Sunday, September 21, 2014


It's Time to Explain the Title of This Blog

When Joanna and I were discussing the beginning of this Blog, she asked me what I wanted to call it.  My immediate response was:  SAGEBRUSH, SANDHILLS, GRASSBURRS AND GOATHEADS.  Then she suggested we use:  So this one I assume you can understand.  But the first one, I wonder how many have understood what I've meant.

SAGEBRUSH:  It's probably not hard to know the meaning, especially if you know I grew up in Southwest Oklahoma.  That farm was a mile long, north to south and stopped at the Red River dividing Oklahoma from Texas.  The north half was good farm land and the south half was sand hills, largely covered with Sagebrush.  The farm was a half mile wide.  The west edge was along a country road.  The east side was divided from Mr. White's farm by a four wire, barbed wire fence.

Most of my days after school,  included the chore of riding Old Silver to the pasture and bring the cattle home for milking.  Silver was our small black and white Shetland pony.  He was the perfect pony for a boy with an after school chore of bringing in the cows.  That trip led from the barn yard to a lane about an eighth mile south to the farm pond where the cattle came, usually about 4:30 or 5:00 for a drink.  Beyond that was the 160 acres of pasture.  It consisted of undulating sand hills covered with grasses, spring and summer flowers, large amounts of sagebrush and trees of various kinds in different places throughout the pasture.

I always saddled Silver when I rode him.  I sure didn't trust to falling off in the pasture that had coveys of quails to flush up and make him run unexpectedly or pitch me off.  We had more than our share of rattlesnakes and I didn't want to be left high and dry, walking through the grasses and sagebrush.
SANDHILLS:  They made it difficult to know where the cows were.  The hills were different heights with valleys between.  There was a row of them on the level of the farm land and below that the land dropped off to the river another quarter mile to the south.  There were two rows of varying heights in the lower pasture crossing also from west to east.  So if the cows hadn't come to the water pond, then it might be a half hour or more before I found them.  Milking just had to wait.

GRASSBURRS:  That's a different story.  Grass is not just grass.  There are so many different kinds of grass.  And this nasty grass burr is no friend of man, or boy, at all.  In fact, grass burrs are not even friendly to girls.  Betty was the girl who lived over  the barbed wire fence to the east.  She was picking cotton with us one season when she reached for a burr of cotton, but her glove snagged a grass burr and with the other glove on she couldn't pick it out.  She took off her glove and those little burrs have something like a fish hook on each of many little stickers reaching out to suck you in.  Finally she stuck the gloved burr into her teeth to pull it free.  That's the moment pain attacked.  One of those many little prongs reached beyond her teeth and pierced her tongue.  We all cringed in pain.  I still don't remember how or who got the grass burr out of her tongue.  Those clumps of grass burrs grew just where you didn't expect them.  They stuck to your pant leg or your sock.  They were just an awful mess to deal with.

GOATHEADS:  Those were another kind of sticker waiting for the bear foot boy with checks of tan to come bounding across the hard packed yard.  And then without warning the sharp pain pierced through the summer toughened sole of your foot.  Your were instantly on all fours pulling out that tiny explosion of pain that brought you to your knees.  Goat heads grew on a vine that ran flat along the ground.  They had tiny leaves and pretty little flowers.  Each flower produced a seed pod, or rather a clump of pods that were gathered together in a kind of fruit that falls apart into five nutlets or burs.    Each had two very sharp stickers extending out about an eighth of an inch or long enough to puncture bicycle tires.  So each segment looked like a goats head with his two little horns ready to gore you "to the bone."

One time when Daddy was about fifteen years old, he and Papa had been cutting those vines in an area of their pasture that was somewhat dry.  Other weeds hadn't been growing there and in a bit of unusual rain, the goat head vines had taken hold and grew to eight or ten feet across.  So they had cut and piled them to burn after they had time to dry up.  After they were dry, the leaves fellow off and a bed of red ants in the area began to carry the little two horned seeds to their den.  The seeds were a little too large to go down the hole into the den.  So, wisely the ants carried the goat heads away from their hole and dropped them.  But industrously they picked up new ones which also had to be moved away again.

