Month: June 2018




 Let us pray to our Creator:

Every day, but on this day especially, we ask your blessing on all fathers:

For those whose hair is curly, buzzed, blonde, red, black or brown

For those whose hair has greyed, thinned out, or even disappeared

For those standing tall as a tree and those barely taller than me

For those who could joke and giggle and laugh out loud

And for those too serious or stern to think our “knock-knock” jokes funny

For those who banished the monsters under the bed and in the closet

  before wishing us “sweet dreams” with a kiss on the forehead

And for those whose own shouts were too loud, too scary, and too often

For those who could pitch a baseball, play hoops, or just hide-n-seek

And for those who worked too long, skipped meals at home, forgot our birthdays

For those whose wisdom was strong and kind and lasting, grounded in love

And for those who had given up, lost drive and hope,

  and lost sight that just being there might be more than enough

For those who died young and those who have grown old before our eyes

For those we can talk to today and for those we greet only in memory

For all the fathers, who passed on to us your divine gift of life.

May we remember them – with forgiveness when needed,

with compassion always, and with the mystery of love that runs in and through our being.

May your blessing, O God, surround us all, especially the fathers,

and draw us together, with common purpose and passion, into one family,

One beloved community.


The Rev. Mary Glover is rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church



Nancy Patrick’s father, Henry Smith, holding her when she was six months old. Photo submitted by Nancy Patrick


I grew up in a simpler time than today’s society. My dad was a child of the Great
Depression, born in 1928 in the dirt poor farming community of Blevins, Arkansas. His
parents had five children; my dad, the second. He grew up working hard, leaving his home at age 14 to move 17 miles away to Hope, Arkansas, where he lived in the
back of a filling station and pumped gas for his wages. He left school at that time, having
completed only the seventh grade. I write this background because I think my father’s
early, forced independence created the man he became.


Nancy Patrick

I’ve lost both my parents in the past six years, so I’ve thought a lot about their roles
in my life. My parents exemplified the old, traditional kind of parents of their generation.
Married 65 years, they had two daughters. Daddy worked hard at his job; Mom
worked hard at home; and my sister and I went to school, grew up, and got married just as our parents had done. Despite my dad’s being a WW II veteran in a generation of men who did not openly demonstrate their feelings, he provided for our needs and was always home at night. My sister and I never worried about being hungry or abandoned. He did, after all, take care of his responsibilities as our father.

We had a complicated relationship, though. Because he showed no visible affection,
my sister, our mom, and I craved signs of love from him. I once asked him why he never
told Mom he loved her, and he responded, “I told her when I married her, and if I change
my mind, I’ll let her know.” It sounds harsh, but that was his way. As an adult, I realized that emotions terrified my dad—for reasons I’ll never fully understand— but I never doubted that he loved us.

As young adults, my husband and I moved from Abilene for about 20 years,
returning in 1990 as my parents began their senior years. As an adult, my relationship with Dad morphed into something quite different from that of my childhood. He began
depending on me for all his and Mom’s financial and medical matters (he was functionally illiterate and unable to navigate through the complex Social Security and Medicare systems). He valued and respected my abilities although he still liked to remind me that my “book smarts” didn’t make me smarter than he was.

Although he never said “I love you,” he did begin calling me “his angel.” Every time I
did chores or errands for him, he would call out as I left the house, “Send me a bill.” That
joking tone told me he loved me. As Mom’s health deteriorated and they faced the possibility of having to leave their home, I found Daddy sitting in his recliner one day, crying his eyes out. His shoulders shook as I knelt and held him in my arms. The fear of losing control of his life terrified him. As I held him, I stroked his head and told him how much I loved him and that I would take care of him. He finally whispered the words, “I love you, too.”

The next few years were very bad ones as my parents declined and finally died, Dad
in 2012 and Mom 16 months later. I spent time with them every day during those
years and have fond memories of one of the last days my dad talked. He was hallucinating about people from the past and pointing to things for me to see. I would comment on whatever he described and ask him questions. He seemed happy in those last moments as he and I relived a pleasant memory together.

Although I wish I could remember my dad’s holding me or hugging me or taking me
to special events, I cannot. But I do have the memories of the last years when he became a tender, loving man. I still miss my dad. I always called him “Daddy,” even on the day he
died. An accompanying photo shows my dad, Henry Smith, with me at six months of age. Although I don’t remember it, I treasure knowing that he held me in his arms.

Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.


