April 2016, Family Life

Hope

by Dr. Roger Butner

Dr Butner 2“… and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:5 (NASB)

Several years ago, when the time came to launch a website for my practice of Christian counseling, the Holy Spirit guided me to use hopeforyourfamily.com. We are all in need of hope. Aren’t we? We need to know something better is coming. We want to know the struggles, hardships and sacrifices are worth it. We long to see the fruit of our labors, particularly the toiling and investing we put into our kids as we do our best to lead them on the path God would have them live. Remember that first week after you brought each of your kids home from the hospital? Weren’t you filled to overflowing with joy and love at this new delight in your life? And hope. Hope for your child’s health. Hope for the life your child would live. Hope for your growing family. Hope for your efforts as a parent.

And all those hopes began to grow and take shape through the life of your little one. For some of you, as your precious little baby grew and transformed and somehow made it all the way to adolescence, your hope may have taken a hit. Things haven’t gone quite the way you thought they would, maybe not even close. And sometimes you wonder where you went wrong, or why God has punished or abandoned you, or simply if things will ever take a turn for the better in your teen’s life. If this picture of discouragement looks all too familiar, please allow me to breathe a word of life from God into your spirit today.

There is truly hope! Consider the story of Elijah ready to give up on everything after his showdown with the prophets of Baal. Or the faithful hope of the father of the prodigal son after many months of waiting, wondering and suspecting just how bad things had gotten. Or the profound words of the prophet Jeremiah from Lamentations 3:22-24, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”

So if you need some fresh hope – reach out and find it! God will supply the hope you need to see that all is not lost, life is not over, and He does have a great plan for the life of your teen. Sometimes we just have to reach out in a new way to grab hold of that hope we desperately need. Share your heart with your spouse, with trusted friends, with a Godly pastor, or even with a Christian counselor. Allow someone else to breathe fresh hope back into the lungs of your spirit. Ask for prayers. Ask for hugs and encouraging words. Ask for resource suggestions – books, websites, groups or other tools that may be God’s instrument to guide you and your teen to the path you’ve been desperately hoping someday you would find together. But whatever you do, don’t give up hope. Not today. I have seen family after family experience the joy of healing after long struggling to make it. And it usually begins with one common element … HOPE.

 

About Roger: Dr. Roger D. Butner is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who delights in bringing hope to teens, parents, families and couples through the Truth of God’s Word and a compassionate approach to professional therapeutic guidance. His practice in South Baton Rouge is conveniently located directly off I-10 for those throughout the Greater Baton Rouge area, and his website (www.hopeforyourfamily.com) is available to anyone looking for encouragement, resources, guidance and HOPE.

April 2016, Family Life

Dare to Trust

by Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis

TonyaHeadshotNewLord, thank you. I don’t always do what I should, but I thank you for quickening my spirit when I’m wrong. Allow patience to have its perfect work in me. Amen.

Dare to trust God and step out on faith! The power of trust is not accomplished overnight. The ability to trust comes from your central nervous system, which houses your subconscious mind where previous experiences have been placed, and when certain situations arise in your life you begin to search your internal database to compare the current situation to a past joy or pain you’ve experienced. But I can tell you that God can renew any of those past joys and give you rest for past pains.

 

Listen to this story:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand,” Isaiah 41:10.

Growing up in the church you often hear people saying, “I’m stepping out on faith,” but what does that really mean? I’ve often wondered how faith is measured or how much faith one needs to have to begin stepping out on it. Well, God put the test of a lifetime before me, and it was either follow his path or do my own thing and wait for this season to come around again.

Several weeks ago God began sending me on a journey. And on this particular journey, I had God, my faith and myself in tow. I was prompted to apply for law school, but I hadn’t taken the LSAT. I began making plans to move to Nashville, Tenn., to pursue law school, but my job wasn’t transferring me. (Aside: Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I already have steps A-D planned and E is on reserve waiting for my queue.) As I began to take my first step, I must admit, I was a little afraid. I mean stepping out on faith is easily said but less often courageously done.

