Sunday, October 29, 2017

Christmas at The Shire...

The Shire is surrounded by acres of pasture. On Saturday its tall grass was mowed. Now, golden stubs are drenched in sunlight. As long as the mercury stays above freezing, the fescue grass will once again grow green. When that happens, tasty sprouts will emerge the deer love to nibble on.

A hot, dry summer has passed and the early fall's heat was oppressive. Most everyone here in the southeast rejoices over and welcomes the cool morning temperatures in the 30's. Daytime highs of less than 70 have prevailed. Sweaters for some. Jackets for others. Relief for all.

In a couple of weeks I will "Griswald" The Shire--traditional scenes will reflect off the pond, lights will wrap the railings of the porches and shrubs. The back lawn will be lit with penguins on slides, Santa's mailbox, a parachuting moose, galloping reindeer and sleigh, and more! Wyatt is old enough to be my helper. I can't wait!

This Christmas we will have more family--and extended family--at The Shire than ever before. Sandy and I look forward to large gatherings around the fire pit, food prepared by committee, the laughter of children and adults, colorful packages and bows, and the wonder and awe the birth of the Christ provides!

Monday, September 11, 2017


Early this morning I moved our vehicles, and the vehicles of our refugees, into the wide open spaces of the pasture. About an hour after I did so, a thick limb from the pine standing by the edge of the driveway took up their parking space!

Like so many other people, our yard is covered with leaves and limbs detached from trees and branches. We got off easy. For about 8 hours we were without electricity--that's the extent of our suffering.

We were prepared for Irma's tirade... we had enough candles set out to deplete the ozone layer. Our large stash of flashlights, batteries, food, and bags of ice were never needed.

On the upside, this forced isolation within our home made for a day of rest... 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What Is The Church?

Josh and Sammy were at The Shire this weekend--along with their friend, Haley. Justin and Wyatt joined us. We had our first fire in the circle of stones that sits at the edge of the pond. Wyatt and "Moose" carried on as little boys should running around on the green grass, throwing pine cones into the lake, and enjoying the attention of the adults.

Today, we all gathered at Hamilton Baptist Church. Though many regular attenders were traveling we were blessed with first-time guests. I'm always grateful for the warm and genuine reception our family and guests receive from HBC members.

It seemed appropriate to speak from Matthew 7:24-29 (take a moment to read it), so that's where we centered our attention for the message: Shaken, But Not Shattered. Our worship team prepared us for the message with music firmly rooted in Scripture--love those folks.

In the days ahead the message theme will be: What is the Church? Every generation needs to take time to return to what Christ intended.

How would you define "The Church?"

Monday, July 10, 2017

What's Next, Papa?

The resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us--an unbelievable inheritance! ~ Romans 8: 15-17

Nearly six years ago, the night before Sandy and I left for the country of China, Justin and Erika revealed they were pregnant with our first grandchild. Eight months later when Wyatt was born we were still living in China. Ugh! Since returning to the U.S. we have spent every moment with him we could, but those moments were separated by months and fifteen-hundred miles.

Three weeks ago Wyatt and our second grandchild--newborn Travis, moved less than two miles from us! Now, living in the wide-open spaces and the sparse populace of country life everything is completely different from anything Wyatt experienced living among the compressed population and tall buildings of metro-Boston. So contrasted is his new environment the only commonality between the two locals is the English language. Wyatt and I spend time together every day, and each day is an adventure.

While driving to Auburn, Alabama early this morning I listened to the Scripture passage at the top of this post. The phrase, What's next, Papa? grabbed my attention. It reminded me of the relationship Wyatt and I share. It's a special one; my first with a grandchild. He calls me Papa. Loves me. Trusts me. Feels no timidity in approaching me. Draws vibrant life from me. Always expects that in my company he is on the cusp of an adventure.

I'm not sure how many miles or minutes passed, but I found myself saying out loud: What's next, Papa? It was a spontaneous and heartfelt prayer, spoken to my Heavenly Father. Simultaneously, it was my confession by verbalizing a deep longing, What's next, Papa. I want to live in the presence of my Heavenly Papa with the same trust and confidence and vibrancy of life...