Fletcher headshot

DR. JESSE C. FLETCHER April 9, 1931-June 14, 2018


Director of Communications, Hardin-Simmons University

On June 14, the Hardin-Simmons University family lost one of its most distinguished and well-loved members, former President Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher, who died at age 87.

A memorial service celebrating Dr. Fletcher’s life will be held in the main sanctuary at First Baptist Church at 2 p.m. Monday, June 18 at First Baptist Church. 1333 N. Third St. For family and friends who will be unable to attend, a live stream link will be made available prior to the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts be made to the university to the Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher scholarship.

Enough cannot be said about the impact Dr. Fletcher had on the campus and in the Baptist community. HSU is the university it is today because of Dr. Fletcher’s work. Dr. Fletcher not only built up Hardin-Simmons but also ministered to the presidents that followed in his footsteps.

President Eric Bruntmyer says, From the first day I met Dr. Fletcher, his prayers and encouragement poured down on me. As an older and wiser brother, Dr. Fletcher’s humility and kindness modeled how a follower of Christ lives.”

“Dr. Jess Fletcher is one of my all-time heroes and a very special friend.,” says former President Lanny Hall. “He was a remarkable individual who excelled in so many fields – ministry, higher education, art, golf, scholarship – the list goes on and on. He had a brilliant mind, was a gifted author and possessed the ability to relate to all types of people. He will long be remembered for his distinguished service as President, Chancellor, and President-Emeritus of Hardin-Simmons University.”

Former President Craig Turner says, “Jess Fletcher was a friend and a mentor who always had a smile and a warm greeting whenever we met—invariably addressing me with “Hello, Mr. President.”  Even today—while I mourn his passing—to think of Jess makes me smile. What a remarkable legacy he created, full of a wide variety of accomplishments and brimming over with wonderful memories for those who were privileged to know him. Personally, I admired him, I respected him, and I loved him.”

Dr. Jesse Conrad Fletcher was born on April 9, 1931, in San Antonio to Jesse N. Fletcher and Ruby Arnold Fletcher. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1948, where he was senior class vice president, managing editor of the newspaper, a member of the National Honor Society and played on the golf team.

 Dr. Fletcher then attended Texas A&M University, where he distinguished himself as a lieutenant colonel in the Corps of Cadets, an honor student and twice lettered with the golf team. He was ordained as a minister by Manor Baptist Church of San Antonio during his senior year at Texas A& M University.

Upon graduation, he received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves. Dr. Fletcher then enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned both his master’s of divinity degree and his doctorate of philosophy degree. His post-graduate work included terms at the Chaplain’s School at Fort Slocum, New York, the Institute of Religion at the Texas Medical Center in Houston and the University of Richmond.

In 1953, he was introduced to Dorothy Jordan on a blind date. He proposed after that single date, and they were married in February 1954. They were happily married until her death in 2013.

During his seminary years, Dr. Fletcher served as the pastor of Wellborn Baptist Church from 1953-1955, and Kopperl Baptist Church from 1955-1957.

In 1960, Dr. Fletcher began his career with the Southern Baptist Convention, working for the Foreign Mission Board. He occupied several administrative positions before his resignation in 1975 as the director of the mission support division. During this time, he traveled extensively through many of the countries where Southern Baptist missionaries were spreading the gospel.

In 1975, Dr. Fletcher began as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tennessee. He held that position until 1977 when he accepted the position as the 12th president of Hardin-Simmons University. Dr. Fletcher served as president of HSU from 1977 until 1991, as chancellor from 1991 to 2001, and he has been president emeritus since 2001.

During his 14 years as president at Hardin-Simmons, Dr. Fletcher established and raised the funds to endow schools in education, theology, and nursing. He also made significant changes to the campus; including adding seven new facilities, making numerous renovations to existing buildings, significantly increasing faculty salaries, and quadrupling the university’s endowment. He also led the institution into the NCAA’s Division III athletic programs including football in 1989. During his years as chancellor and president emeritus, Fletcher held a professorship in the Logsdon School of Theology, aided development efforts, and represented the University in numerous academic and community roles.

Beyond his work at Hardin-Simmons, Dr. Fletcher was a key force in organizing the NCAA Division I Trans America Athletic Conference (now the Atlantic Sun Conference). He was also a staple in the community of Abilene; serving as president and campaign director of Abilene’s United Way’s annual campaign, chairman of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, founding director of the Community Foundation of Abilene, vice chair of the Military Affairs Committee, twice the interim director of the Grace Museum, first president of the Abilene Intercollegiate School of Nursing and chair of the Abilene Psychiatric Center. He was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2002.

