Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day (July 2011)

For many of us, the Fourth of July is a day for parades, cookouts, baseball, fireworks, and family get-togethers.  But today is also the 235th anniversary of the official approval of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress.  Americans have much to be thankful for because of the work of our Founding Fathers.  Their tenacity and bravery put their lives and those of their families into potential jeopardy.  To be sure, some of the facts related to the signers of the Declaration have been stretched a bit (see The Price They Paid), but these brave men put their lives and futures on the line for generations of Americans to come.  We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Over these past 235 years, the Fourth of July has the occasion for some well-known and less well-known events.  In 1826 (the fiftieth anniversary), both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within hours of each other.  They had been political opponents for decades, but they became reconciled shortly before their deaths.  During the American Civil War, the Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg were decided by July 4, 1863.  Many historians suggest that those two battles signified the turning point of the Civil War.

More recently, the nation celebrated our Bicentennial in 1976, with much fanfare and hoopla.  Along with the useful fireworks displays in Washington, D.C., and New York City, there was a spectacular passage of the "Tall Ships" in the New York Harbor.  On a more personal note, I will always remember July 4, 1989.  Cynthia and I had been on a tour of England with the Owatonna High School Orchestra in the United Kingdom.  July 4 was the day we were to return to the States.  On the elevator at our hotel, one Brit asked us, "How are things in the Colonies?"  I replied that we were on our way to find out!  We flew into St. Louis from Heathrow Airport in London, and then we made our way up the Mississippi River that evening.  It was a spectacular sight as we saw fireworks displays in little towns all along the way.  What a great memory.

We all have our own memories of the Fourth of July.  And I am sure there will be many more in the future.  Have a great day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Change and Adjustment

Change has been the name of the game for Nancy and me during the last several months. We moved to Greenville (SC) in late June last summer to begin our employment at Bob Jones University.  I am the Academic Success Center Supervisor, and Nancy is the Instructional Resources Librarian at Mack Library.

We live in a two-bedroom apartment across the street from the main entrance to the campus.  It's a bit smaller than our home in Owatonna, but it's very cozy . . . and very convenient.  Our daily lifestyle has also changed as well.  Typically, we drive over to campus at 7:45 A.M. and then return around 5:00 P.M.  Most evenings, we are able to unwind at home during the evenings.  Saturdays are the most relaxing day of the week.  We often do our wash and also watch DVDs that we have checked out of the Greenville County Library.  On Sunday we attend services at Hampton Park Baptist Church, the church we attended after we got married in 1970.

During the second week of March, I played English horn in the BJU Opera Orchestra.  We performed Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns blockbuster work Samson and Delilah.  The production featured fifty musicians in the pit orchestra and at least 150 cast members onstage.  We put on three performances of Samson, and it was a rather emotional week for those of us in the orchestra.  In all likelihood, this will be the last time Dr. Dwight Gustafson will conduct a major production here at BJU.  I played my first opera with him in 1968, and he has been a wonderful mentor and friend over these past forty years.

It's hard to believe that there are only a few short weeks left in the school year.  The BJU Graduation will be Saturday, May 8, and the prospect of that event brings back many memories of graduations past.  It's part of the cycle of higher education.  New students arrive on campus and four (or five) years later, they graduate.  We get to know them, and then off they go to make something of themselves.  Those of us who work in Christian higher education pray that our graduates will not only make something of themselves; we pray that God will shown them His will for their lives and that they will do it.

All in all, it's been wonderful to be back at BJU with so many good friends and good memories.

Friday, March 27, 2009


It has been three months since I lasted posted any comments on Pillsbury History Guy. As regular readers of this blog know, as well as folks who know anything about Christian higher education in this country, Pillsbury Baptist Bible College closed its doors on December 31, 2008. Many of our students have transferred to other Christian colleges and are doing fine. Dr. Greg Huffman, president of Pillsbury College, has been visiting our former Pillsbury students at some of these other schools during the past few weeks. We are grateful that several of our sister schools graciously accepted our students for second semester. We will also be conducting a graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 24, for seniors, faculty, and anyone else who can attend. Graduating seniors will receive the last diplomas that Pillsbury will ever have the opportunity to award.

As for our Pillsbury faculty and staff, some have found employment at other schools, ministries, and churches. Some have yet to find full employment for the next school year. I would ask your prayers for them. Most of us have been working at "temp" jobs the last several weeks. Some of us did not know we had so many different talents and abilities! From time to time, God has a way of reminding us that our ways are not necessarily His ways.

Nancy and I have sought out various employment possibilities, both in Owatonna and elsewhere. We made a couple of trips in January to check out some possible job offers. In recent days, we were offered and accepted positions at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. I will be the supervisor for the "Center for Academic Success," and Nancy will become a reference librarian at Mack Library on campus. We will be returning "home" in a manner of speaking. Nancy and I met at BJU while we were undergraduates, we got married in 1970, and we graduated in 1971. I taught history in the University, and Nancy was the librarian at Bob Jones Elementary School from 1972 to 1983. Five of our children were born at Barge Hospital on campus. It's also worth noting that our oldest daughter Cynthia teaches in the Nursing Division at BJU.

It will be difficult to leave the Owatonna community. We love Pillsbury College, Grace Baptist Church, and many folks in our community. Nancy and I have been involved in the schools over the years, what with all seven of our kids graduating from Owatonna High School. I also have been a volunteer with the Republican Party here in Owatonna and Steele County, and I have served as an election judge in every election since we arrived in 1984. It has been my honor to play my oboe in the Owatonna Community Band and Owatonna Community Orchestra, and I have become very good friends with a number of talented and gifted musicians during our quarter century in Owatonna.

The bottom line to all of this is something I heard long ago: "Things are not going to be like they have always been." As we face the prospect and challenge of moving to Greenville in June, we covet your prayers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Beauty of Christmas Music

Over on the Sharper Iron blog, they are running a thread on the "Worst Secular Christmas Songs." I would agree that folks in the secular music industry do miss the true message of Christmas. I suppose that when you don't have much insight into the spiritual side of why Jesus Christ was born 2000 years ago, you are probably going to focus on Santa, snow, and commercialism.

I am reminded of a discussion that I had with my good friend and mentor, Dr. Dwight Gustafson, during my freshman year at Bob Jones University. It was during the fall of 1967 that we were rehearsing Bach's Christmas Oratorio to be performed during Thanksgiving Week at BJU. I casually mentioned to Dr. Gus that I just had no idea that there was such beautiful music written for the Christmas Season. I was of course familiar with Handel's Messiah, and I had even played some Christmas music composed by Vivaldi during my high school years in Plymouth, Michigan. Dr. Gus wisely replied, "There's a lot more that you haven't even heard yet!" I think about that discussion every Christmas, particularly as I have had numerous opportunities to perform some incredibly beautiful Christmas music. Some of it is classical, as in Bach, Handel, Corelli, and Vivaldi, but some of it has been written and/or arranged by contemporary composers such as Rutter, Purifoy, and Lloyd Larson.

On December 4 and 5, Pillsbury Baptist Bible College presented A Candlelight Christmas, a Christmas cantata written by Benjamin Harlan and orchestrated by John Purifoy. We had performed this at Pillsbury about ten years ago, so it was nice to end our "Christmas at Pillsbury" concert cycle with this familiar and beautifully written cantata. It was also an emotional and fond farewell for our longtime choral director, Darrell Bevis. I have known Darrell for about thirty years, and he is one class act when it comes to selecting and performing appropriate Christian music. I am going to really miss performing with Darrell and my other Pillsbury musical colleagues.

