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On the Road Again in 2015

Articles are sorted with the most recently posted at the top.

On The Road to Christmas…as Santa Claus!
Posted December 22, 2015

by Harry Seurkamp

Every year, starting in August, I let my beard grow a little longer than I normally wear it. I always slip on my Santa hat and ring the bells for the Salvation Army. But I also really enjoy going to Park Plaza and helping with the Christmas store that the Chapel sponsors.

This year, though, when the day for the Christmas store was changed from Wednesday to Tuesday, I knew I couldn't participate since I work on Tuesdays. So I debated as to whether I should go ahead and trim my beard or just leave it long. I know it looks scraggily, long, but Santa has a long beard. So I decided to keep it for a while longer.

Then I received a call from Aggie Gladbach informing me that Park Plaza Nursing Home needed a Santa for their Christmas party. And since I had let my beard grow, they wondered if I would be their Santa Claus. I agreed, but I told them I didn't have a suit. They said, "That's ok; just put on a red shirt." I agreed; after all, that's why I had kept the beard.

The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that if I was going to impersonate such a famous person, I needed a proper suit. "Amazon, Santa suit, need I say more?"

So with my beard, my not-so-tightly-cured handle bar mustache, the Santa suit and a red pillow case for my bag (filled with candy canes, of course) and oh, yes! the old pillow with straps sewn on it to create the "bowl full of jello" effect, off to Park Plaza I flew.

As we drove to the nursing home I couldn't stop thinking about those famous boots I was headed to fill. Not to mention, the Big suit. How would Santa do this? Prayer is an important part of life for Santa or a Santa want-a-be. "Just help me bring a smile to their faces, Lord. Even if only for a second, please, God."

Ginger helped me get ready at the nursing home. There is a lot to do, masquerading as this famous, jolly ole man. Then came the knock at the door. They were ready, but was I? At that moment, the door flew open, and Santa bounced out with a "HO HO HO!" I left Harry Seurkamp back in the dressing room.

Wow, I never knew 90 minutes could fly by so fast! The residents were all gathered, listening to ladies from the Open Range Cowboy Church singing carols. I bounced around greeting, hugging, handshaking and passing out candy canes.

Then I was led to the rocking chair by the Christmas tree. The first to come and greet Santa were the children. This was a first for me, kids. I just thought, "Well, they are just younger older people."

The first was Brandt, nice boy. I could tell from his manners he was a good boy. He wanted an X Box 1. I gave him a candy cane and an "I'll see what I can do, BUT you've got to remember to say your prayers at night."

Then a four-year-old child came, but didn't want anything to do with me. So, they handed me his brother, a tiny baby. Yes, a two-month-old had come to see Santa. I reached out to receive the child, and while holding him, a tear came to my eye. What! Santa cry? I looked at the 4-year-old and said, "Your little brother reminds me of Baby Jesus. You know, Christmas really isn't about all those presents I bring; it's about Baby Jesus. He is God's gift to us." The baby and I had our picture taken and I handed him back to his mother.

At that point I held my hands back out to the 4-year-old and he came and gave me the biggest bear hug imaginable; it must have lasted 30 seconds. Wow, what an experience!

All the residents, some with families, came and had their picture taken with Santa. Then Santa made his rounds to all those residents who had remained in their rooms. We took pictures and more pictures and passed out candy canes.

Then, we were finished. I went back to the dressing room and took off the ole man's suit. I carefully packed it all in the suitcase. When we exited the room, the hall was empty. I was back to being Harry Seurkamp and the residents were all going about their daily routine.

Two things occurred to me. Holding the baby there in the nursing home and looking around at the residents, I was struck with the fact that life is a full circle; we are all brought into this world wearing diapers and most of us will leave this world wearing diapers.

Secondly, Santa is a tool to bring laughter to children's faces, children of all ages. As far as presents and gifts go, well, God gave us the greatest gift, His Son Jesus Christ, and then Jesus turns around and gave his life so that we will have eternal life with the Father. What better gift than to receive?

As far as Harry goes, you don't need a Santa suit to bring a smile to a nursing home resident. Just a simple visit from a loving and caring friend will do it. Maybe I'll just see you around Park Plaza sometime.

Prayer answered. Thank you, God.

[Editor's note: One of Santa's elves has reported that the Santa bug bit Harry so deeply that he showed up at the Children's Birthday Party for Jesus on Sunday, Dec. 20 to surprise the children in the Sunday School class. Rumor has it that this has all the markings of an annual event, with Santa Harry making frequent visits around the county!]

On the Road to Walmart
Posted December 22, 2015

by Jim Browder

At one time or another, we've all been on the road to a Walmart store. Usually, it's to shop.

However, each December several White Bluff Chapel volunteers hit the road to Hillsboro to stand outside and ring bells in front of Walmart to solicit donations for the Salvation Army--a very worthy charity, and all the money stays in Hill County.

I have to admit, I wasn't very enthusiastic about doing this the first year when my arm was twisted until I relented and "volunteered." It turned out to be an eye-opening episode in my life.

