At the conclusion of 2018 and leading into this new year, I presented to our readers opportunities to participate in fasting. I know biblical fasting is not something about which we think a lot and probably have sadly overlooked as a spiritual exercise in which Jesus Himself participated and presented to His followers. Over four weeks, I presented four different fasts and encouraged people to participate in it and find the spiritual dimensions of fasting.
I suppose the most significant thing for me is that fasting is not just doing without something but understanding that it is filling a place with spiritual insight and energy for a period of time. So it’s not just missing a meal — it’s replacing those moments with a greater hunger, a greater appetite on which to focus and relate to the Lord and hear from Him. The four fasts were a Meal Fast, a Media Fast, a Mood Fast, and a Miser Fast. So many of you participated in those fasts and commented on the difficulty, but more importantly the joys and the blessings that came from being a part of the fasts. My hope and intention was that we all would set up one day a week for each fast for a year, not just a month. Some have continued to do that.
What I want to announce to you today is that we have a booklet that covers all of those fasts that you can get and use as a devotional guide. You can go through each one of these fasts again and again and again. In the booklet, there will be not only the description of the fasts in which you can participate, but also a place where you can fill in what I call a feast. Not just gorging yourself on food or substance, the feast is to sit down and write what you experienced during the fast, the spiritual encounters, the insights God brought to you, and write them down time and again after you complete whatever fast you are exercising. There are some people who their Bible study group have talked about it. You can use this as a guide, not to just learn about fasting but participate in fasting. If you would like to have one of these booklets or order some for your Bible study group, the number is (601) 292-3278. You need to do so soon. The booklets are limited, and will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. You can do it today.
Mississippi always seems to experience more storms, floods, and disaster-related issues than a lot of other places. In recent days we have had storms, tornadoes that have ripped across north central Mississippi from Macon to Columbus to Steens, destroying homes and businesses and hurting that entire region. Over 600 homes had significant damage. Almost before the wind stopped blowing, our Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief teams were moving in with chainsaws and with great hearts. They show up at desperate moments in people’s lives. Days passed by and another storm came through Crystal Springs. Mississippi Baptists were there, again doing whatever we could to help. Our churches are always amazingly gracious to help — with their people, their finances, whatever it takes to try to help people recover from the storm and get back on track to go on living.
We have had great leadership through the decades with people at the helm not only participating in the response but being prepared for the disasters that would come. Jim Didlake served here for what seemed like 140 years and went through some of the greatest storms in our history. He blessed all of us and even continues to though he’s retired. Don Gann was just recently recognized nationally for his outstanding leadership as our disaster relief coordinator. He did a fantastic job. Now, Shane McGivney heads up disaster relief and men’s ministry efforts across our state. He is carrying on the great tradition with excellence and a great spirit and having great impact.
Please pray for our folks because we are not just dealing with the storms that went through these areas, but also the potential of 6,000 homes being under water from floods that are coming from the recent rains. That disaster will be significant in that more, by many times more, people will be affected by it. The long-term need will be tremendous. Getting back in their homes that have been flooded, often near destruction, the mud-out process, and the rebuilding process will be great. None of these storms or floods were as great as Hurricane Katrina, but a home destroyed on the coast by Katrina is exactly the same as a home destroyed in Columbus or Crystal Springs or in the floodplains of the Mississippi River or her tributaries. Disasters are disasters and call for compassion, care, and support. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, but also on behalf of the people whose lives are being helped.
For over 20 years I’ve been writing this column in The Baptist Record called Directions. Whether it’s a direction of thought or direction of an area of work or a need that must be filled, I’ve tried to stay in touch with our Mississippi Baptist family and give some sense of what is going on or what we can do to address something. In recent days, I announced to our Executive Committee of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board that I would be concluding my service as executive director-treasurer on October 31. I do so, not just looking forward to retirement but looking forward to reassignment. Since I surrendered my life over 55 years ago to the call of God to preach the Gospel, to serve our living Lord, I have sought to follow Him wherever He wanted me to be and do what He wanted me to do, saying what He wanted me to say. It has been a glorious journey. It hasn’t been a job, for the joy of following Him and seeing Him at work in the good times and in the trying times has been amazing to me.
In talking to others who were facing retirement, I would often refer to what was happening in their lives as a landing strip and, in a sense, landing the plane. Strange how as I come to that time in my life, I don’t see it as a landing strip, for runways are a place where planes take off also. That is what I see. I know that later on the configuration of life opportunities and time frames and schedules and opportunities will be different, but I certainly do not see that my life and service and opportunities are over. The God who called me and has allowed me to serve all these years, I am confident will give me open doors through which He will guide me. I will simply do what He asks me to do and what His people give me opportunity to do.
I am so thankful as I look through the rearview mirror of life at all the blessings so many of you across this state have been to me. It is impossible to get my arms around all of the joys that have come my way and the blessings that have been poured out from simply answering the call of Jesus to do what He wanted me to do. We’ve got great people in this great state, and I have had the joy of serving so many of you. It’s not over. The plane is not landing, but it’s warming the engines and getting ready to take off again in new ways in a new phase. I appreciate your love and support through the years. I deeply appreciate your interest and prayers for the future. God bless you.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.