Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Walking With Warner


“You will live three months; not more than a year, the doctor told his young patient. His carefully-guarded statement exploded all her plans in the making for raising and mothering a baseball team. It revealed a truth to her she had suspected, but been afraid to think about because of a family histry she knew only too well.

As for me, I found myself a young Airman looking for a life of normality as a family, living in a place where I was a stranger, and facing a future I knew absolutely nothing about, except that I was a washed-out college student in the Military and facing a future that destroyed strong people of twice my age and maturity. Looking at my bride of four months, I saw a crystal-clear glass vase that had been dropped and shattered into a thousand splinters. Two years earlier. I had graduated from South Haven Central and enrolled in Summer School at Anderson College.


I had completed two terms of fun and frivolity in my newly-found freedom that had resulted in failing grades that prompted me to see myself as a failure and resulted in my enlistment in the Air Force, where I might find another chance to redeem myself. Now, I was a Tech School Graduate, waiting for reassignment overseas from Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. My furlough in Oklahoma with my new in-laws was completed and I reported for temporary duty, until my Shipping Orders arrived.

I knew I had married a bride with fragile health for she was still recuperating from the life-threatening surgery that had derailed her college studies (2-9-47). She was the precocious kid at KVOO Tulsa, the 50,000 Watt Radio Station that broke the announcement across the central U.S. about the death of FDR at Warm Springs, Georgia in 1944.


Our arrival in San Antonio only exacerbated her increasing weakness and resulting fainting spells. She established herself with a Military doctor at nearby Fort Sam Houston and made several trips riding the City Transit Lines unaccompanied to and from the hospital, until told not to return again without my accompanying her. Military Commands are not always coordinated and the next time she had a doctor appointment, my Commanding Officer refused to issue me a Pass. This meant she returned to her doctor alone; again.

As fate would have it, she passed out on the City Transit. The veteran driver remembered her from previous visits and remembered where he had delivered her, which he very faithfully and conscientiously did again. He delivered her at her proper destination in a semi-conscious condition and she gained immediate attention. Her doctor examined her and scolded her for returning contrary to his orders demanding my company. When the Captain called my Commanding Officer to see why I did not accompany her as he ordered; he was told I had already shipped overseas.

This necessitated further conversation in which she explained that I had breakfast with her that morning and then had reported for duty as required (Only later did we learn that I was unknowingly and unofficially AWOL for one lost week that I had not been aware of).

Meanwhile, the doctor called in his superior officer, a leading surgeon and a Colonel in the U.S. Army. The two Officers discussed her case and the Colonel wheeled around, picked up the telephone, and called my Wing Headquarters at Langley Field, VA and asked for his friend, another Colonel. His terse announcement to his friend Joe was, “We call men home from overseas for less than this, and I want a discharge for this patient’s husband – Cancer in the last stages!”

That was how she learned her diagnosis. With that, the doctor informed her the most humane thing you can do is go to the Cancer Institute in Chicago, where they will provide for you as long as necessary, and they will provide your husband with work opportunities. Two weeks later, we boarded the Greyhound Bus in San Antonio with a destination of South Haven, Michigan.

We bid our pastor and congregation at Highland Park adieu, never considering the option of asking special prayer and anointing her for healing. In our private prayers, her prayer had consistently been very simple: “God: if my life is to be taken, I’m ready. If you have yet a task for me to do, by your strength I will do it. Just please, stop the pain.” We walked a day at a time; faith for today; hope for tomorrow.

She prayed her prayer and together we tied a knot in the end of our rope and held on with all that we knew. We rode the cross-country Greyhound and arrived at my home, where we stayed long enough to plan a return to Anderson to school. We did not go near Chicago, until we decided a few weeks later to enroll in Pacific Bible College in far off  Portland, Oregon.

By the time we arrived in Chicago, we discovered we had missed our Portland connection and had to wait what seemed like endless hours. As fate would have it, we followed a big snow storm west of the Rocky Mountains, and all that distance from Chicago, we picked up the passengers on the bus we would have been on, except we arrived late and had a long layover in Chicago. We would have been on the bus that slid off the highway and had to be rescued by the bus we were actually on.

