Archive for the ‘Our Family’ Category

Update from Maine

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

It’s been a while since I have posted here, so it’s time for a quick update on what’s going on.

1. We have the curriculum nearly complete for the new Bible Institute, which we hope to launch this fall.

2. Our September preaching meetings  are now scheduled for the second week of September.  Bro. Mike Patterson will be here, and it is looks like the Hafelin family will be here again, too.

3. Once the snow melts, we plan to begin knocking on doors over in New Portland, to evaluate the need  for planting a church there.

4. We have a new minivan — a 2001 Pontiac Montana.  The other one was totaled by the insurance company after an encounter with a deer.  We didn’t get for it what it was worth, but God was gracious in providing nother vehicle.

5. We are close to being able to videotape, and post on the Internet, every  Sunday service.  There is a possibility that we will be able to broadcast live over the Internet in the near future.  I’ll post updates on this here at the blog.

6. God continues to provide for every need.  He is a wonderful, gracious, and merciful God.

Thank you,
Ron

Praise

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Let me just brag about my Savior today.

Praise God for His provision and grace!  We were given a gas clothes dryer today by some folks who have an electric one where they are now, so they didn’t need the gas one.  It’s 7 years old, but has been in storage for about half that time and looks to be in great condition.  We just need to get an adapter because the fitting on the dryer is a different size than the one on the gas line.

This is a direct answer to prayer.  Our old electric dryer has been dead for almost a year.  We’ve been hanging the clothes out to dry in good weather, but this summer has been so rainy that we’ve usually ended up hanging them in the house … which is a little awkward when company comes to visit.  Praise God for providing for this need!

Also, we found out yesterday that the Veteran’s Administration is going to be paying a very large hospital bill for my father.  This bill has been a burden to my parents for several months, as they have a very limited income and the bill represented about 5 months of that income.

It was a little disappointing that medicare did not cover it.  My father has worked and paid into the medicare system all his life, and the first time in almost 8 decades that he needed to use the system, they declined him because the paperwork said he was admitted for “observation” (after experiencing chest pains and breathing trouble), not treatment, for the four days that they kept him.

I understand now that this is one of the new quiet, behind-the-scenes ways that medicare and most insurance companies have come up with to cut their expenses (at our expense, of course).  Fewer benefits for the same, or higher, premiums.  But, in the case of medicare, it is unfair to those that have worked and paid into the system all their lives, only to be left hanging when they need to use the very system they funded.

The concern over this bill had greatly affected my father’s health, so we were all very excited to find out that the VA is covering it.  Praise God!  He is so good.

Living heroes

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

mom-and-dad.JPGA couple weeks ago I wrote a post about George Muller and explained that, among those Christians of the past, he is my biggest “hero”. I admire his commitment, faith, sacrifice, and discipline, and I try to emulate it.

I also have heroes among those who are alive today, and I want to talk about them this morning. My biggest heroes among those who are still alive, and the two people who have affected my spiritual growth the most, are my parents.

They have served God unswervingly for fifty years. They have “walked the talk”, both publicly and in private. The man you saw preaching behind the pulpit and the woman you saw teaching a Sunday School class were the same people you would see if you dropped in unexpectedly at home to eves drop on home life.

My father began looking for God when he was in the Air Force during the Korean War. He was the crew chief for a bomber maintenance crew and had shown such an aptitude for the work that he was promoted rapidly and became the youngest such crew chief in the USAF.

While he was stationed near Savannah, GA, for some training, he and a buddy decided to find out more about God. He remembers going to church throughout his childhood, but never having been presented with the Gospel, so now he was determined to find out what it was all about.

He and his buddy first went to the largest church in Savannah, figuring they were the largest so they must know the most about God. It didn’t work out that way. It was a dead service, and they didn’t learn anything that day.

The next week, they went to a small country church on the outskirts of town. At this little Baptist Church he heard the first clear presentation of the Gospel in his life.

Praise God for the little country churches! Praise God that “bigger” and “more” does not always mean “better.” Praise God for people who are faithful in “little” positions, “little” towns, and “little” churches.

When my father was transferred back to the Whiting, MO, Air Force Base, one of the first things he did was to look for a church. He chose a little Baptist church out in the country.  The first Sunday he went there, he was surprised to hear the preacher talk about that very same Gospel he had heard about at the church in Georgia.  There he surrendered himself to Jesus and was Saved!

A short time later, an evangelist came along to hold nightly preaching meetings, and the young people in the church divided into groups to have a competition to see who could bring the most people to the meetings. My father’s group stopped at a farm in Knobnoster, MO, and invited a young woman to church. In 1956, shortly before my father was discharged from the Air Force, they were married.

