So long Susie

March 24, 2015
B&R staff, from left, Lonnie Wilkey, Mary Nimmo, Susie Edwards, and Connie Bushey

B&R staff, from left, Lonnie Wilkey, Mary Nimmo, Susie Edwards, and Connie Bushey

Twenty-seven years ago I joined the Baptist and Reflector staff and met a part-time employee named Susie Edwards. Little did I know that on that day in May of 1988 I was also meeting a lifelong friend.

Susie spent nearly 30 years on the staff of the Baptist and Reflector, holding a variety of responsibilities over the years. Her favorite title and one that fit her best was “hall minister.” On Tuesdays after the paper was printed on Monday Susie would deliver the paper throughout the Tennessee Baptist Convention offices in Brentwood.

With Susie that 10-minute (at the most) task could turn into a hour. Her reasoning: She couldn’t just deliver the paper and not check on the people she encountered. Translated, she had to talk with everyone she saw and make sure they were doing well.

Susie loved people and people knew it. She could light up any room with her smile.

Susie was an ambassador for the Baptist and Reflector as well as the Tennessee Baptist Convention as a whole. She normally was the first voice people heard when they called the B&R office. I think people actually found a reason to call just so they could talk to Susie. She had the remarkable ability of making people feel good about themselves.

Two years ago I was in my office late on a Friday afternoon when I heard Susie and Mary Nimmo, another staff member, sobbing. I thought something had happened to one of their relatives. But I soon discovered Susie had just heard from her doctor that she had been diagnosed with cancer.

I kept my composure that day for their sake, but I am not ashamed to admit that tears have flowed for Susie in the months since and they continued today (March 24). We learned earlier this morning that Susie is no longer in pain. She is now in the presence of the Lord she loved and served so faithfully, not only as a denominational employee but also as a minister’s wife. Her husband, Mark, is a retired minister of music who served for many years at First Baptist Church, Nashville.

During Susie’s two-year bout with cancer, she handled it with dignity and grace. Susie was an amazing witness to numerous other cancer patients and hospital personnel. As was her “modis operandi,” Susie was more concerned about others than herself and this endeared her to countless people over the years.

Those who knew and loved Susie are grieving because we will miss her greatly. But we also are relieved that she is no longer in pain and that she is enjoying the fruits of her ministry now in heaven. Continue to pray for Mark and her children Nathan and Weslee, along with the five grandchildren who were the “apples of her eye.”

Susie was the chief proofer for the paper for most of her time on staff. We would give her “hard copy” of the stories she was proofing. We usually would type or write “30” at the bottom of the page so she would know that was the end of the story.

There is no “30” on Susie’s story. Those who knew her best will have precious memories of her and the times that were shared and one day we will see her again in heaven. That’s the hope and promise we find in Scripture.

Thank you Susie for your friendship and for the memories. So long, for now.

 

Genesis 12:1-3 still valid today

March 10, 2015

Unless you’ve been hiding under a table with ear muffs, everyone should be aware of President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran which would, in effect, potentially provide Iranians with nuclear weapons.

As one would expect, the nation of Israel (Iran’s neighbor and enemy) is opposed to the proposal.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, visited the United States last week and spoke to a joint meeting of Congress on March 3.

Netanyahu observed, “The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle but lose the war. We can’t let that happen.” See complete story as reported by Baptist Press. The following day Baptist Press ran an updated story comparing what is happening today with the Old Testament Esther story.

While I am no authority on world politics, my instincts tell me that it would be wise not to make a deal with Iran. Their trustworthiness has not been proven, at least not to me.

On the other hand, I think it would be a huge mistake to endorse anything that has the potential of harming the nation of Israel.

Genesis 12:1-3 (HCSB) reminds us: “The Lord said to Abram (Abraham): “Go out from your land your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who treat you with contempt and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

The nation referred to in those verses is Israel.

The United States has been a friend to Israel for decades. Any decision that could harm that relationship should be taken very seriously.

For those who scoff about the “curse” in Genesis 12:3, I would challenge anyone to show me where that curse (I actually prefer the word promise) was ever removed from Scripture.

God’s Word has no statute of limitations. Genesis 12:3 is as valid today as it was when it was written.

The United States would do well to heed those words.

 

 

 

Traditional marriage still popular

February 26, 2015

Just listening/reading to the secular media, you can easily get the impression that everyone is now supportive of same-sex marriage.

The gist of those secular messages are: Accept the fact that same-sex marriage is not going away. Christians better get on board.

And, that is true. It won’t. Same sex-marriage is here to stay, but those of us who  believe in the biblical definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman don’t have to “get on board.”

Baptist Press reported Feb. 25 that a recent survey commissioned by the Family Research Council, in partnership with National Religious Broadcasters, found that 81 percent of Americans agree that government should “leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage as they live out their daily lives at work and in the way they run their businesses.”

What a novel concept (sarcasm dripping).

A small minority is trying to impose their will and beliefs on a vast majority of people (both Christians and non-Christians) who disagree. That is wrong. If those people are comfortable with those beliefs, that is entirely up to them. They ultimately, as will those who believe in traditional marriage, will answer to God.

