Treasure Island

Leave it to kids to teach you stuff.  Most who know me would say I am intense, that I know my strengths and weaknesses, and generally stay away from things and projects where my comfort zone is, well, uncomfortable.  Historically, set construction, for example, simply ain’t on my list (excuse my grammar.) I have little concept of design (lines and angles) or color and  In case you missed it, I.HATE.TO.PAINT.

Truthfully, there is some history there. Years ago, when taking ceramics in the old Family Life Center, my friends laughed at the “red blobs” on my Christmas ornaments (one friend’s Mom felt sorry for me and rescued me by repainting and re-firing those ornaments and they are annually found on my Christmas tree).  I draw lines and angles with rulers. I paint flat surfaces under duress or pay someone. I don’t buy furniture or rugs or most stuff for the wall without consulting one of my “expert” friends. To make matters worse, Steve knows this and he asks if I have discussed my decorating ideas with them.  So – there you go.

So I found myself in a difficult place when asked to help get a boat built as a set piece. This was no little boat. This sucker was about 40 feet from bow to stern, and had masts and sails, and had to bear the weight of about 80 kids. AND it had to be constructed and mostly painted in the garage at the Christian Life Center during the one week of winter that occurred in Central Mississippi. I said yes, begrudgingly, got irritated with the process (as long as I have done production stuff this happens until somehow miraculously the idea gels), and showed up to paint. And paint. And dry brush. And prime. And even repaint. Aaarrrgh!!!!

Well the ship came together. There was one battle casualty before she finally sailed (Barbara Hamilton broke her wrist in a classic “Cille type move” of walking backwards). And then we loaded it up with kids and wow – what a transformation.

Before KidsRock started reminding me about saving up “treasures in heaven”, I had a strong reminder about this scripture: II Corinthians 9:7 ASV – Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. Yes – this verse is LOADED. And it does not apply only to money. It applies to all your resources. Even the ability to paint in the bitter cold because this will help someone tell someone about Jesus.  Steve had the same lesson the same week only his was tied to driving the church van for something. Don’t do it grudgingly. Don’t do it just because it has to be done. Do it and do it cheerfully.

The kids sang about Matthew 6:19-21 HCB – Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  The musical, Treasure Island – Searching for Riches in the Kingdom of God (by Celeste Clydesdale and David T. Clydesdale, BRENTWOOD-BENSON PUBLISHING, 2016), is a great (and true) story about what is important – that the only treasure that really matters is Jesus! It was a wonderful evening of worship and made every.single.cold.paint.stroke worth it.


Still Choosing Joy!


P.S. Hats off to a great group of kids, leaders and production team members. I do believe God was honored.

Photos below are mine during construction and are the work of Rushing Images (Lane and Judy Rushing) during dress rehearsal and the presentation.

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For Such A Time As This

Reading my iPad Bible this morning, I revisited this passage in Esther 3:

“Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”

So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”

This struck me differently today when I read it.  Haman was mad about the Jews being different. Frankly, he was specifically upset with Mordecai because Mordecai, even in this foreign place, honored the One True King and bowed to no other. Mordecai was not afraid to be consistent in his walk with God. Haman, a power-mad, arrogant lieutenant to Xerxes, was looking for ways to work himself into even more power by self promotion. He was willing to pay his way into the graces of Xerxes and certainly cared little for the truth. He did not care really that Mordecai did not bow to the king. He cared that he could be a tattle-tale and profit from it.

In Esther 4, Mordecai goes to Queen Esther for help.  Esther had never revealed her nationality to Xerxes. Mordecai knew this and knew her witness on behalf of the God of the Ages would result in one of two things: her death and the deaths of the other Jews or the freedom of all to worship openly the God of the Ages.  Esther had concerns but Mordecai brought those into focus:

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

As we know, after prayer and fasting for three days, Esther, risking death if Xerxes refused to see her, went to see the king. Approaching the king without a direct invitation was against the law, and Xerxes did not have to grant her favor to see him. In the meantime, Haman continued to plot. Yet God stirred Xerxes’ heart to take care of honoring Mordecai for a past heroic act in the manner that Haman had desired for himself.  Smarting from that,  Haman, when face-to-face with Xerxes and Esther, had to answer her accusations of wanting to destroy her and her people. God spared (and Xerxes honored) Mordecai and Esther. Xerxes used the punishment Haman had planned for Mordecai to punish Haman.

The story is a great Old Testament story. What rattled me today are these things:

  1. How do we today treat people who are different from us?  Do we abuse/use them for our own good or advancement or to we attempt to bring them in and minister to them? Be it Jews or Muslims or other Protestants or non-believers –  are we pursuing them because of what God wants us to do for them to further His kingdom or for the advancement of our own agendas?  That question is somewhat rhetorical but it does deserve some thought and consideration and prayer.
  2. When we are called to a specific task – the “for such a time as this” type task, are we willing to respond to that call? I cannot answer that for you but I am aware of those calls in my life – the ones I responded to and the ones I (attempted) to ignore. The outcomes of obedience and the consequences of ignoring God’s call) tend to never leave you.

