Sunday, December 28, 2008

Planet Earth

I have been watching Planet Earth. I find it hard to believe that God would not want us to see much, if not all, he has created!

Do we work so hard to gain things that man has made, that we never enjoy all that God has provided free of charge?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Up Around the Bend

There's a place up ahead and I'm goin' just as fast as my feet can fly.
Come away, come away if you're goin', leave the sinkin' ship behind.


Come on the risin' wind, we're goin' up around the bend.


Bring a song and a smile for the banjo, better get while the gettins' good.

Hitch a ride to the end of the highway where the neons turn to wood.


Come on the risin' wind, we're goin' up around the bend.


You can ponder perpetual motion, fix your mind on a crystal day,

Always time for a good conversation, there's an ear for what you say.


Catch a ride to the end of the highway and we'll meet by the big red tree,

There's a place up ahead and I'm goin, come along, come along with me.


Come on the risin' wind, we're goin' up around the bend.


Up around the bend ~ Credence Clearwater Revival.

Credence Clearwater Revival, belonged to a niche of artists called "Snipers." They were referred to as "snipers," because their songs were usually only 3 minutes long or less, and were delivered with the precision of a sniper's bullet.

One of CCR's bullets is "Up around the bend." There is nothing lurid, sexual, or immoral in the lyrics -- no "sinful" enticement. It's just a good tune with a simple message of optimistic restlessness, and it resonated with tens of thousands of people. There's a place up ahead and I'm goin' just as fast as my feet can fly Come away, come away if you're goin', leave the sinkin' ship behind.

At our core we resent settling down -- there is something unsettling about settling down. A completely safe and mastered environment doesn't bring the fulfillment expected. Rather than delivering a sense of contentment it creates more discomfort. We truly are not hard wired to forever live safe and sound -- we are wired to explore.

Yet, it seems that many believers have bought into the assertion that devotion to God means we douse any urge to expand our boundaries or take risks. It seems many have embraced the idea that there is something noble about grabbing a deck chair on a sinkin' ship, be it a church or ministry that has been sitting - and will continue to sit with its sails wound tightly around the mast. Forever looking like a ship -- but with no intentions of sailing into the deep.

Thank God there is another option . . .

There's a place up ahead and I'm goin' just as fast as my feet can fly Come away, come away if you're goin', leave the sinkin' ship behind.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Retro

This 25th day of December has been peaceful and relaxing. Justin, Erika, and Meg are here with us. Billy and Naomi, now married, and once classmates with Justin are here. There is a little one growing inside Naomi with a due date of May! Nostalgic conversation and steady laughter circles the table.

A pleasant sound.

Justin, Meg, and Josh bought me a couple of CD's for Christmas -- Credence Clearwater Revival and Folsom Prison, by Johnny Cash. During my teen years, I used to cruise around in my Mustang listening to CCR, and when the boys were young the only "Rock" music I would let them listen to was CCR (it made sense at the time). I didn't listen to Johnny Cash much, but Justin and Josh love his music, and there is something about Cashes story that reminds them of me.

This afternoon, Justin asked me to take a ride and listen to my new tunes. Sensory perception is remarkable -- as CCR played I was transported back in memory over 35 years. Clear as a photogragh, many faces of teenage friends flashed before me -- faces unchanged by time -- and it made great father and son conversation recalling the setting of specific songs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Way of Life

We had a weekend of wild weather. So extreme, treacherous roads forced us to cancel church! Dealing with fickle winter storm systems is a way of life for New Englanders'. Case in point -- this afternoon the snow turned to sleet, and then the sleet to rain, and now it is sleeting again! At dawn it will be 11 degrees, a sheen of ice will make everything sparkle like diamonds, and a brilliant blue sky will be above us. When we step outside into the glowing world of snow the pupils of our eyes will shrink to the size of a BB.

On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, it will be 50 degrees here in southeast Massachusetts!

On a more somber note -- we got word a couple hours ago that Sandy's aunt Barbara passed away. Sandy's mother and Barbara were sisters. On December 22, eleven years ago, Sandy's mom died. Please pray for Sandy and her family during this time of loss.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Possibilities

It is still snowing, and we won't get the official tally until it stops, but I don't think we have been short-changed -- it looks like we got a foot. We love it -- even the 15 degree weather has not deterred us from enjoying the morning outside shoveling. As long as you have the right clothes for it, and we do, you are warm, dry, and comfortable. I know . . .that does not seem possible.

Our next door neighbor Al, the winemaker, was extremely grateful for Sandy, Meagan, and me clearing his driveway and steps. Just before we finished, Al disappeared into his cellar. Minutes later he emerged with a big smile, and a bottle of his home brew! "This for you. My very good wine. Thank you, my very good neighbors."

Later on I am going to take a long walk in a enormous cemetery not far from our house. If I were sure that the wooded area along its back boundary was public property I would pitch my tent there for a night. I know . . .that does not seem possible, either

Friday, December 19, 2008

Black and White

Have you ever seen Christmas lights that hang like icicles from the eves of houses? Looking out our kitchen window I am watching our neighbor's sway back and forth as the wind and snow batter them. Our automobiles are entombed in a casket of snow, and the gnarly grape vines along our fence are now woven strands of purest white.

Up the street a towering fir tree's branches sag under their wintry load. At the mouth of our driveway, the street light provides just enough illumination for the erratic orbits of a thousand snow flakes to reflect its glow. Two twisted, yellowed, frozen fingers of ice stretch from its glass rim, and look like they want to claw at the ground beneath them.

The floors of our house shudder as the heavy blades of snowplows rumble and bounce along the frozen roadways trying to muscle their way through the steadily falling snow. Vehicle passageways are becoming like the constricted arteries of a diseased heart, and traffic is forming clots.

Things are stirring in my neighbor's front yard. It appears the entire family has been conscripted to fight the battle of driving back this ferocious advance of winter. Shovels full of snow are flying every which way.

For the past couple of hours, I have been watching a giant, inflated Santa Clause bob and weave like a cagey boxer, ducking the hammer blows of a boisterous wind. Oops! Saint Nick just disappeared -- a knock out punch? No, apparently my neighbors pulled the plug on him!

