Friday, November 10, 2006

Class Reunion

I admit I am terrible at keeping up with this Blog thing. The fact is I already know what I think and I am therefore more interested in reading other peoples blogs to see what they are thinking. That means I end up writing mostly about personal expeiences that interest a few of my friends and family and not all you suave current issues types. So today I am going to tell you about the exciting and terrible experience of my 20 year college reunion. It was exciting to see some old friends, though too many did not show. It was terrible to suddenly be faced with the realization that, despite how I feel, I am old enough to go to a 20 year class reunion!
Of course I graduated from college at the age of 10. If that were true I would be in good shape. The truth is I was 21. You do the math. I could have told people it was my wife's reunion and that I am much younger than she is, while this would have been true it would not have been accurate. We graduated together so there was no honest way to avoid it being my 2o year landmark since irresponsible fun ended and reality showed up for a very long stay.
This was all made worse by the fact that we had several conversations with Professors who currently teach at the University regarding my son who will start at the same place next fall. Let's face it, life slips by very quickly. (Side note: A funny thing happened as shortly after we turned in his application for admission we received a call from campus security to let Jonathan know that, based on family history, they would be watching him very closely. This despite the fact that my son is so much straighter of an arrow that I was that he makes his Godly Mother look like a reprobate. Come to think about it, maybe they were calling because of the way SHE acted in college. Hmm, I don't think so.
To my faithful yet disturbed friends and family who read this blog, all three of you, please feel my pain.
The final straw though was that the reunion occured on the opening day of deer season. May I just ask, what kind of a place called EAST TEXAS Baptist University schedules important events on a religious holiday? I think my neighbor shot my buck. Meanwhile our worship leader, who does a great job every Sunday leading us to worship the King of Kings, took a nine pointer and rubbed it in by sending me pictures. This leads me to think email is of the devil and Bo is such a heathen!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's Your Motive?

What is your motive? I struggle with understanding how we frail creatures of dust can do some of the things we do and convince ourselves we are doing right. I'm not talking about the issues like murder, adultery or parking in handicapped parking spaces without a sticker. I am talking about the things we do at church and in our denominations. For example, when we judge others by a standard we refuse to hold ourselves to or when we impose additional restrictions on someone that go beyond Scripture and consider them unworthy of service if they do not fulfill our expectations. I believe Jesus referred to that as "teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."

The surprising thing is when we can do something blatantly wrong, obviously hypocritical and oftentimes just plain mean and defend to the death that we were doing it "in the Lord's name" or "for the benefit of the church" or "to protect the institution/denomination". I find it necessary when I get stirred up about something, clench my teeth in anger and haul off to "set somebody straight" to take a moment and ask, "What is my motivation"? "Why am I really doing this"?

From the public comments in relation to the issue at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the controversy over a private prayer language it would seem that a Godly man, Dr. Dwight McKissic, is being sold down the river for taking a theological stance that is held by other, though not a majority, of Southern Baptists. In advocating acceptance of a private prayer language (as far as I can tell he never proposed that every believer needed one or needed to pursue one) he has run afoul of the powers that be. The unfortunate thing is that "the powers that be" in this case would seem to be men whom many of us have looked to with great admiration for their role in leading our Southern Baptist Convention to throw off the fog of liberal theology and return to a more conservative and wholesome view of the Holy Word.

I pray that all involved in this current fracas would be smitten by God's rich supply of grace. I pray that we would all put down our stones and save them for the real giants. Since the father called me to His ministry (1980) I have never really known an SBC free from contention. I would ask those to whom God has entrusted leadership of our Convention, our SBC entities, our theological discussions and most importantly our missionary efforts, please, show me a Convention, show me a Seminary, show me a Mission Board with hearts set ablaze in passion for Jesus and in prayer and fervency to share Him with a lost world. I pray for that Holy Spirit revival to begin in me.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How My Son Is Getting Even

My son began the long process of getting even with me this weekend. After years of discipline and reminders like, "Elbows off the table", he now has his revenge. Yesterday we drove on to the campus of East Texas Baptist University, my alma mater, the place where next Fall he will begin his journey away from home. I associate this hallowed place as the place of my youth. This is where my faith grew and I at least made some progress in growing toward the goal of being the minister God wants me to be. Ok, I also associate it with practical jokes like Kool Aid in the fountain on the Quad and welcoming the incoming class of Freshmen girls each year.

