Thursday, August 27, 2009


Petit Jean Mountain is worth a trip

When I was a college student I had the opportunity to work for Winthrop Rockefeller who had build a beautiful home, ranch, and air trip atop one of the most popular sites in Arkansas.

My job was to escort visitors across the grounds and in the home until to many items was being picked up for souvenirs, etc.

At that time, he had not gotten into politics (He was later the governor), but before that had influenced so many industries to settle in the state. During his tenure he brought many to investigate the possibly there.

It was not known why he chose the mountain to build his properties on, but having been raised about 35 miles from there, I could understand how a person from the big city life of New York City would be enamored by such a place.

Because Petit Jean Mountain is a special place – an unforgettable place – known for the legend of Petit Jean, the story of a French girl who disguised herself as a boy and secretly accompanied her sweetheart, an early explorer, to the New World and to this mountain.

Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas’s first and flagship state park enhances this over 300–year–old legend with windswept views, enchanting woodlands laced with streams and wildflowers, and a spectacular 95-foot waterfall called “Cedar Falls” that is fed by a 100-acre lakem, a reservoir contributed into by small creeks. Lake Bailey is also a popular place for pedal-boating and fishing. Tennis and basketball courts, swimming pool, and picnic areas are available for the use of park guests.

The scenic overlook at Petit Jean's grave, which is just to the right as you just finish the grade up to the mountain, provides a spectacular view of the Arkansas River Valley and is worth the short walk.

To those who would like to know more about this unique place read Dr. Lee W. Woodard’s book entitled, "Petit Jean's Mountain: The Origin of the Legend." He provides many historical evidences that suggest that the old glamorized oral legends about "Petit Jean" (an assumed or nickname) are traceable to known historical records about the drowning of a young French Noble variously called De Marne or De Marle. This youth drowned while bathing in the Arkansas river on Saint Jean Baptiste Day, June 24, 1687, while fleeing with six other survivors of horrendous assassinations and murders involved with Robert Cavelier De La Salle's tragic French Colonization attempt during 1684-1687. This young French noble's tragic death and burial were described by two French companions, Father Anastase Douay (who was an officiate at the burial) and a French soldier named Henri Joutel. Woodard's is the first book by a doctoral level historian to identify the actual tragic events and the actual death and burial connected with old Arkansas Oral Legends of Petit Jean.

I seldom go to my home area without thinking about this place of my past or taking the short trip to revisit. The Museum of Automobiles (build since my employment up there) is less than a mile from the main camping areas near the Rockefeller farm and home.

But often it is the dreams of home that attract me most.

“But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” - Hebrews 11:16



He rolled out from under the long Cadillac where he had been working. The khaki-clad man made his way toward us. We waited as he approached us while cleaning his hands on a dirty shop towel.

The farm manager said, "Fellows meet your boss, Mr. Rockefeller." The sudden unexpectency alarmed us already timid and frightened boys. Why he was doing his own work, when he had mechanics sitting all around doing nothing while he worked on his own car, I thought.

Our college professor, who had gotten us the job, told us he was just like other man--only rich!

However, it didn't take me long to see he was a man that liked to do what others did, and while he had inherited over a quarter of a billion dollars, didn't appear to be the stuffed shirt we figured he would be. He was a large man who humbled many with his stature and wealth, and I will always remember his contribution to my home state and the many he helped. At the time I didn't know he would become its future governor and a benefactor to countless he served.

Winthrop A. Rockefeller as the first Republican Governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction. He was a third-generation member of the Rockefeller family.

Winthrop Rockefeller was born in New Jersey to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, the former Abby Greene Aldrich. His four famous brothers were: Nelson, David, Laurance and John D. III. Nelson served as Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States.

Winthrop attended Yale University from 1931 to 1934 but was ejected as a result of misbehavior before earning his degree. Prior to attending Yale, he graduated from the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut.