Outside the world is black and white -- like a giant photo negative -- except for a tiny tree wrapped in strands of multicolored lights.

Closing In

This morning the sky was a canopy of clouds that darkened and then faded into shades of gray. My sensory memories came alive, and I could taste and smell the storm charged atmosphere. Coming back inside, I said, "Meg, go outside and breathe the air. You can smell the snowstorm. It's been so long since I have smelled that smell and felt that particular sensation on my face."

That was 5 hours ago. Since then, the muted and patchwork colors above have run together, become more uniform in hue and texture, and the weight of their burden is pressing them to the earth.

Later this afternoon the storm should be dumping several inches an hour, and I will be tramping around in the swirling frenzy of wild weather. Accumulations are steadily being updated, and the projections are getting higher and deeper. According to all the information being gathered by satellite and radar, the Shoreys should be in the big middle of the heaviest snow!

My plans are to camp out tonight, but now there is a question as to whether I can even get to the State Park I have in my sights. One way or another, though, I will find a way to enjoy this extraordinary storm in an un-ordinary way!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Been Soooo Long!

If all goes as predicted a foot -- or more -- of blowing, swirling snow will be arriving tomorrow. I know, I know, the white stuff will get old by April, but I am going to enjoy this first big one.

Nothing rejuvenates me like being immersed in God's creation, so this afternoon I got my extreme weather gear together, and my backpack is waiting to be stuffed. It has been soooo long since it has seen action. The last time was 4 years ago, when I climbed Mt. Elbert in Colorado. Elbert is the second highest mountain in the contiguous United States, after Mount Whitney in California, and is 65 feet (20 m) shorter than Whitney's 14,505 feet (4,421 m). If for some reason I am unable to spend tomorrow night in the woods (the State Park I have in mind may shut me down), I can still spend the day in some wild New England weather.

Manicured golf courses, resorts, boats that have motors, and mechanized transportation are OK, but for me, getting away from the civilized world is a necessity.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Meant To Be

Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. ~ Psalm 119:109

Interesting statement by David. Especially so, when we remember that it was human breath that delivered the words that are God breathed -- inspired -- Scripture. God was alive in David.

David's primary audience was his God, and he speaks with Him as one who wanted to preserve a sacred trust. Taking his life in his own hands was not the same as taking his life out of God's hands. Explaining was not necessary for God's benefit -- it was for David's. It's a beautiful picture -- David certainly knew, in a "theological" sense, that God was aware of his every action and the intentions that motivated them. But David's relationship with God was far more than cerebral. His communion with God was personal, soulful, spiritual, and deep. A loving trust bound them together -- It was Life the way Life was meant to be.

Like David, we have to constantly take ownership of our lives every single day. But we can do so without disregarding God, because what we do is guided by what we know, and what we know is gained through Who we know. The glue of our relationship with God is communion -- not explanation. A personal, soulful, spiritual, deep, and loving trust -- like the Life is meant to be.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Song and A Book

Sunday morning the mercury dipped into the low teens. Rays of sunshine beamed brilliantly toward earth with nothing to filter or dim them -- the sky was clear and with varying shades of blue.

Sandy and I were sitting quietly reading, checking messages, or researching something of interest. Breaking the silence, Sandy spoke. "John looks older."

"John who?" I asked.

"John Eldredge," she replied. I stood up and craned my neck to see around the edge of her computer screen and look at John's picture.

"Yes," I said, "He does. His goatee is getting streaked with white, and the lines in his face are etching deeper. He's been in the war a long time."

I went back to my own computer and clicked the icon for John's website, Ransomed Heart. Instantly and simultaneously, images from cyberspace--and an indescribable sense of loss--converged and blew-up my senses. A deep tiredness pressed down on me, pushing the blood from my face. Sandy was eye witness to it and with deep concern asked me what was wrong.

I buried my head in my hands. Tears and audible sobs spilled out from deep within my soul.

"I don't know," was my response.

I wanted to stay in the moment and work through all the commotion going on in my spirit, but I am a pastor, and I had to leave for church.

Later, back at home . . .

Over and over again, a life changing song and a life changing book kept coming to mind. The song -- The Great Adventure, by Steven Curtis Chapman. The book -- Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge.

In 1991 it was the message of the song that rescued me from Christianity. Prior to the rescue, a suspicion had been growing that there existed a journey with God distinctly different from the one that I and those around me were experiencing. None of us would have disputed that God's record, his Word, declared a spiritual, exhilarating , dangerous, and untamed adventure for those who dared to take up His Son's offer, "come and follow me." Most Christians, though, felt that such a message was for the less civilized world of early Christianity.

Then the powerful lyrics of The Great Adventure came along and gave me the courage to take the first steps to pursue the journey I was created for.

In 2004, it was the message of the book, Wild at Heart. W/H became the most battered book in my collection of hundreds. Why? Because of the countless times I slung it across my office, or living room, or cabin, or lawn, or into the woods. John Eldredge's uncensored journey (he was refreshingly raw -- uncivilized -- didn't use christian speak) brought me to a crisis of belief.

The crisis?

For a couple of years I had been giving consideration to exiting the road less traveled of following the wild and untamed God. I would reengage in a more secure church culture. As the old spiritual goes, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." Reason told me I had certainly paid my dues. Big church. Big pay. Big house. Big deal. But as shocking as this may sound, years of observation and participation had brought me to the conclusion that there are few things more pointless than scheduling a gathering for the religious, week after week, to teach them about God and the Bible with no expectation that God would show up and such encounters would change the hearers, who in turn, would go out and change the world.

I don't like that kind of life. Not for me.

Why the tears and wrenching reaction?

The brief dialogue Sandy and I shared revealed unidentified and unexpected grief -- the Adventure has come with some great costs and extreme pain -- I was feeling old and etched in my soul.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We Have Been Told

God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me. I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that God has great faith in me. ~ Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis)

And the glory that you gave me I have given them . . . ~ Jesus Christ

After Sandy, Meg, and I finished eating gumbo we sat around the dinner table for a couple of hours chatting. Conversation meandered, but almost all the dialogue took some spiritual form or other. After a few minutes I told Sandy and Meagan about a book I had been reading -- Velvet Elvis. I asked them if they would like me to read some of it aloud. Sections of it pertained to our talking points. They wanted me to read -- so, I did. During my monologue, I asked them several times if they wanted me to stop (I read nearly a dozen pages). The answer was an emphatic "No!"

