Blog

Having a Plan

Written June 1998, revised March 2017 — “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10).

“Even as the architect’s model is planned, prepared and completed in his office, so the perfect pattern of the life of holy service, for which Jesus has redeemed and called us, is now in Him in heaven. But now it must be formed in us and transferred to our earthly lives, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit.” — A.B. Simpson, Days of Heaven on Earth

Our architect completed the plans for our home. Working with these plans, even the measurements of distance between a pipe and a drain, the contractors relayed the plan to each member of the work teams. As the basement crew worked, they had to follow the plan — the depth of the exterior drainage as well as the height of the walls and placement values between them.

Without a completed plan, any and all the work would be off-scale and affect the whole. One miscalculation, one ‘doing it my way,’ second-guessing the architect, would make for a lop-sided house in the end. Yet while there are specifics, certain choices are interrelated within the whole. Even where a light fixture goes affects the laying of insulation.

So much of this is a metaphor for life. God has the blueprint and it’s His way that completes the finished product. The Holy Spirit works according to the divine plan and each decision we make affects the progress and the whole work. All choices are interrelated, even those minor, non-eternal ones, for we are whole persons and God has designed us so.

May I continually and faithfully look to Him and seek the Master design, making the right choices for a life that pleases God — “complete in Him.” ~ALC

Furnishings

Parsonages are different in various states. In Mississippi they were furnished, even though not the best offerings, usually from parishioners who were getting newer items in their own homes or perhaps from sales at local department stores. But we had no complaints; we had nothing of our own to bring to these parsonages.

Newly married, I moved to our first home in North Biloxi, Mississippi. Bill had already lived there for about three months. The living room had a green Naugahyde sofa, coffee table and a few occasional chairs. An upright piano stood against the wall opposite the sofa. A dining room table, seating six, situated at the far end of the living room near the door to the kitchen, always held a flower arrangement. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, and kitchen finished out the house, except for a small room Bill used for a study with a desk and only one bookcase.

The small back yard had room for a couple of rabbit hutches. We raised them to eat. One we gave to a young girl at church and told her it was a pet bunny, not one of the eating rabbits. Bill’s Aunt Roberta gave me some flowers and ferns, my introduction to gardening.

The parsonage was located not far behind the church, so we walked to the services. We married on a Saturday, spent our wedding night at the parsonage, went to church that Sunday morning and had quarterly conference with the district superintendent that evening. No regrets about not having a “proper honeymoon.” As Bill and I walked over to the church that morning some of the older men greeted us outside. One said to Bill, “At least you got a wife who is shorter than you.”

We found out later that the women of the church had a difference of opinion. The older women wanted to invite us to a home for Sunday dinner; the younger ladies thought we should want time alone at the parsonage. We would have preferred to go to someone’s home, but we returned to our own. I fried chicken and Bill taught me how to make gravy.

Kentucky and Indiana parsonages are not furnished. Before I arrived at our first parsonage in Kentucky (waiting in Alabama for our second son to arrive), Bill purchased a house full of furniture, expanding monthly payments in our budget. Now I look around our present home and there are only a few items of furniture from that purchase. We have an abundant supply, and soon to make the decision to downsize. Now with built-in book shelves in three rooms, where will all our books lodge? What furniture will we give away or store? We want a smaller house, but furnished adequately for our needs. ~ALC

 

Convince Me

In a conversation with a teenage girl who wanted to know if there is a God: “Suppose you convince me there isn’t a God.  It shouldn’t be hard. . . . Suppose you go back to the polliwogs and account for everything some other way. Begin with the sun and the moon and the stars and that rosebud and those oranges and the hummingbird. Tell me where order came from, and the very first seed of life. Tell about Abstracts; the need to protect the weak, to grow in knowledge, to stand up for what is right and the shame that comes from doing wrong. The human race, not all of it but those farthest from the polliwog, possesses these traits and if they don’t come  from a Higher Power, where do they come from? And tell me, if there is no God, what was it that changed me and my habits? I’m not exactly a pushover. . . . Finally, if there is no God, tell me why you and I bother to talk about Him? Nobody’s ever seen Him and His Son died two thousand years ago so what is all this? Who ever got such a silly notion and why does it hang on? . . .  There simply had to be Something bigger than ourselves! Unless there was a God, the entire setup was luck, luck or else we ourselves were gods and both were crazy. Luck could not be counted on and Universal Laws could be counted on. And we, well, we weren’t gods! So–so He had to be.” — The Late Liz by Elizabeth Burns (pseudo name for Gertrude Behanna)