So, I began to prepare for my assignment; I convinced my husband to sell our home and move into an apartment, took the LSAT, passed, and applied to Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. We started looking for houses in Tennessee and put an offer in that was accepted, but we never went to closing. Devastating, right? Surely, Lord I’m doing what you’ve prompted me to do.

How do you handle a situation where God tells you to do something and it falls through the first time? Surely God wouldn’t lie. At this point, I needed answers; I longed to seek His face even more. I found out that my hands, feet and soul were wonderfully made to worship Him. I was told to stand out, to go against the world. I found out that I could be in the world, but not of the world, and I should remain consistent within God’s Word to receive my reward.

God was preparing me for something far greater than I had ever imagined. The lesson in the story was to see if I could put everything on the line for Him and do what I was told even if I didn’t have a clue about the end result. See, when God tells you something, you need to act on it not react to it. More often than not we as Christians react to His promises instead of acting on His promises. God’s faithfulness is waiting for you, all you have to do is activate it and act on it.

Dare to trust God and step out on faith!

April 2016, Family Life

It Takes 100 Percent to Stay Married 69 Years, Greers Say

by Mark H. Hunter
Bess and J.O. "Duck" Greer hold photos of themselves in 1947, the year they were married. After 68 years of married bliss, "we even think alike," she said. photo by mark h hunter
Bess and J.O. “Duck” Greer hold photos of themselves in 1947, the year they were married. After 68 years of married bliss, “we even think alike,” she said. Photo by Mark H. Hunter

J.O. “Duck” Greer was sitting on his front porch one afternoon when “a pretty little girl carrying an umbrella walked by,” he said.

He called to her and even whistled, but she paid him no mind, crossed the street and kept right on walking.

He was 22 years old and full of confidence after serving his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Like many young veterans, he bought a motorcycle when he got home.

“One night I was riding down Choctaw Drive and hit a big pot-hole and flipped and ended up in the ditch with the motorcycle on top of me,” Greer said. “I got it out of the ditch and rode it home. In the morning I couldn’t get out of bed.”

A doctor diagnosed him with a  broken sternum and taped his chest so tight, “I could hardly breath,” he said.

“It was bad that I wrecked my motorcycle. It was so bad that I could not work,” he said. “I sat on the front porch — what else could I do?”

Bessie Mae Russell, then 19, had moved to Baton Rouge from Mississippi to work for the State of Louisiana in the department of finance. She was renting a room from Duck’s neighbor, who called him one December day to come meet a girl who needed a date for a Christmas party hosted by Gov. Jimmy Davis.

“I didn’t realize he was that same person (on the porch) until that night,” Bess said. “We played cards, had a nice little visit and we ended up going to the big party. And six months later we were married.”

“I fell in love with her on that date,” Duck says. “Man, I was hooked, that was it.”

“You’ve heard of love at first sight — I believe that,” Bess said with a twinkle in her blue eyes. “I never dated anybody after that.”

A Long Life Together

Jasper Oswald “Duck” Greer is now 90, and Bessie Mae Greer is 88. On Valentine’s Day Sunday they were honored by Istrouma Baptist Church for being the church’s longest married couple. On May 29 they’ll celebrate their 69th anniversary.

J.O. "Duck" and Bess Greer still laugh together after 68 years of marriage. Their 'secret' "is not a 50-50 split but 100-100 for each other." Photo by Mark H. Hunter
J.O. “Duck” and Bess Greer still laugh together after 68 years of marriage. Their ‘secret’ “is not a 50-50 split but 100-100 for each other.” Photo by Mark H. Hunter

They have three grown children: older daughter Dianne Willis, middle son Russell Greer and younger daughter Patricia Legendre, 8 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. “All our grandchildren have college degrees,” Bess says with a big smile.

Duck grew up in Baton Rouge and graduated from Istrouma High School in 1942. He got his nickname when he was pitching in a boyhood baseball game and the batter hit a line drive.

