Friday, December 30, 2005

I Promised You . . . (Part 2)

As I said, looking back to when our relationship began reminds me of the love relationship that developed between Sandy and me. In a sense we met by chance, it wasn’t planned. In reality, God brought us together. We started dating and I was smitten; I believe we were smitten with each other.

Three years ago I told you about God’s calling on my life, and you believed I was committed to God’s call. Representatives of the church shared Morningside’s hopes with me, and we believed God had a plan for our lives. Together.

You committed to me, and I, to you. The adventure began.

We have had some pretty significant hurdles to jump. Our backgrounds are very different. As a congregation you reflect the beauty of Southern culture. Conversely, it doesn’t take a Harvard graduate to figure out that I’m not from around here. The ideal church life we picture is not always the same. Our relationship has grown in spite of those hurdles.

We both dream dreams, but not always the same dream. Some of those dreams we have continued to pursue, though they remain elusive. Others, we have learned were not really God’s plan for us. Or they were selfishly motivated and we abandoned them. I believe maturity is teaching us that God is still developing our character to compliment each other and prepare us for assignments, yet future.

More than three years later we are still together. Still growing. Still sifting through our dreams and desires. Still in love. Still making adjustments to one another. Three years later there are some dings in the armor, but you still dazzle me.

Our journey together started on a spiritual foundation. That was all we had, we hardly knew each other. We were seeking the deepest romance possible. Do you remember what we were looking for? We started out together seeking a, “Fresh Encounter: Experiencing God through Prayer, Humility and a heartfelt Desire to know Him.” Our common ground was the desire to see God bring revival. Looking backwards or forwards, I believe we need to keep that lofty goal in sight. We need to continue our journey together, remembering the vow that united us.

I Promised You . . . (Part 1)

“I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ . . . " 2 Corinthians 11:1-2

Preparing for the first Sunday message of the year I have been spending time looking back, as well as looking ahead. I have looked further back than just 05, and I have looked further forward than 06. Looking back, I have been thinking about the last three years we have spent together. Looking ahead, I am only sure of what I am committed to. I do not know what will result.

Looking back to when our relationship began reminds me of the love relationship that developed between Sandy and me. In one sense, Sandy and I met by chance, it wasn’t planned. In reality, God brought us together; a relationship began to grow. We started dating and I was smitten by her.

Our relationship did not begin perfectly, for sure, but it began spiritually. Our first dates revolved around our walk with God. We shared our spiritual journeys, as best as we understood them at that time. We began sharing our thoughts about the future. I told Sandy about God’s call on my life. A call to ministry; a call back to New England. She knew I was committed to that calling. Sandy shared her dreams and desire of following God’s call on her life. She believed God had called us together, and that He had a plan for our lives. Together.

Sandy committed to me, and I, to her. The adventure began.

Our love grew in spite of hurdles; our backgrounds could not have been more different. Sandy grew up in the Southwest -- I grew up in the Northeast. Sandy grew up in the suburbs -- I grew up in the country. Sandy graduated atop a class of 800, Summa Cum Laude -- I graduated, Thank the Lord, from a class of 32. Sandy had an ideal life in mind -- I had an ideal life in mind. The ideal lives we envisioned were not always the same.

Like most young couples, we had some pretty big dreams. They were not always the same dream. Some of those dreams we have continued to pursue relentlessly, though they remain elusive. Over time we have had to come to grips with the fact that there is no such thing as “Heaven on earth.” Some of the plans we embraced were not bad plans, but they were not God’s plan for us. Maturity has revealed that other desires were selfishly motivated, and we had to abandon them. God continues to develop our character and relationship to compliment each other, and prepare us for future assignments.

Twenty-eight years later we are still together. Still growing. Still sifting through our dreams and desires. Still in love. Still making adjustments to one another. The shining knight has some dings in his armor, and the bride is only "practically perfect."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Here, There, And Everywhere!

Today we have been here, there, and everywhere. Early in the day I talked to some old friends from Maine; we have quite a history. We attended high school together, and then I ended up being their pastor for a few years. During that time we slayed a few dragons, and survived some pretty deep wounds. Those days were not all bad, and time has only served to blur the ugly and glorify the beauty of our pasts. Thankfully, we have stayed in the good fight.

Later, I met with some of the leaders in the church I serve. We are trying to get on the same page. Each of us has a part in the story being written. God is the author and finisher of the story, but we struggle with the wording. We serve an unchanging God in changing times.

Tonight, Sandy and I went to visiting hours at a funeral home; a daughter lost her dad. We left there and stopped by a party for one of our friends. Her chronometer just hit 50! Then our two sons and daughter-in-law met us at Carrabba's for dinner. Justin and Erika leave for Boston tomorrow. Their visit has been brief and our homesickness has lingered a little longer this year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day

I received two special gifts this Christmas: First, hundreds showed up for church this a.m. Many churches cancelled services so as not to interfere with Christmas (think about that for a few minutes); truth is, that grieves me. Also, we had a man trust Christ as Saviour this morning. God has been wooing Bill for quite some time. I first met him in the ICU; he had suffered cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. I shared Christ with him in the hospital and he seemed responsive. When he got out of the hospital he began to attend our men's Thursday morning Bible study. Many men and women in our congregation have been "praying" this guy along for months. This morning he decidedly responded to Christ's invitation to save him.

Bill's wife had received Christ over a year ago. She began visiting our church and indicated an interest in our music ministry. Our minister of music followed up on her interest and led her to Christ over the phone. To use an expression "she has grown like a weed." She has prayed faithfully for her husband's salvation.

I am entering my fourth year at Morningside Baptist Church. I have spent nearly my entire adult life in ministry; the desire to see people come to Christ has not waned but grown stronger. More and more I am yearning to see the kind of conversion that the Scripture describes, lives radically changed and transformed into the image of Christ. Simply filling a sanctuary with a people coddled by a soft peddaled gospel has long disappeared. Today, I received great encouragement to stay on message.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Celebrating Simply -- Written by my bride

Ever since my mom died eight years ago, we have celebrated Christmas differently. Mom died in our New England home on December 22; the funeral was held on December 26 in Dallas. Mom's doctor had come to the house on Bill's birthday, December 16. He told us she was failing quickly and most likely would not live until Christmas. The weeks leading up to that time had been difficult and draining. I hadn't done any Christmas shopping. During those last few days, I spent a great deal of the time sitting in an arm chair next to my mother's bed. She slept most of the time, probably a result of the morphine the hospice nurses gave her. My brother, husband, kids and I were with her when her spirit left its earthly frame and joined her beloved Saviour and God.

We made all the necessary arrangements, booked our flights and packed our bags. We were at Mom's house in Dallas -- alone -- on Christmas Day. It was so strange to be in her house without her. Christmas had always been a joyous, busy, twinkling time at Mom's. She loved everything about the season and her joy was contagious. Her house was barren without her, a fact made even more desolate by the season.

We realized then that the best part of our Christmas celebrations always centered on faith and family. Presents are quickly forgotten, but family time stays vividly clear.

These days our celebrations are simple, yet full of love. The best things in life are, indeed, free.

Christmas Eve

Tomorrow all of our children will be here for Christmas. There is a new addition to our family this year; Justin got married! He and Erika will leave New York early Christmas morning. Josh and Meg are going to pick them up at the airport in Atlanta.

I am really glad that our church will be open on Christmas! I am looking forward to meeting with my church family. Our gathering will be a simple service with the Majestic Christ center stage.

P.M.

Hundreds came out to the Christmas Eve service. The service was simply but wholely focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. His advent, earthly ministry, and death were recognized as we shared the ordinance of communion. To God be the glory!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Beginning 50

What a surprise when the Beach Boys entered with the aid of canes, crutches, and walkers to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. The guys still have it; they really rocked the joint! Oh sure, they had a little age on them, but they raised the roof.

That would have been enough to make the night a success, but lo and behold, Sonny and Cher took the stage to sing their trademark song, "I Got You Babe." Sonny managed a post-mortem appearance!

The entertainment came to a crescendo when the Shirelles brought a slightly revised version of "The Boy from New York City." The lead singer looked exactly like my wife.

Ooo wah, ooo wah cool, cool kitty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty
Ooo wah, ooo wah he’s so nifty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty

He’s so divine. He’s really fine.
And I am glad that he is mine, all mine.
And he’s neat. And oh so sweet.
And just the way he looked at me He swept me off my feet

Ooo whee, you ought to come and see
The way he walks And how he talks.

Ooo wah, ooo wah he’s so nifty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty

He likes to hike--and ride his bike.
He has the finest camp house—you’ve never seen the like.
And he’s cute. In his three piece suit.
And I really like when he wears his cowboy boots

Ooo whee, say you ought to come and see
His chain saw scar and his daughter's car.

Every time he says he loves me
Chills run down my spine.
Every time he wants to kiss me He makes me feel so fine.

Ooo wah, ooo wah he’s so nifty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty
Ooo wah, ooo wah cool, cool kitty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty

On the seventeenth of December, my nephew Ron and I set out on our bicycles; it was a brisk 36 degrees! When we finished for the morning, we had covered 46 miles. I changed my day off from Friday to Monday and we did another 77 miles. Once again, it was 36 degrees when we left for Piedmont in Pine Mountain. We were going to do a century, but I ran out of gas. I will try again this weekend.

The remainder of the week was chock full of pastoral stuff. I had several counseling sessions, visited the sick, responded to e-mails, and prepared for our Annual Church Conference. Saturday night we will have our Christmas Eve service; it will be wonderfully simple as we sing worshipful songs with Christmas themes, read the Christmas story, and observe the ordinance of communion.

Friday, December 16, 2005

5 Decades And A Fresh 50!

I awoke to the first day of my sixth decade; a half century of thriving and surviving. The first morning of my fiftieth is very similar to the former in many ways: I put on a pot of coffee, read Oswald Chambers (Wrestling with God), prayed, checked my email, and read the Boston Globe. The phone rang at 7 a.m., a call from some old friends in Northern Maine. "How does it feel to be 50?" I was asked. "Straight ahead and never mind the mud!"

