Friday, May 30, 2008

What If

What if it's wrong (translation: against God's law) to clap hands, raise arms, sing with instruments, have a kitchen in the church building or let a woman teach classes or lead a prayer? What if it's wrong to support orphan's homes or the Herald of Truth? What if it's wrong to use more than one cup for the communion, or to sing during communion, or to practice open communion, or to use wine at the communion table, or to let women serve communion....?

I have heard all of these "what ifs" in my lifetime, and frankly, I am tired of what ifs. As you can see, many of them deal with worship which is probably the least detailed command in the Bible. As folks in my fellowship have tried to fill in the blanks so that our worship is perfect according to God's will, we have trumped common sense with all our "what ifs" and have almost succeeded in sucking worship dry of its heart and joy.

I can't see those early Christians in Acts saying "What if... Instead they "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people." Acts 2:42-47.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

If Only

If only I had more money, I would give more to "Made in the Streets", the Wayne Reed Center or the Jellico Mission or the water well project....

During the summer (which seemed to stretch endlessly at first) a friend and I would sit on the front porch and draw elaborate houses for which we yearned. At that time, my house did not have indoor plumbing--it was wreck of a house my folk had moved in from the country. My dad was a carpenter and had the skills to remake it. We dreamed "if only"....

At other times when I have seen beautiful old plantation homes full of antiques, I have wished to have been born into a family with such an inheritance and have enjoyed the "what ifs" of such a circumstance.

But the truth is, we were an ordinary family of the '50's struggling to get by in an old house with cheap furnishings and home-made clothes. However, we always had a bed, clothes and food to eat, and the opportunity for an education--unlike the street children of Kenya.

As I see the photos of the homeless Kenyan kids, I wish I could do more--If only I had been born to wealth...However, as I read the story of the widow's mite in Luke 21:1-4, I give with joy what I can give and dispense with the "if onlys".

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"If only...."

"If only" and its companion in crime "what if" are the two most useless phrases in the English language. They are surrounded by and imprisoned by fear and inaction.

They suck the life out of history-making decisions. They delay lives and founder in depression. These cowardly phrases bring the demise of dreams and churches, of theories and ideas, of marriages and economics.

Jesus and Paul , as far as we know, were never men to say "If only I had...." Yes, Paul regretted his early life of perscuting Christ and His followers, but he did not use these regrets as a basis for folding up his tent and sitting out the rest of his life. Jesus strode into risky situations with authority and fervor. True, unpopularity with the religious leaders brought about his death. But none of the gospels record his saying, "What if I apologize...." In the garden he did ask for the removal of "the cup" that faced him, but he gave his heart to God's will even there.

Often as I have gathered with Christians and church leaders, I hear, "what ifs" and "if onlys": "If only the economy were better.... " "What if (a wealthy donor) leaves when we do this?" By the way, I have never heard this at Otter Creek! I have heard some Christians say, "If only I were wealthy, I would be able to give more." "What if I do this or that.... I may lose my salvation."

More later....from a person who does not believe in what ifs and if onlys.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This and That

It has been a busy weekend--here are some of the things I want to remember:

Maddie graduated from kindergarten on Friday--how did those five years pass so fast? Now instead of being our baby, she is almost seven years old and her legs are growing long, her mind is expanding, her beauty is growing. I love watching Maddie think--one can almost see the wheels turning in her head as she analyzes and begins to pose a question. Maddie is our thinker and organizer...she likes to have everything laid out and secure. Talented in music, art and mature in her childish judgements, I look forward to seeing her develop and grow even more.

On Saturday, I went with the Later Day Saints to Smyrna and Murfreesboro to tour the Sam Davis house and to see the Stones River Battlefield. Davis was quite a hero and his home has been restored in Smyrna very nicely. Our guide was intelligent and fun (there have been times on a tour when I knew more than the guide). The battlefield was very well-done as well. Instead of a boat-load of information from one guide, actors performed small vignettes of what occured the day before and the day of the battle. The book store there is one of the best Civil War bookstores I have seen so far. Unlike others, they stock children's books about the Civil War as well as adult histories. Books like April Morning....

