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Distracted or Dedicated

I forgot to turn on Bill’s microphone from the sound booth at church.

The sound techs needed some relief occasionally, so I took the training. I liked being above the crowd, looking down from my perch, seeing everyone enter and some go out and return during the service. But that was the very reason I forgot to mike Bill. I am easily distracted.

I would spy a friend, and while I did not speak to her, I watched her find a seat and greet her pew partner. My eyes (and my mind) had wondered from the switchboard and I forgot my task. But not for long. I switched on the sound for Bill’s mike and started the recorder.

That job didn’t last long, understandably, for they wanted someone who paid attention.

My distractions take another form these days. Two years ago I still had a flip phone and my family wanted me to get a smart phone. They teased that I had a dumb phone. My answer: It’s a phone. I don’t need all the extra components. I finally gave in, yet I bought an Android. And I like what I can do with it, especially texting, the one thing my family most wanted me to use.

Now this cell phone has provided several nice distractions. While eating lunch, we listen to music such as the Gaithers, Hauser, Andrew Peterson, and André Rieu. Even while getting the spelling right, I got distracted and listened to Michael Ball sing “Love Changes Everything.” Guess what popped up next? A message by Joseph Prince: “Feeling Distracted, Depressed, or Burnt Out?” Perhaps another time. I’m not depressed or burnt out. Only distracted too much, too often.

Why should these distractions bother me? They eat up the time that should be dedicated to more productive work. Marketing is on my “to do” list today. It’s three o’clock and I’ve not even opened those files. I am, however, writing this blog post, overdue, for this is only my second post for the month of May.

I’ve been told about some programs (apps) that could keep me from turning on any social media site. That would eliminate distractions while working on needed projects, but I use Facebook and emails to connect with people re: marketing and publishing. So I’m back to that ugly word “discipline.” It’s a matter of being dedicated to the best even when I enjoy something good. So there. I’ve confessed, but I have to save myself from being distracted next time.

Whatever It Takes

Pilgrim and Evangelist

During our early years of ministry we lived in Mississippi near my husband’s uncle, who was also a pastor. Uncle Bud never served large churches but sometimes joked that he kept other pastors from serving small churches. Those were special years with Uncle Bud and Aunt Roberta mentoring both Bill and me.

   When Uncle Bud admonished one of his sons about the unhealthy practice of tobacco, that son responded by pointing out his father’s use of coffee. From that day on, Uncle Bud did not allow even this harmless habit to be a stumbling block for his son who needed to come to faith. His example made a lasting impression on me.

   Like the church at Corinth, we need to heed Paul’s warning and be concerned about our weaker members. “Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). Not all habits and practices are sin, but they may get in the way of someone coming to Christ or growing in their faith.

    I have to ask myself if I will do whatever it takes to be a good example before others, especially family members. What habits or practices are holding others back from making a commitment to follow Jesus? Can I be honest enough to cite errors in my way of thinking and doing? It’s not a burden to carry but an honor to be a witness to those who need to see Jesus in me.

    One son asked how I got to be a legalist. That tells me something about how my actions reflect my faulty witness. It’s a starting place for change. I invite you to give me examples of legalism in my life’s practices. I want to be faithful to the calling of Christ on my life and not hinder others.  

   And how about you? Let’s not hold onto freedom too tightly.

Marketing’s Rewards

This may go against stats on Amazon or the finance report of sales. But the best part of marketing for me has been the rewards found in contacts and notes of appreciation. I’ll share some of those a few lines later. For now, I want to post two dates.

Bill’s first ever book, Words of Endearment: the Ten Commandments as a Revelation of God’s Love, has a publication date of December 16, 2020. Bill’s second book, Prayers for the People: from the Heart of a Pastor, appeared on Amazon yesterday with a publication date of April 28, 2021. That’s publishing two books in four-and-a-half months. Unusual!

Each book was self-published; we paid for publication. Sermon to Book published Words. Prayers had EABooks Publishing. I appreciate both systems, best suited for each book.

I’ve worked on the collection of pastoral prayers for the longest because I would look through Bill’s notebooks and type a prayer or two, then return to other writing projects. Therefore, the book of prayers extended over several years without being ready for publication. Then Jim Watkins, acquisition editor for EABooks, asked if I had a book ready. I first thought of Bill’s Advent sermons, but the timing didn’t work out. Then I looked at the collection of prayers, and knew it would not take much to get it ready. Four months later we have a book for sale.

