December 2002

Evangelicals' image unfavorable, poll says

December 13 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Evangelicals' image unfavorable, poll says | Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

Evangelicals' image unfavorable, poll says

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press

VENTURA, Calif. - Non-Christians in the United States view evangelical Christians somewhat more kindly than prostitutes but with less affection than lesbians and lawyers.

That's according to new data released by the Barna Research Group, which recently conducted a national telephone poll of adults who do not consider themselves Christians. The poll asked respondents to record their impressions of 11 categories of people - military officers, ministers, evangelicals, born-again Christians, Democrats, Republicans, real-estate agents, movie and TV performers, lawyers, lesbians and prostitutes.

Evangelicals ranked 10th out of the 11 categories. They received favorable marks from only 22 percent of the non-Christians interviewed, higher than the 5 percent approval rating given prostitutes but lower than the 23 percent rating given lesbians and Republicans.

On the other hand, ministers as a group came in second, with a 44 percent favorable rating, behind military officers, who scored 56 percent favorable.

Born-again Christians also fared better as a group than evangelicals, drawing a 32 percent favorable rating, the third highest of all categories. But pollster George Barna said most respondents don't know the difference between the two terms.

Barna said the survey is evidence of the power of labeling in American society. He urged Christians to draw a lesson from this study as they are tempted to judge other people by stereotypes.

The findings of this survey are based on a national telephone poll of 1,002 adults conducted in May. Among that sample were 270 adults who described themselves as non-Christians. The findings reported for opinions of non-Christians carry a margin of error of plus or minus 6.2 percentage points.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
12/13/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

IMB/Wycliffe link could speed Bible translation by 100 years

December 13 2002 by Mark Kelly , Baptist Press

IMB/Wycliffe link could speed Bible translation by 100 years | Friday, Dec. 13, 2002
  • About 13,000 people in one isolated people group were exposed to the gospel for the first time after the Jesus film was translated into their language, said Dickie Nelson, leader of IMB work in the Caribbean Basin region. About 425 made decisions for Christ and the first 82 believers have been baptized.
  • One man who was among the first to hear the gospel in his own language told a missionary: "When you shared with me, my heart said, 'That's it! That's what I've been waiting for!'" said Bill Bullington, leader of IMB work in the West Africa region.
  • When the Bible was publicly read for the first time to one people group, their leader exclaimed, "God speaks my language!" - and every adult present decided to follow Christ, said Gordon Fort, leader of IMB work in the Southern Africa region.

    Watters called for Christians to pray that God would call out missionaries to tackle the challenge of translating God's word for people groups that have never heard it.

    "There are 500 or 600 million Christians in the world who take the word of God seriously and have a heart to share it," he said. "All we're asking him to do is raise up 20,000 people in the next 25 years to see that God's word is translated into all the languages of the earth."

  • Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    IMB/Wycliffe link could speed Bible translation by 100 years

    By Mark Kelly Baptist Press

    DALLAS, Texas - A new missions partnership could accelerate by 100 years the translation of the Bible for the estimated 1 billion people who still do not have God's word in their own language.

    Leaders of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB) and Wycliffe International announced the agreement Nov. 1 in Dallas. Under the new plan, the IMB will appoint missionaries to fill needs for translators, share more information about church planting and translation projects and coordinate strategies for taking the gospel to unreached people groups.

    About 3,000 language groups have no access to the good news of God's love. At the current pace, translations for all of them could not be completed until 2150.

    "We have such a great need to get the Bible into the languages of the people around the world," said Avery Willis, IMB senior vice president. "Everybody deserves to have the word of God in the language they love, the language they cry in and get mad in and rejoice in.

    "If we are going to communicate the gospel to these last people groups, the Bible has to be translated into their languages."

    As many as 400 million people speak languages for which no one is even trying to translate the Scripture, said John Watters, Wycliffe International's executive director.

    "We have been asking ourselves what would it take to give every language community some access to God's Word by 2050," he said. "That would cut 100 years off the translation process that's already going on.

    "That's overwhelming. In fact, we recognize it is impossible for us. But it is not impossible for the Lord of the harvest. That's why partnership is critical. That's why we've been talking with the IMB about ways to effectively and cooperatively work together for the glory of God."