All of us were captured by Bell's quotes above. We discovered that . . .

Neither Sandy or I can recall ever being told, Jesus believes in me.

Neither Sandy nor I can remember ever being told, Jesus has great faith in me.

In the hundreds of sermons we have heard we cannot recollect one passionate proclamation or passive remark that -- the glory God gave Jesus -- Jesus gave to us.

We rejoice! Ignorance can not keep truth captive!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

First Snow

When Sandy and I, along with Josh and Meg, left New England over 8 years ago, we looked forward to the prospect of warm winters and none of the icy white stuff. Since moving back, I have have been more than ready to see the earth covered in a pristine white.

When we pulled back the covers this morning and headed downstairs for our morning coffee, one glance out the kitchen window told us that all the grays and browns, evidences of the death of summer, were gone -- buried beneath our first blanket of snow.

Here in the Northeast daylight is getting pretty scarce. Each afternoon it gets dark by 4:30. The Winter Solstice -- December 21 -- is around the corner, and proves to be the stingiest, yielding the least sunlight of the year. But beginning December 22, the days will begin to lengthen, and in spite of the arctic blasts that will invade from the most northern fringes of our continent, and the snow that will likely accumulate by the feet, we New Englanders' will find ways to make the weather something to be enjoyed, rather than endured.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Drafts

The Enjoying the Adventure blog has 4 or 5 posts still in draft form. Hopefully, some of them will be completed over the next few days.

One thing Sandy and I have taken time for is to express our thanks to God for the great time we had with our kids. All of them were here for Thanksgiving! Justin and Erika went back to Boston on Friday, Josh and Joanna fly back to GA tomorrow afternoon, and Miss Meagan will get back to Milledgeville on Tuesday in time for late morning classes.

Just before church started this morning, I stood in the church foyer gazing at the white stuff as it gently fell to the earth. Nothing serious. Church attendance was unaffected -- actually very good -- in spite of the nasty weather and the fact that the Patriots are playing at home (more things to give thanks for)! Throughout the day precipitation has come in all forms -- from rain-to-sleet-to-snow.

Also, we want to tell our friends how grateful we are for all of you. We hope that the last few days have been a time of reflecting on God's goodness, refreshing rest, and reunion with family and others dear to you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reorientated

Have you understood all these things? Jesus asked. Yes, they [disciples] replied.

Jesus said to them, Therefore every teacher of the law [scribe] who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old. ~ Matthew 13:51-52

Jesus had been teaching the about the kingdom of heaven using parables. Sometimes he spoke publicly to crowds, other times privately to his disciples. The passage above was spoken to the disciples.

Jesus said that they were the new scribes of the kingdom message. What did that mean? If you trace the history of the scribes you can go all the way back to Ezra. Ezra shows up in the book of Nehemiah -- he was the one who stood on the wooden platform, read the law, and then explained it. That event launched a spiritual and scriptural revival that reorientated God's people to His purposes.

As the years passed the scribes became maniacally committed to protecting the Law. In doing so, they began to add their own safeguards. Soon traditions superseded the actual law itself. When you read through the gospels, you witness Jesus in red hot debates, excoriating the scribes for diluting or completely disguising the true Word in a maze of man-made traditions.

The kingdom parables of Matthew 13 make up the backdrop that led to Jesus' question, Do you understand all these things. He was confirming that his disciples were reoriented to the core message of the kingdom message. That was important, because Jesus authorized them as the new scribes with fresh authority to bring the kingdom message to the world.

Jesus' words hold great relevancy for Christ followers today -- those who have been reacquainted with the core message of the gospel. Once again, the old message is finding a new audience. Those who have been reorientated to the message of the kingdom are empowered with kingdom authority to bring the undiluted message to our work-a-day world.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ex Nihilo

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, begins this way, In the beginning God created . . . All that now makes up our physical world was created in six days. And to think that He magnificently constructed it all Ex Nihilo -- a Latin phrase meaning -- out of nothing.

Humanity traces backwards to those first days in the Genesis story. We are told that of all God's creation, we are the pinnacle. Reading the story, we can see that like our Creator we, too, are creative. No, we can't create out of nothing, but the evidence is undeniable, we are creators.

Adam and Eve were designed with enough creativity to catalogue every animal and cultivate every form of vegetation. Follow their family tree from the roots up and their offspring were no different. Jabal probably decided that everyone else could continue to sleep under trees, in dank caves, or under the stars, but one day the architect gene emerged, an idea formed, and he designed and built a tent. From then on tents were everyone's home.

Did Jubal, day-after-day, listen to the wind whistle through the trees, and the low moan it produced as it passed by the entrance of a cave? Did the happy sound of water tumbling over rocks and stones, or songbirds twittering melodically bring him more pleasure than others? We are not sure. But one day a latent, musical chord was struck in his heart, and he was the first to create music with wind and stringed instruments -- he fashioned the lyer and flute (Bob Dylan copied him and used a guitar and a harmonica).

Then there is Tubal-Cain. He probably got tired of blistered and cut hands or digging with a stick -- he was the first to fashion tools out of iron and bronze (I got none of those genes).

Amazing.

Even as I write I get a sense of satisfaction. I am quick to confess though, I have read too much, seen too much, and experienced too much to be completely original (but I do have a bad memory and that helps). But nonetheless, I am creating. God gives me a muse, some raw materials, a desire I can't shove down, and a voice I can't silence. Putting my thoughts down for myself and others to read, and the accompanying joy that comes with it, has come late in life.

But I am a creator -- never Ex-Nihilo. But I am a creator -- the Creator made me that way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Big Dream-Big World

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field. ~ Matthew 13:44

You cannot begin to live the dream God has for you until you stop caring about only yourself. And the smaller your span of concern, the smaller your dream will be and the smaller your life will become. ~ Erwin McManus (Wide Awake)

Clearly, Christ highly values the kingdom and kingdom people -- to him we are a treasure. But, it is also important to note that Jesus not only saw the value of his kingdom, but he also saw the value of the field. The parable tells us, in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field.

