Monday, October 31, 2011

Luther's 95 Theses

While most folks associate October 31st with the celebration of Halloween, historians remember the day as the occasion on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg Chapel in 1517, launching the Protestant Reformation.  Luther, an Augustinian monk within the Roman Catholic Church, had become disenchanted with the Church’s internal corruption.  One practice in particular prompted his revolt—the selling of indulgences.  The Catholic Church offered to sell forgiveness for sins for a price—an indulgence.  The notion that forgiveness could be purchased prompted Luther to compose the 95 Theses to debate this and other issues with the Catholic hierarchy.  It was the study of Romans that proved to be the deciding factor in Luther’s conversion to the gospel.  As he read “the just shall live by faith,” Luther discovered that his previous attempts to appease an angry and wrathful God (as he conceived Him) through his own efforts were misguided.  He was convinced that one is made right with God through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross and not through any human works.  Luther’s break with the Catholic Church and proclamation of the gospel in Germany would be followed by other Protestant reformers—Calvin in France and later Switzerland, Zwingli in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland, and numerous lesser known Anabaptists who took the additional step of denying the legitimacy of infant baptism and insisting on believers’ baptism.  The Anabaptists went beyond Luther in insisting on religious liberty and the separation of church and state, major emphases that their Baptist successors would also champion.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Neat Devotional Thought

I was blessed this morning by a devotional thought that Brian Abel shared in Passport's 365 daily devotional series.  Here's what he wrote in part:

"Hold hands." We felt someone grab our hands to cross the street or form a circle. This instruction from childhood presents a big challenge as we get older. It’s hard to hold hands with someone if we’ve made a fist or insist on pointing fingers. Loving our neighbors requires us to reach out. Long before Facebook encouraged us to “Like” or “Unlike,” God asked us to “Love.” The choice to “Unlove” doesn’t show up anywhere.

That last line really grabbed me when I read it.  I read several blogs, many featuring Baptist pastors and laymen as contributors and commenters.  One of the things that frequently seems most noticeable by its absent in these discussions is the most basic command that Jesus left with His disciples of loving one another.  There are a couple of frequent commentators on these blogs that cause me to wince as soon as I see their name appear, even before reading the contents of their comments.  That's because invariably their message is one of hatred and rejection of anyone who fails to interpret the Scripture exactly as they do--the classic example of a fundamentalist mindset.  It makes me wonder how they can read the same New Testament I do and overlook or neglect Jesus' repeated emphasis on love and His statement that the world will know that we are His disciples by the way we love one another.  When rabid zeal for orthodoxy as one understands it completely blots out any demonstration of Jesus' ethic of love, something is dangerously amiss.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mom's Eulogy

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to pass along the eulogy that I shared at Mom's funeral service on Saturday afternoon.  It was really a beautiful service.  Jason, our eldest, shared some reflections.  We sang a couple of favorite hymns together; I shared the eulogy; and Bro. Glenn Ward brought the message from Romans 8.  Our youngest son, Jonathan, sang a beautiful arrangement of "Give Me Jesus."  As we were wrapping up at the graveside, a few drops of rain began to fall.  Shortly thereafter, the rains really began in earnest and it rained all night and was still raining as we drove to DFW airport.  I'm sure the folks in Texas were thrilled to get a break in the drought.  Here's what I shared about Mom's life.  It's rather lengthy, but hopefully it will give some insight into her character.

We gather here this afternoon to celebrate the life of Virginia Snowden and to honor one who lived her life well in the service of God, her family, and others.  I’m very grateful to Bro. Glenn for allowing me the privilege of sharing this eulogy about Mom.  When Dad passed away in January 2004, his death was so sudden and unexpected and I was still so overwhelmed by the emotion of loss that I didn’t think I could manage to say anything at his funeral without completely losing it emotionally.  Glenn was gracious enough to allow me to write some words of tribute to Dad that he read during the service.  Mom’s homegoing wasn’t sudden or unexpected, as her health had been declining for quite some time now, so I think with the Lord’s help I’m going to be able to manage to share some thoughts about her life.

Mom was born on April 18, 1929 in Alice, Texas to Oscar L. and Eavie Blankenship White.  Alice was the nearest hospital to the farm and ranch that my grandparents owned in the small community of Clegg in Live Oak County.  Mom was the middle of three daughters born into the family.  All three girls pitched in to help with the chores around the place, including gathering eggs, milking the dairy cow, working in the garden, and even helping round up the cattle on horseback—not an easy feat in the brush and cactus-covered South Texas landscape.

After graduating from high school, Mom attended business school where she acquired additional skills as a bookkeeper.  It was about this time that she met my Dad, Robert Snowden, who was working for Southern Pacific Railroad in Beeville, TX.  Mom’s younger sister told me the other day that Mom was actually working at FBC Beeville when she met Dad.  Love blossomed between them and they were married by Bro. Lunsford, the pastor of the FBC there, who later served as the administrator of the South Texas Children’s Home. 

