completely washed out.

I have begun to have some new “site specific” pain, so I was at the doctor's office Wednesday and Friday. I did get the next Grace Journal to the post office on Friday, after visiting the doctor—45 mailing trays and $2,300+ in postage! Look for it in your mail box soon.

By the way, the doctor gave me an antibiotic that turned out to cost $16.90 per tablet! Good thing it was only for 10 days!! As Cynthia and I left the Pharmacy she commented that if I got any worse we'd end up in the “poor house” this year instead of next. With no insurance to cover these things, it has become a real challenge just to decide to stay healthy.

This morning I attended a Bible conference in Oak Park, sponsored by West Side Grace Ministries. This is largely an African-American congregation (one of three genuinely outstanding Black grace churches in Chicagoland—Art Johnson and James Kelley lead the others). Brother Mike McDaniel is doing a fine job ministering to and with this excited group of grace believers. Mike is a good preacher of the message of grace and I rejoiced to hear his opening message—a really powerful presentation of the clear, unadulterated grace gospel.

As I listened to Mike, I was struck by the surroundings. Oak Park is one of the most “sophisticated” and “blended” communities in America. It prides itself in being on the cutting edge of societal evolution, as it were. We met in a beautiful community center on a gorgeous day. Our second floor meeting hall had the windows open so the delicious spring breeze could waft through the room. As Mike spoke it was to a background of city noises—traffic passing, an occasional siren, a ball game at the nearby park, two people arguing in the distance, families out enjoying the lovely morning—all the things that make up life in the city. And there was Mike, patiently and passionately presenting the gospel of grace over it all. Just what ministry is all about.

One "funny:" Just before the morning meeting got underway, a brother who goes to great lengths to denounce me arrived. As he entered the hall, he saw me across the way. This caused him to immediately depart the scene! Funny how I seem to have that effect on some folks! The Baptist preacher who sat next to me didn't seem to have the same problem! This departed brother missed out on a blessed time. Romans 15:6 comes to mind, but then, who'd ever believe a verse like that!

This evening I took Cynthia to supper at Panera Bread and then to buy a few things for her Sunday School class' graduation tomorrow. We ended up shopping at WalMart—not exactly my favorite place. As I waited on her to finish up, I stood by the checkout lines. The WalMart in Bloomingdale is a veritable united nations. I could identify at least six different languages—doubtless there were more!--as I “people watched.” The world has truly come to us! Again, what an opportunity to reach the world by reaching the world where we live!

Now I'm resting. I'll teach twice tomorrow: Colossians is almost done, maybe three more lessons. I'll probably finish Galatians tomorrow night. It's like a perfect storm for me to conclude both a.m. and p.m. series at basically the same time! Can't remember that happening before. I'll start Philippians and I Thessalonians respectively in the next few weeks so I'm reading them tonight a couple of times before hitting the pillow.

Thanks again for your prayers and interest both in my health and the work of the ministry. There is so much to do and I am so grateful to God that we have so many willing workers to stand in the gap. This is a wonderful day to be serving our soon coming Savior. I occasionally hear someone say something about the “grace movement” not having much grace or movement. That's just not the case in the circles where we fellowship!


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunny Days In Ohio

I am sitting in the first Sunday morning meeting of the conference in Ohio at the Amish Door Inn . Its been a wonderful weekend. The setting is beautify and lush. Attendance has filled the room to capacity from the opening session and the messages have been clear and powerful. For a first time conference, all the work and sacrifice the sponsoring churches have invested has been richly rewarded. This is a conference that will certainly become an annual event.

My physical condition seems to be backing up a bit. I've begun to experience some new discomfort. Cynthia is watching me like a hawk--she actually is a bit upset with me at the moment for pressing too hard the last week or so (especially in the after meeting last night). She did promise we could kiss and make up soon! We brought our 6 year old grand daughters with us. I spent two hours in the pool with them yesterday! A rare event for me--only grand kids could get me to do that!!! I should have spent the time taking a nap.....