    Wycliffe's 5,000 missionaries have helped translate the New Testament into more than 500 languages and currently have another 1,400-plus projects underway. Their translations of Bible stories and the gospel of Luke speed the process of getting the gospel to people groups through Chronological Bible Storying and the Jesus film.

    The group's role as a Bible translation organization makes it an ideal partner for the IMB's focus on evangelism and church planting, and recent meetings between leaders of the two organizations have moved their relationship to a new level, said IMB President Jerry Rankin.

    Missionaries report that when people groups hear God's word for the first time ever, lives are changed:

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/13/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Kelly , Baptist Press | with 0 comments

    Operating for Christmas smiles

    December 13 2002 by Dennis Parker , BR Staff Writer

    Operating for Christmas smiles | Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    Operating for Christmas smiles

    By Dennis Parker BR Staff Writer

    As many as 1,500 Baptist churches in North Carolina participated in Operation Christmas Child again this year. Baptists from every corner of the state filled and wrapped shoebox gifts, worked at local drop-off centers and at the Charlotte and Boone regional processing centers.

    The shoe box gifts contributed by N.C. Baptists will be part of the more than six million gifts that will be collected this Christmas for suffering children in more than 100 countries on six continents.

    Although exact figures are not known, the number of N.C. Baptist churches and the level of participation have grown since the program began in 1993.

    Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.

    North Carolina plays a key role in Operation Christmas Child. Not only is Samaritan's Purse headquartered in Boone, but Charlotte and Boone are sites for two of the seven regional processing centers where shoebox gifts are collected, processed and packaged for worldwide distribution. About 25,000 volunteers were expected to process more than 1.3 million shoeboxes at the Charlotte center this year.

    Albemarle First Baptist Church collected 422 shoebox gifts, exceeding its goal by 22 boxes. The WMU sponsored project, with Patty Edwards serving as church coordinator, sent eight people on Nov. 30 to work at the Charlotte processing center. Marilyn Easley, church secretary, said it was "quite an experience." They worked with people from seven other states: New York, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina. Edwards said their job was to work on an assembly line checking the boxes and adding items, which had been donated by businesses, to partially filled boxes.

    Eighteen students and adults from East Hickory Baptist Church delivered 83 shoebox gifts to the Charlotte processing center on Nov. 27. They spent the day helping prepare the boxes. This was the third year church members have gone to Charlotte to help. Pat Riley, church secretary and wife of pastor Mike Riley, said the Awana Club sponsored the church's participation in Operation Christmas Child.

    Members of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville prepared 171 shoebox gifts, exceeding the goal of 150. Aillene Horne, church secretary, said a number of members participated at the local drop-off center.

    Gene Roberson, deacon chair at Spray Baptist Church in Eden, said 80 gifts were donated, almost double what the members prepared in 2001. Fifteen members, 11 youth and four adults went to Charlotte on Nov. 30 where they worked for five hours preparing gift boxes for 5-7 year-old girls. This was the first time Spray members had helped at the processing center. Roberson said he was "very impressed with the people and organization" in Charlotte. He said 100,000 boxes were prepared that Saturday for delivery to the Sudan and Uganda.

    The Samaritan's Purse Web site reported that since 1993 Operation Christmas Child has collected more than 18.5 million shoe boxes valued at more than $360 million, and hand-delivered them to needy children in 120 countries.

    In 2001, Samaritan Purse said that 5.3 million shoebox gifts were collected from children, families and religious and civic organizations in America and nine other countries, surpassing the 4.1 million collected in 2000. More than 2.8 million shoebox gifts were collected in the United States.

    The Web site said the "purpose of Operation Christmas Child is to share the joy of Christmas and the love of Jesus Christ with suffering children around the world. ... These gifts help our local ministry partners build relationships with families and community leaders, opening doors that can lead to more freedom to share the good news of Jesus Christ."

    The first 80,000 shoebox gifts were airlifted from New York's JFK International Airport to Uganda on Dec. 10. Samaritan's Purse staff, volunteers and national partners hand delivered the gifts to Uganda children, many of whom have never received a gift, on Dec. 12-14.

    The gifts were flown to Africa aboard the Antonov 225, the world's largest airplane.

    Once the boxes are delivered to the appropriate country, Samaritan's Purse representatives and national partners travel by truck, bus, train, helicopter, boat, foot, dog sled, and mule to deliver the gifts, along with a colorful children's book of the Christmas story.