This day will be different. Ron and Angela (family) are coming from Florida. Ron and I are going to do some cycling over the next couple of days. Ron is bringing me some cold weather gear to wear. My wife and the church I pastor are throwing a party for me. That is cause for alarm, "What goes around -- comes around." The folks here have come to grips with a fact my wife has long known: I miss few opportunities to torment the daylights out of people!

While reading Chambers this morning a couple of phrases stood out, "If you wrestle with God, you will be crippled for the rest of your life." I know that to be true; I am enjoying the Adventure, but my soul walks with a limp. Chambers devotional ended with these words, "We don't have to fight or wrestle with God, but we must wrestle before God with things. Beware of lazily giving up. Instead, put up a glorious fight and you will find yourself empowered through His strength."

Hmmm . . . a great charge to start a fresh 50!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wallpaper

Last night Sandy and I attended a Christmas party for Damascus Way, a local shelter for battered women. The batterings came from several fronts, an abusive spouse or boyfriend and life choices that led them into drug addiction or prostitution.

Our church has been celebrating Christmas with this ministry for 8 years. Last night it was once again, "Standing Room Only." The event was well-planned and everyone in the shelter received a gift; the Christmas tree was surrounded by stacks of colorful and neatly wrapped presents. Throughout the evening little children circled the tree searching for gifts with their names on them. Festivities included the CSU gospel choir and a professional piano player.

Then the women from the shelter sang . . . O God!

The ladies accompanied the song, "I Can Only Imagine," with sign language. They were radiant. Faces beamed. Tears filled their eyes. Redemption's joy was unveiled. The evening was a glimpse of the song they sang. Witnessing this absolutely wrenched our hearts.

When the ladies finished singing, Gary Johnson, one of our church members who organizes the event, said words to this effect, "We imagine what heaven will be like . . . our Pastor teaches about heaven and hell. Realize though, that some of these women imagine heaven, but have been to hell . . . they could tell you what the wallpaper looks like.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Narnia And Deep Magic

Tonight, Sandy and I went with some friends to see the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I have read Lewis' Chronicles; the movie was faithful to the original story. I will recommend it to everyone.

Do you ever wish certain things didn't impact you so deeply? I don't know why, but everytime I see movies like the one I just watched, or The Lord of the Rings, I have a mixture of feelings that range all over the place: sadness, agitation, or even grief. Intense feelings arise; I have to suppress an urge to get up and leave. I want to retreat and mull over what I have seen or heard. Exactly what is going on inside is never clearly defined.

I am told some people go to movies or immerse themselves into books to check out of reality for a while. I look for good movies and good books, too. One thing I have figured out; I am not trying to check out. I am trying to check in; I know there is a life and place of Deep Magic.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

It's Funny Now!

I made it! Last night we had our Christmas presentation and I didn't make the unfortunate mistake of telling hundreds of people (children included) that, "You know who" is not "r-e-a-l!"

Yes, last year I did just that. I have never witnessed "Peace on earth" exit a church sanctuary any faster! The audience was traumatized and I was verbally brutalized; forunately, no one was institutionalized.

In the spirit of the up coming "Auld Lang Syne," I have posted last year's attempt to reconcile with the congregation I serve.

The Unintentional Grinch

My recent descent into “Grinchhood” has left me rather uncomfortable. Saturday night, after the tremendous Christmas presentation, I went to bed and dreamed the choir opened the Sunday morning worship service with a slightly altered version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

You’re a mean one, Pastor Shorey
You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel...

You’re a monster, Pastor Shorey
Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You’ve got garlic in your soul.

There are more verses, but, I think you hear my heart—I know I upset many. I am deeply sorry. I revealed, to a mixed audience (adults AND CHILDREN), that “You know who is not r-e-a-l.” Why, in the planning and preparation of what I wanted to say, it did not enter my mind, I will not try to defend.

The three words that would best describe how I felt shortly after the service are “Stink, Stank, Stunk!” Please accept my apologies.

Mangled up in tangled up knots,

Pastor Shorey

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Research As The Rain Falls

I am sitting at the kitchen table pecking away at my laptop. I have been doing some research on WWII submarines. I can hear the rain falling off the eaves of outside creating a syncopated beat as they hit the concrete patio. In between google searches I have been answering e-mails from a friend in Maine; he is running a gospel ad in the Bangor Daily News and a couple of local rags. The creator of the ad is a very successful businessman who is absolutely fearless when it comes to sharing his faith. It hasn't seemed to hurt business much; he is incredibly $ucce$$ful. Our friendship began when I invited him to the church I served in Maine. A couple of years later he responded to God's urging to call and ask me if I had a need for fourteen hundred dollars. At that time I was planting a church in Northern Maine, and had just finished praying with one of our men to meet a financial need; we needed fourteen hundred dollars.

Back to the research. As I said in my last post, my father is a WWII Vet. He was on the Pintado's maiden voyage; a plank member. When all was said and done, the entire crew received a Presidential Citation; my father's has been lost. I am trying to find a way to get it replaced. One of my relatives, a very bright and savvy guy, is trying to point me in the right direction. He has found a site that may be the critical link. I have always wanted a copy of that document for my father and for me. At the present, my wife is putting together a collage of pictures for my fiftieth birthday. As I looked at the pictures with her, those pictures were reminders of epics in my life that have shaped me. The pictures don't tell it all, but they evoke memories and bring the journey back to life. I know my father; that document is important.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Pearl Harbor Day

**This being the anniversary or D-Day, I thought this repost was timely. 

My father joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor. He turned 18 on a submarine somewhere in the South China sea. Dad was raised in Enfield, Maine and ended up on the Pintado (ss-387); the Pintado's keel was laid down by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery Maine on 7 May 1943.

Many a night my brothers and I went to bed listening to my father's stories. As a boy, I thought my father was a hero. As a man, I now realize he truly was. Though there is nothing romantic about war itself, there is something incredibly romantic, heroic, and endlessly compelling about the generation of young men and women who fought against evil. O God, how I pray we will never forget that there are some things worth sacrificing and dying for.

I have posted the history of one of the subs my father fought on. All I have to do is close my eyes and the images of an 18 year old scrambling through a steel tube, manning his station, and praying that the depth charges stay out of range come vividly to life. Take some time to read about our forgotten heros.

"On her first war patrol, Pintado served as flagship of a wolfpack, commanded by Captain Leon P. Blair, which also included submarines Shark (SS–314) and Pilotfish (SS–386). The attack group departed Pearl Harbor 16 May, touched at Midway 20 and 21 May, and headed for waters west of the Marianas and south of Formosa. On the 31st, they formed a scouting line in search of a convoy reported by submarine Silversides (SS–236). After sparring with the convoy’s escorts through the night, Pintado managed to reach attack position shortly before dawn and fired a spread of six torpedos at overlapping targets, destroying 4,716 ton cargo ship Toho Maru. She then daringly came within 700 yards of an escort while bringing her stern tubes to bear on another merchant ship. Although explosions suggested that some of the second spread of torpedos had scored, no second sinking has been confirmed. Pintado then skillfully evaded angry Japanese destroyers and sped away to safety.

About midday on 4 June, Pintado spotted smoke from a Japanese convoy heading toward Saipan. She and her sister subs headed for the enemy, and soon Shark sank 6,886-ton cargo ship Katsunkawa Maru before slipping away from a heavy depth charge attack. The American submarines continued to shadow the convoy and early the next day Shark’s torpedos accounted for two more cargo ships.

Pintado made her kills shortly before noon of 6 June, D-day in Normandy, with a spread of torpedos at overlapping targets. An awesome explosion tore one ship apart, her bow and stern both projecting up in the air as she sank. The stern of a second was under water before she was swallowed by smoke and flame. These victims were later identified as 5,652-ton Havre Maru and 2,825-ton Kashimasan Maru. An airplane and five escorts tried to box in the submarine and dropped over 50 depth charges, but she escaped damage.

Pintado and her sisters in the wolfpack had all but destroyed the convoy which was attempting to reinforce Japanese defenses of the Marianas. While escorts rescued many of the 7,000 troops whose ships had gone down, they had lost weapons, tanks, and equipment. This greatly weakened Japan’s defensive capability in the Marianas for the impending American invasion of Saipan. Pintado then headed for the Marshall Islands, arriving Majuro 1 July for refit.

Her second war patrol took the submarine to the East China Sea. On 6 August she sank 5,401-ton cargoship Shonan Maru and damaged another target in a Formosa-bound convoy, before scampering away through a downpour of exploding depth charges. On the 22nd Pintado spotted an 11 ship convoy guarded by three escorts. After dark she moved into the center of the convoy, passing a scant 75 yards from an escort, to attack Tonan Maru No. 2, a former whale factorywhich Lt. Comdr. Clarey, as executive officer of Amberjack, had helped to sink in Kavieng Harbor, Bismark Archipelago, 10 October 1942. Since then the Japanese had raised the ship and towed her to Japan where she was repaired and converted to a tanker.

Two spreads of torpedos from the submarine left the monster ablaze and sinking and damaged two other tankers. Tonan Maru was one of the largest merchant ships sunk byan American submarine during World War II. Following lifeguard station duty off Japan, Pintado turned eastward 1September and arrived Pearl Harbor on the 14th.On Pintado’s third war patrol, Lt. Comdr. Clarey commanded a wolfpack which included Atule (SS–403) and Jallao (SS–368). The group departed Pearl Harbor 9 Octoberheading for the South China Sea. Meanwhile, General MacArthur was preparing to return to the Philippines. When histroops landed on Leyte 20 October, the Japanese Navystruck back with all its force in a “go-for-broke” attempt to smash the invasion. The result was the decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf.

As the American Navy turned back the three prongs of the Japanese offensive, Clarey’s submarines sped toward Luzon Strait to attack the Northern Japanese Force which Admiral Halsey’s Fleet had engaged off Cape Engano. On the night of the 25th, Jallao, made radar contact with bombdamaged light cruiser Tama fleeing from Halsey. Pintado closed the scene with Jallao but held her fire while her sister submarine attacked, ready to join in the fray if needed. Jallao launched seven torpedos, and Tama broke up and went to the bottom, the last cruiser to go down in the Battle off Cape Engano.