He enlisted into the 77th Infantry Division in early 1941 and fought in World War II, advancing from Private to Colonel and earning a Bronze Star with clusters and Purple Heart for his actions aboard the troopship USS Henrico, after a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Okinawa. His image appears in the Infantry Officer Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Rockefeller moved to central Arkansas in 1953 and established Winrock Enterprises and Winrock Farms atop Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton, Arkansas which is only 20 miles from my hometown.

He summer students from Texas A & M, who were studying Animal of Husbandry, would come to the farm because of his raising of a new bread of cows crossed from the Texas Longhorn and Brahman bulls. Bulls weigh 1,600 to 2,200 pounds and cows weigh 1,000 to 1,400 pounds. At birth, the calves weigh 60 to 65 pounds. This breed became known as the Santa Gertrudis. The birthing barns were, but hospitals for the delivery of these huge animals.
Mr. Rockefeller loved fine horses and was seen riding often with his wife or the farm manager.

In 1956, Rockefeller married his second wife, Jeanette Bartley McDonnell, a native of Washington State. (Who was his wife when I was there). She was a gracious and kind lady to us young workers.

She had previously been married to a pro American football player, a lawyer, and a stockbroker. By her, he acquired two stepchildren, Anne and Bruce Bartley. (He had a son, Winthrop Paul, by his first wife).

Rockefeller initiated a number of philanthropies and projects for the benefit of the people of in my home state. He financed the building of a model school at Morrilton, and led efforts to establish a Fine Arts Center in Little Rock. He also financed the construction of medical clinics in some of the state's poorest counties, in addition to making annual gifts to the state's colleges and universities.

These philanthropic activities continue to this day through the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

He may have learned from his early days what David learned late as recorded in Psalm 39. "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity...Surely every man walks in a vain show....he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them"

Cody is a place to see

Cody Museum a must see

While visiting Wyoming in 1993 we had the possibly of stopping at The Buffalo Bill Museum which examines both the personal and public lives of W.F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846-1917) and seeks to tell his story in the context of the history and myth of the American West.

However, more than this is the other collections in the Museum that interpret the history of the American cowboy, dude ranching, Western conservation, frontier entrepreneurship and, perhaps most importantly, the source of our concepts about the West. The museum records how Buffalo Bill, in an age without television or motion pictures became the world's foremost communicator about the American West.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West was a spectacular panorama of cowboys, Indians, trick shooters and specialty acts. He called his show "an educational exposition on a grand and entertaining scale."

The show ran for 30 years, from 1883 until 1913, touring the United States and Europe with legendary figures such as Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley. While it wasn't possible for millions of Americans to experience the West as he had, Cody brought it to their front doors.

If you are interested in learning more about Buffalo Bill and the West then you will find this a remarkable place to visit.

Of particular interest to me was The Cody Firearms Museum which houses the most comprehensive assemblage of American firearms in the world. The Winchester Collection, the heart of this museum, was transported from New Haven, Connecticut to Cody in 1976. Dedicated in 1991, but provides an expansive permanent home for the collection. However, virtually every significant manufacturer in the world is represented. Within the exhibits, visitors are able to trace the evolution of modern firearms technology from its earliest days through today's outstanding variations.

You may also view the Whitney Gallery of Western Art Digital Collections.
Learn about the outdoor sculpture conservation project funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Then there is the Plains Indian Museum which tells the significant story of the lives of the Plains Indian peoples, their cultures, traditions, values and histories, and the contexts of their lives today.

In the words of the Crow tribal historian Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the Museum is "a living, breathing place where more than just Indian objects are on display."

Since 1979 the Plains Indian Museum has been a leader in promoting public recognition of the importance of Plains Indian art due to its nationally significant collection. Visitors to the Plains Indian Museum learn, not only about the beautiful objects made by Indian people, but the stories of the people behind the objects and the special contexts in which these objects were made and used in daily and ceremonial life.

The majority of the collection is from the early reservation period, ca. 1880-1930, and relates primarily to Northern Plains tribes, such as the Lakota, Crow, Arapaho, Shoshone, and Cheyenne.

If you are a western fan, as I am, and want to really educate yourself, then don’t expect to do this in less than a day or two.