“My brother, who was catching, yelled ‘duck!’ so I did and got hit right on top of my head,” he says with a laugh.

His father died when he was 10, leaving his mother to raise nine children. “How she did it, I don’t know,” he said.

Duck had an uncle who was a plumber and he assisted him after school and on weekends. When he enlisted at 17, the Navy in its wisdom made the plumber a mechanic in the engine room of the seaplane tender, the USS Pocomoke AV9. The ship followed many of the Pacific island invasions supplying the troops and maintaining the seaplanes.

Bess grew up in Monticello, Miss., a middle child with an older sister and brother and a younger sister and brother. She graduated from Silver Creek High School 1945, then attended Southwest Mississippi Junior College. She came to Baton Rouge in 1946 to work for the state.

“I became a Christian when I was 12 years old,” Bess said. Her family attended a little country church. “It was during a revival when I got saved and I was baptized in the creek.”

They were married by Dr. A.E. Pardue in Duck’s uncle’s house and began attending Istrouma Baptist. She went forward during a revival, “when I really became a Christian,” she said.

Duck attended Istrouma Methodist as a youth on Sunday mornings then began attending Istrouma Baptist with some of his friends on Sunday nights because, he said, there were a lot of pretty girls there.

“One morning service I went to Istrouma Baptist and gave my heart and life to Him,” he said. “Brother Sam Rushing baptized me that night.”

The couple has served in every single Sunday School department from Primary to Senior Citizens over their decades of membership, Bess said.

After they were married Duck continued his career as a master plumber. He was on a crew building the Baton Rouge General Hospital when he was blinded in a freak accident. He was ‘seating’ a commode into the floor by pouring a mixture of boiling hot lead into a bed of sand when moisture in the sand exploded and splattered hot lead up into his face and eyes. He was blind for several weeks.

“I had to go home blind to a wife and a couple of babies,” he said with sadness in his voice. “You feel worse than helpless.”

Bess and J.O. "Duck" Greer hold photos of themselves taken in 1947. When taking this photo he said, "that's the girl I married!" Photo by Mark H. Hunter
Bess and J.O. “Duck” Greer hold photos of themselves taken in 1947. When taking this photo he said, “that’s the girl I married!” Photo by Mark H. Hunter

Three different plant jobs over the next three-plus decades provided good income but not much job security thanks to plant closings.

“I have the distinction of working for the largest oil refinery in the world, Exxon, the largest rubber plant in the world, U.S. Rubber, and the largest steel company in the world, U.S. Steel. Three of the biggest companies in the world and they all laid me off,” he says with a laugh.

Bess retired from the state in 1985 and he retired a year later. They enjoyed retirement by vacationing with friends, attending lots of LSU football games and caring for their home and growing family. They’ve also both survived heart attacks. Age-related health issues are slowing them down.

A Long Marriage Means 100 Percent

So what’s the secret to a marriage that’s lasted nearly 70 years? What’s the best part and what’s the worst part?

“The worst part is that our lives get shorter and shorter,” he said. “The best part is I’ve got the best mate you could ever want.”

“And I feel the same way,” she says. “We’re very agreeable and we’re very much alike in many ways — it’s gotten to where we even think alike.”

“Some people say 50-50 — no — you give your all for the other person,” he says. “It’s 100 to 100.”

“It’s just like Jesus gave his all for us,” she adds. “You give your all for that person you love.”

April 2016, Faith Life

Obedience to Death

Labrador retrievers help teach about God’s relationship with believers

by Susan Brown

JohnnyAndDogsOn command, a sleek Labrador retriever trots through the auditorium. She is strong, highly trained and focused. She is on a mission – to retrieve a lost “sheep” tucked away by the trainer she adores. Ignoring the distractions around her, she listens intently for his voice, follows his lead and obeys his command. Come. Sit. Stay.

Through Obedience to Death ministry, Johnny Morgan takes his prized Labrador retrievers to churches and schools from Louisiana to Oklahoma to explore the character of God and his relationship to believers. He hopes to encourage people to live in attentive obedience to God. The response is remarkable.