A bonus came on 3 November when Pintado’s periscope revealed “the largest enemy ship we have ever seen”, apparently an oiler in the support group for the Japanese carriers. Clarey fired six bow torpedos at the huge target, but enemy destroyer Akikaze crossed their path before they could reach their target. The destroyer disintegrated in a tremendous explosion which provided an effective smoke screen protecting the original target until the two remaining Japanese escorts forced the submarine to dive and withdraw to escape exploding depth charges.
Pintado joined Halibut on the 14th and escorted the damaged submarine to Saipan, arriving Tanapag Harbor five days later. After a week in port, she resumed her war patrol South of Takao. On the night of 12–13 December, she sank two enemy landing craft, Transport No. 12 and Transport No. 104, and an unidentified ship. Two days later she headed for Australia and arrived Brisbane on New Years Day 1945. She won the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary skill and heroism on her first three war patrols."

My Dad was on Pintado's first patrol, which made him a Plank owner. He, along with his other shipmates received a Presidential Citation for their service. I have been on a sub of the same size and class, the Lionfish. I have seen the cramped sleeping quarters, the torpedo room, and the dark narrow corridors that run from section to section in the bowels of the ship.

The men of the "Silent Service" were a breed apart -- all warriors are.

Monday, December 5, 2005

The Monday After Much Study!

Today I would like to set out on an endless road trip. Endless? I mean it would not end until I was ready for it to end. There would be no need to prioritize my dreams and destinations; I would not have to choose, “If I want to do this, I cannot do that.” Time constraint? None! Neither my pace nor my stay would be rushed. I would wring each experience for all it is worth. Sure, I have some places I want to go, but if, while on my unhurried way, an attraction caught my eye, I could alter my route and accommodate my curiosity. “I will get there when I get there.”

Do I sound like Solomon, “denying himself nothing . . . refusing his heart no pleasure . . . chasing after the wind.”? I don’t intend to; that kind of quest left Solomon concluding, “Meaningless! Meaningless . . . everything is meaningless!” Those are not the passions or pits that I am trying to describe.

The Solomon who most closely reflects my own state of mind said this, “. . . The Teacher . . . imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs . . . searched to find just the right words . . . much study wearies the body.” It is Monday -- after much study -- time to get going, again!

Thursday, December 1, 2005

The Gambler?

Tonight some friends helped Sandy and me celebrate my up-coming 50th birthday by taking us out for dinner and then to a Kenny Rogers Christmas concert. I didn't know he did Christmas music. When I was just a kid, he had a band called "Kenny Rogers and the First Edition." Over the years, the former "Rocker" turned "Country" singer has mellowed. Tonight, he began his concert by forewarning us that he wouldn't be singing "The Gambler" or "Lucille." He said neither of them really fit in with "O Holy Night" and "Little Town of Bethlehem."

We had some of the best seats in the house. In fact, we sat two rows behind Kenny's wife; she had their little twins with her -- they appeared less than a year old. I actually got to say "Hi" to her, but one of our friends got invited back stage to meet Rogers himself! During the concert Kenny went down into the crowd and another of our friends got chosen to sing; I hope he doesn't quit his day job!

Kenny was very vocal about resisting the pressure to take Christmas out of the public arena. I was glad to hear him say that -- more than once. The show was family oriented, clean, and pleasant. A couple of choirs from our local high schools, Shaw and Northside, provided some of the choral back-up vocals. I don't know how many deals are left in the aging Gambler's deck, but tonight he held a full house in his hands.

A Call From Iraq

This morning, one of our soldiers called from Iraq. The area he is in is considered one of the most dangerous and volatile. Our soldier is a very committed Christ follower and is also one who is in charge of many young men who follow him; he is an officer. He is in a difficult situation. Waging war requires a lot of intelligence to determine the whereabouts of the Insurgents. The best source of that intelligence is from the locals. Our soldiers there do not have the resources to win the trust of villages with gifts of blankets, first aid medicines, and the building of relationships that come from just socializing with the natives. You don't make a lot of friends when you are bursting through front doors and dragging a confirmed or suspected terrorist into the streets.

Engagements with the enemy come by exposure; our soldiers basically make themselves vulnerable to attack. Bombs disguised as roadside debris are a constant threat; nothing can be left to chance. Our guys possess superior weapons, are disciplined, professional, incredibly committed, and brave. But an adversary that is invisible is hard to fight. After I hung up the phone, the spiritual parallel came to my mind, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms . . ."

The Lord got my attention with a call from Iraq.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bravo for the Reunion!

Last night the Rio Bravo team, their wives, and one baby got together at the Longhorn Steakhouse with Ray and Tanya McDaniels. About a month ago, 27 men went to their mission in Mexico and helped construct an educational center for the deaf. The mission trip was successful from any angle you observed it. Last night, we all realized just how deeply God had forged the bond between us and this young couple.

The McDaniels are expecting their first baby after 13 years of marriage. They are delirious with excitement. We had the pleasure to bless them with a monetary gift to purchase Christmas presents for the deaf children at the school, and to give the parents-to-be a Dillard's gift card. They will be able to cross the border into McAllen, Texas and do some shopping for their little girl who is on the way.

During the evening, Ray shared a couple of hilarious adventures while doing missions in Mexico; the tapestry of God's work uses a lot of different fabric! We also talked about another trip south of the border next fall; I believe a room full of wives were thinking about joining the adventure! To all of us, it is very obvious that God's hand is all over His obscure workers in a an out-of-the-way place.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Two Pilgrims Eaten!

I went to work at my office for a few hours this morning; around noon I left for home. Sandy and I had made plans to go hiking at F.D.R. State Park. I got all our stuff into one small backpack: coffee pot, coffee and condiments, stove, hatchet, lighter, water, work gloves, leatherman, and two pilgrims. We planned to eat the pilgrims.

No! Not the kind with the funny hats and buckles on their shoes. I am talking about the kind made from Thankgiving leftovers. We started with seven grain bread and put mayonaise on both slices. Next we stacked ample slices of turkey on the bread and covered it with turkey stuffing (that's dressing if you live in the south). Finally, we put a generous layer of cranberry sauce right in the middle and made a sandwich (you put the cranberry sauce in the middle so your bread doesn't get soggy).

Once all our gear was packed and the pilgrims safely stored in zip-lock bags we hiked to Broken Tree campsite; the temperature was a perfect 56 degrees. Sandy gathered kindling and I cut up some bigger wood. We got a perfect fire going and cranked up the campstove (much easier to make coffee on). Comfortably seated on rough hewn logs, I poured coffee for both of us and gave thanks for the two pilgrims we were about to eat!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving at the End of the Day

This evening I called my mother and father in Maine. It is 20 degrees in Old Town and the ground is covered with a fresh coat of white winter paint!

Here in Georgia I sat in my sunny back yard reading -- wearing a pair of black sweat pants and a black T-shirt. I began to sweat and moved my chair into the shade.

Thanksgiving at the end of the day!

Thanksgiving Morning

I chose not to go hunting this morning. Instead, I did the unthinkable -- stayed in bed until 6:30! I got up and read My Utmost; Sandy came back to life just as I finished reading. We got our coffee and enjoyed watching the sun's first rays hit the top of the trees; slowly the sun drenched them in light from top to bottom.

Between us and the sunrise there were a number of large birds, either crows or buzzards, casting moving shadows into our back yard. At first, we thought it was the big hawk that enjoys our neighbor's bird feeders -- he considers those feeders his own personal fly-through. Hawks are solitary; it wasn't him.

In a little while we will begin to cut up the turnip and hubbard squash. The turkey will go into the oven and other preparations will begin. On the East coast, my other son and his new bride will make their way to New York. My parents, two sisters, and one brother will gather with their families in Maine. One of my brothers is on his way to Arkansas to give thanks with his wife's family. Josh, Meagan, Sandy, and I will share thanks around a table loaded with God's provisions. It's a beautiful Thanksgiving morning.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

In the Midst of Thanksgiving

Today I spent a lot of time at hospitals. One of our ladies had outpatient surgery on her shoulder; all is well.

One of our men fell from a ladder on Sunday, went immediately to the hospital and was told they could find no damage. When the pain got unbearable he went to Hughston hospital and found that his knee was broken; due to the break, blood circulation was cut off below the knee. He had to have emergency surgery that required plates and screws. If he had delayed any longer he would have faced amputation. We talked about hunting in Alabama in six weeks.

Our Sr. Adult Pastor's child fell from his bunk bed, hit his head on a toy chest, ruptured his eardrum, and fractured his skull. He is sedated and being evaluated; there is no cause to believe he will not mend.

I went to another floor at the same hospital and prayed with a 19 year old and his parents; I had never met them before today. Ty was going under the knife for exploratory surgery; it was presumed that he has cancer. Ty's surgery revealed that he is cancer free.

This morning I met with my pastoral staff and each of us took a few moments to express thanks to God; we have all experienced many blessings in 2005. My youngest staff member gave thanks for life. He has a medical condition that keeps him walking a tightrope; everyday is precious to him. Another gave thanks for the new 9 pound 14 ounce baby boy born less than two weeks ago. Our newest pastoral staff member is just incredibly grateful to join the team. Others thanked God for godly parents and the privilege of ministry. My thanks were for the glory of God that is so evident in the life of my wife and for the deepening faith of my children. All day long I have journeyed through many different circumstances -- all day long I have been in the midst of Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2005

All 4 One

Yesterday our church took the final offering for our "All 4 One" campaign. Early this year we agreed that we needed to buy two lots that surrounded our current property. We set a goal to raise 215 thousand dollars to purchase the property rather than mortgage it.

Over the last three years the ministry has grown and we have had to change from the traditional schedule of Sunday school followed by the Worship service. We have made the transition in steps; first, we added an early Worship service. This fall we changed the schedule once again, and went to two worship services with Sunday schools operating simultaneously. We have found the axiom to be true, "The greatest cause of stress is change!"