I speak next. Paul Parisi is teach now--doing a good job on "Understanding All Things" from II Timothy 2:7. We will have lunch together (BBQ) and most will depart for home. A few of us will spend the afternoon and evening here relaxing and enjoying the resort. I'll do my best to get some rest before the drive home.

A number of folks at the conference have told me they are reading this blog--so 'hi!' to them. There are also a number of folks who tell me they watch the Shorewood services via the Internet. There is no reason for anyone to be a "stranded" grace believer in this computer connected age! I mention this to say that the reason I have my computer out is to check the SBC services--I may be away but my heart is always at home. This is the one Sunday in years that Alex and I are both away--he is at the conference in Seattle. Matt Walker and Ron Sorg are doing the teaching today. Things are in good hands without us; we just don't want them to get used to that!

Have a great Memorial Day. Hug a vet and say thanks.


Monday, May 19, 2008

The Weekend Is Over

We had a really rainy day on Friday and it had everyone nervous about the outdoor wedding scheduled for Saturday evening. All was well by wedding time, however. A crowd of some 400 gathered on the lawn of the home of the mayor of Bay Minette to witness the ceremony. It was a truly beautiful setting and I had the opportunity to give a clear gospel presentation during the service that was well received. The only mishap during the service was that the men forgot to come back to retrieve the mothers after the wedding party had exited. If that’s the only problem, well, things will go fine for the couple!!

I taught twice this morning at Forest Park Bible Church. Sunday School was a great time going over Eph. 3:18 and I taught the first half of Eph. 6:10 in the morning service. My brother, Travis, was there as well as two cousins I haven't seen in over 30 years!

We did have a very unusual time during the second session. A dear 82-year-old saint, Norma Gauss, began to sing “How Great Thou Art.” She only got about three lines into it when she looked toward heaven, became visibly overwhelmed and collapsed behind the pulpit. From where I was seated I could see that her eyes had dilated and that rather than fainting she had gone into an immediate coma. The EMTs were called and straightway took her to the emergency room. While we had prayer and waited anxiously for them, several gave testimonies to Mrs. Gauss’ great faith and encouraging spirit. We sang “How Great Thou Art” in her honor and then I taught the study I had planned to bring since it fit perfectly with the events of the morning.

Later we learned she had had a brain aneurysm and is not expected to live out the night. A large group of saints were allowed to visit her room and prayer and speak encouragement to her, though she remains unconscious. She has no other family but the church family.

Along with her husband, Mrs. Gauss had been a missionary to the Navajo Indians in New Mexico for many years. After his home going she relocated to Mobile five or six years ago. Mrs. Lange met her and influenced her to come to Forest Park where she came to rejoice in the message of grace. In fact, she had talked to Cynthia during the Sunday School time about how grateful she was to have found Forest Park and learned to rightly divide the Scriptures. She was taking no medicine and had enjoyed good health all these years. Now she awaits her entrance into the presence of the Lord. No one could actually be sad about that. We simply rejoiced in our hope in Christ Jesus and that a dear saint would soon be absent from the body and present with the Lord.

I spoke again at FP this evening to a good and enthusiastic crowd. William Lange, Brother Roy’s son, is doing a good job of leading the work during Roy’s illness. I fear he’ll not be able to preaching again—so does he! But the work seems to be in good hands.

Cynthia and I are back “down the bay” packing (at least, she is) for our return to Chicago tomorrow. We had one last seafood lunch (with the Lange’s) and I have some cold fried shrimp in the frig to finish off. Thought we’d get to eat at a favorite seafood cafĂ© for lunch tomorrow on the way to the airport but looks like that will be preempted by a couple of errands. That will make tomorrow the only day we haven’t have seafood since we arrived! No better way to get back into the Chicago-mode than that!

It has been a wonderful week of refreshing for us. We needed it; and we needed it together. I am really tired this evening, so obviously my “fatigue-factor” is still with me, but I am very grateful for the time Cynthia has had to unwind and enjoy some quality “down time” this week. She has even spent some of it with me!!

