Monday, July 30, 2007

Company

Brad and Cat and Jess left this morning, but not before they had done all the "cabin in Maine" stuff: Snorkeled the Penobscot, kayaked from Passadumkeag, caught big bass, swam the river wild, watched Bald Eagles, and visited Old Town Canoe. On top of all that we had some great conversations around the dinner table during the day, and the fire pit at night. When Sandy and I first met the three of them they were juniors in high school. Now they are finishing college, getting married, and pursuing an intimate relationship with God. Where this pursuit will take them will be a joy to watch.

Sandy and I are still processing all the rhythm changes in our lives over the past year. The change of events has been good, but not at all what we expected. Right now, we are just receiving the gift of rest that God has provided. For us, everything about the cabin provides an atmosphere for healing. I don't know how to describe the difference in life when there is no electricity, phones, television, schedule, or traffic. Man-made or mechanical sounds, with the exception of a boat motor or aircraft, are seldom heard. Whenever we hear voices, other than our own, they are always laughing, or filled with the excitement of catching a fish, shooting the rips, or spotting an eagle.

Sandy's friends recently sent her a beautiful gift. A gift with a beautiful story that I will write about later on. But for now I will connect the gift of the quilt to my last paragraph. Until this morning I did not realize that there was a scripture on part of its border -- A command -- no less. Listen to God's word: Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

We are resting -- we are waiting -- we are grateful.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Don't Bother To Read This

Don't bother to read this; I am only writing because I am now sitting in a bus station in Portland, Maine -- tired and bored. Reading is an option, but I can't seem to muster the gumption or intellectual momentum to do so.

In the background Lou Dobbs is on CNN babbling on about the problem of illegal immigration. A crawl in the lower corner of the television screen is giving us a countdown to the Democratic presidential debates; there are 8 candidates. Hillary leads in the polls by double digits over Obama -- yippee. I'll say no more about that (for the moment). Like I said, I am tired and bored, and it may not be prudent to chronicle my thoughts about Hillary in particular.

Free WiFi! For that I am grateful -- I had to pay 8 bucks at Logan. In a few minutes I will be able to check the Boston Globe sports page and see how the Sox are doing against the Cleveland Indians. Tonight, Jon Lester is making his re-entry with the Boston locals. Exactly 11 months ago -- to the day -- he was diagnosed with cancer; his recovery is inspiring and remarkable. The lefty is only 23 years old and considered a cornerstone of Boston's future pitching staff.

Have you ever been in a bus station? This one has a lot of red, white, and blue paint. Dark blue walls provide the background for giant white letters that read: Parking, To Trains, To buses, and Bus Tickets. Concord Trailways is shadowed by a bright red, swirly CT.

I am in the WiFi section of the terminal -- the walls are painted yellow -- yellow is supposed to have a calming effect on you. Must be working -- I am very calm. In fact, I am so calm I am fighting drowsiness. I fear that if I fall asleep I will miss my ride.

Back to CNN. They are trying their darndest to build interest in to the debates. They have tried controversy, comedy, and the opinion of the talking heads. Questions via video is a new twist.

Obama was just asked about his political inexperience -- being that he is only a first term Senator. Obama completely avoided the question (a sure sign he will be a quick learner if he is elect to the most powerful position on the globe).

Now Hillary is talking. She just reminded us that she has 35 years of experience and was the First Lady for 8 years (I am surprised that she brought up the First Lady thing. Boy, could I lay down some sizzling ink about her being the First Lady). O, and she is a good old politically progressive American.

Joe Biden is on the stump now -- The gist of his conversation is his integrity (I'm serious).

John Edwards just took an oath to take on everyone (Picture his signature closed fist with the thumb up). He will fight for change. He will take on insurance and drug companies.

Another bus just emptied its contents into the lobby. A lady came running up to the television exclaiming her support for Obama. She has now left the building.

If you took the time to read this -- it's your own fault. I warned you.

Ooo Baby It's A Wild World

Ooo Baby It's A Wild World is playing throughout the terminal as I sit in Logan Airport in Boston waiting for a Concord coach to take me to Bangor. It won't arrive for a couple of more hours, so I should get into Bangor around 9:30 tonight. In the meantime, I just finished looking at the DVD the Chinese students gave me -- many wonderful memories preserved in digital form.