The most memorable year was when Lanette and I stood outside in sub-freezing weather as a chilling north wind turned us into human icicles. Everyone who volunteered that year well remembers the icy experience.

But while the weather outside may be frightful, the overall experience is quite delightful.

Here are some bell-ringing scenarios:

THE GREETING: We try to say "Merry Christmas" to everyone entering the store--not "happy holidays." Many smile and return the greeting. The greeting quite often turns a sour face into a bright smile. A few others will stick their face in their I-phone and bah-humbug right past you. But that's OK.

THE SURPRISES: Many, many times you see people approaching who look like they should be receiving donations--not making donations. Yet, they smile and drop something in the bucket. Some will say: "I'm sorry I can't give more, but this is all I have today." This makes it all worthwhile.

THE KIDS: The best are the three-year-old girls who approach with a fistful of pennies and dimes in their left hand. With their right hand they meticulously take one coin at a time and carefully drop it into the bucket. Then another coin...well, it takes a while, but it's fun. I often let the kids ring my bell--some are reluctant at first, but they all seem to enjoy it, especially the six-year-old who kept turning her head and smiling at me as she walked with her family back to the car.

THE UNUSUAL: A biker parked his motorcycle, walked over and said: "I'll give you guys five bucks each if you'll watch my bike--I've got things in the saddlebags I don't want to lose. Later he returned and offered us the money. We said, "Put it in the bucket."  He did.

THE REWARD: One lady came out of the store, walked past us, then stopped. She turned around, reached into her purse, pulled out a donation and said: "This is the sixth time I've been to Walmart this season and I've given something every time. I just couldn't pass you up. Thanks for what you are doing."

So, when Harry Seurkamp recruits bell ringers next Christmas season, sign up--you won't regret it. It only takes two hours out of your whole year--that's not much. When not enough White Bluff Chapel members sign up, Harry and Ginger wind up pulling double or triple shifts. It happened this year--let's not let it happen again.

Our Road To A Merry Christmas
Posted November 12, 2015

by Bill Burris

Anyone who has been in our home in November and December knows that the decorations abound. There are at least five trees, with many other complementing decorations.

In recent years it seems to have become more of a burden to put the decorations up and later to take them down. But it's Marcie's favorite time of the year, and I've bought into her excitement. And associated with that excitement is the fact that Marcie has brought excitement into my search to know Christ better each and every day.

This year I've stumbled onto (or perhaps been prompted with) a way to override the burden. And subsequently, I've noticed that the aches, pains and burdens have become less of an intrusion. What I've done this year is to adopt the idea that we are preparing our home for Christ's birth. It's not a manger, but we certainly hope it's a place where He knows He is welcomed.

With the world, and certainly our nation, doing all they can to eliminate God and Christ from all forms of visibility, we can all do things to show everyone that He is welcome in our homes and lives. We don't have to do elaborate decorations to show He's welcome. The best way I know is to just let His light shine through us as we go about our daily routines. We never know when someone notices a different look or manner in the way we present ourselves. One thing I do know is that someone will one day ask, "What is it about you?" That's when you can really feel His light shine.

When our decorating is finished, we can ease the aches and pains as we invite Christ to join us in our celebration of His birth.

When God Speaks…
Posted October 29, 2015

by Zelpha Thomason

We have procrastinated as long as we can and the time has come when it must be done. Goodbyes are so very hard to do, so we won't say it. Actually, we don't have to because we are just going down the road a bit and expect to see all of you when you drop by our new place in Waco or when we return to make sure all is well in White Bluff. How appropriate Terry's message was Sunday of last week, entitled "When God Speaks…," for that is exactly what happened to us this year, and as Terry said, "It was beautiful."

When we arrived at White Bluff 13 years ago, we expected to stay until we went to our "permanent" home, but a lot has occurred in the past year or so which changed our view of the future. With several nudges from our children and from God, we determined it was time to make a change.

I mentioned to a friend that we might be selling our house. God was apparently listening and replied, "I think that is an excellent idea-let's do it!" Within two months our house was sold, the perfect one bought in Waco, and we leave this Friday, October 23. Please welcome Bret and Becky Hudechek and their daughters, Sidney and Emily to White Bluff. You will love them.

Our new address is 6605 Deming Drive, Waco, Texas 76712. We welcome all of you to visit when you are in Waco. We would love to continue to serve you by sharing our guest room when you have a loved one in the hospital there. Please just give us a call when you have a need. Our new phone number is 325-665-9941. Our new e-mail is zelphathomason@gmail.com

We have never lived in a place that gave us so much joy and with people we loved so deeply. There are no words that can express our heartfelt thanks for all the times you have cared for us. That makes it very hard to leave, but we are excited about our new adventure (and all the wonderful places to eat out and shop). Please pray that we will find a good church home, although we know there will never be another White Bluff Chapel. We leave with a bit of our hearts here and take a little of yours with us.

The Rocky Road to Advent
Posted October 29, 2015

by Bill Burris

As we settle into fall, we find many pot holes along the road to Advent. High school, college and NFL seasons are full into midseason, along with the start of NBA and NHL. Major league baseball ends with the World Series, and how can we not think about Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course Christmas shopping happening earlier each year?