Last night we had a Thanksgiving Celebration Supper. We knew that we needed to raise 65 thousand with this last offering to reach the goal. After we listened to testimonies of thanks for God's goodness I announced the final total -- $215, 537. 36!

To God be the glory!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

This Really Happened!

I am not used to seeing the quantity of deer I have seen since moving to Georgia. Thursday night it got about as bizarre as it could get. I got to my tree stand at 4:20 p.m. I barely got seated and a 6 point buck came out at the opposite end of the field.

I scoped him for quite a while and watched him feed. He was totally unaware of my presence and not at all cautious. At 4:45 I heard a couple of cracks about 25 yards to my left; out stepped a monster buck with the biggest rack I have ever seen. I didn't panic. I put my scope on him and waited for him to stop. I figured that when he got to the field he would stop when he saw the 6 pointer at the other end. He didn't stop. I calmly thought, "No problem, it's a long way to the end of the field; he'll stop. He didn't. I couldn't believe it when he walked directly away from me into the field; all the while I had my scope on that giant rack that appeared to stick out 5 inches beyond his ears on each side. I know-I know! I should have grunted or whistled to stop him. I didn't.

For the next 45 minutes the 6 pointer fed and then drifted off into the brushy slope to my right. Then it happened! All of a sudden groups of does and bucks were all over the place. My head was spinning; there were 5 different bucks of varying sizes chasing does around the food plot and into the grown up field that surrounded me. I kept picking out a buck I wanted to shoot, but could not get him stop! It was very windy and these bucks were from 100-175 yards out; I started whistling and making grunting sounds, but they didn't hear me! Finally, the biggest one stopped at the far end of the field. I fired and missed; it was nearly 6 o'clock and the light wasn't good! The big buck ran off into a stand of pines; the other bucks just kept running does! Another buck stopped; just as I fired, he jumped toward a doe. I missed -- again! Keep in mind that I hunt with a lever action 308. I jacked another shell in and waited for him to stop -- he did. I fired and he dropped -- a nine pointer!

I'm not done yet. On Friday evening, I had a board meeting in Juniper, Georgia. I also had an invitation from Bob S. to hunt at his farm in the afternoon before the meeting. Bob's son Rob took me to a stand at about 2:15 p.m. At 2:55 a big doe came busting out of the very thick swale right beneath my tree stand -- and stopped -- right beneath my tree stand. Again, the wind was blowing and I knew that the doe would smell me at any moment. I stood up, leaned over the handmade rail of the stand, sighted down the barrel (couldn't use the scope) and shot down through the top of the deer. It ran 25 yards behind me and dropped.

At 4:55 I heard some more noise coming through the same hole in the swale the doe came through. Out came a 6 point buck! Thirty minutes later I began dragging my two deer up over the ridge to the dirt road!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Today's Forecast: Rain

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater . . ."

I have had several conversations lately with my hunting partner; we both have returned from sitting over our food plots and realized -- we need some rain. Last night, I talked to my Mom and Dad and they said they were getting mixed precipitation -- rain and snow. The rain in Maine is for the future, the rain in Georgia is for today.

This morning, Isaiah reminded me that God always sends precipitation with a purpose in mind, it sets up a cycle of providing seed for the future and bread for the present. Continuing on, Isaiah draws this analogy, "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Today, I will lead a staff devotion, speak at our midweek service, and provide counsel for several others. The common thread of all these conversations will be the Word of God. I will keep Isaiah's analogy in mind and ask, "Is this precipitation of God's Word setting up a cycle for future seed or providing bread for the present?"

Monday, November 14, 2005

Stephen King and a Day in the Life of Christ's Church

"The danger is that in trying to please everyone, today's newscasters provide no coverage at all" --- Stephen King

Yes! That quote is from the Stephen King -- the "King" of horror. He is lamenting the way TV news has gone from reporting to seeking listeners. Today, I have continued my unending wrestling with a similar seduction. I often wish that people understood that our goal is not to get ratings and tickle ears. Some days, I wish that the adventure I write about is a little less about conflict and more about valiant rescues. It is hard to agree with people who would try to convince you that a manure pile smells like a rose. And then there are those who can make a rose smell like a manure pile.

"The danger is that in trying to please everyone, today's pastor provides no coverage at all." --- Bill Shorey

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hunting Report

Friday morning I saw a buck at 6:25 a.m. I could see that it had horns, but could not tell how many points. It didn't stay put long; when I brought my scope up to try and identify the brown blur about 75 yards away, it was looking right at me. He turned, walked into the woods, and I heard him circle away from me to my left. At 8: 25 another buck came out; he had 6 points. He fed a little, sniffed the air, and then went over to the tree line and left his mark. Fifteen minutes later there were 8 gobblers feeding in the dove field about 250 yards away. I enjoyed watching them and seeing the sun reflect off their shiny black feathers as they fed in and out of the shadows.

I returned to the same area but to a different stand that evening. I only saw one small deer.

At 6:25 a.m. Saturday morning, I saw two deer scamper across the opposite end of the field; I couldn't tell what gender they were. At 7:25 and 8:25 I saw a 4 pointer and then a 6 pointer. Funny how it happened, I saw the first one when I stood up to stretch. I could see parts of the field around the food plot I could not see when sitting. The 4 pointer was very small; its left front leg was lame. After he left, I got to thinking I ought to stand up again for a better view. This time I saw the 6 pointer in another part of the field. When I first saw him he was over 200 yards away; I thought I had something to take home. Eventually, he worked his way within 5o yards of my stand; I counted his points more than once. Maybe next year!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

No Such Thing . . .

The temperatures have dropped 10-15 degrees and the deer hunting will reach its peak over the next ten days! In the morning, I will be getting out of bed bright and early; I am going back to Pine Mountain!

Long before the sun rises, I will be enjoying pitch black woods, the night sounds, and views of the endless universe above me. Most of the morning I will try to blend in with the scenery high above the ground. A couple of books, Powerbars, and a thermos of coffee will be my only company.

More than likely, I will get several chances to take a deer. Last year I went out in the pouring rain and still managed to get a deer at 1 o'clock in the afternoon -- the first time I had ever stalked one. For me, there is no such thing as a bad day hunting.

Feedback from Rio Bravo

I received the following e-mail from our Rio Bravo missionaries. I had asked Ray and Tanya when they were going to be back in Georgia, we want to get them together with the team for some fun. Their reply contained a little more than a date and time . . .

Brother Bill,---(sorry about the "brother" It's just my upbringing)

Our plan is to be there from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until about Wednesday of the week after. We'd love to get together with everybody. Y'all come back anytime. We had a fantastic week. The maistros were upset with me because I didn't make it clear the morning that y'all left that you would not be coming back that afternoon. I had told them the day before when the kids were leaving---but they apparently didn't process it--that is why they didn't say their goodbyes. Anyway Flavio said he had even worked up a little speech--that has never happened before. Your team really had an effect on our workers. Thank you.


Ray and Tanya

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Journal, November 3 -- Rio Bravo

There are 27 deaf students at the Mission; their ages range from 5 to 26 years old. Some of them entered the school with no language skills. Some had a slight ability to hear, but most were completely deaf. All of them possessed a joyful and cheery disposition.

Every day at lunch, the deaf children picked one of us as a partner. They ate meals with us, but hungered most for the attention we gave them. This week, I had 4 teenaged young men that latched on to me. As soon as they finished their classes, they made a beeline for the construction site. Though they could not speak, they would let out shrieks to get my attention. After a couple of days, I was able to identify the shrieks and match them to each individual.

Part of the education at the Mission is to teach the students a vocational skill. I was amazed at how hard these young guys worked, how they anticipated the next step in any project, and the pride they took in their craft. All the men who worked with them would have hired them in a skinny minute. Life at the Mission is focused on purpose. Everything the young people are taught has a life skill in mind; they are being prepared to experience their maximun ability to sustain themselves in their silent world.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Journal, November 2 -- Rio Bravo

The Mission is inland from the Gulf approximately 30 miles; a steady breeze blows across a flat and nearly treeless landscape. Each evening I get great pleasure looking up into the clear black sky. Venus is unusually bright well before it gets dark. Mars, with its reddish glow is in distinct contrast to the millions of other stars.

The mornings are amusing, peaceful, and beautiful. A confused rooster crows all night long and is virtually quiet as the sun peaks over the horizon. The back-lighting of the emerging daylight constantly changes the profile of a line of trees that stand between me and the horizon. To my right, the windmill is picking up speed as thermal drafts race ahead of the glowing orange ball that is chasing them.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. Genesis 1: 3-4

Journal, October 29-November 3 -- Rio Bravo

The bunkhouse! Ahh, the bunkhouse! We all slept in one large open building on bunks. The building had no air-conditioning, but did have some of the largest free standing fans you have ever seen. They sounded like aircraft propellors turning.

One night in particular, I was awakened by threatening sounds. Startled and in that never-never land between alertness and sleep, I thought we were in the middle of a bombing raid! A combination of multiple snorers and the whirring of those giant fans nearly caused me to yell out, "Air raid -- In-coming!"

Journal, November 2 -- Rio Bravo

Each of the work teams worked under the supervision of a Mexican Maestro. A Maestro is our equivelent of a project supervisor. In Mexico, an OSHA team would explode from infraction overload! Mexican engineering and technology (or lack thereof) is very different than here in the States. Almost all work was accomplished with the use of raw human strength or fairly primitive levers and tools.

Mexico now has a new honorary Gringo Maestro. I will affectionately call him the "Loco Maestro," alias Jim Pass! Jim had never laid a block in his life, yet when the week was ended, he had kept a pace just slightly below the output of a professional mason. However, I am willing to bet that the Loco Maestro laid block with unprecedented aplomb . You had to be there to appreciate it.

Hearing Jim call for "blocko" and "cemente" in a southern accent was funnier than reading the comics. Seeing the trowel that looked like a butter knife in his monstrous hand "buttering" the blocks and setting them in place was not exactly artistic. Watching him walk on cat feet on very unstable staging, 12 feet off the ground, would never remind you of ballet!