Dr. Fletcher was also a prolific writer, publishing eleven books, including Bill Wallace of China, the official sesquicentennial history of the SBC, The Southern Baptist Convention, and his family and personal biography, “Flashes of Light.”

In 1997, Dr. Fletcher began painting landscapes at the studio of celebrated local artist Evelyn Niblo. His paintings have been shown in Abilene at the Grace Museum, the Center for Contemporary Arts, St. John’s School and American State Bank. His work has also been exhibited in the Breckenridge Fine Arts Museum in Breckenridge, Texas. Many of his vibrant representations of land are in the hands of corporate and private collectors.


Dr. Fletcher was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Dorothy. He is survived by two children; his son, Scott and his family of Rockport, Maine, and daughter Melissa Fletcher Dupree and her family of Abilene, TX. He is also survived by five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


(Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared on the Womenary blog site in May, 2018. Womenary is Tyler-based program that offers seminar-style classes for women seeking a theological education. The author, Leslie Strader, is a freelance writer who lives in Tyler but grew up in Abilene, the daughter of Rob and Linda Carleton. She graduated from Baylor University and then earned a graduate degree at Hardin-Simmons University. She covered the education beat at the Abilene Reporter-News from 1994 to 1997. Leslie is married to Abilenian Ross Strader, pastor of Bethel Bible Church in Tyler.)


I got an email the other day from my insurance company. They were offering me a million dollars worth of umbrella insurance for several things, one being something called “non-malicious slander and libel.” That immediately intrigued me. The way I think about it, slander (words you say) and libel (words you write) are inherently malicious, right? So, I googled it. No help. I called an attorney friend. She was puzzled as well. I couldn’t let it go, so I called my insurance company. “Susan” had to put me on hold and do a bit of research, but I got my answer.


Leslie Strader

Basically, non-malicious slander and libel are unintentional disparagement. For example, if you post something on Facebook, and it is simply your opinion or experience but someone takes offense or feels you are doing them harm by saying it publicly, they can sue you! Then, your insurance company (in theory) pays the bill. It’s incredible that we are here as a society, bracing ourselves for the consequences of accidentally or inadvertently ruffling someone’s feathers.

It feels like the earth is made of eggshells these days. We don’t know who’s on a hair trigger or what sensitivities someone might have. Certainly, as believers we should always keep watch over the door of our lips (Psalms 141:3) and consider others worthy of greater honor (Philippians 2:3). It just feels a little like we’re about to go off the deep end.

This got me wondering—what does anger do to our bodies? There are tons of studies out there about how anger increases the likelihood of heart attack, stroke, depression, or a weakened immune system. I was very interested to read in one study that repeated, ongoing anger—the kind we’ve seen in our world lately, where something is constantly triggering outrage or offending us, where people are hyper-vigilant about being offended—that kind of anger can cause permanent physical damage.

“If you’re constantly being activated by triggers, then this state of response can start to cause damage. Chronically angry people may not have the mechanism to turn off these effects. They may not produce acetylcholine, a hormone that tempers the more severe effects of adrenaline. There’s potential for liver and kidney damage, as well as high cholesterol. Their nervous system is constantly working and can eventually become overexerted, leading to a weakened heart and stiffer arteries.” (from It Makes My Blood Boil: Physical Effects of Anger by Molly Edmunds)

We see anger in the world every time we turn on the TV or read the news. Anger starts unending Twitter wars and attacks those who think, act, look, or believe differently from us. Anger gets you kicked off an airplane or motivates a mass protest. And when anger swells unchecked into blind rage, it can kill—sometimes relationships, sometimes flesh and blood human beings, without thought or emotion and sometimes, without remorse.

We know from scripture that anger itself is not wrong or sinful. Jesus felt and expressed anger. The best real life example is from John 2 where He kicks the money changers out of the Temple. We call this “righteous anger”—Jesus was right to be angry about something that was wrong. His emotion was right, and His response was perfect, but this is not always true for us.

Thankfully, God’s Word doesn’t leave us to our own devices. The Old and New Testaments offer plenty of truth and wisdom about anger—how to deal with it, how to discern a righteous from a wicked response, even how we can be angry like Jesus.