The young married couple moved to my father’s native state of Maine after his discharge. Despite the opportunities my father had to make tremendous money from his Air Force training, he surrendered to God’s call on his life and they moved back to Missouri where he attended Bible college. Before graduating from college, he was already pastoring a little country church, driving 70 miles one-way every Sunday to get there.

In the following decades they ministered at eight churches throughout Missouri and Maine – all of them “little” country churches – seeing the hand of God move strongly virtually everywhere they went. I say “they ministered”, because although my father pastored these churches, his work would have been virtually impossible without my mother by his side. Every pastor knows exactly what I mean by that. In every church they went to, my mother served in a multitude of positions: Sunday School teacher, pianist, choir member, event organizer, nursery worker, cleaner, cook, counselor, and much more.

They always served in “small” churches, often having to work an outside job in order to make ends meet. They kept on ministering through every trial and challenge. They kept ministering when the treasurer at one church embezzled thousands of dollars and my father’s own salary check from the church was returned from the bank – and he had to go weeks with no salary at all. They kept on ministering through health crises and family crises. In the good times and the bad, they just kept on.

Through all of it they modeled Christ before the church, the community, and their family. It’s one thing for a church to call its pastor blessed, or for the community to hold him in high regard, but when his own children – those who see who he really is and what he really believes every day – rise up and call him blessed, that’s something indeed! My parents lived Christ before us, through the good and the bad.

I never realized how hard that was until I was married and had kids of my own.

Today they are retired (though no preacher ever really “retires”), but only because of health reasons. They have no retirement package and no stash of cash. That’s not what they have labored for all these years. Yes, they could have! My father could have stepped into the aeronautics industry right out of the Air Force and retired with a nice pension plan. He had many other opportunities along the way that could have allowed him to accumulate large amounts of money and this world’s goods, but he didn’t. He stuck with his calling, and that’s one of the things I most admire about him.

How tempting it must have been at times to go out and earn some “real money” instead of living on the pittance most churches paid. Instead, they persisted in serving God at times and in places where others would have given up or moved on to something “better.”

And, even in their retirement and with health problems that come with age, they are some of the most active and devoted members of the church. They are the ones you can depend on seeing at church every time the doors are open. It takes a whole lot more than a little sniffle, TV program, or nice sunny day to keep them out of church. The last time my father missed church was because he was in the hospital. I don’t remember when my mother last missed.

They are my heroes, above all other men and women who have walked this earth. They gave their lives as a living sacrifice that others may be blessed, grow, and be led to eternal life through Jesus Christ, and they did so happily, never regretting a moment of it and never complaining about anything they “could have had”.

What I have told here isn’t even the half of it. If I have one tenth the Spirit that is on them, I will be a success.

A Great Day

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

 What a great day.

The last three or four weeks have been something else. But for Christ, they would have been completely overwhelming. It seems as if great forces have been mobilized against us, coming at us from almost every direction.

Yet, John’s words, “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world,” have never seemed truer.

Despite the sometimes amazing, sometimes terrible, and sometimes bizarre occurrences of the last three to four weeks, I have to say that I don’t think God has ever used us as much for His work during any other month as He has during this last month.

Today we had a great time at church. We had a bigger attendance than for any other Sunday for at least the last three years – even with some of the regulars gone. It was wonderful to see so many new faces and some returning who have been out of church for so long, without any special promotion or big event. God is good.

These last few months I’ve felt that God is moving here. He’s doing something big and mighty. I don’t know exactly what it is, yet, but His hand is moving. Seeing a glimpse of it at church this morning was encouraging beyond description.

Don’t give up now

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

From time to time, God sends those little bright spots into your life to remind you of why you are doing what you are doing.  Sometimes, that’s where we get our strength to continue on.

This was a difficult week, with difficulties and challenges from many directions. But, God sent one of those “bright spot” moments yesterday to remind me what He has put me here to do.

Mid-afternoon I received a call from the manager of an apartment complex where an elderly member of our church lives.  He told me that the man had been taken away by ambulance because of sharp pain in his left side.

I headed off to the hospital and, being nearer the hospital than he, I arrived before the ambulance and waited in the ER for him to be brought in.

This man has few people that he can call his “friend”.  He has no family around here, and the family that he has in other states shows no interest in him.  He lives alone.  His wife died in the 1980’s, and he never had any children.  I visit him once or twice a week, take him to the Post Office and grocery store, and wherever else he needs to go, and over the past few years I have come to know him pretty well.