We also have to contend with all the assaults on Christianity and all the evil that is running rampant in our world. How can we possibly work our way through all these distractions? Christ faced the first assault on Christianity when Herod ordered the killing of all male children under the age of two. (Matthew 2:13)

As coaches often say, the best defense is a good offense. This can also work for us in our lives. A good plan is to stay focused on the true "Reason for the Season." Doing so can help us smooth over most of the pot holes in our roads. It can also give us time to think about what He taught us from the manger to the cross, bring us closer to God and help us enjoy and better understand Advent.

Putting our focus on Advent will not preclude the events of this time, but will help put them in a proper perspective. It will likely even make our times with family more enjoyable.

This plan would also give us time to think about what Christ has done in our lives and what His birth means to us and this world. In recent years Chapel members have been writing about our thoughts and memories as we reflect upon what Christ's birth has meant to us. It's a great time for all of us to stop, push away the pot holes and think about how Christ has influenced and enriched our lives.

"Faith is to believe what you don't see; the reward of faith is seeing what you believe." -St. Augustine

God Watching Over Us All
Posted October 15, 2015

by Bill Burris

I can't go through a day without experiencing something that reminds me that God is watching. I'm sure you can sense the same things in your life.

We seem to be on the road a lot in our daily lives. One morning while heading to Waco, just south of Aquilla, we narrowly missed being broadsided by a car going at a high rate of speed and running a stop sign. God delayed us that day. We've had several near-miss events in traffic. Some were my lack of attention. We never hesitate to thank Him each time.

A more recent and dramatic event shook us both and tested our faith while shopping for a gift. Marcie paid for the gift and we finished shopping, then went for a bite of lunch. When it came time to pay our tab, I asked Marcie if she had a ten-dollar bill. She opened her purse and realized her wallet was missing. Naturally, we both were concerned that the wallet and all inside was lost. (I mentioned we needed to have faith that God was watching over us.) We hurried back to Dillard's and found that there was no wallet. That's where our faith was challenged. The original clerk was now in another part of the store. We found him and when he saw us, he said, "Oh, I've got your wallet." What a relief and blessing that was!

During our search, our faith waivered, but in the end, we knew it was still strong and that God watched over us.

Think back and I'm sure you have incidents of His faithful attention in your lives.

Psalm 18:2: "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

Take a Trip with Me through God's Creation
Posted October 1, 2015

by Bill Burris

Traveling through some of God's creation has given me some wonderful experiences. Close your eyes and visualize what I'm about to describe to you. Spend some time with each suggestion and take in the full view. I've added some pictures to help you focus.

You're on a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Can you see the turquoise water, sugar-white sand, the pelicans, dolphins and sea gulls? Can you hear the surf, as well?

You're sitting on a patio in the hills of St John USVI (U.S. Virgen Islands). Look out at the pristine water below, white sand and boats at anchor. On the horizon, you see Tortola and Yost Van Dyke in the BVI (British V.I.). Listen to the birds and tree frogs chirping and perhaps the distant surf, too.

You're in a restaurant on the Russian River in Sonoma County, CA. Through the window you see the river merging with the Pacific Ocean and huge boulders silhouetted by a splendid golden sunset.

You're in the White Mountains of New Hampshire during autumn. Look at the beautiful foliage on the hillsides and listen to the mountain stream trickling down its rocky path.

You're walking on a trail lined with multicolored azaleas in a 300-year old plantation in South Carolina. Can you smell the fragrances?

You're sitting on a piazza overlooking Charleston harbor and you can see the flag flying at Fort Sumter.

Then, suddenly, upon your departure from Charleston, the pilot announces that your flight is in emergency mode and you are instructed to assume the crash position. Panic seizes you and dashes away the serenity of your beautiful memories.

Reflect upon what you saw and thought about as we were going through these descriptions of natural beauty. Ask yourself if you saw everything that was there. Did you feel the presence of God with you? Did you also sense Him making Himself known when it was time to help you through a difficult situation?

We often hear the advice, "Stop and smell the roses;" but perhaps it should more aptly be:

"Stop and wonder in awe of God and His creation."

On a Road Previously Unexplored
Posted September 17, 2015

by Jim Browder

We have pre-season football (boring).

We have pre-season baseball (semi-entertaining).

We have pre-kindergarten. We have pre-nuptial agreements.

We have pre-flight boarding (like, how do you get on an airplane after it takes off?)

However, there is one "pre-event" that is almost never considered. This would be the pre-funeral.

That's right, the pre-funeral. Terry mentioned this once in a sermon. It's all about the great things you discover about someone that you wish you'd known while that person was still alive.

I pondered this while on the road home from a funeral service in Fort Worth. It was a memorial service for Jack, an acquaintance--you know, a friend of a friend.

Until the funeral I didn't know Jack attended the 1950 Boy Scout National Jamboree--the same one I attended at Valley Forge, Pa. Two years later Jack attended the Boy Scout World Jamboree in Austria. And during his lifetime, he visited more than 120 countries. That put him ahead of me by one jamboree and about 95 countries

One of his teachers at Dartmouth was Robert Frost, winner of four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry. Jack asked him to autograph his book. Frost told him to bring the book back in four years--he wanted to make sure Jack graduated.

