Monday, October 6, 2008

Gratitude With Purpose

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

September 4 … I ranted on John McCain. The following day, I left for a month in Kentucky. In Winchester, my wife stayed busy keeping company with our daughter, off on disability leave. I pushed on down the Mountain Parkway to Prestonsburg, where long hours filled my days at Reformation Publishers.

Sept 7--Pburg--the new shelving for a reorganized Archive was not yet completed. The print shop had been greatly remodeled and reorganized. Progress evidenced everywhere, and Summer book consignments were back from camp meetings et al--piled and stacked everywhere … amid ongoing remodeling and reorganization.

Seeing the progress, we vigorously pursued reorganizing the Inventory Room, achieving a level of satisfaction. We took orders, prepared shipping and invoicing. We did whatever the day called for. When the time came, we taught Sunday School and such, all the while maintaining details of printing and production for Reformation Publishers and Williams Printing. (As in days of old, WP helps underwrite RP and sustain local church needs, revealing a multi-pronged level of assault on the work to be done).

Many days went 14+ hours. One night, a volunteer crew worked until 3:00 a.m. meeting a printing deadline. Fun, food, and fellowship were always in evidence. The torrid pace takes its toll on Steve and Martha (she has more than her share of overload, between her teaching job, her church duties, and assisting Steve in the Warehouse, not to mention being the lovely Queen of the Parsonage) but each remains committed, gracious, and appreciative.

One morning, lay leader Jack Crider (a relatively new convert) came in with one of Barb’s home grown, home made, apple pies. Jack hand-delivered it to Yours Truly while it was still steaming hot and fresh from the Crider oven (the UK jacket I wear came as a gift from Jack, a rabid UK fan).

Jack and Barb, like other of the locals, are special people. Freddy, Jimmie, Janice (from Winchester) and I all enjoyed this special gift (I’m not sure if Bobby got any, but my wife got a few bites).

The work is time and labor intensive, both manually and technically. There are never enough laborers, nor enough time, to do all that needs doing (I never knew just how much work is involved in making an ordinary book). Reformation Publishers has been a gift from God to Church of God publishing.

I would love to see Warner Press (Anderson) accomplish what Pathway Press has achieved. Pathway Press made space in their Cleveland, TN traditional printing plant and opened Derek Press as an “On Demand” digital printer-publisher. It expanded and enhanced all levels of printing and publishing for their whole denomination.

The more closely Warner Press/Chog Ministries and Reformation Publishers work together, the more our churches benefit, even from the distance of Anderson, IN and Prestonsburg, KY. In actuality, Reformation Publishers has the capability to meet most every need WP/Chog Ministries currently has (Joe Allison, Chog Ministries, is working hard to keep our church publishing up to quality and quantity).

My time at RP included 3 days that my wife and I spent in Lexington manning the book tables at the KY General Assembly and the Saturday CE leadership conference. It was satisfying to renew old acquaintances and make new friends. I found a new friend in an online acquaintance from Chogtalk (Dave Hardin). I had an interesting conversation with DeJesus Butto from Louisville para Jesuscristo. I even met a young pastor for the first time who reads and appreciates my blogs (that was pretty nice!).

I found new appreciation for Dr. Ron Duncan, for the patience and skill with which he led KY Ministries in a discussion of Congregationalism and Autonomy in the Church of God. Ron truly has a servant’s heart and we can rally together with great expectation. Renewing friendship with Jeff Jenness (Pensions Board), I was reminded that we have some truly quality and caring executives leading our church ministries, regardless of some of the negatives we frequently harp on.

This being my second year at the KY GA, it gave me a better feel for Kentucky Ministries, led by Dr. Randy Montgomery and staff. Now in his 3rd year of executive leadership, Randy may find making budget tough sledding (many are in the current cash crunch), but KY Ministries is no different than the rest of the country. It seems to be in the political air we breathe.

I believe if Randy will control his own youthful impatience and listen to the counsel of wise and loving brothers and sisters, young and old, this splendid group of Kentucky pastors and church leaders will enable him to become the kind of leader he aspires to become. That is, after all, what leadership is all about.

That weekend allowed me to attend the morning service at nearby Winchester 1st. I salute pastor Gary Brown for his excellent sermon he titled “No More Worship Wars!” (more on that in another blog). Pressed for time, I pushed on to Prestonsburg that evening, after a quick lunch with my family, to set up our RP book display at nearby Little Paint Chog.

That service signaled a Reformation Witness Rally for SE KY churches. It followed with a 4-day revival with Frank Curtis, retired from Middletown, OH Towne Blvd. I spent the weekdays at the RP Warehouse and evenings I headed out to Little Paint, making new friends and enjoying good music and solid preaching.

As the end of the month approached--9-26--we had been away from home as long as our bills would allow. Thus, on Friday evening I headed toward Salyersville, driving the colorful Mountain Parkway back to Winchester, enjoying the already-changing Fall colors, and thankful to God for what I had been part of.

Back in Winchester, I put in another 2½ days assisting our daughter as needed and attending Gary Brown’s Installation Service with Bob Russell. I had met the retired preaching pastor from Louisville SE Christian Church earlier, in Anderson. I met him with my friend Sam Stone (former editor of Christian Standard).

Bob did a masterful job as the installation speaker, adding stature to Gary Brown and 1st church. Sam Stone’s son Dave now fills the pulpit Bob once occupied at SE Christian. One need not wonder at the phenomenal ministry Bob Russell had at that church and I, for one, am happy that more of our people are coming out of our institutional shell and doing more to complement the larger church family, than compete with it.

Before leaving Winchester, I made sure I thanked Rufus Cravens for the Pink Ponderosa low acid tomato plants he gave me in May. They produced all summer and my acid-intolerant wife especially appreciated them (My biggest prize was 27½ ounces and we love blt’s!). I staked them, nurtured them, and when I returned to KY they stood over my head having produced well. (Rufus attends Winchester 1st and is a brother to Arley Cravens, retired State Administrator in WVA; Arley remains a longtime friend from bygone days further south).

I’m home now. Battle Creek is 20 degrees cooler than SE KY and I am busy winterizing. Hassling storm windows, painting, mowing, doing catch-up, and all that good stuff makes me feel my years. I used to knock it out in hours and days; now it seems perpetual, taking far too long--if at all …

That brings me to this … like the day Bobby called Steve warning us to go gas our cars; gas would top $5 a gallon before the end of that day. It didn’t quite happen, but turbulence fills the air as I turn to Thomas Chisholm in the hymnal. One day, he read that great passage from Lamentations 3:22-23. It filled him with rejoicing in the assurance of his faith - even as I rejoice today:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not:
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided--
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

I may not be all I once was; I may be overwhelmed with uncertainty and clouds of wonder. Nonetheless, God is faithful today, as He was the day Daniel Webster encountered John Quincy Adams on the street. “Good morning, Mr. Adams, how are you feeling today?” Webster inquired.
“Why, I’ve never felt better in my life, Mr. Webster, than now. It’s true, the house in which I live is getting shaky. The roof is leaking, the walls are caving in, and soon I’ll be moving out. But” he concluded, “Mr. Adams is quite well, thank you.”

With that, the old gentleman tottered off down the street, and with that I leave you - thankful for “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. . .Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside (Chisholm). It was true when Jeremiah first wrote it and it is true today as America faces its (moral and spiritual) economic and political crisis . . .

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