A Matter of Integrity

A number of years ago a book opened my eyes and challenged my thinking. It was Radical Son, written by David Horowitz. The book is an autobiographical account of the author’s journey from Marxism to neo-conservatism. I believe it should be required reading for every person concerned about the ideological drift which is moving our country away from its historical roots.

I must admit that I found the book to be infuriating at times, as Horowitz unfolded his attempt to undermine the political structure of the nation and bring about revolution. I found it enlightening as he exposed the methodology of the Left and the violent means which some were ready to pursue in order to make the revolution happen. I found it to be incisive in its de-evaluation of Marxism as a promising ideology for those seeking justice and equality.

What really struck me, however, was the unwillingness to those on the Left to see the truth about itself and admit the failure of Marxism to create a stable and equitable society in any of the countries where it had seized control. They did just as Paul de­scribed in Romans: They suppressed the truth and exchanged the truth for a lie.

In the process of being infuriated and distressed by the unwill­ingness of intelligent people to see and admit the truth, I found myself being discomforted by the fact that those of us who oppose Marxism and who call ourselves disciples of Jesus may be no less guilty for being unwilling to confront truth. I thought of how often I had gone along with ideas and positions of the theologi­cal conservatism with which I had identified myself, when in my heart I was not convinced that we were right.  I didn’t want to see what was not agreeable to what we said was the truth; and I didn’t speak up even when I was uneasy about conclusions which were being drawn.

When we come down to it, the whole issue is a matter of integri­ty: the willingness to ask ourselves the really hard questions and seek to answer them with a total commitment to the truth.  Without integrity, everything else is cheapened, even the truth which we may be seeking to espouse.

If Jesus taught His disciples anything, He taught them that He was the truth; that they would know the truth, and the truth would make them free; and that they would proclaim the truth to a world that was in the darkness of untruth.

Yet, the truth often has been the victim of convenience, the lamb offered up for faith, and the sacrifice for convictions felt to be right. The end has too frequently justified the means, and the cause has all too readily been used to mute the voice of reasoned conviction.

Of one thing we can be certain however: Jesus is never served by cutting the corners on the truth or by softening the blow of truth against traditions and practices which may be considered sacrosanct. At whatever point we feel it necessary to close our eyes to what is clearly to be seen or to close our minds to what is obviously to be thought, we have done the Gospel of Jesus a terrible disservice and have sold our own integrity for a cheap victory.

The world can be expected to sacrifice honor for gain, to ex­change truth for convenience, to sell out its moral standards for tawdry pleasures and its integrity for apparent advantages.  We, as Christ followers, must not.            William B. Coker, Sr.

Beyond My Dreams

As an 18-yr-old I left my family in Alabama at the invitation of a college grad and followed him to Mississippi. I never would have dreamed the path we have taken. For where we’ve been and those whom we’ve met have convinced me that God has a plan for each of us.

First of all Bill and I added four children to make a family. We reared these to be independent and we are not disappointed in their work ethic and accomplishments. They have added to our tribe ten grandchildren and soon to be twelve great-grandchildren.

Bill has pastored churches in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Indiana, providing us with good homes while he also earned three degrees. We are still in touch with many of these beautiful church people. At our first church Bill also taught high school English and some of these students still connect with Christmas cards. One student dedicated her PhD dissertation to Bill.

Bill’s teaching at Asbury College afforded me a college degree, 20 years after my high school graduation. That opened the door to work in journalism, a career I’ve revisited.

The never-dreamed-about life has included trips to other countries, such as Mexico, India, the Far East, Africa, and Israel. These brought most humbling experiences as people thanked us for coming, as if it were any sacrifice. A new perspective of values highlighted these trips.

