The Towers Crossed, It’s a New Year, And God is In His Heaven

Radio Tower

If you’ve driven Interstate 16 in Georgia between Savannah and Macon (on the way to Atlanta), you know the signs of civilization are sparse in some sections. You should have seen it forty plus years ago. Back then, it was so sparse you had to check your gauge before heading out because the gas stations were nearly non-existent.

Back then, I attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta. I drove the highway most Sunday nights because I went home every weekend I could, in order to see my future wife, Sharon. (We had already decided she was my future wife and me her future husband, we just hadn’t told anyone.) Sunday night was the sad time of the weekend, when I left her and headed back to Atlanta.

It was a lonesome drive and I spent much of the time trying to find decent radio stations to listen to for a few minutes before they faded away. But, as I neared Macon, I could always pick up WMAC—a good radio station with a strong signal that stayed with me for about an hour.

Also, as I neared Macon, (Mile Marker 9 on I-16 , measured from Macon) there were two radio towers off to the left. I watched each time, and near the spot where I passed the mile marker, the towers lined up and looked like one tower for a split second. As I continued, they would start to visually separate, and then over a hill and around a bend they were out of sight.

Although I never measured it, I took the point where they looked like one tower as the middle point of the journey. On the Savannah side I was leaving Sharon, and on the Macon side I was going to school. My thoughts would go to what paper was due or which test was coming up. But, of course, Sharon and the big picture of the two of us eventually being together remained uppermost in my mind.

It’s a new year. At midnight, New Year’s Eve, two towers in our personal journey appeared to be one for a split second, but they’re already farther apart and will continue to separate. We may or may not feel we are leaving something behind, but, now we should focus on what we need to do as we go forward. And, of course, the Lord and the big picture of us eventually being together with Him in Heaven should remain uppermost in our mind.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” Revelation 21:4

Polishing Up Our Graces, for God’s Glory

Needs Some Polishing!

This Reflector Needs Some Polishing!

 

My first real job was as projectionist at the Georgia Theater in downtown Statesboro, Georgia. It was an interesting and fun job, most of the time – but, since it was back in the time of one screen with the same movie showing for several days, it could be boring, too.

Several memories come to mind about the job: My first night working by myself, I learned that if you incorrectly flip the thingy that holds the film frames straight, the movie shows half on the screen and half on the wall, and you start getting yelled at by members of the audience.

When I worked on Friday or Saturday night, my (future) wife, Sharon, and I sometimes stayed after the last showing. We were able to eat the surplus popcorn and listen to music on the theater’s sound system. It wasn’t fancy by today’s standards but was the best sound in town in those days.

But, something I read this week reminded me of the projector’s carbon arc lamps used back then, and the reflector that focused the light on the film. In the arc lamp, two carbon rods are brought together and an electric current flows through them (see photo.) As you move the rods apart, an arc forms and creates a blinding white light. The light from the arc goes in all directions within the projector chamber, and because the frame of the film is very small, there isn’t enough light going to that one spot to clearly show the movie on the screen.

That problem is solved with a concave shaped mirror near the back of the chamber. It reflects and focuses the light on the film frame and the images as bright and clear as daylight appear on the screen.

Since the reflector was partially surrounding this miniature blast furnace (the arc consumed the copper bit by bit), it would get smoky and splattered with bits of metal. If you paid attention to how the movies looked you could see the screen darken over time and know when to polish the reflector. (The one in the photo definitely needs polishing)

That meant it was time to get out the Bon Ami. Bon Ami was, and still is, a powdered cleanser that consists of tallow soap and feldspar, a natural mineral abrasive. The cleanser was spread over the reflector with a wet cloth, then allowed to dry. When it dried, it formed a film on the mirror (much like car wax.) As you rubbed the film off, you were using the abrasive to remove the smoke and tiny bits of carbon, and also polishing the surface. It was amazing how improved the reflector was after the process. The images “bright and clear as daylight” were a reality again.

