Forty years ago during the summer of 1980, First Baptist Church of Little River, Texas called me as pastor. Prior to moving, I sat before an ordination council at Fairbanks Baptist Church in Houston, the church in which my childhood and early teen years were spent. Not knowing what the deacons might ask, I actually studied the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message. Of course, the questions were easy. Most of the deacons had known me most of my life and were good friends with my parents. The council recommended me for ordination and that night I was ordained into the gospel ministry.
Last Sunday, February 23, following worship the deacons convened an ordination council for the purpose of ordaining Kim Brewer to the ministry. Kim shared her calling to the ministry. Questions were asked. Affirmations were spoken. A unanimous vote was taken. On Sunday morning, April 22, Kim will be ordained by our church into the ministry. Not only will this be an unforgettable day in her life, but also a special and historic day in the life of our church. The Sunday after Easter traditionally exhibits low attendance. Let’s break that trend. Put this Sunday on your calendar now. Be present to show your love, support and encouragement for Kim.
Kim will be preaching the first Sunday of March as Debbie and I take a short vacation to Portland. That’s right, we are traveling together…together…even sitting next to each other on the plane…staying in the same hotel room. Hopefully, she brings me back home.
Here’s some really big news! Are you ready? Can you handle it? The Farewell, Final, Concluding, Without a Doubt Very Last “One-Block-Off-Broadway-Musical-Extravaganza” is coming to Tucson, Sunday night, March 29th, and will be on stage in our auditorium. Performers are lining up from around the world. How did we land this major show? No one else wants it!
February 5, 2020
The ground hog has retreated, the Super Bowl has been won, 02022020 will never happen again, and Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. Didn’t we just celebrate New Year’s Day?
Valentine’s Day holds a special significance in our family. It was on this day in 1985 that Debbie was shot, just a few hours after her mom underwent surgery for breast cancer. For Deb and her mother, Valentine’s Day transformed into Life Day.
In an effort to breathe new life into our church, Saturday, February 15th, 10:30am, we will gather in the Mayberry room to present a Valentine for Jesus. We will express our intent to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength…and re-commit our lives to serve Jesus and his church. What are your passions? What brings you joy? How might you combine your passion and joy to either create a new ministry or become part of an existing ministry? Each of us is uniquely gifted to serve. Let’s think, learn, pray, worship and re-dedicate ourselves to a ministry of service and love. Then, like good Baptists, we will eat.
In January, I was asked to write an article for the Center for Congregational Ethics based on certain scriptures from the lectionary. I’m sharing the article with you so that all of us will remain keenly aware of refugees living along the border.
Psalm 27:1-6 1 Samuel 9:27 - 10:8 Galatians 2:1-10
Recently, a group traveled to the Texas/Mexico border, where we were introduced to people and ministries on both sides of the Rio Grande. Heartbreaking stories from refugee families escaping violence and poverty brought tears to our eyes. Afraid to return to their home country, unable to gain asylum in the United States, and fearful of cartels in Mexico, these people are stuck in shelters depending on the kindness of strangers. Options are limited and hope is fading.
The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? seems a bit naïve. These persons have every right to be afraid, encompassed more by darkness than light.
The sermon of Samuel to Saul certainly applies to each of us who were touched by the circumstances of the refugees: The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you…and you will be changed into a different person. Not only the refugees, but the tireless energy of those who daily minister to them caused each of us to reevaluate our priorities.
To be changed, however, demands action. Paul writes, All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
How can we practically remember the refugee poor? Funds are needed to support the ministries and shelters. Our money will purchase food, clothing, blankets, heaters, education, etc.
Petition politicians to change current policies that put and keep refugees in danger.
Pray for the refugees to see the Lord’s light and strength. Pray for the ministering servants to not grow tired and weary.
One Mexican politician we met views this not as a crisis but as a situation needing a solution. Together, let’s solve it.
January 1, 2020:
Sister Jose’ Women Center is a remarkable place of refuge for Tucson’s homeless women. Saturday, January 11th, 2pm, in the Mayberry Room, Executive Director Jean Fedigan will share about the ministry. Jean is an enthusiastic, dynamic speaker. Women and men…male and female…boys and girls…please make plans to be in attendance and learn about this wonderful local ministry. Thank you for generously supporting this work with monetary contributions toward hygiene items and undergarments.