Seeing his insuppressible good nature and ability to overcome lanquage and cultural barriers was a work of God.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Journal, November 1 -- Rio Bravo

Last night, Ray and Tonya took us into town. We ate at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Ken C. told me the meat was goat -- I thought it tasted more like dog.

When we got back, Ray and Tonya gave us an in-depth presentation of the mission at Rio Bravo. During the last part of his presentation Ray mentioned that one of the teachers, Laura, was from Big Spring, Texas. The minute he said that, I realized why I had the nagging feeling that I knew Laura. Four years ago, when I was traveling with Henry Blackaby Ministries, I led a conference in Big Spring. One afternoon, I was invited to speak to a deaf school; Laura was my interpreter!

When Ray was finished speaking, I introduced myself to Laura, again. She lit up and said, "Yes, I remember you. I even remember what you spoke about -- Anger! One of the men from our church heard the conversation and said, "Pastor, that's impressive -- I can't remember what you said three days ago!"

Journal, October 31 -- Rio Bravo

We completed our first day of work. Whenever we were working, someone was in the "Prayer Chair." Every half hour, two new workers were in cane-seat chairs under some mesquite trees, praying for the work. Amid the sound of hens clucking, dogs chasing each other, and nearby construction, we prayed. No worker, deaf child, or project was left uncovered. The "Prayer Chair" was the most important effort put forth.

During the day, Zach led a team that repaired the windmill that pumped the cistern full of water. Donnie and Carey C. wired and re-wired existing buildings. Bob and Ken dug and formed the footing for the giant flag pole. The rest of us laid block, built forms, cut re-bar, mixed cement and mortar, and twisted wire.

Cary J. led the devotion time tonight and the team put up little resistance against the Sandman -- it was time to go to bed!

Journal, October 30 -- Rio Bravo (p.m.)

We went to a mission church this morning. The local pastor forgot to turn his clock back, so the service was delayed. Some thought the service was just getting over, others thought it was just getting started! I am not really sure what was going on when we got there!

The church is located in a very poor section of Rio Bravo. The depth of poverty increased as we crossed physical boundaries. The first demographic began when we crossed the railroad tracks into the "wrong side." Each time our dusty old bus crossed an open sewage canal, the communities became poorer.

Part way through the service I was invited to address the congregation with the aid of an interpreter. I memorized a greeting and several sentences in Spanish, then I read to them from chapter 1 of Colossians,

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing precious fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God . . .

All that Paul prayed is possible -- no matter what side of the tracks you live on.

Journal, October 30 -- Rio Bravo

I just awakened from my first night in Mexico. I slept fairly well until 2 a.m., and then off and on until 4:30. I was surprised to see how many men were up and about; we all followed our noses to the coffee pot. Hardly a word is spoken. Every man is seated at the crude tables reading his Bible, journaling, or seemingly deep in thought.

I have just finished reading Oswald Chambers. A particular phrase has captured my thoughts, "To turn head faith into personal possession is a fight always, not sometimes." O.C concludes, "Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." Therein lies my struggle and every man I know, the whole man rightly related to Christ.

I will turn 50 in December . . . the battle has never ceased . . . parts of me are still adjusting to the Spirit of Christ in me.

Journal, October 29 -- Rio Bravo

Once again, Bill R. and I are seated next to each other on an airplane; the last time, we were on our way to Asia. This trip provides a sort of measurement. I have been thinking about all that has transpired and what our new mission holds in store . . .

The journey to Mexico feels very different than the one to Asia. Our mission and tactics are so different. In Asia, we traveled as evangelists, two-by-two, were somewhat covert, and never really safe. In Asia, staying away from authorities antagonistic toward the gospel was a big part of the mission. In Mexico, we will be a very visible construction team of 27, and nothing in the physical world poses a threat. In Asia we were in remote villages, and often the sum total of the kingdom of God among thousands. In Mexico, we will be among many local residents who have come to Christ.

Ironically, we will be ministering to the deaf and mute in Mexico -- in Asia, we had to deliver the gospel without words to a people who had never heard.

Gideon's Band -- Doing More With Less!

We pulled into the church parking lot shortly before midnight on November 4th; twenty-seven men returned from Rio Bravo, Mexico. The mission trip exceeded everyone's expectations; that says a lot, because our original goal was to take 100 men on mission. You may be thinking, "How could you have possibly exceeded expectations when you missed your work force goal by nearly 75 percent?" The answer, "Little is much when God is in it."

There have been scores of teams from around the country that have gone to Rio Bravo; the undertaking there is God-sized. Under construction is a two-story spartan block building of over 20 thousand square feet. Added to the task was a tremendous amount of maintenance on the existing buildings and equipment. Yet, for the first time in the history of the project, one of the lead Mexican foremen said to the resident missionary that the group from Morningside did the work of 100 men!

The amount of progress made is even more incredible and God glorifying when you consider that only 2 of the 27 men considered themselves tradesmen; the other 25 men dubbed themselves as "gophers." To a man, we all realized that God had truly "shown up." Only God could enable us to achieve that kind of success. To a man, we can't wait to get back to Rio Bravo!

Our organizational guy recognized that God put together a crew like Gideon's army. From a human perspective our "army" was undermanned and underqualified. From God's perspective we needed to be exposed to His ability to "Do more with less."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Rio Bravo, Mexico

Tomorrow morning, 26 men will gather at MBC at 5 a.m.; we are headed to Mexico. By 5:30 we will be on our way to the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield in Atlanta. We will fly to Dallas and then on McAllen, Texas. A bus will carry us to Rio Bravo. Once there, our phase of a construction project begins; we are building an educational facility for the deaf. Projects will include hanging sheetrock, painting, pouring concrete, and tackling an endless punch list.

This mission trip is part of our "Band of Brothers" Men's Ministry. For many of the men it will be the first mission trip out of our country. But once they get a taste of it, I doubt it will be their last. We are going to a very poor border town, and the experience may change the future direction of some of the men.

This year, MBC sent missionaries to China, Peru, Uruguay, Kentucky, Arizona, California, and Mississippi. A crew is returning to Mississippi in November; we have made a long term commitment to help re-establish a church battered by Katrina. We are helping them rebuild their sanctuary, re-roof houses, and provide salaries for their staff.

While in Rio Bravo, we will keep a look-out for John Wayne.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

No Bang For The Buck (part 2)

I returned to Pine Mountain late this afternoon to a different deer stand. The hunt was blessed with serendipitous events. I got to the tree stand and started up the ladder. As I reached the top rungs, I turned around to scan the large green plot behind me. Not 50 yards away three deer were feeding. There was nothing I could do -- suspended in air. My rifle was slung over my shoulder and unloaded. I quietly lifted the camoflage veil and got situated on the platform. When I finally turned around the deer were still there!

I silently watched the deer graze until something spooked them; the larger doe bolted and the two yearlings followed suit. The field didn't stay lonely long; three more deer came in from the other end and started feeding. A few minutes later, a spike horn and then a 4 pointer entered the field; the does were on full alert. Both of the young bucks stopped briefly at a persimmon tree and then slipped into a stand of tall pines.

The fun began when a big bodied 6 pointer came in from the road on my left. If you think the rut has yet to begin, nobody told him. For twenty minutes he tried to get a dance partner; none of the does were interested. Several times he chased a doe within 15 yards of my stand. I let him go. No bang for the buck.

Next year will be a different story.

No Bang For The Buck!

It was 35 degrees this morning when I got out of my truck in Pine Mountain. I could feel the brisk night air before my eyes adjusted to the darkness. When my pupils dilated enough to capture and discern faint images, I could see patches of frost that captured the scant beams of light from distant galaxies.

From the powerline where I parked I had to walk through a canopied section of woods to a large field. Once in the tunnel of trees, I stopped and listened to the silence. It was dead still -- it was wonderful.

I left the strip of woods and entered a field that is over 300 yards wide. After following the eastern edge of the field for about 250 yards, I turned left across it to the tree stand. In less than 5 minutes I was sitting 12 feet above the ground, trying to will the sun out of bed. The horizon slowly faded from dark to light, and creation came awake as if on a timer. In an instant, the birds started twittering and the squirrels started their hissing; the silence was gone.

Conditions were perfect. No wind, drop in temperature, a lush food plot out in front of me. At 8:45 this morning, I saw my first deer of the season. It was at the far end of the field, slightly below where I came into the field. I lifted my 308 and scoped it. I turned my scope up on 10x and scoped it again. A buck with 7-8 inch spikes.

No bang for the buck!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

An Ox In The Ditch

I just finished talking with Chuck; he has managed the project in Biloxi. The teams worked liked troopers putting the roofs on two houses. In all, they laid 80 square of shingles! One of the roofs needed significant work done in replacing the decking and was a lot more labor intensive than we had first expected. That extra work set them back about half a day.

Do you remember the confrontations that Jesus had with the religious rulers about doing work on the Sabbath? They were indignant because Jesus healed people on the sabbath. After one such healing Jesus asked them this question, " Which of you having an ox that has fallen into a ditch, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath?" Their response? "They could not answer Him regarding these things."

Tomorrow our Biloxi crew will follow the Lord's example and "pull an ox out of the ditch" on our Sabbath -- Sunday. They have about two more hours of work to do. If everything goes according to schedule, they will leave Biloxi around noon!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

They're Off!

We had a work crew of 17 people begin the trek to Biloxi. They are on their way with air hammers, clothes, and no lack of enthusiasm! The team is well assembled with a couple of professional roofers, a number of strong backs, and enough supplies awaiting to put roofs on two houses. Man does not live by bread alone, but it is a necessary part of their diet! We have another couple from the church that is on their way in an R.V.; they will be providing hot meals for the team.

The team is split into two groups. One team left town today and will get the roofs stripped, old decking removed, and have everything ready for the "professionals." Most of these folks have taken vacation time to bring relief to a very battered church and congregation. Incredibly, getting volunteers has not been like trying to find hen's teeth; they have gladly responded to this opportunity.