That brings me back to the subject of marketing. With self-publishing, the main sales are from Amazon and from the author copies I buy and sell. For these four months I’ve gone to the post office at least once a week with packages of books to mail. Then the rewards come in, and I’m not speaking of checks and PayPal. Read here a few of our rewards:

Words of Endearment has really stretched the Ten Commandments for me. My husband died in 2019. With God’s help, I am learning to go on. Now your book has helped me.”

“I can hear Bill’s voice speak the words.”

“We are looking forward to sitting under Pastor Bill’s teaching once again as we read this book.”

“Bill, God used you in a mighty way on a men’s Emmaus Walk. Your words totally changed my husband’s life. We are so excited to read your book.”

“I look forward to discovering what Bill has written in his book. The title already provides a life-giving ponder.”

“I plan to read Bill’s book slowly so I can take it all in.”

“Thank you for the deep study of the Ten Commandments.”

“Thanks for contacting me. Bill was always such a joy to listen to – the power of conviction!”

“Bill may not be able to preach like he used to, but his ministry to touch lives is continuing.”

”Pastor Bill, thank you for researching and preaching it. Ann, thank you for putting it into a book.”

“We look forward to spending time with the Lord and the Words of Endearment.

“Seeing my adult children’s response to the book blessed me so very much.”

“We are excited to share a few copies of Bill’s book with others and to know they will be as blessed as we are with this gift of God’s Word made clear.”

From the Asbury University Alumni officer: “Thank you for sending us the beautiful book of sermons. We are glad to add it to our display for the encouragement of our alums and guests. We did share them with our Archives department and our gift officers.”

Interviews in God’s Timing

ALC: Why is a pastoral prayer—corporate prayer—important?

WBC: Pastors have the opportunity to present the issues of concern before the people…. Since Jesus said we ‟should always pray” (Luke 18:1), we know that the discipline of prayer aids individuals and the congregation as a whole.

ALC: How does corporate prayer involve the people and their needs?

WBC: Often the pastor knows about the different concerns of the people…. Prayer unites the congregation by being confident in our great Physician and His  invitation to pray for others.

ALC: Explain the difference between preparing a pastoral prayer ahead of time vs. spontaneous thoughts (ex tempore) at the time of worship service.

WBC: A pastoral prayer needs preparation; it’s that important. Pastors would not think of delivering a sermon without proper preparation and effort ahead of time. Thus, since the pastoral prayer is a vital part of worship, it needs preparation…. You prepare yourself to pray as well as work on the prayer itself.

From Bill’s next book to be published soon, Prayers for the People: from the Heart of a Pastor, these excerpts are from the front part of the book. The major portion of the book is a collection of Bill’s pastoral prayers offered during the worship services at World Gospel Church, Terre Haute, IN.

As I proofed the book’s manuscript, I read these interviews I had staged with Bill. What struck me was the timing of the content. Four years ago I prepared the questions and interviewed Bill. I hardly had to edit his answers. He spoke clearly and to the intent of the book’s purpose. I divided Unit One into three interviews: The Why, Know Your People, and The How.

How did timing come into play? If I had waited until this year or even last year, Bill’s dementia would have prevented him from being able to construct mentally the answers. He would not have understood the content of my questions, nor the purpose of the book. Words would not have flowed into a clear response from him.

I am grateful to God and His timing. For without these interviews the questions would have remained unanswered. My fudging the content would not have given you, the readers, a look into the why and the how Pastor Bill viewed the importance of pastoral prayers during worship.


Prayer for Easter Sunday

Our heavenly Father, we cannot imagine what it was like, when on that first Easter morning the women went to the tomb and heard the announcement: “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6). The words were easy enough to understand, but the fact must have been incredible. We are not surprised they were stunned, for they groped to find the significance of what had been said. Some had doubts only answered by seeing. Even after more than 2000 years, the message still seems too good to be true.

   As we worship this morning, we pray for the presence of the Risen Christ to be among us. May we be responsive to His speaking and ready not only to believe Him but to follow Him. You have not left us alone, for the Holy Spirit is with us and dwelling in us who are obedient to the teachings of Christ. Though we have no merit of our own, You have given us grace upon grace, and You have been faithful to the covenant established through the redeeming death of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are thankful for Your great love and for the unspeakable grace by which You have saved us.

   We give thanks, Father, for all things bright and beautiful, making faith in eternal life more sure: for our families who nurture us, for friends who love us. We thank You for Scripture which has guided us, for the fellowship of the Church which has sustained us during difficult times, and for the faithful witness of those who have held forth the Word of truth. We thank You for the saints who have died in the Lord, whose lives are still an inspiration to us. Above all, we thank You for our Lord Jesus Christ, who brought life and immortality to light, the hope to which we cling this Easter morning.

