MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN . . .

Bull riding

CLOWNS!

Well, that’s what they used to call those fearless fighting men of the Rodeo arena. Lately they have been more accurately identified with a title befitting their guts and grit.  We call them Bull Fighters!

Though they dress in a gaudy get-up and paint their faces, they are anything but clowns. Those men are daring and audacious in their chosen profession. Most of them started out by climbing on the back of 2,000 pounds of bad attitude themselves. They straddle a leather rocket, strap themselves on and nod to the gatekeeper to set  the bull at liberty to attempt their assassination.  If they can survive 8 seconds of terror and torture, they just might get a paycheck.  But the winning ride is just the beginning.  Now they have to part company with that potential killer and live to collect their pay.

And all through those 8 seconds, it is the bull fighter who is dancing around the ferocious fight close enough to get himself killed yet laying his own life on the line to save the rider.  I’ve watched as a rider, tangled in his bull rope had to be cut loose from the bull.  How would you like to grab a bad, bouncing bucking bull with an open pocket knife in your hand?

Now that’s a MAN!  And he’s worthy to be called a hero in my book.  I hope you will watch the little video clip on my Facebook page and see Frank Newsome come between a cowboy and a bull named Comfortably Numb.  I don’t know what you see there but I couldn’t help but notice how Frank stayed with his job until the bull literally threw him out of the fight!

As soon as I saw that I thought of Bull Boss. . . you remember Paul’s Battle Buddy, Archippus, from my previous post?  “…Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.”  (Colossians 4:17)

We preachers and missionaries need to be encouraged and urged not only to do a good job – but to keep at it until we finish.

ANY PRAYER REQUESTS?

“Be sure and call my name while you are at that”. The young man was restocking the shelves with some kind of patent medicine at Wall-Mart.

His puzzled look told me he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. “Well, I just saw you down there on your knees praying so I thought I’d put in my request while you are at it”.

It was a good way for me to put in a good word for our Lord and to ask if this young fellow knew Him. And if he spent any time in conversation with the Savior. He sheepishly grinned and acknowledged that he does pray but that he should be doing it a lot more.

It also prompts me to ask if the matter of “UNSPOKEN” is a common response to the opening of prayer request time in your church. It is one of those things I’ve heard most of my life, growing up in church. But it is one of those things that I’ve never felt comfortable doing.   It seems to me that when you are among people you love and who love you, and if you are seriously in need of prayer, you can trust them enough to give them the information to pray intelligently. We certainly want to come to the Lord with specifics. None of this “and God bless the preacher” stuff, just tacked on our list. Have you ever wondered what you’d do if our Lord spoke back and said, “O K, I will. What does he need?”

When we pray for our pastor, let us call him by name. Let’s ask that He will give him wisdom and courage. And ask for strength and encouragement in his responsibilities as our leader.

When we pray for our church, let us pray that God will help us to be true to our calling; that we may effectively give our witness to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord;  that we would be steadfast and faithful in our devotion to Him; that we would be a blessing and a help to our fellow believers

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified. . . .” 2 Thessalonians 3:1

BATTLE BUDDY and HOSS BOSS

hosshat2

Having passed my “three score years and ten” that David talks about in Psalms 90:10, I’m wondering how much strength I have to make the half a decade more to fill my fourscore. This is the same Psalm that he declares a thousand years is as yesterday or even a portion of last night to our Lord. 

I’m quite often reminded of the little note to Archippus that Paul inserted in his letter to the Colossians: “…Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.”  (Colossians 4:17) There is not much said else about Archippus, in fact all that we know of him is found in two verses, here and in Philemon 1. We know he was a part of Philemon’s family or at least his local church. And we know that Paul called him his ‘fellow soldier’. My Army GRANDson would call him Paul’s “Battle Buddy”.

So I looked up the meaning of his name, Archippus. In the Bible dictionary I found that it comes from a couple of Greek words: arche that means ‘chief, leader or ruler’; and hippos, which is the word for ‘horse’. I suppose my own translation would be the ‘head wrangler’ or maybe the “HOSS BOSS”.

But look again at Paul’s personal note to his Battle Buddy: “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you fulfill it.”

