Sixty Years ~ Milestone or Millstone?
What happened in 1947? Noteworthy people were born: Elton John,
David Letterman, Dave Barry, Richard Dreyfuss, Dan Quayle, Mitt Romney and
Warren Berkley. That was sixty years ago.
There was a time when I thought I would always look like a kid; always be inexperienced and never reach any maturity. I am still short. But I show some of the signs of age, and though I'm not altogether satisfied with my progress, I have learned some thing through the years of experience.
I don't think our parents spent much time thinking or talking about how great their kids would be someday. They were too focused on the immediate challenges to form extraordinary visions of ambition about us. They simply wanted to take care of us, supply our daily needs, keep us from hurting each other, keep others from hurting us, and above all - teach us to serve the Lord. Our mother takes a great deal of pride in how we turned out. And we have no doubt, our father (who died in 1960) would be pleased. We cannot reflect back on any dire poverty, but it was hard. Daddy worked several jobs and for a time, there were seven of us living in a two bedroom wood frame house (that is still occupied by our mother today). Church activities were at the center of our lives. We had a peaceful neighborhood, good schools, great Christian friends, relatives nearby, good medical care and a great ice cream truck. My childhood was pleasant and "normal." I had baseball, tree houses, grape vines to smoke, a bicycle and two sisters to annoy.
Our tragedy was the death of my father just before Christmas in 1960. Without any warning, while I was helping him get a Christmas tree to carry in, he fell in the backyard and was dead within minutes. A massive heart attack from a blood clot. Everything changed and life was harder but we were not ruined or traumatized for life. He left us in survivable condition financially, and the difficulties found their defeat under the determination of faith that was his legacy.
Another life change came for me in 1966. The draft board in Ft. Smith, Arkansas was, like many in the south, an institution under pressure to fill the ranks of the services. And as the Viet Nam war gained momentum, the draft board became a threatening force (sometimes sending out draft notices to arrive the day after a young man graduated from high school). I was not college material, nor did I have any possibility of paying for college, so I had to make a choice. Sign up for three years with some choice about military occupation. Or, be drafted and almost certainly be sent to war. I "played" off my ability as a trumpet player, auditioned for the Army Band and was accepted. I spent a little over three years as an Army musician. No combat for me. But I played taps over many 18 year old boys who were carried out of combat.
With preaching and Paula, two exceptionally rich influences came into my life. Just months after my discharge from the service, I married Paula, went to college and started preaching. I needed a good wife, still do and Paula fulfills that need perfectly. From our union two boys were born, both hardworking men of faith. In 1981, we adopted our daughter. Now at 60 I boast of eight grandchildren.
I don't know exactly what it means to be "cut out" for preaching or have native ability for the task. I do know that I love it and cannot imagine any other life's work. I've always wanted to present what the Bible says, so that people can not only understand it, but find motivation to apply it and learn more of it through their own study. Sometimes I think, I've just recently learned what preaching is all about. I have a much clearer view today, compared to the 1970's. It is about getting the message to people, and living your life in such a way you are credible.
No retirement plans occur to me at all. I am realistic. I understand there will come a time when I cannot carry the workload effectively. I've told Paula, when my mind takes such a turn that I am careless and hard to listen to - please get me out of the pulpit. She will not be hasty in that.
After all these years preaching, I really have no complaints about my brethren. I've always been treated fairly. I was fired one time but looking back - it was probably mostly my fault. After that experience, we moved to Kansas where I had almost ten years of one of the best works I've ever had. Overall I must say, I've worked with some of the greatest people on the earth, and lived in some of the best mobile homes on the market.
Expository Files was an idea conceived with Jon Quinn, about 15 years ago. We were - it may be - the first electronic magazine published by brethren who share our conviction about he work of the church. Well advised by the pioneer, Mark Copeland, we put the "paper" out through an old system called CompuServe and AOL. We offered the journal on disks (3.5's), then to our web presence. Most recently, we have a place on bible.ca that yields thousands of hits each month. We have no good way to measure who reads the magazine or how much good it does. We just know we have readers, and we know we are building an archive on bible.ca that will be accessible for future generations. EF has been one of the very pleasant projects of my life.
I pray I'll have another 20-25 years of work. I want to see my grandchildren baptized into Christ. I want to travel with Paula and spend more time with my children. I want to see Laurel Heights grow. I want to take care of my mother, kill a few more deer and climb a few more mountains. Thanks to all who have helped a little man.
By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 14.11; November 2007