I am in the baggage area, and there is hardly anyone else here. Outside it is gray and drizzling rain. Sandy called me a few minutes ago; she had a great time with our son Justin and his wife Erika. She is going to my mom's house tonight for dinner, and then pick me up in Bangor at the bus station.

This weekend has been a blur, but an enjoyable one. It was good to see so many of our friends. Both Sandy and I have been a little concerned that people wouldn't understand our change of plans. On the contrary, everyone I talked to was jubilant.

Our plans are to stay in Maine until September. When we return we will begin ministry in Columbus. Much of what we will do is still being fleshed out, but we are absolutely amazed how things are coming together. Once again, we will be doing "out of the box" ministry. Looking back Sandy and I now realize that we were doing cutting edge church planting before there was a "cutting edge" cliche. Most of our energies will be directed toward groups of people who have little or no Christian memory.

The demo-graphics and socio-graphics of Columbus are changing rapidly. Several Fortune 500 companies are flourishing and hiring many people into our area. Downtown Columbus is being restored and will soon house the arts program of CSU, and along with all of that there is the soon to expanded personnel at Fort Benning -- up to 30 thousand! God's bringing a lot of people to Columbus. We are hoping that the evangelical churches in our area are ready to receive them in the name of Jesus.

Pray for Sandy and me -- we see a field ripe for the harvest -- and pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send laborers to the field.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Edgy

Tonight there is about a dozen 20 something year olds hanging out at our house -- my son Josh's friends. They let me hang with them. We ate spaghetti and talked theology. This is truly a unique group. Most of them grew up together in mainline churches, but have really moved out to the edges with a great desire to go deep and find a way to reach their generation who so desperately need God.

I love their hearts. Almost every one of them have been involved in some kind of cutting edge evangelical outreach or mission somewhere on this globe. But tonight, they really threw me a curve ball when they all rushed to our bedroom to watch The Next Food Network Star! I lie not (at this moment they are clapping for the potential food network star winner). Wait, wait they just announced the winner -- it's Amy -- and the room (our bedroom) exploded with applause (I am not making this up).

People are people and life is good!

Victoria's Secret

This morning I met the Chinese students at Christ Community Church. CCC is not my home church, and I do not know very many people there. We were going to attend the second service and arrived before the first service ended. It wasn't long before before Robert and Sarah were standing in the foyer with the students, and we were all greeting and hugging each other -- Today would be the last time we would see each other here in the United States.

After a few minutes Oprah handed me a little pink bag that had a card, and a couple of DVD's they had put together as a gift in it. I thanked them and continued to mill around among hundreds of people -- some leaving and some just arriving. Being quite secure in my masculinity, I didn't think much of the pretty little pink bag that I held by its cord handles. I did notice that others were giving me and the little pink sack more than a casual glance.

I walked across the foyer to talk to a couple of friends, Richard and Shannon. Shannon lit up with a rather taunting smile and said, "O I really like your little pink bag -- I didn't know you shopped at Victoria's Secret!" Yes, sure enough, the only little "gift bag" Oprah had for my gift and card was a shiny, pink one with Victoria's Secret beautifully -- and very conspicuously scrolled on its side!

Everyone started howling with laughter. Sarah George came to my rescue and took the contents from the bag and put them in her purse. Unfortunately, in my embarrassment, I put the empty bag on the counter of the welcome center!

A perfect and fitting ending to my time with Larry, Oprah, Linda, and Cordelia.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Good bye

Yesterday I took a bus to Logan Airport in Boston, and then caught a flight to Atlanta. Shelly and Mike Hawkins picked me up and took me to Columbus. Due to time constraints, I didn't have time to change my clothes and had to go directly to the funeral home in my jeans. I am absolutely positive Cindy wouldn't have cared. At 11 o'clock this morning we had the funeral.

The atmosphere at the memorial service was serene. Two people I had never met sang solos: He'll Raise Me Up and No More Pain. The songs captured the essence of Cindy's journey -- moving! Everyone who knew Cindy also knew that she was at rest with her Savior. I believe all of us sensed her release from the prison her diseased body had become. The memorial service was a poignant good-bye.

Over the past year one of my most enjoyable ministries has been the discipling of our 5 Chinese students. I am sure they have little awareness of how much God has taught me about Himself through their hungry and childlike faith. I love them deeply, and I find it hard to bear as the time of their return to China draws near. Tomorrow, I will see them for the last time. We are going to worship together and then spend the afternoon just loving each other. I dread saying good-bye.

Also . . .