Two things that us old preachers need to be told –repeatedly and often! Seems to me that the most common parting words between us is “take it easy”. And the most common from my wife is that which I always heard from my Mother: “Be Careful”. I stopped Mother one time and asked, “I am a grown man now, almost 70 years old, Mother. When are you going to quit telling me to ‘be careful’?”

Her quick response, with a twinkle in her eye was, “When I quit being your mother!”

My wife has taken up her habit and sends me out with the same instructions. I began to ask her “How do I be careful?”   After the first few times I challenged them, Mother said, “I don’t care how, but just do it.” But Eleanor has finally found an answer that seems to suit her: “Don’t text and drive!”

I don’t think Paul was warning Archippus about his chariot driving. But to what must we old preachers need to be reminded and pay especial attention? I do not want to give you a whole long list but I can tell you that what is first on my list: Do Not listen to the conventional wisdom and common parting shot. Do Not take it easy! A note I penned in the back of my Bible years ago says:“The need is great, the hour is late, for Jesus sake don’t hesitate.”

As the old man said to his wife when his clock struck 13 times in the middle of the night, “Ma, get up quick! It is later than it has ever been!”

There never has been a time when Christians, preachers and missionaries especially need to be instructed, encouraged and prodded to press on with renewed vigor and zeal. And especially those of us who are pushing the limit of man’s promised time, MUST be ever more diligent and determined to press on! If there were ever a time when “there are many adversaries”, as Paul found in Corinth, we are living in it. But bless God, HE still opens great doors to those who are prepared and pressing on!

INDIAN ROCK TRAIL

They had been climbing up the steep hill until they came to the trail they were obviously looking for, the trail I was walking. Well, not at the moment. I had exhausted myself trying to make it to the ridge and back before dark. I knew that it was two point four miles from where I had parked my pickup on the Forest Service road. I would have to push it in these last few hours of daylight. I was panting and puffing and leaning more heavily on my staff as I pushed myself. Reluctantly, I had to muzzle my pride and sit down on the stump to catch my breath.

And that’s when I first saw them. I’m sure that they had seen me long before I noticed the man and his wife. He carried the hindquarter of a nice elk and his wife was bending under a large pack of meat that still dripped blood. I suspect it was the meat from both front quarters. As I watched these two approach, a boy came out of the pines below, following their way. He was obviously laboring with the hindquarter that I suspected most white men would not have carried very easily. I didn’t need to understand her language to know that the younger girl following him was obviously teasing. It is the way of all sisters in every race and tribe. I know from both observation and experience.

He had a most nondescript face, like most Umatilla’s I had met before. But there was one feature that appeared to one who looked at him. At least those who looked into a man’s face with a sincere desire to see just what kind of man lived behind it. Not the casual glance that most men exchange when passing on a trail.

It was his smiling eyes. His face was totally devoid of any expression or communication of feeling or emotion. There was no sign of fear, anger, joy or sadness. Not even a hint of curiosity. But the eyes were smiling. I thought, they were actually laughing. And I liked them and him.

He stopped and looked at me for a brief moment and I was delighted when I detected the slightest lift of his chin. I knew it was more than just permission to follow. He was actually inviting me to come along.

I was well aware that if they had not all been so heavily burdened with their fresh supply of meat I would never have been able to keep up their pace. But now the side-hill trail had leveled out and made for easier walking. Then up a section that was so steep that a sharp switch-back to the left was the only relief in the climb.

Unable to communicate, I couldn’t ask the many questions that I wanted. Just where they were headed? How far had they come to find their meat? Were they headed for a village? Would they stop and spend the night over the ridge in a spot sheltered from the stiff breeze that was picking up?

As we slowly, steadily and silently climbed we came to the crest of the ridge. And there in the trail was a stack of stones. It must be why they called this Indian Rock trail. He stopped and carefully laid his burden on a boulder. Then selecting a rock about the size of your head, he placed it on the pile, laid one hand on the rock, and lifted the other to the dazzling sunset. Don’t ask me how I know that he offered a prayer of gratitude. Maybe it was for the elk he had killed or just an acknowledgement of the awesome beauty of these mountains and this sunset and this panorama from the hand of The Creator.