Last Sunday evening (December 14), the choir and orchestra at Grace Baptist Church here in Owatonna performed Lloyd Larson's recent Christmas cantata, Holy Night of Miracles. Tom Lawson did a wonderful job of combining the forces of the choir and orchestra to communicate the true message of Christmas. As was true of Pillsbury's rendition of A Candlelight Christmas, Larson's text and music was a powerful example of what beautiful Christmas music is all about.

Which brings me back to Dr. Gus' wise observation: "There's a lot more that you haven't even heard yet!" I sincerely hope that you enjoy this Christmas Season, and I especially pray that you will indulge yourself in the beautiful music of Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pillsbury College: The Last Day

The last official day of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College has come and gone. On Friday, December 12, faculty, staff, and students ate breakfast together in the dining hall and then met in Kerux Auditorium for a final chapel service. Dr. Greg Huffman, the president of Pillsbury College these last several months, preached about how God providentially orchestrated the events of the "first" Christmas over 2000 years ago and how God is also orchestrating the events of our lives as well. We have come to appreciate Dr. Huffman's ability to share God's Word in a practical and meaningful way. Among the many things I will miss about Pillsbury, Dr. Huffman is at the top of the list. He has been greatly used by God during these last days of Pillsbury.

After chapel, a number of us said our last good-byes, took photos, and basically realized that this group of faculty, staff, and students will never again be assembled in one place this side of heaven. Next spring, Dr. Huffman plans to visit the Christian college campuses where our students will be attending second semester to check up on how our Pillsbury students are doing. He has also said that he is quite willing to be in charge of the "Pilly corner" in heaven. Undoubtedly, some of us will never cross paths again until that glorious day when we assemble together in heaven with all of the saints. That WILL be a glorious day.

On a personal note, I have every intention of continuing Pillsbury History Guy in the future. As an institution, Pillsbury will become "history," but the great memories of Pillsbury will live forever.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pillsbury College: The Last Week

It is the last official week at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, and we awoke to about six inches of new snow this morning. Faculty and students are finishing off final exams this week, and on Friday we will have a last breakfast and a farewell chapel. For many of us, it has been a bittersweet last few days. We will be saying good bye to many colleagues, friends, and students for the last time, because some of us will probably not see each other again for a long, long time. Years from now, those of us who were here as "The Last Comets" will look back and be able to say that in spite of the emotions that we are experiencing now, God provided for our needs and showed us His will for our lives.

On the editorial page of this morning's Owatonna People's Press, the editor penned a nice tribute to Pillsbury. I would like to share that editorial with you:

"It must be a bittersweet time for the students and faculty at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College this week. With the end of the semester just days away and the coming of the holidays just a fortnight away, they must surely feel both a sense of completion and the joy that accompanies Christmas. At the same time, those feelings are undoubtedly tempered with a great sense of loss, knowing that when the final test is taken and final grade recorded that these students and their instructors will be saying goodbye to one another and to the college for the last time as Pillsbury sets to close its doors for good at the end of the month.

Dr. Gregory Huffman, the president of the college, compared the situation at Pillsbury to a death in the family. And as with a time of death, there likely will be mourning by those for whom the closing of Pillsbury touches most closely. During a candlelight Christmas concert on Friday night, Dr. Huffman, a former pastor, did his best to counsel and console the Pillsbury community, reminding them that even though the college will close, it will never die as it continues to live in the service and ministry of the students and the faculty.

They are wise words — words that inspire and give hope.

But there is even more reason for hope. Even as the Pillsbury faculty and staff readied for the closing of the school, word was received that representatives from another Christian college have visited the campus to negotiate the sale of the campus. If that sale occurs — and it is far too early to speculate on the sale or the potential buyor, though rumors about both abound — then it will be good not only the Minnesota Baptist Association, which owns the school, but also for Owatonna. The sale would help the association discharge the debt that led to the school’s closure. But it also would bring another strong Christian college to town. If that college, its teachers and its students are anything like Pillsbury, Owatonna would be strengthened by its coming.

In the meantime, we wish the best for those who will leave Pillsbury and Owatonna for the last time this week. Your presence has enriched this community and your absence will be felt."

Even though Pillsbury Baptist Bible College will be ceasing academic operations on December 31, it is my conviction that the College and its faculty members and students have had a positive impact on the Owatonna community.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Kennedy Assassination: 45 Years Later

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It's hard to believe that it has been forty-five years since that fateful Friday afternoon. For four days, the three major television networks broadcast very little programming that did not directly relate to the assassination and its aftermath. Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK's accused assassin, was himself murdered in the Dallas City Jail on Sunday morning by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner. Although there has been a great deal of controversy over the years as to whether Oswald acted alone, we may never precisely know the chain of events that led to JFK's tragic murder in Dallas. Many Americans rejected the findings of the Warren Commission, which essentially concluded that Oswald was solely responsible for the assassination. I will leave that discussion for another time.

At the time, I was fourteen years old and a ninth grader in Plymouth, Michigan. I will never forget when our school principal, Mr. Carl Taylor, came down to our gym class about 1:00 P.M. to inform us that Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. It was almost surrealistic, and frankly, it took some time for the impact to sink in. I rode home with my dad, who happened to teach in the junior high where I was a student, and we began watching what turned out to be a four-day marathon of the coverage of the assassination, the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson as Kennedy's replacement, and the funeral on the Monday after the assassination.

The course of United States history changed on that day in Dallas. The Vietnam War would become a major political issue in the politics of the 1960s, as many Americans took to the streets to oppose the war. The culture of America, particularly as it related to music and public morality, was also dramatically changed. During the spring of 1968, as the presidential campaign heated up, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were also assassinated. It seemed as if America could not escape its national nightmare.

Eventually, America moved on, but not without further tragedies and scandals. We can be grateful that a sovereign God is still in control, and he holds the hearts of kings in His hand. We can rely on Him, even when things seem to be falling apart all around us.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Election 2008

Now that a few days have elapsed since November 4, I would like to weigh in with a few brief thoughts concerning this year's presidential election:

(1) American voters made a conscious decision to elect Barack Obama with a margin of several million votes, and I respect their right to make that decision. I do not agree with Obama on a number of issues, but he will be the president of all Americans as of January 20, 2009. Indeed, as Christians, God has given us the privilege and obligation to pray for our new president. Nancy and I intend to do just that.

(2) John McCain, the candidate for whom I voted, ran a campaign against fairly overwhelming odds. President Bush's unpopularity, the War in Iraq, and the tanking of the economy in recent weeks all worked against McCain's election. Also, McCain was not as conservative as I would have liked, but he was the best choice that I had on Election Day. No matter who the Republican candidate might have been, it was an uphill proposition this year.

(3) Although President George W. Bush has had many detractors during his eight years in office, I have been saddened by the fact that so many of those who have opposed him have engaged in vicious and unwarranted ad hominem attacks on his personal character. It is possible to disagree with his policies without having to resort to character assassination. George W. Bush is a decent and honorable man. He will be able to go back to Crawford, Texas, knowing that he did his best. He made mistakes as president, but he was not the evil caricature that some on the Left would have us believe.