    The official collection week for the shoeboxes was Nov. 18-25. Shoe box gifts will be accepted until Jan. 31 and should be shipped or mailed to: Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, N.C. 28607. Information about how to pack a shoebox can be obtained at

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/13/2002 12:00:00 AM by Dennis Parker , BR Staff Writer | with 0 comments

    'Post-congregationals' leaving church, not faith

    December 13 2002 by Craig Bird , Associated Baptist Press

    'Post-congregationals' leaving church, not faith | Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    'Post-congregationals' leaving church, not faith

    By Craig Bird Associated Baptist Press

    SAN ANTONIO, Texas - People who leave the church aren't necessarily abandoning God, according to a pastor and sociologist studying what he calls "post-congregational" Christians.

    Rather than being marginal churchgoers, Alan Jamieson found in research for his book, A Churchless Faith, that 94 percent had been leaders - such as deacons, elders or Sunday school teachers - and 32 percent had been full-time ministers.

    Jamieson also found that for many the break came not because they lost their faith, but because they wanted to save it.

    Rather than writing off those who leave the church due to burnout, spiritual abuse or frustration at not being allowed to ask hard questions, Jamieson believes congregations should listen to those who opt to go their faith journey alone. Ironically, he says, they might be the Christians best equipped to reach postmoderns.

    Twice a month, 30 or more people gather at Jamieson's church, First Baptist Church in Wellington, New Zealand, for "Spirited Exchanges." Seated at cafe-type tables and sipping tea in the subdued light of the basement, they talk freely. No topic is off limits - the nature of God, homosexuality, spiritual abuse, the role of women.

    The focus, Jamieson told FaithWorks magazine, is "on where we are going instead of what we have left."

    "Spirited Exchanges is not designed to be church," Jamieson says. "It is a place where people can talk about anything they want to talk about, without any sense of being 'out of line' or being told their thoughts are inappropriate."

    He is aware of about 50 other groups like Spirited Exchanges.

    The three-year-old program has brought Jamieson criticism from all directions. "Some people insist I am encouraging people to leave the church, and others are just as indignant that I am scheming to lure people back into the church."

    But Jamieson is unshaken in his commitment to teach churches to become "leaver sensitive." The reasons: (1) leavers need the church, (2) the church needs leavers, (3) leavers take their time, skills, efforts and wallets with them, (4) leavers tell their stories to others, and (5) leavers take their children with them.

    Other researchers back Jamieson's findings that many of the unchurched are still spiritually inclined.

    "Relatively few unchurched people are atheists. Most of them call themselves Christian and have had a serious dose of church life in the past," pollster George Barna said in Re-Churching the Unchurched.

    David Barrett, author of the World Christian Encyclopedia, estimates there are about 112 million "churchless Christians" worldwide, about 5 percent of all adherents, and he projects that number will double by 2025.

    Jamieson isn't the only author to focus on reaching out to churchless pilgrims.

    American pastor and student worker Mary Tuomi Hammond, in The Church and the Dechurched, turns her attention to those battling emotional, spiritual or mental scars they associate with their church experience.

    Included among that population, she identifies "rabid atheists, silent agnostics, committed humanists, practitioners of distinctly non-Christian spiritualities." But she also finds believers who still cling weakly to a faith they carried with them when they fled.

    Hammond's wounded souls "are among the church's strongest critics, because they are outsiders who were once insiders."

    She has been chastised for "attacking the faith" by recounting stories of spiritual abuse, but she denies that charge.

    "My love for the church compels me to challenge the church to hear and attend to the cries of its own wounded," Hammond said. "I love the church and I wrestle with it. I love the Lord and I wrestle with my faith as well. In that visceral relationship between loving and wrestling, I find strength, hope and life that cannot be extinguished."

    She challenges congregations to become "church for the dechurched." She points out that Jesus spent most of his ministry reaching out to the "de-synagogued." But she warns it can be a long and difficult effort.

    "As Christians we must face the issues we would rather not address, ask the questions we cannot always clearly answer, and listen to the voices that are most difficult to hear," Hammond said.

    Jamieson asks why so many people with a deep longing for God are coming to the conclusion that they must abandon their congregational homes in order to continue growing spiritually.

    Adapting the work of sociologist James Fowler's Stages of Faith, Jamieson divides "leavers" into four types: (1) disillusioned followers, (2) reflexive exiles, (3) transitional explorers and (4) integrated way-finders.