The red ant queens were beginning to grow wings and fly away to build new dens.  So Daddy came bounding along the path from the cotton field where he'd been hoeing, toward the barn to start evening chores.  Being an observant young man he knew those ant queens needed to be stomped before they started too many more ant holes.  So with brawn and might he leaped into the center of the ant hill.  He came down onto a foot full of those awful goat heads.  There was nothing to do but crawl on hands and knees out of the fifteen foot circle of pain.

For those experiences and more I have named my blog: Sagebrush, Sandhills, Grassburrs and Goatheads.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


This Was a Move I Had Never Expected to Make

The Lord called me to preach in November before I was 15 years old.  A while after that, Daddy accepted a call to preach on his life.  Sunday, May 18, 1952, our pastor, Rev. Ray Altaffer gave me an exhorters license to preach.  Soon I was being asked to speak at local Cottage Prayer Meetings and then to supply the Pulpit for a near by Church whose pastor was on vacation.  I certainly didn't preach every month, but the opportunities came.  A near by Congregation asked me to preach a Week-end Youth Revival.  By the time I was in college I was invited to speak quiet often.  By the time I'd graduated from collage, I had been preaching 10 years.

In October 1961 I took my first pastorate at the small congregation of the Church of the Nazarene in Red Oak, Iowa.  While there our twins were born.  The Congregation grew and we sold our small building and bought a  beautiful old Church with a five bedroom parsonage.  It met the growing need of the Congregation for several years.   After five years we moved to the West Des Moines Church of the Nazarene, next door to the beautiful Camp Grounds of the Church of the Nazarene in the State of Iowa.  Our third and forth children were born while we pastored the West Des Moines Church of the Nazarene.  Two and a half years latter we moved to Mount Pleasant, Iowa Church of the Nazarene.

Our seven and a half years in Mt. Pleasant were years of joy and fulfillment.  Our last child was born there, giving us two boys and three girls.  There was a good moving of the Spirit of God in our midst.  Several College age people became a part of the Congregation.  During one period the young people became convicted by the Holy Spirit and ask if they could burn books, pictures, drugs and many items deemed to not be part of a Christian's life.  We had a huge bonfire in the space behind the Church and
many participants sang hymns and songs as they rejoiced over the new victory in their lives.

During the last year or year and a half of those seven and a half,  I had begun studying God's instructions to Moses for the Israelites to plan a Sabbacital year for their lands every seventh year.  As I began to contemplate these passages, it occured to me that I had no land.  Was I responsible for some kind of seventh year?   As the months of prayer passed, I began to understand that my mind was the place where I produced my sermons and so my income.  I prayed with concern about making such a move.  Lilly and I now had five children.  Four were in school and the last would began kindergarten in the fall.  I didn't have enough money to support such a decission.  I did have some job skills, but... so many questions.  In my experience, or at least I thought, a pastor would seem threatened by a pastor suddenly moving into his congregation.

Over the last three years I had been invited by our good friends, Rev. and Mrs. Stewart Able to preach a couple Revival Meetings in their Congregation.  It would not have occured to me to move there.  But in earnest pray I felt confident the Lord was directing me to move our family to Oregon, Illinois and attend Stewart's Church.  I had not told anyone yet about my thoughts and prayers.  I put two propositions before the Lord.  First:  Stewart should call and ask me to come.  Second:  He would agree that he had no plans to leave or move from the Oregon Congregation during that next 12 months.  I thought my Sabbatical would be over in one year.

Within 24 hours of my prayer to God in which I believed He had directed me to move to Oregon, Stewart called me.  He said he had heard that I was planning to go on a Sabbatical.  If so, he wanted to invite us to move to Oregon and become a part of the Congregation.  Steward was Canadian and had pastored in Iowa and now in Illinois at least a total of 20 years.   He was nearing retirement and now he was sure that he would not be making any moves during the next twelve months.  I accepted this as a clear sign to leave Iowa and move out into the unknown.

After all bills had been paid, all good byes given, the gas tank filled, and Sabert Smith's moving van was loaded  with our belongings, we were on our way.  I had 47 cents in my pocket.  It was a tough move.  We had always made so many friends in each pastorate.  Now, again we were saying good bye.

Arriving in Oregon, Illinois at the Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Able and friends helped unload our furniature and "things" into an unused Sunday School room in the Church basement.  It was early in the month of June 1976.   In those fifteen years of pastoring Churches, our only vacations had been to Lilly's parents in Indianapolis, Indiana or to my parents in the mountains of north west Arkansas about thirty miles north east of Fort Smith.