The west is a most important part of the history of our country and so much misinformation has venture over the past. Take time when you are in the area and get caught up.

They like all peoples look for a better life and a place of bliss beyond this life. They, like us, were looking for more than a cultural foundation. My prayer has always been that all people find what the spirit of a man craves for and for eternal better home.

“Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” --Hebrews 11:10

Saturday, August 22, 2009

51 years and Running

My longest trip to date

On August 18, 1958 my dearest friend and I planned a trip that would last a lifetime. We haven’t made that milestone yet, but on August 18, 2009 we had concluded 51 years of blissful traveling and enjoyment.

It all began when I was introduced to a beautiful young lady, whose friend was a state policeman from where she went to church, but who attended my church every Wednesday evening when he was in town for business. Being from about 45 miles away and because of two lane roads we had in those days, he always stayed over, and being a single myself we would often spend time afterwards at a café for fellowship.

On one evening he unceremoniously asked, “Why aren’t you married? Every preacher needs a wife!”

“I have never gotten the right one to propose to me yet,” I jokingly replied.

The truth of the matter was, unbeknown to him, I had been engaged to a wonderful young lady but with time we both learned we were not compatible enough for married. (I later learned also had been spoken for but it too ended.) Nearly a year had elapsed before we would even meet each other.

We talked a bit about some other things then he came back with, “There is a young lady in our church I think you ought to meet. On your next free Thursday night come over and I will introduce you to her.

I was pretty shy back then so was reluctant in immediately accepting his invitation, but as he continued to tease me until I said I would.

Thursday night came and I drove my 1949 Hudson Hornet to his home and he took me to meet her. He had not even told her, so we drove into the yard without giving her any time for preparation. She already was prepared for bed since it was about 8 p.m. with her hair in rollers already. Not a good time to visit a person who wants to present her best look.
But she undone them and he took us to an A & W and then said to us, “You know I just remember I have to get something ready for work tomorrow. Alton, would you drive her home?”

We looked at each other when I said, “Do you believe we have been setup?”

She smiled and we were soon happy he left.

Six months later we were married, which was hardly accepted in those days and especially for a preacher.

(I learned after we were married this gal always wanted pre-warning.)

Our first years, we like so many during our generation, knew money was limited and my church only paid me $15 a week, so I had to have a second job selling suits in a men’s store which added $25 to my salary. There were very few vacations at that time for us, but we were truly in love and traveling had never been in our lives beforehand. If fact, she had only been to one other state which was only 30 miles from where she had grown up.

Well, 51 years have passed and we enjoyed 19 years as a pastor before entering into the various roles of denominational work. She was a remarkable pastor’s wife and respected by the ladies in the churches we served. At my last pastorate I met an officer of a large independent publishing house from Wheaton, Illinois who persuaded me to join their ministry of offering the printed page to the “Whole World” which was a portion of their mission statement.

Then she made a gracious first lady when I began to serve the denomination in other roles. First, as the State Executive Secretary in Ohio for 20 years, and secondly when I became the President/CEO of Randall House Publications in Nashville, Tennessee.

During these roles we were able to catch up on all we had never been able to see or visit, traveling into all of the 50 states, but Nebraska and North Dakota; all but 5 of the provinces of Canada, and 35 foreign countries and some of them as many as 19 times.

The Lord has given us a remarkable life and I know of nothing I would be ashamed of standing before the Lord.

During our life’s trip we had two sons and now two daughters-in-love whose marriage have given us five beautiful grandchildren.

Life is a journey and my life-mate has made the trip much greater because of her.

During the last three years of my illness I have learned to love her even more as she has continued to dress my operation wounds twice daily without any complaints or excuses.

I can truly say of her, copying something Jesus once said, “Well done that good and faithful servant……”

As we have now grown older we are not able to do what we did, but we know there is “a rest for the weary.
“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” --Hebrews 4:9
“Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” --Psalm 71:9 Therefore, “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.” --Psalm 89:1

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Convention Trip and Highlights

Recent Highlights

After months of considering if we could attend the national concave of our denomination, we decided flying would be the easiest for us both and staying in a hotel across from the large convention center, provided by a friend, clinched the decision.