In high school and college Jack played the tuba in the marching bands. He also played the violin and double bass. (I once played second base.) At Dartmouth he led the Barbary Coast Orchestra, a 17-piece dance band that traveled in New England and Bermuda.

In Fort Worth he was a founding member of the Dartmouth Club, which still meets monthly.

At his memorial service we learned that Jack and several school chums once invented an imaginary student. They enrolled him in school. They answered roll call for him daily. They even turned in homework for him. This went on for several weeks before school officials discovered there was no such person.

You know, even Jack's wife of 36 years didn't know that story.

That's why we need pre-funerals. We need to learn about people before it's too late.

A Highway Full Of New Friends
Posted September 3, 2015

Part Two of Two by Bill Burris

Marcie and I went back to Pennsylvania this summer to say goodbye to a wonderful, dear friend. Joe Hellberg and his wife Jane are fine examples of living a life of caring, loving parents and friends. When you are around them, you know that God is a major part of their lives.

Marcie has known the Hellberg family for thirty years. I met Joe and Jane at our wedding rehearsal dinner in 2004 and could see instantly what Marcie already knew about Joe and Jane.

Joe's memorial service was very moving. The music and the pastor's message were only exceeded by the eulogies from his son Rick and daughter Jo Ann. They brought out the strengths and tenderness of their father. Though they were emotional, they brought to life his passions, generosity and love for making people laugh. He was a great practical joker.

We were invited by the family to join them at a dinner in Joe's honor. We were welcomed as family. The evening was highlighted by something we had never before encountered. When we arrived for dinner, everyone received assigned seating. A different framed photo of Joe's past and present was in front of each person with one seat absent a photo. The person without a photo was asked to stand up and share something about Joe. When that person finished, all the photos were shifted and the next person without a photo told their stories. You can't imagine the insight you get into a friend until you experience that kind of event. It was a most uplifting evening and you sensed that God was with us, watching and laughing.

We were overwhelmed with the family's generosity of making us part of them. It was a very touching and emotional evening with much laughter, just as Joe would have liked.

It's always difficult to lose a dear friend. Marcie and I are sure that Joe is with the Lord and that both are watching over his family.

A Highway Full Of New Friends
Posted August 20, 2015

Part One of Two by Bill Burris

As we visit with friends about enjoying summer road trips, I've been reflecting upon traveling down life's highway, where each stop can bring new friends. I'm sure we've all met a multitude of friends along our myriad highways. God blesses us with these friends, and we're particularly blessed with those who last a lifetime.

My life's highway began in Central Illinois. By the time I landed for good in Texas, I had lived in nine different states and sixteen cities, including three times in Texas and twice in Missouri. With that kind of highway, many friends enter your life.

While in the Air Force I was assigned to an airborne equipment-repair shop. My mentor instantly became a life-long friend, one whom I lost only a few years ago. Chip was my first true friend. Some time later, he introduced me to his high-school friend Chuck and his wife Kay. They, too, became life-long true friends.

As my highway crisscrossed our country, many friends emerged. I remain in contact with many of them still, and some are as close as family.

Marriage to Marcie brought two wonderful couples into my life that became great friends. Sadly we said good-bye to one at his memorial in July. Joe and Jane touched my heart instantly. I learned about all the wonderful things they did for Marcie when she lost her late husband. Dale and Donna also found my heart and they have gone above and beyond any expectation of friendship.

It seems my highway might end in White Bluff. This location has brought many wonderful friends into my life. Additionally, finding Christ as friend and Savior has been the greatest blessing of all.

It's amazing how God blesses us throughout our lives. I count family and friends often as I lift them up, asking God to watch over their lives.

Every mile has been a wonderful memory, as I'm sure your miles have been. Take a moment to reflect on your highway, thanking God for all those memories and friends.

Proverbs 18:24 "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Christ is our greatest friend and blessing!!

Memories of Wonderful Times in Paris
Posted August 6, 2015

by Bill Burris

In the early '90s I worked at the Dallas office of a French company. During my time with IER, I had the pleasure of traveling to Paris on extended visits. The nice part of my visits was that I was not there as a tourist. Fellow employees saw that I had opportunities to see the sights of Paris that you'd miss if you were just there on a visit.

On one trip we traveled via the high-speed train to the Swiss border to visit the factory of my company. A unique experience. While there I was treated to lunch in a converted centuries-old river fortress.

My trips lasted multiple weeks at a time. Having weekends and evenings to explore the city was most enriching. Using the Metro system and walking, I made wonderful discoveries of the beautiful city. I wondered how many people have actually seen the Mona Lisa.The size and grandeur of Versailles was breathtaking. I realize now God blessed me with that opportunity. I would love to show them to Marcie and try to look at them again through eyes that now appreciate God more.

As I explored the city, I found the people were very friendly. When I tried to speak the language, they always spoke English in return.