January 6-7, I will be in Juarez, Mexico meeting with Mexican officials and visiting several shelters where refugees seeking asylum are being housed. What have I discovered in my four previous border crossings? People who are hurting, afraid and unsure of their future. People, who like us, have hopes and dreams…the difference being their dreams have become nightmares and hope is fading. I will report on what I find. Until then, thank you for your generosity in providing for the ministries along the border.
Our church business meeting will be Sunday, January 19th. Items on the agenda include the 2020 Church Budget, election of trustees, and housing allowances.
From the boxes of stuff currently occupying the floor of my office I discovered one of my newsletter articles from 1984. As we begin a new year, the lesson still seems applicable.
Behold a ball team went forth to play a game. Just as the umpire shouted “batter up” the catcher for the home team took his place behind home plate. The center-fielder didn’t show up but later sent his regrets and said he had to go to Aunt Mary’s for dinner. The third baseman also failed to come. Having been up too late the night before, he chose to spend the day in bed.
The left-fielder felt the need to visit another game across town. The shortstop was present but left his glove at home. Two of the substitute fielders were away on a little weekend trip but “they were there in spirit.”
Verily, when the pitcher stepped into the box he looked around for his teammates. There were many spaces empty. But the game was announced, visitors were in the stands and there was nothing to do but pitch the ball and hope for the best.
So the pitcher not only pitched but also played third and first. There was a loud boo when the home team lost. It was a disgrace to the game of baseball. When the absent members of the defeated team heard that their team had lost, a decision was made to get a new pitcher.
The best ability is dependability. Throughout this new year of 2020, let’s all be dependable.
December 1, 2019:
December is here…meaning the other eleven months have come and gone. With December comes Christmas. Before Christmas comes Advent…the season of waiting. Waiting is bearable as long as there is hope.
Not long before his death, Henri Nouwen wrote a book called Sabbatical Journeys, in which he wrote about friends who were trapeze artists, called the Flying Roudellas. They told Nouwen there is a special relationship between the flyer and the catcher on the trapeze. This relationship is governed by important rules, such as “The flyer is the one who lets go, and the catcher is the one who catches.” As the flyer swings on the trapeze high above the crowd, the moment comes when he must let go. He flings his body out in mid-air. His job is to keep flying and wait for the strong hands of the catcher to take hold of him at just the right moment. One of the Flying Roudellas told Nouwen, “The flyer must never try to catch the catcher.” The flyer’s job is to wait in absolute trust. The catcher will catch him, but he must wait.
Nouwen said, “Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.”
Romans 8:24: “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting” (The Message). God is creating his life within us, and we must wait for it to come to full term.
Join us this month as we wait for the coming Christ. Discover hope, peace, joy and love.
Some of you have asked about Katelyn’s ordination service and our time in Texas. Worship was well-planned, touching and meaningful. I have asked for a video and hope to show those of you who are interested. Of course, Deb and I certainly enjoyed time with Hazel and Rosie…OK, Katelyn and Walker, too.
November 1, 2019:
November is the month of Thanksgiving, so it is only fitting to offer my gratitude.
Thank you, for Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Kind words, restaurant gift cards, car washes, framed cross-stitch Bible verses, and a delicious Mexican food lunch – you went all out to make the day special and memorable. To our deacons and Joy Ministry Team for planning and pulling it off, thank you. Thinking back over more than two decades, Debbie and I are extremely appreciative of you. Your love, support, encouragement and grace have been a constant sustaining presence. Indeed, we are a church family. Again, thank you. We love you.
Following church one Sunday evening when she was three-years-old, our daughter gathered together her congregation of Mom and me in the parsonage for worship. Katelyn began by having us sing, “Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus…” Then, asking us to bow our heads she began to pray. “God, thank you for Mommy. Thank you for Daddy. Thank you for belly buttons.” We had no way of knowing then this would be a prelude to the path her life would follow. Thirty years later, on November 17, at First Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas, Katelyn will be ordained to the ministry. Yes, Deb and I will be there…proudly supportive and deeply thankful for a daughter who loves and follows Jesus.
