Turning Corners

Turning Corners by David R. Denny

Walk long enough on a straight path, and you will, of course, fall off the earth.  That’s why we have corners.  They entice us gently to change our course, to explore something yet unseen, to visit some vista just beyond sight.

One morning on a stroll through Onancock, I spotted a corner just up the way.  Corners1Everything curved around a light post and roamed off somewhere beyond my sight.  I paused to consider several options:  I could turn back and step on the familiar cracks of a sidewalk already visited or say a prayer and venture forward.  I opted to embrace the curve like Marco Polo, who always cut his anchors and sailed boldly ahead.

 Corners can be a little frightening at times.  They chide those who don’t like to change, mocking with polite chuckles all timid souls who simply refuse to step out of their ruts.

I swallowed hard, hailed Marco, and opted for a new adventure.  My reward was almost instantaneous.  I had barely entered the windblown curve when the sweet savor of honeybuns and chocolate eclairs wafted through a screen door.Corners2

I was never so glad for turning a corner in my life.  What about you?

The Debutante

The Debutante by David R. Denny

In all honesty, her features were less than pristine; some would even say, rather dull.  Perhaps it was the prominent forehead that seemed almost to resemble the bow of a great ocean vessel or maybe it was the sheer bulk of the girl—her squared shoulders, lack of a waistline, rounded feet that made any shoe seem ill-fitted, etc. She certainly did not seem like debutante ball material.

The whisperings around town plagued her whenever she ventured out on some innocent errand. She preferred the sideroads and back paths when possible but all too many times there were none and she was forced to face her public.  These were the moments that tried her soul.  Her heavy heart wondered how she could ever mingle with bankers’ daughters or other elites on the night of the festivities.

It was with glee that she stood one fine morning in front of Sherry’s Clothing store starring in the window. The dress was perfect, gleaming in rare, Ox-blood red, known as rare chic on the streets of Paris but unheard of in this small town.  Standing alone before the slim mannequin, lost in a storybook fantasy, she wondered what people would say.   She knew it broke all the rules of debutante white, but still, hers had not been a preferred path in life and now was not a time to make changes….

The evening unfolded with feathers and veils.  The chosen ones, girls with pedigrees, strolled under lights into the ballroom, their headdresses glowing with stardust. Accompanied by black vested dates, the ladies smiled and curtsied in the custom of grand traditions.

And then a hush fell as a single beam alighted upon the door frame beneath which stood our heroine, swaddled in scarlet, smiling beneath the blessings of heaven’s panoply.
David R. Denny

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Over and Back

I drove recently to the earth’s end, paid the toll, and then reluctantly launched off across a great sea.  No one witnessed this exodus but a stray gull or two who paused in flight seagull.jpgquestioningly squawking to one another “why, why?”  I made no reply and traveled on.

The sea rolled beneath me with little white caps that frowned on my endeavor while a gentle breeze whispered, “hurry.  Hurry back!”

Time seemed almost suspended as I drifted interminably forward and soon my mind began to spin as if I had crossed some foreign time zone into a land of sighs.  I shook off the darkness by repeating the mantra, “soon, soon I will return.”

Before long I was a swirl in a kaleidoscope of turmoil and noise, my heart racing, my knuckles white.  I persevered gulping thin air beneath a greying sky until mercifully some mysterious magnet pointed north, pulling me toward white sand and salty air.

I floated atop the great sea, white caps smiling warmly, past the two gulls, and back beneath blue skies and open fields waving like old friends relieved to see me.

I was home again on the Eastern Shore.
(Pastor’s Point in the Sunday bulletin)

Paul’s Last Requests​

Paul’s Last Requests—October 27, 2019—DBC—Dr. Denny
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Introduction:  Paul Gussman was dying.  He had a good life.  He was a famous tv announcer and writer.  He wrote the pilot episode of Days of Our Lives among other shows.  As he became ill, he said he wanted his last words to be memorable. In his final moments, his daughter reminded him of this and he gently removed his oxygen mask and whispered, “And now a word from our sponsors.” 