I had three favorite restaurants. The owner of a sandwich and wine bar called "Cosi" would often join me for conversation and share an excellent bottle of wine. He did not want me to pay for the wine but I always left extra. I was also naturally drawn to Willi's Wine Bar. For quiet evening meals I chose a place on the left bank overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral. As the sun set and the lights of the city rose, Notre Dame was an inspiring sight.

While traveling around Paris, I was awed at how many centuries-old buildings, churches and monuments were spared during multiple wars. I got the sense that God had spared them for many future generations to enjoy.

On the Road Again (Between Mexico and USA)!
Posted July 23, 2015

by Missionary Susan Toler

Wait, what? Do you ever feel like you are listening to a broken record when you read the Tolers' updates? We hope not, but our theme of packing up and moving continues. Life in this line of work keeps us on our toes and on the go. Even though it feels like we have just returned from our time in Texas, we are already preparing for our return to the States in August for our year-long stay.

We wanted to share with you all a summary of our plans for this year in the States and ask for your prayers. We are so thankful for you, our prayer and financial partners. You are a true blessing to our ministry and family. We often stand in awe as we watch how God brings people into our lives who have a heart for Bible translation as we do.

Kris will be taking classes towards his Masters of Arts degree in Applied Linguistics with a concentration in Bible translation. He will be taking classes such as Greek, Exegesis, Translation Methods, and more advanced linguistic courses. These courses will help prepare him for our work in scripture translation.

He will also have follow-up appointments with his cardiologist in Dallas to make sure his heart continues to function properly. We are thankful that he continues to feel well.

In the spring, I will take a "mega" course (3 classes in one) on developing and sustaining a literacy program. Literacy plays a very important role in Bible translation. If the people in the community can't read, the written Word will not be utilized. Since moving to the village, I have felt a special call to work in the area of literacy.

As much as Kieran and Elyse love Mexico, they are looking forward to being in one house for an entire school year! Moving around as much as we do is tiring to us all. They will continue to be homeschooled and hope to participate in some extracurricular activities such as ballet and karate. They are also looking forward to reconnecting with their friends they made at church during our last stay in Dallas.

Even though this will be a very busy year for us, we all look forward to renewing our minds, bodies, and spirits. We pray that we can also have a chance to connect with our amazing team of prayer and financial partners and share more about the work God has called us to, here in Mexico.

God Working Through Us
Posted July 23, 2015

by Bill Burris

A Counting Blessings Installment

We all know that God uses people to work His wonders. While we may not relate to being God's instrument, what a blessing it is to be used by Him! When we open our minds and hearts, we can become more aware of His gifts. I have two vivid memories of life-saving events.

In the late 60's a co-worker was having lunch in my office. He suddenly slid to the floor. I was stunned and didn't know what to do. For no known reason at the time, I knelt down and pushed real hard on his stomach. The piece of chicken he was eating came up and he was fine. Jim is a very good Christian man and God had more left for him to do. Evidently, I was God's instrument. Years later, we all heard of the Heimlich maneuver.

In the early 80's I was traveling to work on winter road conditions. I was on a downward slope of the interstate when a car going in the other direction spun out of control and ended up broadside in front of me. I tapped the breaks, but instead of slowing, I started to skid on a line toward the car. I suddenly remembered a move you could make in that situation. I turned the wheel left and hit the brakes, which caused me to slowly slip past the car. I still see the other driver's eyes as he prepared for a direct hit on his door. I'm sure my eyes appeared just as shocked as his!

Looking back, I'm convinced God gave me the ability to think and react at the right moment. I can think back over times when I've been involved in five life-saving events. I'm convinced that God was guiding and using me in each one of them.

Most, if not all, of us can recall an event in our life when something moved us to an action that impacted someone else. I often remember the two situations above and now, with my spiritual growth, I'm more aware of such things happening around me. When God works through us, it impacts someone else in a positive way. I'm sure we all have similar memories. When we thank God for His willingness to use us to help someone else, we can count that as another one of His blessings.

God and His Special-Needs Children
Posted July 9, 2015

by Bill Burris

A Counting Blessings Installment

Have you ever encountered a special-needs child? My marriage to Marcie brought an extra blessing into my life: a special-needs granddaughter. Lauren is 25 years old now and is limited in things she can do for herself. She can communicate, but you have to listen carefully to understand. But even with all her disabilities, her memory is amazing. One thing you never mistake with Lauren, though, is her love for Gaga Marcie.

Lauren was my first real experience with a special-needs child. When you're around her for a while, you sense God is watching over her. Marcie's former pastor responded to her concern for Lauren with this answer: "Lauren will never know the troubles we have in this world, nor any care to worry about; she will live her life in peace." When you think about that statement, you know God is watching over her.

Lauren has a great love of riding horses. She rides every week, weather permitting, and has won several ribbons in the Special Olympics.

Lauren's mother is our ex-daughter-in-law. God brought a wonderful new man into her life. When his mother asked him if he knew what he was getting into with Lauren, his response was, "Yes, and I look forward to my life with them." When we visit, I see the love between them. It takes special people to show these special "children" that they are loved. God brings them together as part of His family.