(4) I trust that during the next four years conservatives will be very careful in their criticism of President Obama. He will support causes that I disagree with; he will oppose causes that I support. My political obligation is to call attention to those issues, but my moral obligation is to support him as the president of ALL the American people. Remember that there will be another election, and President Obama will be held to account by the American people. As a nation, we can disagree with our president and still support him as our president.

These are my preliminary thoughts on the recent election. As they say in Congress, "I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No Resources . . . No Returns . . . No Regrets

As many of you are aware, Pillsbury Baptist Bible College will be closing its doors on December 31 of this year. Dr. Greg Huffman, who was inaugurated as our new president in September, has been preaching some inspirational and timely messages in chapel. Earlier this week, Dr. Huffman shared with us the story of William Borden. His father founded the Borden Dairy Company, but William was called to be a missionary to Muslims in China. While enroute to China, William Borden died of spinal meningitis at the age of twenty-five. In the flyleaf of his Bible, he had recorded three brief slogans: "No resources . . . no returns . . . no regrets." He had voluntarily given away his fortune, he had decided that he would not return to the United States, and on the day he died, he professed that he had no regrets concerning the Lord's call to become a missionary in China.

Of course, the Pillsbury administration, faculty, staff, and student body are greatly saddened by the closing of Pillsbury. In a sense, the college has run out of financial "resources" to continue operating. We are also unable to "return" second semester to Pillsbury. But most importantly, we have "no regrets" about having been part of a ministry that has been training Christian leaders for over fifty years. Representatives of several sister schools have visited the campus to assist our students in the process of transferring to other schools for the spring semester. Most of our seniors will be able to graduate in the spring from other schools, but they will be able to have a Pillsbury diploma if they so desire.

On a personal note, Nancy and I have been a part of Pillsbury for twenty-five years. We have appreciated the college, our local church, and the Owatonna community. We don't know what the Lord has planned for us, but we are willing to wait on Him to show us the way. As I often tell my students, "Wherever you go, there you are." The problem is that we don't know where "there" is yet, but we will wait patiently for God's direction. Please pray for our students and colleagues as we seek God's will for our lives.

When Nancy and I were married in 1970, we took as our life verse Isaiah 40:31. It seems appropriate for this occasion: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." May God allow all of us to be "eagles."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Pastor at Grace Baptist Church (Owatonna, Minnesota)

Grace Baptist Church in Owatonna, Minnesota, has been without a senior pastor for the last eighteen months. On June 29, the congregation extended a call to Pastor Andrew Burggraff, who has been the pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Spring Hill, Florida, for the past four years. Those of us on the Pulpit Committee and the deacon board at Grace unanimously recommended Pastor Burggraff to the congregation. On the decision to extend the call to Pastor Burggraff, the congregation responded with a 98% vote of approval. Andrew, his wife Allyson, and their three children will probably be moving to Owatonna during the month of August. We look forward to Pastor Burggraff's ministry at Grace during the coming years.

Twenty years ago, Andrew's father (David Burggraff) pastored Grace Baptist for several years. Nancy and I count Dave and Lucy Burggraff as dear friends personally, as well as in the ministry. Dr. Dave Burggraff currently serves as a vice president at Clearwater Christian College in Florida. The president of Clearwater is Dr. Dick Stratton, whom we knew as a teenager at Hampton Park Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, when we first got married. Dick's folks were faithful employees at Bob Jones University for many years.

Please pray for Grace Baptist Church here in Owatonna, as well as the good folks at Bible Baptist Church in Florida. We have gained a good man at their expense, so to speak. Obviously, those folks will need a new pastor in the near future. We are trusting that God will send just the right man to meet the needs of Bible Baptist Church.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day—2008

Independence Day is a day of celebrating the birth of our country. The fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence 232 years ago set into motion the great American experiment in representative government, freedom, and liberty. With of all of her flaws, the United States of America represents one of history's great success stories. It is a day of parades, barbecues, and fireworks. But it is also a day of great historical importance.

Two of the signers of the Declaration in 1776 were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Adams and Jefferson were both elected to the presidency later on in their careers, but in the process, they became bitter political enemies. They did become reconciled in their twilight years, however. In what has to be one of the great ironies of early American history, both men died on the same day. That day was July 4, 1826—exactly fifty years to the day that Adams and Jefferson had signed the Declaration of Independence. For you music aficionados, July 4, 1826, was the day that Stephen Foster was born. Later on in the nineteenth century, during the American Civil War, the decisive Battle of Gettysburg ended the day before July 4, 1863. For the South, Pickett's Charge proved to be the "high water mark of the Confederacy." For the North, Gettysburg was the beginning of the end.

From the later nineteenth century and on into the twenty-first century, the Fourth of July has become the great mid-summer holiday in the United States. Perhaps we do not appreciate as much as we ought what this holiday represents. For me, it is an occasion to listen to stirring patriotic music, to get together with family and friends, and to watch fireworks displays to cap off the day. Yet, we as a nation have much to be grateful for. We remember those who have defended our country and way of life on battlefields in distant locations. Many soldiers returned to our shores, but some of those brave men and women died in defense of our country.

I do have some personal remembrances of some more recent Fourth of July holidays. Who can forget the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976? July 4 fell on a Sunday that year, and I remember seeing at our church a very moving video presentation that recounted the personal sacrifices made by several of the signers. Some lost position, property, and even their freedom. Of course, there were a number of significant events throughout that weekend all across the country. Twenty-four years ago (1984) our family celebrated our arrival in Owatonna a couple of days before the Fourth of July.

Allow me one more memory. Nineteen years ago (1989), Cynthia and I traveled to Great Britain with the Owatonna High School Orchestra to present several concerts across England. We were slated to return to the United States on . . . July 4. We got up at 6 AM and were taken to Heathrow Airport by about 9 AM. On the elevator, one English gentlemen asked us if we planned to shoot off fireworks on the flight across the Atlantic . . . we said, no way! Our plane arrived in St. Louis during the early afternoon. Unfortunately, we had to wait until later in the evening to fly home to Minneapolis. But there was a bit of a reward as we flew up the Mississippi River that evening. Out of the airplane window, we witnessed a number of fireworks displays in little towns all the way to Minneapolis. To me, that really epitomized what the Fourth of July was all about. People all over the Upper Midwest were celebrating America in many different places at the same time.

We ought to thank God for our country, and for the freedoms—political and religious—that we have in such great abundance. Happy Fourth of July to all of you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New President at Pillsbury

We have had a quiet transition here at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College this summer. Dr. Greg Huffman became the new president of Pillsbury earlier this month. He has served as senior pastor of several Baptist churches, most recently in Roanoke, Virginia, and Macon, Georgia. Dr. Huffman has also taught modular courses at several leading fundamentalist colleges and universities. His educational background includes degrees from Tennessee Temple and Bob Jones University. He married his wife Ruth in 1968, and they have three sons.

Dr. Robert Crane, who was president of Pillsbury from 1996 until this year, has become President Emeritus. Those of us who minister here at Pillsbury appreciate the twelve years of outstanding leadership that Dr. Crane gave to Pillsbury. And we are very excited about what God is going to do here at Pillsbury in the coming years. Please pray for us as we seek to train up the next generation of Christian leaders.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Godly Example

Thirty-five years ago, I began my teaching career at Bob Jones University.  As many of you know from reading some of my previous posts, in addition to teaching history courses at BJU, I also had the opportunity to play oboe in the University Orchestra and other ensembles at BJU.  Aside from my teaching responsibilities, playing my oboe has been one of the great joys of my life.  When you play in a group over a period of time, you really get to know the folks who are also a part of the group.  Not only do you learn how to do the "technical" things like playing in tune and playing the right notes, but you come to appreciate the people who sit beside you in rehearsals and performances.  I would like to spotlight one of those individuals from thirty-five years ago.