Background to Text:  And as we move to our Scripture today, I can almost hear Paul’s last words, “and now a word from my Sponsor.”
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2 Timothy 4 is perhaps the most intimate glimpse we will ever have of the great old apostle.  There should be a veil over this passage.  It’s so private as death always is.  In our last moments, we don’t people peeking through the door whispering.  It’s a time for the last and final thoughts before the curtain falls.  And yet Paul manages from his death bed to put it all in this personal letter.  And so this morning we will all step into his hospital room and watch the great man die.  We listen to his final requests and learn from a saint how it all works.

  1. Come to Me Soon—(2 Tim 4:9). “Make every effort to come to me soon.”

If you listen closely and hold your ear next to the letter, you can hear the sound of people leaving. And the sad truth is that Paul died alone.  It’s a somber note to sound after the symphony has ended that was his life.

First Demas left him.(v10)–  So tragic.  We don’t know a lot about Demas but we know this:  he deserted his friend, mentor, and guide in his last days.  “For Demas, having loved this present world has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”  No farewells.  No thank you’s.  No warm handshake or tears of sorrow for the suffering apostle.  Nothing but a swift exit from the stage.  Demas deserted me.

But more left.  Crescens slipped away to Galatia—Titus went to Dalmatia—Tychicus sailed off to Ephesus.  Some of these went on Paul’s command; others just left.

It’s a sad thing to die alone and the apostle was almost alone in his last hours.  Only Luke remained.

*A health care aid in a geriatric ward told this true story.  He said that as he made his rounds, he noticed a woman so frail and old that she looked dead.  But when he stepped to her bedside she suddenly motioned to him.  The aid came and put his ear next to her mouth and heard her sigh these final words.  “I just wanted to say ‘good-bye’ to someone.”  She died a few days later.

Can you hear Paul’s last request?  It is much the same as the old dying woman.  Paul with a weakened voice says, “Make every effort to come to me soon.”

  1. Bring my Cloak (2Tim 4:13)—Paul’s second final request was a simple one: “Bring the cloak which I left at Troas…”.

On September 19, 1952, a much-beloved character was born.  You all know him.  He lives even to this day.  His birth was most unusual.  An artist named Charles Schulz picked up his pen one morning and made a few bold strokes in his sketchbook.  And before long he had a little boy sitting with an innocent expression sucking his thumb and holding very closely a blue blanket.  When Schulz was asked about him he said, “Linus, my serious side, is the house intellectual, bright, well-informed which, I suppose may contribute to his feelings of insecurity.”  One time when Lucy snatched his blanket away and buried it Linus nearly had a breakdown.  He dug up the neighborhood for days trying to find it until Snoopy finally dug it up.

We get attached to things and in a similar ways, Paul was attached to his cloak.  He didn’t want to leave it at Troas, but the weather was hot then and the cloak was heavy.  So he left it with Carpus, a dear friend and told him to guard it with his life.  But now that winter is coming and Paul is alone and dying in a cold Roman cell, he wants it.  It’s one of his final requests.

Why the cloak?  Perhaps it brought back fond memories of his journeys to the church’s over all those years of endless traveling.  Over many years and three separate long missionary journeys, Paul had the cloak. He wore it when men and women fell on their knees trusting Christ as their savior and he wore it at banquets and long road trips between towns.  It was a link to his accomplishments. He wanted it back now.  He was cold and he needed warm memories. 

  1. Bring the Parchments– τὰς μεμβράνας  (2 Tim 4:13)—The Greek word is membranos (our word for membrane.  These are documents made from leather skins.  Paul found great comfort in his book and parchments.  But why these parchments?  Perhaps they were some personal letters he had not finished writing yet or maybe they were some of the letters to the churches that he wanted to read over again.

*Do you have any old letters or cards someone in a shoebox that you have kept all these days?  When you take them out and see the handwriting, It is easy to imagine the handwriting them as if it just happened.