I’m thankful for Cherie Gray. In 2006, she founded Tucson Refugee Ministry. Beginning with a single Bosnian woman, Cherie grew a city-wide ministry of Jesus followers to welcome, befriend and love refugees and asylum seekers. Through Cherie, our church became the first in Tucson to adopt two refugee families…one from Somalia and the other from Burundi. These families transformed us as much as we helped them. On October 18, Cherie, age 50, died following a year-long battle with colon cancer. Left behind is a legacy of love that will continue to affect and shape our city and countless lives for decades to come.
The Psalmist sings, Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.
May we this month remember God’s goodness and grace…and be thankful.
The new church constitution will be available in the foyer Sunday, November 3rd. Please study it and come prepared to ask questions following worship on Sunday, November 24th. On Sunday, December 8th, during the business meeting, we will vote to ratify, or not, this new constitution.
Fine Art Show Saturday, November 16, 4:00-6:30pm Water colors, acrylics, fine jewelry, stained glass
October 1, 2019:
DECATUR, Ga.—Cooperative Baptists are invited this fall to enter an intentional season of prayerful discovery that will lead to a faithful response guiding the Fellowship’s future focus and priorities.
The initiative, called “Toward Bold Faithfulness: Discovering and Responding to God’s Call Together,” was launched Monday by CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley after the Fall meeting of the CBF Governing Board.
Baxley said the time is right for the Fellowship to enter a “shared season of discovering where God most needs us to place our energies so that our congregations can thrive, and Christ’s mission can flourish among us.”
“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a community of congregations, field personnel, theological schools, chaplains, church starters and other partners distinctly equipped by the Holy Spirit to uniquely participate in Jesus’ mission of love,” Baxley said. “We enter this season in hope and confidence, and we will pray and listen in the conviction that our gifts, graces and shared resources position us for bold faithfulness and an even more significant impact in our communities and around the world.”
Perhaps what is being launched by CBF can be implemented in our congregation… an intentional season of prayerful discovery…a “shared season of discovering where God most needs us to place our energies so that our congregation can thrive, and Christ’s mission can flourish among us.”
How can we catch up with where the Holy Spirit already is? How can we lovingly and practically impact our local neighborhood? What are our unique, individual gifts that can be used collectively to demonstrate the grace of God and meet human needs? Who might we be overlooking?
Prayerful discovery…relevant…useful…necessary…and something in which we can all participate.
July 1, 2019:
We’ve all had days when nothing went right. For us that day was Memorial Day. Deb and I arrived at Sky Harbor Airport two hours early for our upcoming flight to Venice, connecting through Chicago. Severe storms near Chicago, however, dictated that flights were delayed...then delayed again and again...until ultimately canceled. Two helpful attendants rerouted us from Phoenix to London Heathrow, where we would transfer to Gatwick Airport for a connecting flight to Venice. Four hours would be plenty of time to transfer from one airport to the other we were assured. It would have been...except our luggage got lost at Heathrow...only to be found an hour later. Hurriedly, we walked miles (OK, maybe not miles) until we found the platform for the Express Bus to Gatwick. But the bus wasn’t there and was not expected for another ten minutes. No time to wait. So, more miles were traversed until a taxi (much more expensive than the bus) was located for the trip to Gatwick. Road construction and heavy traffic caused us to arrive an hour later, with just enough time to catch our connecting flight. At least we thought. British Air did not have my reservation. Debbie had a seat but I did not. Only American Airlines could clear this up, but of course that took quite a while which meant we missed the flight. Thankfully, we were put on a flight several hours later and arrived in Venice at 9pm (our original flight was to arrive at 11am). A pre-paid rent car had been reserved for 1pm, but because we were eight hours late the car was no longer available. Not only did Hertz not have a car, no rental company had a car available. Instead of spending the night in Salzburg, Austria, where a hotel awaited us, we spent the night near the Marco Polo Airport.
Days like this prove frustrating. The good news is, despite the series of out-of-control circumstances, we arrived safely. The better news is that beginning day two everything went right for three weeks and the trip was fantastic.
The unpleasant days provide a choice. We can laugh at the absurdity or cry in the disappointment. We can choose to be joyful or bitter. We can allow our attitudes to remain positive or drown in the negativity. We can choose to persevere, knowing the total journey is more than a day.