Dad’s work with Southern Pacific took him and Mom to many towns in Texas in their early years of marriage.  It was while they were living in Victoria that my older brother Steve and I were born.  Later moves with the railroad involved relocating to Brownsville, Halletsville, Yorktown, Wharton, and San Antonio before Dad was assigned to work in Alice in 1959.  Our family moved back to the ranch where Mom had been raised, living in a house about 100 yards down a sandy lane from my grandparents’ house. 

Mom and Dad would get us up about 6:00 each morning and breakfast would already be prepared and on the table.  They would head off to work in Alice as we caught the bus about 7:00 for the hour ride into George West where we attended school.  Those years on the ranch are filled with wonderful memories.  Our immediate family would gather around the piano that Mom would play as we sang 4-part harmony together on the great old hymns in the Broadman and later the Baptist hymnals.  Sunday morning always involved a trip into George West where we attended First Baptist Church.  Mom and Dad were both active—singing in choir and serving on various committees.  Mom would typically put a pot roast in a big, cast-iron skillet in the oven before we left for church.  Over Sunday lunch, we would always jokingly remark that we were having a good meal for a change.  The truth is that Mom was a great cook and everything she prepared was delicious and tasty, but the Sunday roast always elicited that humorous back-handed compliment. 

Mom worked for a number of different firms in those years in Alice, including the A. Y. McCallum Construction Co.  I think he actually did more land-clearing than construction, but we were really grateful that he gave us access back in those years to the best private fishing lake I’ve ever found.  Mom would occasionally accompany us on those outings, but often she let the male members of the family go fishing while she enjoyed some antique shopping with friends.  Mom loved to go antique shopping.  One of her prize purchases was an old pump organ with two pedals you alternately depressed to provide air for the bellows.  It also featured numerous knobs you could pull out as stops for the different pitches and voices.  Mom would later go to work for Lloyd & Lloyd Attorneys at Law in Alice.  Still later, she went to work for the Guaranty Title & Abstract Company, working her way up in the organization until she eventually retired as a vice-president. 

As my brother and I got closer to junior high age, Mom and Dad decided to move from the ranch into George West to allow us to participate more fully in sports and after-school activities.  Mom had carried around some house plans for many years, and in 1964 she was able to see those plans come to fruition in a new house that was built in the Streibeck addition on the north side of George West.  Mom and Dad were really proud of that house.  The relocation to George West meant that she and Dad would now have to commute 40 miles rather than 35 each way to work, but it was a sacrifice they gladly made to allow us to stay in a great school system where we had our friends.  I don’t know many parents who would have made such a commitment, but I’m so grateful that Mom and Dad were willing to do so.

After I graduated from high school, they did move to Alice to save on the wear and tear on vehicles as well as to cut down on the time spent on the road each day.  There they made a new set of friends as they joined the First Baptist Church of Alice.  They continued to serve in many capacities, including participating in missions trips to the border as well as assisting a local Hispanic mission congregation.  Mom’s involvement in WMU deepened in those years as well.  When Dad’s work transferred him once again, this time to Gregory, TX, they decided to continue living in Alice rather than moving again. 

A part of that decision was also due to Mom’s desire to help take care of her aging father.  After Little Granny (as we called her) died, Granddad needed additional care and he was moved to a care facility in Alice.  Mom would stop by before work, at lunch, and in the evening again as well to help him eat and spend time with him.  In doing so, she was carrying on a life-long pattern of caring for others.  When we lived in San Antonio, she cared for her aging Aunt Cora.  When she and Dad moved to Alice, she cared for Granddad’s sister, Aunt Clara, who still lived in her own home but needed someone to check in on her, purchase her groceries, take her to the doctor, etc.  Even after Mom moved here to Granbury, she continued to adopt “little old ladies” as she affectionately called them who needed some love and compassion extended to them.  The Scripture speaks in James 1 of pure and undefiled religion as caring for orphans and widows in their need, and Mom certainly exemplified that all of her life.

In addition to caring for widows, Mom had a special place in her heart for the fatherless.  I mentioned that she and Dad had been married by the administrator of the South Texas Children’s Home, a Baptist agency caring for orphans and those from broken homes.  Mom always took a genuine interest in the work of the home, contributing financially for its support, but also opening up our home around the holidays to host a child from the Children’s Home.

After they both retired, Mom and Dad moved here to Granbury and bought a home in DeCordoba Bend Estates.  They loved their home and Dad loved going golfing almost daily, but mostly they loved the new friendships they made here at Acton Baptist Church.  I cannot say thank you enough to you all for the warm hospitality and Christian love you extended to them as they moved here from South Texas.  With more time on their hands in retirement, they both found meaningful places of service and ministry in the life of this great church.  Mom was active in choir, WMU, missions projects and trips, and as a money counter on Monday mornings to tally the Sunday offerings.  I know that she was excited and counted it a privilege to have a part in the construction of the new sanctuary and the celebration of the church’s 150th anniversary a few years ago.