As I walked on to the campus I was returning not as a young skull full of mush with my entire exciting future before me. Now I was coming up the hill as a middle aged man about to throw his "baby" to the wolves. It seems like a really short time since I was a student there meeting Jonathan's Mother and now she and I are "the cute old couple" walking across the campus trailing our son as he drinks in the wonder of his soon to be new home.

If he doesn't wipe that silly grin off his face I may smack him! I know the fun that lies ahead of him. I know the challenges, the temptations and the disappointments. I wish I could protect him from some of those, make him cherish the others and convince him that some of the things he thinks are so important right now will be very unimportant in the long run. Yet, I know that is not only misguided and impossible, it is wrong. It's not just that I cannot deliver him from those things but also that I should not. I would be robbing God of the opportunity to create His fullness in my "little boy".

Thanks for listening. I'm going to eat a gallon of Blue Bell and things will be better tomorrow!

Friday, September 01, 2006

AWOL And Ice Cream

My Granddaddy Mayrant has always been my idol. He was, first of all, the most positive male role model in my early life. He was also a war hero, at least to me, part of “The Greatest Generation”. In World War II he went into the Navy. The United States Navy assigned him to a submarine and he told them flatly that he would serve on anything but a submarine. People from Sweetwater Texas don’t tend to like being under water.

The Navy, not being used to sailors who disobeyed orders, pushed back that he would serve on the submarine. He loved his country but he wasn’t getting on that thing. He is probably the only sailor in history to go AWOL and leave a forwarding address. The Military Police picked him up at home, where he said he would be when they got ready for him, and returned him to the base where he was promptly reassigned to a pocket sized aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Gambier Bay. He may have wished he took the submarine.

In June 1944 General Douglas MacArthur was busy cashing in on his “I shall return” promise to the people of the Philippines. In order to do that the United States Navy had to locate the Japanese Navy. Locate it they did, not with big carriers and battleships but with Task Force ??, a group of pocket sized carriers and their destroyer escorts. One of those small carriers was the Gambier Bay.

“Finding” the Japanese Navy meant heavy damage to the carrier group. One saving grace was that the Japanese thought they had found a major task force. They literally thought they were firing at Lexington or Yorktown or some other major carrier. This meant the Japanese sent heavy Cruisers, large, heavily armored ships into what they thought was the opportunity to turn the tide of war back in their favor. The difference this made was that the Japanese were firing heavy armor piercing shells that were literally going all the way through the relatively unarmored carriers without exploding. The shells would come through one side of the ship, fly across the hanger bays and exit the opposite side of the ship.

Many of the ships took heavy damage but none more than the Gambier Bay. In a very brief time the call to “Abandon Ship” was sounded and the U.S.S. Gambier Bay became the first, and only, United States Aircraft Carrier ever to be sunk by Naval gunfire. My Granddaddy actually had the advantage of being in the line of communication coming down from the bridge so he heard all the reports the Captain and Staff officers were giving and receiving during the battle.

In addition to his wartime duties he was busy being “industrious”. Granddaddy is a tea-totaler and has been all his life, including the times when “Liberty” would be declared and beer was somehow made available. Each sailor was rationed a certain amount and Granddaddy, having no use for the ale was glad to sell it for cash or other negotiable items, and there were a lot of negotiable items!

In the midst of the battle there was one funny note. He had a small business up and running aboard ship where he would take scrap metal that was not going to be recycled and form it into jewelry. He would sell it to other sailors who found it very useful as either an exotic gift to send home or a nice gift for a local “girlfriend” in some port of call. Just before he was about to abandon ship he remembered his store of jewelry and turned back to see if he could retrieve it. A Japanese shell exploded and hit the place where he had been standing, the blast had occurred under the side of the ship but the section where he had been was gone. He decided two things: to forget the jewelry and to jump into the water.

He describes the time from when he went under the water until he came back to the surface as the longest time of his life. Shells were exploding in the water and he was temporarily deaf when he finally came back to oxygen. It was a bad situation. The life preservers many of the men had on were now useless, as they had taken so much shrapnel, small bits of flying metal. The holes in their life jackets made them take on water and as a result they were weighing the men down more than they were helping them float.

Granddaddy and a few others found a cargo net with small buoys around edges and somehow, a small raft. There was a man who had had most of his legs shot off and they were able to get him on the raft. Miraculously he survived. They rest of the men took turns exchanging places on the small buoys to keep as many of the men alive as possible. Some of the sailors who went into the water that day died from their wounds, some from hypothermia or fatigue, and some from the sharks. Granddaddy does not like to talk about that part of the story.