Karen Kuehmann enrolled as a freshman at BJU in the fall of 1972.  It did not take long to appreciate the fact the she was an excellent flute player.  But more than that, Karen was and is a person of outstanding character.  But what I most appreciate about Karen is that she loves the Lord supremely.  She has been an outstanding role model and good friend over the years that Nancy and I have had the great privilege to know her.

After Karen finished her undergraduate and graduate work at BJU, she taught flute and worked in the music division at Bob Jones University Press.  She is an accomplished composer and arranger of pieces for instrumental soloists and other ensembles.  She also received an Ed.D. degree in the 1980s.

Karen has had her share of difficult times as well.  A few years ago, she had a significant medical issue that resulted in her receiving a liver transplant at a Pittsburgh hospital.  As far as I know, she has made a complete recovery from that medical procedure and enjoys good health.

Having worked at BJU for about thirty years, Karen has recently decided to move back to her home state of Arizona and teach music in an elementary school there.  One of the reasons she returned to Arizona was for the purpose of being closer to her family.  That really doesn't surprise me at all, because Karen is the kind of person who understands the importance of family.  In this day and age, family relationships have been given short shrift by many people who just get too busy or disinterested in maintaining close family ties.

As it relates to Christian ministry, I have come to understand a significant principle:  "What I do, and where I do what I do, is not nearly as important as WHY I do what I do."  Karen Kuehmann is an ongoing example of that mindset.  I commend her highly and wish her well in her new responsibilities as an elementary school music teacher.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Minnesota Weather Alert!

Those of us who live in the Upper Midwest, and in southern Minnesota in particular, are experiencing a glorious day.  The sun is shining, there are white puffy clouds in the blue sky, and the temperature just topped 50 degrees!  This is wonderful; we've been looking forward to a day like today for months.  As you can see from this view of Pillsbury College's Old Main from my office window, the snow is beginning to melt in earnest.  Of course, the tree outside my window only has buds at this time; the leaves will take a few weeks to appear.  Nonetheless, we are thankful that the Lord does give us four seasons every year.  The Psalmist says it best:  "This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."  (Psalm 118:24)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Interesting Thoughts on Vice Presidents

Dr. Charles W. Dunn is a friend from my BJU days.  He has been an outstanding political science professor at the University of Illinois, Clemson University, and Grove City College.  Currently, he serves as the Dean of the School of Government at Regent University.  As many of us do, he has a blog—his blog is entitled "The Chuck Dunn Report."  He has already had several perceptive posts on the current political campaign.  Today, he posted a very interesting discussion on American vice presidents.  I urge you to read Dr. Dunn's comments, which are entitled:  Vice Presidents: "You've Come a Long Way, Baby."  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are slugging it out for the Democratic presidential nomination, while John McCain has things wrapped up for the Republican nomination.  But a huge question remains—who will be the vice presidential candidates for the two major parties?  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Finally . . . The End of Winter Is In Sight

It has been a difficult winter for many folks here in the Upper Midwest.  Some of our neighbors in Wisconsin have already received over ninety inches of snow this winter.  Just last weekend, Ohio got clobbered with up to two feet of snow in some locations.  Here in southern Minnesota, our snow totals for the winter have been well below average.  What we have experienced is some thirty days of below-zero temperatures during the last three months.  Frankly, Nancy and I would rather have the cold than the snow.  The forecast for this week includes several days with temperatures in the forties.  I say, "bring it on!"

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pillsbury College Missions Conference (2008)

This past week, Pillsbury College hosted its annual missions conference.  We enjoyed hearing from veteran missionaries and missionaries just getting ready to go to the field.  According to Mr. Dan Morrell, who heads up the Pillsbury Missions Department, we had more missionaries and more mission boards represented than ever before.

The first of our keynote speakers was Rev. Steve Fulks.  According to the Baptist Mid-Missions website, he is the Administrator for Church Relations and Enlistment.  He and his wife Judy were missionaries in Peru from 1985 until 1997.  He spoke from Ezekiel 37 concerning the role of Ezekiel in speaking to the valley of dry bones.  God asked Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones, but it was God who breathed life into those dry bones.  The application was that when we do our part to reach people with the Gospel, God will do His part to bring some of those people to Himself.

Our other keynote speaker was Dr. Mark Batory, who is the Executive Director of Gospel Fellowship Association.  He and his wife Paula served as missionaries to Mexico from 1979 to 1983.  He also assisted Dr. John Vaughn in planting a Hispanic Baptist church in Greenville, SC.  Our daughter Cynthia attended that church for several years.

Dr. Batory spoke about the fact that several of the the apostles were those "who turned the word upside down."  Yet these "Galileans" struggled while they were being mentored by our Lord during his earthly ministry.  After our Lord's resurrection, God sent the Holy Spirit to minister to the needs of the apostles.  It's the same way with the Christian life.  Many of us are just like the "Galileans."  We have struggles in our Christian life, but the Holy Spirit ministers to our needs and helps us achieve spiritual victories.

The theme of our Pillsbury missions conference was to encourage all of us to worship God more.  As a result of that, we will then have the proper motivation in our ministry to others.  All in all, our missions conference was spiritually uplifting.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Who Will You Vote For this Year, and Why?

Every four years, American voters have the awesome responsibility of electing a President of the United States.  Already, this election year has proven to be quite unpredictable.  Whether you vote for a Democrat, a Republican, or a third-party candidate, you should think about the factors that help you determine for whom you will be voting this coming November.  In the interest of full disclosure, I would remind you that I have been active in the Republican Party for the last forty years.  I have lived in Michigan, South Carolina, and Minnesota during those years.  But this post is not meant to tell you for whom you should vote; my main concern is to encourage you to consider what drives your decision to vote for a certain candidate.

For many of us, we begin the process as supporters of a particular political party.  We also are interested in the political philosophy of candidates.  Are they liberal, conservative, moderate, or somewhere else on the political spectrum?  Another consideration is a candidate's political viability.  Simply put, is the candidate of our choice electable in the country at large?  Some voters also consider the likeability of candidates.  As I heard one commentator suggest a few years ago, "Would you really welcome that individual into your living room or den on a regular basis?"  That is a good point, I think.  Personally, I believe that a candidate needs to have a sense of humor.  Candidates who take themselves too seriously are going to have a difficult time trying to lead the country for four years.

There are some more difficult factors to consider, I believe.  Is the candidate trustworthy, honest, ethical, and moral?  Can we believe what a candidate says, or do candidates say what they think we want to hear them say?  Based on what the candidate says, is it possible for him or her to actually achieve a degree of success as president?  In other words, do the political promises of a candidate mean anything?

There are other some considerations that might play into your voting decision.  The President of the United States heads up the executive branch, but we also have a legislative branch and a judicial branch.  A good example of how this plays out is that fact that the president nominates federal judges, and those judges have to be approved by members of the United States Senate.  If the president is from one party, and the Senate is controlled by another party, things can get pretty dicey.  In essence, can the candidate reach "across the aisle" from time to time in order to accomplish anything?

