January 6, 2020 - In the 70’s Lumberton, Texas  was the fastest growing town in the State. Along with other businesses, they built three new churches, two funeral homes and I built my “Doug’s Gun Clinic” on Highway 96. Later, the City of Lumberton made plans to build a water tower two blocks from my shop and employed an Arkansas Construction Company to build it.  
   
A few weeks after construction began, my shop door exploded open one morning and a scared, bloody, black Security Guard threw his arms around me saying, “Please, Sir---Please Sir---Will you save me? They’re trying to kill me!” His blood-covered face and clothes confirmed his story. I had heard that the Local Union had shut the Tower work down and that Lumberton had hired a Security guard to watch the Tower site.
    
As the young man sat down, a vehicle wheeled up in front of the shop. I grabbed my Colt Python .357 Magnum from under the counter and opened the door. One of the two men in a pickup shouted out, “Did you see a N----- running down this way?”  Pointing my Python toward the driver, I replied, “Do you want to die?!” The men hurriedly spun from the driveway and raced back towards Beaumont.

Since a State Trooper office was nearby, I told the young man I was leaving to get him. “When I leave, lock the door and don’t open it for anyone except me”, I said. The Trooper was writing out a report as I entered his office. When I told him what happened, he hardly looked up and mumbled, “I’ll be there later.” And when he finally got there, he looked over at the trembling boy sitting in the chair… humility written all over his blood-covered face …and gruffly barked, “Come on!” ---as if the black boy was the criminal. When they walked out the door, I was left with a sense---not of relief---but of sadness.
   
Occasionally Pam and I drive through Lumberton on our way to photograph birds around High Island. And there it is: My old Gun Shop…the Water Tower…and all the memories I had there….almost 45 years ago. I never even learned that young man’s name…and I often wonder what ever happened to him.

My son Mark recently asked me, “Dad, do you know what you would have done if those men had tried to take him?” “Yes, I know…and those men knew, too”, I replied. “And if it happened…I‘d do it again.”

November 22, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was Christ the King Sunday on the ancient Christian calendar, and this Thursday is the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Next Sunday begins a new year on the Christian calendar: the First Sunday of Advent. Usually at Paxton Methodist, Advent also features a Christmas program and dinner for the community. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, we have canceled our 2020 Christmas program.

All this month we are collecting beans and rice for Community Christian Services. In December we will collect cans of soup. Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship, and we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. We want to be as safe as we can. Our music this morning was “I’ll Fly Away,” a toe-tapping version by Alan Jackson, and the beautiful hymn, “This Is My Song,” presented by Joan Baez. The second song is also called “Finlandia,” the national anthem of Finland. We wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving—and to Larry, a happy birthday on the same day.

On Saturday afternoon we had our Charge Conference with our district superintendent, Dr. White. Previously, at Paxton Methodist’s Church Conference, we approved all the Charge Conference reports, including next year’s apportionments, the 2021 budget, and support and salary for the pastor. Dr. White shared a very personal story in his devotional. Being with Dr. White was like renewing an old friendship. We certainly appreciate him coming to Paxton Methodist, as we are rather tech-averse.

Our Sunday School lesson scripture came from Revelation 4: 1-11. John’s strange vision of the divine realm is very fanciful and kind of scary to us. But it was a book to reassure Jesus people that God rules from on high and was worthy of praise. Our author stated that misunderstanding Revelation has led to spiritual sickness, bizarre cults, political missteps, and environmental carelessness. How very sad but true.

The Gospel lesson, Mark 25: 31-46, was about judgment—separating the goats from the sheep. In Jesus’ story the goats are the bad guys, and the sheep are the good guys. And what are people going to be judged on? How they treat others—especially the least in this world. This is a really radical idea but Jesus very clearly states this twice—in a positive way and a negative way. This story makes North American Christians very uncomfortable, but its meaning is plain.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

November 19, 2020 - One of the great inventions of the 20th century was the washing machine. It totally changed the back-breaking way that laundry had to be done. With the washing machine, you can put the clothes in, turn it on, come back in a few minutes and clean clothes are ready to be put in the dryer or hung on the clothesline (yes, some folks still do that!)

Yet, have you ever noticed how clothes sometimes come out of the washing machine? Often the shirts come out with the sleeves all twisted. Aprons come out with the strings tied in knots. This is caused by the outward pressure as the clothes are squeezed dry on the tub of the machine.

If you think about it, the spin of the washing machine often illustrates the way we live our lives. We spend our lives in a whirlwind of activity. Consequently, we often feel like we have been through the spin cycle and come out all tied in knots.

God never intended for us to live like that. Remember, Paul would write; “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6). Let’s stop living our lives in the spin cycle.

