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February Newsletter-Life

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Hubert Shuptrine is one of my favorite artists. He paints water color, a form of water color he calls dry brush.  I don’t really know anything at all about painting, I just like the fact that Shuptrine seems to be able to capture, not a picture of people, but the story of people in a painting.  Hubert’s wife says that Shuptrine painted biographies, not portraits.  Shuptrine often told a story about a man he had painted years ago.  The essence of his story was that many times we’ve forgotten the difference between living a good life and making a good living.  The story centered on the portrait of a 99 year old man that Shuptrine had used on the cover of his book titled Home to Jericho.  George Houston Greene was the man’s name and he lived on a mountain top in North Carolina. Greene had lived in Detroit most of his life, but when his wife became very ill they moved to that North Carolina mountaintop to live a simple life together.  Shuptrine’s words:  ‘He (Greene) told us about his wife and how he nursed her to the very end…He grew his own vegetables, chopped his own firewood.  When we got ready to leave (his property), we said our good-byes and we started toward our vehicle.  Halfway there, he (Greene) stood up and said, ‘George Houston Greene is a rich man,’ And, I turned around to face him, and he yelled that out at me three more times.  ‘George Houston Greene is a rich man,’ almost in anger.  He said it one more time, and turned and walked into his little shack, and the dogs followed him in there.  I was puzzled by that.  Coming down the mountain Phyllis (Shuptrine’s wife) and I talked about it-what he might have meant by that.  ….I painted him four more times over the years, and I came to realize he meant, (in your paintings of me) ‘Don’t depict my poverty or my station in life.’  But what else he meant was this: He, George Houston Greene, didn’t just die at 103; he lived to 103 – a big, big difference.

Now it would be easy to write about the rich young ruler, or the evils of money or perhaps some things we should not be doing with our money.  There are hundreds of teachings from people, terrifically talented and anointed people, to do that.  I instead want to write just a word about how George Houston Greene could say such a thing, or in our case, how can we say the same thing because of our Gospel.

I don’t know how we are going to do it, how we can share it, but Christians are in critical need of being able to share our message and share it in a way that people come to understand how George Houston Greene could think like that and how we can come to think of ourselves independently, not finding all our identity by our financial successes.  Our schools, media, movies, television and now the new social media come up short on that one.  Somehow we have to find a way to ‘model’ a life for our children and the people around us, show that there’s a life that is more than making a good living financially, and point them to a Life that’s more than that, show that there’s a good life to live that is purposed and worth living.  What’s surprising is that the Gospel message has that as one of its very purposes.  A life that isn’t measured by what we have in our garage, house, or bank.  People need to learn of a God kind of Life, separate and many times hidden in our human life.  Those two lives are not the same.  In some perverted way, we’ve tried to humanize the Spiritual kind of Life rather than spiritualizing the human kind of life.  One is associated with simple biology: food, shelter, etc; the other is associated with the Mystery of Life, one that is not so obvious but can be discoverable, a Life that might be hidden at first glance.  That’s why it’s harder for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  His success and self-satisfaction so dominate that he misses the simple meanings hidden in the Life of God.  He’s typically trying to get satisfaction with things that don’t satisfy.  Even knowing that, he tries just the same.  Human life is eventually frustrating; God’s Life is rich with beautiful and profound meaning and purpose.  I think we’ve all discovered that apart from the Life of God, human life grows stale and wearying, but we may not want to admit that to ourselves or others.

Sellers get wealthy convincing us that they have what will satisfy, but we discover sooner or later it does not.  Education promises satisfaction, ‘sex, drugs and rock-n-roll’ whispers it to us as well, but doesn’t deliver what we truly need or eventually want.  The Gospel of Grace, the Love of God, is the only promise that keeps its promise; it’s the only thing that really has the power to change.  It makes us rich when we may not be wealthy; it can make us satisfied when we are facing any unpleasant or threatening situation.

I’m not seeing that enough right now.  We live in hard times– scary might be a good term to use.  As with David, trouble on every side, yet David was comforted.  When Jane was so severely ill, we always knew that God was with us, comforting us.  Today, while it seems so many things are coming apart, He is with us.  It’s not an easy time to live; everyone I know is facing a challenge of some sort.  Yet He comforts us if we will permit that.  With all the stress, all the pressure, even when the very foundations are shaken and things don’t seem to be getting better, when it seems they are actually getting worse, the warmth of his love, the closeness of his breath is present even then.  (Maybe more so then.)  NEEDTOBREATHE touches on it in their song “Washed By the Water: ‘even when the rain falls, even when the flood starts rising, even when the storm comes, I am washed by the water.’

Jesus lived in very hard times, suffered HARD times.  The suffering Cross, the name-calling, being misunderstood, even his disciples who witnessed and walked with him abandoned him and lived in some unbelief.  (Each generation has its Herod, hypocrites and in essence crucifies Christ again and again.)  But, knowing his purpose, Jesus kept moving toward that purpose no matter what seemed to thwart his effort.  We can do the same in our hard times as well.  Something about the world’s callousness, the country’s divisiveness and spirit of this whole earth disappoints, but knowing that, we can find the touch of God’s Love enough to manage any fear, frustration or discouragement.  If He is real we can Rest in Him; our world does not have to be perfect and at peace in order for us to be comforted.  He was rejected by men once before, the Holy Spirit of God is being rejected by men again…that’s nothing new for Him or so defeating for us that we can’t depend on our Faith…God is the same no matter.