“People pay attention to dogs,” explains Morgan, who serves as associate pastor and student minister at Live Oak Baptist Church in Denham Springs (Watson area). “When we first started, we figured probably five or six presentations, with two or three thousand people. We never thought we’d have 62,000 people.” To date, Morgan says some 8,000 people have come to know the Lord through the dog ministry.

His highly trained labs – Glory, Journey and Zach – are crowd-pleasers. Glory sits in rapt attention to Morgan, and only Morgan. “I’ve had 1,600 students chant her name and she’ll only go on my voice command,” Morgan says. That’s just how we’re supposed to fix our eyes on God. He knows our voice and we know his voice when we’re walking with him.”

But his most significant command is “stay,” a reference to his favorite Bible verse, Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

“And I think in today’s society, we don’t get still enough,” Morgan says. “We just rush, rush, rush, and that’s a constant reminder for me that I need to get still and I need to know him, and when I do, he’s going to be exalted.”

Obedience to Death is an outgrowth of Kingdom Dog Ministries in Houston, Texas, a nonprofit that trains dogs and holds presentations across the U.S. A longtime connection with founder Hank Hough kindled Morgan’s interest in the dogs’ abilities. He says the timing and substance of his ministry was also God’s design.

Hough uses scripture to register his ministry dogs with the American Kennel Club. Morgan’s original dog responds to the name “Glory” for training and command purposes. “After we made the final decision, I asked, ‘what’s her registered name?’ When he said Psalm 46:10, I got real quiet,” Morgan says. “It’s like God had put her aside for me three years prior to that, and my first dog in this ministry was going to be my life verse.”

Hough began using scripture names at certification hunt tests to spark curiosity. When the names of successful dogs are announced, other owners often ask, for example, why he named his dog John 8:28, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father taught me, I speak these things.” Hough uses that opportunity to start a conversation about Jesus.

People often ask what it takes to run a dog ministry. Time, commitment and money are key, and the investment is significant. “They’re my dogs. They live with me and I spend 20 minutes every day with each dog, minimum,” Morgan says. “If we really spent 20 minutes in God’s word and prayer, our lives would be transformed just like theirs.”

Through consistent training and companionship “at some point the light bulbs start going off as to what he’s called us to do,” Morgan says. “My young dog that I’m training, Zach [Zachariah], has the registered name Proverbs 3:5 and 6,” a challenge to walk in faith. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, he shall direct your paths.”

JohnnyAndGloryMorgan says commitment to Christ has come with divine provision. “I have not put any money into my dog ministry; it’s all come from donations by people who have seen it or they believe in me or believe in the ministry and want to bless other people.” Obedience to Death operates as a nonprofit that provides performances free of charge, although many of the schools and churches he visits provide donations. That makes it possible to visit locations that cannot afford to hire motivational speakers.

“One principal said we accomplished so much in our presentation because there were probably 70 kids that accepted Christ in the school that day out of 700. To not charge was a blessing,” Morgan says.

Members of Live Oak Baptist help support Obedience to Death with prayer and contributions. “I have probably 20 people who have donated to help buy dogs and equipment. I have a prayer network of just prayer warriors that are praying constantly for my ministry,” he says.

“If you’d have asked me 30 years ago when I graduated high school if I would be in the ministry today, I’d have told you no, absolutely not,” Morgan says. “If you had told me that I would be presenting the gospel in front of 1,600 junior high students with Labrador retrievers, I’d have told you absolutely not.”

“So it’s just about being obedient and being available. I’ve hunted literally since I was big enough to walk,” he says. “To be able to use that for God now is incredible.”

To learn more about Obedience to Death, contact Johnny Morgan at: Johnny@liveoakbaptist.org, or call 225-243-6138.

April 2016, Faith Life

One Nation Under God

American Judicial Alliance Dedicates Special Bibles to Courts Across the Country

by Lisa Tramontana

WhiteThe words “One nation under God” have special meaning for retired Judge Darrell White. Passionate about his faith, it has taken him into hundreds of courtrooms across America, armed with a special Bible that is changing the way judges think about their responsibilities, their world views and their legacies.

