Posts by Earl Stephenson

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Life Includes Improvising

When I exited the car, I took time to scratch my ankles. It felt so good. It also alerted me to the possibility that I may have been bitten by something. As it turned out, I had been bitten by several somethings. "There was a little chigger, and he wasn't any bigger than the point of a very small pin." Nancy and I had returned from a retreat in Branson, Missouri, where ...

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Building a Budget

Our 2019 church budget will be presented by the Stewardship Committee on Sunday night, October 21, at 6:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall in the main building. We will vote on the budget by secret ballot on Sunday morning, November 18, during both morning worship services. The budget will go into effect the first of January. Developing the budget included the efforts of mu...

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Transformation

At first, I just waited for the wart on my forearm to go away. I remembered an aunt who used to advise us to rub a wart with a penny then go and hide the penny where no one could find it. She promised that such an action would cause a wart to vanish. I didn't try that but did figure that it might vanish on its own. It did not. It actually grew to the point that I felt a ...

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Volunteers Needed

Some friends from seminary days visited our church on September 23. Carl and Pat Barrington were some of the first friends we made when we moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in the summer of 1980. We met them in Sunday School at the Southcliffe Baptist Church. The church was large but became small to us in Sunday School. We are Exhibit A of building relationships in a large chur...

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Bug Bite to Knee Surgery

I could barely walk. I had been riding in the car for almost three hours and thought that the down time had somehow affected my ability to function. I assumed that once I moved around a bit all would be well. Get the blood flowing and stretch those muscles! I continued to limp. I tried to pop something back in place by aggressively straightening my leg while I was away fro...

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Refuse to Quit

The hour I planned to spend in the morning hanging the new shutters expanded into well over four hours. The calculations I made in preparation for the Saturday event proved to underestimate the degree of difficulty and overestimate my level of competence. By the time Nancy and I were winding up the joint venture, she was quoting Murphy's Law; and I was saying "Amen." We we...

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The Value of Christian Friends

Freckles never knew what she was missing. For over a year she had occupied our back yard by herself, enjoying the privileges afforded to the current Brittany in the Stephenson family. She had a spacious dog house, a covered patio, and all the food she could eat. Actually, all the food she needed. She visited with the neighbors and their dogs when they happened by. Nancy an...

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"It Was Better Than Nothing"

"It was better than nothing!" We both laughed after she accurately described the benefits of a "swamp cooler" during the hot summertime, back in the day. She spoke with 94 years of accumulated wisdom. Today's worst central air system excels by far the best air conditioner of yesteryear. However, as Billie said, if a swamp cooler was all you had, it felt pretty good. Th...

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Practical Advice From a Friend

What I had planned as a simple task lasted longer than I expected. Much longer. While I worked on a little plumbing project, Nancy completed multiple chores around the house. We had agreed that it was best if she stayed away. I didn't plan to say anything I would regret, but my frustration level was on the rise. No sense in stressing our marriage over such a minor issue. ...

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"Want to" or "Have to"

Most Friday mornings, during quail season, my dog Freckles can be heard howling and moaning on the back patio. She refuses to silence herself until I bring her inside to put on her boots for the day. I have never been able to figure out how she knows we are going hunting. Somehow she senses that the day will include hunting. Maybe it is because we don't go walking. Maybe i...

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Puppies

Puppies are like small children in that they explore the world with their mouths. If they can pick it up, whatever it is, they put it in their mouths in order to experience its taste and texture. Most children have swallowed at least one coin for no valid reason. Once it heads down the esophagus there is no way to stop it. Yes, I was one of those children. Freckles picks...

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Prospects

I needed an address so I clicked on a file I keep shrunk at the bottom of my computer screen. I titled the file "Prospects" when I moved to Weatherford almost seventeen years ago. The file has become home for names, addresses, and phone numbers of people I meet and people who fill out visitor information cards on Sunday mornings. The file has grown to 42 pages of single-sp...

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Water

Water given to disciples of Jesus always gains the attention of heaven. Not massive amounts of water but cups of water. Cups filled with less than eight ounces qualify. They contain enough to quench the parched lips of tired disciples. When the twelve went out on mission, they needed to be "helped along" by the gifts of others. No gift, in Jesus' estimation, was more imp...

