McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

April 15, 2014

Gospel: 'The Good News' heard at Holy Week Breakfast

McALESTER — Steve Glazier presented a pair testimonies of individuals who went on to have a significant impact on others  — a bank robber and a hony-tonk songwriter — when he spoke at the second gathering of this year’s Men’s Holy Week Breakfasts.

Some 124 men and boys attended the second breakfast, held Tuesday morning at first United Methodist Church in McAlester, where they were served a breakfast of scrambled eggs, biscuits, gravy, bananas, orange juice and coffee.

Glazier, of the First Baptist Church of McAlester, is the vice-president of Student Affairs at Eastern Oklahoma State College.

“I don’t know about you, but I constantly see myself in scripture,” he said. “And as the years pass in new ways, I see myself in the Old Testament as the reluctant evangelist, or the timid warrior, as well as in the New Testament, as the one who can walk on water but who takes my eyes off Christ.”

Glazier said he sees himself with all his faults, but also as a victor.

“Throughout the Gospel of Christ, we see Jesus teaching by way of story, through the use of parables, because that is what great teachers do, they teach in such a way that the audience connects and the message becomes personal,” Glazier said. “So I just wanted to take a few minutes and present a couple of testimonies to the power of Christ.”

Mary Kay Beard is not an imposing figure, standing little more than five feet tall, he said. During a previous career, she dressed impeccably.

“But underneath that tailored suit was a sawed-off shotgun,” Glazier said. “Yes, her previous career was that of a bank robber.” She proved so successful in her criminal activities that she made the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list, he said.

Eventually, the law caught up with Beard and she ended up in a Birmingham jail.

“It was there in that jail that she began to read the word of God,” Glazier said. She felt especially drawn to a verse in Ezekiel Chapter 36: “A new heart will I also give you; and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”’

“Quietly, on the floor of her cell, Mark Kay surrendered her life to Christ and was saved,” Glazier said. “This once- hardened criminal began to think of others before herself.”

She began to notice the problems of other prisoners, particularly their loneliness at the separation of their families.

“And now, she is truly blessed that God has used her as His instrument as  the founder of the Angel Tree Ministry,” Glazier said. “Each year, this ministry is the hands and feet of Christ, helping thousands of families across the United States.”

Glazier quoted Romans 8:3: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.”

He then spoke of a songwriter with Oklahoma roots, Tim Spencer, whose songs included “A Room Full of Roses” and “Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women.”

“Those were the types on songs he wrote and that was the life he led,” Glazier said.

Spencer came from a small mining town in eastern Oklahoma and like lots of other Okies he went to California in search of fame and fortune, Glazier said.

“When he arrived in California he and his new friend Leonard Slye formed a country and western singing group,” Glazier said. When Slye’s father suggested Leonard might want a stage name, he changed his first name to Roy and the group began performing across the country.

While Spencer toured on the road, his wife, Velma, and their  children faithfully attended the Hollywood Presbyterian Church.

“It was during this time that Tim’s wife became increasingly burdened for her husband’s salvation,” Glazier said.

Her pastor suggested she make sure her husband had a letter waiting for him whenever he checked into his next hotel room. She would conclude each letter with a Bible verse,” he said.

Revealing the name of Spencer’s band, Glazier said “In 1949 the Sons of the Pioneers checked into a hotel in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and once again there was a letter waiting for Tim with a scripture verse at the conclusion of the letter.

“It was there in that hotel room that Tim was gloriously saved. He became a new creation in Christ with a new direction, new aspirations and a greater sense of purpose.”

Although Slye didn’t mention it in his presentation, those familiar with Leonard Slye and the Sons of the Pioneers knew that Spencer’s fellow band member Slye changed his full name to Roy Rogers, and found fame as the well-known singing cowboy from recordings, television and the movies.

Soon after Spencer’s conversion, he went into the music publishing business and founded Manna Music, named for the food miraculously given to feed the Israelites, Glazier said.

“In 1953, his son, Hal, attended a youth conference and was moved by a Swedish melody with lyrics written by Stuart Hine.

“Tim then contacted Mr. Hine and the song was completed as we sing it today,” he said.

A few groups recorded the song with little success; then, in 1957, Spencer asked another man to record the song.

“That man was George Beverly Shea, who sang ‘How Great Thou Art’ 99 times at the Billy Graham Crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957,” Glazier said.

“From ‘Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women,” to “How Great Thou Art.’ That is the power of the cross. That is the Easter story,” Glazier said.

“How did this testimony come to light?

“It was recently told in a church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, by a missionary from Malawi, East Africa. His name is Dr. Stephen Spencer,” Glazier said.

“Dr. Spencer went on to say he has been a missionary for 19 years, telling people about Jesus, because his grandfather was saved in that little Pennsylvania hotel room, and he told him about Jesus,” said Glazier.

“That is the life-changing, from generation to generation, saving power of the Gospel,” Glazier said.

“That is the good news.”

As the service ended, those present sang their own rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” led by Rodney Briggs and Gene Crnkovic.

Wednesday’s Holy Week Breakfast was held at All Saint’s Episcopal Church.

Thursday’s Holy Week Breakfast is set for 7 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 315 E. Washington Ave., with Tom Lackey, of the First Presbyterian Church, scheduled as the featured speaker.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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