White retired in 1999 after serving for 20 years on the Baton Rouge City Court, but he has remained active through his organization, American Judicial Alliance. As founder and president of the Retired Judges of America, he is a frequent speaker at churches, schools and civic groups on the country’s constitutional heritage. But his true calling came when he learned about a colorful Supreme Court Justice named John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) of Kentucky.

Harlan was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1877 and served for 34 years, participating in more than 14,000 decisions. In 1906 he donated his own personal Bible to the Court and since then, the “Harlan Bible” has been signed by every single justice in succession immediately after taking the oath of office.

Many justices have said that signing the Harlan Bible was an incredibly meaningful experience. “Taking the oath with my hand on Justice Harlan’s Bible was like history coursing through me,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice David Souter called it “the most humbling thing I have ever done in my life.” And Justice Samuel Alito said signing the Bible was a “thrilling and awe-inspiring moment.”

harlan bible scopesJudge White was instrumental in illuminating and sharing the little-known Harlan Bible story. He was part of a panel in Oklahoma City when a young law student asked him about the oath that federal judges take. (Interestingly, the panel also included Judge Roy Moore, the Alabama chief justice who was removed from office in 2003 for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courthouse. He has since been re-elected.) Unable to answer the student’s question, White promised to research the issue, and his investigation turned up the story of the Bible-signing tradition.

White decided that the tradition should be continued in courts across the country. As a result, AJA has presented approximately 200 replicas of the Harlan Bible to federal, state and local courts in Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, New York, Tennessee, Ohio, Massachusetts and Missouri. The Bible selected is the Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible, and it is virtually identical to the original Harlan Bible. White is passionate about his project. “God willing, we intend to place a Bible in every courtroom in America and to ask judges to use them in their courts,” he said. “Every judge who is awakened to our founding is another judge awakened to our future.”

Polozola and Vutera.jpg (1)White has a stack of letters and notes thanking him for his work. Many letters contain promises to display the Bible prominently and to continue the signing tradition. Baton Rouge Judge Richard “Chip” Moore, who received a Harlan Bible last November, thanked White “for championing the Word of God in the judiciary, where His presence serves as a constant exhortation that He is the true judge over us all.”

White’s investigation into the federal judges’ constitutional and judicial oaths also turned up the fact that they both conclude with the words “so help me God.” White found this fact especially interesting as it confirmed his view that God and the Bible are intrinsically woven into the founding of our country and have a rightful place in America’s courts. “Because ‘so help me God’ has been part of the required oath language since 1789, no federal judge can omit it,” White said. “The acknowledgment of God is not a religious test (prohibited under Article VI), but instead, a philosophy of government of the U.S. enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.”

PatriotsDay“It gave me pause,” he added, “to do more study on the subject of separation of church and state, which is a phrase that has virtually supplanted the text of the Constitution’s First Amendment.” Here, Judge White mentions an observation of Frank Hogan, a former president of the American Bar Association who put the question rhetorically, “If the Constitution is to be construed to mean what the majority at any given period in history wish the Constitution to mean, why [have] a written Constitution?”

It’s a complicated and polarizing issue that deserves more time and research than one magazine article can provide, but White contends that misguided constitutional jurisprudence has expelled the Judeo-Christian God from our schools and public affairs, allowing the non-theistic religion of Secular Humanism to dominate. He is hopeful, however, that the tide is turning.

White Family Destin Beach 2012 (2)White says his passion on the topic comes from the fact that he is a father of seven and grandfather of 10. “I’m concerned about our future,” he said.

White has no plans to slow down in his determination to awaken the conscience of Christians throughout the country. In an AJA brochure titled “Restoring Faith in our American Courts,” White says, “Our goal is to establish a nationwide network of like-minded judges and patriots who stand in support of our Constitution and its unmistakable link to God’s Law.”
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