Along the way we have made friends with prominent as well as common but generous people. For example, I would not have imagined that I’d know such leaders as Dr. Robert Coleman and have the privilege to pray weekly with his wife and several missionaries. It’s not uncommon to receive acknowledgement by church members who have appreciated our service.

We are grateful for all that the Lord has given us in friendships and opportunities. That seems trite as I write it, but it’s a big deal to me. God is good – all the time.

A Moment Seized

How stories are developed:

  • Woman                                                                        Boy
  • in late 30’s                                                           about 10 years old
  • light clothing                                                      dark clothes
  • arms folded tight above waistline                arms straight and limp
  • looking down, head to side                             looking up
  • talking                                                                   listening
  • questioning or scolding                                   waiting to answer
  • authority figure                                                  minor/submissive
  • not flailing but calm                                         not defiant
  • seizing the moment                                          sensing importance

Saturday in April 1999

A fleeting scene made an impression begging to be described, cherished, tucked away for future use. Driving in Mobile, Alabama, I saw a woman and a boy on the sidewalk of Sage Avenue. Details are such that they lend themselves to a story:

Maybe the woman was the boy’s mother, but she could have been a neighbor or a sitter. Their stance spoke of a moment seized to teach a lesson, to question behavior and give opportunity for an answer. While she was the authority figure, the boy was not defiant. She kept her temper, making it possible for him to keep his dignity. If the boy had been caught in disobedience, he certainly did not display any stubborn will, but waited either to explain himself, give an answer, or even to accept the due punishment. Her folded arms and his limp arms placed the two in a representative stance of adult with minor, mother and child. They both knew the importance of this encounter. Why the confrontation I could only guess, but the fleeting scene captured my attention as I drove away, and I can still see it now. The desire to weave a story around it remains yet to be done.

Cool Cat to the Rescue

As the weather gets colder and we hear threats of snow and ice coming our way, I look back at when . . .

“Tom, do you remember the time I did a donut on ice when driving you to high school?”

“Yes, I remember it well,” Tom replied in an email.

What I don’t recall is why I had to drive Tom to school that day after an overnight rain when the temperature dropped. We had gone over the hill on US 68 almost to the grocery store at the Y. The rain had drained down the hill and frozen at the bottom where it levels off. I lost control of the big car we called a boat, a green Mercury Marquis. The next thing I knew we were facing the opposite way and in the lane on the other side of the Y. I froze at the wheel.

Tom simply said, “Cool, Mom, you did a 360.” He also acted cool, settling me down, ready to act according to his directions. We had spun around in a circle, a bit crooked in the road. Thankfully, no other cars were nearby. Tom talked calmly as he told me to turn around and get back to the stop sign at the Y. Heading the right way we continued on route, arriving at school without any other incident. Leaving the car he spoke softly to me before I headed back home.

From that time on, Tom has been my “cool cat.” If I’m ever in a jam, needing to get control of myself or a car or some undue circumstance, I would like Tom to be there beside me. He has a calming quality about him that helps people get back on track.

This quality of cool he also exhibited as a team player in sports. Once when his dad and I arrived at a ball game, one of the guys in the stands asked if Tom was present. “Yes. Why?”

“Well, when he’s here the rest of the players don’t get upset over the little stuff.” Even Tom’s friends and team members knew him as cool.

Advent: His Coming

During Advent each year I choose a study, such as reading the Gospel of Luke or a book such as The Manger Is Empty by Walter Wangerin, Jr. This Advent I wanted to read from Isaiah. I found this list of the Servant Songs with additional references. Some scholars debate about whether these reference Christ or Israel, but they present a beautiful way to get ready for Christmas. Join me.