We do look forward to getting back home and back to the long list of things that must be accomplished before we leave for the Ohio conference next weekend. Looks like our grand daughters will be going with us, so the treats just keep on coming!

Thanks to so many who pray for us. I don’t say it often enough but I do count on your faithfulness to be “helping together by prayer for us.”


Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Since I don’t get to Mobile that often and especially since I don’t have much free time when I do, today has been special.

Cynthia and I slept late this morning (Wednesday). Can’t remember the last time we were able to do that! And we were in bed last night before midnight too—can’t remember last time we did that either. It was another glorious morning on the bay. We actually forgot to do something we had planned to do; we were enjoying it so much. Hey, who cares; we’ll do it this evening!

I had an appointment downtown at 1:00 p.m. I dropped Cynthia at her mother’s so she and her sisters could send the afternoon doing girl things. So, after my meeting, I walk around the area where I spent a lot of time years ago. I stood on the corner of Dauphin and Conception Streets, at the edge of Bienville Square. This is the corner where I preached for the very first time. There was a “Brown-Bag-It In Bienville” festival in swing in the Square—lunchtime music with picnic tables for the downtown crowd. It was certainly loud! Bienville Square has been there since the turn of the twentieth century—one memorial dates to 1906—and serves as a centerpiece of downtown. Now the area is experiencing a come back, there is a lot of activity going on.

During my last two years of high school and through my college days, in the late 1960’s, I worked at the Mobile Rescue Mission (I went by it today, too; now it is called the Waterfront Mission), and I regularly trekked this area, passing out tracts and preaching on the street. In fact, it was on that corner of Dauphin and Conception where I learned to street preach! It was at the Mission where I first preached inside a building. There was too much commotion for me to try a hand at preaching there today but I did hand out tracts to almost everyone in the park. Brought back good memories. I walked by the fire hydrant where I once knelt with a man as he trusted Christ—after he had tried to rob me at gunpoint. Most of the old haunts are now gone, giving way to new developments. But the fireplug is still there!

As I walked up Dauphin Street I came upon a sign outside of Mama’s On Dauphin touting “homemade gumbo”. Claiming the title of “Downtown’s Best Soul Food,” I couldn’t resist. Add a Dr. Pepper (yea, almost every place here has it) and lunch was a real treat. The place was just a hole in the wall, maybe 15 tables, but the business was still brisk even after 2:00. Mama’s doing okay!

I got back to my in-law’s house and checked my email. 143 in my box. So, I guess I’ll have to go back to work whether I want to or not. But the afternoon was a pleasant walk down memory lane.

I try to remind the men we train that in order to take such a walk you actually have to have the memories! That means you need to be doing something now that you’ll be happy to remember later. I’m glad I got saved early—at 15 years old—and that I was encouraged to take it seriously early. As I walked by the mission I could still hear Brother Reynolds’ words to me: “Ricky, you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, so take it personally!” I’ve never been sorry I took that advise to heart.


Driving Daze Addendum

One thing I forgot—actually I just noticed it today (Wednesday). Mobile seems to have at least six “gospel radio stations” available on AM radio, with several more on FM. That in itself makes driving more fun—and the longer it takes to get somewhere the more you get to enjoy the music (assuming you enjoy your “good ole gospel music” southern style!).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Driving Daze Rant

Written Tuesday and posted Wednesday--remember, I'm on dial-up!

Every time we visit Mobile I’m reminded of the things I have forgotten. One of the main things is driving. Cynthia is constantly patting me on the knee, reminding me, “Remember where we are.” It isn’t that folks here can’t drive; they obviously can and do. It is just that the rules are different. The same is true in the Chicago area, where you must observe one set of rule of “in city” driving and quite another for driving in the burbs. But that’ll have to wait.

One of the first things you notice is that only one in, say five, use turn signals. I sense that I stick out like a sore thumb every time I make a lane change! Our rental car (it was cheaper to fly down and rent a car than to drive!) has Wisconsin plates, so I figure folks are saying, “Look at dem nuts from up nauth!” That hurts, since Cynthia is still an Alabama girl through and through—I’m a little less so, but it still hurts!

