Other Little Ships
I became a Christian in 1970 at the age of fourteen. I began my career of public speaking, teaching, and preaching a short time after my salvation experience. From a professional point of view I did not know enough about anything to be speaking to others with authority, much less to volunteer myself as a teacher or a preacher in any setting.
I could tell others my personal story, however. I could share my own testimonial information as evidence that something important had happened in my life, and I did that enthusiastically.
All communicators are story creators, witnesses on the stand, and in some form or fashion, ultimately writers. So, I began writing notes and outlines from which my messages and lessons would spring. I wrote notes on my observations and thoughts that arose and grew from constant Bible study and reading from every book that I could posses. I did not know, in the beginning, how to record entire manuscripts for my messages and devotions (I would learn that discipline later in seminary), but writing helped me collect my thoughts and order them. Writing helped me examine what I was thinking upon the black and white of the page and it made me test the information that was the fruit of my study before I delivered it to those who would graciously listen.
I kept journals and notebooks, reams of loose leaf, lined paper with miles of scribblings and scratches that flowed from a river of ink and a heart and mind that burned with spiritual curiosity and an eagerness to learn. I read, studied, wrote, and stood up to speak every time that someone gave me an opportunity or an invitation. There were many.
Writing assignments in high school were never very challenging, and only one writing class was offered in four years before graduation, but it helped and gave my writing, story-telling, and speaking a little shape and a little more precision and clarity. College required me to be more focused and seminary gave me the research and recording tools that would be foundational to my first messages that were truly worthy of being heard, and writing that was worthy of being read.
I could discern from the testimonies of others, their reactions to my communications, their responses to my words, and their reflections upon my work, I was improving.
Speaking, teaching and preaching from a pastoral lectern and pulpit expanded into a radio broadcast opportunity in my second pastorate. I self-published my first book while serving there (Among the Sweetest – a history of the Vanndale Baptist Church in Vanndale, Arkansas in 1985). My third pastorate began with a local weekly radio broadcast as well, I was invited to publish brief articles in the Ardmore Shopper over a ten year stint, and I published a brief history of the Wooley Springs Baptist Church before being called to a church closer to home.
A member at Wooley Springs introduced me to the world of the personal computer, and when I traveled to my next assignment I was armed with the most important tool that I have found for putting thought, data, information, and passion to paper. The offices of the Oak Park Baptist Church in Decatur, Alabama had a data fax machine (another technology that was new to me) and I was soon writing one-page articles, devotional thoughts and observations and sending them out to every business and location that I knew that possessed the ability to receive my words.
During my ten years as pastor at Oak Park I was sought often by a local television ministry to appear as a guest speaker. I continued to study, read, preach, teach, and write.
The collection of bite-sized devotional thoughts that you are reading now represents all of the material that I sent by electronic facsimile during a year and a half period while serving at Oak Park. The very first rendering was based upon a message that was delivered by a fellow minister during Pastor’s Conference while I served at Wooley Springs. The speaker’s text was Mark 4:35-36, and for the first time in all of my years of reading the New Testament, my attention fell upon the “Other Little Ships” mentioned in the gospel story.
I saw a world of previously unnoticed meaning and import with the intent of those little-known words. The knowledge of this missed detail sent me back into the scriptures looking for other messages and meanings that I had overlooked. I learned that a treasure tiny gems and jewels were divinely placed in the Bible stories that I thought that I had known so well. They were wonderful truths that were hidden in plain sight and I immediately became a treasure-hunter.
The discovery of “Other Little Ships” opened a door in my vision, my perception, and my perspective as I began to read the scriptures again, through different eyes. From the point of that discovery, everything that I have published has been recorded as an Other Little Ships Publication.
I record this Preface on Sunday, October 5, 2014 at the beginning of a formal gathering of my first Other Little Ships offerings. I assembled and self-published them in a single volume to the members of the Oak Park Baptist Church in 1995. This is a new publication for a new medium: electronic books (eBooks). I have not changed any of the articles and have arranged them in the order that I first faxed them to the wind! The only thread that holds them together is that they are all from the gospels and find their roots in the story of Jesus. Only a few are connected one to another. Most of them stand alone.
They hold up rather well, and I’m proud to give them new life. I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed reading them again in the preparation.