As you begin to make up your mind for whom you will vote this fall, it is important to take into account the serious consequences of your vote.  Are you voting for a candidate or philosophy, or are you voting against a candidate or philosophy?  If you are unhappy with the two major party candidates, will you cast a ballot for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning?  The very nature of the American political structure allows you to vote as you see fit.  I trust that you will seek God's will and vote accordingly.  And when the election is over, we need to come together as a nation and support the president-elect.  And most of all, we need to spend time in prayer for our nation, our leaders, and our people.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pillsbury Baptist Bible College: Clearwaters Bible Conference

Here at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, it is our custom to begin the second semester with the Richard Clearwaters Bible Conference.  This event honors the memory of the man who essentially founded Pillsbury College in 1957.  Our special speaker this year is one of my personal friends, Dr. John Hutcheson.  John is Field Representative for Frontline International Missions in Taylors, SC.  John and I worked together at Bob Jones University in the 1970s.  John was also in the pastorate for 25 years or so before joining Frontline Missions International a few years ago.  John challenged us to make 2008 a more spiritually profitable year than 2007.  He also shared the some of the stories and testimonies of persecuted Christians from all over the world.  Those of us who enjoy religious freedom here in the United States have no real idea of how difficult it is for our Christian brothers and sisters in many countries around the world.  All in all, John helped us to get off to a great start for second semester.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The World's Largest Swimming Pool

With the overnight temperatures 15 degrees below zero up here in Minnesota in recent days, this story from the London Daily Mail struck my fancy.  It seems that a resort in southern Chile has designed and built the world's largest swimming pool.  According to the article in the Daily Mail, "[The swimming pool] is more than 1,000 yards long, covers 20 acres, has a 115-foot deep end, and holds 66 million gallons of [salt] water."  Think of it—this pool is ten football fields long.  If you had twenty acres of property, you could have your subdivision and build quite a few houses.

Basically, you can make of it what you will, but it seems like nothing is sacred anymore.  I am certain that this Chilean resort invested a huge sum of money to develop this "natural" theme park.  Undoubtedly, people from all over the world will make a visit, just so that they can say, "I swam in the largest swimming pool in the world!"  I can't say that I really blame them for feeling that way, especially since the thermometer up here in Minnesota has had a hard time getting above zero the last few days.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Politics 2008

If you are the kind of person who loves unpredictable politics, 2008 is certainly your year.  This is the first presidential election in decades where there is no incumbent president or incumbent vice president running for election.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I generally support the Republican nominee, and I have been doing so for some years now.  But I would have to say that I am in a bit of a quandary about the candidates on my side of ballot.  Several of my favorite candidates have strengths, but they also have weaknesses.  It may be that we are seeing a reassessment of what issues are going to be important in the eyes of the voters this coming November.

So stay tuned for a very interesting election process to develop.  Everyone gets to be his or her own pundit.  Indeed, the professional pundits have been off the mark already in Iowa and New Hampshire.  I will offer more personal thoughts as the process develops.

One last thought—all of us will probably have an opportunity to vote in a primary or participate in a caucus.  Let me encourage you to do your part in electing the next president of the United States.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Christmas Vacation Over the Years

For some thirty-five years, Nancy and I have enjoyed those wonderful days known as "Christmas Vacation."  For the last couple of decades or so, Nancy and I have stayed home rather than traveling during the Christmas Holidays.  It was not always that way, and it would be interesting to reflect on some of those early Christmases.

Nancy and I were married in 1970, so our first Christmas together was in December 1970.  We were seniors at Bob Jones University, and we decided that it would be too expensive to drive home to Michigan for the holidays.  We worked in Greenville during Christmas, but it was a bit lonely for us.  It was our first Christmas away from home.  Bob and Dottie Harris, BJU faculty members, invited several of us over to their home for a Christmas gathering.  I will always remember their kindness and thoughtfulness.  It was just what we needed to get us through that Christmas.

A year later (1971), we did make it home for Christmas.  On our way back to Greenville from Michigan, we were involved in an accident on Interstate-40 near Newport, Tennessee.  We ended up in the median between two bridge abutments.  No one was hurt, but we were concerned about Nancy, who was three months pregnant with Cynthia.  Fortunately, Nancy and Cynthia did not have any problems as a result of the accident.  Our Pontiac station wagon was not easily repairable, so we had to rent a car to get us back to Greenville.  We learned a good lesson—someone other than the driver needs to stay awake if at all possible.

In December 1973, when Cynthia and Tricia were still quite young, we flew home to Michigan.  That was quite the adventure, especially when we returned to Greenville in a near-empty plane on New Year's Eve.  We did make it back to Michigan the next several years, but the last year that we drove home to Michigan for Christmas was December 1979, when we had five children seven years old and younger.  As we drove back to Greenville from the Detroit area, we ran into a snowstorm at Cincinnati.  We ended up staying overnight in Florence, Kentucky.

Starting the Christmas of 1980,  Nancy and I decided that it was time to stay home for Christmas and establish our own Christmas traditions.  And so it has been from that time until now.  We enjoyed spending Christmas in Greenville through 1982.  Then we were in Huntington (WV) for the Christmas of 1983.  Having moved to Owatonna in 1984, we have been here every Christmas for the nearly the last twenty-five years.  I am personally glad that I don't have to drive long distances in winter weather.

Generally, all seven kids (and spouses and grandkids) make it back to Grandpa and Grandma's house for Christmas.  We have a nice Christmas Dinner and then open presents in the afternoon.  Then it's time for games and conversation.  By Christmas night, the last of the food and dessert has been served, and everyone has full stomachs and more importantly, full hearts.  We celebrate Christ's birth, and we love the benefits of having our family together at this most special time of year.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

G. G. Jackson (1918-2007)

A good friend of mine recently passed away. Mr. G. G. ("Jack") Jackson was the longtime Postmaster at Bob Jones University. When I enrolled as a freshman at BJU in the fall of 1967 (yes, that's forty years ago!), I was told that the BJU Post Office was a good place to get a job on campus. So I walked in and asked for Mr. Jackson. When I told him my name, the first thing he said to me was, "You must be Ottis and Julie's boy." I was flabbergasted that anyone would know my dad and mom, but a number of people actually did know my folks from the days when the college was located in Cleveland, Tennessee. And so it went from there.

I worked at the BJU Post Office during my student days, and after I became a faculty member in 1972, I continued on at the Post Office during the summers and during Christmas vacations. Mr. Jackson had the reputation of being a no-nonsense boss. If one of the student employees took too long to complete a mail delivery on the campus, his favorite question was: "Where have you been, to Spartanburg and back?" Spartanburg is about twenty miles east of Greenville.

During the summer, especially on some of those hot and humid South Carolina afternoons (before the Post Office was air conditioned), Mr. Jackson would sometimes talk about the early days of the school in Cleveland, Tennessee. That was when he knew my mom and dad before they got married. My mom started teaching at Bob Jones in 1942, and my dad showed up after World War II in 1946. Mr. Jackson would also talk about his years in the United States Navy during World War II. He, like my father-in-law Roy Crane, was part of that "Greatest Generation" who defended the United States in difficult times. Generally, Mr. Jackson didn't bring up the subject, but he was willing to share his experiences with those of us who worked with him.

