Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dallas Cowboys

Most of our friends know that we are avid Cowboy fans. I first started watching the Cowboys during the Tom Landry and Roger Staubach years. Charlotte is now even more loyal a fan that I am. As a teacher she would always wear a Cowboy jersey to school on the day after a Cowboy win. Many of her students started to root for the Cowboys much to the consternation of their parents who were Redskins fans. The sign in the picture was a gift from one of her students. The name Riddell is a happy coincidence. Most of the helmets used in the NFL are made by the Riddell company. Regrettably, there is no connection.

I don't know about the psychology of watching sports. I know that on Sunday during the first quarter the Cowboys seemed inept. I was ready to give up on them. Charlotte said give them time. The last three quarters were dominated by the Cowboys! It was wonderful. Tony Romo seemed to be back in his element. In some ways is seems that when they win, everything else is OK with the universe.

Of course we know that football is just a game. The Cowboys will win a few and lose a few. Will they make the playoffs? Lately they have played well at the beginning of the season and faded at the end. If they don't make the playoffs and go to the Superbowl then perhaps they will next year. It is said that sports are often a metaphor for life. Maybe even a metaphor for our spiritual lives.

Sometimes our spiritual lives are dynamic and other times we are spiritually flat. Sometimes it seems that God is working in a powerful way in our lives and other times we wonder where God is. You get the picture. I am learning that our relationship to the Lord is always dynamic. He is always there, but He is always encouraging us to go deeper, grow further and allow Him to make us fruitful. The problem is that we are human and we just wander off on our own or our ego gets in the way or plain ole sin. That is why Jesus tells us to abide in Him!

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful....Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

John 15: 1,2, 4

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Colors

It's that time of year again. The fall colors are spectacular. Around every bend there is another explosion of color. It is a beautiful time of year. These pictures were taken on Palmyra Avenue on Richmond's North side.

One of the nice things about living in Richmond is that there are four distinct seasons. In a matter of a few months the weather will be cold and if we are lucky we will have a snow day or two. Then spring will come around. Sometimes people will argue about weather fall or spring are more beautiful. In the fall the leaves all change colors and as you can see, it is spectacular. In the spring the Azaleas, Dogwoods and Rhododendrons are in bloom and almost overnight the trees begin to bud.

It reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, "Great is Thy Faithfulness":

Summer and Winter, Springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.

The inspiration for this hymn comes from Jeremiah as he grieves over the defeat of Jerusalem:

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
Lamentations 3: 22-24

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Karaoke Night at the Daily Grind

The Daily Grind is a local coffee shop that we like to frequent.

Charlotte claims that Sam, the proprietor, makes the best Chai Latte she has ever had!

From time to time on Friday nights the "Grind" will have local groups for concerts. Friday night was Karaoke night. Here Farris, Sam's son, is taking his turn.

The Turners are friends from Cambridge Baptist Church. From left to right are Haley, Terry and Cassidy, Boo Terry's husband was there too.
Sam the proprietor and his son Shawn were making sure that everybody had plenty of food to eat.

Sam's wife, Alison, performing.

Charlotte and Janeen had a good time.

Haley was the last to perform and did an awesome job!
It is a lot of fun to see friends and catch up. Sam is a great host I do believe hospitality is his gift. He and his family are good to be around. Some of the singers were very good there were others that were only fair. I was amazed at Hailey's talent. She is an elementary teacher in Henrico County schools. I'm sure she is a good teacher, but singing is her gift! When you have a gift, you need to use it. It is an essential ingredient to how God made us.

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you..." II Timothy 1:6

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ice Cream

My favorite vegetable is ice cream! My favorite place of ice cream is Gelato Celesti in Richmond.

The cone in the middle is Chocolate Peanut Butter on top of Chocolate Almond. The cone on the right is Pistachio on top of Cherry Vanilla. They are in home made waffle cones that are made fresh every afternoon. It is totally awesome ice cream!

It doesn't get any better than this!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Ralph and Carol Crouch are celebrating a wedding anniversary, Ralph's birthday, Carol's retirement and Ralph's retirement all within a two week period. The Mustard Seed class at FBC Richmond gathered at the Robin Inn on Sunday to honor them.

Ralph celebrates his 65th birthday this week. Ralph retires on Friday from Henrico County Government after almost twenty one-years. He started working for 911 and then moved to the Department of Community Revitalization. He is a man of many talents.

Ralph and Carol are also celebrating their forty-fifth anniversary. They actually eloped. Carol's dad was a Baptist pastor. Ralph says they were ready to get married after dating only four months. Her father felt that it was too quick. They said the ladies at her father's church were counting the months to see how long the marriage would last. I hope they are not still counting!

Ralph was a Methodist when they married. Four years later he became a Baptist.

Ultimately he was called into the ministry. He attended Southwestern Baptist Seminary and then pastored three churches here in Virginia. Ralph sees himself as a pastor at heart.

Lewis Meyers pronounced a blessing on the couple: "May the Lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you and give you peace."
It is obvious that they love each other. What now? Well, they are not going to rush into anything. They want to travel some. They have thought about volunteering in some national parks. Ralph has been a part of a 'Campers on Mission Group' in the past and they may get involved in that ministry again.

We all go through significant passages. They include graduation from high school and college; beginning a new career; getting married; beginning a family and the loss of loved ones. Retirement is another rite of passage. A rite of passage means we complete one era of our lives and we begin another. In retirement we are freed up from many of the obligations and time commitments that come with our careers. At times like this I have heard many say, "I have been successful, now I want to be significant." The challenge is to live the next phase of our lives in a way that fulfills God's purpose for us. My prayer is that we will all fulfill God's purpose for our lives regardless of our phase of life.

