Monday, November 28, 2011

Age Rules – Part I

In our home, and somewhat in our community, there were a couple of unwritten (but sometimes spoken) “age rules” for youngsters.

Rule #1:  A person who grew up in the church should be baptized between the ages of 10 and 12.

The concerns, as I recall, went something like this:  If kids went forward too early, they might not be ready for the commitment.  If kids put off the decision until later, they might slip through junior high and high school without ever giving their lives to Christ.

My sister Cindy went right on time – age 10.  I think she might have gone sooner, if it had been more acceptable.  My brother Jimmy waited longer to take the plunge – around 12.  (In fact, Dad got a little bit worried about Jimmy and had him read a portion of a commentary that dealt with “immersion.”)  I remember keeping tabs on all of this, aware of the times of their baptisms.  I knew it was an important decision, more important than choosing my spouse or anything else.

And so my turn came on August 31, 1976, a Tuesday night.  I went forward during the fall gospel meeting at the College Church.  I don’t know who was preaching, but I do know that my dad made his way down to the front, took my good confession, and baptized me in front of about 1,000 witnesses.

I was 10 ½, and it was a very good night.  Maybe my best night this side of heaven?

To be continued … Rule #2 on dating.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bible Class Field Trip

Mom taught our 3rd or 4th grade Wednesday night Bible class. She prepared for the class like crazy, planning craft activities, flannel board stories, memory verse posters, and film strip lessons. You name it, she did it. She even wrote weekly letters and mailed them to us. (Most of our parents were connected to Harding College, so the correspondence traveled through Campus Mail for free.) One of Mom’s letters was written backwards, like a passage from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, so we had to hold it up to a mirror to read it. That was kind of cool.

Later in the year, on a summer Wednesday night, Mom piled all of us into a couple of cars and took us over to her co-teacher’s house. At the door, the robed co-teacher told us she was Lydia, seller of purple. Inside the home, the women served us a Bible meal—okay the lentils weren’t so hot—and taught us the story of Lydia from a first-person perspective. It was an awesome night.

Can you imagine breaking out of Bible class for a field trip? The freedom of that?

Fulltime mom, part-time Bible class teacher.

Of course, from a completely objective point of view, Mom was my favorite Bible class teacher.  With that said, here are some folks who would get an honorable mention nod:

* Coach Larry Richmond (5th or 6th grade boys-only) … kept class fun with Bible bowls and quizzes.

* Mr. Bob Alexander (9th grade) … captured our attention with lessons about “preparing for adolescence.”

* Mr. Ben Berry and Dr. Bill White (11th grade) … with engaging personalities, they showed us that the Bible was relevant.

Who would you nominate?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Go Ye Means Go Me

Alan Buchanan is an old college buddy.  He’s funny and honest … two things I like in a person.

I met Al my freshman year at Harding U, and we did five years together there.  For one of those semesters, Al and I lived with two other guys in what was probably the smelliest apartment in Searcy.  We prepared a good number of our meals in Al’s deep-fry cooker.  (I’m still waiting for my cholesterol levels to return to normal.)

I met Al’s dad, “Buck,” on a weekend trip to El Dorado, Ark.  He impressed me as being a good man.

Mr. Buchanan, a faithful member of the College Avenue Church of Christ, went on to be with the Lord about a week ago.  Rick Butler, a close friend of the Buchanan family, wrote this tribute to Buck:


I spent hundreds of hours in Buck Buchanan's living room on the outskirts of Norphlet, Arkansas. First, it was as the messy neighbor kid who showed up for dinner a couple times a week, then later as a brother in Christ who had found a role model.

I can never remember sitting in that living room, though, when my eyes didn't find their way to a book on the built-in shelves, just to the left of the television. It was called Go Ye Means Go Me. It's a book on the Great Commission by Ivan Stewart. When I was told of Buck's passing earlier today, my mind went directly back to all those hours I spent in that living room.

