In just a few hours, Lord willing, I will be celebrating my 54th birthday. It seems like the time has just raced by so swiftly. I don’t feel 54, whatever it’s supposed to feel like, but I’m celebrating 54. Ironically, it will be one year from the day that I received the diagnosis that I had cancer (melanoma) or as my brother, Dr. Bernard J. Sutton rephrased it “an infirmity.”
Much has happened over the course of my life. Unfortunately very few people can look back over their life and say “I’ve never had a problem or trouble or heartaches or pain” – I number in the former and not the latter. Life has not been a “crystal stair,” it’s been like a mountain railroad. There are ten things that I’ve learned on this journey that I want to share with you:
1. God will provide. I have gone through the “had it all” and “lost it all” stage. In the midst of that turbulent season of storms, when I talked to the Lord after crying, sitting in an empty apartment with no furniture what to speak of and only the clothes on my back, God said (and I heard Him audibly say) “trust me.” I did not realize that what I thought was a mine field, God was using it as basic training for me to prepare for the next season in my life. In this season, it has been the most loving, rewarding and fulfilling season in my life, thanks to The Provider.
2. Loved Ones start transitioning. I cannot remember a period in my life where death has been invading the ranks of those I have loved, admired, celebrated and fellowshipped with. In this recent season, I’ve seen my father in the ministry, my father-in-law, two dear brothers of ministry, mentors, friends, church members and those who poured into my life leave from these shores to a home “over there.” In my middle 50s, I suspect I will see many of those who mean much to me leave from here. But thankfully most of those in that list are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ. In the words of a friend, “people are dying now who have never died before.”
3. Relationships mean much. As a pastor in my middle 50s, I’m not seeking fame or fortune. I think I’ve already been through that stage and found out that once you get on the star there is a plethora of preachers who want to take your place. In my distant future, I’m preparing to move out of the way for some emerging younger pastors and preachers to make their presence known. This year, I’m retiring (due to tenure) as President of the Kentucky State Convention of the PNBC. I’ve already laid down the mantle as Secretary of the Frankfort/Franklin County Ministerial Association. There will come a time when I will retire as Chairman of the Publishing Board of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky. I’ve retired as Webmaster of the Progressive National Baptist Convention (and I probably had just cause to do it much, much sooner). I intend to wear convention affiliation like a loose garment and spend more time with those who mean much to me through the avenue of relationships.
4. Live life. I think one of the major points I learned from Dr. A. Louis Patterson before the Lord took him home was his joy in living. It was rare to see Dr. Pat with a sour demeanor or disposition (to my knowledge, I have never personally seen it). I was to live joyously. Yes, laugh. Yes, joke. Yes, travel with my bride. See things and places I’ve never seen before, take up a hobby (I still want to learn how to play an acoustic guitar). I’ve never had a formal piano lesson, and that’s on the bucket list as well. But most importantly, I want to go to bed with a smile on my face and wake up in the sam manner.
5. Pass on a legacy. I want to take what God has given to me and put it in the hands of faithful believers who will pass it on accordingly. I think I have two more books in my spirit. Before I die I want to share, build up and encourage someone else. I’m proud of my wife, my sisters, my mom, my aunt, my relatives, and those preachers who have adopted me as a pastoral father figure or mentor. I want to have a Paul, Timothy and Titus in my life – someone I can learn from, someone I can consider as a colleague, and someone I can mentor. I’ve been threatening to, many years from now, after I retire (many, many years from now), to join his church as a heckler (smile). But really, in older age, all I want to do is help someone else up the hill.
Looking forward to tomorrow, if the Lord wills, to see 54.
by Robert Earl Houston
I am a Star Trek fan. Been one since the days of the original Star Trek – Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Lt. Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Lt. Commander Scott, Ensign Chekov, and Lt. Sulu. That show gave us a glimpse into the future. It was a hopeful and optimistic view of the future.
I noticed something in watching some recent episodes. The crew kept on their paraphernalia when they were on duty. Most of them had hand communicators but a couple of them, Lt. Uhura and Mr. Spock in particular wore wireless communicators that were placed on the ear and in the ear canal.
Sounds a lot like today’s wireless bluetooth headphones. In many states, it is now illegal to operate a cell phone while driving an automobile. So many of our cars are now equipped with wireless bluetooth speakers and microphones built within the car. It’s an amazing technological marvel.
But I am wondering something – brother and sister in ministry – are we so connected that we can’t do without a cell phone connection for even a few minutes? I’ve been to churches, associations, conventions, conferences, and for some odd reason some of us sit in worship, sit in the pulpit, in some cases participate in the pulpit worship service, and now in some cases, preach while connected to a cell phone, with a “communicator” hanging out of the ear.
Are we really that busy? If we tell our people to do, as the song says, “Just forget about yourself and concentrate on Him, and worship Him . . .” Is it not reasonable to sing that song while you’re still connected by earpiece or worst yet, continually texting others not about the worship, but other things not related to worship.
The Presidents of the United States of America, to my memory, have never used, in public during events and speeches, ear pieces. And I know that we have a calling from on high – but I don’t believe any of us are connected to the Heavenlies via phone.