It’s so important to pray through our emotions and ask the Lord to help us think, feel, and respond as His children. We don’t have to lash out and react without thought; we can let the Holy Spirit rule us, not our emotions. We can choose to be joyful rather than frustrated or exasperated. Instead of letting our blood boil, we can come to the fountain of Living Water where grace is poured out on us, so that we can do the same for others. We can love, we can forgive, we can live peaceably with all because of Christ.

I find asking questions helps me think things through. Here are some questions tied to scripture that can help us discern if our anger is helpful or hurtful, to ourselves or others.

10 Practical (and Biblical) Ways to Check Your Anger

1. Are you stirring up strife (do you work to get others on your “side”—gossiping, convincing, justifying)?

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1, NIV

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. Proverbs 29:22, ESV

A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.Proverbs 28:25, ESV

2. Consider your response time. How long does it take you to become angry? How long do you stay angry?

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the heart of fools.Ecclesiastes 7:9, NIV

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.James 1:19-20, NIV

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a cityProverbs 16:32, ESV

3. How would the person closest to you describe your relationship with anger?

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.Proverbs 15:18, NIV

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. Proverbs 29:11, NIV

One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated. Proverbs 14:16-17, ESV

4. Has anger affected (or infected) your relationships?

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. Proverbs 22:24-25, ESV

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18, ESV

5. How well do you understand the situation you’re angry about—can you see both sides, all sides, or just your side?

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.Proverbs 14:29, NIV

6. When was the last time you had a quarrel or fight with someone, either face to face or online?

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.James 4:1-2, NIV

7. Does your anger cause you to sin?

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silentPsalm 4:4, ESV

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. Ephesians 4:26, ESV

8. Do you worry about conflict and how its resolution will affect you? Or are you able to leave room for God to work?

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19, ESV

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. Psalms 37:7-9, ESV

9. Do you react or respond? When was the last time you overlooked an offense?

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11, ESV

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32, ESV

10. How accurately does Ephesians 4:1-6 describe your interactions with others?

I…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV


(Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up column to a previous one written by Mike Patrick, “Where Is God When We Suffer?”)


One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:26 (NIV) – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

The Spirit helps us, but how? I have heard all kinds of explanations of how God helps, but let me share examples from the two ends of the spectrum. Some of my friends say that God gives us a mind and we can do something about our issue. True. However, I wonder sometimes if those friends simply do what they want in the first place. At the other end of the spectrum, friends say that we should turn things over to God. I agree that we must trust him with all things. However, some of those friends seem to use that as an excuse never to do anything. Their premise has God magically taking care of our concerns. I was never satisfied with either response.

MPatrick (1)So if the Spirit helps us, how does that happen? The Greek word in the New Testament, translated “helps” in this verse, is a compound word made up of three different words. It literally means “together, face to face, we pick it up.” Maybe this helps illustrate—One weekend while in middle school, I helped a friend bale hay on his parent’s farm. We loaded the bales onto a wagon. The hay bales weighed about ninety pounds so I could stack them only about three high. As a solution, we got on opposite ends of the bale (together, face to face) and we picked it up. Likewise, God doesn’t sit back and simply watch us struggle; nor does God magically stack the hay for us. We still suffer, but he participates with us. In fact, the last part of the verse says that the Spirit prays for us with groans that words cannot express.

As a teenager, I helped our family move into a new house in the suburbs of Chicago. My Dad and I had trouble moving a large upright freezer into the half basement (it was only halfway below ground). The freezer was too big to go down the outside stairs, so we had to line it up with the door frame and go over the ledge and down through the doorway. We groaned under the freezer’s weight. Sometimes the weight of our suffering is so heavy that even the Holy Spirit groans with us in prayer.

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.


(Editor’s Note: Caroyn Newman wrote this column, “Father’s Day and Foregiveness,” in 2006 and recently updated it for Spirit of Abilene.)


“I have returned to the God of my Father, the most God-like man a child could know.” Those are lyrics from Marijohn Wilkin”s “I Have Returned.” Before singing it at church, I asked, “Is that a description of your Dad?” Although mine had great qualities such as a keen sense of humor and a diligent work ethic, truthfulness and faithfulness to my Mom were not among them. He left home and remarried when I was 12.