Haman strikes me as the kind of guy who made up his own rules as he went along. Today we find that around us in our government (both sides of the aisle), our churches, our homes, our workplaces. It is time for us to step up when we are called by God to take the lead and make a move for Him.

Just think about it. 

Still Choosing Joy!





babyBack in the late 1960s, there was a poster advertised in the back of the Baptist Training Union quarterly (yep – we had those).  The poster always intrigued me.  It said, “Faith is walking to the edge of all the light, and taking one more step.”  I first saw that some 50+ years ago and think about that often.  Hebrews 11:1 reminds us: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Just because we do not see something with our earthly eyes does not mean it does not exist or did not happen.

There are many situations we face that require us to reach deep within ourselves. We ask people to “believe” or question whether or not they have had a change of heart. And perhaps, we have to reach beyond the obvious to answer Why in order to reach the only Light that matters.

In John 8, Jesus says: I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life. Unlike the shepherds or wise men, I never physically saw Jesus.  I was not there in the fields singing with the angels or in that barn where He was born. I was not there in person with John and Mary at the foot of the cross. Unlike Mary Magdalene, I did not speak to Him in the garden or Thomas, I did not touch His side after His resurrection. Yet my belief in His Light, because of my faith, is every bit as real.

There are so many reasons to ask Why? Why has there been such catastrophe this week in East Tennessee? Why have several friends had serious accidents or health issues. Why don’t things work out they way we think they should? Why am I sweating details that are outside of my control for Carols? In context, those things are important. But, perhaps the focus is wrong.

You see, if we answer the question Why concerning Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection, then all other asking of that question resolve themselves.  I am not talking about prosperity or no hard times or total good health or that bad things will no longer happen to good people – I am saying, though, that the end – the forever living with Jesus end – is handled – and the rest stretches us to live by faith to show others that regardless of circumstances – of how much darkness there may appear to be – We.Are.His.

That Baby. That Cross. That Empty Tomb. Each piece requires faith. Each requires the other or it is just a story. All three make it His Story. Can you answer Why?



Herding Cats (Again)

Carols by Candlelight 2015 – photo: Judy Rushing

‘Tis the season! You can interpret that in several ways but for this topic, the “season” referenced is Carols by Candlelight.  For the 47th year, First Baptist Jackson will present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the community and to the world through a celebration of music and worship using everything from dance to painting to video and probably some things/circumstances we don’t yet know about.  In 2016, the cast, crew, Worship Choir and Orchestra, focus on answering Why? Why did Jesus have to come?  I have seldom been a “why?” asker but in this context, the question is so very valid. The question and how it is answered or how you respond to it has eternal implications. For ticket information, go to It will also be streamed from the First Jackson website and later televised.

My primary role with Carols is to get the choir ready logistically.  I do my best to place them with a friend, where they can be comfortable physically, where the musical balance and perspective is right (voice parts matter!), where a new participant can “follow the leader” with someone who has done this before – really take care of the sweating the small stuff so they can be prepared musically and not have to think to much about other details – I point, stand them up, sit them down, give instructions relative to right now, changes, being flexible, etc.  It is a journey, for sure, and it requires a couple of fairly tedious rehearsals before folks are going with the flow and we begin to lead in worship rather than be bogged down in the details.

The first “nuts and bolts” rehearsal  is on what we call “Wednesday on Tuesday” – the Tuesday night of Thanksgiving Week. This is the night we assign folks their Carols positions and walk through the processional. It is also the night we join the Worship Choir regulars with our Student and College friends who are part of this ministry. It can be (and usually is) somewhat chaotic (and fun). And as I have shared several times over the years, it is like “herding cats” – according to Wikipedia, “an idiom denoting a futile attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic” and best represented by EDS in their award-winning commercial: Herding Cats. (Disclaimer: I also identify with this because professionally I am a technology project manager!) This, for the record, is not my first “cat rodeo” as I have been a part of Carols and the Worship Choir since 1981 (my 36th) and have been the logistics guru since 1988 (thus my 29th).

I am by nature a perfectionist and this is never a perfect rehearsal (or process). I am going to miss something. Some change is going to have to be made to adjust for spacing, microphones, height, someone not being there, someone I left off the list (it happens) – and I have had to learn over the years to Get.Over.It. God is honored by what I do for Him – not by my frustrations!

I answered Why? when I was nine years old. During Vacation Bible School, the pastor asked us to personalize John 3:16 KJV: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. His instructions were to replace “the world” with your name. Boom! I recall the exact feeling today that I had 50 years ago. God sent Jesus to save me. As I grew, I realized that His coming was not all and not enough. Jesus also had to die for me and come out of that earthly tomb to live again so that I could live with Him forever. And I accept, without question or reservation, that He will come back again.