To me, it is disturbing to see the “worship leader” or “the minister in charge” with a bluetooth device clinched against their ear. It is disturbing to watch a minister’s voice get louder because he or she’s volume is diminished because of the bluetooth device covering one ear completely. It almost looks like a later iteration of Star Trek – the Borg. It says to me that either I don’t have your full attention or that God doesn’t have your full attention.
I think the time has come that we need to just step back, take a deep breath, and disconnect. Even if it’s just for an hour – from all that would remove our attention from the Lord. Can you imagine seeing your minister or yourself communicate the truths of the Word of God and then all of a sudden a telephone call comes in and he or she stops the sermon to talk with Cousin June-Bug? It sounds laughable but I’ve seen ministers with ear pieces inserted get a phone call and fumble with their cell phones to turn it off.
A few moments of silence and concentration may produce a view of something that we may be missing – the Glory of God.
A last comment: the night that First Baptist Church of Frankfort, KY called me, I was in a funeral service with my pastor in Nashville, Tennessee. The phone was on vibrate and my pastor looked at me and said “Don’t do it. It will wait until after service.” He was absolutely right. Although the phone message was important, my ministry to a family that was bereaved outweighed my personal desire to be “connected” via the phone.
In the words of the late Dr. T.L. Lewis – “A word to the wise is sufficient . . .”
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
WHITESTOWN, INDIANA – Ever had days that ran by so quickly that you didn’t have a chance to sit down and soak it all in? Well, I’m at a Starbuck’s Coffee, with my laptop and my Caffe Mocha Venti with an extra-shop and a small slice of Cinnamon swirl coffee cake . . . just to relax for a moment. Several events have occurred in the last few days, so allow me to respond:
First, I want to thank the Lord for the celebration of 5 years as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. I still can’t believe I’ve been in Frankfort for such a period of time. It feels like that Jessica and I just moved to Frankfort recently and I hope I never lose that feeling of awe and wonder. The Anniversary Committee went over and beyond the call of duty and I want to thank them for all of their efforts. It was flawless and a sign that a good plan always works. To be honest, the most nervous feelings I encountered was during the Roast of the Pastor at the 5th Anniversary Gala. I’m not a big one on criticism, but the jokes – the loving jokes – were funny and brought me to tears on a few occasions. Some of the best lines: “Pastor is also a weatherman. By the time you get home from morning worship, he’s already cancelled worship for next week because of weather . . . I don’t know why he cancels during a tornado warning, the church has a basement, I don’t . . . Pastor was searching for somebody for a whole year – he searched and low, still couldn’t find no body. He sang that song for one year . . . I love and respect my pastor. He’s a great man of God and I could never say anything about my pastor, BUT —-. It was great evening and the love and support of those in attendance was genuine and heartfelt. On Sunday my dear friend, Pastor Daniel Corrie Shull and my pastor, Pastor Barton Elliott Harris (coincidentally, both Fisk graduates) were our guest speakers for the day. To Go be the glory . . .
Second, I was appalled as most of the country about the revelations of the taped personal remarks of Donald Sterling, the now banned for life, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. The new NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, took a strong, pro-reason, ethical stance in his suspension of Mr. Sterling. What was interesting to me was to hear political pundits on the right try to equate Mr. Sterling’s behavior with some of the questionable behavior of star athletes. That is an apples and oranges discussion. The issue was never on employees – it was their employer/owner, who is held to a higher standards than the player. It seems that whenever “one of their own” (Republicans) are under scrutiny or attack, they run out to find a counterbalance. This issue was pretty straight forward and the team will certainly be sold/disbanded (if Mr. Sterling puts up a fight). Personally, I would like to see the league relocate the franchise to either San Diego/Orange County or Seattle, with a new name and new ownership.
Third, my Portland Trailblazers are looking incredible. Portland has not had a time this exciting in years. The franchise has been to the playoffs 30 times, but only in 1977 did the team go all the way and win the championship. (I remember the city-wide celebration and school being cancelled that day for the celebration). Coincidentally as we celebrate these Blazers, the coach of the championship season, Dr. Jack Ramsey, passed away of cancer. This group of athletes are amazing and I’m hoping that they go all the way to the championship game. Rip City!
Fourth, I just completed my participation in the 54th Annual Simultaneous Revival in Gary, Indiana. I’ve been the local guest of my friend, Pastor Marlon Mack and the Sweet Home Baptist Church the past few years, and serving with the evening lecturer, Pastor Todd Bankert. This year was unlike the previous ones, in my opinion, and it was a well run Simultaneous and the lineup of preachers had a feel of a National Convention, especially since two of the evangelists are also candidates for the presidency of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. I had the privilege of preaching Tuesday morning for the mass Breakfast setting and the Lord was KIND.
Five, the weather has been something else of late. There is a severe drought in the West (go figure, right next to the ocean), the north (Chicago area) is cold (it was around 40 this morning), the southwest is under inches of water due to historic flooding, and the midwest is under the threat and has been hit by tornadoes. I have never seen weather like this in my lifetime – when May feels like October. Very strange indeed.
Well, that’s enough. Back to my Caffe Mocha. Be blessed!
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!