Laying it all on the line to secure the kingdom and the world brought Jesus great joy.

I point that out because we, as Christ followers, can develop a tendency of putting no value on those things that lay outside the boundaries of the kingdom. It becomes second nature for all of our energies -- physical and spiritual -- to be exhausted caring for the well-being of other believers. But if that becomes the entire span of our concern, our world will eventually collapse inward. And if we devalue the larger field [world] our impact will be far less than Christ had in mind. We become small and so, too, our world.

So . . .

Do we highly value the kingdom? Absolutely!

But do we neglect the world within which the kingdom exists? Absolutely not!

Dream big and live big!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

All Over The Place

This week, our temperatures in southeast Massachusetts will sink into the teens like a rock. Like a man carrying a heavy load up a long, steep hill, the mercury will slowly ascend into the mid 30's, as the sun makes it way above the horizon. A flurry of the white stuff is predicted for Tuesday. Thanksgiving season is usually rolls out the welcome mat letting Old Man Winter know it's time to come and stay for a while.

Also . . .

One of my friends called just a while ago -- just before sundown he bagged a trophy buck -- it will score around 150! He has been stalking the big boy all fall. Richard and I have kept in touch swapping hunting tips since I left the sunbelt. The only way I could be happier for my friend's success is if I, too, were peering out of a tree stand. I really miss Georgia -- Free America.

Earlier today . . .

This morning my wife interceded on my behalf and gathered a few friends in my office to pray over me before this morning's service. The last 72 hours have been a spiritual wrestling match as I struggled with confusion and an inability to concentrate. You may be familiar with the story -- when the deliverer of God's Word has something significant to say, the enemy overloads the mental circuits with a lot of static. Prayer prevailed and all went well.

Interestingly, the big idea of today's message revolved around the parable of the Lost Treasure. In his story, Jesus communicated that his kingdom is hidden in the world, and he alone could see it. Christ alone can see the potential of his kingdom people, so Christ alone can show us the life worth pursuing. In his joy, not grudgingly, Jesus gave all that he had to secure for us this fulfilling future. I think that truth -- the potential God alone sees in his people -- catalyzed the great resistance that braced me the entire weekend.

Why wouldn't the evil one go to work to disengage the speaker and deprive the hearer from such a message? Think how differently we would live our life if we could see our truest self -- the one that God alone sees.

Today's post has covered a lot of ground. It's sort of been all over the place -- like its writer. Nonetheless, I am enjoying the Adventure.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Fresh Look

It has been a longer than I would prefer since the last post. A lack of writing is in no way congruent with the amount of activity in Sandy's life and mine. Little grass has grown beneath our feet since we unloaded our furniture. Thankfully, we are seeing a lot of new people attending the church, and there is always the adjustment to God's work in a place so different from the Southeast.

Since arriving, I have been teaching through the kingdom parables. Unless I get a sense that God would have us take a different direction we will stay with the teachings of Jesus for the next year. Rather than taking for granted that we, as a community of faith, are on the same page, we are going to take a fresh look at what Christ had in mind for his church.

More later . . .

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Highly Visible and Vulnerable

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . .the kingdom of heaven is like . . .yeast mixed into a large amount of flour . . .Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables . . .so was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world. ~ Matthew 13:31-35

Jesus did not explain the meaning of the parable of the mustard seed, and the yeast in the large amount of flour. Because of Jesus' silence, these two stories are open to a lot of discussion and interpretation. However, I feel quite sure that Jesus intended all the parables to fit together and give us a multi-faceted understanding of the nature of the kingdom of heaven.

For a mustard seed to grow to the size of a tree, it had to experience supernatural growth. If we go to the scriptures, it is plain to see that in the gospels and in the book of Acts, the kingdom grew explosively and supernaturally. In the gospels, John the Baptist's announcement of the arrival of the king and the kingdom of heaven provoked phenomenal happenings. People from all over Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region of the Jordan, flocked to John's message. From the time Jesus began to speak of the kingdom, thousands of people frantically found their way to him. The advance was explosive.

In the book of Acts we see the kingdom advancing exponentially, supernaturally, and spiritually from Pentecost to the last pages of the Acts record. The presence of the kingdom was highly visible and supernatural, just like the mustard seed that grew to the size of a tree. Ever since then, supernatural and highly visible growth of the kingdom has been rare. With the exception of scattered awakenings throughout the centuries, the advance of the kingdom has been slow.

In the parable, Jesus may have given us a hint as to why those epoch advances were so short lived. In the mustard tree sat birds. In Jesus' parable of the sower and the seed -- birds represented the evil one who stole away the seed of God's Word. Is it not safe to assume that the birds in the mustard tree tell us that in the midst of great movements of God -- we are most vulnerable?

Where is the gospel of the kingdom working around you right now? Be aware of the evil that will be lurking in the wings -- whose objective is to steal away the miracle-making Word of God!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

POTUS

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~ Jesus Christ

Never in my lifetime have I witnessed the world so frenzied and focused on one day -- Election Day -- for the next President of the United States.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If?

Charles Krauthammer quotes Winston Churchill as saying,

If you're not a liberal when you're 20, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative when you're 40, you have no head.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Right Place or Wrong Place?

[The disciples asked Jesus] Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field. Jesus answered, 'The one who sowed the good seed is the son of Man. The Field is the world, and good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.' ~ Matthew 13:37-39 (The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds)

God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ. God is awfully good at getting us where he wants us to go. But here's the catch: The right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time. ~
Mark Batterson (In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day)

To explain the nature of God's kingdom, Jesus used parables. Parables were simple, earthy stories that very effectively helped inquiring learners make sense of complex truths. After Jesus told the disciples the parable of the wheat and the weeds, the disciples were curious to know more about the weeds.

Jesus explained that the weeds represented the sons of the evil one, and the wheat represented the sons of the kingdom. Both were placed in a field. The field represents the world. God owned the field. To understand the weeds, the disciples would first need to know that they (the wheat) were purposefully and strategically placed in the world (field), and that Christ's kingdom would advance as others like them, sons of the kingdom, multiplied. That would be crucial in understanding the significance of the weeds.