Psalms 138: 8 "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever--do not abandon the works of your hands."

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Friday was Lisa McMahon's last day at the office after eleven years on the job.

Lisa is an IT professional. Officially her title was Manager for the HR and Payroll System Team. We first worked together on a project that moved the application process for missionaries from a paper based system into an electronic process. Overnight, that project transformed much of the way we do our work. I remember a variety of meetings where Lisa kept saying, "we can do that." Since then every interaction with Lisa has demonstrated that 'can do' attitude. She will be missed!

Lisa and her husband Tim have decided to move to Ecuador. They have always wanted to live overseas. Originally, the plan was to wait until 55. But she and Tim have decided they can do that now and don't need to wait. She has also felt God's encouragement to 'live the adventure'.

Through the years I have had the privilege of working with a number of people like Lisa. They are skilled and professional. They see their task as supporting the global missionary enterprise and they see their work not as a job but as a ministry. I respect them immensely largely because they work faithfully with very little recognition.

John 6:27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

Psalms 90:17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands. NIV

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fellowship and Gospel Music

Saturday night we joined several friends from our Sunday School class for chili and trimmings and then went to the Gospel Chicken House located in rural Hanover County.

We were hosted by Pam and Ed Bishop. Pam prepared three types of chili including traditional chili with beef, a white chicken chili and a spicy chili with andouille sausage. It was a feast!

Jim and Pat Shearon visited with our teacher Lewis Myers.

Lewis and Toni served for many years as missionaries in Vietnam. Lewis later assumed a leadership role with the IMB home office staff until his retirement. Now Lewis teaches the Mustard Seed class. He and Toni continue to work with Vietnamese congregations all over the US.

Harry and Debbie Slaydon are some of those faithful people who are always there.

The Gospel Chicken House is an old chicken house that has been turned into a concert venue. Every Saturday night they feature different gospel music groups.
The first group to perform was the "Roosters" as in the Gospel Chicken House Roosters. The man on the far right, Ray Pollard, was a part of the original gospel music group that started performing at the Chicken House thirty-six years ago.

The next group was "The River of Life", a family singing group from North Carolina.

The atmosphere was decidedly laid back. The dog is a permanent fixture at the Gospel Chicken House. He was enjoying an onion ring courtesy of one of the patrons.

Pat Shearon and Charlotte were doing their best to have a good time!

The final group to perform was "Amy Ladd and Friends." The subtitle on the program was "Picking and Praying" and the picking was excellent.

It was a lot of fun to to get together with our Sunday School class. It is hard to get to know people on Sundays because the focus is on bible study and worship, as it should be. But visiting in people's homes and spending time talking and eating gives you a chance to see another dimension of people's personalities. I think it is called fellowship.

The Gospel Chicken House was also an enjoyable experience. The group that I enjoyed was "Amy Ladd and Friends." Amy is a quality performer, she is very good at engaging the audience and the group provided excellent picking and strumming.

The Chicken House does not charge admission, they take up an offering to give to the performing groups. They sell refreshments to pay for operating costs. They did share prayer requests and had a devotional time. In many ways it was like going to a country church, but the focus was on the music and not on the sermon. It does remind me that there are many varieties of Christian experience. There is not one best way to worship the Lord. The group there tonight was there to celebrate their faith and commitment to the Lord.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3: 16-17

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Children's Birthdays

Last week our neighbor's Jeff and January invited us to be a part of their son Henry's third birthday celebration.

From right to left Jeff, Henry and January.

Henry is into fire trucks so there were fireman hats and a cake in the shape of a fire truck.

There were lots of kids around.

Jeff and January have a black lab named Charlotte. So this is a picture of Charlotte and Charlotte. We have had lots of fun with that.

Ps 127:3-5

3 Sons are a heritage from the Lord,
children a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

West University Baptist Church

Last Sunday evening we had the chance to visit with a group of seniors from West University Baptist Church in Houston. West University is Charlotte's home church. I was ordained to the ministry there and we were married there. That church has been an important part of our lives! Ronnie Barner was the minister of music for many years. Charlotte was a part if his youth choir as a teenager. We were both members of the adult choir after we were married. Ronnie and the pastor LeRay Fowler were a dynamic ministry team. He now leads the seniors ministry.

Hollis Walt (foreground) was there. He told me that his wife of fifty years passed away earlier this year. Hollis operated an insurance business in Houston before retirement. I remember Hollis as one of those lay leaders that are critical to every church.

Connie Harper is a long term friend.

We met Randi Mullican on Sunday. She pointed out that she knew both my parents and Charlotte's parents. She was a part of Simonton Community Church where my father was pastor for seven years. She later moved into Houston and joined West University where she met Charlotte's parents.

Willeen Gutenburg, a member of West University, has been volunteering at the International Learning Center for several weeks. Her daughter serves in Europe with the IMB.

The Riddell's with Ronnie and Ruth Barner.

I have been a part of a number of churches. Each church was a special part of my pilgrimage in a different way. West University accepted me as a college student. Of course it was the the church that nurtured Charlotte as she started her walk of faith. It was the fellowship where we were married. The men and women of that church nurtured me as I entered the ministry. Men like Ronnie Barner and LeRay Fowler modeled ministry for me. The church set me aside for the Gospel Ministry. Charlotte and I left there so that I could go to seminary. I will always be thankful for the people and for their faithfulness and encouragement.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service , so that the body of Christ may be built up. Ephesians 4:11-12