Disciple All Nations

Enhancing On-going Ministry Through Equipping, Encouraging, and Interceding

Another Surgery

Most of my “Monday Morning Manna” columns are written on the weekend or week preceding their posting. Such is this one. If you read this on Monday, you will be reading it on the day of my ninth MOHS surgery for skin cancer. I once asked my surgeon why I had so many skin cancers. His reply was twofold: “You are fair-skinned and live in Texas.” I tried to blame my mother by asking the same Surgeon, “Is it because my mother kept sending me outside to play in the summer heat?” His reply got my mother off the hook: “If you drive to the mall, park, and go inside, between the time you get out of your car and get into the mall, you could develop another skin cancer.” Well, I’ve tried to avoid it. I gave up golf, stopped going to afternoon ballgames, stayed away from the beach, etc. I even stopped going to the mall. Still, I got another spot, this one on my forehead. So, I will undergo yet another surgery. If you read this in time you could pray for my surgeon and his assistant. Or you could just pray for my rapid and complete recovery. Then again, you could pray for my wife. Today is her birthday. I Know! But I didn’t have a choice of surgery dates. The Surgeon’s Receptionist makes that choice. If my bandage is not too ugly, I will take her to dinner tonight. Meanwhile, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed” (Jeremiah 17:14).

When Grown People Disagree

The first two grown adults who disagreed were named Cain and Able (Genesis 4:1-8). The most recent disagreement that you observed (or in which you participated) may have been at your workplace, an athletic event, your church, or your home, and it may have been last week, or today. These disagreements are normal. Afterall, God created us with minds of our own – no two alike. We see things through different lens, and we process things through different filters. So, we disagree. The Southern Baptist Convention has a big disagreement going on and it will be on display for the world to see in a week at the annual meeting in Nashville. This is not new. I’ve been going to such conventions since I was eight years old (no, I wasn’t an elected messenger. I went with my parents), so I have seen multiple denominational disagreements. I won’t be in attendance this year since I’m scheduled for surgery that week. My prayer this year is that we can show the world how to disagree without being disagreeable. My fear is that we will not, but rather that we will use our individual, unique minds to display the worst. When I was young, we had a little chorus for times like these. If you remember it, you can sing along – “Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you, Party pooper. Party pooper.” I do not mean to make light of theological disagreements. God knows, I have endured enough of those. I believe in the Truth and my favorite version of the Bible is the Large Print Edition. Seriously, I prefer singing, “We are one in the Spirit,” but we shall see. We. Shall. See.

Reflections on Impression Making

My little girl had a birthday last week. Birthdays are good for reflections, and I did a few. Not fully understanding the blessings and challenges of raising a daughter, I had asked God for one, and God agreed. One of my favorite memories was when she was four years old. The back story is that her Daddy was a huge Willie Nelson fan, being the only Seminary professor with a personalized, autographed picture of Willie in his office. So, Willie was frequently heard around our house and in our car. On a Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from a rather irate woman who asked, “What are you teaching your daughter at home?” Before I could answer, I heard the rest of the story. Seems at Sunday School that morning, this teacher had asked the children for their favorite song to sing, whereupon, my daughter replied, “Whiskey River, Take My Mind” – not exactly a Sunday School song! The point of my remembrance, and today’s Manna warning, is that you never know what impressions you are making on your children. The real “rest of the story” is that we survived. She is still a Willie Nelson fan, as well as a wonderful mother to my grandchildren and grandmother to my great-grandson, and I am as proud of her today as I was when she was four. “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all” (Proverbs 31:29).

A Prayer that Hasn’t Changed

I have been compiling a collection of prayer quotes from lesser-known authors. As I was preparing to donate my collection of five hundred books on prayer to the Southwestern Baptist Seminary Library, I got to wondering who all these authors were. A few were recognizable, but most were unknown, at least to me. I decided to scan all the books before releasing them, to see what I, or some previous owner, had underlined or highlighted, thus my collection of quotes. One of my favorite quotes is from a book published in 1954 entitled, “The Practice and Power of Prayer” by John Sutherland Bonnell, whose name I did not immediately recognize. A bit of Google research reminded me that he was the twenty-six-year pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, whose Sunday sermons were regularly reported in the New York newspapers. The quote: “The secret of the victorious march of the Early Church across the Roman world is found in its belief in and practice of prayer . . . These early Christians were spiritual conductors, and God manifested himself mightily in their lives . . . The need of the hour in our churches is more prayer . . . that they may become a pulsating, dynamic, spiritual power.” The quote could have come from any pastor, of any church, in any denomination, in any location, in any day. The need of the hour in today’s churches is still “prayer, that produces a pulsating, dynamic spiritual power.” The need of the hour in our churches is still “more prayer . . . that they may become a pulsating, dynamic, spiritual power.” After all, “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16, HCSB).

Confront or Carefront?

