“But everyone else is doing it!” a child whines to his parents when questioned about clothing or behavior that isn’t particularly a good choice. We laugh when we think of the question often asked by the parents: “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?”
This rhetorical question is meant to show the idiocy of blindly following another person’s behavior without question. Even as adults, we are not immune to peer pressure. It’s easy to get caught up in doing what seems to be all the rage. We see it everywhere — in business, movies and TV, education, and in fashion. Let one idea become successful, and everyone jumps on the bandwagon to do the same thing, with maybe a slight variation.
Churches and Christians also get sucked into it, claiming to have the latest and greatest thing, whether it’s a new book, a new seminar, or new music. Most people are basically copycats, sometimes because it’s easier than using our imagination to come up with a new idea.
Call me crazy, but I have always had a desire to be different. I don’t know if being one of fourteen children instilled the desire for uniqueness in me or not, but I never wanted to be the same as anyone else. I have always tended to be independent and take the path less traveled. It wasn’t so much that I was seeking attention, because I was naturally shy. It was just that I saw everyone around me following the herd, conforming, and fitting in with the normal, and wondered why. It seemed quite natural for me to question the logic and test the abnormal. It wasn’t always the easy way, and it sometimes isolated me, but it was my way, and the way I felt God wanted me to go.
If God wanted us to think alike, look alike, talk alike, and act alike, why did he make us all so different? If He wanted us to conform to a cookie-cutter life, why would He give us different ideas, interests, and talents? I think we can miss the plans He has for our lives by copying the plan He has for others.
It takes effort, and maybe even a little courage, to be different from those around us. We may have to work a little harder to forge our own path, but the results are well worth the effort.
If a child is encouraged to follow his/her interests and talents in choosing an occupation, rather than settling for what the parents think is most practical, he/she may come up with better ideas. He/She may even develop a plan that goes far beyond the parents’ plan and find an occupation that’s never been done before. For example, suppose Thomas Edison’s parents had insisted that he not waste his time trying to invent things that no one had ever heard of, such as a light bulb. We might all still be in the dark.
If we think like normal people and behave like normal people, we can expect to lead a fairly normal life. But is that the life you want? God wants us to be unique. First Peter 1:15 says,“…be ye holy for I am holy.” We often define the word “holy” as “sinless,” but there’s a broader meaning. It also means to be set apart, different, or unique.
As much as anything, God wants us to be the unique person He made us and to fulfill the unique plan He has for our lives. If we try to follow His plan for someone else, we are missing the mark. In John 21:19, when Jesus told Peter to follow Him, Peter turns to John and asks Jesus, “What do you want him to do?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to wait until I come, what is that to you?” In other words, He was basically saying, “It’s none of your business what I want someone else to do!”
One of the most unique individuals in the Bible was John the Baptist. We accept his strange clothing (camel’s hair), his strange diet (locusts and wild honey), and his lifestyle (living alone in the desert – a remote place) because in hindsight we see how effective he was despite his weirdness. He was so unique that crowds of people followed him asking if he were the Messiah. John rightly pointed them to Jesus, but he was so different, so weird, that people knew he was special. Jesus himself said of John, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…”
If we want to reach our ultimate potential in life, we must be willing to be different, even to be weird in the eyes of the world, to go where others have not gone, or where angels fear to tread, to follow God’s unique plan for our lives.
Even the world recognizes giftedness when they see a truly unique person who is worthy of attention. These trend-setters are the ones who win acclaim. They are the ones who become the next great thing, not those who follow in their footsteps.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” He made us and set a plan in place for us to find and fulfill. Allow God to make and mold you into his unique creation, and search out the unique plan He has in mind for you. Don’t be afraid to be weird, if that’s what others think of you, as long as you are following God’s plan.
That’s what I think…what do you think? Let me know in the comments section below.
In an effort to honor those killed in Orlando, and an effort to be “inclusive,” the Presbyterian Church USA offered prayers to Allah at the opening of their general assembly and demoted Jesus to “prophet” along with the Muslim prophet Muhammed!
Friends, this is idolatry, pure and simple! America is a Christian nation. We cannot allow Islam to invade American society, much less our churches. To their credit, there were some attendees who objected after the event, and were given an apology that amounted to basically – sorry you were offended.