All of the challenges of this past week were washed away when I saw his face.  They brought him in on a gurney, his face twisted in pain, fear, and confusion.  Then he looked up and saw me waiting there at the door for him, and an amazing peace and joy swept across his face.  I grabbed his hand and walked alongside as they carried him into one of the ER exam rooms.

“I’m so glad you’re here, so glad to see you here.  Nobody cares for me.  I can’t trust anyone to help me.  You’re the only one.  I’m so glad you’re here.”  Obviously he was in an emotional state of mind, but his words were nonetheless very heartwarming.

I thought, “God, thank you!”  There were so many things this week that had caused stress for me.  There were defeats and disappointements.  But none of that mattered now.  God used a few words from an old man to put it all in perspective.

The struggle really is worth it.  Even when you think your effort just doesn’t matter.  Even when it seems like the whole world is lined up against you.  Even when you look around and see just how few sincere Christians there are left in the world — how few really “get it” — your work does matter.

If the place you’re called to labor,
seems so small and little known,
it is great if God is in it,
and He’ll not forget his own!

Those are the words from the second verse of “Little is Much.”  Often the things we do for God seem so little when they have become routine and “every day” to us, but they really do matter.  They really are Big Things — we’re just looking with earthly eyes and not eternal.

God may give us a glimpse here below, but we really won’t know the true impact of our work for Him until we get to the other side.

Those who labor for honor and glory in highly visible positions … well, they have their reward.  It’s an easy thing for God to find someone willing to work for Him in return for money, position, and honor.  It’s an easy thing to get someone to do something in return for a good retirement package, a steady salary, and recognition.

But, it’s a difficult thing to find people who will be content to labor in obscurity, living day-to-day sometimes not knowning where their provision will come from, with no recognition, no retirement plan, no honor and glory.

Yet those are exactly the folks God is looking for.  He is looking for the one who will be content in whatever position He puts them in — whether they are wearing clothes from Goodwill and driving an old model car with 200,000 miles on it, or whether they are given abundance of this world’s goods.

God wants folks who are willing to live with less in order to do more.

I know that there are folks reading this that are on their last leg.  People who have sincerely served God the best they can and the best they know how, and you’re wondering if it’s really worth it.  You’re tired and exhausted, and it seems like you are opposed with every step you take.  Nothing works out the way you intended.  It seems like most other Christians are looking on with unconcern, wrapped up in their own little worlds.  You’re tired of being tired.  You’re tired of struggling so hard for a little grocery money. 

You’re tired of the car breaking down and not being able to fix it.  You’re tired of the plumbing problems, the “little” house repairs that are still neglected.  You’re wondering if you just made a bad choice, and maybe — just maybe — it would have been better to work a little more for yourself and a little less for others.  Disappointment and despair are encircling you in their black, vulture-like wings.

Don’t give up.  Your sacrifice is worth it.  Your work is not going unnoticed, nor will it be unrewarded.  You are working for greater wages.  Take your eyes off of the folks who have the material things of this life.  Try to remember that the fruit of your labor is not something you can readily see, and that only God will know the true, eternal impact of what you are doing.  Stop trying to quantify your “results” like an accountant adds up receipts.  Pragmatism is as far away from faith as the east is from the west.  Turn your eyes above — not to what you can see here and now.

Remember that Adonirum Judson labored for seven years before he saw a single conversion, yet in the end over 250,000 Burmese could trace their spiritual heritage to his work.

Serve God in feast and in famine.  Serve God when the car is running, and when it’s broken down.  Serve God when you have gas in the tank, and when it’s empty.  Serve God when you’re full of energy and enthusiasm, and when you’re tired and drained.  Serve God when the refrigerator is full, and when it is bare.  Serve God when people pay you for your work, and when they leave you hanging with a $2,000 bill.  Serve God when you can see the results, and when it looks like it just doesn’t matter.  Just serve God. 

Do your part and let Him do His part.  He didn’t put that desire in your heart just for laughs to watch you struggle.  He is the most merciful and loving God, embracing you as with the gentle arms of a loving mother, sheltering you as a mother hen spreads her wings over a precious chick, defending you before the enemy as a mighty grizzly defends her cubs.

It’s so hard in the body of flesh to see with spiritual eyes.  The tiredness of our muscles and bones and the disappointments of the day give a loud voice to the deceitful flesh.  But truth is not determined by who yells the loudest.  Truth is not determined by the one who writes the most books or has the biggest bank account.  Truth is not determine by the one who has the most people on their side.  Truth is God’s domain.  To see truth, we must look with spiritual eyes.