And back to that book. (I'd bet anything it's still there.)

Because the title of that book (I never bothered to actually take it down and read it) summed up Buck's attitude about life and about the people he encountered each day.

I know this because I spent a lot of time watching him. Sometimes he probably realized this and intentionally put himself in situations to teach. Most of the time, though, he didn't have a clue all the lessons I was learning just by paying attention.

You see, a trip to town with Buck was no ordinary trip to town. I can remember his son Alan complaining that he couldn't stand going somewhere with his dad because of how long it took. He was right. Strangers to Buck were simply people he hadn't gotten to yet.

No one was safe when Buck was out. I saw him start conversations at traffic lights.  Conversations he intended to finish.

No one was beneath Buck. A person's wealth or lack of wealth, stature or lack of stature meant nothing to him. They all needed to know there was a God who loved them and I believe he intended to tell them all.

He ran out of time before he ran out of people.

Go Ye Means Go Me.

I can't remember seeing Buck really relax. He'd slip in an occasional Sunday afternoon nap during a football game but for the most part, if he was awake, there was something that needed to be done. The saying, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop" isn't actually in the Bible but I think Buck would have put it in given the chance.

A boyhood friend of Alan's, visiting Buck just days ago, later told someone, "I talked real low and tried not to wake him up, cause I knew if he woke up he'd find some work for us to do."

If he had a pet peeve, it was likely laziness. When a daughter came home from college over Christmas break, there was a temporary job there waiting for her. When a teenage son seemed he might have a little too much free time on his hands one summer, a truckload of bricks arrived in the yard.

"Scrape the mortar off these," were Buck's opening instructions.

When that was finally finished (weeks later?), it was "these bricks should be over there. There's a wheelbarrow." And he pointed about 50 yards away to the other end of the yard.

One of Alan's daily jobs that we oversaw as youngsters was feeding the hunting dogs. Buck had built beautiful new pens for them and, apparently, didn’t want his dogs walking around in poop all day. So, each day about 5 p.m., Al and I would find ourselves standing in front of those dog pens, pushing poop around the concrete floors with a water hose.

Buck’s kids rarely found themselves in trouble.

They didn’t have time!

Go Ye Means Go Me.

Buck later found time to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, which was likely as perfect a fit as it sounds. Helping people, meeting new people, working with others in service.

Buck taught me - at a fairly young age - about serving others. I remember a couple times when he dropped Al and me off at houses, armed with a mower or two. While we took care of cutting grass that the homeowners couldn't handle themselves, he would find another need that he could take care of while we finished there.

He taught me about being generous.

I wouldn't want to begin to count the money Buck and his family spent on me growing up. Lots of little things, like Sunday after-church pizza meals, the almost sacred roast, rice and gravy meals at home, the gas used to come pick me up for church before I was old enough to drive.

I lost my mother to cancer more than 15 years ago while I was living a long way away. There were several costly flights, etc. that had us pretty strapped.

While driving my wife and me to the airport on one of those trips, he and Francille tried to offer us money to help defray some of that cost. We politely turned down the sweet offer and thought that was the end of it.

Until we unpacked our bags after arriving home. And suddenly remembering which bag Buck had carried through the airport.

I'm convinced God puts people in our lives and begs us to watch and learn. And I'm convinced that's why He had me cross paths with Buck and his family when He did. Everything that I try to do with and for my family, the goals I have for my family, are modeled after what I saw from Buck.

He and Francille built the type of family a person dreams of having. The only thing better than Francille's roast, rice and gravy on Sunday afternoon was the laughter at that table. A family that absolutely loves being together. While the heartache will remain, the members of this family can count themselves among the blessed because of what was done before they came along.

Instilling a love of God above all else.

Working hard.

Never missing an opportunity to meet someone new.

I wish now that I had taken the time to tell Buck everything I'm telling you now. I thank God, though, that I had the opportunity to know him.