When Mr. Jackson was not working at the Post Office, he loved to work in his garden. The vegetables from his garden were just about the best that anyone was able to produce anywhere on the campus. I really believe that he used his time in the garden as a way to relax a bit and get away from the rigors of the Post Office. It was a joy to visit with him while he was at work in his garden.

I cannot conclude these comments without paying tribute to Mrs. Iris Jackson. I also worked with Mrs. Jackson for many summers, particularly in keeping student and faculty lists correct, as well as assigning box numbers. I could share many humorous stories about Mrs. Jackson, but I think I will just say that she has always been a wonderful friend to my family, especially my children. She and Mr. Jackson have been very special to me because they have been a "living link" to my own parents. I will miss him.

Japanese Square Watermelons

Just when you thought you had seen it all, the Japanese come up with something different. This is from a BBC post about Japanese square watermelons:

Japan has again shown off one of its greatest innovations - square watermelons. For years consumers struggled to fit the large round fruit in their refrigerators. And then there was the problem of trying to cut the fruit when it kept rolling around.

But 20 years ago a forward-thinking farmer on Japan's south-western island of Shikoku solved the problem. The farmer, from Zentsuji in Kagawa prefecture, came up with the idea of making a cube-shaped watermelon which could easily be packed and stored.

To make it happen, farmers grew the melons in glass boxes and the fruit then naturally assumed the same shape. Today the cuboid watermelons are hand-picked and shipped all over Japan.

But the fruit, on sale in a selection of department stores and upmarket supermarkets, appeals mainly to the wealthy and fashion-conscious of Tokyo and Osaka, Japan's two major cities. Each melon sells for 10,000 yen, equivalent to about $83. It is almost double, or even triple, that of a normal watermelon.

"I can't buy it, it is too expensive," said a woman browsing at a department store in the southern city of Takamatsu.

So the next time you think there is nothing new under the sun, just think of Japanese square watermelons.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Pillsbury Begins Its 51st Year

Pillsbury Baptist Bible College started classes on Monday, August 27. This is Pillsbury's 51st year of operation as a Baptist Bible college. Although Pillsbury had been a military academy for a number of decades before 1957, it was Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters (longtime pastor of Fourth Baptist Church in Minneapolis) who was perhaps the "guiding light" in the transition of Pillsbury from a military academy to a Baptist Bible college. After serving as president of the college its first year, Dr. Clearwaters and the Pillsbury Board hired Dr. Monroe Parker as president in 1958. He had been on the evangelistic circuit for some years.

Although I did not meet Dr. Parker until the last few years of his life, I have a "secondary" connection to him. He was an administrator at Bob Jones College during the 1930s and 1940s when the school was located in Cleveland, Tennessee. Both of my parents were there at the time, and they knew Dr. Parker well. Monroe Parker stayed on at Pillsbury until 1965, when he returned to an evangelistic ministry across the United States.

Pillsbury has honored the memory of Dr. Parker by designating our opening evangelistic services as the "Monroe Parker Evangelistic Meetings." We bring in a prominent speaker to encourage our students and faculty. This year's speaker was Dr. Jerry Sivnksty, whose home is in Starr, South Carolina. Jerry has preached here in past years, and he is one of our favorites on campus. He grew up in the coal mining area of West Virginia—come to think of it, there isn't much of West Virginia that isn't a coal mining area.

In addition to his southern accent, Jerry's family spoke Lithuanian at home, so he had a few "speech problems" when he enrolled in Bob Jones University during the 1960s. Bob Pratt and Joyce Parks, longtime members of the speech faculty at BJU, at first discouraged Jerry from going into evangelism. But when he said that he felt God's call to do so, they did everything they could to help him. Jerry is a perfect example of someone who overcomes a few obstacles to do what God called him to do.

That's what Pillsbury is all about, by the way. The faculty and staff want to do everything we can to help students find God's will for their lives and to help prepare them to do it. Please pray for our students, faculty, and staff duirng this new school year.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fat Cats!

Sometime back, I wrote about how some veterinarians in England were prescribing Ritalin for cats who had "personality" issues. A recent article in the London Times indicates that there are a lot of fat cats in England and that apparently the issue of obese cats is a "growing" problem. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"Fat cats in Britain are beginning to suffer the same diseases as their owners. A growing number are having type 2 diabetes diagnosed, as obesity and lack of exercise take their toll.

A pioneering study at the University of Edinburgh has found that one in every 230 cats in Britain is diabetic. Although there is no baseline for comparison, the evidence suggests that the rates of feline diabetes are rising rapidly. A study in America in the 1970s found only a fifth as many cases.

Professor Danielle Gunn-Moore, who led the study, said: "'The lifestyle of cats, just like their owners, is changing. They are tending to eat too much, gain weight and take less exercise. Unfortunately, just like people, cats will overeat if they are offered too much tasty food, particularly if they are bored and have little else to do.'"

“'While cats would naturally exercise outside, many cats are now house-bound — perhaps because they live in a flat or because their owners feel that it is too dangerous to let them out — so they have little to do all day but eat, sleep, and gain weight.'”

Diabetes in cats, as in people, is a serious, often fatal, condition and affected cats need daily insulin injections and a special diet. They also face an increased risk of pancreatitis, urinary tract infections and other problems."

I certainly don't want to leave the impression that this is just a humorous take on obese cats. I think that it speaks fairly eloquently to the fact that we humans don't take very good care of ourselves—or our animals.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I-35W Bridge Collapse in Minneapolis

At 6:05 P.M. on Wednesday, August 1, the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis suddenly collapsed into a heap of rubble. Minneapolis instantly become the focal point of local and national news reports. In the hours after the bridge collapse, most of the people who were on the bridge were rescued or were able to swim to safety. Remarkably, fewer than 100 people were injured, and amazingly, perhaps only a dozen or so people lost their lives. Ironically, the design of the bridge probably saved lives, even as it collapsed into the Mississippi River.

Even as we attempt to understand this tragedy, stories of heroism and courage have emerged. One of these incidents involved a school bus carrying sixty day campers. The bus came perilously close to falling into the river, which might have resulted in numerous casualties. One of the camp counselors, 20-year-old Jeremy Hernandez, quickly evacuated the bus, and all of the children were rescued. Naturally, Jeremy was interviewed by local and national media. The rescue efforts are still underway, but the currents in the Mississippi River have made the rescue effort difficult.

The I-35W Bridge was finished forty years ago and was opened for use in the fall of 1967. You can see the bridge under construction in this 1967 photo. But why did the bridge collapse? Over the next several weeks and months, many investigations will undoubtedly take place. Although there has already been a great deal of speculation about the cause of the collapse, no one can know for sure at this juncture. Even though most of the commentary and news reporting about this tragedy has been respectful, it is most unfortunate that a few media types and politicians have begun politicizing the bridge collapse even before all of the victims have been recovered from the river.

I would be the first to acknowledge that the political climate in this country has been become very polarized in recent years, but one would think that self-proclaimed experts would restrain themselves from waxing eloquent at least until after we find out what happened to the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Perhaps that's asking too much, but one can always hope.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Sixtieth Anniversary

As regular readers of this blog will remember, my father-in-law (Roy Crane) passed away this year on February 19. He died just a few months short of his 84th birthday. Had he lived until this week, he and my mother-in-law (Vera Crane) would have celebrated their 60th anniversary.