Our plan had been to drive with our children to visit our parents and see where the  Lord might lead us in our hope to introduce our family to lots and lots of relatives they had never meet.  After our few days with the Able's and the Sunday Service, we loaded back into our still relatively new Voyager Van.  We were ready on Monday morning to head out for Noblesville, Indiana were my brother Ray was pastor.  Stewart wanted to check the oil in my van motor and he handed me his credit card for gas in the event we might need it.  He said," I'm just afraid you won't have enough money."  A small delay.  Everything under the hood was in order.  I got in my side of the van and there swirling around the corner of the Church  and screeching to a dusty halt was Nancy.  In a near panic, she leaped out of her car and handed into our drivers window a small brown paper sack.  It felt rather heavy.  Nancy said, "I've been throwing pennies in for a while.  I have no idea how many are there.  But I felt the Lord told me to bring them.  And I was afraid I might miss you."  We thanked her and praised the Lord.

As we drove away waving good bye to wonderful friends, I still had the forty seven cents in my pocket.  While we drove along toward De Kalb, Illinois, Lilly counted those pennies.  There were thirteen dollars.  At a Mac Donald's in De Kalb we gave each of the children their alotment  and all went and bought our breakfast and drinks.  When we started away, everybody had what they wanted, the pennies were all gone and I still had that forty seven cents.

About 5:00 that Monday afternoon we were driving into the west edge of Noblesville and there coming down the highway toward us was Ray and his family.  We waved, they pulled over, we chatted.  We were passing through, they were going to a Church board supper.   He had been doing some carpentry work for a Church family and would be hiring help the next day.  Could I help?  Yes I could.  We drove on to Lilly's Mom and we stayed the week.  I drove every morning to work with Ray, we had great fellowship during the day and the Lord had arranged to supply our need.  Sunday we went to Church with Grandma Owens and Monday started the long drive to Arkansas.

Arriving at my Parents in Arkansas, my Dad was happy to announce all the jobs he had lined up.  There were two or three houses to roof.  Mrs. Bruce had ask him to build a goat barn with five or six stalls.  Each would hold the doe and her kids.  So this was something of a major job, though not like building a new house.  We would be there seven weeks, then Lilly and I with family would drive to my home town where Lilly and our girls would stay with my Grandmother Shumaker.  As we drove through Oklahoma City we stopped to see my sister, Linda and family.   Driving west from the City on I-40 I began looking for a place to refill the gas tank.  President Nixon had put a closing time on gas station by 6:00pm.  So the farther we went closing time got closer.  We turned south toward Altus our county seat, 60 miles away.  We prayed and drove, then drove and prayed.  The gas guage stopped going lower and we kept going and praying.  Finally we drove into the small town of Blare, Oklahoma thirteen miles north of Altus.  There was a filling station with its lights on.  We pulled up to the pump and a young man came out to fill the tank.  Finally he had it filled.  He said, "You must have been running on fumes.  This tank only holds 23.5 gallons and that's how much I put in."  And then he said, "My boss left this morning for Wichita Falls and took the keys with him.  If he doesn't get back I'll be open all night."    We drove on praising the Lord, our God.

 Lilly and our girls would visit my Easley Grandparents and several other aunts, uncles and cousins while the boys and I would drive on to Denver City, Texas where we'd meet Daddy and my four brothers.  We were there to build a new bedroom onto my cousin Edwin's house.  I don't remember how many days we were there.  On Saturday  night we all drove to Clovis, New Mexico to see a fabulous Rodeo.  Sunday morning we attended their morning Church service.  Edwin paid us well.  Our boys had lots of fun getting to know Edwin's boy.

When I dropped Lilly and the girls off at Eldorado, my Aunt Kathryn asked, if I could re-roof her house when I got back from Texas?  Her son Carroll could help when he got home from school each day.  The Lord kept providing funds without my asking anybody for work.  And I still had forty-seven cents in my pocket.  From Eldorado we drove up through the panhandle of Texas to stay over night with my cousin Yvonne and her family at Johnson, Kansas.  Next morning we drove on the Saint Louis area to stay the week-end with our dear friends, Rev. Les and Doyle Ray Jeeter.  Monday was Labor Day.  We drove home to Oregon, Illinois that day, Sept. 6, 1976.  And just knew, and then found out for sure that the Great God of Eternity had us and His plans for us, firmly in the palm of His hand.