Thank you, Kim and Jan, for a wonderful job in my absence. Both of you were immediately thrown into the fire and emerged unscathed.
In July, our church will display the touring CBF Global Missions photo exhibit Faces of Beloved Community. The photographs in this exhibit illustrate the work and reach of CBF Global Missions over a period of time, painting a portrait of the ways CBF seeks to build beloved community over time and around the world.
June 1, 2019:
We owe a big, special THANK YOU to Karla Clodfelter for the month spent working in our office. She accomplished much that needed to be done!
Memorial Day Debbie and I left on a three week vacation to Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia. We are looking forward to spending time together and seeing new places. It seems the past few months I've spent more time on planes than at home. Hopefully, after being with each other constantly for three weeks... we will return together.
Kim will be preaching and ministering. Jan will be in the office. You'll hardly notice I'm gone! Of course, you will miss Debbie!
May 1, 2019:
This week, I’ve had the pleasure to attend the CBF Church Exploratory Conference in Decatur, Georgia, meeting with church starters from Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana. Hanging out with a few old friends is always enjoyable. Meeting new folks passionate about planting churches is encouraging and exciting.
Diverse in race, age and gender…these women and men are learning about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, meeting some of us who have been involved for many years, and sharing their experiences and ideas with each other.
A major component of this conference involves a private interview…an examination of the person, their calling, and their thoughts for the new church. This afternoon, I will sit through three interviews, asking questions and listening.
Many of us fear examinations, but actually this is a biblical, spiritual practice. The Psalmist prays: Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind… (26)
Paul instructs: Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it. (2 Corinthian 13)
Do you give yourself regular checkups, testing your faith, examining your heart and mind? If you fail the test, do you do something about it? Do you listen to God’s questions for you?
God invites us into an interview…to talk, to listen, to question, to answer. It’s nothing to fear, just a process through which we become better people and grow to be more like Jesus.
April 1, 2019:
Thank you for making our first Global Missions Retreat a huge success. To all of you on the JOY Team who planned, organized, implemented, provided lunch and snacks…job well done! To all of you who participated and generously contributed a love offering for Rick and Lita, thank you. Their presentations were informative and inspirational...leaving us with much to think about and practical steps to take. We learned that missionaries not only speak the gospel but more importantly live the gospel in tangible ways.
A second thank you is due all who participated in our One Block Off Broadway Extravaganza. Generous people from within our church and outside our church shared their time and talents to provide entertainment and make it a fun night. Thanks, also, to all you who came and brought others with you.
Journey to Easter sermons:
March 31--Borrowed or Yours?
April 7--Parting Words
April 14—Palm Sunday: It Is Finished
Maundy Thursday. On the eve of crucifixion, Jesus gathered one last time with his disciples. They shared a meal together, what we refer to as “Communion” or “The Lord’s Supper.” Following the meal, Jesus spoke these words: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Good Friday. The day of crucifixion commiserates darkness, the darkness of the event and the darkness of sin. Our worship will not be joyful but reflective. The seven last words of Jesus will guide our thinking. Bring a few sandwiches to share afterwards.
Easter Sunrise. As the sun rises over the Rincon Mountains, we will joyfully celebrate the Son rising from the tomb with songs and sermon. A continental breakfast will follow.
Easter Egg Hunt. During Sunday School, our children will hunt eggs. Even as a plastic egg is hollow, so the grave of Jesus is empty.
Easter Worship. We celebrate the greatest event in all of history, the resurrection of Jesus from death. As the song so aptly states: “I serve a living Savior, He’s in the world today.”
For everyone interested, a brief meeting will be held after worship Sunday, April 7, to discuss the...
CBF West Annual Gathering in Leupp, AZ August 2-4
Huge Block Party on Saturday
Attend area churches on Sunday
Will you go?
Will you send someone?
Minister with folks from CBF West, Texas, Oklahoma and Kentucky If you are not able to go, will you help defray the expenses of someone who can?
March 1, 2019:
As you can see on this page, two big events are coming to Pantano in March. One Block Off Broadway is a fun night to which you are encouraged to invite friends, neighbors and family.
Please make plans to attend the Global Missions Retreat. My friends and fellow partners in CBF West ministry will lead the retreat. Saturday morning, Lita will share a wealth of information concerning human trafficking. Lunch will follow. On Sunday, both Rick and Lita will speak during Sunday School and morning worship.