In the meantime, Christians must continue to stand up for our religious freedom.

Don’t take your health for granted

January 28, 2015

Good health is a blessing that I fear we too often take for granted.

Though I am being treated for a heart-related issue and high cholesterol, I am in relatively good health for someone who will be 57 years old in a couple of weeks.

And though I may complain about an ache or pain occasionally, I know God has blessed me greatly with good health.

All I have to do is look around me. Two very close friends have just finished radiation treatments for cancer and one of them is still taking chemotherapy.

Just within the past few days I have learned of at least four or five friends or family members of friends who have been diagnosed with cancer or had strokes.

And while some things can’t be avoided, we bring some health issues on ourselves. For instance, my cholesterol might not be an issue if I shed the 20 or 30 pounds my doctor keeps telling me I need to lose. And, even if the cholesterol is hereditary, I would be much better off without the additional weight.

Randy C. Davis, executive director/treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, has written an excellent column in this week’s Baptist and Reflector, challenging ministers (and everyone for that matter) to lose 10 percent of their body weight in 2015.

Davis wrote, “The medical benefits of losing 10 percent of your body weight when you are overweight are well documented. Some of the obvious benefits are reduced stress on our joints and organs, especially our hearts.”

In his column Davis noted he has gone from “obese to overweight” and that his next goal is “chubby.”

So, he has issued the “Chubby Challenge.” I have taken the challenge and I would encourage others to do so as well, even if you only have a few pounds to lose.

Our health is too important to take for granted.

A timely gift for a needed ministry

January 15, 2015

On Jan. 15, the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, based in Brentwood, received a timely gift for a vital and much needed ministry. See story.

George and Denise Shinn of Franklin gave TBCH a $1 million gift which will be used for the entity’s foster care program which was kicked off last year. While it is still in the early stages of development, some children already have been placed in foster homes across the state.

It is a needed ministry, worthy of Baptist involvement.

The erosion of the American family is real.

Fewer and fewer children are raised in the traditional family with both parents. In some cases, children live with one parent, grandparents, or other relatives.

Sadly, some children have nowhere to go and that is why good foster homes are critical. Children’s Rights, an organization based in New York, reports on its website that on any given day there are approximately 397,000 children in foster care in the United States. That is a staggering and tragic statistic.

Kudos to the Shinns and to Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes for responding to this need. May their tribe increase.

Remembering a friend and mentor

December 22, 2014

The Dec. 31 issue of the Baptist and Reflector actually “went to bed” (newspaper lingo) on Friday, Dec. 19, due to the holidays.

The following day, I learned that Vern Powers had died on Dec. 19 at the age of 94.

After a paper is sent to the press, few things can happen to cause changes to be made. The death of Vern Powers was one of those cases, at least for me.

Vern Powers truly was a Tennessee Baptist statesman and he was an ambassador for not only the convention but for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whom he loved with all his heart and soul.

Vern spent nearly all of his 94 years serving Jesus in one way or another.

In the obituary in the print issue, Gary Rickman, another longtime TBC staff member, noted that Powers was a mentor to many pastors of Rickman’s generation. You can add one editor to that list as well.

I had the blessing of becoming friends with Vern when I joined the B&R staff in 1988 as associate editor and Vern was still on convention staff.

Our friendship and mutual respect continued to grow over the years. When I became editor of the paper in 1998, Vern Powers became one of my strongest supporters and confidants.

After he was elected to serve as a member of the Executive Board, Vern served on the committee that related to the B&R. He was a strong advocate of the paper and helped launch an endowment for the B&R.

That support never wavered. About a month before his death I received a phone call from Vern and he asked me to come to his home. He knew his days were numbered and he wanted one last visit with me — a visit I will always treasure.

He gave me a letter and a check for the B&R endowment. In the letter, Vern wrote, “We have had many heart-felt conversations over the years. I want you to know that I value your friendship.”

Well, that was a two-way street. I valued Vern Powers’ friendship more than he ever knew. He was always willing to listen if I needed to talk.

Vern Powers was a true Christian gentleman whose walk matched “his talk.” He truly will be missed by his family and by all who were blessed by God to have been able to call him “friend.”

Sit up and take notice

December 18, 2014

As Christians we normally put our heads in the sand and try to ignore what’s going on around us.

So when Christians do what they should, they deserve a pat on the back.

Georgia Baptist Convention leaders are strongly supporting Kelvin Cochran, the Atlanta fire chief who has been suspended without pay for a month, forced to undergo “sensitivity training”, and is being investigated for other “wrongdoing.” See Baptist Press story.

His “crime?”

He dared write a book (Who Told You That You Are Naked?) that upholds the Bible’s standard when it comes to human sexuality. What’s more, he had the audacity to give (not sell) copies of the book to people on his staff.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed apparently took issue with the book after some of the staff complained. The mayor suspended the fire chief without pay and took the other measures.

