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Junior Church Song Leader

At church everyone loved Billy Coker, especially the junior high girls. I was one of those girls. Miss Levy taught Junior Church and Billy led the music. A former missionary, Miss Levy was a good teacher. But I paid more attention to Billy, four years older than me. All eyes were on our song leader as we practiced special choir numbers.

Billy also led the song service for evening worship which followed our youth group meetings. The congregation chose several songs, calling out numbers from The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal. More than once a young boy shouted from the back of the sanctuary, “Number 216.” We didn’t have to look, for we knew it was “There’s a Song in the Air,” a Christmas carol. Billy allowed the selection, even out of season.

Because he was respected, my parents allowed Billy to visit and take me out, mainly to the neighborhood theater. To get to my house he would ride the bus to a main road and walk past numerous bars. We would then walk several blocks to the movie. Frequently on Saturdays, Billy would come for lunch and spend time with my family. He played practical jokes on my dad and siblings. Once he placed a tiny set of false teeth in the container where Daddy kept his false plate. Daddy had to phone to find out where Billy had hidden his true set.

When people ask me how I met my husband, I tell them that Bill was my Junior Church choir director. Bill smirks, because that sounds like the distance between our ages is more than it is. Years later and to my delight, I would stand in our small-town church and follow the song leader as he led worship and then preach. From Junior Church to lead pastor, he still has my full attention.

 

The Good China

In spite of all the tremendous strides we have made in science, medicine, and technology, we have watched a deterioration culturally, socially, and religiously that should disturb us far more than it does. One reason for our lack of concern is that we have allowed ourselves to be satisfied with what is convenient, what is useful, and what feels good. The price for this cheap satisfaction can be observed in what’s happening in politics, in schools, in churches, and in our families.

Something from my childhood seems to parallel what’s happening. My mother had what she called “the good china.” Though they were not that expensive, they were what she kept aside for use when a special occasion or special company called for using “the good stuff.” Our normal dinnerware was an eclectic collection of dishes that served our daily purpose.

On one occasion, when I was quite young, the pastor was in our home for dinner. Mother set the table with the good stuff. Dinner went quite well, until we had all eaten our fill. Then I sought to be helpful and announced before our guest, “Mother, I didn’t use my knife, so you can put in back in the trunk.” Mother was humiliated, and the family never let me forget it.

I also remember what Ovid Young said when he and his partner, Stephen Neilson, were at World Gospel Church for an organ/piano concert. Commenting about some of the music being produced today, he referred to it as “throw-away music.” In our desire for the convenient, the utilitarian, the feel-good, we have put the good stuff in the trunk and contented ourselves with paper plates.

What else can explain why we think the great literature and the great music of the masters are no longer relevant or worth the effort? We have lost the ability to appreciate greatness; we have discarded past values as out-of-date. Who needs good china when we have paper plates?

So I wrestle with what is happening religiously today. Religious bookstores are filled with throwaway books; sermons are supposed to be homilies, brief and not “above our heads”; and music is supposed to make us “feel” worshipful, even if it lacks quality as music and the words lack substance.

Mother's china.1

My wife, Ann, and I keep our “good china” in a fancy china cabinet; and the common stuff, kept in a kitchen cabinet, serves our purpose for day-to-day usage. We use “the good stuff” so infrequently that I almost forget we have it. I wonder if we modern technocrats have already forgotten the really good stuff that has made us who we are.  Have we come to believe that all anyone really needs is a paper plate?                                                                                   –William B. Coker, Sr.

Soldier’s Wife

Years ago I penned this brief image from a fleeting dream:

“The wife saluted her husband upon his arriving home after work. The smile on her face and twinkle in her eyes showed this oft-repeated gesture was not out of duty or sarcasm but out of love for her husband and respect for his position at work and at home. Seated near the back screen door, her hair a bit unkempt, this wife anticipated the arrival of her sergeant-husband. He returned the accustomed welcome, her loving salute, with the expected  smile and first a tip then a toss of his cap to her. They never tired of this ritual which kindled their love the few evenings his rotating shift allowed them to be home together.”

I have no real connection with military life, so I cherish this dream that allows me to meet some association with how a wife and husband deal with the hard realities of service in the military. With this I give a salute to those who serve our country, our families, me.

Let the Church Be the Church

The greatest need of the day is for the church to be the Church. The Apostle Peter wrote: “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood”; and as such a holy priesthood we are to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:5, 9, NIV).

Peter’s words remind us that the focus of the New Testament is not on a building, no matter how essential or beautiful such a facility may be. It is also not to focus on an ordained clergy, however well-trained or helpful they may be, but rather on people as “the priesthood of all believers,” the Body of Christ. Reread that second chapter of Peter’s letter and you will notice how significant the role of the corporate body must be if the Church is to be the Church.

If being a follower of Jesus only means going to church, we have not only misrepresented the Gospel, but we have given others little reason even to want to come to church with us.

A number of years ago, it was predicted that with technology we were going to become a nation of leisure, since we would be able to accomplish our work more quickly and more efficiently. It would be hard to convince most of us that it has. We all seem to be busier than ever, and people feel they are pushed to the limit! So who needs something else? Going to church is not, in and of itself, an attractive invitation and going with any regularity is even less attractive, as many within churches demonstrate.