But we DO NOT serve the same god! Allah is not the same as Jehovah God. Our God identifies himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” and in many places, “the God of Israel.” Those who claim Allah as god would NEVER accept the inclusion of Israel (Jacob) into their rhetoric or their worship. Why should we include Allah or any other god in ours?
For example, read the names below that were called out by the man who prayed — Wajidi Said, co-founder of the Muslim Education Trust. Mr. Said led the attendees in the prayer to Allah, the Islamic deity, but never included “Jacob” or “Israel.” Muslims HATE Israel and vow for her destruction. This is anti-God.
Beginning in Arabic, Mr. Said quoting from the Koran (Qur’an) prayed: “Lead us on the straight path” which is a commonly-quoted prayer by Muslims meaning the straight path to Islam.
He then switched to English praying:
“Allah, bless us and bless our families and bless our Lord. Lead us on the straight path – the path of all the prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Peace be upon them all Amen.
“In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful, let us praise the Lord. The creator of the universe, the most merciful, the most compassionate and the Lord of the universe who has created us and made us into nations and tribes, from male and females that we may know each other, not that we might despise each other, or may despise each other. Incline towards peace and justice and trust in God, for the Lord is one that hears and knows everything and the servants of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful, gracious are those who walk in the earth in humility and when bigots and hateful and Islamaphobes address them, they say peace. Peace be upon them and peace be upon Allah.”
Why would any denomination include a Muslim leader in their worship services? Friends – Americans are being sold a bill of goods in the name of tolerance, peace, and inclusion. God does not look lightly upon this worship of other gods.
Exodus 20: says: “I am the LORD! Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
“I am the LORD! That is my name! I will not share my glory with anyone else, or the praise due me with idols.”
“God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.”
“I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me.”
God said in Genesis 12:3:
“And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Please share this blog and take a stand against this attempt to bring Islam into American culture.
When you consider the American culture, sports is probably as deeply ingrained as any other single ingredient. Pick up a magazine or newspaper, turn on the television or radio, log on to the Internet via computer, cell phone, or any other device, and you are sure to encounter a story about sports – be it football, tennis, basketball, wrestling, volleyball, soccer, track, gymnastics, baseball, golf, softball, hockey, boxing, or horse racing. It’s as American as…well, baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.
Baseball may be the only sport that is losing popularity in America, primarily because the nature of the game is slower, and we sports fans are all less patient. Instant news, run-and-gun basketball, fast food, and high-speed Internet service have conditioned us to expect results post haste! Researchers tell us that the average time a user will spend waiting for a webpage to load is about four seconds. Yes, FOUR SECONDS! And ten seconds is about the limit for keeping a user’s attention once he/she interacts with the information there.
So even though baseball still has its rabid fans, fewer and fewer are 20-years-olds looking for instant gratification, so the fan base is dying off. Though I’m much older, and though I played league softball well into my 50s, I am not a baseball fan. The tools and rules of the two games are different, but the general play is the same. I care almost nothing about watching baseball games which move at a snail’s pace. It’s not quite that slow with fast-pitch softball, so I tune in when the stakes are high.
Last week, I watched a softball game that went on for more than FIVE and a HALF HOURS, and I was engaged and intrigued for at least the last three hours. That 17-INNING game was riveting because each team kept one-upping each other, making the outcome a surprise.
The University of Oklahoma was playing against the University of Florida. OU has a tradition of winning teams – football, basketball, baseball, and women’s softball. In fact the OU Sooners have won the NCAA Women College World Series (WCWS) three out of the last five years. The winning tradition includes 14 Big Twelve Conference titles, 11 appearances at the WCWS, and four national championships under the excellent coaching of Patty Gasso. The first WCWS title for OU was in 2000, when Gasso’s team went 88-6 enroute to the national championship. They’ve been very competitive and consistent ever since, winning three more national titles.
Despite their great 61-9 record in 2017, OU women were seeded #10 in the standings at the beginning of the tournament. They played three tough games defeating #7 Auburn, #8 Washington, and #3 Oregon to reach the final. In the final they faced the #1 Florida Gators in a best–of-three contest. Number 10 against number 1 is David and Goliath seeding!
Florida, with a 58-10 record, had eliminated team after team with the excellent pitching of Kelly Barnhill, Aleshia Ocasio, and Delanie Gourley. Barnhill won National Player of the Year as a sophomore.