So the arrangements were made beginning by reserving a motel in St. Louis near the airport, because we had to be there by 4 a.m. Then we reserved our air flights and a limo service from the airport in Kentucky to our Cincinnati hotel. Planning was always my forte.

Being somewhat excited, we left home in mid-morning and headed north from our hometown for the 70 mile trip north to the airport. Knowing we could not get into the motel I suggested we visit historic St. Charles. Arriving in the city we began first by driving down Riverside Avenue and immediately learned it was from this location the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition began. After visiting a number of the shops we decided to stop for a lunch in a sidewalk café that waited with welcomed cuisine.

After finishing our meal and relaxation, we decide we needed to head toward the Airport motel. This produced my second surprise. It was here the first interstate system was begun back in 1956 noted by a sign as we entered the interstate.

Soon we turned into the road that directed to our evening abode. To our sudden surprise we saw hundreds of teens in various dress and painted faces, scattered all around the entrance and then on the inside milling around like a mother stirring a large bowl of soup containing a heavy diverse mixture. Every size, shape and color of dress filled every hallway, café, sitting area, as I walked to the check-in counter wondering if we would get any sleep tonight.

The clerk assured me that in two nights they had been at the motel, not one complaint had been called to them. She mentioned they were their in a convention to taught them how to become animators.

With a bid of concern we took our key, signed for the earliest transport to the airport, then started to our room. Being tired from a long day, mixed with the excited of attending our first convention in 5 years, we prepared for bed and then sat reading and talking about who we might see.

To our surprise we did not hear one sound from anyone during the night. Rising at 2:30 the next morning we dressed and headed to the lobby where we would catch our van to the airport-leaving our car at the motel until we returned.

Everything went smooth and we arrived in plenty of time to check in our luggage, get though security, and board the plane for Cincinnati. The flight was great and our excitement increased as we viewed the countryside dissenting over the Ohio River as we had done many times.

Our limo service met us promptly and we were headed to our hotel 15 miles away. Without any problems we were registered and in our room knowing we needed to rest some allowing us to attend the evening session. All of the speakers were old time friends and I did not want to miss even one of them.

Thousands of people attended this convention and we must have hugged every one of them. The speakers, all different, each did a good job of blessing us as they presented in some way the promises of God.

There were nearly 2000 youth that joined with the convention and I am proud of how polite and capable they were.

Our denomination has a great outreach, both here and around the world, so the last night was a remarkable service as Teens carried flags representing all countries and states where we have a missionary presence-completely lining across the entire front of the large convention center. Then we viewed a stage full of missionaries, numbering at least one hundred, gathered and were each recognized by our national mission directors. It was climaxed by a commissioning service of new appointees who will be joining the veterans in their new field of endeavor. It was such an impressive service, capped by an outstanding message of our responsibility as believers to reach all men.

Then the departure came and we reversed the trip back to St. Louis and then home.

Friends, fellowship, and His protection were the highlight of these glorious days for us.

One day all of us will be reunited with friends and love ones in a place that will be without end.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” -- Ephesians 1:3 (KJV)

“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” -- Proverbs 18:24 (KJV)

“Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” -- Psalm 148:13 (KJV)

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” --Matthew 10:32 (KJV)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dead Yet He Liveth

Where David Marks lay

Years ago I was speaking in Elyria, Ohio, but stayed with a family who lived a few miles south in Oberlin where Oberlin University is located.

Doing the course of my visit, I mentioned that one of our early ministers, David Marks, had attended this school and that his funeral had been preached by the famous lawyer, turned preacher, Charles Finney.

I could hardly finish my remarks when the lady of the house broke into excitement and blurred out with, “I care for the children of some of the professors at the college and oftentimes we will walk across the golf course into an old, old, cemetery where I read the eulogies on the head stones. Recently, I ran across the stone of David Marks which contained things about his connection with our denomination. I believe it was in section …, and then she said I just can’t remember for sure.” While continuing her remarks she gave me two sections, but still with uncertainty.