Then there are those myriads of drivers talking on cell phones (with one hand), smoking a cigarette (with one hand) and handling the stirring wheel with two fingers (of the other hand). I know that’s too many hands. But I sat in the Wal Mart parking lot this morning watching it happen over and over! But that’s another rule of thumb in many communities: how far you live from Wal Mart is a sign of how close you live to civilization.

I’m also adjusting to the fact that the Yield sign at the entrance ramp of a highway is considered to be a Stop sign. It really makes things interesting when you’re in a Merge Lane—especially getting on either of the two Interstate Highways (I-65 & I-10) that crisscross Mobile.

At night, I had forgotten how interesting it is to drive in the dark. Almost everywhere we go, the only light that lightens the road ahead is from your car’s headlights. Admittedly, we are staying in a remote area. But it seems true even when we are in town. The upside is that the sky is filled with stars—I know it always is, but in a large metro area they are blanked out by the reflected city light. By the way, this is an additional reason for slower driving speeds.

Another thing to remember is that no one is really in that big of a hurry, anyway. Oh, occasionally someone whizzes by, but generally it is more laid back. It is not a cause of any alarm when someone stops in the road to talk to someone on the roadside or in another vehicle. It doesn’t happen much on the “main roads” (translate that highways) but its already happened to me three times today on the “side roads” (translate that everything else). By tomorrow I’ll have settled in enough for this not to annoy me; for the moment I’m still in “lets get going” mode. I don’t pray for patience, since “tribulation works patience” (Rom. 5) and I don’t need anymore “tribalation” at the moment. So, I simply remind myself that “patience works experience” and enjoy the opportunity to bring grace to life!

One of our nephews will be graduating from the Mobile Police Academy on Friday. Talking to him last evening, I inquired as to where he would be assigned. Seems he’ll start out in traffic in the downtown area. I started to ask him about some of this but was interrupted by a call to supper. That’s one of the other things I’m reminded about: they really know how to put on the feedbag down here. I’ll be on a diet for three weeks trying to get back into my already-too-large clothes. It really isn’t so much about food, although it is abundant and good; its really about family. As I watch Cynthia and her sisters rebond back together its almost like they never left home. Ann has her first grandson now and is the typical ecstatic grandma. Everyone dotes over the little guy—Cynthia had already been shopping for him before we met him the first time! Grandchildren are God’s gift to you for not killing your own kids—and everyone celebrates them.

And all this reminds me of the value of family—extended family. Great grand parents, grand parents, moms and dads, sisters and brothers, nephews and nieces, cousins and in-laws all in one house again. Why? Another wedding! Life goes on--shared together. And that’s not a regional value.

Oh, by the way: I got a hair cut today in a real barbershop. I took Cynthia’s dad and we got our “wedding cut.” I haven’t been in a barber chair in almost three decades—Cynthia cuts my hair. But that’s another story for another time. Got to go—its supper time again!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Morning Breeze

Cynthia and I awoke this morning to the crisp, clear air of the Gulf of Mexico blowing into our window and the gentle waves lapping the shore. I could do this every morning. It is without doubt my favorite setting. The Gulf is a warm and inviting setting, more so than most any other. We, of course, were born and raised here so I must admit to a bit of prejudice.

Mobile Bay is the site of a number of famous naval battles, not the least of which began with the famous epitaph, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Cynthia’s parents have a home on the bay and it is where we stay when we come for a visit.

Yesterday morning we took Dan with us to O’Hare and he went on by train to Union Station in downtown Chicago. His Amtrack train back to California wasn’t until late afternoon so he was going to do some sight seeing. Chicago is a great place for that!
It was a treat to have him journey all the way from southern Cal to attend Shorewood! Don’t get many visitors that do that—although we have regulars who drive from Indiana and Wisconsin each week. Dan does Brother Verstegen’s PalTalk and website audio ministries. He is seems to be in constant contact with folks from around the country. He has strange stories of helping people get “unlost” in cities across the nation via I-M’s and GoogleEarth. He also is a champion for the faith and great help to many in the things of the Word. Hope is made the train ok and by now is almost home! He’ll have lots of tails to tell “Kurly” and the saints there.