Back during regionals, teammate Amanda Lorenz sent Gourley a challenge via text promising, “You keep us in the game, and I promise somehow, some say, we’re going to get you a run.” Lorenz made good on that promise as she went 5-for-8 (.625) with two runs scored, two RBIs, one home run and three walks., and the Gators were on their way to the WCWS.
Fast forward to Oklahoma City where the senior Gourley really came to life retiring batter after batter as the Gators chomped up opponents on their way to the final game.
But OU also has an excellent pitching squad. With freshmen Mariah Lopez and Nicole Mendes and the two-paige threat – Paige Parker and Paige Lowary – it took all styles of pitching to complement one another and to compete with the Florida pitchers. Parker has been the stabilizing influence that gave OU the victory in 2016. Lowary’s comeback has been stellar since being hit in the face with a line drive that nearly cost her an eye and a career. Wearing a face mask to prevent another injury, she pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts, and pitched at least one 75 mph zinger, almost unheard of among the college ranks.
The lead was up and down several times in the first game between the two teams. Each time one team scored, the other rallied and came back to tie the score. On and on it went, through a wild series of extra innings – eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen innings! At that point, ESPN commentators were making jokes about their empty stomachs, and wondering how the girls, who probably ate their last meal six or seven hours earlier, could continue to compete at the necessary energy level. Going into the seventeenth inning the score was tied at 4-4. With OU up to bat at the top, first baseman Shay Knighten hit a home run with two players on base and OU went ahead by three. Florida got one more run in the 17th, but was unable to do more before the outstanding pitching of Paige Lowary ended the marathon game with OU over Florida 7 –5.
The game was so exceptional that you hated to see either team lose. The pressure those girls must have felt for hour after hour was enough to give them, as well as their parents and fans in the stands, a migraine. If you’re thinking, “It’s only a game!” then you haven’t felt the fear of letting down your teammates in such a high profile setting. The pitcher always feels a great responsibility for how the game progresses, but on this occasion, it was truly magnified.
The pitching by both teams was amazing, but Shay Knighten was named the WCWS’ Most Outstanding Player after hitting .350 (7-for-20) with four runs scored, two doubles, a home run and eight runs batted in. She hit the home run that sealed the deal in the 17-inning game that took so much energy and intensity out of the players on both teams.
The second game was anti-climatic, and only lasted seven innings, as we usually expect. In the seventh, Lowary threw back-to-back strikeouts before fielding a chopper and firing to first for the final out. The dugout emptied as the team piled on at the pitcher’s mound in celebration of the 5-4 victory.
Knighten joined Lowary, Parker and Mendes on the All-Tournament Team after the final game. What a game it was to finish off the season, but it didn’t compare in excitement to the previous game that was definitely one for the WCWS record books:
Lowest-seeded team to ever win the WCWS
Most innings in a final series – 17 innings
Longest final game in WCWS history (nearly 5 hours and 45 minutes)
Only team to clinch the WCWS National Title four times
Only team to win the WCWS National Title in consecutive years
But Coach Patty Gasso’s style isn’t bragging about accomplishments. After such a stunning win, she spoke about the struggle the team experienced at the beginning of this season and the turnaround that came from sheer determination and a disciplined work ethic. Gasso said, “I think if you looked at us in February, March, and even part of April, you would never have imagined us sitting here with trophies in front of us.”
Gasso said her goal was to make the team as good as they could be. She said they focused not just on winning but on doing their best and trying to lift each other up. “We’re a humble group. We just play hard and try to win for the university. If you aren’t winning championships for OU, you’d better get moving. That’s our job and we’re proud to do it.”
Here are some of the staggering stats from ESPN’s website:
17: Innings played
2: Times Florida was down to its last strike before it extended the game
2: # of starting pitchers (Kelly Barnhill & Paige Lowary) who re-entered the game
3: RBIs on Shay Knighten’s homer in the 17th that won it for Oklahoma
6: Runners stranded by OU in the 15th and 16th innings before winning in the 17th
31: Players involved in Game 1
496: Combined pitches thrown by two Gators and two Sooners
40: Combined strikeouts by the four pitchers
22: Combined hits by the Gators and Sooners
102: Total outs recorded
6:07: The official start time – Central Daylight Time
11:35: Time in Oklahoma City when the final out was recorded.
5 hours, 28 minutes: Elapsed time between the first pitch and the final out
Well, if Patty Gasso won’t brag, I will do it for her. All I can add is “BOOMER SOONER!”
It’s definitely one for the record book and maybe one for the ages.