Justin and Erika drove to Maine this weekend from Massachusetts. I talked to Sandy just a few minutes ago, and they were building a fire in the pit and were going to make s'mors. I miss all of them.

Many of our friends know that Sandy and I are no longer going to Montana. We have spent extended time in Maine this summer, and it has been a season of deep soul searching. We believe that God would have us stay in Columbus and finish some things that He led us to start. In the days ahead I will be posting about what we will be doing.

Thanks to all of you who continue to pray for us.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cindy Patrick

Some very gracious and generous people flew me from Maine to Atlanta, so that I could conduct the funeral for Cindy Patrick. Cindy finally succumbed to the cancer she has battled month after month.

In one sense Cindy's memorial service will be easy to conduct, because her walk with Jesus was so obvious. She literally led hundreds of women to Christ through Stonecroft Ministries. She was always elbow deep in the drama and music ministry of Morningside Baptist Church. She provided leadership for some of the finest Easter and Christmas productions I have ever seen.

In another sense Cindy's funeral really stretches all of us. It is hard to understand why God sees fit to take a woman like Cindy home. Rarely do you see a person with the desire to witness about her Savior like Cindy. I am just being brutally honest -- very few believers are engaged in advancing the kingdom. It seems that comfort has taken a front row seat in the lives of many professed believers.

Cindy's desire was that her memorial service be a celebration. She was absolutely sure that in the light of eternity her exit from earth meant her entrance into the presence of her beloved Savior. Now she no longer walks by faith -- She is with Jesus -- the One who without question she deeply adored.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Behind Scenes Of The Attack

Each day the raids carry on for several hours after daybreak. In the early afternoon there is a brief cease fire. Marauding and mayhem resume a few hours before the sun sets. For the young one and old scrappy -- that daily break in the battle is absolutely necessary for survival.

Survival, you say?

Yes, survival?

You see B/O (actually, it should be double B/O. Short for Big Boned One), keeps them, and any wildlife within the radius of a mile, wide awake or scurrying for their lives.

I digress . . .

You may be asking, "Why do you call him the big boned one?" Here's why. Being the caring person I am I suggested that double B/O may be slowly adding to his girth.

Example: The other day I told him he had a mosquito biting him on the chin. He swiped at it, and said, "Did I get it?"

I had to tell him, "No it's on the other chin."

His response? "I,m not fat! I am just big boned."


Back to the absolute necessity of the afternoon respite . . .

Let me explain the conditions of a night spent in the cabin. Before I do I would like to get you into a certain frame of mind. Try, if you can, to imagine sleeping between the rails as a locomotive dragging 100 boxcars roars just inches above you. If you have never stood near a moving train -- let me give you another comparison. Imagine trying to get some recuperative sleep lying on a jet engine throttled to full thrust?

Well, when double B/O's head hits the pillow, you have exactly 30 seconds to anchor your self to something -- or be inhaled! The initial vacuum created by double B/O's inhaling rattles windows and whips the curtains. Anything: furniture, wall hangings, even his fellow Bass hunters begin sliding toward that irresistible black hole just below double B/O's nose! For double B/O's comrades, every night is like trying to keep from sliding off the deck of the sinking Titanic!

I will spare you the details of the exhale -- except to say -- the earsplitting sounds increase in decibels -- as double B/O sinks deeper into hibernation.
None of this story is exaggerated. We have actual footage, that has not been digitally enhanced or altered in any way (I will post it when the coast is clear).

You can see where I am going with this . . .

While double B/O sleeps like a baby hippo -- nighttime is a fight for survival for the baby faced one and ole' scrap iron. What awful fate would be theirs if not for the afternoon nap?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

First Blood

I talked with my therapist and was told to continue on with the story. I will pick up where I left off, but I am not sure how long I can do this.

The Bass families love the water, and find the environs of the Penobscot River a particularly enjoyable place to live. Their homes are quite primitive -- built of stone and sand. Some will often have a few pitiful looking trees in their yards. Their children, like their parents before them, spend much of their youth in schools. As adults they begin to make a life of their own, and raise very large families. Uniquely, all births take place in the late spring or early summer. I was surprised when I discovered that many of the females were just leaving their maternity beds this late in July.

WARNING!!!

What I am about to write may not be suitable for young readers, or the faint of heart.