In that instant God' heard my unfiltered plea. His Spirit touched my spirit and confirmed who I really am, whose I really am, and what I really am. I am His. Dearly loved. He is my Papa. He delights in me.  


Friday, July 7, 2017

Family Time...

Sammy and Josh, Justin and Erika and Wyatt and Travis are at our house. Josh prepared a great dinner! Wyatt has anxiously awaited the arrival of Friday night. All week he has been waiting for uncle Josh (aka Bapo) to get here with the pyrotechnics. As soon it got dark we lit up the sky over the pond with a fireworks display of bottle rockets, Roman candles, and other whirling and twirling ! Wyatt is getting full exposure to free America here in the southeast.

As the sun was setting, I was fishing and Wyatt picked up one of our kids rod and reel; it had about a half inch of dried worm on the hook. I showed him how to cast with it, and on his own he slung a bobber and his mummified worm into the pond. It barely had time to sink when a massive brim <insert smile> grabbed it! I helped him set the hook and he reeled it in! On my FB page you can see a video of the monster he landed. Our little guy was thrilled!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

God keeps his promises...

"Grandma, I'm here!" Those were Wyatt's words when he came bouncing in the front door this afternoon. Life has changed for the little guy; he's living in the country. Up to this point his entire life was lived in the Boston area; most recently in Chelsea. Parks and playgrounds were many blocks away. Now, he walks out his door into wide-open green space, fig trees, magnolia trees, and lush pecan trees. When he comes to The Shire he rides his electric truck and bicycle. We have a kiddie pool and slip-and-slide that is rarely dry. He loves to get on the four-wheelers with his dad and Papa and cruise through the woods and ford shallow creeks.

Wyatt loves to learn. Grandma got him a book with 3D trucks and cars he pops out and builds. Every time we are together we spend an hour or more in his big workbook, Brainiac: learning phonics; telling time; navigating through children's mazes, and practicing writing and reading. Entirely motivated by an inner desire, Wyatt needs no prompting or cajoling. He loves Sundays. Today he emerged from children's church excitedly saying, "Papa, I made some new friends!"

The Old Testament speaks to God returning the years the locust have eaten. Having our little guy two-miles away, for this Papa, is a fulfillment of God's promise...

Friday, June 9, 2017

Passed By Naval Censor

On the anniversary of D-Day I received a serendipitous text and blessing. My cousin, the son of my father's sister, Helena, contacted me. Jerry had letters from my dad his mom had kept safe for decades. Jerry sent them to me and they arrived today.

Dad enlisted in the U. S. Navy as a sub-mariner at 17 years old (he had to have his parents sign a waiver). I've been perusing them, imagining the voice of my father as a teenager. Post marks on the first of the letters date back to 1942 and were sent from Portsmouth, N. H. where dad began training. Seventeen years old... how does one of such naivety and innocence prepare to wage war in a world that is at war?

Letters began back-and-forth around Christmas time.H e was a homesick teenager far from his hometown of dirt roads, pastures, and potato fields. Tremendous melancholy washed over him when he heard the song "White Christmas." Several times he referenced the Christmas season as "White Christmas." He used the word "awful" a lot. In one of his letters, the man's genuine gratitude and humility (which he never lost) comes through as he thanks Helena, who is older than him, for sending him a pen and pencil set. "He was awful thankful." Up to that point he had been borrowing a pencil from a friend...

As the war raged on, dad and Helena continued to write. By 1944 he was fully engaged in warfare. From a steel tube beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean and China Seas dad's sub played a big part in finishing a fight the Japanese started. They would receive a Presidential Citation for Bravery.

In the lower left corner of each correspondence between dad and Helena during 43-44 was a hand-stamped circle that read, Passed By Naval Censors. Every correspondence was screened. Loose lips sink ships.

Seven decades have passed... Dad has passed... But today he spoke again...