Carolyn Newman

I can still see the hurt in my Mother’s eyes but she never said unkind words about him, always fostering a relationship with Daddy and me. She said that he was my father, no matter what he had done. She always made sure no one knew how much we struggled and there was always fresh vegetables, laughter, and gospel music in our home. She encouraged Daddy to send me to college. Now there was a miracle waiting to happen! Of all things, I chose Baylor University with no clue about how expensive it was. I just knew it was God’s will for me to go there. I went one semester at a time. Sometimes he would call and say, “You have to come home, I can’t make the payment.” He would call within the next few days with good news, “I sold three Pontiacs. You can stay.” He worked hard to see that I had educational opportunities he and my Mom never experienced. I made sure I let him know how grateful I was.

Here’s the forgiveness part: Some years ago, I went back to the Baylor campus and heard the Pat Neff chimes. At that moment I thought, “Daddy, I know you were sorry that you left Mother and me but God allowed you to send me to Baylor where I would earn a bachelor of music education degree and would meet my husband. We now are blessed with a daughter, son-in-law, son, daughter-in-law, and six grandchildren. At that memorable, emotional moment I said aloud, “Daddy, I forgive you and I thank you for sending me to this university.” Although it took 50 years, I cannot find adequate words to describe the feeling of complete forgiveness. Leaving Waco, heading for Houston, we came upon the road sign for the town of Marlin, which was the first name of my Daddy. Then we came to another small town and it gave me chills when I saw the last name of my Daddy on the sign. Beyond conincidence, I knew that was an affirmation that God and Daddy were smiling. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

Carolyn Newman is a retired public school music specialist who spent much of her career at Dyess Elementary School. 


IMG_3103 (1)

Trey Hudgens, foreground, participated in the June 5-7 Disaster Spiritual Training at Hendrick Medical Center. Hudgens is director for global engagement at Hardin-Simmons University. Photo by Loretta Fulton


Say the words “first responder” and an image of a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or paramedic most likely will come to mind.

But what about the spiritual needs of the people affected by the trauma and their loved ones? That’s where “first responder” takes on an additional meaning. And that’s where people like Dan Franklin and his Texas Crisis Resiliancy Team come into play. Franklin is director of the TCRT and also is an associate in the office of chaplaincy relations for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He led a Disaster Spiritual Care Training session June 5-7 at Hendrick Medical Center.

img_3105.jpgFranklin literally wrote the book on Diaster Spiritual Care. His training manual was used during the session at Hendrick and was packed with good advice, guidelines, and “do’s and don’ts.”

A major point of emphasis was working with people of diverse cultures and religions–something that just about everyone responding to disasters is bound to encounter. A major “no-no” is “preaching” or trying to convert someone to Christianity during a crisis situation.

“We don’t go out there trying to make them like us,” Franklin said.

Also, Franklin advised, don’t pity, judge, try to be humorous, or interrupt a person talking. Always communicate respect and if you inadvertently offend someone, apologize immediately.

Spiritual care providers often are ordained ministers, but that isn’t required. In breakout sessions, students formed small groups for discussion. A recurring phrase was “intentional engagement.” Trey Hudgens is director for global engagement at Hardin-Simmons University. He works with students, and their families, from countries all over the world and from diverse backgrounds.

Hudgens lived in Shreveport when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Thousands of victims fled to Shreveport and Hudgens learned something about spiritual caregiving from that experience, which has proved useful to him in working with students from diverse backgrounds. At Shreveport, he observed the interaction of Red Cross workers with the hurricane victims.

“When was the last time you had a meal?” they would ask, realizing that meeting immediate needs and engaging a person to take his mind of his plight was extremely important.

Bermsoo Kim is a chaplain at Dyess Air Force Base. When a civilian contractor committed suicide in December 2017, the base commander gathered everyone together for the purpose of intentional engagement.

“Some people kind of shut down, especially people who are impacted,” Kim said. “I think that actually helped me.”

Another discussion group member was Bob Pipes, part-time chaplain for the Abilene Police Department. When police responded to a call that a man had found his wife dead in their home, Pipes observed how the responding officer handled the situation. The man was from India and Pipes asked him about life in India, intentionally engaging him in a conversation that provided distraction.

“It got his mind off what had happened,” Pipes said.

Franklin, who led the training, spent 30 years as an Army chaplain, with his last assignment at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The Texas Crisis Resiliency Team he leads is a member of the Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Texas VOAD).

The TCRT and leadership leans toward Baptist but is open to anyone. The board of directors currently has members of other denominations and Franklin wants that trend to continue.

“We’re trying to be as diverse as we can,” he said.