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Childhood is Wonderful

When I was a child, my parents allowed me to be a child. During the summer, I played with my siblings and my cousins without being on any rigid schedule. We went places and did things at a pace that allowed for many spontaneous activities. My mother has always enjoyed "serendipities" the unexpected pleasures that occur while going through life. More serendipities tend to ...

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"All In" Begins this Sunday

On May 8, Nancy and I attended the Tuesday evening performance of The Wizard of Oz, presented by the middle school students, under the direction of Kim Duerksen. We enjoyed the top-notch performance by all who had a part. We laughed and smiled and hummed along with a few of the songs. I did so next to a complete stranger. At least he was a complete stranger when we sat d...

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Blessing and Obedience

The nation of Israel had conquered the inhabitants of the land of Canaan in about five years. Pockets of resistance remained, but the war had been won by the power of God. Joshua, as leader of the nation of Israel, portioned out the land to the twelve tribes that made up the nation. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh came from Joseph. They received an allotment each. Still...

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You Don't Know til You Go

"You don't know till you go." For years, I have heard this statement used to describe fishing and quail hunting trips. It is impossible to know ahead of time whether the fish will be biting or the quail will be available. Only by going to the lake or the creek or the field will any outdoorsman ever be able to experience a successful adventure. Many fish have re...

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A Note to Holly

Note: I wrote the following letter to Holly Winters in late March. She went to be with Jesus on April 21. Her family gave me permission to print this. Holly, I haven't seen you in quite a while, so I thought I would write you a letter. I am sorry that you have been through so much pain as you have battled cancer and related issues for the past three years. I have praye...

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Full House

Decades ago Keith Wiginton advised me to "never rob the people of the joy of a full house." At the time, I had probably read a book or attended a conference that suggested beginning an additional service would allow all churches to reach more people. I followed his advice. I always sought to maintain one worship service until it became essential to add another service to a...

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Live Responsibly

God expects us to live responsible lives. There are choices we make and actions we take that we remain individually accountable for. According to Galatians 6:5, each Christian is expected to bear his own load. The word used for "load" in this verse is a word that refers to something like a backpack. There are many things in life that individual Christians, empowered by the...

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Distraction

This past quail season included crossing paths with more incidental "critters" than any season I can remember. Every year there are plenty of cottontail rabbits and armored armadillos. This year the plethora of animals grew to include a badger, a bobcat, a swan, thousands of snow geese, and countless wild hogs. Wild hogs come in a variety of sizes and colors. Wild hogs st...

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Pride Precedes Disaster

Pride precedes disaster. After ascending to the throne that had been occupied by the one who was trying to kill him, David eventually crashed and burned spiritually. It took a while, but David came to a point that he no longer felt the need to entrust himself completely to God's care. When he grew proud of his accomplishments, he fell victim to temptation. I am not sure Da...

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Follow Me

At the end, Jesus told Peter what He had told him in the beginning. "Follow Me." In both instances, Jesus made His appeal shortly after Peter had participated in a miraculous catch of fish. In the wake of the reminders that nothing is too hard for God, Jesus invited Peter to follow Him. In both instances Peter accepted His invitation. The first time he left the stability ...

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Why Take the Risk?

We altered our route. For over a decade Nancy and I have taken the same three-mile trek around Weatherford six mornings each week. We have changed dogs several times Streak, Scout, Gus, Freckles but never really stopped taking the same streets. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke" Well, it broke. One evening we were duplicating part of the walk on our bicycles when we...

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How Things Have Changed

I use a daily devotional as a supplement to my Bible reading each morning. Through the decades I have used a few of the devotional books more than once. This year, I again pulled out My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. I first read it through in 1980 as a part of my class assignment in Personal Evangelism. The content is accurate, inspiring, and practical. That ...

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Glow In The Dark

The truck jerked to a quick stop. Initially, in the early morning darkness, it had seemed as though it was going to blow through the stop sign. We have seen that happen often while walking before the sun comes up. This morning was different. Nancy was wearing the battery-powered vest I gave her for Christmas. The colors of the glowing tubes on the vest can be changed. On t...