As I write I am a little disappointed. Due to circumstances beyond my control I am unable to go. God in His infinite wisdom and broader plan kept me here to tend the needs of the flock He has graciously given me the privilege to shepherd. I am very grateful that God may replace a worker from time-to-time, but the work goes on. Offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for the selfless workers who are responding to God's invitation to join Him on this adventure.

Monday, October 3, 2005

Call of the Wild 2

On October 1, nearly two hundred men gathered to fish, shoot skeet and sporting clays, rappel, go rock climbing, blast away at each other with paint ball guns, and hear some challenging messages around the theme, The Measure of a Man.

Using the Scriptures as the measuring stick we asked, "What is the measure of a husband, friend, and father?" The messages were geared toward men -- and they were challenging. All the speakers avoided pretense; they were gloriously transparent. The last speaker of the day was one of our men; Gerald is a trophy of God's grace. He told the story of his journey -- he was taken from his alcoholic home at 5 years old and adopted into a less-than stable household. We listened and were all convinced that we have one flawless Father!

For some of these men, it was a risky adventure to rappel off a 65 foot tower. They stood timidly on the deck and then took the leap off the edge. They landed 65 feet later, filled with the confidence that comes when you are willing to face a fear and conquer it.

Sitting at one of the tables one of the men commented, "Faith is like that -- no risk, no thrill!"

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Off To Biloxi!

If all goes as planned, we will be sending our first construction crew to Biloxi, Mississippi on October 14-16! Our first job will be to reshingle the roofs of two houses; one of them will need some new decking and extensive trim work. We have two crews shaping up and hope to do the repairs on Friday and Saturday. Cottage Hill in Mobile will have all the materials needed in place when we get there. If we are not able to finish by Saturday evening we will follow our Savior's model and "Pull an ox out of the ditch." That means we will finish the jobs on Sunday!

We have an R.V., a camper, and a dormitory provided to house our workers. Teams from Maine, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia will rendevous at Lemoyne Boulevard Baptist Church. Can you get any more New Testament than that? You've gotta love it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Waves and Winds Still Know

Our adopted church in Biloxi continues to dig out of the disastrous mess that was left behind by Katrina. Our coalition of churches (Partners in Christ) continues to pray, recruit workers, raise money, and flesh out plans to bring assistance. The ability to communicate with our Mississippi mission is still an adventure! Cell calls seem to bounce back endlessly with busy signals and internet connections are spotty. Nearly every member of the church we are trying to assist has been hit with destruction at some level and they are overtaxed with mere survival.

All three churches in the partnership are chomping at the bit to bring relief. The church in Mobile is sending over work crews to Biloxi this weekend, our church is assembling two crews to put roofs back on houses (one of our project leaders is coming from a church in Maine)! The church in Dothan is organizing teams to make face to face contact with several communities near the church, we have an organization that is providing us with 20 thousand bibles to distribute.

It's the wee hours of the morning. I have been unable to sleep but I'm very keen on praying. The words from an the old hymn have been going through my mind; they put Katrina and all our storms back in the right perspective:

Be still my soul
The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them
While He dwelt below.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Responding to Katrina

I just got back from Biloxi and Slidell. It is impossible to adequately describe the destruction that Katrina unleashed, but I will try. Countless boats and automobiles had switched places -- cars in the water and boats on the land. Entire neighborhoods were reduced to rubble and splinters. Big red X's were spray painted across the doors, indicating that the houses had been searched for bodies. None of the houses I saw had become coffins. There were mountains of waterlogged clothes, mattresses, curtains, and sofas -- taller than houses -- where lawns used to be. Millions of trees were uprooted by the wind or killed by the invading salt water -- everything looked brown and dingy. A terrible odor hung in the air.

All along I have never doubted that our fellow countrymen would respond to the brokenness left in Katrina's wake. I have not been disappointed; there has been an outpouring of generosity, compassion -- a steady stream of food and materials flowing into the Gulf area.

As a church, we began to seek the best way to respond. We tried to envision what the Gulf area will be like 3-6 months from now. In the end, we concluded that we must make sure that we, as God's people, help as many churches as possible get back on their feet. So our church, along with two others, have formed an initiative we are calling Partners in Christ, based on Philippians 1:3-5. We are making a long-term commitment to the Gulf by adopting at least one church crippled by the storm. Our partnership will assist our adopted friends in several ways: We will be sending construction teams to do physical repairs on the church facility, provide financial assistance to the church, and human resources to help the church minister to its community.

Our goal is to keep ministry flowing to an area so desperately needing the touch of God through His people. We envision a day in the near future when our friends who have been knocked down by Katrina will rise up again, walk, and then run.

Monday, September 5, 2005

Katrina: A New Adventure

Columbus, Georgia is beautiful, economically healthy, growing, and in my opinion the recipient of God's special favor. I love living here. I find it rewarding to rise early, step outside, and see stunning sunrises. I like driving slowly down Warm Springs Road early in the morning with the sunroof open or the windows rolled down, enjoying the sounds and the fresh morning air on my face.

It doesn't seem possible that just a few hours away is a world of staggering devastation. In fact, it seems so impossible that I could easily put it out of my mind (as long as I didn't turn on the T.V. or read a newspaper) and continue on with my nearly perfect life. But I could not continue in a vital walk with God and neglect the new adventure He has called me to. What is the adventure? Influencing the people in my very stable world to use our resources to bring the hope of a new beginning to many whose lives have been turned upside down!

Katrina has given Christ's Church an opportunity to follow God's desired response to unprecedented destruction and need. Has such need ever arisen on our own soil? Is it conceivable that any life could be unaltered by what has taken place? How about yours? How will you respond?

In the following posts I will share how God has altered our lives and led us to respond.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Milestone of the Century!

I did it! While in Maine, I took my first Century, or 100 mile, bike ride. Up to that point my longest trip had been a 67 mile ride I did alone, from Midland to Pine Mountain and back.

In five hours and forty-five minutes I pedaled 103 miles and did over five thousand feet of climbing! The only stop was 5 minutes to refill water bottles at mile 60.

My riding partner was my nephew, Ron, a semi-professional cyclist. Ron and I are very good friends and I have looked forward to riding a Century with him since I started cycling a few months ago.

The toughest part of the Century was between miles 55 and 60. We had to do a series of 3 difficult climbs. Each climb got steeper and longer. On the steepest, longest climb I didn't think I could make it. I got dizzy, couldn't seem to gulp enough oxygen, and my legs were screaming in pain. Ron coached me through it, "Find a rhythm and just keep moving forward." I literally put my head down and began to pound out a one-two-count. I pedaled, inhaled, and exhaled, in harmony. Finally, my revolutions began to pick up speed and I was at the top. The last 40 miles were exhilarating and believe it or not -- easy!

Ron said it was a challenging course and that I earned my stripes.

As I rode into camp, I yelled at the top of my lungs -- "The Milestone of the Century -- I did it!"

Monday, August 8, 2005

Last First Day

Our oldest son called me at 6 a.m. (he does so routinely, he knows I am an early riser). He is changing jobs and has two suitors. He wanted some more advice before he committed. I had just finished talking with him when Meagan spoke from the kitchen, "Dad, this is the last time I will have my first day of school at Columbus High." Our baby girl is a senior! It doesn't seem possible.


Immediately, it turned into a meloncholy moment. Where has the time gone?

Meg and I talked as she packed her lunch into one of those little brown bags. She wanted to know what my senior year was like (I graduated from a class of 32. No! Not the class of 32). We talked about the friends she has made and upcoming decisions about college. We made plans to go out for dinner tonight.


Before she left we stood in the garage and prayer together -- for the last time on her first day of of school at Columbus High.

Friday, August 5, 2005

Living As Mist

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you should say, " If it is the Lord's will, we will live . . ." James 4:13-15


I didn't see the big green utility box that sits on a concrete slab. I should have, but I didn't. I was mowing my neighbor's lawn. It's just something I do from time to time; he would do the same for me. My left front wheel hit the slab the box sits on; the tractor bounced and then climbed up the face of the utility box. In a split second, the tractor went over backwards. The only thing that kept it from flipping over on its back -- and on top of me -- were the grass catchers on the back of the tractor. The baggers sprung the mower forward; the front wheels perched precariously on top of the box. I got off, put it in neutral, and pulled it back so that all four wheels were back on the ground.

In seconds, my mind went back to an incident a couple of years ago; a man in our church was killed in a similar accident. It reminded me to pray for his wife. I also began to recount what I had done with the day; what my last day on earth might have consisted of . . .

I began the day with a great time in God's Word; I journaled and did a lot of reading. Then, I went over to the office and had a meaningful conversation with one of our students who will be going off to college; we talked about walking with God. Our project manager for the new parking lot came by and we tried to take care of a minor glitch. Earlier, my oldest son called me for advice; he has two new job offers and is trying to decide which one he should take. I told him how proud of him I am. I called our Minister of Education to rib him about his "pot" problem; we had a good laugh. Josh and I made plans to go rock climbing on Saturday. Miss Meagan and I talked about soccer decisions; she is being courted by two club teams.

I am not trying to piously frame myself as a Super-Saint; I have had days that would have made an embarrassing last day. But today, I was reminded of how important a single day can be. I want to live each day well.

"You are like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes . . . If it is the Lord's will, we will live . . ." If today was your last -- what would it have looked like?

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Camping and Cotton Batting

On Friday night we camped out at Whitewater Express campground with 20 college age adults and their leaders. Sandy, Meagan, and I didn't arrive until about 8:30 p.m. I immediately set up a two person tent for my girls; my plan was to sleep under the stars.

We brought firewood with us and soon were adding dry wood to the rain soaked pile of brush that had been collected. Zach brought MRE's and showed us how they are prepared; steaming hot food without a fire (Zach is an army Ranger. MRE stands for meals ready to eat).

Once the sky grew dark and the fire burned bright, one of the guys led us in some worship songs; two guitars accompanied the chorus of voices. The intended Bible study never got finished. First, we felt a couple of raindrops. Next, we heard the rain coming in windswept torrents. The weather front scaled the mountain tops, and then battered the leafy trees on its descent into the valley where we were camped. Everyone scrambled for their tents. I grabbed my sleeping gear and threw it into the truck.