*I found such a letter from my mother recently.  I had written her a poem about August many long years ago.  And then I forgot about it.  But one day I received a letter from my mother.  She was an artist and she had painted all over around the lines of the poem, pretty leaves falling from trees.  It brings it all back.

Paul said, “Bring me my letters, bring me the parchments. 

Conclusion:

Paul’s final request is unspoken.  He utters it silently to the Lord.  Just before he died he turned his face toward heaven and with the greatest anticipation whispered, And bring me the crown of righteousness

Backroad

Pastor’s Point--David R. Denny (Ph.D.) Drummondtown Baptist Church–Accomac, Va 23301–October 20, 2019

I took a backroad to the wedding.

 It slithered along the soybean fields like a black snake seeking cover from prying eyes.

It’s called the Seaside Road; there is no sea in sight, but I know it’s just beyond the distant treetops, and that gives it authenticity.

Backroads are like sweet dreams that lend midnight wings and urge you to soar. They promise a world undiscovered and never disappoint.

I drove with the windows down, a requirement for country adventures. The pace was slow, slow enough for me to toss all my worries out the passenger side window, a form of therapy underrated by most gold fingered psychologists.

Along the way,  I breathed air nobody had yet breathed and imagined a white wedding dress in a 5th Avenue store display.

When I finally arrived, a colossal red horse barn seemed to hang in the air like the ancient gardens of Babylon, and I knew then that it would be a memorable evening.

And when the night birds finally summoned me home, I was forever thankful that…

I took a backroad to the wedding.
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Take a Deep Breath

Take a Deep Breath—(2 Timothy 3:16—October 20, 2019–Dr. DennyDrummondtown Baptist Church).Breath.jpg

Introduction:  If you’re able to do it, take a deep breath.  That’s good.  One more time.  My sermon this morning is about breath.  Harvard Medical School put out an article recently with the same title as my sermon.  “Take a Deep Breath!”  Here is what they said:  The ability to breathe deeply and powerfully is not limited to a select few. This skill is inborn but often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms.

   When you practice deep breathing on a daily basis, your blood pressure will lower and your stress will lessen.  10 -20 minutes a day is all it takes.  You can do it anywhere.

Background.  Paul believed in deep breathing.  But Paul does the most amazing thing in our text this morning.  He turns his attention away from his breath and looks toward heaven where if you listen carefully you can hear heavy breathing.  And it is this divine exhalation that I want to focus upon this morning.

         *Whenever I go to the doctor, he or she often puts a cold stethoscope on my chest and asks me to breathe deeply.  The doctor moves it around to different spots listening closely to the movement of air in my lungs. frog.jpg

         Paul tells us in our text that God breathes.  In fact, he uses a rare Greek word that many commentators think Paul made up.  Can you imagine that?  A made-up word.  *I used to ask my 8th graders once in a while to try to make up a word.  A word that no one has ever heard before.  It’s not as easy as you think.  If you can think up one, write it down in your bulletin.  I have a line for it. __________________

         Paul’s made-up word is θεόπνευστος (God-breathed).  The traditional translation we often see is “All Scripture is inspired by God…”. But that kind of loses the punch of the word Paul invented.  The better translation would be:  “All Scripture is God-breathed.”  Just one word—one imaginative word formed in Paul’s mind as he wrote this letter to Timothy.    And this brings us to the image that I can see in my mind:  God doing deep breathing as He sits on the throne.  And with every breath out, we see the Bible forming.  For the Bible is the breath of God.

         *If you take your Bible and flip the pages quickly near your face, you will feel a slight wind.  That wind is the breath of God still lingering on his pages of Scripture.  For make no mistake about it, this Bible of ours is more than paper and ink—it is God-breathed—the very breath of God.

Outline:  Now that we understand the source of Scripture better, how can we use it in our lives every day for practical gain?  The Bible is not an irrelevant book on a dusty shelf.  It is practical.  And here is how it  helps us daily:

  1. Scripture teaches us ( 1 Tim. 3:16). We all need a teacher.  We started our lives with teachers and if you are to continue to progress, you still need one today.  *Now, I’m going to ask you to go back in time.  Dig deep into your past and try to remember your favorite teacher.  Can you see her or him?  What made this teacher so memorable?