Many times in the Bible Jesus responded to children, whether they were normal or had special needs. I believe God has placed special-needs children in the lives of many star athletes to give them a needed voice in the world.

The next time you encounter a special-needs child, imagine looking at them through God's eyes. Then you'll have a better understanding of the message in Luke 18:15-17:

People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for this kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Counting Blessings
Posted June 25, 2015

by Bill Burris

First installment in the new series: Counting Blessings

One way or another we are reminded to count our blessings. I thank God daily for all his blessings, but occasionally I try to actually count them. A person could go on forever counting God's many blessings. We just need to recognize them and thank Him. Trying to count just makes you more aware of God and His gifts and brings you closer to Him.

My first blessing was threefold: born into a Christian family, in the world's greatest country and knowing I'm a child of God. My folks provided love and Christian values. I spent years away from a church environment, but never lost the Christian values.

God works in and through us in many ways. That's perhaps another article. Marcie is a wonderful blessing in my life and has been a loving guide for my spiritual growth. Additionally, the family she brought into my life has been a wonderful experience and blessing. It has grown to six great-grandchildren.

It's been said that if God closes one door, He will open another. I know He did for me.

We recognize major blessings in our lives, but often overlook things small and seemingly insignificant. God wants us to slow down our day, spend time with Him and take time to look around. You'll be surprised at the blessings you see and hear: the beauty of nature, birds singing, a cool breeze, a rainbow, food on the table, a surprise phone call or note, a star-filled night, a smile from a stranger, a sunset, holding a newborn or even the internet. Well, let's think about that last one. I think you get the message. Stop and thank Him daily.

I love the answering machine message our neighbors have on their phone. "We can't come to the phone right now, we're busy counting our blessings and that might take a while."

I've learned to slow down some each day and to listen and watch for God to let me know He's nearby.

Christ on the cross is the world's greatest blessing.

When I think of God's majesty, I'm reminded of two beautiful passages in the Bible, Psalm 139 and Genesis 1 & 2. Take a few moments to look them up and reflect upon them.

Mentoring Students Down the Rocky Road of Life
Posted May 28, 2015

by Madeleine Lively

As a new academic year is wrapping up, White Bluff Chapel mentors are touching base with their students, reminding them to send in their grades and asking about their plans for the summer and beyond. Many experience touching gratification, as in the case of Linda Yeary hearing from her cheery mentee, Maci Watson, a Texas A&M student and 2012 graduate of Whitney High School.


It's so great to hear from you!(:

This has been the best semester yet, but you bet I am glad it's over. This summer I will continue to work at the George Bush Foundation here in College Station, while taking summer classes. I have decided to defer my graduation a year and take an extra 30 hours. Doing so will make me eligible to take the CPA exam upon graduation without having to go to grad school. Since I am taking a full load this summer and next, I am scheduled to graduate December 2016.

Yes ma'am. We get our grades back Monday and I will definitely send my schedule on to the church as well. Thank you so much for your help in all of this. I really do appreciate you.

Maci Watson

Other mentors, like parents, may receive disappointing news, or even no news at all. That's when the worrying starts. But our commitment is to provide guidance, counsel and moral support. We hang in there, pray for them, lend them encouragement, guidance, reminders of God's role in their life, and show them that we trust their judgment, even when we're nervous about their choices.

The more fortunate mentors, such as Carla and Ronnie Roberts, still hear from their students well after their student's scholarship term expires, even after college graduation and/or further down the road of life. Such is the case with Dempsey Bonner, 2008 Whitney High School graduate and 2012 graduate of Harding College. WBC gave him another scholarship in the summer of 2013 to go to Hill College to get his EMT & fire fighting certification. Dempsey has taken the time to write this amazing letter to the members of White Bluff Chapel, delivered through the Roberts.

Read more of Dempsey Bonner's letter

WBC members take great pride in the scholarships we fund for graduating seniors of Whitney and Blum High Schools, and we are well aware that the element that sets ours apart from most scholarship programs is our Mentoring program. Here's wishing God's guidance for our new 2015 Scholarship mentors, that we may make good choices as we tread those delicate paths to inspire and support our students.

Cruising the Caribbean
Posted May 14, 2015

by Bill Burris

Thirty-three years ago my late wife and I followed a two-year dream to cruise the Caribbean. We chose a 75-foot schooner, Satori, as our home for a week. We shared it with only one other couple plus the schooner's hosts. During our trip many boats came by to look at the beauty of Satori. Our itinerary included several islands where we enjoyed great snorkeling over beautiful coral and a large variety of colorful fish.

My favorite way to describe this wonderful trip is: "You could get as involved with the sailing as you wanted or just sit back and say peel me another grape." Captain Ed and his first mate Gabrielle would allow you just that range of activity. They were very good at reading their four guests and knew just what to expect from us during the voyage. They had a basic itinerary laid out but would allow us to change it if we wished.

Evenings always included the colada du jour, and all the meals were wonderful. We found several conch shells on one snorkel trip and even had conch fritters at dinner that evening. Entertainment was provided by their parrot Barnacle Bill who had a wonderful vocabulary and a variety of songs he could sing. The sites we saw were splendid, as were the people we met along the way.