Recently I was honored to share memories at the establishment of the Dr. A.J. and Bertha Quinn Scholarship at Howard Payne University. Dr. Quinn was my favorite HPU Professor. By my Junior year, I had already had a couple of classes with him and was taking another class. I was having a great time in college, not letting the academic part interfere with the social part, when Dr. Quinn called me to his office and asked me a direction-changing question: “I was wondering when you were going to get serious about the preparation for God’s call on your life?” I don’t remember how I responded to this, but I do remember that I went back to my dorm room and stared at the wall for a long time. I felt that I had been confronted. I was both angry and thankful, but the verse that came to my mind was when Peter described God by saying, “He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7), and I kept thinking that the reason I was confronted was that my Professor cared for me. A few years later I came across a book entitled, “Caring Enough to Confront,” in which the author coined the term “carefronting.” It was then that I realized what Dr. Quinn was doing. First, by caring for me, he had earned the right to confront me, then he confronted me with great care. It was a pivotal experience in my ministerial preparation. I shall forever be thankful for a professor who cared enough to confront, and I continue to spend an amazing amount of time trying to earn the right to “carefront” others when the need is present.

Confront or Carefront?

Recently I was honored to share memories at the establishment of the Dr. A.J. and Bertha Quinn Scholarship at Howard Payne University. Dr. Quinn was my favorite HPU Professor. By my Junior year, I had already had a couple of classes with him and was taking another class. I was having a great time in college, not letting the academic part interfere with the social part, when Dr. Quinn called me to his office and asked me a direction-changing question: “I was wondering when you were going to get serious about the preparation for God’s call on your life?” I don’t remember how I responded to this, but I do remember that I went back to my dorm room and stared at the wall for a long time. I felt that I had been confronted. I was both angry and thankful, but the verse that came to my mind was when Peter described God by saying, “He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7), and I kept thinking that the reason I was confronted was that my Professor cared for me. A few years later I came across a book entitled, “Caring Enough to Confront,” in which the author coined the term “carefronting.” It was then that I realized what Dr. Quinn was doing. First, by caring for me, he had earned the right to confront me, then he confronted me with great care. It was a pivotal experience in my ministerial preparation. I shall forever be thankful for a professor who cared enough to confront, and I continue to spend an amazing amount of time trying to earn the right to “carefront” others when the need is present.

Intellectual Common Sense

It might be a bit idealistic to think that an individual or group could approach an issue with a good blend of intellectual skills and common sense. An argument broke out in a faculty meeting one day over the possible inclusion of a new course in the curriculum. After some time, one of my favorite professors, made the following observation that ended the discussion, “What we really need is a course in common sense. Unfortunately, we have no one on this faculty qualified to teach it.” While it was a humorous way of summarizing an academic discussion, it was also a serious statement of truth. Sometimes we get so caught up in intellectual pursuits, that we forget common things; as well, we sometimes get so involved in common sense expertise, that we forget the intellect. Again, a blend of both would be nice. American philosopher, historian, and psychologist, William James, once said, “A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.” Ideal would have intellect and common sense as dance partners, but that would be a humorous scene. We might have to coin a phrase – intellectual common sense. Perhaps that is why Jesus added “mind” to the Old Testament verse, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)

His Name Could Have Been Legion

Every time I passed by, he was there – in the cul-de-sac, near his house, seated in his walker/chair, across from the school, with his American flag flying, a smaller flag in his hand, waving. I often thought of stopping to visit with him, but it was COVID season and social distancing was being advised. So, I slowed down, lowed my window and saluted him and his flags. He always responded with a wave. One day, as I passed by, there was a fire truck and an ambulance in the cul-de-sac. I worried that it was for him. After that day, I never saw him again. Perhaps he died, or maybe he is in a hospital or a senior care center. I wish I had stopped to visit with him. I never even stopped my car for a brief visit, never saw anyone with him, but I appreciated his patriotism, and his friendly wave. I only hope my salute made his day a little better. How many others are there like him – living out their lives, loving their country, waving their flags, alone, and lonely. Had I ever stopped to ask his name, he might have answered as a man once answered Jesus, “My name is Legion; for we are many” (Mark 5:9).

Envision and Vision

The difference between envision and vision is that envision sees or imagines something within the mind, and vision sees something as if it was true. When I was young we had no TV, so I listened to The Lone Ranger and baseball’s Game of the Day on the radio. While I could not see the action, I could envision the scenes and events in my mind. In the long run, I think it helped me be a person of vision. Once you start seeing something in your mind, you start seeing how it can happen, then you take steps to make it happen, and the real value of vision is to make things happen. Futurist Joel Barker said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Vance Havner said, “The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” I’ve always tried to envision things in my mind, then share my vision with others, so together we can get things done. My long-time boss, W. F. Howard once said, “If you hang around people of vision, some of it will rub off on you.” If what I envision can “rub off” on others, then I feel satisfied and successful. The writer of Proverbs wrote, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained (Proverbs 29:18, NASB). I like “The Message” paraphrase, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves.” So, happy envisioning today, and if you can’t envision, “hang around” some folks who can.

Friends New and Old

Beyond providing a ministry to churches in an interim time as they search for a new pastor, I enjoy serving as an interim pastor because of the new friends I make at each stop along the way. In fact, as I think back through recent interims, I can name friends in each with whom I still communicate. New friends are great friends. However, this past weekend, I spoke at the dedication of the new Baptist Student Center at the University of Texas. Following the dedication ceremony, I had lunch with twenty old friends – former students who were active in the Baptist Student ministry when they were UT students, four decades ago. I was their Baptist Student Minister. Old friends are great friends. Poet Joseph Parry wrote, “Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold.” My old friends help me grow old, while my new friends help me stay young. The writer of Proverbs said, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). I am sharper because of my friends – new and old. Give thanks for friendships today.

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