I remember, I remember
The place where I was born.
It’s just a small community
Where trees and grass adorn
The tiny house surrounded by
A garden growing beans and corn.
I remember, I remember
The road on which we rode
Our cars and trucks and bicycles.
And the family abode
That sheltered us from heat and rain
And warmed us when it snowed.
I remember, I remember
The many trees we climbed
We sat on sturdy branches,
A memory sublime,
And watched the birds flying away
Leaving winter far behind.
I remember, I remember
The clover in the grass
Where honeybees werew working hard
Gathering nectar in their grasp.
Our small bare feet avoided
The bees and rocks and glass.
I remember, I remember
With a smile as I recall
Where kids could play and parents
Never worried much at all.
They knew their neighbors would help out
If trouble came to call.
I remember, I remember
The school where I was taught.
Where we learned to read and write
And where some of us fought.
The big white building on the hill
Where splendid teachers wrought.
I remember, I remember
Playing in the rhythm band.
While learning songs and poetry.
During spelling bees we’d stand
To spell some words we’d never heard
And dream of the life we planned.
I remember, I remember
The day we moved away
Where neighbors gathered ‘round us
We shed some tears that day.
We’re left with just a memory
Of where we loved to play.
I remember, I remember
The ones who lived next door
Where no one was a stranger
And some we’d known before
Had moved away just as we were
How we loved them ever more.
I remember, I remember
A carefree time and place
Where life was so much simpler.
And the people we embraced
Are now a treasured memory
That time does not erase.
© February 17, 2017 by Judith Puckett
Over the last two days, I have seen posts by so many of my friends on Facebook and Twitter saying in essence: “These women who marched in Washington, DC, do not speak for me.”
I haven’t yet posted such a disclaimer, but I certainly agree that they do not speak for me. I didn’t watch the march or even care about seeing it. But while seeing news reports on TV and posts on social media since then, it didn’t take long for me to see that I have little in common with these protestors or the messages posted on the signs they carried. This wasn’t a grassroots movement, it was basically an organized group of angry Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters who were well-funded by George Soros. Reportedly, the ultraliberal billionaire, who seems to be behind every anti-American movement we see, gave $90 million to the 50 different activist groups participating in the march.
I have not been able to determine exactly what their message was intended to be. From the signs they carried (many too X-rated to post here) espousing everything from Black Lives Matter to Equal Pay to Open Borders to Abortion Rights to Not my President to Pro Islam to Sexual Harrassment to White Supremacy to Funding Planned Parenthood, it’s clear that there was no one message except that they hate President Trump. It’s also clear that they are using his Presidency as an excuse to blame him for everything they believe is wrong with America.
Ironically, until now Donald J. Trump has held no public office that would even allow him to put such policies in place or to change them! He has never tried to impede progress for women. The truth is that he has been a champion of women in the workplace, beginning with his daughter Ivanka. Nepotism, you say? Then a second example is Kellyanne Conway to which he entrusted the biggest and most critical job opportunity of his life. He placed his political campaign – and ultimately his fate – in the capable hands a woman. His trust was well-placed, because Conway quickly turned around the failing campaign and is the first woman to ever manage and win a presidential campaign. Subsequently Trump appointed her as Counselor to the President, and she will be the highest-ranking woman in the White House. To paint Trump as holding women back is blatantly false.
I like what Harris Faulkner, host of Fox News’ “Outnumbered,” said today:
“How is it possible that all these issues erupted immediately when Donald Trump was sworn into office? Did they not exist 48 hours before? Did these women not want to embarrass President Obama by organizing a Million Women March to say, ‘This is not working for me.’? I’m confused by the timing of this march. Is this a female ‘Occupy’? What is their goal?”
I don’t know what march organizers were thinking when they put up on the stage people like Michael Moore, or like Ashley Judd comparing Trump to Hitler, or like Madonna, who spouted foul language and said, “I’ve thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.” When a speaker gets up and repeatedly uses profanity, promotes violence, and leads a crowd in chanting obscenities, you can’t expect that anyone will take her seriously. Somehow a message of “love and peace” gets lost in the tirade of hate and vitriol.
Besides the fact that their messages are hateful and often ill-informed, march organizers only accepted people who agree with them. They would not allow Pro-Life women to join their ranks. These women who want no censorship at all actually shut out the voices of pro-life women like me who believe abortion is murder and that our government should not be involved in it or pay for it.