In his Bible Study on Philippians, Sinclair Ferguson wrote “Suffering is the friction which polishes our graces. Without it, we would be all the poorer as reflectors of the image of (Jesus).” As I read that in our Bible Study this week, you can see why it reminded me of getting out the Bon Ami and polishing the reflector.

Many books have been written about Christians’ suffering, and these few words can’t address the depth of questions that can be discussed. So, I’ll just try to give us something to think about.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of us being the light of the world, and noted that you put a lamp on a lampstand for it to be seen. Then, He said  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 ESV

We have no true light of our own that will glorify God. As Ferguson wrote, the light we want to shine before others is a reflection of the image of Jesus.

As you read the following passage, think of God using our suffering as His spiritual cleanser – maybe taking off a bit of pride here, or a bit of self-righteousness there, but particularly polishing off the smoky film that not only blocks out God’s marvelous light that is shining upon us, but also prevents us from being able to reflect that light (the image of Jesus) and focus it on others.

Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ” Romans 5:2-5 ESV

And the image becomes bright and clear as daylight again, and the Father, who is in heaven, is glorified

(If you’re interested in a little more info on the projectors of the past, here’s a link with good info and photos)
http://www.mywvhome.com/1900s/plaza3.html

(PS: I hope to be posting again on a more regular basis – life got in the way!)

Remembering the Proper Order of Our Prayers

 

Wilderness Camping

Wilderness Camping

Several years ago I participated in a Wood Badge course for Boy Scout Leaders. Most of the class work was done on weekend camping trips over about a six month period. Along with instruction in the details of leading a troop the Boy Scout way, and being taught how young boys learn best, the camping setting allowed us to practice outdoor skills we could pass along.

I remember one of the first activities was related to setting up camp. The instructor led us on a short hike into the woods, stopped and gathered us around him, and asked “What’s the first thing you do in setting up camp?”

After a moment of the entire group’s silence, my reply was “You look around.”

Everybody burst into laughter and the instructor was laughing loudest. He repeated my statement, gave the old “what a stupid thing to say” chuckle and head shake, and moved on into his spiel. The answer he had wanted, and then gave us was  “set up a tent or shelter.”

He continued “Make sure you pick a good spot – don’t set up where you might get a flash flood in mountainous terrain or end up in a puddle of water here in flatland south Georgia. Is there space for a fire? Check for ant beds on the ground and rotten limbs hanging over the area. etc., etc.”

After my initial aggravation at being laughed at, I did get a kick out of listening to him, in effect, tell us the first thing to do: “you look around.” Some of the others may have also picked up on that, but the instructor never seemed to make the connection.

All of us may remember times when we were right, and were either laughed at, or not believed. As you see, that one is readily available in my memory. But, I hope I remember the incident more from the lesson to be learned. When setting up camp, or in any task, or plan, it’s best to look around first.

Sometimes we think we have the answer all figured out – Praying, “Lord, please bless this thing I want to do.” before the “looking around” prayer that should come first. “Lord, please guide me in what I should do next.”

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” Psalms 25:4-5

My New Book Will Be Available Next Week – Thank the Lord!

 

FrontCoverImage

 

 

Createspace says it should be available on Amazon in 3-5 days. The Kindle ebook is in progress and I’ll have more info on all of this soon.

Here’s the back cover info –

What Biblical lessons can you learn from falling out of your uncle’s pickup truck, accidentally hitting your cousin in the eye with a paddleball, or watching toads patiently wait for tasty bugs? Bill Jones pondered those, and other memories and observations of everyday life, and found the lessons God gives in them. Such thinking crystallized his understanding  that God’s goodness and greatness are all around us, and He is with us every step of our journey through life.

The stories told in these devotional readings illustrate how God uses the happenings in our life, both the good and bad, and the small and large, to show us His love and mercy, and teach us how we should live. Mixing touches of humor and unconventional perspectives, the author gives us the opportunity to do some thinking about our great and gracious God, and, hopefully, get a little closer to Him.