Our Portland days introduced us to two-living-as-one for seventy and one half years. The faith we left with in San Antonio formed the introduction to successful school years, which laid further foundation for forty-five years of pastoral ministry in seven states, serving nine congregations. We clung to our “Faith of our Fathers” in murky days that carried us through five miscarriages and in two live births.


We walked a tightrope between medical bills and the demands for fulltime service in small churches and part-time salaries. We struggled to meet the needs of family life on inadequate income, but faith always proved adequate. In time, we became a growing family, with all the vicissitudes of raising a family and then watching the family expand until it began finally to downsize again.

Three days from hence (9-6-17), it will be two full years that my Irish Cherokee graduated and made her Celestial Commencement. I intentionally and stoically waited with the deceased body and with my own hands I helped place her in the body bag and load her into the vehicle that gave her that final transport. I then watched the vehicle pull away from the house, turn the corner away from Winding Way, and she was gone.

The image is etched into my mind. We had discussed her pending departure and I gave my full consent. I have no regrets that she left and I would not call her back for any reason. I loved her as best as I knew how but I do regret not giving her as much TLC as I now understand she needed, wanted, and deserved.


She was a gifted woman. She was full of the grace of God. She had the discerning of God’s Holy Spirit.  She knew how to communicate with the human heart. Whatever I am today, I am not the man she lived with for seventy years; rather I am the man I was becoming as I lived with her for 70.5 years.

Her family always called her Kit, Kitten, or Kat; thus my familiar url - kitway . She was English, Irish, and First American and what I always knew was that I didn’t want her to go on the war path – Tommie Leora Beatrice Stiles Warner, 3-20-26—9-6-2017 – and this is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 29, 2019

GOD'S ETERNAL CONDUIT OF GRACE

                                                     By definition, a conduit serves as a pipe, passage, or conveyance, for some kind of material being conveyed from one place to another. The ministry Paul “received from the Lord Jesus” testified to God’s eternal conduit of grace. God’s grace filled Paul with joy and inspired him to press forward with the challenge God laid upon his heart (Acts 20:22-24; Philippians 3:12, NASV). 

(Picture shows Pastor Ralph Winans standing on right, with congregants at South Haven, MI 1946, including members of this writer's immediate family).

Bonds and afflictions neither deterred Paul nor dampened his enthusiasm. God’s blessings upon Paul’s life robustly exercised his growing faith and excised his assaulting doubts that would otherwise destroy him. Paul blessed the Lord with vigor, in spite of the potholes that pitted the highway he traveled. His daily experiences provided him assurance of God’s faithful and fortifying friendship (2 Timothy 4:17).

Thus, Paul assured fellow believers, “You know how I was with you the whole time serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials” (Acts 20:18-20 NASV).

 “Bound in spirit” wrote Paul, “I am on my way to Jerusalem.” He did not know what would happen in Jerusalem, but he knew he was God’s messenger. He knew that he was on God’s call list and that his life revealed an extension of God‘s grace. Paul also knew he carried a significant offering for impoverished Saints in Jerusalem.

When I read how Paul carried good news everywhere he went, I sense his hopeful anticipation. In my mind, I hear Paul softly humming a familiar melody that renuinds me, “I’m going higher, yes, higher someday …”1 His encounter with Christ while en route to Damascus had revealed a Savior who never encountered a sin he could not forgive, a guide that accompanied him everywhere he went.

Paul’s example helps us assimilate others into God’s fellowship as our brothers and sisters in the his Family of Faith. When our leaps of faith stretch our abilities, as often times happens, we know we need not fail, for his Spirit reveals the way to us.

Paul modeled an informed life that reminds us that living for Jesus means more than simply singing the joyful music of happy hymns. Paul’s life revealed a God that personally fortifies individual lives and enables us to press forward on the high road of faithful service, while still trudging along faithfully in the worst of circumstances.

By following Paul’s example, we can face our own contemporary encounters victoriously and keep our relational channels free of extenuating hindrances. When faced with his most challenging circumstances, Paul nevertheless experienced the warmth of God’s presence and never lost hope.

 “Bound in the Spirit,” describes more than a new doctrine, or a strange teaching; it reveals God’s Holy Spirit residing as an internal presence--a Comforter –a daily companion fortifying and affirming Paul’s daily witness.