It’s something to think about… tbp

Center Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, Texas or online at www.centerchurchofchrist.com

November 17, 2020 - (Flier) - Join us for a morning worship and prayer November 21 at 10am on the square in Timpson.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good His love endures forever.

Music by Charleston Johnson and Amberly Sparks.

November 16, 2020 - In 1946, Daddy moved our family to a rent house on Arcadia Road in Center, Texas. Behind the house was an old chicken house where our “Banty” chickens roosted every night. My brother John and I often crawled on top of it to swing on one of the two high line wires that ran to the house.

On this given day, John, my cousin Eddie Jean Watson and I were swinging on the bottom wire when John pulled the top wire together with the bottom one and immediately began shaking and making an unutterable sound. The high electric voltage held him froze to the wires as he shook erratically as he tried to loosen himself. When I grabbed him around the waist, the high voltage literally slammed me down backwards on the tin roof. Quickly jumping back up, I grabbed John again and was shocked down.

Daddy worked on a construction job out of town and came home only on weekends. And for some reason, he just happened to be home that day and was standing at the back gate. When he saw us, he raced out and made an unbelievable leap to the top of the chicken house. Quickly grabbing John by his overall galluses, he snatched John from the electric lines. John lay moaning for several minutes and continued to shake when we got to the house.

As I look back at that day, I am convinced that we did not know the danger of swinging on the wire and I certainly know my parents did not see us doing it. But I am still in wonderment on the fact that Daddy “happened to be home” and “happened to see John’s situation” and was fleet-footed enough to save John. I figured that my brother would always stay far away from electricity the rest of his life, but not so. He has always done much of his electrical work and is a pretty good electrician. And the only one that stayed so afraid of electricity … was me.

November 16, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday is the last Sunday on the Christian calendar: Christ the King Sunday. To refer to someone in olden times as a king was to show honor and respect. We Americans fought a war for independence from a king, so we see honor and respect in people governing themselves. If it were up to me I would call Sunday Christ Our Savior and Friend Sunday, but that’s just me.

This coming Saturday at 2:00 is Paxton Methodist’s Charge Conference. Our District Superintendent has to make the long trip here because Paxton Methodist hasn’t figured out Zoom yet—and doesn’t have wi fi anyway. Most churches are having Zoom yearly conferences, but we still have “that old-time religion!”

Paxton Methodist Church is meeting each Sunday for in-person worship wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Our music is only on piano and CD—no singing to spread germs. Our first song this morning was “America the Beautiful,” sung by an Army quartet for Ronald Reagan’s funeral. The second was “Joy to the World,” my favorite Christmas hymn. It is never too early to sing Christmas songs. When we used to go to the nursing homes (pre-pandemic), we would often sing a Christmas carol or two even in the summer.

All this month we are collecting beans and rice for Community Christian Services. After the Charge Conference, I will need to get busy completing End of the Year reports for the Conference. We Methodists do like our paperwork! I remember when I was still teaching, the legislature passed a Reduction in Paperwork Act which was to drastically cut down on reports teachers, administrators, and school districts had to fill out for the state. Well, needless to say, that didn’t work out—seemed like we had more instead of less!

The Sunday School lesson today was “Worship as the Church.” We felt the purpose statement for the lesson was trying to say too much: “We are to celebrate worship as entering God’s presence and also as reconciliation and fellowship with the family of faith.” The author spoke of the church as a place where problems have always existed. We certainly agreed with that because the common denominator of the church then and the church today is us—fallible humans who are prone to mistakes. I think we all agreed that the parts we liked best were the labels he attached to two groups of people. Those who don’t have any religious affiliation he called “nones.” Those who were part of a church but have dropped out he called “dones.” Good descriptions!

My sermon scripture was Sunday’s Gospel lesson—Matthew 25: 14-30. All this year, most of the Gospel lessons have come from Matthew. Next year will feature another of the Gospel writers. In Sunday’s Gospel story, Jesus tells the parable about the three servants and the money the landowner gives to each. Two of the servants invest the money wisely and make money for the boss. The third, being conservative, buries it. When the boss returns, he is not pleased with the effort the third servant made while he was gone.
Since Jesus saw money and wealth as major evils in our world, I have never cared all that much for this particular parable. It didn’t make my top ten parables. But there is no doubt that we all must find ways to use our time and yes, money to build up God’s Kingdom right here on earth. As Ben Franklin said, time is money. We need to not only save, but spend, both in following Jesus’ path.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

November 13, 2020 - Huxley Helping Hands will have a Drive-Thru Food Pantry on Saturday, November 14 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Center, TX, starting at 9am. Only 1 box per household, must provide Identification, and must be in line by 9:30am to receive a box. 