    Jamieson says many churches are unaware - and unconcerned - about those who have left. The overwhelming majority of the 108 leavers he has interviewed said no one from their church ever talked with them about why they had left.

    Jamieson recalled one pastor's declaration that Jesus' parable of the lost sheep doesn't apply to those "who know where the paddock is and intentionally wander away."

    Jamieson uses a different analogy to make his point. He envisions a non-swimmer attracted to the beach. Befriended by a swimming club, he enters the water and takes lessons. A quick study, he soon is going to the beach at every opportunity and inviting his non-swimming friends to do likewise.

    But eventually, he senses a faint inner stirring to swim beyond the flags that mark the "safe" area. His old coach advises him such thoughts are dangerous. Gradually he becomes uncomfortable at the beach and begins staying at home. But the call of the deep haunts him. Eventually he plunges back into the ocean, this time to swim beyond the flags, totally alone if necessary.

    Rather than abandon such swimmers, Jamieson says, the church should accompany them.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - Bird is a free-lance writer living in San Antonio, Texas.)

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/13/2002 12:00:00 AM by Craig Bird , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

    Tuckaseigee reverses course on WMU

    December 13 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

    Tuckaseigee reverses course on WMU | Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    Tuckaseigee reverses course on WMU

    By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

    The Tuckaseigee Baptist Association (TBA) Executive Committee has decided to let the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) use the association's building, reversing a decision it made two months ago.

    Claude Conard, interim director of missions for TBA, resigned shortly after the decision and immediately left the Executive Committee meeting Dec. 9.

    When reached at his home by telephone, Conard indicated that he was retiring effective Jan. 1. He had little to say before hanging up on a reporter.

    "I put up with that mess over there long enough," he said. "I'd just as soon y'all not bother me any more. Good-bye."

    Art Fowler, TBA's moderator and pastor of Cashiers Baptist Church in Cashiers, said he hopes Conard will reconsider. "I think he is just deflated emotionally," Fowler said.

    The TBA Executive Committee adopted a resolution at the Dec. 9 meeting that says the WMU is "most welcome" to use the building and promote its work through the TBA newsletter, according to Fowler.

    The resolution was adopted after a phrase saying WMU should be "led by and composed of members of churches" in the TBA was deleted, Fowler said.

    The Executive Committee had adopted a policy for using the building at its Oct. 7 meeting. The policy said only the association and its related organizations can use the building.

    Associational leaders interpreted the policy as excluding WMU because its co-directors are from churches that have pulled out of the association. Sarah Davis is a member of First Baptist Church in Sylva. Nelda Reid is a member of East Sylva Baptist Church.

    Davis said the Executive Committee's decision is good news.

    "I felt real good about it," she said.

    Davis said the WMU had already held two meetings at churches because of the prohibition against using the building.

    "We felt like we could do what we needed to do anyway, but it's good to go back to the building," she said.

    Fowler, who wrote the original draft of the resolution, said there was some "lively interaction" during the discussion.

    Among those taking part in the debate was Harry D. Vance, a retired minister who is now interim pastor at Greens Creek Baptist Church in Sylva. Vance served three other churches in the association as pastor, was director of music for the association for 19 years and also served as the TBA's treasurer.

    "I spoke quite a bit concerning the WMU and how the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association had no authority over it," he said in an interview with the Recorder.

    Vance said he has always believed in the WMU.

    "I told them, 'You take these women out and you're not going to have much left,'" he said.

    Vance said that comment was met with several "Amens," from those present.

    "Our ladies are hurt," Vance said. "Our churches are hurt. We need a good visitation from the Lord."

    Vance is a member of East Sylva Baptist Church which has pulled out of the association. He said he wanted the church to stay.

    Vance said he thinks the move to bar the WMU from using the building "opened the eyes of a lot of pastors who had been going along."

    He's unsure if the decision to let WMU use the building will lead some churches to return.

    "It's going to take different leadership all the way through," he said.

    Debate over the WMU is the latest controversy in the TBA, which started when the Pastors' Conference complained about Cullowhee Baptist Church calling a woman as co-pastor. The struggle has led six churches to leave the association this year.

    Some churches left because they believed the association was threatening the autonomy of local churches. Other churches said they were tired of the conflict.