However, if discipleship means being Church, and this being makes a great deal of difference in becoming the persons we ought to be, then there is reason for getting up and going. Could this not establish happy marriages and stable homes, transform society into a better place to live, and on top of all this, give us the hope of eternal life with a loving and gracious God?                                                     William B. Coker, Sr.

Unsuspected Connection

Being a member of Jerry Jenkins’ Writers Guild, I watch Master Class, taped interviews with authors and publishers. In July the author, Brandilyn Collins, gave tips about convincing characters, good teaching from her book Getting Into Character. Her genres are suspense thrillers and contemporary novels. Although I’m a non-fiction writer, I found her instruction helpful and her enthusiasm contagious.

Wanting to know more about Brandilyn, I went to her website and Facebook page. Three photos posted on FB peaked my interest, so I left a comment. Her answer confirmed my guess that I know her parents as friends and in professional service. In early 1980’s when I was managing editor of Good News magazine, based in Wilmore, KY, Ruth Seamands (Brandilyn’s mother) was our typesetter. Many times a month I would either deliver or pick-up copy at Ruth’s home where she worked. My husband, Bill, would say it was like Delta Airlines and Atlanta, for we had to stop by Ruth’s house before going anywhere else.

Seamands.Tata.Ichtus

Tata Seamands, playing cymbals at Ichthus Festival, Wilmore, KY.

We had other connections with the Seamands family. Brandilyn’s grandparents, known as Tata and Agie because of their missionary service in India, were dear to me. For a short season I went to their home and prepared lunch. That’s where I learned to cook curry dishes. During the time I attended Asbury College, married with four children, Tata was my avid encourager. I still remember his saying, “Sometimes the better of two options has to be sacrificed to reach your goal.” That came when I wanted to keep up with all my previous activities, yet studies had to be first priority. I graduated in 1977, finishing in six years, 20 years after completing high school.

 

Fix It

My great-granddaughter Abigail is stretching my vocabulary because of the way I use one word — “fix.” She even asked her Daddy, “Tell Granny not to say fix when something is not broken.” She had heard me say “fix” too often. I had to admit that I fix supper — fix pizza, fix cake, and fix most anything in the kitchen, when none of these need to be repaired. So we tried out some better descriptive words. I prepare supper, bake pizza, toss salad greens, mix cake batter, and stir cream into my coffee. Abigail said, “These words make better sense to me.”

My “fix it” nature wants to make everything right when often it is not wrong. We visited a family for our garden share this afternoon and I thought the time there was too long. I wanted to say to my granddaughter, “It’s time we should be getting home.” But I held that thought in my head and instead enjoyed the moments of getting to know this family.

Tomorrow we attend the wedding of our grandson Stephen. I anticipate times when I see something that needs fixing, but I commit myself now to wait and not offer my way of doing things. The time of being at ease to enjoy the moments with family will definitely be worth the urge not to fix it.

Learning to Trust God’s Timing

Check this out: published online 6-27-16

Learning to Trust in God’s Timing

Seedbed.com is an online publication of Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY. They gave me the opportunity to tell my story about the supposed “delay” of the birth of our second-born. It was all in God’s timing and lessons learned have stayed with me these many years. I’m grateful.

Obedience and Abiding

“If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love” (John 15:10). Obeying and abiding go together. Abiding is the result of obedience. It’s a “shall,” a certainty. Rees Howells, intercessor, found that obedience to the Holy Spirit — when he was told what to do, something as simple as not wearing a hat (local custom) — was always followed by abiding in the fellowship of prayer.

I hate to admit that this process has been slow for me. Perhaps I’ll tell you later about the times I’ve said “no,” and it took me a while to get to the “yes.” I can say that over the years the distance between the two has lessened when I find my true place in obedience. The abiding is sweet, a trysting place, like two lovers who meet at a regular place and time for fellowship.

That’s why Quiet Time is first on my day’s agenda. Of course, there are the personal items to take care of — bathroom, making up the bed, preparing breakfast. But I drink coffee and eat my yogurt while I read. Is that double-tasking to an advantage?

Connections make a difference.

Connections make a difference for living life to its fullest. We all want a victorious life. It’s possible — with God’s help and our cooperation.

Jesus answered Satan in the wilderness, “It is written.” He found answers in the Word, so that’s where we must go to find the way to victorious living. After all, Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

My life is a testimony to God’s faithfulness, a connection that’s constant. I live each day connecting with what the Lord wants me to be and do.

I’ve not traveled this journey alone. My parents gave me a good start with sound teaching and being examples of faith. Then I married fresh out of high school.

My husband has been my best-trained teacher, my favorite pastor. We’ve been living the ABC’s — Ann and Bill Coker — together for over 58 years.  We are one, connected but also individuals, together yet separate. We have served together, yet each has had a different ministry.

In this blog, you’ll hear from both Bill and me. For us there is one single foundation: “God is in Christ, reconciling us to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Join us in this connected living — for the joy of it.