“How’s Russell Doing These Days?”

I thought I’d use today’s post to provide you — my regular readers — with a snapshot of my life and ministry these days. It’s not that I consider my personal affairs to be so important that you’all are just dying to hear them. No, all those character building experiences and lessons in humility that God has been running me through the past thirty years or so have definitely done their job. Instead, I offer these thoughts merely as a way to keep the blog personal and homey. You need to know who you are reading, right?

On the church front, I’m finishing up my ninth month at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Nebo, NC. After serving as the pastor of the non-denominational and non-traditional Disciples Road Church for over eight years, I’ve found the transition back into the realm of the traditional, rural, Southern Baptist Convention church to be a relatively easy one. Not much changed during the years I was at Disciples Road. Thus far, I’ve spent most of my time at Oak Grove getting to know the people, working to better stabilize the church’s attendance, and trying to bring more organizational structure to the way the congregation goes about its weekly business. I can’t say that we’ve grown in attendance all that much, but the attendance has become more consistent, and I like to think that we are getting things in order for future growth. I was especially touched to receive no less than 26 (and counting) cards from my church members for October being Pastor Appreciation Month.

On the home front, Tonya is in her 26th year teaching math at Bowman Middle School in Bakersville, NC. You might think that teaching gets easier as you gain more experience and grow older, but that’s not the case. To the contrary, each year seems to take a little bit out of you as you give yourself to your students. When Tonya first started teaching, she noticed that the older teachers were more cranky than the younger teachers. Now she understands why. Of course, it probably hasn’t helped that I’ve got her teaching a children’s Sunday School class at Oak Grove and serving as the chairperson of the Kitchen Committee. She also directed our Bible School this past summer. I guess it’s safe to say that when I reentered Baptist life, so did she.

Our oldest son, Ryan, is enjoying his junior year at Johnson University, a Christian university located just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. His grades are great, and this year he’s rooming with the RA (Resident Assistant) of the boys dorm. He’s on track to complete his degree next year and earn his teaching license in Physical Education K-12  —  Sports & Fitness Leadership. Afterward he’ll look for a job as a PE teacher and coach. He’s also deer hunting and fishing every chance he gets these days.

Our younger son, Royce, is doing well in his junior year at Mitchell, our local high school. His grades are great too, but he still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, unless professional video-game player is an option. He recently finished up his last year of eligibility in Asheville’s Fall Ball baseball league. For the past three falls we’ve put in the hour drive both ways for him to play in that league. It was a good experience for him, but I don’t mind admitting that we weren’t sorry to see all that driving become a thing of the past. He’ll be on Mitchell’s varsity team this coming spring, and the games he played in Fall Ball have definitely made him a better player. He’s also loving the fact that he now has his drivers license and gets to drive himself to and from Mitchell each day.

Finally, on the blog front, the blog’s number of views are currently on pace for another good year. If the pace holds through December, this year’s views will easily exceed last year’s and will come in either just above or just below the number from 2012, which was my second best year all time. While 2014’s record year will remain the goal to reach, it’s encouraging that my followers are now at an all time high of 99. A follower, as you might know, is a person who receives an email notification each time I publish a new post. It’s also encouraging that the number of views the blog receives from people outside the United States continues to climb. In the past 12 months, people from 129 countries around the world have viewed something I’ve written. I don’t even know how to process that in my little mind, but it sure brings a smile to my face to think about it.

Well, I guess that’s about enough for today. I trust it goes without saying that I’m beyond thankful for each of you who ever reads anything I’ve posted, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: THANK YOU!!! It’s obvious that God is using this blog as a blessing to a whole bunch of folks in a whole bunch of places, and I believe He will continue to do so. If you have the time, please say a little prayer for me that He will continue to bless my family, my ministry, and this blog. And, for my part, I promise that I’ll continue to write whatever He leads me to write. That’s not always what I want to write, just as it’s not always what you want to read, but at least we’re all in this thing together.

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