Knowing that, the disciples would understand that the sons of the evil one were also purposely and strategically placed in the world. In short, Jesus wanted the disciples to know that they would always be surrounded by those in the world, who were not yet in his kingdom.

Here is the beautiful part . . .

In kingdom work the disciples would need to know that the right place may often seem like the wrong place. And right timing may often seem like the wrong timing. Why such a paradox? Because the norm of their life would be that of being strategically plunked down in the shadow of the devil's workmanship. If they rejected that fact they might conclude that being in dark (worldly) places meant they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their first priority could easily become a series of boundless extremes to wall themselves off from contact with the world. But the spiritual reality is: God, by design, put them in the world in the right place at the right time. And so it is with us -- we infiltrate rather than isolate -- that is how the kingdom is advanced.

One more thought -- humility reminds us that at one time we, too, were weeds. Only by the miracle of transformation was our very nature changed -- from sons of the evil one -- to sons of the kingdom. Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Red Wranglers and Prayer

In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Mark Batterson, author of In A Pit With A Lion, offers an interesting perspective on prayer. He correlates prayer with a cluster of nerve cells at the base of our brain stem called, the reticular activating system. Without this filtering system, we would literally go insane, because our brain would try to process every stimuli it encountered. Think about it -- every scent, taste, sound, sight, and incidental touch -- would have to be categorized and given our attention. It is the RAS that protects us from such sensory overload. The RAS determines what gets noticed and what goes unnoticed.

We can illustrate it this way . . .

We bought a Jeep Wrangler a number of years ago. All of a sudden, wherever we went we saw Jeeps! Why -- The reticular activating system. During the pre-Jeep days, my brain didn't have a special space dedicated for a red Wrangler. But once I bought one, my brain had a new cognitive category. Almost unconsciously my mind came to attention when red Wranglers became a blip on my radar screen.

Prayer follows a similar process. Once we pray we create a category in our spiritual reticular activating system. Following a specific prayer, we will take notice when God brings his activity to those unique requests. We created a prayer category.

However, even in prayer none of us can possibly process and give attention to everything that could be stimuli to pray. We must be comfortable and confident that we can know what needs to be noticed -- or go unnoticed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eagerly Desired

And Jesus said to them, I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer . . .
~Luke 22:15~

Century after century God's people had observed Passover -- a portent of God's Son who would become the sacrificial Lamb. For the final three years of those many centuries, Jesus had been striding toward the cross with his jaw set like flint. The finish line came into view. Jesus' wearying journey of desire was nearly complete. He would fulfill the will of his Father and bring into the full light of revelation the shadowy types and promises of the prophets.

Luke, the immaculate historian, relates and records the mood of Jesus, as told by the disciples. Redemptive gravity was pulling the Savior into the valley of the shadow of death, yet not even the horrendous suffering that awaited him could stifle his joy -- he was eager to lay out the implications of being the Passover Lamb.

Today, for Sandy and me, and our new family of faith, musing on the cross was most appropriate. This morning we broke the bread and drank the cup of Communion. Personally, experiencing the celebration of this holy ordinance in our new setting seemed especially fresh and meaningful. Remembering what Christ did, thrilled with what Christ is doing, and looking forward to what Christ has promised, rekindled an eager desire for the things that matter most.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Into the Pit

There was also Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two of Moab's mightiest warriors. Another time he chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it. Another time, armed only with a club, he killed a great Egyptian warrior who was armed with a spear. Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with it. 2 Samuel 23:20-21

I recently read a book that I would like to recommend: In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day. As I began reading it, I found myself highlighting phrase after phrase. I could not put it down. The book revolves around an Old Testament character named Benaiah.

Although biblical references of Benaiah are relatively few, we are introduced to a remarkable and inspirational character -- the kind of man that is desperately needed in our world today. The first time I learned of Benaiah, I was a much younger man trying to eke out a pioneer church plant in northern Maine. During that time, I remember asking God, time after time, to give me the courage to chase my lions -- rather than run from them. Since then, I have slain a few, and I have run from others.

On the back of the book is the teasing question, What if the life you really want, and the future God wants for you is hiding right now in your biggest problem, your worst failure . . .your greatest fear?

Retrospect has taught me that the sanest moments of life are those when we cast safety and convention to the wind, chase down our lions -- our biggest problems, worst failures, greatest fears -- leap into their pits, and kill them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here and There, and Now and Then

Make it your ambition to live a quiet life, to mind your own business . . . 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Make it your ambition to live a quiet life . . .

Rarely does anyone yoke together the words ambition and quiet -- they seem like opposites. Were we to make a list of the ambitious people we know, most of them would not be considered quiet people.

Yet, real life teaches us that it takes a lot of ambition and intentionality to be quiet. Quietness is not easy to find. Here and there, and now and then, it might prove to be of great benefit to devote chunks of time to ambitiously pursuing the desire to sit quietly, hear no one -- not even our own voice.

Make it your ambition . . .to mind your own business

All of us are drawn into the lives of others. But our well intended involvement in the business of other people can devolve into nothing more than busyness. All too often we do not give enough attention to our own business, and that can be hazardous.

Here and there, and now and then, it might prove to be of great benefit to devote chunks of time to ambitiously pursuing the desire to sit quietly, hear no one, say nothing, and do a personal inventory of our own business.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Violence and the Violent

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12

John emerged from the desert with a hard-edged message of repentance. The wild man's warnings echoed through the wilderness and bounced off the granite hearts of the Pharisaical. His announcement of Messiah's arrival ushered in a spiritually violent era. From that point on, few who entered Christ's kingdom did so unscathed. Kingdom people suffered unrelenting violence.

And the violent take it [the kingdom] by force. What does this phrase mean?

We know that Jesus is not suggesting that anyone -- in John's day or our day -- can force their way into God's kingdom or through might subdue it. But I am quite sure he is telling us that those engaged in advancing Christ's kingdom are possessed with a non-violent violence -- their advance may be resisted, but it will not be denied.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fragments

Think on these things. Philippians 4:8

I tend to live in the moment and write about life as it happens. In the last 48 hours I have received numerous and seemingly random contacts from people with whom I have shared the Adventure of life, and life with God.