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Your Presence Is Important

Nancy and I snuck into the balcony a few minutes before church started on New Year's Eve. The snow and frigid cold convinced us to stay close to home on my Sunday of vacation. Actually, there is no place we would rather worship than First Baptist Church in Weatherford. I enjoyed the perspective from up top. I enjoyed the music and the preaching. I enjoyed being surrounded ...

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New year

The afternoon walk I usually take Freckles on was interrupted by a meal we hosted in our home. In spite of her silent pleadings as she looked through the window with her big, brown eyes, I had no time to fulfill her expected excursion. Nancy and I both worked together to finalize food and atmosphere preparation. I even built a fire in our outdoor fireplace. The guests arr...

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Joy to the World

I grew up in a home that magnified Christmas on multiple fronts. We rarely missed church, so we enjoyed the transition from the regular hymns to the songs we sang only once a year. "Joy to the World" remains my favorite. We usually saw a presentation of the Christmas story in some simple manner as the celebration of Jesus' birth approached. I will never forget the magic o...

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Thank You, Jesus

The word jumped at me from the pages of Scripture. During my systematic reading of the Bible, I came to the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation on a Thursday morning. As the curtain was about to be pulled back to reveal future events, the only person worthy of making the revelation was the Lamb of God who had been slaughtered. That is the word! I was reading from the...

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Choose This Day How You Will Live

We remain personally accountable in life for the choices that we make and the actions that we take. Circumstances and relationships influence us, but they do not determine who we become. The choices we make and the actions we take determine the people we become. We must empathize with others when they hurt. We must not enable others when they refuse to assume responsibilit...

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2018 Budget

This Sunday night, October 15, at 6 p.m., the Stewardship Committee will present the proposed 2018 budget for First Baptist Church of Weatherford. The budget is the result of the combined recommendations of many committees and staff members. The Stewardship Committee puts together all the projected needs to form the budget. The budget guides spending. James Brown, who serv...

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No Place Like Home

Apartment 1012 in building 110 at Oklahoma Baptist University seemed to be a perfect place to spend the night during the conference I was attending. When I checked in on Monday afternoon, I noticed there was a functional microwave I could use to heat up coffee on the following morning when I woke up early. Breakfast wasn't scheduled until 7:30. I would need coffee before t...

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The Best Is Yet To come

Over sixteen years have passed since I came in view of a call as the pastor of Weatherford's First Baptist Church. On July 8, 2001, I preached a sermon that must have been fairly well received. The vote was 422 yes and 4 no. That afternoon we walked through the home we now live in and knew God was leading us to move to Weatherford. Still, we slept on it before I called Phi...

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His Question

His question caught me off guard. We were waiting a few minutes before I performed the wedding ceremony for him and his lovely bride. He had recently joined the church after attending for several months. He knew I spelled my last name with a "ph" instead of a "v" and that I grew up in Hobart. "Was Rex your brother?" "Yes he was. How did you know Rex?" "We were in rehab tog...

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His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Everything was going as planned. Nancy and I had delayed our evening walk with Freckles due to the elevated temperature. Once a few shadows began to appear, we began the daily loop around our neighborhood. I started the practice several dogs ago as a means of personal stress relief at the end of the day. The tradition continues. When we headed up one street, I noticed two ...

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Dog Tales 2

Through the years, I have illustrated sermons and articles with the activities and antics of the dogs that happen to be residing in our back yard. I would not consider myself to be a "dog lover" like some people I have known. I am a dog owner who appreciates the loyalty and laughs provided by my four-legged companions. If I raised Hereford cattle, I probably would write ab...

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Thanks Be To God

The first time I knew what he looked like was when the funeral home sent me his picture, along with the obituary I was recruited to read. His family brought his body back for burial after he lost a lengthy battle with cancer. He was eighty-seven years old. My role in the memorial service was minimal. Nevertheless, I wept.Allow me to explain. I don't always cry when I preac...

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I Love Being Your Pastor

I delight in serving as your pastor. Through the years God has woven my heart together with yours as we have done life together. At a recent funeral, I began counting the widows in attendance who had previously been on the front row while I led in a similar service. I stopped counting at five. As the soloist continued, I thought about the men who are with Christ and the ch...

