The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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     I don’t know about you and your family, but significant dates such as birthdays and anniversaries (along with special holidays) tend to be clustered in certain months for my family. For instance, February includes the birthday of a brother, a sister, my father, my grandfather, and two sons (one born on Valentine’s Day). The month of May includes my mom’s birthday, Mother’s Day, and my parents’ anniversary. August includes the birthdays of my daughter, another sister, me as well as the anniversary of my wedding.

     Speaking of my anniversary, August 10, 2020 represented 35 years of marriage to my sweet wife. Sometimes milestones such as significant birthdays or anniversaries encourage us to pause for Personal Reflection. As I reflect over the past 35 years, I recognize some Glad times, some Sad times, and some Bad times. Glad times would definitely include the birth of my three children. All of them are unique in their personalities, purpose, pursuits, and progress. All of them are similar in their Love for the Lord, their Leaning on the Lord, their Living for the Lord, and their Leading others to the Lord. Currently two of them are married and the third is scheduled for early next year (glad times). While all of them live hundreds of miles away (San Francisco, New York City, and Birmingham, AL), I am glad that they are living and serving where they need to be and where the Lord wants them to be at these stages of their lives.
     I could reflect on many other glad times such as multiple graduations (seminary for me, law school for Joyce, high school, college, and graduate school for my kids) and the opportunity to serve as pastor or interim pastor of numerous churches. Serving in my present capacity as interim at Heucks Retreat Baptist Church in Brookhaven and as Executive Director of the Mississippi Baptist Foundation are glad times.
     Sad times would include my dad’s death in 1987, the death of Joyce’s father in 1998, the death of my grandmother in 2007, the death of my aunt (my mom’s twin sister) in 2016, the deaths of three uncles and the deaths of two of my dad’s first cousins (2015-2019).
     Bad times over the past 35 years would surely include a Gulf War and continued unrest in the Middle East, a devastating terror attack on the U.S. (9/11/01), and multiple periods of economic challenge including the bursting of the bubble, the Great Recession, and the recent/current cycle. Bad times over the last 3+ decades would include several storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes with the most well-known storm in Mississippi likely being a gal named Katrina. During the past 35 years several health-related challenges have been forthcoming on a global stage with the latest being COVID-19 and all of the disruptions, difficulties, and disappointments inherent with this pandemic. From my perspective, bad times also have occurred both culturally and morally over the past 35 years as lifestyles, actions, attitudes, and values that are far removed from a biblical worldview have become mainstream.
     As you and I reflect on the glad, sad, and bad times that have accompanied our own experiences over the last 35 years or whatever time frame on which you are reflecting, I suppose a question that might be asked is “How has the church responded in the midst of the glad, sad, and bad times that have been experienced and are being experienced?” For me personally, the church definitely has been a vital part of my experience in both the glad and sad times. Church leaders and church friends have celebrated with my family during the glad times and have mourned with us and supported us during the sad times. And, from my observation, the church (at least individual local churches) has addressed challenges pretty well during the bad times through prayer, disaster relief efforts, and ministry within their communities and beyond.
     Reflecting on the past 35 years caused me to engage in some Purposeful Introspection. Specifically, I had to ask myself questions such as “Am I being Jesus’ hands and feet within my sphere of influence?” Or, “Am I living as salt and light in my corner of this big world?” “As light, am I pushing back the darkness brought on by the Evil One?” “Am I adding flavor to and helping to preserve society as salt?” “Am I seeking first the Kingdom of God?” “Are the resources of my time, talents, and treasures being deployed on things temporal or eternal?” “Am I leading people at work, at church, and in other settings to celebrate with others in the glad times, to support others in the sad times, and to encourage and challenge others in the bad times?” “Am I praying for the Lord’s guidance, strength, wisdom, and intervention at all times?”
     After my personal reflection and purposeful introspection, I determined to follow the Lord’s Providential Direction and walk more closely with Him over the next 35 years than perhaps I have during the past 35 years. After all, God declared “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, KJV). Going forward, my goal is to live daily the resolve presented in the hymns “I have decided to follow Jesus,” “I Am Resolved,” “Higher Ground,” “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” and “Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go,” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” and…you get the idea. When each one of us follows God’s direction in our individual lives, I believe God’s blessings will be immeasurable.
     In the midst of your reflection, introspection, and possible course correction as you follow the Lord’s direction, may I encourage and challenge you (and myself) and your church family with Paul’s words in the Ephesian letter, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Don’t be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do.  Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with the words of psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, always give thanks for everything to God the Father” (Eph. 5:15-20, GNT).  

     Each day…Start Faithful, Stay Focused, Stand Firm, Steer Forward, and Step Forth!