After Paul discovered Jesus as the only ONE who never met a sinner from whom he willfully withheld grace, Paul spent his remaining days sharing Jesus as God’s eternal conduit. In Jesus, Paul had discovered God’s “only begotten” ONE OF A KIND—God’s eternal conduit of divine grace.

This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com
calling all of us to follow the example of Paul's life and ministry and invest our own lives in others by serving as extensions of God’s conduit of divine grace.
___________________________________________________
     1 Herbert Buffum, “I’m Going Higher,” Al Smith Collection of Best Loved Solos from Singspiration, Inc.  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1956). 
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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

WALKING THE HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS


The Psalmist David practiced a diligent devotional life that provides us one of life’s greatest lessons for restoring the church. He pursed personal holiness by regularly measuring his life against the ruler of God’s Word: I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:10,11).

On left are worshipping Khasi Christians meeting at their Assembly Ground near Shillong, Meghalaya, NE India.

When you get as close to God as you can get, you are as far away from sin as you can get.  Remember the childhood story of the Ginger-bread Man? He met a hungry woman whom he easily outran. A very determined man could not catch him. A hungry boy, a bear, a pig, and a ravenous wolf all failed to catch him.

Consequently, the Gingerbread Man felt quite confident when he met old Sly Fox. I fact, he bragged, “I have already run away from a woman, a man, a boy, a bear, and a wolf. I can run away from you, too!

“Eh?” mumbled old Sly Fox. “I don’t hear well; come just a little closer so I can hear you.”

The confident little Gingerbread Man edged a step closer, trying to be kind to the sly old Fox, and he repeated his story. However, he had to move still closer to make himself heard: “I have already run away,” he said, “from a woman, a man, a boy, a bear, a pig and a wolf; and I can... “

With one snap of his still strong jaws, old Sly Fox clamped his jaws together on another tasty meal, and the Gingerbread Man was no more.

If you want to get as close as you can get to God, you will get as far from sin as you can possibly get (Picture shows a group of pastors
and leaders at FCG Conv. on Luzon in the Philippines).

Seek the Lord with your whole heart. Store His Word in your heart. It will tide the best of us through the worst of times; but know for certain, testing will come.

This, then, is our Lord’s idea of a holy religion. Or, as Mark Guy Pierce, once said: ”It is to make men like God, corresponding to Him, answering to Him. This is the aim and end of every part of it—to make men will as God wills; to make men do as God commands. To think as God thinks—that is, to
love God with all the mind. To will as God wills—that is to love God with all the heart. To do what God commands—that is, to love God with all the strength.”

At left is 1920 scene from Oklahoma Chog Camp Meeting … and this is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com,
believing that through God's Word, our hills and valleys will be levelled into an Interstate called the Highway of Holiness. Once we walk therein, we will experience strength for each today and hope for every tomorrow. Be blessed, friend.
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Monday, August 26, 2019

A THOUGHT ABOUT CHURCH PLANTING


In the early 1880s American Methodists were planting  one or two churches every day that rolled around. Dur-ing this time, C. C McCabe headed the UMC’s Church Extension Board. While McCabe rode the rails. he read his newspaper. One day, McCabe read his Chicago newspaper and found a story that greatly interested him.

A Reporter had picked up on a meeting in Chicago of the Free Thinkers Association. Attending that Free Thinkers Association in Chicago was the noted Orator-Agnostic, Robert Ingersol who was bragging about the fact that “the churches are dying out all over the earth; they are struck with death.”

This struck a chord with McCabe and at the very next rail stop, McCabe sent a wire cabling Ingersol, saying, “Dear Robert: All hail the power of Jesus name! We’re building one church for every day of the year, and propose to make it two.”

Some of the singing Methodists got together and wrote a song that went something like this:
              “The infidels a motley band,
              In counsel met and said:
              The churches are dying throughout the land
              And soon they’ll all be dead.

              When suddenly a message came
              That put them to dismay,
              All hail the power of Jesus’ name
              We’re building two a day.

              We’re building two a day, dear Bob.
              We’re building two a day.
              All hail the power of Jesus’ name.
              We’re building two a day.”   