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Thank You

May 7 will be Pete Petree's final day of serving here at Weatherford's First Baptist Church. For twelve years he has faithfully led our ministry to university students. Countless students turned into adults under his supervision and are now engaged in local churches throughout the world. Those he touched are continuing to touch the lives of others. His presence will be mis...

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We Are Never Alone

Adam, untouched by sin and its consequences, was busy tending the Garden of Eden while surrounded by God's fresh creation. There was plenty to see and plenty to do. Nevertheless, God recognized and cited the fact that it was not good for Adam to remain alone. To remedy the "alone" issue, God created Eve, united her with Adam, and commissioned them to be fruitful and multip...

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Jesus Paid It All

Jesus did not die by lethal injection behind closed doors. Jesus died on a cross. No one sought to make his death as comfortable as possible. Far from it.Man in his darkness had conceived of the most painful ways possible to put another person to death. Nail him to two rough-cut pieces of lumber, drop the thing in a hole and then watch the victim suffer before he died. To ...

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Easter Changes Everything

Next Sunday afternoon, we, as a church, will be putting door hangers on most residences in Weatherford as a way of inviting them to Easter worship services. The message on the hangers is brief, positive, and informative. Each person receiving one will know that they are invited to celebrate Easter with us. Door hangers can become bridge builders.Some who receive the door h...

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Using Your Gifts

Our Brittany Spaniel, Gus, was hit by a truck and killed on January 20. While the 45th president of the United States was being sworn into office, I watched my dog die. It was a tough day. Had he lived, my brother would have turned 50 years old on that same day. Clouds covered the sun. Sadness gripped my heart.The sun did come up and did shine on the following day. Life co...

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Life Goes On

Freckles has become a part of our family. Nancy and I picked her up in Ponca City when she was barely eight weeks old. She was born as one of five females in a litter of eleven Brittany Spaniels. A friend of mine had reserved her for himself but let me have her after our dog Gus was killed. How kind of him! How fortunate for us.Nancy picked out the name "Freckles" long bef...

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Weep With those Who Weep

Nancy recognized the food editor's picture on the front of The Daily Oklahoman. She reads what he writes, and I am grateful. Bad recipes rarely make it into print in a major newspaper."Oh, no. His son died. He was only nineteen. I wonder what happened?"I left the room to brush my teeth before heading to the church. When I returned, she had tears in her eyes."He had struggl...

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I Love Being Your Pastor

The significance of the local church cannot be overstated. The local church is the body of Christ operating in a specific community. The local church is the pillar of truth standing strong in a specific community. The local church is the light of the world, displaying moral purity in a specific community. The local church is the salt of the earth, fighting moral decay in a...

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Life Includes Losing

Life includes losing. It may be a game or an election or a pet or a marriage or a friend. It happens on multiple fronts to every person in a variety of ways. Everyone doesn't lose in the same manner, but everyone loses in one way or another. No one makes it through life with all victories and no defeats.I spent my life without any medals until I entered a 5K run in which I...

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He Is Worthy

It was the only crown He ever wore. The Roman soldiers broke the monotony of executing another Jew by making fun of Jesus' claim to be a king. It did not matter to them that He told Pilate His kingdom was not of this world. They simply seized upon the opportunity to mix mockery with murder.The crown was woven out of thorns and set on His head. The staff they placed in His ...

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Less Can Accomplish More

Nancy and I have been downsizing our stuff. We have a term we use in describing our efforts that I will not use in this article. It is not a bad word - I am just not sure that it is a word. Just because the sports commentators make up words doesn't make it right. We have been sorting through closets and editing keepsakes. We have found many things we forgot we had. We are ...

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Life Turns On A Dime

I buried him with his boots on. The half-day's hunt had worn them down a bit but produced no holes. Every morning, before we left for a day of quail hunting, Gus would lay on his back in the utility room while I wrapped his paws with gauze before covering the gauze loosely in duct tape. The portable barriers protected his feet from the grass burrs that grew in the fields w...