Josh our middle child called, and we talked for a long while about really good stuff -- I am so proud of him. A couple who were in a church plant I did in Maine, nearly 25 years ago, went to the trouble of finding Sandy and me through Facebook -- Don and his wife Jana are in a pastorate in Lima, Montana. A good friend, and a partner in a dynamic men's ministry in Georgia called -- another great conversation. And I received a hand written letter from one of my young Jedi's who trekked China with me -- he is in med-school, brilliant, and praying about how and where he can invest his talents for Kingdom work.

All of a sudden melancholy comes riding in on waves of emotion that wash over me.

So what do we do with such thoughts and feelings? In front of the fragment of Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul tells us what kinds of things we are to think on -- things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praise worthy.

From a lifetime that is behind me came forth fragments of just such things. I will think on them -- and I will be grateful.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Severed and Slashed

Temperatures here in southeast Massachusetts were in the middle 70's. New England summers and falls things of remarkable beauty. Sandy and I took a couple of friends with us and went for a ride to adore the spectacular foliage that God blesses us with in this part of His world.

It's funny how we sometimes think the grass is greener (or in this case the trees are more colorful) on the other side of the fence. Our time behind the windshield took us on a 126 mile loop into central Massachusetts and back to Norton. Yes, our excursion gave us some glimpses of nature's artistry, but we saw the most exhilarating sights within ten miles of our home! Our Creator's Autumn colors are inimitable -- his imagination intriguing.

Also . . .

We are continuing with a series of messages called -- Advancing the Kingdom. This morning I took a chance and drew a starfish and a spider (more about the spider later) on a huge flip chart. Did you know that nearly every kind of starfish can grow back one of its legs if it is severed? Did you know that in some starfish species the severed leg can grow into another starfish?

The passage in focus was Acts 8:1-4. There we are told: Stephen was martyred, and following his death a great wave of persecution, led by Saul of Tarsus, broke out against the church . . . the apostles remained in Jerusalem, but the believers were scattered and took the message of the gospel wherever they went.

The point? It is plain to see that the success of Christ's church did not hinge on the presence of the apostolic leaders -- they stayed in Jerusalem -- as the scattering Believers brought people into the kingdom. Wherever they went. Without them. God's people, in their very essence and new nature, had everything needed to ensure the kingdom's advance. Severed and slashed, they simply became the DNA of a new Body.

Nothing has changed. Christ never intended that his people lean on and depend upon a few gifted leaders to be the sole governors and guides of the advancement of his church. Leaders are a gift. Leaders have a significant place. But leaders also come and go, and yet, Christ's church moves onward and forward. Why? Because like the starfish, the church Christ is building is indestructible, and inconceivably adaptable, and in every person whose life is Jesus!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cuz

Cuz, a Mainer trapped south of the Mason/Dixon line sent me an e-mail with a subtle reminder that she looks forward to reading my blogs -- when I write -- especially those that have anything to do with New England. I will try to catch up.

First, I ask my friends in Maine to forgive me for not making contact with them even though I was in the Pine Tree State for a couple of days. Besides getting together with my family, I was really busy closing up the camp and getting ready for Sunday. Honest!

I did take some time to sit on the banks of the Penobscot river, soak in the beauty of the colorful Autumn, and journal a few thoughts . . .

The foliage peaked a few days before we arrived at the cabin. Now, leaves are falling like gentle rain drops -- some make it to the river and drift south with the current. Above normal temperatures surround me as the mercury has eked its way above the 70 degree threshold. A few insects have resuscitated enough to make lazy attempts at being a nuisance. Most of the grasses and vegetation on the ground have turned to a drab beige. On the ledges orange and blushing red bushes tremble as a breeze from the southeast surges up the river.

It has been months since we have been here. Right now the sun is staring through a thin layer of clouds as it makes a low arc from east to west. In front of me is Birch Island where for hundreds of years many species of trees have tried to set down roots and make it home, but thousands of red oaks -- unwilling to give-up their lush green leaves -- have made the island their elite community. Few outsiders are allowed.

Soon the beautiful hues will fade, and Fall's deathly shades of browns and grays will be buried beneath a cold, white blanket of snow. As impossible as it may seem, sometime in January or February the temperature will plunge 100 degrees colder than today!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Helm's Deep

On this rock (the revelation that Jesus is the Christ) I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. ~ Jesus words as recorded by Matthew

This morning I started a series of messages called -- Advancing the Kingdom. We started with Jesus' declaration and description of the church he intended: He would build his church; he is the owner of his church; he would advance his church, and nothing could stop his church's mission.

Most people who have belonged to a church have long suspected that there is a disconnect between it and the church Jesus described. Today's message was anything but a beat down. On the contrary, it was the starting place for an emerging new journey. God's people are hungering for the church he promised. We are ready to hand the deed back to the rightful owner. Like the scene from Lord of the Rings -- The Two Towers, we have discovered that retreating to Helm's Deep was a trap. Though our intentions of keeping the enemy out by constructing fortified castles (church buildings) seemed like a good idea, the choice to retreat, rather than engage, was a mistake. Those walls have been breached and their gates stormed.

Beneath the surface of our souls is a growing dissatisfaction, dislike, and disgust for the taste of defeat, and a growing courage, belief, and hope of advance.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Prophet of LIberty -- Champion of the Slave

I love inexpressibly these streets of Boston over whose pavements my mother held up tenderly my baby feet. And if God grants me time enough I will make them too pure to bear the footsteps of a slave. ~ Wendell Phillips 1811-1884

Today Sandy and I took the train into South Station in Boston. It has been over 8 years since we have been in the shadow of the Brownstones. We also walked under ominous clouds along the choppy waters of the Charles River. Stiff, fresh, chilly winds braced us every step of the way.

Our trek included Trinity Church. We exited the busy, noisy streets and entered its sanctuary. I find it impossible to describe the beauty of the architecture, or the piety of the pews and the kneelers. How many petitioning Believers had knelt before God pouring out expressions of faith. Elevated high above the floor hung the ornate pulpit. From that lofty perch, some of the greatest Christian orators in our country's history delivered the Word of God. Stained glass windows surrounded us, and colorfully filtered the natural light, creating a mystical atmosphere.