Apparently, freedom of speech applies only when you agree with what the other person says.

Chief Cochran dared to say that homosexuality and lesbianism is sexual perversion. Truth is truth. And sometimes, the truth stings, especially if you are not in agreement with the truth.

Mayor Reed evidently disagrees with his fire chief. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran’s book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens — regardless of their sexual orientation, race, and religious beliefs.”

How ironic that he dared to include “religious beliefs” in that statement. Chief Cochran is being punished for his religious beliefs.

As long as the fire chief does not force his beliefs on his department or discriminate in hiring practices, there is no reason he should not be leading the Atlanta Fire Department.

We are getting to the point where Christians in America are being persecuted for their religious convictions.

We either stick our heads in the sand or sit up and take notice and do something about it. We either speak up now or we may be silenced forever. It’s up to us.

 

 

 

A tale of two signs

December 4, 2014

Earlier this week local television stations reported on a billboard on Interstate 24 near LaVergne that has caused quite a stir.

The billboard was put up by American Atheists. It portrayed a young girl writing a letter to Santa which read, “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church. I’m too old for fairy tales.” At the bottom of the billboard was a plug for the American Atheists National Convention which will be held in Memphis next April.

Some people are upset that the billboard was allowed, but as I see it, they have the right to do so.

Christians who are upset and offended should counteract that billboard with one of their own. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

But in Clarksville, Pastor Jimmy Terry of Tabernacle Baptist Church is putting out his own signs — 10,000 of them. The signs boldly proclaim, “Christmas is all about JESUS.”

While his effort has nothing to do with the American Atheists’ billboard, it is an example of Christians taking a stand for Jesus.

Pastor Terry is concerned that Christians have “abandoned” Christmas and Easter. “We have given it over to the commercial world,” he says.

Residents of Clarksville and other churches have embraced Terry’s effort and so far have helped to distribute more than 5,000 signs (as of Dec. 4). The other signs should be distributed within a few days. (See a full story on this effort in the Dec. 17 issue of the Baptist and Reflector).

He notes that there are more than 70 national emphases (Black History Month, National Pet Month,  National Ice Cream Month, etc.). “But we only give Jesus one day in December” and another day at Easter, he maintains.

His desire is to proclaim the name of Jesus year-round. May Bro. Terry’s tribe increase!

 

 

A vote for Thanksgiving

November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Day used to be known as a time to give thanks to God for His blessings, a great turkey dinner, spending quality time with family, and watching football.

Now, it is becoming known as just another day to shop and spend money. How sad.

My daughter Joanna and I established a father/daughter tradition years ago where I would take her shopping on “Black Friday.” It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I ever did (getting up at 4 a.m. to go stand in long lines, usually in frigid weather), but it meant a lot to her and we have continued it for the most part. The only problem now is that a lot of major stores are opening earlier and earlier, with many stores having major sales on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a family holiday. When stores open on Thanksgiving it takes employees away from their families.

A recent nationwide survey of U.S. consumers indicate that at least 50 percent of those polled say that opening stores on Thanksgiving Day is  a bad idea, according to a news release from LifeWay Christian Resources.

One Target (a major nationwide retailer) employee has initiated an online petition asking Target to give employees the day off. To date, more than 90,000 people have signed the petition and more than 100,000-people have “liked” the Facebook group, “Boycott Black Thursday.”

I applaud LifeWay Christian Stores. They have resisted the urge to engage in “retail wars” on Thanksgiving Day. They will remain closed in order  for employees to spend time with their families. May more large retail companies follow suit.

Avoid the temptation to shop on Thanksgiving Day and spend it with your family. You can “shop until you drop” on Black Friday!

 

A victory that matters

November 5, 2014

As a football fan this season, victories have been few and far between for this South Carolina Gamecocks and Tennessee Titans football fan.

The few victories they have earned, however, cannot compare to the victory earned on Election Day, Nov. 4.

Tennessee voters  approved Amendment 1 which provides an opportunity for needed regulations on the abortion industry in our state. For the past few  years, Tennessee has become an abortion destination for those seeking an abortion. States surrounding Tennessee had in place some common sense restrictions such as a waiting period and inspection of abortion facilities that caused residents of their states to come to Tennessee in increasing numbers for abortions.

Hopefully, that will soon end with the passage of Amendment 1.

Quite frankly, in the days leading up to the election, it didn’t look good. Opponents were flooding the airwaves with misinformation. I am glad now that they did. It provided an opportunity for God to “show out.” This victory is a “God-thing.”

He did it through His people — Christians throughout Tennessee. I am proud of and grateful that Tennessee Baptists helped lead this effort. Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, provided key leadership and Tennessee Baptist churches all across the state rallied support for Yes on 1. I am also grateful that the Baptist and Reflector was able to be used as a means to inform Tennessee Baptists about this amendment.

Praise God for this victory that matters and continue to pray. Those who opposed Amendment 1 will not give up now. They will fight any legislation that may be proposed in the future. The battle on keeping Tennessee from being known as an abortion destination will continue. We must keep praying fervently.


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