It was sixty years later when Herman Thomas found himself pastoring one of those two-a-day churches in Wisconsin—1941. While out calling one evening, Pastor Thomas met a young engineer, recently moved into his city. The newcomer met the pastor at the front door, saying, “I have some questions you may be able to answer.”

The young engineer listened intently, but briefly; then interrupted his visitor with this question: “Pastor Thomas, can you tell me how I can become a follower of Jesus Christ.”
The following Sunday, that new convert walked forward to profess his new-found faith in Christ. The next week he received baptism. His name was Robert Ingersol III. In 1942 Robert Ingersol IV was baptized in that same church.

This prompts me to imagine that I once again hear the refrain of those early Methodists as they lustily burst forth in song with that earlier refrain,
              “We’ve building two a day, dear Bob.
              We’re building two a day.
              All hail the power of Jesus Name
              We’re building two a day.

I heard Dr Charles Chaney tell this story in Chicago one year as he recalled his challenge to Southern Baptists to increase their three-a-day church plants to four-a-day, or 1,460 x 10. They rounded off Chaney’s number as SBC’s “15,000 Campaign.”

At the time I did my Church Growth study, the Church of God was proposing to plant 750 churches. I don’t remember if we made our goal or not, but this is what I believe, after being in ordained ministry for sixty-eight years: faithfulness to the biblical agenda of church planting will vitalize the church at large as nothing else can!

New church-plants will achieve two purposes:
(1) Fulfill our part of the Great Commission of evangel-izing and congregationalizing our Global Community;
and
(2) Do our part in reversing today’s moral decline by multiplying colonies of righteousness all across our Global Community.   
This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com
Reminding church folk that
Church Planting will renew a luke-warm church as nothing else will.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?


What difference does it make, anyway; if any? 

In my case, I was like most people; overstressed about too many things to do and not enough time to get them all done yesterday. Yes, I was in a hurry! 

Consequently I pulled into my driveway, slammed the gearshift into Parking Gear and hurried in the house – only to discover later that my parked car coasted down the street backwards, ricocheted off the curb and finally planted its solid frame tight against the neighbor’s cement block retaining wall.

My parked car had rolled down the street, crossed a T-intersection, and parked itself while in neutral gear with all four doors locked. My hurried exit and harried behavior could have resulted in a devastating expense, created bad relations with an unknown neighbor, or proved injurious to a pedestrian or a moving vehicle.

Damages, however, proved slight. I had a slightly-damaged fender, but no damages otherwise. I sighed with relief but still—it was terribly depressing.

This was more stress than I needed when I was already in a work overload. Yet, I had to face it; this could have been much worse. Consequently, when I began counting my blessings, my day brightened considerably.

The Apostle Paul recognized our need to look beyond days partly-cloudy interspersed with misty circumstances that often accompany partly-sunny days. He declared, “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:16-7 NIV).

Sadie Smithson remains little known, but she illustrates Paul’s wisdom.  This humble seamstress existed entirely outside the socially elite inner circles of the Laurel Literary Society, and she wanted in more than anything in life. Driven by this single overwhelming desire, she scrimped and scraped until she accumulated enough cash savings to take a European tour—only to be caught in Belgium by World War One.

Sadie attempted to escape by hiring an Army Officer to drive her to Paris. While en route, she discovered she was trapped on a battlefield. As she continued her attempts to escape, she saw a shadowy figure crying out into the darkness, “Water, for God’s sake, water!”

Scarcely realizing the enormity of her actions, she stopped. Helping the wounded soldier resulted in spending the rest of the night ripping bandages from her skirt helping whoever she could find.

With the rising of the dawn, a Medical Officer found Sadie and demanded, “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“I am Sadie Virginia Smithson,” she announced, “and I have been holding Hell back all night.”

Only later, and safely onboard ship and bound for home, did Sadie recount her harrowing adventure. On hearing her story, one of Sadie’s friends casually remarked, “Well. The Laurel Society will surely be glad enough now to have you belong.”

To this, the greatly matured young woman, replied, “But you don’t understand; I’ve been born again. Do you reckon any of those things matter now?”

So, I ask again; what do you think? “What difference does it really make, anyway?”