After leaving Trinity we criss-crossed Copley Square and Plaza. In the middle is Boston Public Gardens -- set apart from the enormous high rises by wrought iron fences. Once inside, we meandered the paths that circled the lagoon, and from time to time stopped to read the platitudes carved into marble and granite pedestals. Atop the stone foundations stood likenesses of long deceased heroes. Frozen in time, they stand as silent spokesmen of a time when the freedom of a continent and marginalized peoples hung in the balance.

Beginning this post is the quote that caused deep emotions to well up inside me. When written, it was intended to speak against the unspeakable -- slavery. How did minds once reconcile something so egregious. Phillips, the Prophet of liberty -- Champion of the slave, would not.

As troubling as that era of such inhumane actions against another human was, I was struck even harder by a present conviction -- my calling as a Christ-follower. Upon my feet the Spirit has given me the shoes of the gospel of peace. For however long they are allowed to tread this earth, the noblest journey they could ever venture is to make them too pure to bear the footsteps of a slave of sin.

Bill Shorey ~ December 16, 1955 -- 20_ _

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Different Conclusions

Statistics: The only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions. ~ Evan Esar

Did you listen to the Vice Presidential debate?

What will the experts say?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Keep In Touch

The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt. Frederick Buechner

After reading Buechner's quote, a personal inventory seemed in order. How have I -- and how many lives -- have I touched today?

A good question.

My mind went back to about 8 O'clock this morning -- three, 5-year old little guys knocked on my office door and asked (actually they excitedly jumped up and down and pleaded) to see my collection of swords. Last week I used one of them for an object lesson in chapel. To the tiny trio before me I was no longer a pastor -- I was a legend!

Do You want to be touched? Try to touch a young heart and imagination. Watch the wide-eyed expressions. Listen to their breathy gasps. Their drawn out "Wooow!" Witness a band of miniature warriors be swept up in fantastic dreams about valiant battles and fighting Orks!

It took about 5 minutes to touch a life, and for my life to be touched with deep joy . . .

A replica of Peter's sword and shield from the Chronicles of Narnia
Aragorn's reforged sword from The Lord of the Rings
A Samurai sword
A Sword from the Civil War that was once brandished by a Confederate soldier
A Smith and Wesson Special Ops. knife
A Roger's Rangers hatchet (google it if you don't know its significance and history)
A wooden practice sword

But seeing only -- was not be believed. Swords must be handled! Yes. I let those tiny hands pick up those glimmering swords -- under careful supervision, of course!

How about us? What are the things -- the good things -- that have touched us?

Use them to touch another -- who knows where the trembling will stop, or what far place our touch will be felt.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stories by Shoreys

Our youngest son Josh just arrived with one of his buddies. They drove here to Massachusetts from Georgia. Needless to say, mom and dad are extremely happy. It only gets better -- for Thanksgiving, Josh and Joanna, Justin and Erika, Miss Meagan, my sisters and their husbands, various nieces and nephews, and my parents will all be here! Believe me, that's a recipe for a good time! Lots of good food will be easy to find, but trying to figure out the sleeping arrangements is a bit of a challenge. Our turn of the century house has a basement, first floor, second floor, and a finished attic. We figure we can find a way to stack in all 16-18 people -- it will be no place for a sleep walker!

We are praying for one of those cool, crisp, bright, perfect fall weekends while everyone is here. Our back yard is surrounded by a white picket fence, and I am going to dig a small fire pit, so we can sit around a glowing circle and swap stories by Shoreys.

Also, the remnants of a hurricane hustled through our area in the last 24 hours. Because we were way out on the edges of Kyle's fury we didn't get the high winds that could have stripped our trees bare and sabotaged our beautiful foliage. Peak season is just 2-3 weeks away!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Enjoying the (extreme) Adventure

Sandy and I are grateful for our friends from warmer climates. This blog -- Enjoying the Adventure -- is one of the ways we let you know what is going on in our lives, and pass along something about our spiritual journey.

Over the up-coming months, I am going to be describing our reentry into the wonderland of a Northeast winter . . .

Soon, God's artistry -- displayed through colder weather -- will transform our trees into pallets of indescribable beauty. Gusting winds, arctic air, and pounding rain will barrel in, stripping the trees down to their bony skeletons. The thin red lines of our thermometers will retreat downward. A pure, white blanket will arrive to tuck nature in for a long winter nap.

Now, I look forward to the raw climate that is on its way. I am not going to hunker down and wait for the bloom of spring and the Eden-like summer days. Instead, I have located my snowshoes, cold weather gear, GPS, and severe-weather sleeping bag. Once again, I have dug out my books on survival, and I am going to Enjoy the (extreme) Adventure!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Moonshine Shed

Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. Matthew 9:17

To the right of my computer stands a long-necked bottle with large, white, letters on a dark blue background. They read . . . EVERCLEAR GRAIN ALCOHOL.

Smaller letters and numbers read . . . 95% Alc. By Vol. (190 proof)

Inside the EVERCLEAR bottle is a deep red, cloudy, and unclear liquid called homemade Portuguese wine.

Where did it come from? You might ask.

About a week ago Sandy and I offered to help our neighbor collect the plump juicy grapes from his meticulously cared for arbors. Al has had two strokes that have left him without enough balance to do that kind of work.

Carefully reaching above our heads we gently plucked the purple clusters from among the leafy green vines. Next we culled out withered or blemished grapes (and not a few arachnids and other insects), and added the hand selected ones to a big, blue, 50 gallon, plastic drum, that already contained equal amounts of their distant relatives -- imported from the vineyards of California

Al -- who speaks a mixture of Portuguese and heavily accented English -- explained why he then crushed the grapes. He was getting them ready to cook. For us non-wine producers, cook would mean ferment -- heat is never used.

Since then, we have enjoyed regular visits to Al's wine shack, and listened to him explain the slow process that would turn the watery, purple mixture into wine.

So . . .

Today, before we left Al's moonshine shed, he told us he had something special for us, and pointed to the EVERCLEAR GRAIN ALCOHOL bottle, now the residence of Al's home brew.

