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.