    Scotts Creek Baptist Church voted on Dec. 8 to suspend its ties to the TBA, according to a report in the Sylva Herald.

    "This action occurred because it is felt that the conduct of the association has not been in keeping with the character of Christ and because it is felt that this present turmoil does not further the work of the Lord in this community," said a statement prepared by Rich Peoples, the church's pastor.

    The church's deacons recommended the suspension when the TBA barred the WMU from its building.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/13/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

    A fishy Christmas story

    December 13 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    A fishy Christmas story | Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    A fishy Christmas story

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    The Christmas season abounds with stories, some true and some not, but most having some sort of inspirational theme. Movies like It's a Wonderful Life, television programs like A Charlie Brown Christmas and books like The Polar Express have all become an integral part of the holiday season.

    I have a new entry on my list of favorites, but it's an unlikely Christmas story. David Stafford, pastor of Brunswick Islands Baptist Church, recently shared with his congregation a Christmas connection in an old story from Grimm's Fairy Tales.

    The story is commonly called "The Fisherman and His Wife." It can be found in a variety of versions, but most have the same common elements.

    There was a poor fisherman, the story goes, who lived with his wife in a filthy little shack near the sea. On a day when both the sea and the sky were clear, the fisherman caught only one fish, a large flounder that surprised him by speaking. The fish explained that he was no ordinary fish but an enchanted prince. He begged the fisherman to return him to the water. Despite his hunger and poverty, the fisherman let him swim away.

    Any good feelings he might have had about the charitable deed were lost when he told his wife of the encounter. He should have asked the fish to grant a wish, she said, and insisted that the fisherman return to the sea and ask for a nice cottage to replace their tiny hovel.

    Against his will, the fisherman walked back to the sea, which had turned greenish yellow, and called out to the flounder, explaining that his wife wanted a better life. The flounder surfaced and asked what his wife would have. When the fisherman explained that she wanted to live in a cottage, the flounder replied "Go then, she has it already."

    The fisherman returned to find his wife sitting on a bench before a charming cottage fitted out with shiny new fixtures of brass and tin. She soon became dissatisfied, however, and demanded that her reluctant husband should call to the flounder again and ask for a mansion of stone.

    The sea had turned purple and blue, but the flounder was surprisingly cooperative when the fisherman called to him and explained his wife's request for a more upscale abode. "Go then, she has it already," said the fish.

    The fisherman returned home to greet his wife in a marble hallway with gilded walls and crystal chandeliers, but the next morning she was no longer smiling. "Look out the window," she said. "We could be king over this land!"

    The poor fisherman had no craving to be king, but even less desire to cross his wife, so he went back to the sea, now dark gray and foul smelling. He called again to the fish, who sent him back to a palace.

    One would think his mate would be satisfied, but that was too much to hope for. She soon decided that kingship had its shortcomings. She imposed on the fish to make her emperor over all the lands, and when that failed to satisfy, she insisted on becoming the pope.

    With each new demand, the fisherman went with fear and trembling to an increasingly dark and turbulent sea, but the flounder continued granting his wishes until his house was transformed into a high-steepled church complex to rival the Vatican.

    Even then, his wife found her earthly position unsatisfying. "Go to the fish again," she importuned, "and tell him I want to be like God!"

    Fleeing the wrath of his wife, the fearful fisherman pressed through a growing tempest over a black and heaving sea to call once again to the flounder. "My wife wants to be like God," he said.

    And the flounder calmly replied, "Go then, you'll find her back in the shack."

    Moralists routinely portray the story as a commentary on the dangers of unbridled greed, but Stafford pointed out that there is more to the story: the flounder gave the wife exactly what she asked for.

    "The willful wife wanted to be like God," Stafford said, "so the fish took her from a position of glory to a dirty shack. Sort of like Jesus left the glory of heaven for a dirty stable in Bethlehem.

    "The fisherman's wife was closer to God's revelation of Himself in this world when she was in the shack than when she held a position of power and glory."

    Properly understood, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be like God. Jesus called his followers to become more godly - and He showed them that the pathway to godliness is not a trail of power and glory, but of humility and service - a way of life that is more at home in a musty manger than in a sparkling palace.

    And that's a story worth remembering this Christmas.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/13/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Feeling powerless

    December 13 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Feeling powerless | Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

    Feeling powerless

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    I can't really complain about losing power following the recent winter storm that bushwhacked much of North Carolina. The frigid blast, as some put it, was like "Fran on ice."