So pray for us as we get ready to share with 15,000+ about Jesus. Pray that we can help others to answer that question of Why? for themselves.  Not being disrespectful, but I suspect God knows a lot more about “herding cats” than I do.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Hebrews 6:10-12 NIV







Not Sure What Day It Is…

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Actually it is Saturday morning – 6:20AM Pacific Time. We are on VIA Rail and at a scheduled stop in Kamloops. This is a city of about 85,000 literally in the middle of the mountains. This is the halfway point between  Vancouver and Jasper.

We have been busy. Wednesday we left Vancouver for Victoria via the BC Ferries – a BIG European-style ferry. It is a lovely ride through the Straits of Georgia passing the Gulf Islands. Once in Victoria, we headed out along the Inner Harbor and ate local at a place called Ferris. This is a pub-like place with great food – they apparently are famous for their oysters and I had an oyster burger – seriously – which was really a pro-boy like sandwich on a round bun (excellent). We were ready for this for sure.

Thursday morning we loaded up and headed to Butchart Gardens. These are privately owned and a prime example of how mining reclamation should work. This was a former limestone quarry that the owner’s wife wanted made beautiful. And it is spectacular. This is our third different season to visit here.  The spring flowers were at or just past peak and the colors amazing.

Back in Victoria, Steve and I headed out the opposite direction from the night before along the Inner Harbor down to Fisherman’s Wharf to Barb’s Fish and Chips. This was pretty good too and seafood in the rough – floating fish stand with picnic tables along side on a floating dock. It was a busy place but appeared to be more local than tourists. Cruise season has begun but we managed to be opposite whatever ship was in port both in Victoria and Vancouver in whatever we did. Our dinner that evening was at the Pacific Dining Room at the hotel. The food was great and was art on a plate.

Friday morning we toured the BC Museum – this is a world class museum showcasing the history of BC beginning with the First Nation’s story (a.k.a. “Native American’s”). The collection of First Nation artifacts was broad and broken by the different tribes/nations and included a segment on language and dialect. From this start, you see the impact of the white man (Blythe, Cook, Vancouver were those naval types leading expeditions here) and their guns, alcohol, and disease. Very interesting and very well done.

Leaving there, Steve and I walked around the BC Parliament grounds, saw the sequoia that is the BC provincial Christmas tree, enjoyed people and dog watching, and harbor watching. We then had High Tea at the Empress Hotel before boarding a Harbour Tours seaplane for the 40 minute flight back to Vancouver.  The trip was at about 1000 feet and it was neat to see the ferries, islands, freighters and even landmarks like the Lions’ Gate Bridge from the air. Upon landing, we toured the area of the University of British Columbia (about 60k students) and returned to Gastown for an Italian dinner. We then boarded the train for our trip to Jasper.

It is now about 7:50am – we just had breakfast in the dining car and have settled in to watch the view which is becoming more spectacular by the mile. Our train is 25ish cars long. We were in a sleeping compartment (Steve got the top bunk) and actually slept fairly well. We are due to arrive in Jasper around 4PM Mountain time if all stays on schedule.

Our group includes folks from PA, FL, AL, LA, MS (obviously), CA and I am sure others I have missed. We also have several Aussies in the group. On average, I would say we are the youngest in the bunch!

On a funny note (one of several) – Ginger was given the option to be the “co-pilot” on the seaplane. She got to wear the the headphones and hear air traffic control. And she was told NOT to touch anything! Kathy survived the seaplane ride (she loves to travel but is not fond at all of flying and particularly of flying in small aircraft) and was put in charge of the exit door on the plane! If the pilot who assigned her that duty had only known…. Her color has returned from green to normal this morning.  Steve who is an exceptionally good sport and has been traveling with this group of ladies off and on for years, was identified as “boss” by our waiter this AM. We all cracked up at that. He, unfortunately, seldom is boss on these adventures. Kathy also last night pulled out a tour cry from years’ back – the deal is when you see wildlife, you call out. Well she called out “MOOSE” and the other three of us immediately turned to look out the window (note: we were still within the city limits of Vancouver at the time)!

The river running along side of us (North Thompson River) is up due to the snow melt but it is apparent that it is no where near the flood stages of the past. We have passed one area where a forest fire recently happened and of course the fire in NE Alberta (Fort MacMurray (sp)) is still in the news. It has been a dry winter here and that will of course impact the summer season going forward. Victoria has water controls in place now and Vancouver is considering it.  Climate is changing for sure.

As we ride along we have passed pastures of cows, horses, and sheep as well as fields that have their crops just in or are going in now. This apparently is an extremely fertile valley.

Philippians 4:19 NIV – And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus. I wonder if the people living in this valley consider that given the wealth of this land? I wonder if we consider it as we should given the options and opportunities we have. Pretty sure I am not always on top of that. And, since CHANGE in every aspect of our lives is a constant, we must depend on Him to lead us through these and know that He will provide for each and every one of us.

Still Choosing Joy!