An hour or so later, the rain left. People once again gathered where there used to be a campfire. We coaxed the surviving embers back into a flame and cooked some hot dogs, s'mores, and biscuits on a stick. Between midnight and 1 a.m. most of us turned in.

I retrieved my gear from the truck, covered up with a WWII poncho, and drifted off to sleep. Around 4 a.m., I awakened to admire the beautiful night sky. I saw diamonds appear and disappear amid piles of cotton batting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Perhaps My Chance Will Come!

This morning, Sandy and I got on our bikes and went for a ride. Sandy's ride would be about 18 miles, mine 23. It was early and the sun was rising up through an early morning haze; simultaneously, we were both struck by the beauty of its veiled, yet bright orange glow. As we were exclaiming over the sight, a deer leaped across the road, no more than 10 yards ahead of us! Once again, we recognized it all as a gift from God.

For us, our early morning bike rides are a time of worship, praise, and conditioning. We are grateful for the health that God has given us. We enjoy each other's company and love the effect of the constantly changing scenery and the fresh morning air.

Nine miles into our ride, we parted ways. I wanted to scout out a new route. Sandy is not comfortable on busy roads. I always precede our future treks together and take note of the traffic, number of climbs, and the distance our new trail will commit us to. This morning, I met one jogger and three autos.

On my ride I shifted into my highest gear and zipped down a hill at 45 miles per hour. Every downhill ride required an uphill grind on the other side; I loved it! Later on, I passed several pastures where horses were grazing. All the while, I kept an eye on my odometer and pushed myself to increase my average speed.

The sense of adventure remains in me; I am not sure why I do this. As I write, my hips ache. Ibuprofin has become part of my diet. What I am sure of is this: God has always prepared me for an adventure long before the adventure starts. A quote from Abraham Lincoln comes to mind, "I will prepare and be ready. Perhaps my chance will come."

Chasing Lance

I have put this one on "Devotions for the Adventure." Click the link to the right if you would like to read the post.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Lance: Truly an Enigma

Lance Armstrong is an American and doubly blessed to be a Texan (my wife is from Dallas). Armstrong is an inspiration. His dedication to his sport, his stamina, and his determination are truly remarkable. His life journey is epic. He came back from the edge of death with testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs. He didn't just come back and exist; he came back and won 7 Tour de France races!

From the interviews I have watched, he is an incredible leader who graciously effuses his team with praise. Lance reminds the world that his team protects him in races and selflessly strategizes to keep him in the yellow jersey. His praise even trickles down to his bike mechanics. On the other hand, in verbal and written testimony, he gives no credit to God for his miraculous recovery or athletic ability. He makes it a point to be sure his admirers are clear on that; he is a cancer survivor because of his own determination and advanced medical care.

People of faith cannot fathom how such a spectacular creation as Lance could be so separated from his Creator.

To us, Lance is an enigma.

I just returned from the ICU at the Medical Center where a 17-year-old is battling to survive a violent accident. After two weeks, he is still in a semi-comatose state. Two young nurses were providing care: cleaning lines, measuring urine outputs, and checking critical data. The young man's dad was there also, courageously and humbly thanking God for the tiny advances in his son's recovery.

From Lance's worldview, this dad is an enigma.

Believe it or not, the two young nurses, the young man's dad, and I were soon in a conversation about Lance Armstrong. The dad asked me if it was true that Lance disregards God. One of the nurses answered immediately, "No, he does not believe in God. What is wrong with that guy?"

"What is wrong with that guy?" To this point Lance, graced with such giftedness and miraculous healing, appears to be impervious to the grace of God -- truly an enigma.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Routine of the Adventurous Life

This morning I was in France. It was an adventure getting there. First, I had to cross the pond to England. Once there, I began the dangerous swim across the channel. As soon as I hit the beaches of Normandy, I followed the invasion route awhile and then headed to Saint-Etienne. I arrived there just in time to see Lance Armstrong win the 20th stage time trial of the Tour de France.

Actually, Sandy and I power-washed the back patio, mowed the lawn, edged, used generous quantities of Round-up, blew debris from the driveway, and cleaned the house. I also drove over to the church and checked the progress on the new parking lot. This afternoon, I did some weight training, reading, and wrote a post for Devotions for the Adventure.

Jesus did a lot of walking, and Paul did a lot of sailing. Part of the adventurous life is the routine. Without the routine -- there would be no adventure!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Out of the Mouths of Babes!

Say, say my playmate
Come out and play with me
and bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree.
Shout down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we'll be jolly friends
Forever more . . . more . . . more

I quickly jotted down a note to myself in my journal, reminding me to write about this little song when I got home. Why later? I didn't want to take my attention away from what I was watching.

Looking back, I write . . .

When I was returning from Maine, my flight was cancelled; the next flight meant a 4 hour wait. I would be waiting in the Bangor International Airport terminal. To put BIA in perspective, think of Orville and Wilbur Wright. It was the weekend following July 4th, and the tiny terminal was packed -- packed with a whole bunch of people not very happy about flights being cancelled or delayed. There was a lot of grumbling.

In one section of seats sat a grandmother and, I presume, her two granddaughters. The children looked to be 5 and 7 years old. The three of them were oblivious to the sea of frayed nerves surrounding them. The little girls began to sing the children's song I wrote down above. Along with singing they were doing the hand clapping game that goes with it.

They completely changed the atmosphere and attitude in the terminal. Everyone turned, watched, and listened to the little girls sing. Smiles broke out on faces, everyone quit talking, except for the comments about the children, "I haven't heard that little song in 40 years . . . I miss my grandchildren . . . To be a child again!"

The little girls sang a song that brought joy to a group of passengers whose disposition was more inclined to begin the droning song, 99 bottles of beer on the wall . . . 99 bottles of beer . . ."

You've just got to write about that kind of stuff!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Presque Isle

I am going to leave off writing about Presque Isle for a while. Later, when I resume, I will tell you about the years 85-89.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Return to Presque Isle: The Parsonage gets heat!

On July 10th, members and former members of New Life Baptist Church celebrated the church's 25th anniversary. The founding pastor, Tom Harmon, spoke and reviewed God's blessing over the past quarter-century.

I talked to one of the members I pastored when I was there. Paula filled me in on the day's events. Along with the many spiritual blessings she recounted, there was also one of temperal significance. The old turn-of-the-century farmhouse finally got heat -- they burned it down!

Yes! The P.I. Fire Department used it as a training exercise and it is no more. I have tried my best to be sentimental about its passing, but thus far, have been unable to do so. As of late, God has been speaking to me about cultivating a more thankful heart -- I am finding it very easy to be thankful!

Congratulations, New Life! I still have pictures of the church on my desk. On a regular basis, I pray God's blessings on you! God has a purpose for that available space! I look forward to seeing what He will do.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What Has Happened Here?

Where our cabin sits on the east bank of the Penobscot, Native Americans once walked. To this day an ancient trail -- beaten into the earth by game and the heavy boots of log drivers -- traces every bend of the river. It's a place that urges you to stop and think -- backwards and forwards.

One afternoon, these questions came to mind . . .

What has happened here on this very spot? This spot has stayed for centuries as water and people have come and gone.

What has happened here on this very spot? My friends have stayed for a while -- eating, fishing, and laughing.

What has happened here on this very spot? Ancient peoples laughed -- they stayed, fished and found food to eat.

What has happened here on this very spot? I have wrestled with a hunger for God and the purpose of my life.

What has happened here on this very spot? Have others heard God's whisper in the shuffle of branches and tumbling water?

What has happened here on this very spot? Have others quietly prayed, "God, please speak up -- or speak a little more clearly?"

Here -- on this very spot.

The War of Southern Aggression (The last days)

The officer scrutinized our battle wagons and said, "Your papers are not in order. Something is fishy!" Cold sweat began to trickle down my back; I would be "guilty by association!" In my mind's eye, I could already see myself making license plates and doing hard time.

Here's what had happened. Part of the Rebs' assault would be an amphibious one, but they were unable to sneak their craft across the Mason-Dixon line. So they procured the services of a couple of smugglers, "The River Rat" and "Skeet, the Canoe." The officer thought "Skeet" had forged some documents or that we had stolen the vehicles. Anyway, it's a long and complicated story. The officer's interrogation was intense; I thought the hairy-faced one would crack. Not that Johnny Reb, he stayed cool. "Georgia" didn't produce no sissy.

Soon they were back in the fray, fully armed, their fury unabated. Me? I had resigned myself to fate. My mind became like a steno-pad, recording every detail. For four more days the attack pressed on. And then, as quickly as it started, it stopped.

The Rebs set me free, showered, shaved, and slipped through the security net at BIA. They cleverly disguised themselves as mild-mannered executives.

Bruised, but not beaten, the Bass family gathered at the Old Town dam and watched the bad guys head south. It would be in my own best interest not to quote them verbatim. But I can say this, they gave those Rebs plenty of lip and lived to tell about it.

The End.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Monday, July 11, 2005

The War of Southern Aggression (part 4)

After a while all the boats converged in one large neighborhood; they were consolidating their forces. They began to fire away with an awesome array of weapons. Some made an eerie whirring sound, some tunneled down into the foundation of the Bass family homes. All of them were effective.

Caught up in their frenzied activity, they neglected to see what I saw. In a cluster of trees, not 100 yards away, was a uniformed officer. My heart began to race. Finally, help was on the way.
Courage began to well up in me and I declared, "It's the law! Now this carnage will stop."

Then, the worst thing that could happen, happened. The officer summoned me into his presence: a case of mistaken identity. The Giant whispered to me, "Unless you want this seven and a half foot, medium weight weapon to come crashing down over your head, you just do what I say."

In that instant, my life flashed before me.

Hope surged upward again. The officer was a brave man. Soon, he was hailing the entire assault team to him. Everyone responded. Except one -- the one called "Pass."

