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My old Uncle Mort is nothing if not analytical, even when he’s not even looking for ways to make easy bucks. He called recently to provide his analysis of members of the Thicket Community Church whose pastor called for a special mid-week prayer session appealing for rain. It would be at high noon on the church lawn.

Swamps--no match for scorching temperatures and unrelenting winds--were parched.

The preacher was convinced that if enough of us prayed earnestly, perhaps the Almighty would provide a gully-washer.

*****

Anyways, Mort arrived early for the outdoor prayer session. As others showed up, he looked for indicators that might reveal something about the depth of their faith.

When all were gathered, he mentally assigned participants to ascending steps on what he called his “ladder of faithfulness.”

He labeled the four faith categories as minimal, moderate, substantial and WOW!.

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“A few were rubbing on sunscreen as they approached the lawn chairs,” my uncle said. He didn’t figure they thought their prayers would make any difference. Their faith, he feared, was minimal. Attendees in the moderate group carried umbrellas--some having never been opened--with price tags still dangling from their handles.

Mort noted that the “substantial bunch” brought umbrellas, wore galoshes and even sat near the front.

One attendee, however, reached Mort’s “WOW! level.” He had faith drops falling from his elbows. He carried an already-opened umbrella, wore a rain hat, had raincoat buttoned to the top and his galoshes snapped tight. Before he joined the group, he paused to replace the blades on his truck’s windshield wiper.

*****

Rain, according to the Good Book, falls on the just and unjust alike, and sometimes drenches high school and college graduations. For some graduates receiving diplomas, there may be prayers for rain to “hold off” for an hour or so.

Having frequently spoken on such occasions for the past half century, I’ve been drenched by rain, and-- even during dry spells--have held back tears of laughter about what “diploma presenters” often endure, whatever the weather.

These “presenters,” typically superintendents and presidents, are usually aware that students have figured out appropriate nicknames for them. My students often referred to me as “Dr. Berries, Dr. Blueberry or Dr. Raspberry.” Preferred was simply “The Newb.”

*****

I recently learned that a long-ago colleague and valued friend, Dr. Brad Johnson, has been named president of the College of the Ozarks at Point Lookout, MO. In his early years, we were colleagues at Howard Payne University. His wife, the former Laura Lacey, an HPU graduate, is a noted author and speaker.

He has been serving for several years in a Southwest Baptist University vice-presidency in Bolivar, MO.

The word is out that Ozarks students already are referring to their new president as “PBJ.” No, not peanut butter/jelly. In this instance, it stands for President Brad Johnson….

*****

Perhaps the only college president who hails from Lazbuddie, TX, he attended the Christian School there, finishing in the “middle third” of his class. (He was one of three graduates.)

Like C of O students, he has earned his way, starting at an early age performing chores on the family farm. The school has a nickname, too. The Wall Street Journal tabbed the institution “Hard Work U” in a front-page article almost 50 years ago, and the moniker stuck. The nickname was revisited when the Wall Street Journal published a follow-up piece in 2014.

It fits. C of O provides opportunities for full-time students to work at one of more than 100 campus jobs or industries, with remaining costs provided by gifts and contributions from donors. The college has a waiting list, with an enrollment of some 1,400 students. C of O does not participate in federal loan programs, so going into debt is not an option. Campus jobs and donors make it possible for graduates to complete baccalaureate degrees with no debt.

Happily, families of C of O graduates rarely suffer from “maltuition.”  

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Dr. Newbury, long-time university president, continues to write weekly and speak throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872; email, newbury@speakerdoc.com. Facebook: Dr. Don Newbury. Twitter, @donnewbury.

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