I also managed to work in a viewing of the new Indiana Jones movie--loved it!!! Harrison Ford ages well. Of course the special effects are spectular and that iconic John Williams melody !!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

This is a classic question which might have been asked about Job or the Christian martyrs. Today I am asking that about the terrible accident with Stephen Curtis Chapman's children. One of his teen-age children ran over his youngest (age 5) and killed her last night. She was one of the three children he and his wife had adopted in China. So sad... I have not gotten a satisfactory answer to the question--guess that will just have to wait.

My favorite story about just such a happening: A famous minister stood grieving over the casket of his only son and child. He wife asks, "Where is God now?" He answers, "He is standing here crying with us." I am sure that is so true considering all the promises of God's faithfulness.

Strong believers are not immune to grieving: Joseph wept at least seven times, David, 7 times, Paul 4 times. Jeremish compared his weeping to a fountain and a river of tears--Jer. 9:1; Lam. 3:48. The Psalmist wept until he drenched his couch and made his "bed swim." Psalm 6:6 Even Jesus wept over a doomed city, a friend's death and his painful sacrifice. Luke 19:41, John 11:33-35, Hebrews 5:7. However, the last mention of tears in the Bible is the promise that God shall wipe all of them away from the eyes of his redeemed. Rev. 21:4.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I am not sure what the derivation of "landmark" is, but I am taking it to mean important happenings in life. We have two for Maddie this week.

Yesterday, we attended Maddie's first piano recital. I say "first" because I hope there will be many more. She was very poised and played well. She seemed so Big!
It was good to hear her teacher say that Maddie has a musical gift, because I have long thought that. (I hope her teacher doesn't say that to everyone). I have a wonderful picture of Maddie enjoying the piano when she was only two years old. She has had the ability to pick out tunes by ear for a long time(which I think is a gift too). It was a shock when her parents heard the piano one morning and Maddie was playing a hymn they had sung the day before. At this point, Maddie doesn't complain about practice and seems to enjoy learning theory--it's a lot like math. Theory is something I never learned, and math is not one of my best subjects. It is a thrill to see your children or grandchildren excell in things that either you did not, or that you never had the opportunity to do.

On Friday we go to Kindergarten graduation for Maddie. Wow! Time passes too fast.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Otter Ladies' Fellowship Brunch

We were treated today to a lovely, well-planned brunch featuring tables decorated by some of the more creative women in our midst:

There were two tables devoted to a day at the beach; a patriotic red, white and blue table; one set with grandmother's china and looking very tea-partyish. Two of the more creative ones were these: one devoted to Paris (beautifully done by Amy Westerman--is there anything that woman cannot do?). It had a beautiful model of the Eiffel Tower in the center--Ruby red plates and glasses, and other momentoes about Paris. (Amy is from Paris, TN!). The other table done by Melissa Portell and her sister Melani was modeled after our Ms. Cheap column in the Tennessean. Left-over paper plates were used (You know--those special occasions when you buy paper plates and there are always two left over) , left-over holiday and birthday napkins sat by the plates; clipped coupons were all over the table, place mats were the colored grocery store ads from the newspaper. So imaginative.

The elders dressed in white shirts and black pants with towels over their arms served as waiters and part of the entertainment. Wonderful chicken salad, fruit salad and tea breads were eaten--and we all enjoyed ourselves so much! Thanks to all who planned, served and shared their gifts!

Friday, May 16, 2008


Fortunate is the child who has parents who care enough about literacy to provide him/her with books, a book shelf, and a good reading lamp. We all know, however, that not all parents do that. Many can't afford it; many don't care.

Just heard that the federal government is cutting the funding for the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) program--we can afford weapons to kill people, but we cannot afford books to educate children. RIF gives 4.5 million children 16 million books a year to take home and keep. The federal govt. pays 75% of the cost, and the program depends on local entities like PTO's, Lions' Clubs, etc. to pick up the rest of the tab.

It is a joy to stand in a room and watch children pick out a book to take home and to tell them that they can keep the book forever. For some, it will be the only book they own. Although the books are paperback and won't last very long with use, they are nevertheless treasured.

Write your congressman, senator and ask that funding for RIF be continued .

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Pain of the World

For the past few days, we have been watching the pain of the world again because of natural disasters. Tears, faces contorted in pain, mothers crying for their children, children searching for their mothers, classmates pulling other classmates from under debris, the ruthless military junta refusing their own people food and help--and the world, including the U. S.. rushes to help--Thank God.

Perhaps if the television cameras showed the faces of the Afghan and Iraqui children more often in those scenes of bombings, or the faces of mothers crying and fathers weeping, this terrible war we have would be over sooner--O, God
hear our cries, see our tears, give us hope and your peace.


Monday, May 12, 2008

From Generation to Generation

In writing about the legacy I have from mothers and grandmothers yesterday, I failed to give God the credit for what He did down through the years in my family. Nor did I intend to intimate that my faith is exactly like theirs. The fellowship I am a part of has changed in many ways since Lucy Lantrip took that step into the Stone-Campbell movement. I realize that my roots have carried me far beyond themselves and have grown me into a tree my ancestors would not recognize: a spiritual tree anchored with my ancestors' protective, nourishing roots, but a tree supported by longer roots in new ground.

This passing the knowledge of God and the love of Christ from generation to generation was dictated by God over and over in the Bible. As I teach my seminar on Spiritual Autobiography, I hand out a three-page rendering of eighteen scriptures (and I am sure there are more) on the topic. The theme of the scriptures is REMEMBER and TELL. For example: Joel l:3 "Tell it to y our children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation." Simply taking them to Sunday School will not do it--we must talk to them as Deut. 6: 6-9 says: "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

I cannot guarantee that their beliefs will always duplicate yours--change and growth happen. However, if the process does not begin with you, where will it begin? And there is certainly truth to the adage that children can teach us more than we teach them sometimes. I was talking with my grandchildren last week about the role of cheerleaders for a team, and said that they help us to have spirit for our team. Ella, who is our resident theologian, said, "But Nonnie, the spirit comes from God." I was thirty years old before I even heard a statement or a sermon like that.

Resolve to "...perpetuate (God's) memory through all generations...." Psalm 45:17.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Legacy

In the mid-1800's, Lucy Lantrip left her Baptist roots and became a member of the new emerging church--The Church of Christ formed by a declaration that unity of all Christians is possible and the source of unity is to follow the Bible and only the Bible in life and religion.

Lucy later converted her daughter Mary and son-in-law Will Herndon and thus began a movement in my family which still continues in my life in 2008. Although the church is no longer "emerging" and has along the way kind of lost its emphasis on unity, it is still the basis for my religious upbringing through my grandmother Lizzie Belle Herndon Tucker and my mother Hazel Pauline Tucker Brandon.

As I sat in church this morning, I was thanking Lucy and others like her to whom following God was more important than family, traditions, and roots. I was thankful that my grandmother never forsook her membership during the long days after her father disinherited her for marrying "a neer-do-well." And that my mother continued to follow God even though her husband did not share her enthusiasm for the church (because he considered himself a once-saved-always-saved Primitive Baptist). And I am thankful that my husband Sam did the same thing Lucy did--forsook the Baptist church in his senior year in high school to become a member of the church and never looked back.

Mothers have a way of influencing future generations, and I am so thankful. I only pray that I have done the same thing for my son and his children. That will be my most important legacy.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Ministry in the Church

After a conversation with a new acquaintance at Pepperdine, I have been thinking about our view of ministry. In many churches, we are still looking at ministry with the eyes of the 50's:
Missions, Outreach, Education, and maybe, just maybe Social Services like serving the homeless, the poor, etc.

The woman I mentioned and I had a conversation about more focused ministries at home: how about a ministry to widows and single mothers--women who need help coping with cars, small repairs at home, snatching a little time away from the children for themselves, etc. I think James had something say about ministry to widows, but I have seldom seen one--especially when I needed some advice about my car, or my lawn, or someone to climb a tall ladder to put a battery in the fire alarm. I know single mothers would benefit from helping hands as they try to be both father and mother, breadwinner, and handy man.

How about a ministry of encouragement?--This has been one of my soapboxes for a long time--we just do not encourage each other enough. What does a pat on the back, an encouraging card, a phone call cost? The card may cost 43 cents, but the others nothing. Why, why do we not
take time out of our IMPORTANT lives to do these small things? I don't know. Highland in Abilene has a ministry in which women come to the building every few days and spend a couple of hours calling the shut-ins and those who find themselves unable to participate in the community of the saints for one reason or another. I know that time has brightened many a face.
But I also know, I have not heard of a similar ministry anywhere. Back in the days of visitation, our small group at Minter Lane in Abilene would often take a Sunday night to write personal notes to visitors, enclosing our personal phone numbers for any needs. At Highland and at Otter, we do have encouragement cards in the pews, but I seldom if ever see any in the plate as it is passed. In my three years at Otter, I have been the grateful recipient of four cards. And we often just allow people to slip through the cracks, losing spirit and failing to attend services, without so much as a phone call or card. Shame on us! How often do you stop the teacher who just taught your Sunday or Wednesday class and tell them how much you got out of it and appreciate the 3-4 hours they spend in preparation? Or the teachers of your children---certainly unsung heroes! We know how to complain; but we need lessons in encouragement. Oh well, I could go on and on.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hello, California

I've been back for a few days from the Pepperdine Lectures and I've been mulling over the experiences there.

First off, God the Creator, let the cup run over when he created California--Malibu in particular. With the ocean, the overwhelming flowers, the clear blue sky and perfect spring days, I was awash in thankfulness for the beauty I was seeing. The bouganvillas--Wow! The rolling ocean--Wow! And the sparkling day to walk around in were so overtaking, I could hardly digest it all.

Pepperdine's beautiful campus was also breathtaking--My arthritic body could have done with less stairs, but because it is built on a rolling hill, they are necessary.
California is another state of mind--how do the students concentrate when the ocean beckons them to lie on the beach or surf? Lauren Gingles and I decided that when we win the lottery ( of course, we would have to play to win) we will buy a beach house in Malibu and share it with all our friends. The beach houses along the Pacific Coast Highway fascinated me in the way that all one sees while driving is their back doors--some are decorated; some are not. I know that all are very expensive--then there are those palatial mansions studding the hills around Malibu--no words to describe them and the view they must have out their living room windows.

I saw more people from Abilene there than I had seen in my last two visits to Abilene--It was good to see a lot of people from Highland: The Porches, Gina Lewis,Mike Cope and others. Some from ACU: Bill and Sherry Rankin, Randy Harris,
The Halsteads, etc. It was also fun to see Darryl Tippens--I had not seen him since I left ACU 8 years ago. He is grayer and excited about being the grandfather of a Chinese child his son and wife are getting soon. Jack and Jeanine Reese were followng their granddaughter around too. They were received a high honor there--well-deserved. It was also good to meet those who read this blog and to thank them for using their time in that way.

Zoe and Mike packed in the audience as they did their presentation--Good to get a dose of Brandon's worship leading and Sheryl's singing again (Still miss that terribly)and Jeff Walling did a bang-up job one evening at a late-night session. Wonder why late-night sessions at Pepperdine do not seem as late as they do at ACU?
We even went for pie after one session.

And through it all to get to spend lots of time with Brandon and Sheryl and the children was worth all the climbing I did. It was a good time, and I really did not want to come home.