Sigmund Freud, who founded psychoanalysis and who many believe best understood the human psyche, asked a simple question: “The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’ ”
I don’t claim to know what those women in the Washington march want, but I think I know what the majority of American women actually want. I will not be able to list them all, but here are a few:
We want to be taken seriously and accepted as equal (though not identical) to men in intelligence and abilities. Each gender has strengths and weaknesses, and each has a lot to offer.
We want access for women and girls the same opportunities given to men and boys, including education, jobs, sports, and public office. If we restrict men from some women-only organizations, we expect that they may do the same.
We want jobs for ourselves and our spouses so that together we can provide a living for our families.
We want to be paid equally for the SAME job. If the jobs are different and the amount of requisite education, training, risk, hours spent working, etc., are not equal, then we accept that.
We want to be valued for the contribution we make to society as wives, mothers, workers, neighbors, and people. Without each gender’s contribution, society will not function as well as it could and should.
We want to be protected by those who are stronger physically, and not exploited because we are physically smaller and created differently.
We want to be treated with respect and not regarded as sex objects for the pleasure of men. Those women who exploit their sexuality and then castigate men for seeing them as sex objects are not worthy of the respect they demand.
We want our homes, schools, churches, streets, and all public places to be safe for ourselves and our children. We want and expect our police and military to do the jobs for which they were trained, treat terrorists and criminals as enemies, not having their hands tied while trying to protect us.
We want American laws to govern our country, not Sharia or any laws that conflict with our local, state, and national laws and constitution.
We want our borders to be protected and our immigration laws to be enforced with no sanctuary for those who are here illegally. Sanctuary cities have no place in America. We want illegal aliens deported so that our tax dollars, schools, law enforcement, hospitals and other resources and agencies are not exhausted supporting people who are not here lawfully, many of whom hate America.
We want a drug-free country where our children and teens are not victims of or pawns for the benefit of pimps, gangs, sexual predators, human traffickers, drug dealers, or pharmacy moguls. We want our highways and streets to be free of drunks and anyone whose driving threatens our safety.
We want our voices and votes to be heard and counted in the world of politics and government. We want to be considered as leaders when we are able to bring ideas, resources, and abilities to the table that have not contributed by men.
We want a voice in our children’s education. As taxpayers we should expect to have input and access to the materials, information, and curriculum they are provided. Our schools should not undermine our authority or our right to participate in the education of our children.
We want our personal values, traditions and religious beliefs to be respected and protected and not denigrated, denied, or trampled upon by those in authority or by those who are here illegally.
We want America to remain free from outside influences such as the UN and George Soros. We want our leaders to make decisions for our benefit, not for their own profit, or for illegal scams such as pay to play.
We want our tax code to be simple enough that we can do our own taxes and pay a reasonable amount. We want our personal information to be kept private and secure and not subject to hacking and identity theft. We want programs like Obamacare, which force us to participate and invade our privacy, to be outlawed.
We want our national debt to be paid down before money is given for anything except essential services and programs that are self-funded – i.e., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. We want our Congress to pay back what they have “borrowed” from these separate accounts, and we DO NOT want them to use our funds for other purposes.
We want our taxes to be used for building America and American causes, not given to Iran, ISIS, and any other terrorist states and organizations; not used to fund abortions by Planned Parenthood; not given for the Endowment of the Arts; not wasted on pet projects that Congressmen feel they are entitled to bring to their respective states.
We want to help our fellow Americans who are truly in need, but we also want to hold them accountable in return for the benefits they receive. No one should receive taxpayer/government funds unless they pass a drug test, are free of criminal record, and pledge allegiance to the United States.
We want to hold our public officials accountable to represent our interests and do what they are paid to do, not override our desires as a group. We want every elected official to be limited to two terms so that they do not spend their time and money concentrating on re-election. We want them to experience living in the real world that exists outside Washington, DC.
We want the lifetime pension for members of Congress and the President to be revoked. We believe they are more than capable of making a living once they leave public office, and should have no incentive to continue living off taxpayers.
We want our President, Congress, and politicians to be honest and treat us with respect, not talk down to us, and not put everyone else’s needs before the needs of Americans. We want them to live under the same laws they pass and the same programs they institute for us.
We want less intrusion by the federal government. We want them to do only what the states cannot do for themselves, specifically to defend us militarily, establish justice, promote commerce, and protect the lives and dignity of every person from womb to tomb. They are to ensure freedom and secure the blessings of liberty to us and our posterity.