You may recall from an earlier article how I mentioned that some people look at the beauty of the world and do not relate it to God's creation. On that trip I was one of those persons myself. But I've been blessed to return to that area several times with Marcie. I can now tell you that when I look around, knowing that God created what I see, the beauty is magnified many times. Sometimes I wish I could repeat that original trip to see those beautiful sights through my current eyes, knowing that God created them.

If your vision has changed like mine, think back to a previous trip, refresh your memory with your new vision, and it will be worthwhile. God is all around us and wants us to see the beauty of His creation. The closer we get to God, the more vivid and vibrant His creation becomes.

Honoring Our Parents
Posted April 30, 2015

by Bill Burris

The old and new testaments of the Bible tell us to honor our father and mother. Each year as Mother's Day and Father's Day approach, I remember the days that I lost the parents who taught my brothers and me our Christian values. It causes me to stop and wonder if I've done all I could to honor them. Being a thousand miles or more away from them after leaving home, I had few opportunities to be with them one-on-one, but I stayed in weekly contact with them through the years.

When I was 14 years old, my mother came down with scarlet fever. She was basically bedridden for five months. With Dad working daily, it fell on my shoulders to take over the household chores. Thankfully, my mother had seen to it that I was ready for such a role. It felt good to help her that way and to make sure that when Dad came home for lunch and dinner, he/we had food on the table and the house was in order. It was never mentioned, but I knew they both appreciated what I had done.

Throughout their lives my younger brothers did many things that in one way or another honored our parents.

One brother was our parents' caregiver in their late years, ensuring they made all their doctor appointments. He was their recorder so they knew what was discussed. A second brother helped with transportation needs, and the other moved back home with Mom so she could stay in their home after Dad passed away.

Collectively, I know we all, in our own way, did many things to honor our parents.

Thinking about this, I've realized that one thing I've done in my life was the greatest honor I could have given them. I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It's good therapy to look back at what we've done for our parents. With Mother's Day and Father's Day approaching, it is a good time to give it some thought.

We honor our heavenly Father when His light shines through us to those we encounter.

Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Mathew 15: 4 & 19:19, Ephesians 6:2

God is the Light We Shine
Posted March 5, 2015

by Bill Burris

For Advent I wrote a devotional about "Paying it Forward." I mentioned that when we pay it forward, we shine His light to those around us. The words of Clay Walker's song "Chain of Love" is a great example of paying it forward. An apparent rich lady was stranded with a flat tire in bad winter weather. A guy named Joe stopped to help her. When she offered to pay, this is what Joe told her.

You don't owe me a thing. I've been there too
Someone once helped me out
Just the way I'm helping you
If you really want to pay me back
Here's what you do
Don't let the chain of love end with you

The lady left and stopped at a diner and left a large tip for a waitress that appeared to be about 8 months along and in need. The song ends with the waitress being Joe's wife.

Having celebrated Christ's birth with Advent, we look forward to Lent and Easter celebrating his resurrection. Christ's light shines brightest.

When traveling, we always see beautiful sunsets. I was recently reminded by Caroline Upchurch that God is the light we see when we look around His creation. It's never more vivid than when we see an awe-inspiring sunset or northern lights.

When you help someone in need, no matter how, I believe that person sees the works of God. They may not recognize it as from God, but they certainly see something in or about you at that time.

I'm more motivated with spiritual growth to seek ways to help someone. No matter your lot in life, you can always find some way to help. Prayer, a phone call or a note can work wonders. The White Bluff community recognizes that more than most communities. Thinking back, I'm sure you will remember answered prayers. I know I'm aware of His help. I'm more willing to say hello to a passerby or take the extra step to do even the smallest kindness for someone. It's amazing to see a worried or distant face change with a simple hello and a smile.

God wants us to shine His light. How will you do that today? (A special thank you to Caroline for the reminder that prompted this article.)

Our 50-Year Journey of Marriage
Posted February 19, 2015

by Madeleine Lively

50 years ago, I knew I was marrying the love of my life, but I literally had no idea what that really encompassed. Glen was charming, handsome, intelligent and a great dancer. His family was welcoming and the salt of the earth, with good moral standards and a strong work ethic. My family approved. What more could I expect?

Fortunately, Glen agreed to go through our church's marriage preparation program, which led us through examining our beliefs and priorities on critical issues, such as living our faith, having and raising children, managing finances, etc. That gave us the best start.

Then God blessed us with good, solid teaching jobs and three healthy children. Sometimes I think it was too easy for us, because we didn't seem to go through the rough stumbling blocks that so many couples seemed to struggle with.

Perhaps the time that was most challenging to the security of our marriage was the period of apathy we encountered as we entered the "empty nest syndrome" after our children left home. I dived into pursuing another advanced degree and traveling a lot with my career. Glen engaged in more long weekends of golf. We weren't in trouble, I thought, just had other interests.