Bill Jones and his wife, Sharon, live in a rural area of southeastern Georgia where they attend a small community church. He has had inspirational articles published in Evangel, Keys to Living and The Christian Journal magazines.

 

 

The Beatles Came and Went – But, the Word of God Will Remain

The Beatles Come to America - 1964

The Beatles Come to America – 1964

I remember we were at recess at Sallie Zetterower Elementary School, in November, 1963, when our sixth grade teacher called us into the classroom and told us President Kennedy had been shot. Strangely enough, I also remember a few months later, in early 1964, when a fellow student, Lee Driggers, told us during Civics news-sharing time that the beetles were coming. That’s the way most of us heard it and thought it, at least.

We all laughed and it took a little explaining that the bugs weren’t coming. Lee said a rock and roll band was coming from England to visit the US, and they spelled their name: The Beatles. We laughed again at someone misspelling a word on purpose.

I’m sure I could remember more events from elementary school if I concentrated, but overall, the other things I remember are the teachers, and the smell and taste of the cinnamon rolls in the lunchroom.

Yet, I know I was there and apparently paid attention to the teachers at times. I can read and write and do arithmetic (although, I do still have to think about it to remember that 7 times 9 is 63.) So, someone was doing things correctly, and I’m sure it wasn’t me most of the time.

Makes me think about Sunday preaching. I can usually remember some topics and points of the last few sermons I’ve heard (at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) But, I couldn’t list out the sermon topics and points for the last three months. And, certainly not for the last six years – relating that length of time to the six years I spent in elementary school.

But, I can think back on the last six years and say that I have learned from and been affected by many sermons. Someone was doing things correctly, and I’m sure it wasn’t me most of the time.

I (and we) do need to pay attention and think about what is being said in order for a sermon to affect us. And, in my opinion, the preacher needs to spend time in prayer and study in preparation for the preaching. However, while those actions are doing things correctly, they’re pretty much useless unless the One Who does all things correctly is involved.

In the praying and studying. In the hearing and thinking. In the preaching. Without the presence and power of God, it is all foolishness. Yet, with God’s power and presence, our hearts are opened up to Him, and His Word is opened up to us and, yes, we grow spiritually.

We can look back over a sermon, and a month of sermons and six years of sermons, and remember specifics of only a few. But, we also find it has become more common that a verse of Scripture or something said about a verse of Scripture comes to mind at just the right time. We realize we have grown stronger in our faith and knowledge through God’s power and presence.

The Beatles did come and did have an effect on the country, but, my memory of Lee making that announcement isn’t much more than a bit of personal trivia. Some elementary school classes (and news sharing times) may stick with us through time, but it’s the overall process that’s critical. If we have good teachers leading us, it makes for good results – and we learn reading, writing and arithmetic, along with other life skills.

Specific sermons may stick with us through time, but, it’s the overall process that’s critical. If we have our Lord and Savior leading us, that’s fantastic, and we learn and follow His ways and His paths through life – and those are the most critical life skills.

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.” Psalms 25:4

Got Faith? Plant an Oak Tree – Part 2

Brannen Oaks by Old Savannah Road

Brannen Oaks by Old Savannah Road

 

When you look southeast down the dirt road in front of our house, you are looking down the Old Savannah Road (see photo). It’s not called that these days, and most folks don’t know that for a time in the early 1800’s it was the Savannah Road. I happened to come across the information while researching the history of this area of our county in Georgia (Bulloch).

 

Brannen Oaks Closeup

Brannen Oaks Closeup

 

The photo captions reference the Brannen Oaks, so I’ll head in that direction. William Brannen came to America from Ireland before the Revolutionary War, and after marrying a wife, Elizabeth, in North Carolina, he worked his way to southeastern Georgia, and eventually ended up in northern Bulloch County.

John, one of their six sons, was born in 1798. He and his wife, also named Elizabeth, moved to the southern end of the county (where we live) where they raised their family.