   We pray for those among us who live in defeat, for whom the note of victory sounds distant and unreal. You know their frustrations, the circumstances which seem insurmountable, the temptations which overwhelm them, the failures which dog their consciences, the griefs too heavy for them to bear. Into their darkened lives, we pray that the dawn of Easter morning might break, and in their desolate places we pray You might cause the desert to bloom like a rose. Grant Your song of redeeming grace to reverberate in the depths of their souls, and they be restored to victory.

   We pray for Your Church, Lord. We are grateful for her tenacity to stand firm for truth, for the faithfulness of those who have loved You and carried their banners high even in the heat of battle. Grant in these days of danger and opportunity, we who now are given the charge to be faithful even to death might be united in the conviction that Jesus is Lord. May we be courageous in enunciating clearly and fearlessly the witness of the resurrection of our Lord. Send us from this time of worship to live as men and women whose citizenship is in heaven, where we await a change in our lowly bodies to be like Christ’s glorious body, by the power which enables Him to subject all things unto Himself.

   We pray for our missionaries who are celebrating Easter in those lands where You have sent them, and we pray for national pastors in mission churches who proclaim to their own people the joyous good news that Christ who died for their sins is alive forevermore. Pour out Your Spirit afresh upon those pastors and their churches, that the name of Jesus may be glorified. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen. [From Prayers for the People: from the heart of a pastor, Bill Coker, Sr.]

10 Words and Good Friday

$10 for 10 Words. If you order Bill’s book, Words of Endearment: the Ten commandments as a Revelation of God’s Love, today 4/2 or tomorrow 4/3, from me it will be $10/per book, free shipping.

What do the Ten Commandments have to do with Good Friday?

“God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16) us His words, a revelation of His love, a portrait of who He is. These Ten Commandments are words of love: Words of Endearment.

“God so love the world that He gave His one and only Son…” (John 3:16). This Friday that we call “Good” reminds us of God’s best gift, His Son. Jesus, who took our sins to the cross, became the perfect sacrifice for us, for everyone, for the whole world. God loves you, me, us all. The evidence of His love, Jesus, hung on a cross and suffered a cruel death. We cannot express our gratitude and love enough for such a gift.

At the risk of being commercial, I want to express my thanks by offering a discount on Bill’s book, ordered from me with his stamped signature. If you order today or tomorrow, the cost will be $10 (not $12.95), free shipping. Send me a message on Facebook or email me at: al2.coker@gmail.com and I will mail your books next week. I need your mailing address. Pay by check (7718 Ashtree Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46259) or use my email address for PayPal.

Prayer for Maundy Thursday

O God, our heavenly Father, we come to this hour of worship to remember the suffering of Your Son for the sins of the world, to reflect on the purpose of His suffering, and to remind ourselves of the example He has given us in His humility and selfless obedience. We know our own unworthiness, but are comforted by Your love and the promise of Your forgiveness.

   Father, open the eyes of our faith to behold Jesus among us. Intensify our longing to live each day with Jesus, not trapped by a world far removed from eternal concerns. By His truthfulness, enable us to see our true selves. By His encouragement, clarify our vision to see what we can be through grace.

   Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, direct our worship and deepen our adoration. By His sanctifying ministry, cleanse us from all that hinders us from following our Lord and keeps us from knowing the joy of His peace that passes all understanding. By His empowering, give us victory over those sins and circumstances which bind us to what we used to be. By His assurance in our spirits, settle any doubts which disrupt the harmony of our souls.

   Forbid, Lord, that we should rejoice in the blessings of Your great love for us and yet lose sight of the millions of people who have no knowledge of our Savior. Whether in the uttermost reaches of earth or in the closest proximity to our homes, these are people for whom Christ Jesus was willing to be made sin, and for whom He brought hope of eternal life. Forbid that we should accept love without giving love.

   Guide us, Lord, to a renewed sense of commitment of ourselves to the kingdom of heaven, and to a refreshing sense of abandonment to Your will. Hear our prayers, O Lord, for we pray in the name of Him who loves us and gave Himself for us, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

Time to Be Nice

It takes time to be nice. Driving around, doing errands, I made a discovery. To make it to each place before closing, I knew my start time now included rush-hour traffic. First the bank, with two short lines for drive-through business. Thankful. The clerk’s voice sounded pleasant, but my answers came out flat. Bill asked me what’s next. We headed to Target and CVS with a green light for a turn onto Emerson. A car leaving a store on my right wanted into the traffic, but I hurried on to get the next green light.