    When Hurricane Fran left a trail of destruction and downed power lines, at least people weren't in danger of freezing to death.

    I can't complain because we were without power for a mere three days and nights, while thousands of Tar Heels shivered in the dark for more than a week.

    I don't like the cold, but I like darkness that starts at 5:30 p.m. even less.

    Like many others, we slept by the fireplace, cooked on a camp stove, and tried to read by propane lantern and candlelight.

    I was grateful that we go camping enough to have survival equipment on hand.

    Samuel, who thought it all to be a grand adventure, declared "this is what it was like in the old days, when we were poor."

    The upside of the cold weather is that we didn't have to worry about food in the refrigerator going bad - we just put it in baskets and set it on the porch.

    The downside is that many people faced nights that were not just uncomfortable, but life-threatening.

    As with all events that alter the expected course of life, there were lessons to be learned - the importance of helping others, the reminder of daily blessings too easily taken for granted, the virtue of patience.

    The storm's occurrence during the Christmas season engendered other thoughts. As we sat by the fire in layers of warm clothes, surrounded by darkness that could no longer be chased away by the flip of a switch, my mind wandered more than once to Bethlehem, to a dark night transformed by a star in the sky and a child in a stable without a candle to his name, but more power than we can imagine.

    It was only natural, then, to hum "the light of the world is Jesus."

    And to pray for those who live in darkness that has nothing to do with electricity.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/13/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Walking the dog

    December 7 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Walking the dog | Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002

    Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002

    Walking the dog

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    I knew I'd wind up walking the dog.

    I've never been a big dog person because dogs, at least in the urban world, require a great deal of looking after, and I already have a full plate.

    You can't just let a pooch run loose where we live, and since many of our neighbors prefer really big dogs, I'm grateful for that.

    So, you have to keep the canines penned up or tied out or even in the house most of the time, but take them for periodic walks so they can do their business, stake out their territory and get enough exercise to stay healthy.

    That's where I come in. When we agreed to let Samuel have a dog, it was a given that I would become the designated dog walker. It may be true that "every boy needs to have a dog," but it's also true that mommies and daddies are generally responsible for keeping the critters alive.

    Samuel sometimes joins us on his bicycle, which makes for more of a run than a walk, but most often it's just the dog and the daddy.

    Kipper and I often go out late at night, covering two or three miles of subdivision streets and cul-de-sacs. Jan can keep up with us by listening for where the other neighborhood dogs start barking.

    We walk fast, with Kipper's short legs a blur when she's not stopping to investigate some new scent, and we don't talk much. I'm usually mulling over an editorial idea or pondering the most tactful reply to a particularly pointed letter. Kipper thinks whatever little doggy thoughts enter a puppy's head while sniffing the aromatic calling cards left behind by other dogs. She's intimately acquainted with a number of dogs that she's seen with her nose alone.

    With a mutt factored into my schedule, most of my running has been displaced by walking, which may not be as good for my heart, but is kinder to my knees.

    Here's a picture: a cool, foggy night that smells like rain, an old corduroy hat, a worn leather jacket, a spotted dog on a leash. If I only had a pipe, we could pose for Norman Rockwell.

    I knew I'd wind up walking the dog.

    What I didn't know is that I wouldn't mind the company.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/7/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Where do you go to find peace?

    December 7 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Where do you go to find peace? | Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002

    Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002

    Where do you go to find peace?

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    The question arose during my morning drive to work, listening to the local public radio station. Host Susan Stamberg introduced a series of interview snippets from people who were asked, "Where do you go to find peace?"

    A man in San Diego said he found peace on the water because he was an Aquarius. A woman said she found peace on her morning bike ride past a waterfall. A hectic businessman said he found refuge from cell phones and beepers while sailing.

    Stamberg, who lives and works in the crowded bustle of greater Washington, D.C., spoke of how she finds tranquility in an old cemetery's memorial garden, where the bronze sculpture of an enigmatic, meditative figure is surrounded by concrete benches.

    Where do you go to find peace?

    The question is most appropriate this time of the year. Though Advent traditions vary, many of them focus on the theme of peace during the second week of the season.