We approached the "kill zone." The big one with the hidden cheek bones, the scrappy one with the darting eyes, and the young one with the innocent looking face (looks can be deceiving), stood with weapons in hand -- poised and ready to strike! As I suspected (from here on I refer to the big one as B/O), B/O wanted to draw first blood. And he did. The poor Bass (I don't know their first names, so I will just refer to them by their family name) was lured out of his home under the pretense he was about to receive something to eat. All the while B/O was whispering, "Just wait till you put your ruby lips on that, Mr. Bass." In an instant, a wrestling match was underway -- Bass had taken the bait. Being much smaller he writhed and wriggled, twisted and turned, zigged and zagged, but was unable to free himself. B/O had him good.

Just when I thought things could not get any worse I heard the scrappy one ask, "We gonna put the brown suit on him?"(Those are the code words for, "Will we roll him in batter, cook him, and eat him?") Like I said, this may not be suitable reading material for the young, or faint of heart.

"Naw. I'm just gonna give him a sore lip, and let him go!" B/O menacingly responded. And with the flip of his powerful wrist he slung the little guy aside. The scrappy one and the young one whooped with glee!

Me? At first I was shocked, but immediate thanks swept through my pounding heart. I was grateful that B/O still had a little mercy in his heart -- That lay just beneath his XXXL T-shirt.

Next Post . . . Life away from the attack

The Carnage Begins

Shamelessly, they began to discuss their tactics and strategy. Attacking from the south -- they would use deception, surprise, and lightning speed. First on their campaign of destruction would be the Bass families that lived around Sugar and the Birch Islands.

Breathing out heartless threats, the big boned one bragged, "We'll put something on those Bass that potash won't wipe off."

The scrappy one responded, "Cuz (I don't think they are actually "Cuzins"), "We'll sore lip every Bass for 5 miles."

The baby faced one with the goatee said, "Me too!"

Like I said, he just doesn't fit in with that riff-raff.

Before I knew it, I, along with my transportation, was conscripted for the assault. Resistance was futile, because the massive one had already clamped onto my wrist like a vice and bellowed, "You take the young un'. Cuz and I are gonna' lead this rampage (now the big boned one was calling the scrappy guy Cuz -- it was confusing)!" Within minutes, Sugar and the Birch Islands came into view.

I digress . . .

Close your eyes and think of paradise -- paradise in the form of luscious green islands ringed by rugged shorelines of ledge, stones, and honey colored sand. Towering oaks, with trunks the size of the big boned one's waist, keep the interior of the islands in a romantic, mysterious, and mottled light. Visualize eagles and ospreys riding the waves of thermal breezes in an azure sky. Can you see the doe with its spotted lamb standing side by side in shoulder high grass? Listen to the plunk and splash of a beaver teasing you with a glimpse of his aquatic agility. A hundred different song birds croon for their Creator, for you, for each other.

Forgive me -- Recalling the memory of my "Paradise lost" is just too painful. I must stop. I can't go on.

Next post . . .

We approached the "kill zone." They were poised and ready -- weapons in hand (O the misery of such recollections, but my therapist tells me I need to let it all out)!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Their Ruse Worked

To look at them they appeared as three blurry eyed tourists arriving on the last flight out of Atlanta to Bangor, Maine. But to the trained eye there was something fishy about them.

One was tall and big boned. His slick gray hair was combed back from his forehead. His skin was as rough as rawhide and mocha in color. So dark was his skin, I wondered if he was Native American. I looked closely for the expected high cheekbones -- they were indiscernible -- long since buried by too many southern cooked meals.

There was another -- who was not as physically imposing as the big boned one -- but looked as hard and indestructible as scrap iron. He had shifting dark eyes that narrowed and swept the terminal -- taking in every detail in seconds. Without question he was the brain trust of the outfit.

Then there was the young one. He walked slowly; he had a goatee and a young, innocent looking face. Truth is, he's about as innocent as Billy the Kid or Babyface Floyd! Rumor has it he enjoys harassing and pursuing the Bass family more than any of them. It may be, as I said, only a rumor, but some say he has a southern Bass family imprisoned (he always refers to them as bucket mouths) somewhere in Alabama!

We took the escalator down to the baggage area. Sleepy travelers stood groggily -- waiting for the serpentine conveyor to deliver their luggage. Not one of them even suspected they were in the company of Desperadoes. Insurgents. War makers.