His rescue, and the rescue of many others is a miracle itself. The men were in the water for a long period of time. Granddaddy told me 68 hours one time though that seems almost unbelievable. Whatever the time was they were rescued by an American Navy vessel whose Captain disobeyed orders. The ship was running silent, no communication and no lights. The Captain later said that he “felt like God wanted him to turn the lights on”. He did and found himself surrounded by hundreds of men in the water. The men of the Gambier Bay were saved!

I am thankful for that because if he had not been saved there would have been no Mom and no me. And of course I would not be able to tell you about the ice cream. Granddaddy was diagnosed as a diabetic many years ago. He went on medication and “Doctors Orders” to avoid sweets. Once again he showed his penchant for disobeying orders and doing things his way. The only problem was that this time he faced a more formidable enemy than the United States Navy; he faced Granny.

She made sure he “towed the line” in many aspects but he was sneaky. They had a barn out back of the house that had electricity run to it. Inside the barn was a deep freezer where they kept all the food they could not store in the inside freezer. Granny did not venture to the barn very often, usually sending Granddaddy to retrieve whatever she wanted to fix for dinner. Here he saw his opportunity.

His favorite treat has always been strawberry ice cream. He would buy strawberry ice cream and hide it in the freezer. He also was wise, and sneaky, so that along with the cream he hid a spoon. He being Granddaddy and I being the only grandchild at the time a second spoon was soon added to the freezer. Yes, Granddaddy taught me to be sneaky, hide things from others and disobey orders you were not willing to follow.

I guess I can forgive him because he also taught me some great lessons about hard work, sacrifice and integrity, ice cream lying strategies not included. Years later he was no longer diabetic and in his seventies we feel like we “saved” him after surgery by hiding Ensure in an ice cream milk shake. The lesson about sneakiness was well learned! He is now eighty six, is not a diabetic and still loves ice cream; you just have to watch him.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Outing My Own Self

Ok, I don't really like the term either but what do you call it when you unmask yourself. I am no longer going to post anonymously. My name is Chuck Bryce and in the words of the great philosopher and lasagna expert Garfield the Cat, "Big fat hairy deal!". I'm still trying to figure out what to do with this Blog thing so be patient. There are a lot of things I want to say, many things I should say and a whole lot more I should definitely NOT say. Anyone else struggle with taming your own tongue? Hmmm. Guess I must be the only one. Anyway, I am also going to put a suitable photo on here as soon as I: A. Lose 20 pounds, B. Find Katie Couric's Photoshop editor, C. Get a picture with my family standing in front of me or D. Lose 30 pounds.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Batter and Fry, A Story About God’s Provision

It is too hot to do just about anything outside right now except fish. I have wanted to get in some Biblical recreation (Hey, the disciples were fishermen, right?) for a while now and the lovely and talented Mrs. had been craving fried catfish so this met a couple of legitimate needs. Plus Mother In Law had a new pond we needed to try out so we turned it into a family thing.
The trip was just a few hours worth of fishing squeezed into a trip to East Texas for the funeral of my great uncle. I also had a business meeting scheduled so this fishing was going to be just a few hours one morning.
We cleaned eighteen catfish when we were done. The fish were biting so we pushed our travel time a little close. After cleaning fish I had to shower and get to the bank in time for the meeting. Ever had that experience of feeling like you know something about yourself but you are not able to know whether others know it? I knew my hands still smelled like fish but I wasn’t sure whether people at the bank knew I smelled like fish.
If they knew they did not say anything. After the meeting we were off to the funeral home. Shower and bank meeting aside I still smelled like fish but I am related to these people so they will have to take me like I am. Besides, I think my Uncle Lee Roy probably got a heavenly chuckle about me showing up at his visitation with the fragrant aroma of “Eau de Catfish” about me.
The next day was my Uncle’s funeral and because of our travel arrangements the catfish had to be left at Mother In Law’s. I had a root of bitterness over this. I helped catch it, I helped clean it, now I was not going to get to eat it. In the words of Dolly Parton, “Poor, poor, pitiful me!” For an alleged Man of God I was surprised I was able to nurse that grudge a couple of entire days, mad at no one but at everyone at the same time. I sounded like Job. God has done some wonderful spiritual things this week but I was still focused on my great loss. I missed my fish!
Finally I put my whining aside. The things of God are certainly more important than a mess of catfish anyway. That’s when the lord provided in a most unexpected way. Right out of the blue, well, God’s blue anyway, one of our church friends called and asked a funny question of my wife, “Ya’ll don’t like catfish do you?” Hello, does a one legged duck swim in circles!? The next question was even better, “Would it be alright if we stopped by in a few minutes and brought you some catfish?” If my sweet wife had answered anything other than the positive, Dear Friends, there would have been a rumble in the back pasture. And we don’t even have a back pasture!
I am thankful that I was able to put my sulking little self aside just in time for the Father to deliver a nice little surprise. I am also thankful for a Brother in Christ, Wallace Johnson, for being used by God, not just as a long time Texas Baptist Men’s Builder but also as a fisher and deliverer of fish. It was a great way for the Lord to remind this repentant Preacher that the Father really is the Provider of all. Plus, He not only owns the cattle on a thousand hills He also owns the catfish in a thousand ponds!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

My Uncle Lee Roy

My Uncle Lee Roy closed his eyes in this world this afternoon (08/05) and opened them in the presence of Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you have a minute I want to tell you why he was so special to me.
First of all there was an extra familial connection. He is actually my Great Uncle, or, as I like to say, my Great Uncle Squared. He is both the Brother of my Maternal Grandmother and his wife is the Sister of my Maternal Grandfather. The two families of ten plus each lived near one another and the dating pool was limited so the two families ended up having two children marry into the other family. Because of this my Grandparents and My Uncle and Aunt were always very close, even living together for a while as young married couples. Times were often tough after the war. That closeness meant that Lee Roy and Zelma were the kinfolks we saw the most when I was growing up.
Next there was a physical connection. Lee Roy and I always saw eye to eye on everything literally because since the age of about 15 he and I have been the same height. I am roughly 5’4” and before you laugh I have it on good authority that all the doors in heaven are 5’6” and the rest of you better hope that your resurrection bodies get “right sized” on the way to Glory!
Finally there is a spiritual connection. He and Aunt Zelma were some of the earliest and most consistent Christian witnesses that I was around while growing up. During both my college days and my third Pastorate I lived within short driving distance from them. This meant they had the opportunity to be a further great influence on my life. This became particularly important when those days became some of the darkest I have walked through. The self inflicted wounds of living often produce our darkest days.
Even though Uncle Lee knew I had gotten myself into a mess he was never condemning and always patient. He and Zelma loved me and my wife and kids and kept supporting us in prayer and encouragement right through that time. I am so thankful God had him ministering to us in that time!
Some of the memories I have go back to early childhood. Lee was good at making me think he was really mean and tough. He had been teasing me especially hard one day when I needed someone to watch me so I could swim. When Lee offered to watch me he did so with the assurance of, “Don’t worry, I can save you.” My sharp tongued reply was, “I know you can save me but will you?”
Years later when in college I was visiting his house on several acres in Whitehouse, Texas. He had been a little under the weather and his yard needed mowing. I was already going to volunteer to do it when he made a comment about not asking me to do it because he “knew Preachers did not like to work too hard.” He was a master motivator because I remember being mad the whole time I was mowing, edging, raking and everything else I did in order to prove to him that Preachers “certainly did know how to work.”
Lee Roy had made his living in the lumber and construction business. He used those talents in his service to the Lord. He told me one time with just a little pride peeking through that he knew a certain church building was well built because he had measured and cut nearly every board that went into it. There was no selfish pride involved in the way he said it. It was simply the testimony of someone who was proud that they could give their best to something and see the results.
Uncle Lee had lots of “sayings”. He used to say that there were two places a woman did not belong, under the hood of a car or on the golf course. He met my wife Robin, played golf with her and decided there was an exception to the rule. I don’t remember if he ever let her work on his car though!
He also had a great philosophy about work and retirement. He was always frustrated about his lack of length off the tee compared to us “flat bellies”. He used the term “flat belly” for anyone who out drove him as it certainly did not apply to me at any time nor within a decade of any time I played golf with him! His theory was that a man should go to school, graduate and play golf until he turned 65, then go to work. It was sort of a “youth is wasted on the young philosophy”. If he had run for office on that platform I would certainly have voted for him.
One of my funny memories actually involved Uncle Lee and my son, Jonathan. It happened on the golf course and Jonathan was about four or five years old. Lee had insisted that Jonathan ride with him in the golf cart. Jonathan had been watching Uncle Lee operate the golf cart and had quickly figured out that to make the thing “go” you simply mashed on the pedal and turned the wheel. He took the opportunity to demonstrate this when Lee had stepped out of the cart to hit a shot. I was on the other side of the fairway and turned around just in time to see my young son driving Uncle Lee’s cart right toward a pond with my 70 plus year old Uncle chasing him down the fairway.
I honestly am not sure if I could have moved as fast as he did! He caught the cart and hopped in while it was moving and brought the cart to a stop just a foot or two short of the pond. Lee always insisted he was just worried about the cart being lost to Davy Jones’ locker but we all saw right through that. He was teary eyed that evening when Jonathan hugged him goodbye.
I want to tell you one more thing about Uncle Lee and it relates to his devotion to his sweet wife Zelma. Years ago Zelma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She has actually been, to my knowledge, very healthy other than this insidious enemy that has robbed so much of the joy of life in the past few years. Lee told me that he was praying and asking God to let him outlive Zelma so that he could take care of her. Until the last few days of his life here he has done just that. I do not know why the Lord chose to answer Lee Roy’s prayer differently than he wanted. I do know that Uncle Lee had enough faith to know that if God chose to say “yes” that would be great and if God chose another route it is because He has a greater glory planned. It is a good and perfect will that will bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus.
The Bible is not completely clear on what people with Jesus now can see or hear of the things on earth. From Jesus’ Lazarus and the rich man story we may gather that people can see us, perhaps hear us but cannot communicate to us. If that is the standard then I hope Uncle Lee can hear this, “I love you and I thank God for you. I thank you for your witness, your friendship and your wisdom. I am glad that you have made it home and I know that you have heard the best words in eternity, Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of my rest.”