    There are indeed places that foster a sense of peace: high mountain vistas and the immensity of the ocean proclaim perspective, quiet lakes and old barns quietly bless the passing of time, laughing streams and giggling children bubble with infectious joy.

    There are some scenes of grandeur so impressive that I've tried to program them into my memory for instant recall if I need a moment's respite in the midst of a hectic day.

    But the pursuit of peace involves more than a journey to or the memory of a physical place, no matter how scenic or tranquil.

    Finding true peace involves the obstacle-strewn pathway that leads inside ourselves, past our personal demons, finding a way to look beyond our failures to a core of self that the Bible calls our nephesh, our psuche - our soul.

    None of the externals really matter very much if our soul is out of joint.

    I have sat by the surf at Waikiki, staring across the gleaming blue bay at the majestic cone of Diamondhead, and felt utterly broken.

    I have stood by a rushing waterfall and shed tears to match.

    Peace is not a commodity that we can purchase or absorb at the worldwide scenery store. An impressive environment may help set the stage for clearer thinking, but peace must be found within.

    The Hebrew word involves much more than an absence of conflict. Shalom denotes a comprehensive sense of wholeness and wellness. In New Testament usage, the Greek word 'eirene took on the same connotation.

    That's what we want in this frantic world. Not just the absence of conflict, as welcome as that might be. Not just quiet or rest, but wholeness.

    A deep and inner sense of spiritual wholeness endures even when the environment is not conducive to peace. In conflict, in busyness, even in tragedy, there can be an inner, sustaining peace.

    The ultimate source of that peace, the Bible tells us, is the love of God. And, the ultimate expression of God's love is Jesus Christ, whose sacrificial gift of Himself offers forgiveness to heal the broken image of God in us, and a persistent presence that sustains our human frailty with divine strength.

    That is why, I believe, the story of Jesus' birth is so awash in images of peace. When the prophets spoke of the Messiah's arrival, they often spoke of peace. When angels appeared to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, they brought wishes for peace. When early Christians like Paul tried to explain what it was like to live in fellowship with Christ, they frequently relied on images of peace.

    Isaiah 26:3 is often cited during the Advent season. In the familiar words of the King James translation, we remember it as "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee."

    A more literal translation might be "The one whose mind leans on you, you will keep in peace, in peace because he trusts in you."

    In this hurried, worried, commercialized season, where do you put your trust?

    Where do you go to find peace?

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/7/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Who's on top of your Christmas list?

    December 7 2002 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

    Who's on top of your Christmas list? | Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002

    Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002

    Who's on top of your Christmas list?

    By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer

    Most of us have already begun (maybe finished?) our Christmas shopping. In the Raleigh area, there is certainly no shortage of places to shop (we've added two major malls this year) for interesting gifts to tempt us to overspend our budgets. Even with a downturn in the economy across our state, we appear to be headed for a better than average Christmas season.

    But after all of the gifts have been bought, wrapped and put under the tree, how much have I spent honoring the One whose birthday we celebrate? Exchanging gifts with one another - a tradition I enjoy as much as anyone - must never overshadow God's greatest gifts to the world, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    A question we must all ask ourselves each Christmas season: Whom have I put at the top of my Christmas list? Where did I spend most of my money (priorities) during this Christmas shopping season?

    I ran across one Christian organization several years ago that asks only for a tithe - 10 percent - of the total amount you will spend on all Christmas gifts for that year. For some people, that would be a significant amount!

    Several years ago our state convention promoted a program asking individuals to take the money they would normally spend on someone's Christmas gift and give that amount to the Southern Baptist Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions. You would receive a card from the donor indicating that a gift had been made, in your name, to the special offering.

    Besides the Lottie Moon Offering, still the most popular special offering among our churches, other Christmas giving programs in our churches include the Samaritans' Purse Operation Christmas Child (Shoebox Ministry) and the Global Missions Offering of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

    Another option - and one we too often overlook - is to make a "Christmas contribution" to your local church. Because of the downturn in the economy, many of our churches are struggling to meet their basic budget requirements. We should always place a high priority on the ministry needs in our own church community. For without strong churches none of our convention ministries - or even those of parachurch groups - could long survive.

    Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. It is a time of giving and receiving. But most importantly, it is a time to remember how much God has given us and how we should, in return, cheerfully give back to Him.

    May you know the joy of giving and the peace of Christ during this Advent season.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    12/7/2002 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments

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