Hands the size of lawn rakes reached down and grasped some unusual shaped "luggage." That giant mitt was attached to the big boned, dark skinned one. The scrappy one looked agitated. He was agitated -- his equipment had been lost! Coolly and callously he registered his complaint and told the shaken Delta employee, "I'll be back." Lastly, the young one, who looked so out of place with the other two, was filled with relief when he retrieved his "Bazooka" shaped luggage.

With their cleverly disguised cache of weapons in tow, they turned to leave the terminal. With a great whooshing sound the automatic doors quickly opened. It was like they couldn't spew the rabid rebels from the bowels of BIA fast enough.

Next . . .

The Carnage Begins

Saturday, July 7, 2007

They're Baaack!

The Rebel invasion is hours away! Yes, once again a well armed assault team from deep within Dixie has crossed the Mason Dixon line. Under the cover of darkness they will fly into Bangor International Airport disguised as sight seeing, souvenir seeking tourists.

How I got reeled into this adventure is a long and sad story. I will tell you this much, they told me a yarn about wanting to see the beautiful Penobscot River, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Now I am an unwilling accomplice in a long running vendetta that dates back to the War Between The States. Somehow the Northern Bass family continues be the brunt of their revenge -- in spite of the fact that they don't have the reputation of having big mouths like their southern kinfolk.

I realize that this post is usually dedicated to spiritual pursuits. However, for the next few days I will try to sneak away to McDonald's in Old Town, Maine to keep you updated on the carnage.

Enduring the Adventure,

Bill

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Susurration

I have been reading through some of my older posts. This one stood out to me. It seemed like a good time to revisit it.

I have been writing some new stuff, and I will be posting it soon.

Although God gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:21

I receive a new vocabulary word from "Doctor Dictionary" every day. Today's word is "susurration \soo-suh-RAY-shun. It means, A whispering sound; a soft murmur. Susurration is from Late Latin susurratio, from Latin susurrare, "to whisper, to mutter," from susurrus, "a whispering, a muttering."

From the hand of God comes adversity and affliction, so says Isaiah. He tells us they are God's hidden teachers revealed; the "walk of faith" is blessed with a momentary " walk by sight." Sometimes adversity and affliction are not to be battled through, but instead, listened to. They are God's teachers and voice -- soft spoken instructors murmering and whispering in barely audible sounds "You are going the wrong way. This is the way; walk in it."

Listen for the "susurration" of God's voice in the background of the Adventure today!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Maine

After we had breakfast with a couple of friends, Sandy and I started the trek to Maine. Ordinarily, we either drive straight through, or take two days to get there. Due to Sandy's recovery from surgery we will stretch it to three day drive. Bailey (our dog) is making the trip with us. He travels very well (maybe we should go on an endless road trip until he goes to the great fire hydrant in the sky).

Sandy and I wanted to get to Maine before the fourth of July so that we could join my family for a big ole' cookout. On Thursday, my brother-in-law, Steve, and I will put the boats in the water and do some fishing. Steve says the water is very low -- That means that the bass yield will be very high!

Those who have read this blog over the last couple of years know about our cabin on the banks of the Penobscot River. Nevertheless, I will describe it again for those of you who are new readers. Where do I start?

In the middle of a stand of large oaks sprinkled with some pine, fir, and hemlock, is the cabin. If you step off the porch and head to the river it is less than twenty feet to the water's edge. However, we are on high ground, so you have to go about thirty feet down to get your feet wet.

The cabin is primitive, with gas lights, stove, and fridge. If you need to knock the chill off, there is a Jotel woodstove and a supply of split and seasoned hardwood. There is no electricity, except for the awesome lightening storms generated by the grumpy thunder that occasionally rumbles through. There is no running water, except for the billions of gallons of water that rush by the front door.

Have you ever sat around a campfire and listened to the coyotes barking, or other unknown critters stirring just beyond the fire's light? Have you ever had the bass and tenor sounds of churning, bubbling currents sing you a lullaby? Have you ever been awakened at sunrise by the screech of an eagle, or sat and listened to a chorus of song birds at daylight?

Have you ever glided down a turbulent river in kayaks with your spouse or a good friend? Have you ever paddled up to a bear or deer swimming only a few yards from you? Have you ever tried fishing from a kayak? One last thing. Have you ever put on a wet suit, mask, and fins, and waded into a current of tea-colored liquid, and drift south? Have you had the adventure of exploring a river from the bottom -- up?

This last question is for my three young Jedis. Have I told you how beautiful the river is in the summer?

Go ahead -- laugh!

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill