The Pulpit

The pulpit I preach behind turns 35 this month. I had barely completed a year serving as the pastor of the Harmony Baptist Church in Atoka, Oklahoma, when I saw a small, black and white picture in the Baptist Messenger of a pastor standing behind a cross-shaped pulpit. I was immediately attracted to the sleek design. At the time, I was using one of those pulpits that looks more like a cockpit than a lectern. It had room to store lots of stuff but seemed like a barrier of sorts between me and the congregation. 

I clipped the picture out of the Baptist Messenger and took it with me when I travelled to Hobart to visit family.

“Do you think you could make a pulpit like this?”

I baited my dad with a challenge. I knew he could make anything he set his mind to make. I don’t remember any of us kids ever handing him a picture of anything he could not make. After we returned from visiting for the holidays, Daddy went to work. He called me a couple of times and checked dimensions on Bibles and Hymnals. By the middle of February, he came with Momma to visit their grandchildren and deliver the pulpit.

I have no idea how he built it to stand up straight and strong. I have just enjoyed using it over the decades. It is light enough to carry yet sturdy enough to lean on. It has room to attach a microphone yet no place to accumulate junk. The shape of the pulpit reminds me of my Savior. The materials in the pulpit remind me of my dad. He built everything with solid wood so it would last. 

The messages preached from that pulpit also last because the messages are taken from the Bible. Grass withers, flowers fade, and people die yet the Word of God endures forever.  Just like Jesus, the Word of God remains the same yesterday, today and forever. I have preached hundreds of funerals and thousands of sermons from that cross-shaped pulpit. Some day that pulpit will be replaced, as will the pastor preaching from behind it. However, the message being preached from it will continue until Jesus returns.

Isaiah 40:8, 

Earl


This Week at FBC

  • Dominican Republic Informational Meeting (All ages Invited) – This Sunday at 4:15 pm in the FLC Youth Room
  • Songs From the Loft – Sunday night at 6:00 pm in the Worship Center
  • Sunday Sermon – “Changing the Water into Wine” – John 2:1-11
  • LifeGroup Attendance – 732

Hidden Blessings

It was the worst hunt of the season. It was the best day of the year. Let me explain.

The quail population dropped this year. No one really knows why. For decades, people have studied and theorized about what causes the decrease in the number of quail inhabiting western Oklahoma. Eye worms, wild hogs, predators, changing habitat, fire ants, deer and turkey have all been accused of diminishing the quail population. No one really knows why the numbers fluctuate. A couple of years ago the birds were plentiful. 

That has not been the case this year. Nevertheless, Kendall Johnson and I have managed to have a few good hunts. We were dodging the proverbial bullet of the terrible bird season. Our dodging ended on January 23.

The sun was shining, and the wind was light. We actually found a few coveys. However, we were unable to do much with them. They travelled across the creek and scattered before flushing, and flew across the road in front of a vehicle. I tend to judge the success of a hunt like my daddy did. The total number of birds cleaned and put in the freezer was significant to him. Our number was the smallest of the season.

However, it was the best day of the year. The weather was wonderful. My legs functioned without pain on our ten-mile hunt. I was able to spend time with my friend and enjoyed a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I walked where I had walked in years gone by. I smiled as I remembered when Scout had cannonballed down a tall bank into standing water. I thought about covey flushes from days gone by. However, those memories did not make it the best day of the year. I reminisce every time I hunt.

What made January 23rd the best day of the year was the fact that I did not shoot my dog. Mid-morning, while hunting near a creek, a bird flushed and flew to my left. As I pointed my gun, the bird dipped and turned hard to the right. Before I squeezed the trigger, I noticed Duke standing just behind the bird. I did not shoot. 

Some of the greatest blessings in life are bad things that could have happened but did not. We didn’t have many quail when we ended the day, but I still had two dogs.

Grateful, 

Earl


This Week at FBC

  • Pray for our student involved in RE Weekend this Friday – Sunday
  • LifeGroup Fellowship Night – This Sunday, February 3.
  • Sunday Sermon – Tools In the Box – “How to Serve” John 13: 1 – 17
  • Songs From the Loft – Sunday, February 10 at 6 pm
  • LifeGroup Attendance – 698

Remaining Faithful

Many years ago, shortly after Jason set me up with a Facebook account, I posted some pictures of pheasants we had successfully harvested on a hunt in Kansas. The comments that followed were brutal.

“What did those poor birds ever do to you?”

On and on people went, expressing their disgust with what I had done. I quit posting pictures of anything on Facebook for many years. A couple of years ago I posted a few pictures of some successful quail hunts. Those who commented were more kind than others had been in years gone by. Still, for the most part, I only look at Facebook. I do so rarely. If you want to contact me, you better give me a call. 

At times, Facebook almost depresses me. Countless people post pictures and statements about how wonderful they and their families are. They have the pictures of where they are travelling or what they have won, to emphasize the success they are enjoying in life. Don’t get me wrong – I also have a wonderful life. I rejoice in the miracle of each new day every time I get out of bed. 

Over the years, however, I have accumulated some pains and regrets that are now part of who I am. God forgives and forgets, yet scars remain. Those negatives color my life in a manner that no one ever posts on Facebook. When I check out the celebrations others are having, I am reminded that I tend to fall short of success in so many ways. 

God understands, and He smiles on me. That is really all that matters. We are servants of the Lord with assigned tasks to perform. One day we will be rewarded, not according to our posts or our successes, but according to our labor. I can live with that. As I remain a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus, His approval will be mine, whether I post anything about it or not.

“He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.”

I Corinthians 3:8, 

Earl



This Week at FBC

  • RE Weekend Registration Deadline is January 27th
  • Sunday Sermon – “Tools In the Box – How to Pray” Matthew 15:21 – 28
  • LifeGroup Attendance – 655

The Fence Worked Like A Charm

Our back yard has always served as the home for our dogs. We don’t let them inside the house, but we don’t confine them to a small area. They have freedom to roam, and they enjoy doing so. There were times when we wished we could keep them on one side of the yard while we enjoyed the other. I came up with the plan. Nancy selected the location. A welder executed the plan, and a crew installed it in its location. A fence made of square steel tubing now divides our yard. Sometimes it is nice to sit by the outdoor fireplace, unbothered by Brittany Spaniels. 

When we hosted Christmas for Nancy’s side of the family, we shut the dogs on the South side of the yard so the boys could play in the north side of the yard without being bothered. After I shut the gate, Freckles and Duke sat beside the fence, and tried to look as mistreated as possible. It did not work. The boys ran and played and laughed in the warm sunshine after we finished our lunch. We adults stayed inside and visited until the time came for everyone to head home. One of the first things I did after saying goodbye to our guests was open the gate in the fence that separates our yard. I wanted the dogs to be free to roam. 

Roam, they did! Unbeknownst to me, the boys had left the gate in the north yard, facing the street, open. Apparently, they had retrieved an errant pass and forgot to shut the gate. By the time I spotted the opened gate, my dogs were out of sight. I ran to the street and yelled their names. I detected no sign of them. All I needed at the beginning of quail season was for my dogs to go AWOL. 

When I walked into the north yard to figure out what to do, I was met by Freckles and Duke. Nancy was close behind. She explained: 

“They showed up at the front door and I led them through the house into the back yard.”

She continued:

“How did they get out?”

I blamed her nephews before commenting on how the dogs sure weren’t interested in wandering far from home. Why leave when their master and mistress are so good to them?

I feel the same way about God. I stay near Him because I want to. I never want to walk away from His care. Why roam when it is so good to be home?

We have a good, good Father!

Earl


This Week at FBC

  • Re: Weekend Registration continues for youth
  • This Sunday Sermon – Tools In the Box – “How to Witness” – Acts 8:26 – 40
  • Don’t Forget to download the Church App on your phone. Simply go to the app store on your phone and search “FBC Weatherford”
  • LifeGroup Attendance – 708

Keep Your Promises

We travelled to Hobart on Christmas day to eat lunch with my mother. Jason had spent the night, and made the trip with Nancy and me. We had celebrated with our nuclear family on Christmas Eve, and took our time getting around before heading for Kiowa County. The weather was nice and the trip went well. Actually, there was a near disaster about the time we passed by Bessie. 

It was then that Nancy remembered our assignment to bring four pieces of dessert for the Christmas dinner. Momma had made the request of me after I had insisted on being able to bring something in order to help out with the meal. We had a few choices available on the kitchen counter. However, I forgot to pick anything up. So did Nancy. We were too far down the road to turn back. I told Nancy it was no big deal. 

Nancy would not hear it. She had made a commitment to bring dessert and she was intent on doing so. She called her sister, who lives in Hobart, and asked if she might have something left over that could be shared. She was out of town, and had taken her desserts with her. I again mentioned that Momma would probably have some cookies or ice cream in the freezer. 

“Maybe there is a place in Cordell.”

Nancy was planning to show up with four servings of dessert or not show up at all. Options are limited on Christmas morning. However, we did find one place open for business. We didn’t need gas, but we did need dessert. I couldn’t help but smile as Nancy made her selections from the options available on the snack cake display. She never even gets close to those calorie-filled concoctions. However, this was different. She was keeping her word.

We had the best meal of the Christmas weekend. Momma pulled out all the stops when she prepared for our time together. The snack cakes remained near the kitchen entrance as we shared chocolate chip cookies and peppermint ice cream for dessert. When we left, we took the snack cakes with us. Kendall and I consumed a couple of them at lunch during the next quail hunt. We couldn’t believe our good fortune.

Is it important to keep your word? More important than counting your calories or saving your money. Our word should be our bond. 

Keep your promises!

Earl


This Week at FBC

  • RE: Weekend Registration is open for Youth. Contact James for more details
  • “Tools In The Box” sermon series continues this Sunday
  • Don’t forget to download the FBC Weatherford app onto your phone!
  • LifeGroup Attendance Jan. 6th – 673

The End of an Era

Early New Year’s Eve I retrieved from our front porch the final paper copy of the Daily Oklahoman that I may ever receive. The last few years have been so nice. The man who delivered our paper was as faithful as crabgrass and usually had the paper on our porch before 5:00 a.m. Usually it was later in the morning before we actually read the paper. Nancy and I usually divided and conquered. I took the sports and business sections to start while she opted for the front page and comics. Eventually we traded. We have been doing so for thirty-six years. We moved a couple of times during those years, but our subscription moved with us.

Now, our only option in Weatherford for receiving the Daily Oklahoman is online. In order to prepare for this transition, our children gave us an I-pad for Christmas. I have to admit that change is not coming easy for either Nancy or me. We have stumbled through the tabs and ended up with maximum frustration and minimal news. I may join those who only read the headlines. Or I may be able to retrain myself and adapt to the changing world in which I live.

I remember decades ago when us country folk had to buy the Sunday paper at a convenience store in town after church. The price had gone up and Daddy was complaining out loud. A younger man with a positive attitude said, “I hope I get to live long enough to pay five dollars for a copy.” I have never forgotten that incident. The lesson I learned was that staying alive requires making adjustments. I can gripe about change or I can embrace change.

The jury is still out on whether Nancy and I will continue to receive our news online. The jury is not still out on how you will receive the article I write each week and some weekly reminders from the church. You can receive them by e-mail, or you can access them on our web site or on the church app. My article and the reminders will be called FBC weekly. E-mails will be sent only to those who request it and furnish their e-mail address. 

I have been writing a weekly article for as long as we have been receiving a paper copy of the Daily Oklahoman. I did not want to quit writing, so we have chosen this format. Actually, this format chose us. Life keeps changing, yet God remains faithful and wonderful.

I love you,

Earl 


This Week at FBC

  • This Sunday is back to Regular Schedule for Worship and LifeGroups – 9:00am & 10:30am
  • The Gathering starts back up on January 9 at 6:30pm
  • Sunday, January 6 – Night of Prayer and Praise @ FBC Clinton – 5pm