         *My favorite teacher was Mr. Cochran, who taught 6th grade when I lived in Jacksonville Arkansas.  He was a bonafide cowboy who raced quarter-horses.  He was slim, well-groomed, polite and insightful.  cowboy.jpgHe was good with kids.  He taught the smallest things that I still use today.  For example, he taught me how to use a dictionary.  Of all things!  So insignificant, but he considered a valuable skill and he taught us.  He said when you want to find a word, look at the first letter and then when you open the dictionary, think where that first letter would be and open the dictionary there.  That saves time.  And when you find the closest page to your word, use your finger to slide down the words until you find it.

         Paul tells that Scripture does this very thing.  It teaches us daily on endless subjects.  It is a practical guide for living.  Each day, pick a text, a verse, and welcome it into your day.  Let it teach you something.

  1. Scripture corrects us—(3:16). The second thing the Bible does is correct us. Everyday temptations will spring up to take us down.  Every day, moods will attempt to lead us down dark paths.  Every day, some voice will tell you how worthless you are.  And this is where Scripture steps in to make corrections to our faulty outlook on life.  It corrects us. It is patient and offers us direction and hope.

         *Mr. Cothran was like that.  One day I was misbehaving in class.  I don’t remember what I was doing, but I do remember Mr. Cochran stopping his lesson and with his finger directed me to the door.  He didn’t yell at me in front of the kids.  Instead, he took me outside the room and there in the hall he looked down at me with those cowboy eyes that had calmed a thousand stallions and corrected me.  cowboyeyes.jpgIt was like a spanking without a switch.  He just corrected me with a soft voice, a masterful gaze that went right through me.  And when I went back in I wanted to be a better boy.

  1. Scripture trains usTeaching gives you concepts while training uses repetition to instill them into your lives and habits.

*When I  wanted my Irish setter to fetch something I began by sitting him down on the lawn and we had school.  I explained it all to him in perfect boy English using hand motions and other teaching tools.  But then—I began the training.  I took him to the field and threw a ball.  And with positive repetition, he learned to get it and bring it back.

*How many of you remember Training Union?  It has faded out of Baptist life today but when I was a kid it was big.  It was always done on Sunday night.  We would learn to read our parts out of the book, we did Bible drills (sword drills), a little public speaking if it was your turn to stand and read. Etc.  Sunday school taught us—Training Union trained us.

Conclusion:

         Paul says we must be equipped (2 Tim 3:17)  and it is the Bible that does that.  It is God deep breathing.  The Bible is more than just a book.  It is the breath of God.  Let it breathe on you this week.

 

Reverend

Pastor’s Point 

(My column in the Sunday bulletin at the Drummondtown Baptist Church, Accomac, Virginia 23301)

 

Of all his attributes, it was the eyes I loved the best.

On a bad day, they encouraged me; on a good day, they laughed with me.  It was all there in his eyes.  And when I want to see him again since he’s been gone so long, all I have to do is summon the eyes, and he is with me.  And then I am at peace.

I knew him from birth.  We grew up together.  I taught him the essentials of the world about him, but I never taught him loyalty.  He had that tucked away deep inside from the first days.

He and I would walk every morning down Cheriton’s main street, skipping past the still sleeping town lawns until we reached the highway.  Then with anticipation growing, we would bolt across the road on our way to the Bay at Cherrystone—back when the campground was a quiet oasis without all the fuss you see today.

On our way, we played hide and seek through fields of gold until we both rounded a corner, pausing to smell the salt air mingling with sunrise fingers that stretched over the harbor.  We sat together and watched little fishing boats slither out across still water in search of buried treasure, crab pots piled high in the stern.

I still miss him today, but when I miss him the most, I just look for the eyes.  And when I do, he is with me again–my Irish setter named Reverend.

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