But that was what was in the heart of this old man.  Along with a big “Thank You, Lord” for leaving the imagination with the boy that is tucked away in the wrinkles and stooped shoulders of this old greybeard!

DUN STILL ROAMIN’

IMG_1093DUN still roamin’ but certainly not DONE roaming!

“Are you still in Oregon?” a friend emailed me.  I had not planned to stay here in the Northwest this long.  In fact, I didn’t bring any winter clothes and it has been 32 degrees here on the porch of the bunkhouse several mornings this week.  (Thank you, Lord, for the good Salvation Army thrift store).

In answer to many folks praying with me and for me, our Lord has continued to move His people to invite me to their church.  And my precious Eleanor, has encouraged me to “stay there as long as the Lord wants to use you there.”  And then she has added the encouragement “Don’t you leave there until you finish writing that book!”

Two books are finished.  By God’s grace I have been able to complete what I hope will be the final revision of two books of missionary messages.  Now I must get them to a publisher.  My goal is to do that before my last meeting here at the beginning of October.  I would appreciate your prayers for that project.  I have not finished the book on the life of Harriet but I have put that on hold for now.

I was able to sell the larger camper that I had labeled “Dun Roamin‘” and need to replace it with a smaller one.  I guess I’ll have to label “Dun Still Roamin‘”.  I am not DONE traveling in ministry.  So I am asking our Lord for an 18′ or 20′ camper that I can pull back to Georgia.  I have a vision of enlarging the itinerary ministry of the Circuit Ridin’ Preacher and believe that a small camper will be most useful in that endeavor.

Eleanor is faithfully filling her ministry of substitute teacher in her Sunday School class.  Her regular teacher is recovering from a stroke.  She would appreciate you praying for her.

BY HOOK or BY CROOK

fish hook   ShepherdStaff

Our Lord has declared in His Word that He will be our Shepherd. He also spent lots of time with fishermen around the Sea of Galilee during His earthly ministry. And in the Old Testament He uses instruments and implements used by both of these professions in teaching us about His method of getting us where He wants us and where we will be most useful and effective to His glory.

We all know and love the beautiful picture of our Lord as our loving and gracious shepherd Who leads us, guides us, feeds us and protects us. “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…” David declares. And how blessed and secure and fruitful we are when He leads us in plentiful green pastures and beside still waters.

BUT

Our Lord sometimes has to use hooks to get us where He wants us to be and/or to drag us away from what will harm us and dishonor Him. Isaiah declared to Sennacherib that He “…put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth,” when He dragged him away to protect His people.

I still find that our Lord still has and uses those same instruments to ‘lead’ His people – me.  And I have rejoiced when He gently shepherded me, when He led me with His CROOK, when He kept me back from deliberately leaving the fold or ignorantly wandered off from the flock. I look back and rejoice in the remembrance of those times. And I look forward to following this “Gentle Shepherd” as the old hymn reminded us.

But I painfully and shamefully remember those times when He had to put His hook in my jaw and in my nose to drag me out of a pit I had dug for myself. Or when He had to drag me out of my “comfort zone” to get me into the place that He could most effectively use me.

I bet you have had those times in your life as well. When it is pleasant and even when it is painful, I thank God for being that kind of Lord and Master!  Of course, I much prefer that He is able to lead me with his CROOK and not have to put His HOOK in my nose. I suppose it is up to me, which it will be. God help me to make the right choices and get CROOK the instead of the HOOK.

LEFTY’S LONELY GRAVE

IMG_3478 Here lies Lefty, as stiff as can be,
He’s deader’n these rocks all around, you see
He tried to rob our Sumpter train,
He didn’t get our gold and we didn’t get his name.
Since his left-handed gun was just too slow,
More about Lefty we’ll never know.
We hanged him high on that Cottonwood tree,
And buried him shallow so’s you’d plainly see:
Crime don’t pay, at least at least in these parts
It’ll be a noose for your neck or a slug in your heart.
So if it’s trouble you want, you better mosey on thru
Or we’ll have a necktie party just for you!
                                                            ©2014 Dun Gordy