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Back Home Again In Indiana On My Birthday

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA ON MY BIRTHDAY

January 4th, 2014, my 71st birthday, has me back where I was raised, my hometown, Terre Haute, Indiana, and where I James Whitcomb Rileymade the decision to follow Jesus and where God put me into the ministry. For over a quarter of century I have been a “Hoosier in Exile.” As Indiana poet, James Whitcomb Riley wrote:

The Hoosier in Exile, forsooth!

For those his steps may roam

The earth’s remotest bounds, in truth

His heart is ever home!

When it comes to my Indiana connection, I am a sentimentalist like Riley. I was raised on the poems of Riley and often read them to my children. I had reasons for returning to Terre Haute in that it is a better hub to reach out to numerous campuses. Also, I believed that I had a word from the Lord, “You have unfinished business in Terre Haute.” But the bottom line for returning to Indiana is that I am returning to my roots. I am no longer a self-imposed exile; I am back home again. Still, wherever a Christian is, he knows that he is but a stranger and pilgrim. As much as I love Terre Haute, I am seeking a greater city, whose builder is God, the New Jerusalem. Thus, since Cindy and I moved back home, we have been on the road as much as we have been home. And so it is likely to continue as long as we are able to travel.

As I grow older I have a greater longing for the familiar. Having been on the road for forty years, Terre Haute is the place which seems most familiar to me. In 1897, Terre Haute native, Paul Dresser, wrote, “On the Banks of the Wabash.” His lyrics express for me the one thing that is missing from the Terre Haute picture:

Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields,
In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool.
Oftentimes my thoughts revert to scenes of childhood,
Where I first received my lessons, nature's school.
But one thing there is missing from the picture,
Without her face it seems so incomplete.
I long to see my mother in the doorway,
As she stood there years ago, her boy to greet.

Jeddy and Mother

Shamefully, I sowed a lot of sin at my alma maters, Indiana University and Indiana State. When I am preaching on these campuses, I am making amends for the destructive behavior of my youth, when I lived a life of self-indulgence and encouraged others to do the same and brought consider dishonor to my dear parents. Just a few weeks ago one of the old guard in Centenary UMC said to me, “Your parents were regarded as saints in this church.” 

Alas, there are there are those who do not think of me so highly. They see me as a destructive force, as troublesome. In a sense I suppose that l am. “For it is written, I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND WILL BRING TO NOTHING THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRUDENT.”—1 Corinthians 1:19. I am thrusting forth sharp TRUTH, which can set free blind students and their blind guides from the false doctrines which prevail on the campuses and have captivated the minds of generations of students.

Jesus said, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home."--Mark 6:4. Returning home has brought this verse once again into the forefront of my reality. There are those who have made it clear that they are embarrassed by my preaching. I understand; I am sometimes embarrassed about it myself. It is shameful that I have to be so confrontational and at times rude, vulgar and outrageous in order to awaken this Wabash Riverperverse generation, which calls good evil and evil good.

Jesus despised the shame of the cross but for the joy which was set before him he endured.—Hebrews 12:2. Jesus was forsaken on the cross by all, except for the two Mary’s and his beloved disciple, John. Despite the opposition, I still have my old familiar friends in Terre Haute and Cindy and I are making new friends. As Christ’s ambassador, I know of no other way to reach the multitudes then to go forth on enemy territory and confront God’s foes and demand their unconditional surrender. I am going to continue doing what I have been doing for the past four decades or until someone shows me a better way of reaching the lost and conquering evil.

In the end I hope I can say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”—2 Tim 4:7.

 

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