We want our laws and courts to be fair with justice meted out equally to all Americans. In short, we want what is beneficial for all, not for the elite, or the politically correct, or the favored race, or the LGBT, or the rich and powerful. We reject the premise that any group, race, religion, or gender should be protected and selected above others. We do not believe that women and girls are inferior or superior to men and boys.
Women want law and order, participation in society, freedom to speak, worship, and live as our founders intended when the U S Constitution was adopted.
We believe America is exceptional, and we want the federal government to reflect American values, display American flags, and not try to emulate and codify the world by instituting alternate cultures, religions, and values. We want to live in peace with our fellow man and enjoy our freedom.
These are some of the most important issues we face as American women and as people in general. Those who want government to do everything for them and give them everything, yet not have control over their lives are deluded. We as citizens must insist that our leaders respond to the wishes of we, the people, and hold them accountable when they do not by turning them out of office and replacing them with leaders who love America and Americans.
In early October, I learned that my brother-in-law Ed Cook was retiring from his pastoral ministry, which began 58 years ago. I began to think back about those early years when he and my sister Nancy first married. He and Nancy invited his best friend and roommate Jim Puckett (my husband) for a visit, and we began dating. The three of them were also classmates of my brother Jim Combs and his wife Shirley at Free Will Baptist Bible College (re-named Welch College) in Nashville, Tennessee, which is how the lives of these three preachers and their wives connected and began to be intertwined.
As these facts, figures, and words began swirling around in my head, I quickly started jotting them down, which is how most of my writing begins. At that time, we did not know that our brother Jim Combs had cancer, a diagnosis he received just two weeks ago today. His diagnosis confirmed to me that the Lord had inspired me to capture this history in written form before it escaped my mind.
The term “man of God” has been revered and reserved for only the most dedicated among us, first used in the Bible to designate the Old Testament prophets. Eventually it became a more generic term to refer to anyone in ministry. We seldom use or hear it today, though there are many who qualify.
Without a doubt, several of my family and close friends exemplify the term. Among our families, it is not uncommon to find ministers. There are eight ordained ministers on my side of the family, seven of whom are still living. My father was the first in his family. Several others are not ordained, but are working in ministry positions. My husband’s family has a similar heritage going all the way back to his great grandfather. There are seven ordained ministers, four of them still living.
Knowing this many ministers, it is easy to take their work and dedication for granted. With the recent retirement of these three from our family within the last few years, I decided to acknowledge the great ministry each has had and share it with my friends. These men have impacted literally thousands of lives, scores of churches, and numerous cities and towns during their 50-plus years of ministry each. Though they came from three different states, their lives intersected as classmates, roommates, friends in college, and family. And their shared ministry and family connection has kept them close for nearly 60 years.
My brother Jim Combs grew up in our hometown of Crab Orchard, West Virginia. Jimmy Kemper, as he was known, answered the call to preach in his late teens during the mid-1950s while serving in the Navy. A few years later at Free Will Baptist Bible College he answered the call to missions. It was there he met his wife Shirley Roberts, a fellow mission student. Jim began his pastoral ministry at Stoney Point Free Will Baptist, a small country church near Nashville. After graduation, he and Shirley married and moved to pastor a church in Franklin, Ohio, to gain stateside experience while still feeling the call to foreign missions abroad. They entered language study to learn Portuguese and served as Free Will Baptist missionaries in Brazil from 1964 to 2007, spending a few of those years in the US while their children attended high school. During that time they served as missionaries-in-residence at Hillsdale College (now Randall University) in Moore, Oklahoma, pastored a church, and served as chaplain for the Oklahoma prison system.
My brother-in-law Ed Cook, a native of St Louis, Missouri, answered the call to preach during the early-1960s while attending Free Will Baptist Bible College. Ed also met his future wife, my sister Nancy Combs, in Nashville. They married while still students, and Ed followed Jim Combs as pastor of Stoney Point Free Will Baptist near Nashville. After graduation in 1963, Ed and Nancy moved to Miami, Florida, to pastor Golden Glades Church, and they have continued to serve in the pastoral ministry since that time.
My husband, Jim Puckett answered the call to preach during the late-1950s while still a teenager in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He also studied at FWBBC, where one of the first students he met was his good friend and eventual roommate Ed Cook. Jim and I also met during his days as a student in Nashville, while I was still in high school. We would later reconnect in Florida where he had moved after graduating in 1962.