I talked to Mel yesterday before leaving Chicago. He has been in the hospital a week now and they finally think they found his problem. They drained a cyst in his intestinal track and he seems to be getting better. Expects to go home Tuesday or so. The Veterans hospital he is in (Hines) is an excellent facility and gives wonderful care. Much different than 20 years ago, for which we should all be grateful. If the government is going to care for anyone, it should be our veterans!

We’ll be here till next Monday. I’m doing a big wedding for my niece next Saturday, which will be a great opportunity to give the gospel to a large host of folks I’d otherwise never meet; then Sunday I get to preach at Forest Park Bible Church. David, Stacy and the boys are coming Thursday, so that will be great. After full days last Friday, Saturday and Sunday (I put the next Grace Journal to bed about 9:30 Sunday evening—made Dan wait after service while I finished!) and then the traveling yesterday, I’m glad to be having a down day today. Only thing I have to do today is take my father-in-law and get us haircuts.

One bummer: I brought my laptop, of course, so I could work but somehow forgot my VerisonWireless card. Dumb move. Don’t understand how it happened. Now I’m reduced to dial up—sort of like going back to the stone age. Boy do we get spoiled quickly!


Saturday, May 10, 2008

A New Record

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, May 10 is the date that the world's population will reach 6,666,666,666. Now that the day is almost over and no great "666" catastrophe has befallen us, I guess the conspiracy buffs can take a rest. But the real question remains: how many of these souls are you reaching with the almost-too-good-to-be-true message of God's love and grace to us in Christ Jesus?

Now that's a thought that makes knowing the importance of May 10 worthwhile!

I just picked up Dan Cobb from the train station. He is from southern California--attends John Verstegen's assembly in San Juan Capistrano. Dan decided he wanted to visit Shorewood so he hopped an Amtrack train and came for a visit. He goes home Monday morning--about the time Cynthia and I fly out to Alabama. By the way, I'll be preaching in my home church next Sunday, Forest Park Bible Church in Mobile Alabama.

Anyway, Dan has to get the reward for traveling the farthest to be a visitor at Shorewood. At least until Susi comes back next summer from Switzerland.

So, setting records isn't really all that impossible! You just have to make up your mind to do it. Thanks for coming, Brother Dan.

We had our monthly cleanup/fun night at church last evening. The group was smaller than usual this time but seemed to get more done. The game time was more intense too. Not so many people to hide behind! We've been there all day today too. Ladies had a wedding shower for Jen (Gibson) Hatters and I had work to get done before leaving next week.

One more thing: Brother Mel Dary is in the hospital with what so far is an unknown aliment. He is not well and we sure miss his happy face greeting folks at church. Benny, his cohort at the door, fills in well but Mel is hard to replace. Pray for him, if you will, and perhaps send him a card. You can send it to the school address (P.O.Box 97, Bloomingdale, IL 60108), as I don't have his address in front of me.

One more one more thing: I was at the doctor's last Monday for a followup on the radiation treatments. While he insists the current PSA tests are basically unreliable due to the continuing radiation activity, my PSA count is the lowest its been in five years. So at least the direct is good, even if I can't believe it! When I first had this "not to be believed" test back in January, I asked him why we were doing tests that weren't to be relied on, his answer seems vague. My comment was that he must be planning a trip to Hawaii. Now when I ask him that question, he replies that he is taking his wife to Belize! Wheeeeee. Glad I can be such a help!

Have a great day tomorrow. If you don't have a grace church to attend, log on to for our services at 9:30 & 10:45 a.m; 6:00 p.m. Hey, if Dan can come from California you can get there on the Internet. The services are streamed live, so you'll have to log on at the appointed hour. C/ya there.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008