Then we found White Bluff. We started coming down a couple of weekends a month to clear our lots, and we ended up bringing our sailboat and camping out. We rediscovered each other and developed new interests and new dreams for our future together. We found a new community of friends who had similar backgrounds and interests as ours. We landed in an amazing church where the congregants honor each other's similarities and respect our differences. Glen and I rekindled our love for each other, and together, we fell in love with our new community.

This month, one week after we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, we were privileged to participate in a World Marriage Day Celebration Mass at our former church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler, Texas. About forty couples were there to celebrate anywhere from 50 to 69 years of marriage in a beautiful ceremony led by Bishop Joseph E. Strickland. What a joy it was to see our marriage come full circle and to look forward to many more happy years together.

The 44th Anniversary of An Unbelievable Journey:
   A Chance to Discover More of God's Handiwork
Posted February 5, 2015

by Mildred Jackson

Psalm 19:1-2 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

As a child I had watched the "Flash Gordon" movie serial about outer space, but little did I realize I would live to experience watching real recordings of man in real space in the real world…much less sit across the dinner table from a real American astronaut!

On January 31, 1971, Bob and I were privileged to see Apollo 14 blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After receiving an official invitation from NASA to attend the launch, and quickly answering our RSVP in the affirmative, our expectations and feelings of excitement grew to a monumental high!

This once-in-a-lifetime experience came about through the graciousness of a friend who was an acquaintance of several of the astronauts. Bob had been on hunting trips with some of them, but I had never met any of those heroes.

After a full day traveling from Jasper (Texas) to Melbourne, Florida, the group we had joined was met for dinner that evening by Astronaut Jim McDivitt, who in 1969 had become manager of the Apollo spacecraft program. And at the table next to ours was CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite, one of my favorite newscasters.

The next day, we attended briefings and participated in guided tours of Kennedy Space Center. One of the many tidbits of information that has stayed with me all these years is the fact that the building housing the Saturn V prior to launch time was over a mile tall, high enough for clouds to form in it.

On January 31, the day of the launch of Apollo 14, our group was transported to the viewing site where bleachers had been erected. We were there along with (ahem…) other dignitaries such as Spiro Agnew, then V. P. of the U.S. who was escorting Princess Sofia and Prince Juan Carlos of Spain (who on Nov. 22, 1975, became the King of Spain); Texas Governor Preston Smith; Maria Von Trapp; Henry Kissinger; singer/actor Robert Goulet; actor Michael Douglas…just to name a few. It was fun to "almost touch elbows" with such well-known personalities.

Now to get to the nitty-gritty of why we were there: "Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the U. S. Apollo program and the third to land on the Moon. Commander Alan Shepard (first American in space), Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell launched on their 9-day mission on January 31, 1971 at 4:04:02 p.m. local time after a 40-minute, 2 second delay due to launch site weather restrictions, the first such delay in the Apollo program." 1

Atmospheric conditions were finally right and our crowd joined in on the count down: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- lift-off! The rocket ignited, then surged and poked its way upward through the dense cloud cover, accompanied by a thunderous roar rolling over the ground to the area where we were viewing this historic event of man's trip to the Moon! It was soon out of our sight but, oh, the memory of its departure will remain with me forever! As will the standing ovation and loud cheers that sent the crew of Apollo 14 on their way.

Needless to say, Bob and I kept up with the daily activities of this trip to the Moon as we had no other. Shepard and Mitchell made their lunar landing on February 5. While on the moon they made two walks lasting a total of 9½ hours. During one of the walks, they engaged in some less serious activities. Shepard hit two golf balls on the lunar surface with a make-shift club. Mitchell then threw a lunar scoop handle as if it were a javelin. They spent about 33 hours on the Moon performing various scientific experiments and collecting lunar samples to bring back to Earth.

Through the space program we have been able to see a little more of God's creation up close through the eyes of the astronauts and through the eyes of their cameras. Truly, our God is an awesome God!

And truly, I remember this unbelievable experience of 44 years ago almost as if it had happened yesterday!

1 Wikipedia

What God Is
Posted January 8, 2015

by Bill Burris

Recently we lost a dear friend in our neighborhood, Loyd Richey. While he did not attend the Chapel he and his wife Kathy were part of our cluster group. When I found his obituary in the Dallas Morning News, I glanced over at a poem that was part of another obituary of a person who carried it in his wallet from the time he entered the service. The poem is a great description of "What God Is" and how he works.

What God Is

I have seen a mother at a crib;
So I know what love is.
I have looked into the eyes of a child;
So I know what faith is.
I have seen a rainbow;
So I know what beauty is.
I have felt the pounding of the sea;
So I know what power is.
I have heard a wild bird sing;
So I know what freedom is.
I have lost a friend;
So I know what sorrow is.
I have seen a star-decked sky;
So I know what infinite is.
I have seen and felt all these things;
So I know what God is.

by John Bowen

When I read this poem I couldn't help thinking of similar times in my life when I sensed God nearby. Our friend was a truly Christian man who loved the Lord and was not afraid to tell anyone how he felt about our Lord. I hope and pray that I will continue to feel the same as he did and let those I meet in this world know I love the Lord.

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