They were married in Michigan on August 2, 1947, after my father-in-law had returned from serving in the US Army during World War II. After attending one year at Olivet Nazarene College, he enrolled at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. He graduated in 1951 and then stayed on a year to get a teaching certificate. My wife Nancy and her sister Darlene were born in Greenville while their folks were living in Greenville.

Roy and Vera returned to Roseville, Michigan, in 1952. There they raised their family of seven children, and Nancy's mom still lives in the same house that the Cranes bought about 45 years ago. When they first moved to that house, it was located along Eleven Mile Road. About 35 years ago, Interstate 696 replaced Eleven Mile Road. The house had to be moved back and then relocated on a new foundation. The westbound service drive for I-696 runs right in front of the house.

We spoke with Mom yesterday, and we reminisced about the many good years that she shared with Dad. We are so glad that she is still with us. We pray that she will be around for years to come.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Enjoying Life in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Nancy and I (along with Tricia, Peyton, and Oscar) are enjoying a some beautiful days at the family cottage on Piatt Lake, located near Whitefish Bay and fifty miles north of the Mackinaw Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1957, exactly fifty years ago. As you approach the bridge, which is part of Interstate-75, it is pretty overwhelming, as you can see from the photos to the left.

The bridge is approximately five miles long, including the approaches, and it has four lanes. What can be somewhat unnerving is that the left-hand lane going north and south is not solid pavement. The left lane is a metal grid, and you can actually see the water 450 feet below you in the Straits of Mackinac. The reason for this is that the bridge has to be able to withstand the wind currents and have some "give and take." It was very elaborately designed back in the 1950s. The bridge connects the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Today (July 24) is also our 37th wedding anniversary, so it is a good time to reminisce about getting married back in 1970. We spent our honeymoon up here at the cottage. Nathan and Andrea Crane (our nephew and his wife) have recently purchased and renovated the cottage.

During our honeymoon we visited the Soo Locks over in Sault Ste. Marie as well as taking a boat trip to view the Pictured Rocks along the southern shore of Lake Superior. We drove down to St. Ignace and took the ferry boat across to Mackinaw Island. In addition to the historical sights such as Fort Mackinaw and other related buildings, the island is home to several dozen fudge shops. Incidentally, there are no cars on the island. One either walks, rides a bike, or rides in a horse-drawn carriage.

But your trip to the Upper Peninsula is not complete without a trip to see Tahqhamenon Falls. There are the Upper Falls (pictured here), as well as the Lower Falls. The river actually has a copper cast to it because of the minerals deposits that the river flows through on its way to Lake Superior. There is a five-mile trail connecting the Upper and Lower Falls, but most people just drive from the one area to the other.

All in all, it's been a wonderful time this week. Watching our grandkids swimming and having a big time reminds us of thirty years ago when we would bring our own gang up here summer after summer. Nancy's dad took great delight in his role of "King of the Raft" by throwing the kids off the raft. And Nancy's mom made great pies out of the blueberries the kids would pick. Nancy often reminded the kids about the children's classic story Blueberries for Sal, which was set in New England. But we leave Friday and return to Owatonna where we begin in-service training for the fall semester at Pillsbury.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Detroit Tigers

On Tuesday evening this week, three of my sons (Daniel, Darrell, and Andy) attended a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. This has become somewhat of an annual ritual for the McGuire boys and their dad. Although the game was played at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, we were all rooting for the Tigers. And the Tigers won the game 1-0. Of course, many of our fellow Minnesotans do root for the Twins, so when our two respective teams are playing each other, we just have be nice. In fact, Tricia's husband Harlan is a diehard Twins fan, so we just talk about other stuff when the Tigers and the Twins are playing each other.

We often form allegiances for our home team based on childhood memories and experiences. Although the Tigers now play in Comerica Park (photo above courtesy of Ryan Southen), when I was growing up in Plymouth, Michigan, during the 1960s we went to games at Tiger Stadium (pictured on the right). As a junior high kid, I would sit with my dad in the upper deck bleachers out in centerfield. As I recall, it cost 50 or 75 cents to get into the bleachers. I knew that it was asking too much to sit in the box seats behind home plate; those tickets cost $3.50 in the early 1960s.

When Nancy and I were first dating nearly forty years ago, we did sit in the box seats—the price had skyrocketed up to $4.50 a seat. We did see Mickey Mantle play during his last season with the Yankees. And did I tell you that we Tiger fans were NOT Yankee fans in those days? Indeed, when the Tigers defeated the Yankees in the 2006 playoffs, there were a lot of older Tiger fans who remembered the days when the Yankees seemed to be unstoppable. But much has changed since those days.

I must say that I am glad to continue the tradition that my dad started with me. Going to the ballpark with your boys (even though they are now in their twenties) is a lot of fun. It creates some good memories. I hope they will do the same with their children. In the interim, GO TIGERS!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Owatonna, Minnesota: A Great Place to Live

Nancy and I have often discussed the fact that Owatonna, Minnesota, has been a wonderful small town (population 22,000) in which to raise our children, as well giving us the opportunity to minister at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College and Grace Baptist Church. As you may have learned from reading some of my earlier posts, we moved to Owatonna with our first five children in 1984, and twenty-three years later our two Owatonna sons (Matt and Andy) are in their twenties. Our family has come of age here in Owatonna, and now we are blessed with having our grandchildren living in Owatonna as well.

The "culture" of Owatonna is relatively conservative, but we welcome innovation. Owatonna is home to impressive architecture (see the Louis Sullivan bank above) and a number of new businesses in recent years. Probably the most well-known Owatonna landmark along Interstate-35 is our local Cabela's store. Folks interested in the great outdoors flock to Cabela's to purchase all kinds of clothing and outdoor gear. Owatonna also has a diverse business and industrial base, which provides many work opportunities for our Pillsbury students.

If you check out Owatonna on the web, you will discover that we have a number of parks and walking trails. Central Park is the venue for a number of performing groups during the summer. I play oboe in the Owatonna Community Band, and we had a top-notch concert last evening. Local business groups donated the funds for the modern bandstand you see pictured here. We are blessed here in Owatonna with an above-average fine arts scene, with high school musicians enthusiastically performing in groups such as the Owatonna Community Band. It's very gratifying to perform music with so many who really enjoy what they're doing.

Nancy took this photo of me before last night's concert, and the photo to the right is from a concert last summer. But I leave you with a "humorous" photo that I took before the concert last night. This sign is posted on the door of each restroom below the bandshell. The wording on the sign gives the impression that whoever wrote it doesn't clearly understand the English language. I'll let you make of it what you will.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Importance of Family

From time to time, we are reminded of the importance of our families. My mother-in-law recently visited us here in Owatonna. During the course of her visit, we took this four-generation photo. Tricia, Peyton Rose, Oscar Jonas, and Nancy are in the back row, and Nancy's mom is seated in the front. One sometimes sees five- and even six-generation photos in the local paper, but we are very happy to show off our four-generation family.

We attended a McGuire reunion in Louisville on June 2. The irony was that most of those in attendance were cousins, second cousins, and "cousins-in-law." There is only one living spouse from my father's generation of seven siblings. We must acknowledge the fact that we now live in the twenty-first century, and the future lies with our children and grandchildren. We are thankful for our children and grandchildren. And speaking of those grandchildren, here are two more photos of Har and Tricia's contributions to the cause:

A Crazy Weekend Stunt

It seems that one Kent Couch of (who lives in Bend, Oregon) wanted to do a little flying over the weekend, but he accomplished his goal a bit differently than most normal people. According to the Associated Press, he "settled down in his lawn chair with some snacks — and a parachute. Attached to his lawn chair were 105 large helium balloons."