Don’t get out of the fight.  The work you are doing for God is worth it.  The little light and little pleasures and little reliefs you bring to other people are worth it.  Keep your eyes on others.  Continue to sacrificially serve others, even to your own detriment.  Wealth, honor, and material abundance are empty, deceitful vanities which more often than not serve to distract you from your service.

God loves you.  I love you.  We’re in this together — as brothers and sisters.  Hold the fort.  He’s coming.

Thunder and Lightning

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

While I was typing up that last post (New Jersey), a ferocious thunderstorm blew through.  It was one of those heavy ones like the ones that I remember seeing times when I was down South — when the whole sky is lit up steadily by one bolt after another.  It knocked the power out a few minutes into it.  Later we found out that the storm brought down a bunch of trees onto the power lines about 1000 feet up the road.

video loading …


Trip to New Jersey

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

I’m back from the trip to NJ.

And what a trip it was!

A 98-year-old man in our church (we’ll call him SB) has been corresponding lately with a brother with whom he had been out of touch for a couple decades.  This younger brother is the only sibling he has left.  He wanted to go see him in person, reasoning that because of his own age, it may be the last time in his life that he would see his brother.

I told him I would take him, and I set aside Monday and Tuesday for the trip.

So, yesterday at 6:00 AM I picked up SB at his apartment and we headed out for the 9-hour journey.  The drive down was great.  There was very little traffic, the weather was pleasant, and we got better gas mileage that I expected.  We made really good time.

One thing I noticed, though, was that the further south we drove, and the further on in the morning we drove, the warmer it became.  Then “warm” turned into “hot” and “hot” turned info “suffocating”. 

I discovered, too, that the air conditioning in the 1999 Dodge Caravan we just bought does not work.  Normally, that’s not a big deal.  In Maine, we might need to run the AC in the car 2-3 days out of the year.  In fact, it’s been years since I owned a car with working AC.  However, when it hit 100 as we came into NJ Monday afternoon, it would have been really nice to have some AC.

We arrived in NJ and I found out that SB did not know where his brother lived.  I thank God (literally) that He moved me to go to Google the night before and print out directions based on the return address on the correspondence from SB’s brother.  The Google directions took us right to his front door.  Thank you, God!

 I went to the door and rang the bell.  SB’s brother came to the door and was quite surprised to see us there.  SB had not told him we were coming.  But, God had worked it out that he happened to be there when we arrived.

God had his hand in every aspect of this trip.

To my surprise and delight, SB’s brother turned out to be a very sharp and eloquent man.  He has been a hard worker all his life, been through the Great Depression, and served in the U.S. Army during and immediately after World War II.

Their mother had been on the Carpathian, the ship that picked up the survivors from the Titanic, and was right in the middle of the work, pulling women and children out of the lifeboats into the ship and handing out blankets.  Later she survived both the Nazi domination and the brutal Soviet occupation in her home country in eastern Europe.

SB’s brother was very polite and accomodating, but within only a few minutes SB began picking at him, bringing up things that happened back in the 1940s and 1950s.  He picked at his brother’s children.  He picked at his brother’s wife, who had passed away decades ago with cancer.  He picked at his brother’s friends.  I very quickly understood why these men had not stayed in touch.  It was not by accident, but by choice.

SB’s brother was polite (maybe because I was there), but he didn’t just take what SB was handing out.  He corrected SB and refuted him at every word.

After about 30 or 45 minutes of back-and-forth, SB stood up and said, “I want to go home now.”  Nine hours (one way) on the road, gas at $4.29/gallon, two days with no work getting done back home  — all for a short meeting and quick “good-bye”.

We headed out from SB brother’s home with the heat still at a stifling 100 degrees.  Taking I-95 back up through NYC, we hit the Cross Bronx Expressway at 5:00 … rush hour.  We drove at 25-35 mph (when we were moving at all) in suffocating heat and bumper-to-bumper traffic, all the way up to New Haven, CT.

At New Haven I turned onto I-91 and headed north.  The traffic immediately thinned out and I was able to get back up to 65mph, which made the heat much more bearable.  There were a couple minor slowdowns for nighttime construction on I-495 in MA, but for the most part it was really smooth sailing after New Haven.  I took SB to his place, then got back home about 2:00 AM.

One of “those” days

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Part of the drain pipe under the kitchen sink came apart this afternoon.  When  my daughter drained the sink after doing the dishes, water went everywhere.

It was easy enough to fix, thankfully.  Just one of “those” challenging days.