This is a tremendous opportunity to meet missionaries and to hear about their ministry among ethnic populations in the Bay Area of California.
February 1, 2019:
Two big, major, extraordinary events are coming to our church in March. Sunday evening, March 17, our church will host the international touring company presenting the Saint Patrick Day One Block Off Broadway Rock-n-Roll/Country/Pop Extravaganza, featuring performers from around the world. If you didn’t catch this show in New York City or Los Angeles or London, here’s your chance.
The following weekend, March 23-24, Rick and Lita Sample, CBF Field Personnel in the Bay Area of California, will lead us in a Global Missions Retreat. On Saturday, Lita will speak on the subject of human trafficking. You will be both enlightened and disgusted as she describes the enormity of what amounts to modern day slavery.
The Joy Ministry Team will sponsor a lunch for everyone in attendance. The following morning at 8:45am, Rick and Lita will fill us in on their ministry in the regions of San Francisco and Oakland, primarily among immigrants. Be prepared to ask questions. During worship that morning, Rick will be preaching on Global Missions. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet missionaries and to hear their life-transforming stories.
Speaking of mission opportunities, we are now six months away from the CBF West Annual Gathering in Leupp, AZ, forty miles northeast of Flagstaff in the heart of the Navajo Nation. August 2-4, folks from throughout the West, as well as Texas and Oklahoma will converge to conduct a huge block party. On Sunday, we will split up and attend the various churches in the area to offer support and encouragement. Obviously, not all of you can go, but some of you can. Maybe you can help defray hotel expenses of some who go. Please put this on your calendar now and make plans to help with this community-changing event. Others of you will be asked to send books, school supplies, backpacks, etc. Matt Crosby is organizing a missions team from his church in Temple, TX to be part of this event. Surely, we can drive five hours. John’s Journey to Easter—Sundays, 10am
January 1, 2019:
Following a busy December, we enter a new year of opportunities. If you are interested in learning how to use a computer, please attend the first class on Saturday, January 26, 10am. Two years before moving to Tucson, our church in Texas bought its first computer. Neither I nor my secretary even knew how to turn it on. But we learned and so can you!
Two Sunday School classes will soon begin new studies. The Ladies class will discuss, A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More. Our sign out front currently displays the message, Come Think With Us. Beginning Sunday, February 3, Mayberry will embark on another animateBible series called “Practices”. Eight minute videos will lead us into discussions of these spiritual/biblical practices: Prayer, Food, Worship, Sacraments, Money, Service and Community. You are invited to come think with us about how we can grow, change and be challenged this year both as individuals and as a church. You will even be given your own personalized coffee mug.
Our other adult Sunday School classes continue to Explore the Bible and would enjoy your presence and participation. Biblical lessons, friendly fellowship, coffee and snacks. Try one of our classes. You just might like it.
Global Missions will take priority this year. Because of all the worthy endeavors we were asked to give to in December, we decided to wait and emphasize Global Missions as a year-long effort, which is what it should be. Short videos will be shown spotlighting Haiti and Macedonia. There’s also a really good chance that CBF Field Personnel will be speaking in our church this year.
Speaking of mission opportunities, be thinking of one seven months from now. August 2-4, CBF West will host our annual gathering in Leupp, AZ, forty miles northeast of Flagstaff in the heart of the Navajo Nation. Folks from throughout the West, as well as Texas and Oklahoma will converge to conduct a huge block party. On Sunday, we will split up and attend the various churches in the area to offer support and encouragement. Obviously, not all of you can go, but some of you can. Please put this on your calendar now and make plans to help with this community-changing event. Others of you will be asked to send books, school supplies, backpacks, etc. This is a hands-on mission opportunity in our own state less than five hours away.
Sunday, February 3, is our annual Souper Bowl of Caring. Bring soup, cornbread, and dessert...and make a contribution to our benevolence fund.
What about something fun? OK. You asked for it. Sunday evening, March 17, our church will host the international touring company presenting the Saint Patrick Day One Block Off Broadway Rock-n-Roll/Country/Pop Extravaganza, featuring performers from around the world. If you didn’t catch this show in New York City or Los Angeles or London, here’s your chance!