During the summers before and after his senior year, Jim served as a pastoral intern for Free Will Baptist churches in Raleigh, North Carolina and Miami, Florida. In the fall 1963 Jim began serving as minister of music and youth at Wesconnett Free Will Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, under the leadership of his former pastor and mentor Elro Driggers. We married in 1965, and Jim served in Jacksonville as associate and interim pastor for one year before moving to south Florida to begin his pastoral ministry at Deerfield Beach.
During their nearly 60 years of ministry Jim and Shirley Combs served the following places and positions:
Stoney Point Free Will Baptist, Dickson County, TN; summer missionary in Pinar del Rio, Cuba; pastor at Free Will Baptist Church of Franklin, Ohio; Portuguese language study in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Overseer of Free Will Baptist Campground in Jaboticabal, Sao Paulo; Resident student directors, American Christian College, Tulsa, OK; established a new church in Tubarao, state of Santa Catarina, Brazil; Chaplain, Lexington Assessment Prison Facility, Lexington, OK; pastor of Dibble Free Will Baptist, Dibble, OK; missionaries-in-residence, director of student affairs, and both were professors at Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College (now Randall University) in Moore, OK; Shirley served as professor of ESL classes at Oklahoma City University; pastor of First Free Will Baptist Church in Araras, Sao Paulo; founder and pastor of Candida Free Will Baptist Church in Araras, Sao Paulo; Lar Nova Vida Children’s Home, which they founded and where they served as Directors for more than 20 years.
In 2007, Jim and Shirley Combs officially retired from Free Will Baptist Foreign Missions and moved back to the US from Brazil to be near their three children and six grandchildren. They continued to be involved in raising funds and awareness for Lar Nova Vida, and made yearly trips back to Brazil to support the home. After a few years away from the pastorate, Jim began serving as pastor of the Chickasha Free Will Baptist Church in Oklahoma until the summer of 2016. Shirley is currently working in the display floor room of her son-in-law’s furniture business. Jim currently works as an assistant helping handicapped students on and off the school bus.
Here are the cities, towns and communities Ed and Nancy Cook have served since 1962:
Pastor of Stoney Point Free Will Baptist, Dickson County, TN; Golden Glades Free Will Baptist, Miami, FL; First Free Will Baptist, Chipley, FL; Holdenville Free Will Baptist, Holdenville, OK; West Palm Beach Free Will Baptist, WPB, FL; Donelson Free Will Baptist, Nashville, TN; Westwood Enterprise Baptist, Ashland, KY; Oak Park Free Will Baptist, Pine Bluff, AR; Trinity Free Will Baptist, Greenville, NC; and Heritage Free Will Baptist, Ashland, KY.
Jim Puckett has served in the following places and ministry positions:
Intern at First Free Will Baptist, Raleigh, NC; Intern at First Free Will Baptist, Miami, FL; minister of music and youth, and later associate and interim pastor of Wesconnett Free Will Baptist, Jacksonville, FL; Pastor of First Free Will Baptist, Deerfield Beach, FL; Pastor of Bellview Free Will Baptist, Colquitt, GA; Pastor of Southern Oaks Free Will Baptist, Oklahoma City, OK; interim pastor at Kingsview Free Will Baptist, Oklahoma City, OK; Pastor of Harrah Free Will Baptist, Harrah, OK; interim pastor at Church of God, Moore, OK; Mission Director for Oklahoma Free Will Baptists; interim pastor Oak Hills Free Will Baptist; and Associate Pastor at One Church, Moore, OK.
Jim Puckett’s pastoral ministry continued until 1999 when he resigned to become Director of Missions for Oklahoma Free Will Baptists. He served as State Mission Director until 2007 and has continued to serve as interim pastor of various churches and to preach intermittently for vacationing pastors. Jim officially retired from ministry in 2015, and is working aa a real estate investor – buying, renovating and re-selling homes.
It’s easy to see that I am very proud of these three preachers. I realize I am biased when it comes to three guys who are so dear to my heart, but I can truthfully say that they are among the finest men I know. In all their ministry accomplishments, I didn’t even mention that each has been a wonderful father and grandfather who have lived as examples to their families. Their work, character, and love for the Lord, for the work of ministry, and for people is an example to follow. I thank the Lord for the privilege of being associated with each of these men of God.