 

November 12, 2020 - I can remember as a boy, watching the potter at work at the wheel at the old Marshall Pottery. I would stand mesmerized by the skill with which he would throw a lump of clay on the wheel and mold it into a work of art. They made many beautiful pieces of pottery in those days. They made pitchers, butter churns, strawberry pots, pickling crocks among other items. But they also made just plain, red clay flower pots.

It is the red clay flower pot I envision when I read what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:7. He said, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” You and I are in that passage of scripture. We are the plain, red clay pots they made so many of at the pottery. Those red clay pots were nothing spectacular. They were only vessels in which to plant flowers, perhaps a beautiful lily or a magnificent hydrangea or some other flower of God’s creation. With a beautiful flower in the pot, you focused on the beauty of the flower, not the vessel.

We are often easily fooled by containers. Cheap jewelry can often be found in elaborate boxes while expensive perfume may be in a plain bottle. The splendor of God can best be seen in plain settings. We must take ourselves out of the center of the stage so others can focus on the beauty of God. We are just plain, red clay pots.
    
It’s something to think about…..tbp

Center Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, Texas or online at www.centerchurchofchrist.com

November 9, 2020 - Many families who lived in the Post WWII days (in the mid-forties) lived in rent houses and were no exceptions. We had lived in a total of seven rent houses in my hometown of Center, Texas before I left for college in 1950. One of our rent houses was located in East Center and Daddy told all eight of us that it was very old and “needs a lot of work."

Barney Bridges owned The Deluxe Café next door and asked my brother Bill and me to wash dishes there. We got off work around twelve o’clock every night. As we got home one morning we were careful not to wake anyone as we eased in the house. But our plans to be quiet suddenly vanished when we spotted a huge wood rat perched on a nail keg at the end of the kitchen table. Since the full moon had the kitchen light up brightly, we grabbed our Stevens .22/410 Double Barrel to finish the beast off. Bill thought he selected the .22 barrel but actually had chosen the shotgun barrel. He carefully aimed at the unwary rat...and KABOOM! The whole kitchen shook, rat parts flew everywhere and Daddy exploded into the kitchen hollering “are you boys crazy?"

Looking back over the years, I associate every rent house with certain things. With the Russell house, it was Robert Adams Lake...with the Maxwell House, it was the City Cemetery and railroad tracks...with the log cabin on Nacogdoches Street, it was Sandy Creek. But the Boothe House brings up the most memories: Barney’s Café, the Brick Yard, Dellinger’s Store, but above all else even more than our hunting place and swimming hole...I remember that nail keg, the midnight shot, the huge woodrat...and a promise to Daddy that we’d never do it again.

November 9, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday we celebrated Veterans Day a little early. We are so thankful for all those men and women who answered the call and put themselves in harm’s way. Wednesday, November 11th is Veterans Day, but we wanted to honor all those who served in our congregation and around the world.

Paxton Methodist Church is still meeting each Sunday for in-person worship wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Our music is only on piano and CD—no singing to spread germs. Our first song this morning was the bagpipe version of “Amazing Grace” played at Ronald Reagan’s funeral. The second song was “Stars and Stripes Forever,” played by the Texas State Band that included my son in 1999, and used in honor of veterans around the nation.

We have been treated to a real fall this year. Sometimes East Texas goes straight from summer to winter, but this year we have had really pleasant days and cool mornings. It has been perfect dog walking weather. I have lettuce and herbs growing in my raised garden this fall. The rest of my garden work concerns getting my perennials ready for winter. Sue and I went to Nacogdoches on Friday—Sue and her sister to see their mother, and I to the recycling center and Lowes. I also discovered a new nursery called The Plant Shed on Appleby Sand Road. It was really nice with a big selection of plants and nice folks to help.

We had a surprise at Sunday School when Joe walked in. He has pretty much stayed at home since the start of the pandemic. It was really good to see him and to get his input on today’s lesson. Our Sunday School lesson came from Luke 4, dealing with Jesus speaking harshly to and casting out demons. We modern folk have a difficult time with the pre-scientific idea of demons. But we often see the challenge of evil in our world. Our author spoke of the challenges of racism, misogyny, greed, violence, exploitation, oppression, apathy, and a host of other examples of the demonic in our own time.

The parable from Matthew that served as today’s Gospel Lesson was about the ten maidens who were waiting with the bride-to-be. Five of the maidens came with extra oil for their lamps because part of the excitement of the wedding was that no one knew the exact time the bridegroom was coming. Unfortunately, the other five didn’t think ahead, ran out of oil, and missed out on all the festivities. This parable isn’t in my top five favorites, but the message is clear: We need to be prepared to live in God’s Kingdom—today and tomorrow.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

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