For such a brute, he had the cunning of a fox. Like a Jedi knight, he waved his hand and took control of the officer's mind. Before you knew it, the conversation was turned to frog giggin'. Yes, you heard me right, frog giggin'. I realized I was in the presence of a master.

With another wave of his big mitt, the next thing you know, I was being hauled off with one of the little hairy-faced guys. We were going to be searched and interrogated. Off we went, tramping through the woods to who knows where. Would this be the end?

I must stop for now. I will meet with my therapist, collect my wits, and try to continue on with the story tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The War of Southern Aggression (part 3)

Soon all five were out of their beds and foraging for food. Two of them were short with hairy faces. Another one, must have been 7 feet tall, had a peg leg. Then there was the "Guru's" lieutenant. He was obviously the brains of the outfit. His code name was "Cuz." It was he who organized the soon-to-begin assault on the Bass family. He was rawhide tough -- used to wrestle apes from time to time.

"Git them wampum separated and on a cookie sheet!" To my surprize, the "Guru" began to make breakfast. And what a breakfast it was! What I witnessed had to be seen to be believed. In a matter of minutes, they consumed two dozen eggs and an entire pig! Wampums the size of a cat's head disappeared in single bites; breakfast was over in minutes.

Before you could whistle, "Way down south in Dixie," they began to organize into assault teams. "Pass" and his lieutenant were in one attack vehicle, the two short hairy-faced guys in another. I was assigned to the "Giant" as an embedded reporter!

Dispersing with lightning speed, they were soon in the Bass' neighborhood. They were all smiles, but believe me, they had mayhem on the mind! I heard them bragging, "I got one!" And then, "I got one, too!" Young and old alike were being dragged from their homes, thrashing all the way, into the marauding assault vehicles. The two hairy-faced ones disappeared from sight, but I could still hear their evil hootin' and hollerin' from a mile away, "We got doubles!"

The "Giant" missed a couple of Bass and I feared his wrath would be taken out on me. I don't want to sound boastful, but I am mighty quick on my feet. I know how to survive. To gain his sympathy, I told him I was the shepherd of a large flock of sheep and they looked to me for care. It worked. He softened and said, "Yeah, my dad raised sheep for most of his life. He's just a good ole' country boy."

Next: Even the law trembles in the presence of the one called "Pass."

Saturday, July 9, 2005

The War of Southern Aggression (part 2)

So there I was, exiled to a little green tent. The mosquitoes were fierce and resourceful, I might add; at times they were carrying lanterns!

That first night I tossed and turned; the sounds coming from my cabin were frightful! As I told you, the one they called 'Pass' was their leader -- some sort of Guru. All night long he conjured deities from the netherworld with indescribable groanings. The others with him began to imitate his moaning and haunting chants -- they were all caught up in the delirium of their mystic sage.

"COFFEE! I WANT COFFEE!" As that first dawn broke, a fearful roar that scattered the wildlife and nearly scared the sun away, started my day. Trembling, I made my way to the cabin and reluctantly lifted the latch and opened the door. There he stood, his silver mane going every which way, a grizzle of white beard covered his face. He looked ten feet wide! For a moment, I stood frozen.

"I want coffee!" Blurred eyes stared down at me. He started to raise his huge right hand, tanned and powerful from the many battles with the Bass family. I thought I would soon be dead --thankfully, he just needed to scratch. Carefully, I made my way to the old fashioned camp coffee pot and began to scoop Maxwell's finest grounds into the percolator basket. When I had put in the fifth scoop, a voice behind me whispered, "Is it done yet?"

The voice was Royce. I turned and there he lay on the camp floor. I answered his question, but he didn't hear me. He had earplugs in. His kind eyes and gentle demeanor seemed so out of place amongst such rabble. "He's crazy, man. Just get that coffee made. And make him some Wampum." he said.

"Wampum? What is wampum?" I asked.

"See that can of biscuits? Just wampum on the counter til they open! Get em cooked. He's safer when he's fed."

Immediately, I responded to Royce's instruction and lived to see another day.

The War of Southern Aggression (a week at the cabin)

It was an act of Southern aggression! Five rednecks attacked the Penobscot River and lured members of the Bass family out of their dwellings, seducing them with the promise of a scrumptous meal. The Rebs held over 700 captive. Thankfully, all were released without serious harm.

Maine native Bill Shorey testified, "The Bass family did nothing to incite this kind of treatment. It was no contest. The Rebs were heavily armed, had a well planned attack, and advanced without mercy. The assault was relentless for five full days."

Shorey became an eyewitness of the unprovoked attack when the Johnny Rebs took over his cabin and banished him to a flimsy tent. Huddled in his tent, he was twice stalked by a bear and bravely battled bloodthirsty mosquitoes. "At times I heard golden harps and felt the brush of angel wings. I feel God spared me for some kind of destiny -- once I get through therapy."

The Mainer believes that the mayhem could have been even worse. "One of the attackers was pulled off the front lines and headed back to Dixie. Another, a tall and sinister looking man, suffered battle fatigue and was out of action for one day."

"I was particularly alarmed by the maniacal actions of the one they called 'Pass.' All through the night he would speak in some kind of ecstatic tongue. Every morning he led his partners in a fanatical ritual to prepare them for battle. They would chant, flail their arms, and go into some kind of stomping dance. I don't know if his thunderous threats, 'C'mon boys, let's put something on em' potash won't wipe off!' will ever stop ringing in my ears."

Due to the graphic nature of this adventure, exaggeration is unnecessary. Therefore, in the days ahead, I will bring it with precise, yet brutal, honesty.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Cabin (A short break from Presque Isle)

It has been almost a year since I have been to our cabin in Maine. If all goes as planned, around midnight on Sunday I will be listening to the Penobscot River rush by the front of my rustic dwelling. On Monday, the eagles screeching up and down the river will awaken me. The day will be spent getting the boats in place, buying supplies, and taking a walk along the river.

On Tuesday some guys from Georgia will join me. We are going to do lots of fishing, lots of lying, and trying to eat our own cooking. We will catch 100 bass a day for six days straight. No, that is not one of the lies I referred to. I have planned a little deviltry. I will wait for Robert C. to visit the "outhouse." Once he is comfortably seated, I will strategically place a firecracker and light it. I have plans for the others I will not divulge at this time.

The guys from Georgia will fish for ten to twelve hours a day; that is no exaggeration. After a couple days, they will continue to fish, and I will kayak about 8 miles from the Howland dam back to the cabin. Another day, My 80 year old dad and I will canoe from Passadumkeag stream, back to the cabin. He refuses to give in to advancing years. One afternoon, when the sun is high overhead, I will explore a world very few ever see; the bottom of the river. I will put on my mask and snorkel, shorty wetsuit, and float down the Penobscot.

In the evenings, we will sit around the fire pit and talk about each day's adventure, our journey of faith, and stare with amazement at the black sky studded with diamonds. Jim P. will keep an eye out for bear; he is convinced that bear roam around the cabin at night. Believe me, no respectable black bear would bother with any of them.

When it is time to go to sleep, the guys will head to the cabin. I will go to my tent. "Your tent?" you ask. "Yes, my tent!" Trying to get sleep in the same quarters with those guys, is like trying to get sleep on the firing range at Fort Benning!

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Wild Bunch!

David R. was quiet, organized, disciplined, athletic, and a very good hunter. He was also secretly impish. He knew the "County" like the back of his hand. David would get us newcomers to the County all primed for hunting. For weeks leading up to the season, he would give us reports on how many partridge he had seen. By the time opening day came around we were rarin' to go!

David would take Kevin M. and me to "prime" hunting spots. He will not admit it to this day, but we finally figured it out. There were no birds where he sent us. David would show up later on; he would have his limit. It took a couple of hunting seasons before Kevin and I figured it out what he was doing.

Kevin was competitive. It could be a board game, basketball game, or a game of darts. Kevin's motto was, "If you play, play to win!" Kevin hated to lose. When he played David, he always did!

Kevin and I bantered all the time. During the building program, I would often get to the bottom of my coffee cup and find nails, staples, stones, or other things I won't describe. One day I went to put on my work boots and he had nailed them to the floor. I felt bad (not really), when I tried to cut his boot laces and cut his foot instead.

Then there was Marty C. He was one of the top recruiters for the Air Force. If David was impish, and Kevin was competitive, then Marty was sneaky! Marty got a great kick out of sending taxis to our house, kicking your golf ball into the woods, or inciting Ted J. into a rage during work days. Marty was very intelligent, but would purposely mess things up just to make sure boredom didn't set in.

We were all in our twenties or early thirties, and best of friends. It was rare to see one of us without the others. We visited together, prayed together, served God together, and enjoyed every minute of it. God had given us a challenge, and by His grace, we were up to the task.

As they say, you can't "go back." But if I could, I would revisit those days with The Wild Bunch.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Rabid Red Fox

In the summer of "85" we started building. Every Saturday we had work days; entire families would sometimes show up. One Saturday, a rabid red fox joined us.

Several children were playing in the driveway away from the construction site. Little boys had their dumptrucks and shovels. Little girls had their dolls and sand buckets. All of a sudden a fox came around the corner of the buildings, rushed in among the children, grabbed one of the toys, and began to shake it violently. The kids didn't seemed alarmed. I believe they thought it was a small dog. The parents came rushing to the scene. The fox snarled and ran off.

We alerted the proper authorities and also decided to keep my shotgun around, just in case. Here's where a very serious situation takes a comical twist.

Do you remember me talking about Ken? By now, we had grown to be pretty good friends. Neither of us gave quarter when it came to giving each other a hard time.

Ken witnessed the incident with the fox and told me to just leave my shotgun where he could get it. He would take care of the situation. His resolve was filled with his typical bravado. Well, the fox showed up again. Ken ran to my truck, put a shell in my shotgun, and charged the fox.

What Ken didn't realize is that I saved my spent shotgun shells. One of the other guys in the church used to reload them for me. When Ken grabbed my gun, he loaded it with a shell that had already been fired.

You had to be there!

Remember the first scene, Ken running after the fox? Now the fox was running after Ken! Fortunately, Ken made it back to the cab of my truck and reloaded.