Just like George Houston Greene asked, don’t depict us by our surroundings, don’t paint our picture showing only the things that are not going well, not going our way, ‘don’t depict our poverty’ because God has made us peaceful, made us free, made us rich with His Truth and Grace.  George did not shout that (at Shuptrine) trying to be poetic, and he wasn’t boasting.  George said that because it was true.  While no one else might be able to see it, or think it, it was true just the same.  Our Faith is like that.  While others might not understand, may not believe that we really mean it; it’s real and it’s true just the same.  No matter what is going on around us, because we are in Christ, we are rich!

Phillips, Craig & Dean

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January Newsletter-24 Years!

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We thought it should be consistent, thought it should be focused on what our original heart attitude and vision for ministry was in the beginning.  From our point of view, we were permitted to do this ministry because we had a simple purpose of encouraging the Church daily.  As with all things that God breathes Life into, there always comes a time of temptation moving a ministry away from its first understanding of what God sent it to do.  However, we continue pretty much the way we started.  We have stayed centered on Christ, made Him Captain of our attention and mixed that with a hearty helping of appreciating our listeners and our contributors.  It’s been 23 full ministry years now.  I remember hearing someone say years ago, ‘the Life of God takes no time, but it occupies all our time.’  That’s it I suppose.  I know even in our play, our fun, our tears, our disappointment, in our work, in the relationships we have with people, all of it centers on our Faith at some level.  Sometimes it’s unspoken and just lived.

January 8th, 1990 was our first day of broadcast.  Since then, I think we’ve pretty well proven that we’re just folks glad to be able to share our Faith with other believers, nothing ‘super-spiritual’ about the ministry we do, just a natural response to the Love of God and the offer of His Grace to all.  No doctrines to push.  Each day, WBVN is just with you, sharing the Grace of God, doing what we did that first day in January.  Recently, Jane has been ‘pinging’ my ear with what she says is the necessity for her to read Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place.  She’s been telling me ever since her hospitalization for 5 months that she experienced being ‘hidden in Christ’ during those terrible months.  She is certain that Corrie’s book title must mean more than just the physical hiding of Jews during WW II, but had to relate to something that Corrie, and especially her sister Becky, knew.  Something far more significant than just providing a room to hide people in, but actually a place that believers are able to dwell in by the Love of God; being hidden way from the pains, the fears and tears of this life.  As she re-read the book a much clearer picture of that family’s Faith came into view.  They risked their lives, tolerated horrific moments and faced death with a constant knowing that God was with them, inspired them to care and provided little miracles along the way to bolster their efforts.  They were an oasis of Faith.

I’ve been troubled lately, not the ‘wringing of hands troubled’ but a good kind of troubled.  It’s a stirring.  I don’t mean worried, but just an awareness of how difficult the times are and at the same moment knowing how wonderful the opportunity for us to be held in the arms of a loving God.  It’s more like an awakening to something you know is a Spiritual change that’s occurring right in the middle of some of the most terrible or troubled times you and I have seen.  It’s obvious that we have a problem here, but being profoundly aware that God is equally, superiorly, much more than our troubles.

In 24 years, we’ve lived through some things that were very hard for us and things that have been stunningly wonderful.  We’ve seen difficult times, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the amazing.  Occasionally, we’ve been misunderstood and yet comforted at the same time, knowing we were simply attempting to stay within our simple purpose, ministering to our listening unique ‘congregation’ of believers.

In our hearts are the names and faces of so many people we have come to know through this radio station.  Over those 23 years, we’ve experienced many more kindnesses and help than we could ever have imagined.  On my desk I keep a few things from the first few months of ministry.  One is a picture of our first group of volunteers.  They worked the evenings, each volunteer taking a shift from 6 until 10pm one day a week:  Sarah, Julie, Clay, Derek, Patty and Larry.  There is a check for $25 that was the first one received in the mail.  It was from Charles Carter of Carterville, who sent in a contribution to provide this music ministry for his grandchildren.  The third is a quote that made a lot of sense to me early on: ‘Beginning empty handed and alone frightens the best of men.  It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are that God is with them.’

It took three years to meet the budget needs of this ministry, and for the next twenty we have not failed to have the contributions to fully fund WBVN each year.  The story of WBVN is that while we make every attempt to be focused and not moved away from what we believe God birthed in our hearts as far back as 1988, His Faithfulness and your loyalty to this ministry has astounded us.  I’ve said many times that my favorite word not found in the Bible is vulnerability. It’s when we are vulnerable, not self-sufficient but Him-sufficient, that we can fully perceive the hand of God in our efforts.  Our weaknesses have revealed His provision obvious to us.  There are hundreds of examples of His fingerprints on what we have been doing all these years.  Too many and too long a list to enumerate here but literally astounding.  WBVN has been, in the truest sense, a community of believers: friends, family and generous and thoughtful listeners; listeners being led by the Spirit of God in their hearts to be mixed into our ministry life.

2014 begins our 24thyear.   Each anniversary I’ve always tried to think that the beginning of each year was a new and fresh start; a new and fresh moment in the Gospel.  This year the 24 elders of Revelation 4 and 5 came to mind.  They’re described at the Throne of God in a dramatic and glorious fashion.  Their only role was to worship, Heavenly Worship, and they sang a New Song saying…………

The music you hear over WBVN provides a hiding place for believers.  It’s an oasis in the middle of a culture and world set on separating itself from the Love of God.  On purpose, we came and still believe in encouraging the Church in this simple manner of sharing.  This 24th year may be our most important, most necessary to encourage.  It will again be focused on what we originally came to share many years ago: the Loving Grace of God, who Loved us in spite of us, who offers a chance for us to change our purposes from preserving our own lives to one of Praising His and His Redemption and His offer of Peace and Grace.  Not complicated, not hard to bear.  We thank you again for all the years, all the prayers, the kind words, and the trust and the hope of a future together sharing with you.


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