Do we live by the clock — rushing through a schedule?

My strategy worked as I found the boxed cake mix before I went to the pharmacy. She would ring up the grocery item with the prescription. But we had to wait as she had a casual chat with a customer ahead of us. No transaction, only visiting. That purchase made, we left for our next stop, dreading traffic on Southport Road. Not as bad as expected, but I drove a few miles above the speed limit.

We arrived at the Post Office ten minutes before six p.m. No cars in the parking lot, quite unusual for Wanamaker. So I got out to check the sign for open hours and the door. They didn’t close until 6:30 p.m. Why all the rush? My business there took only a few minutes, but I missed my usual clerk. The one who served me was congenial and efficient, and she did not insist I mail one package with a question about the zip code. I said I’d check on it and return another time.

With all but one of my errands accomplished, we stopped at the Franklin CVS to buy a few items with coupons. When we returned home, Bill asked for supper. With some reluctance, I decided to return to Franklin St. to order Subway. The server had a bit of trouble with my order at first, and I blamed it on his nationality, not on my faulty instructions. Bill liked being able to eat in their diner.

Sitting at our table, I mentally rehearsed our trip. Opportunities awaited me at every turn, but I chose to stick to my rushed schedule. Will I remember next time that it takes time to be nice?

Endings

Three selections from a writing class in 2000 at Vigo County Public Library.

“Welcome”

I backed up and headed out of the gravel parking area, the aroma of Gala apples filling the car with sweet hope. My stop at Ditzler’s Orchard was like a ‟welcome home” sign hung around my nervousness of fitting into this new community. Patricia had personally bagged choice apples, put them in my car, and invited me into her modest home. Her family room was furnished simply with a large stuffed couch and several dark chairs in front of a built-in bookcase with desk. An old grand-style piano took up the majority of space. She sat in a worn upholstered chair and I sank low into the couch while we talked of family and church. Only after I left did her easy welcome wrap me in warmth.

“A Hearing” (names are changed)

Unpolished dark wooden pews line each wall of the wide square second-floor hall circling round the stairwell of the County Courthouse. Uncomfortably I sit with Susie on one bench while her mother is opposite us. Susie, in a clean blue dress, waits for a hearing with her public defender. Suddenly she jumps up and announces she’s going to visit her uncle in an office on the lower level.

The seats are hard; lights are dim and high overhead. Muffled staccato voices reflect urgency and shame. I look across at this nervous mother who then quickly joins me. Sitting close she jabs at her absent daughter: “Always in trouble. What went wrong? What’s she done now?” Then questions me, “How did you get involved? And why would you want to?” I hesitate to answer and look away. I’m thinking of an earlier back-handed compliment she gave her daughter, “How did you get your hair to look so nice?”

Susie returns and soon an officer calls her name and makes another appointment. Taking Susie back home I try in vain to form an apology not mine to make.

“Ready”

Hugging my knees I sit on the steps. Red cedar banisters frame the concrete and brick porch. Fresh mulch, wet by an early shower, darkens the newly turned soil. The Hosta bed between two maple trees is readied, and I await a gift from my friend’s garden. We will plant one more page of our dream home.

Writing coach Brian O’Neill wrote this observation: “Your sense of an ending is almost always impressive — often a single line that brings the fact of the experience and the feeling beneath it together.”

A Good Look Into Another Culture


“Fat and Simple” guest blog by Christy Yoder

Here’s the fat and simple truth: Culture learning is as simple as joyfully and graciously accepting the words, “You are fat!”  and “You are so simple.”
What? Does that sound strange?  
Well, after 14 years in Africa, those words still make my mind do a cultural calculation.
 
Step 1. You are “fat”  most likely means “You are pretty, you look healthy or you look good!” When told, “You are looking good,” it may mean, “You are fat!” In other words, it’s a compliment, and should be taken as such!
Step 2. Being “simple” means I’m uncomplicated, friendly, easy to get to know.
Step 3. You are fat + You are simple = You are blessed and a blessing
 
Culture learning is a bending of the mind, a receiving and rejoicing in the diversity of God’s world, and often laying aside my own culture to embrace another. The longer I live outside of my home culture, the more I realize how much I don’t know and understand.
(I think that’s true of life with God and people in general.)
That’s the fat and simple truth of culture learning.
Christy and Zach Yoder are Wycliffe missionaries in Nigeria with their four daughter