Well, the next day after visiting the library at the college, I found many historical items of my denomination in their archives, including a biography of Rev. Marks written by his wife. Then I made my way to the cemetery and ,after an hour or so, I found a headstone that had been placed there by someone during this century, but noticed the original marker laying flat in the ground and the wording destroyed by time.

The next day I was back at the library and found the biography had recorded what it said. It recorded his length of life (1805-1845).

At fifteen years of age he received strong impressions to enter the ministry. His father needed his help, but finally consented to what seemed the call of God. The “Boy Preacher,” less than sixteen years of age, left home with his father’s blessing.

In order to improve his education, he set out on foot for Providence, R. I. He walked 368 miles. Arriving at Brown University, he was told that tuition would be furnished free, but no further assistance towards board or clothing could be rendered, so with a sad heart he walked back home. Later, he goes to Oberlin, Ohio and completes an education there and gains the attention of Charles Finney who in his sermon at Marks funeral says, “There is not greater among his denomination.”

David Marks had one vision and focus - to reach a better land and have a better life.

As we travel through life, making a fortune or better name is high on our list, but ironically the greatest thing we can do is to not only make a life, and to help others do the same.

Job 33:4
“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. “

Psalm 27:4
“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. “

Saturday, August 1, 2009

When a Baptist meets the Pope

When I met the Pope

Much of the world is still mourning the passing of the John Paul II (1978-2005) who was the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Over the course of my life I have known many men who were very intelligent and whose training had given them many benefits that often places them in roles far above the ordinary.

One such person was a surprise visit to one of the world’s renowned leaders.

My stay in Rome, Italy had been an eventful one visiting nearly every conceivable spot that was of historical interest to me. Then our guide announced that tomorrow was Ash Wednesday and everything in the city would shut down except she had been able to get permission to visit the Vatican and if we desired have an audience with the Pope.

Needless to say my friends and I were interested even though we were not Catholic. The next day came and we found ourselves in the middle of the famous St. Peters Square where thousands hear the Pope. Afterwards, we visited in the world’s largest church and then ushered beyond that area into a heavily secured building with Switzer guards dressed in uniforms designed by Michaelangelo a few hundred years ago.

The view within the Sistine Chapel and the museum was extremely interesting, but the excitement of seeing and hearing a famous man overshadowed everything we saw. Finally, we were told the time and permission to enter had arrived.

Moving quickly and in tight security we entered an auditorium where about 600 people were already seated. Many were praying, tears were evident, as I observed clergy dress of various design, but all obviously Roman Catholic. It was immediately evident to me how Protestant I was because my clergy dress was tourist casual.

We had just seated ourselves when everybody else stood hastily to their feet. Looking back toward the entrance, was our first view of Pope Paul VI, who served from 1963 until 1978, as he entered sitting on a throne type chair being carried above the shoulders of eight Switzers.

The reverence of the moment was embroiled by his presence. Mothers lifted little babies to be kissed and blessed by him as he was carried to the front.

On the stage his flowing white outer robe was removed and he was redressed with another garment for the pulpit where he would speak. The knowledge of the man was evident as he began to greet and welcome those in the auditorium, first the clergy, and then down the list in proper protocol. I thought he was speaking in Italian only, when our guide told us he is speaking in Spanish welcoming those from Spain. Now he is greeting in Slavic for those from Romania. Before he finished greeting the remaining, he had spoken fluently in more than ten languages as he welcomed all. Then it was repeated when he gave his address as well.

I left appreciating the wisdom of a man. I will never forget this unexpected event in my life. However, many times I have reflected on the moments there.

Leaders, whether great or small, are men who will live and die. Some from poor health or accident, but all will depart.

Today, I am more and more aware that it takes a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins, who said, "I am come that you may have life."

If every nation in its own tongue could hear this message from the Lord himself.