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Live With Zeal

The pheasant ran like mad across the field toward the gravel road. He was unable to fly but still capable of rapid ground travel. He headed my way. "Stop him before he gets to the weeds, or we will never find him!"One of my fellow hunters was giving encouragement and practical instruction in the same sentence. I ran to the right to cut him off. He made it past me and onto ...

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Curmudgeon

Stephen Myers introduced me to the word one evening during a Q A Connection service. He used the word "curmudgeon" in one of his answers. I asked for a definition. Off the cuff, he mentioned something about a person who was very difficult to get along with. When I looked at the definition in the dictionary, I found his answer to be precise, but incomplete."A bad tempered,...

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Ultimately, his action spoke louder than his words. During his lifetime he had voiced more than his share. Arrogant words. Profane words. Denying words. Critical words. Peter always had something to say. Moments of silence lasted only briefly when he was in the crowd.His gift of gab was radically redirected once the Holy Spirit took up residence inside of him on the day of...

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Cheering for the Cubbies

Jeff and Zoie DeFehr stopped by the house during the National League Championship Series to bring Nancy a gift. Nancy's recent trip to Chicago had convinced her to become a Cubs' fan. She toured Wrigley Field with her sisters and heard nearly two hours of information about everything from the ivy on the outfield walls to the names on the uniforms. Did you know that the tea...

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Jesus brings Peace

My niece Lynda married Cooper in her parents' back yard. Actually, the back yard that my sister Sheri and her husband Keith have created and maintained over the years is more like a park. A well thought out, meticulously maintained park. Keith owns and operates a nursery and landscaping business in Manhattan, Kansas. Sheri works hard and thinks wisely. Their combined effor...

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Be a Transformer

Asa reigned as king over Judah for 41 years. Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord for decades. When Asa died, his son Jehoshaphat continued to rule for a quarter of a century. Asa's son also did what was right in the sight of the Lord. The entire nation of Judah benefitted from the impact that Asa had as a leader and as a father.Asa came from a negative home sit...

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Minor Adjustment

The floor lamp positioned near the chair I sit in every morning flickered on and off from time to time for several weeks. I learned that a gentle shake of the lamp usually brought the light back on after things had gone dark. I was delaying the replacement of the switch in the lamp. My dad was a trained electrician. I am not. My repairs are often the first step in buying s...

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Director of Preschool/Children

This Sunday we will vote on calling Amber Bryant to serve as the Director of Preschool and Children's Ministries here at First Baptist Church. Amber is being unanimously recommended by the search committee we selected June 12. Amber will be sharing briefly in both morning worship services. All members can vote during each service and place their ballot in the offering plat...

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When She Reached for His Cloak, She Touched His Heart

When she reached for His cloak she touched His heart. His response differed radically from the doctors she had visited during the past dozen years. She continued to suffer while her condition deteriorated. They offered no solutions as they continued to demand payment. Desperation drove her through the crowd to Jesus. She had no money. She had no place to worship. She lived...

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Enjoying God's Word

Gus never seemed all that interested in eating. When I filled his bowl with food in the morning, he took a bite or two before retreating to the yard, where he stretched out for a nap. He stayed skinny. Eventually the bowl would empty. I was never sure if he ate during the afternoon or after the sun went down. It seemed that eating, for Gus, was more of a duty than a joy. H...

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Love You, Momma

My mother was only twenty years old when I was born. She may have been very young, but she had a wealth of knowledge about raising children. Being the sixth of eight children qualified her to know a lot about siblings and nieces and nephews and such. Babies and small children had been a part of her life all of her life.The pictures in the photo album clearly evidence why s...

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Want To

Gus was acting weird. After we flushed a covey of quail, he began lagging behind as Pete led the charge forward. Rather than searching for the scattered birds, Gus seemed content to sit in the background and watch us hunt. He was not gun shy. I made sure of that before I consented to assume ownership of him. He had a good nose. He proved that multiple times as we practiced...

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Busy, but Blessed

God has given us a new year! As your pastor, I look forward to serving the Lord with you during the exciting days that are ahead of us. You are a joy to know and serve the Lord with. I actually considered getting a T-shirt made that said, "I pastor a great church!" I thought about doing so after seeing so many of you serve so well in the meeting of the needs of others. I d...

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