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Welcome Friend, Meet Blog in a Fog Pastor

Welcome to Blog In A Fog Pastor. I am going to try this anonymously at first, just to see if I can do this. I am a bivocational or "tentmaking" Pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in East Texas not too far from Houston. I am a graduate of East Texas Baptist University in Marshall and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. No, I'm not impressed either. I have been in ministry for twenty something years and have no idea whether I am younger leadership, emergent leadership or just a grumpy old preacher like the ones I used to complain about.

My "other job" is in the financial services industry working for a large corporation. I don't think they are trying to take over the world but I do pray with one eye open at work just in case!

The reason I am starting this blog is that with a family of five (two are teenagers) and two jobs I was finding myself with a little too much time on my hands. Ok, how about everybody else is doing it? (Insert Maxwell Smart voice here.) Would you believe I am trying to vent and improve my writing skills at the same time? (End Maxwell Smart voice, return to East Texas twang.) Ok, the reason is mostly the last one but what Blogger doesn't hope somebody at a publishing house reads their blog and offers them incredible piles of cash to let them publish their yada, yada, bla, blah, blah?

The church I Pastor (six years!) is "High Tech Redneck", meaning that we are in the country but we still found someone to hook up one of those fancy projector thingies and put the hymns and choruses and sometimes the Pastor's sermon notes on a screen that covers the baptistry. We have a wall to wall praise band and praise team with everything from children and youth to Deacons entering their second and sometimes third childhoods. By this do not imply they are childish just fun loving and uncontrollable!

We tell ourselves and anyone who will listen that we are a Spirit led, people driven church that is excited about loving God and reaching people. We say Spirit led because last time I checked the Lord is the head of His church, not yours truly. Besides, would a truly competent person be blogging in a fog? We say people driven because we believe our churches ministry is based on the particular spiritual gifts of the peculiar people God brings into our church.

Don't expect a lot of earthshattering theology in this blog I'm not even sure I can keep it logical, much less "God logical". (Attention wordsmiths, I am aware that's not a proper translation of "theological"; you guys need to chill out a bit!)

One last thing about me. I have recently been diagnosed with a serious health condition that prohibits me from driving, at least for a short period of time. While this does not affect my ability to think or post (I think, Hmmm.) I do plan to use it as a sympathy card and say that you should feel sorry for me and not respond negatively or critically to any of my posts. In other words I only have one feeling so don't hurt it!

Enough about me. My wish for you is that you have a passion for Jesus, a full cup of joy and an eye for the lost around you.

Blog in a Fog Pastor