"Nearly nine hours later, the 47-year-old gas station owner came back to earth in a farmer's field near Union, short of Idaho but about 193 miles from home." "'When you're a little kid and you're holding a helium balloon, it has to cross your mind,'" Couch told the Bend Bulletin. "'When you're laying in the grass on a summer day, and you see the clouds, you wish you could jump on them,'" he said. "'This is as close as you can come to jumping on them. It's just like that.'"

"Couch is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters — who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons. Walters had surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair. Walters paid a $1,500 penalty for violating air traffic rules."

It's one thing to be bold and go where no one has gone before, but this guy (just like Larry Walters) is definitely messing around with the law of gravity, if not common sense. These kinds of stunts are fairly harmless unless, of course, you suddenly lose altitude! As for me, I plan to enjoy life while firmly planted on terra firma.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pillsbury Baptist Bible College: 50th Graduation

Pillsbury Baptist Bible College held its 50th graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 5. The genesis of Pillsbury College was primarily the work of Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters, who was the long-time pastor of Fourth Baptist Church in Minneapolis. In those early years, he asked Dr. Monroe Parker (affectionately known as "Monk" to his friends) to become president.

One of Pillsbury's 1963 graduates was Dr. Fred Moritz, and it was Dr. Moritz who was the commencement speaker last Saturday. In addition to preaching from 2 Timothy 2:15, he also reminisced about those early days at Pillsbury. Dr. Moritz currently serves as Executive Director of Baptist World Missions, which is located in Decatur, Alabama. Dr. Moritz has been a great friend of Pillsbury, and he is one of the most popular chapel speakers that we bring to the campus.

Of course, we want to honor our graduates. To the left, Nancy celebrates with senior Lynette Benda, who was one of our student teachers this past spring. We will be attending her wedding this coming weekend in Wisconsin. Below, senior Ray Miller is standing next to Jon Calcamuggio, who was part of the Color Guard. Jon is a graduate of Pillsbury who also served two tours of duty in Iraq.

All told, we had about three dozen graduates this year. Because Pillsbury is relatively "small," you get to know just about every graduate along the way. Of those three dozen graduates, nine were education majors, so I worked with them rather closely during the last year or so. We bid our graduates Godspeed, and we pray that He will direct their lives in their vocations, marriages, families, and ministries. That's what Pillsbury is all about.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Old Main Tower at Pillsbury

On many college campuses across the country, there are buildings and other locations that students are not allowed to access on a regular basis. And then there are places that students really don't want to access under any circumstances. When I was teaching at Bob Jones University, I would hear tales from some of the security folks about some of the strange things that went on in the Art Gallery, Rodeheaver Auditorium, and Amphitorium in the middle of the night. Just the thought of walking through the Art Gallery during the wee hours sends shivers up and down my spine, what with all those paintings and sculptures looming up in the dark as you went from gallery to gallery.

Here at Pillsbury, one of the places that is generally is off-limits to students is the tower on top of Old Main, which serves as our administration building. The fact is that over the years students have surreptitiously managed to make their way up to the tower for a spectacular view of Owatonna. Although we have just finished final exams, Tuesday was "Student Appreciation Day" on the campus. Dr. Crane announced in chapel on Tuesday morning that anyone who wanted to do so could legally walk up the three flights of stairs and spend a few minutes in the tower. So a number of us did so, including me.

It was a clear day with blue skies all around, although it was quite windy when you reached the tower. We are told that the Old Main Tower is the highest point in Steele County, so one can see quite a distance from that vantage point. I used my camera phone to take several photographs. In this photograph you can see the men's residence hall, and at the lower left is the house that we lived in for twelve years between 1984 and 1996. We can tell you many interesting stories about what it was like to live on campus and in such close proximity to the men's residence hall. I suspect that there are stories that we don't even know anything about. One of the things that Nancy didn't miss when we moved out of the old house was the periodic invasions of bats that took place when one of the kids would leave a door open on summer evenings. Nancy HATES bats!

This photograph to the right is of the northwest corner of our campus, at the intersection of South Grove Avenue and East Main Street. If you look closely, you can see the back of the sign welcoming vistors to Pillsbury College.

Although I enjoyed my time at the top of Old Main in the Tower, I was glad to come back down to terra firma. I really don't care for heights all that much. And did I share with you the fact that although I have been at Pillsbury College for twenty-three years, this was the first time that I ever made the trek to the top of Old Main. There's a first time for everything.

Friday, April 27, 2007

New President at Maranatha Baptist Bible College

This afternoon, officials at Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wisconsin, named Dr. Chuck Phelps as the new president of Maranatha. This is great news for Maranatha specifically, as well as for those of us involved in Christian higher education. Chuck has been a youth pastor, a church planter, and a senior pastor. He serves on the boards of several Christian organizations. He and his wife Linda have five children.

I knew Chuck when he was a student at BJU back in the 1970s. As it happened, when our family moved to Owatonna (so that I could teach at Pillsbury), Chuck was the youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church. For over fifteen years, Chuck has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire. I am very excited about Chuck becoming the president of Maranatha. He brings a strong vision for educating the next generation of young people for the Lord's service. Also, Maranatha is one of Pillsbury's "sister" schools, so we have more than a passing interest in anything that strengthens our fundamental Christian schools.

Be sure to pray for Chuck and his family as they make the transition to Maranatha over the summer.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Thread That Runs So True

Last week Pillsbury College presented its spring play, The Thread That Runs So True. "This drama is based on the true life experiences of Jesse Stuart, an unusual educator who fought all his life for quality education in rural and mountain schools. His experiences as a beginning teacher in the Kentucky mountains inspired this play." Our students, under the direction of Mr. Ken Marsh, did a wonderful job portraying the trials and tribulations of encouraging education in the rural areas of Eastern Kentucky in the early twentieth century.

My father grew up in Eastern Kentucky and was a contemporary of Jesse Stuart. As many children did in those days, my dad attended a one-room school like the one portrayed in the play by Jesse Stuart. When my dad graduated from the eighth grade, he stayed on to help the teacher for a year. The teacher just happened to be his older sister. He then went off to attend high school in another town. Dad had to pay room and board and work his way through high school. When he finished high school, he went off to college. Like many of his siblings and cousins, Dad eventually became a teacher. I often say that education is a "disorder that runs in my family." I appreciate the fact that many members of my immediate and extended family have been involved in education.

One more note about Pillsbury's production. Our youngest son, Andy, had a role in the play. He portrayed Guy Hawkins, a rough character who always wanted to beat up the teacher and put him in his place. Eventually, Guy comes around and becomes one of Jesse Stuart's star pupils.

We are very proud of Andy. In addition to performing in the spring play, he sings in the college choir and has been one of the catchers on the Pillsbury Comet baseball team this spring. He is planning on working at a Christian camp this summer, so he will be a pretty busy young man. I forgot to mention that Andy just turned twenty. We have no more teenagers! What a blessing. Of course, our granddaughter Peyton Rose will become a teenager in just three years. The cycle will begin anew.