The information said John and Elizabeth had a home in the “Iric” area. In the photos above, If you were on Google Earth and could turn right and look down about a half mile, you could see the woods where Iric Creek runs.

The narrative stated “At the beginning of the nineteenth century, along the Savannah Road in Bulloch County, between thirty and forty miles west of Savannah, were the spacious plantation homes of John Brannen and five of his sons.” One of those homes can be seen on the right in the top photo.

It was the home of John and Elizabeth’s son, William A. Brannen. In the description particular note was given to the twelve huge water oaks that stood on either side of the “Savannah Road” in front of his home. The photo shows the oaks that remain. The house was restored in the 1940’s (and several more times with an addition or two since then) and is now the home of our nearest neighbors. Mr. Brannen is buried in a brick-walled family cemetery about a quarter mile behind the house (down toward Iric Creek.)

A neat verification of part of this came about several years ago when there was a reenactment of the Pony Express-like mail run that in the early days came out of Savannah heading towards Milledgeville (I think it was Milledgeville). Two neat parts were that they did a rider/horse exchange on the road in front of our house, and we found they had verified this was the right road because of the huge oak trees that were mentioned in the early records.

This post seems to have become a history lesson, but the Lord is in all of those, too. Elizabeth (John’s wife and William A’s mother) was a Donaldson before she married. Her father, Robert Donaldson, and brother, Matthew, were preachers who organized a dozen or so churches in this part of Georgia in the early 1800’s. The church we attend, Lanes Church, was organized in 1831 and the early records mention that Matthew Donaldson was the preacher there at one time.

The Lord keeps working through time. I’m thankful to Him that I’m blessed to live on a small part of what was William A. Brannen’s plantation, and especially thankful that Mr. Brannen’s uncle is part of Lanes Church’s 183 year history. A history the Lord has made me a part of now.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;  he will not abandon his heritage; (Psalms 94:14 ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

Got Faith? Plant an Oak Tree

Old Oak Tree

Old Oak Tree

I went hunting for an impressive oak tree to photograph and found this one along a stretch of highway south of Daisy, Georgia. It is impressive. My purpose for the quest was to illustrate one aspect of faith: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2nd Corinthians 5:7 ESV.

I don’t think this oak came about from a squirrel dropped acorn. I think someone planted this tree a century or more in the past. I have no proof of that, so that’s just a deduction from the other oaks up and down the road that appear to have been placed in particular locations. There probably was a house here then, but it probably wasn’t this one. (Could have been remodeled through the years, though).

The tree wouldn’t have become impressive during the lifetime of its planter. It’s likely it didn’t even reach “noticeable” status. And, it’s an absolute that the planter is not still around to see it become this mighty tree. But, that didn’t matter – they walked by faith. They knew what would happen far in the future. Their small efforts would become established and grow into a massive tree that would provide food and shelter for animals, and shade and comfort to people. I don’t know if they had the thought that just the sight of the tree would give a sense of wonder at God’s Creation, but I know that’s what I felt as I came around the curve and saw it.

It is just a deduction that someone planted this tree many years ago but the concept stands. Anytime you plant a long-lived, slow growing tree, you probably won’t see it reach “impressive” size. But, somebody will.

When the Apostle Paul wrote about walking by faith, not sight, he was noting that we don’t see the Lord, but we know (by the faith that God gave us and the Holy Spirit within us) we will see Him face to face one day. Paul then states that because of that, our aim in everything is “to please Him”

And that’s where I think another aspect of “walk by faith” comes in. It’s not planting trees (although I consider that a good thing), it’s doing things to please the Lord, even though we may not see the results (perhaps not even in our lifetime). As Jesus told us: Give someone who is thirsty a drink of water in His name. Feed the hungry. Welcome the strangers. Visit the sick. Make disciples.

Got faith? Then walk in it. Plant an oak tree. Or, better yet, spread the Good News about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.