Mom fell a little over three years ago and fractured her pelvis.  That accident seemed to trigger the onset of her overall decline in health.  After a few months in a rehab facility, the family determined that she needed a little extra care and we decided to move her up to live with my family in Lee’s Summit, MO.  She joined the FBC there where I serve as associate pastor, but her declining health meant that she wasn’t able to attend but a few times before she basically became homebound.  She might have officially transferred her membership, but I can assure you she never lost her love for this wonderful congregation here.  Several close friends continued to call her—typically on Sunday afternoons to check up on her and fill her in on how things were going in the life of Acton Baptist Church and among her circle of friends here.  I want to thank you all for continuing to reach out to her in Christian love and fellowship, even after she had moved to Missouri. 

It meant so much to my family to have Mom with us these past three years.  She was as gracious as she had always been throughout her life—never making any demands on others and always demonstrating the same sweet, gentle spirit that she had consistently displayed.  Her love for family never waned.  She looked forward to Steve’s phone calls each week (often 2-3 times in the course of a week).  She relished the visits that Jason and Jen made with the oldest of the three great-grandchildren.  Last year, she accompanied me on a visit back here to Texas to see her sisters, to visit Steve, and to meet her latest great-grandchild, little Jonah, who was born on August 14th of 2010.  I’m so grateful as well that she felt up to a trip back to Texas this past summer to see her sisters once more and to visit her church family here on July 3rd.  Mom certainly loved her extended family.

I think I can safely affirm that Mom was the ideal mother.  She modeled Christ-like love and concern for others on a daily basis.  She obviously loved and respected Dad throughout the almost 54 years they were privileged to share as a couple.  I cannot ever recall seeing them even engage in an argument in all the years they were together.  They each sought to make Christ the central part of the home, and that was reflected in their relationship with each other and with us as children.

Mom’s death leaves a big void in our household.  Annetta Marie and Jonathan and I have been greatly blessed to have had the privilege and joy of sharing life with her in these recent years.  Her passing will require a lot of time to process as we grieve and mourn her physical absence from us.  But we take great consolation and comfort in knowing that she has been made whole and is enjoying the wonders of heaven today in the presence of her parents and Dad and so many others who have gone on before us.  Most of all, we take comfort in knowing that she’s been welcomed into her eternal home by the One whom she loved and lived her life for—her Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Virginia Mae White Snowden went home to be with the Lord on October the 2nd, 2011, at the Kansas City Hospice House.  Virginia was preceded in death by her parents and by her husband, Bob, in 2004.  She is survived by her two sisters: Joyce McNeill and husband Joe of Bryan, TX; Gwen Norris and husband George of George West, Texas; by her two sons: Steven R. Snowden and wife Charlotte of Granbury, TX; Gary L. Snowden and wife Annetta Marie of Lee’s Summit, MO; by five grandsons: Bryan, Jason and wife Jennifer, Joel and wife April, Joshua, and Jonathan; by four great-grandchildren: Kelsey, Andrew, Nathan, and Jonah; and by numerous nieces and nephews.  

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Long Blogging Drought

I haven't been on Blogger for almost a couple of months now.  I thought I'd give a quick explanation for my absence.  My mother who has lived with us since January 2009 had been experiencing poor health for quite some time.  She went into the hospital on September 1st and was there for 11 days.  The doctors determined that her digestive system had simply shut down and was no longer functioning.  She had been battling digestive problems for many months, but we didn't suspect that her system was shutting down.  She was transferred to the Kansas City Hospice House on September 12th and received outstanding, compassionate care from a wonderful staff of nurses and doctors at that facility.  I spent the last three weeks there with her, and my wife took a couple of weeks of leave from her teaching to also accompany Mom in her final days.  Our youngest son, Jonathan, also spent a great deal of time with her during these days.  Mom went home to be with the Lord this past Sunday afternoon in a very peaceful death.

I'm grateful to my church family and the staff for their prayer support, visits, cards, calls, etc., and for permitting me to share this time with my mother.  We'll be traveling to Texas this weekend for a Saturday afternoon funeral at the Acton Baptist Church near Granbury.  Mom and Dad had been members of that wonderful congregation since their retirement in the early 90s.  Dad's funeral was held there in January 2004 and he's buried a stone's throw from the widow of Davy Crockett in the Acton Cemetery.  Mom will be laid to rest beside him.

Mom was a remarkable woman, a godly Christian who faithfully served the Lord throughout her life.  It will be my privilege to share the eulogy in the service while her former pastor, Bro. Glenn Ward, brings the message.  I'm thinking about sharing that eulogy here after the services are completed.  I'd love for others to know what an outstanding mother the Lord blessed my brother and me with and what a wonderful person she was.