Servant Songs in Isaiah        

  1. The Lord’s Chosen Servants: Isaiah 42:1-4
  2. The Servant of the Lord: Isaiah 49:1-9
  3. The Servant’s Obedience: Isaiah 50:4-11
  4. The Wounded Servant: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
  5. “Light to the nations” – Israel or Jesus?
  6. When Simeon saw Jesus: “Your salvation…” Luke 2:30-32
  7. “Light” – Isaiah 2:5
  8. Israel – Isaiah 10:17
  9. “Know not the Light” – Job 24:16; Psa. 27:1
  10. “The Lord is my light” – Psa. 43:3; Prov. 6:23
  11. “Named” before birth – God choosing name & purpose – Jeremiah 1:5                        John – Luke 1:13      Jesus – Luke 1:31
  12. “That they may know” – Deut. 4:35; I Kings 8:60
  13. “Declare My glory among the nations” – Isa. 66:19
  14. “Bow down” – Isaiah 49:7
  15. “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow” – Phil. 2:9-11
  16. “To Me” – Isaiah 45:23
  17. “Crushed” (cf. NASB & NIV) – cf. Isa. 42:4 and 53:5, 10

Rainy Day

The screen on my window is covered with rain. I wonder. Why do we associate rain with sadness and sunshine with happiness? Why is one a gloomy day and the other a pleasant, hoped-for day?

Both rain and sunshine are gifts and both are needed for nurture of the earth. Both give us cause to thank God. Yet I confess: I’m not happy now looking out at the wet leaves and hearing the sloshy roadside noises. I am, however, satisfied that I have a warm, dry home in which to live and view this rainy day.

It’s that way with life in general. I attach “don’t want it like this” to those unsuspected turns of events that are unwelcome at best. But when things go “my way,” I am more pleasant to be around. Both ups and downs contribute to my personal growth and should promote a thankful attitude. I know this but need reminders – such as this rainy, gloomy day that sent me to my desk to write this reflection. Thank You, Lord God, Creator of the universe and my tiny viewpoint.

 

Decorating Eclectic Style

The décor in our home is what some would call mix and match, but the fancy term is eclectic. That means it’s selected from various sources. My sources came from other people, not selected by me but placed in various rooms. The style has developed over the years as I have put things together for a décor that appeals to me. If you go on a quick tour of our home you will see items given to us and then placed to form our preferred style.

On the dining room table is a large vase crafted by art students at Asbury University. It was a gift to Bill, then academic dean, in appreciation for his support of the new pottery kiln in the art department. A florist designed the artificial arrangement in the vase. His shop was next to where our daughter worked in Greenwood, Indiana. She requested the arrangement for us. Included in this room are objects we’ve either bought or had given to us and they represent countries we’ve visited. Russia and Taiwan are two. There’s also a friend’s painting of a Chinese scene. She taught me that art is not to be placed according to the color of a room.

Now the kitchen has a sunflower (mostly) theme, and our granddaughter has helped decorate with her gifts ­– ceramic flour and sugar canisters, a framed cross-stitch verse, and a vividly painted pitcher from Mexico – all with sunflowers. There are also two spoon rests of sunflowers. During the Christmas season I bring out gifts from family and friends – a small framed snowman, a stuffed cloth snowman with twig arms, and a change of Christmas kitchen linens from my mother.

In the center of the coffee table in the living room is a colorful Mardi Gras glass bowl filled with potpourri. The bowl belonged to my mother-in-law, so you could say it is part of our inheritance. On the bottom shelf of a table by the window is a pair of high-top black and brown shoes obtained from an old store in Mississippi. Bill’s father saw them and said he used to wear that style when a boy. So it’s a reminder of the past. While the shoes don’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the items on that shelf – large books and a decorative plate, they have been on display in every house where we’ve lived.

Now come into our bedroom. Above the bed is a framed photo of a boat on Mobile Bay. The photographer is my brother and the scene takes me back home whenever I view it. Other wall hangings include a photo collection of trees in the parking lot at World Gospel Church. That framed photo and a cross-stich of an old sewing machine were gifts from the former custodian of that church. The latest picture we hung is another cross-stitch worked by our neighbor to the west of our home. It’s the Twenty-third Psalm.

            Over the years these deco items in our home have been reminders to pray for the gift-givers. I rejoice that we have their contributions to my eclectic home décor, but mostly I am thankful for their interaction within our lives.