This is for you. It will become clear in a few weeks. He said. Then you can drink it. I will give you more!

Both of us thanked him for his kindness and generosity. I picked up the old skin with the new wine, and turned to leave. As I did I noticed that the cap on the bottle was loose, so I began to tighten it.

Don't do that! Said Al, in excited Portu-genglish. It's not done -- It will blow up! Tighten it little by little over the next week. It will be ready by Thanksgiving.

Now I have a bottle in front of me. No, it is not 190 proof. But I believe after a few chug-a-lugs I would feel like I had a frontal lobotomy!

Cheers

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just A Thought

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." Genesis 28:16

A comforting thought -- surely the LORD is in this place . . .

A convicting thought -- I was not aware of it . . .

A consoling thought -- Being awakened to the truest reality -- The LORD IS!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Leaving the Safety of Private Convictions

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul -- an old man and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ . . . I am sending Onesimus back to you . . . no longer as a slave but . . . as a man and as a brother in the Lord. ~ Titus 9-10, 16

To know when to be generous and when firm—that is wisdom. ~ Elbert Hubbard

Paul wrote 4 epistles that bear people’s names. His letter to Philemon is the most personal. The purpose of the letter is not for doctrinal teaching, rebuke, or correction. Instead, we read a written correspondence between two influential men -- Men who would make a decision in private -- that would become a public display of the radical change an encounter with Christ brings.

As the story goes Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who robbed him and then ran away. When Onesimus took flight, God kept pace with him stride-for-stride. Amid all the drama the physically imprisoned, but spiritually free Paul -- and the physically free, but spiritually imprisoned Onesimus, became father and son through the redemptive message of Christ!

Then came the truly radical part -- Paul would not simply return the fugitive slave to his good friend Philemon. Instead, he sought reconciliation between Onesimus and Philemon. Not a reluctant reunion of slave and owner, but a new formed partnership of brothers in Christ!

How do we handle it when, like Paul, we must follow the endless ripples of conversion's effect and challenge a friend to break from cultural norms that are contradictory to all that being in Christ represents. Especially when we know that the decision will impact all that is public in our friend's life?

Paul did it privately, making the basis of his appeal Love, rather than his authority. He drew from the vast well of wisdom he had gained through spiritual maturity. And Paul spoke from personal empathy for Onesimus -- Paul knew first hand what it meant to be spiritually free but physically bound.

Willingness to leave the safety of our private convictions lovingly, wisely, and empathetically, we may touch a life that changes the world.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Friendship's Highest Purpose

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I call you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

Jesus spoke of friends and servants. A servant has to do things his master doesn't want to do. He does what he is told to do, and does not necessarily know why he is doing it.

Jesus spoke of friends as those people he invites into his life and purposes. His friends willingly give Him control, because they know He has already done everything he will ask them to do -- pursue the will of his Father.

Our relationships will be unhealthy if we insist on being in command, and our purpose is singular -- personal gain. The model Jesus gives us is the example we must follow: share what you know about your spiritual adventure, invite someone to join you in what you are already doing, and then together, pursue the will of the Father.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Bailey Saga Continues

I called our son Josh to see how things were going in Columbus. He related the following story . . .

Bailey, our dog, now under the exclusive care of Josh, got out of the house and did not return a few hours later covered with red, Georgia mud, and stinking to high heaven, as is his usual routine. In fact, he never returned at all that night. The next morning, Josh got up to see if he was at the back door. No Bailey. Josh returned later that day, and there was still no Bailey, so he decided to call the dog pound and see if he had been incarcerated there.

Sure enough, the lady who answered our son's inquiries said that indeed, there she was in possession of a white Wheaton terrier. Check that. She had been -- he was no longer there -- the owner had picked him up earlier.

Josh was taken aback, to say the least. "I am the owner, and I don't have him." he said.

The lady at the pooch prison said, "Well, we know that the dog's tags said he belonged to Bill Shorey, but the lady who came and got him told us Mr. Shorey gave Bailey to her over a year ago."

"No. My father didn't give Bailey away (Although I have unsuccessfully tried to do so on numerous occasions. Ask Richard, Kendall, Maris, Emily, Luke, Tim, Ben, Sarah, Alec, Miranda, the Mitchell family, random people asking for directions, and every salesman who ever rung our doorbell). Bailey has been with me, but he escaped yesterday and didn't return."

Neither Josh, nor I know how the dog warden got Bailey back from his temporary owner, but my guess is that even though she may have been a thief -- she was not completely stupid. After about an hour of Bailey's antics she probably figured out that she had gotten a lot more than she bargained for!

Bailey is now back in the possession of our son.

I guess that is good news . . .

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Vortex

For Sandy and me yesterday was one of celebration -- we have been married 31 years . . . Today, another anniversary -- the tragedy of 911 is revisited. That day, 7 years ago, the towers fell like vertical columns of dominoes, and the swirling, crashing wreckage created a vortex that is still swallowing the souls of mankind.

Continue to pray . . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You Know What I Am Doing

I no longer call you servants . . . I call you friends. ~ Jesus

The last 24 hours have been exceptional! Last night I got to spend some time with our Chinese friends via SKYPE -- the main group being in Columbus -- and Selena patched in from Liberty University, Virginia. Today, Sandy and I have been married for 31 years! We will celebrate tomorrow night by going to dinner in Boston, and then on to the Charles Theater to catch The Blue Man Group act.

For quite some time I have been thinking through friendships, and last Sunday I began a series of messages about what I am learning. Over the last year, a lot of thought has been given to the impact, intricacy, and mystery of being in relationships. Attempting to develop intimate relationships can be risky, can take a lot of time, can be messy, and can be rewarding. Sometimes the connection is beautiful. Other times nothing happens and our best efforts fail.

We need friends, and we need to be a friend.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

2039--To Sandy

Tomorrow we celebrate 31 years of marriage. Over 3 decades are behind us. I hope we celebrate another 31 years in 2039.

Tomorrow never comes. So the saying goes.

If that were true everyday would be the same. But for us, each sunrise has lighted the way for a new adventure.

I pray one thing does remain unchanged. . . Day-after-day, I want you to feel loved and cherished and honored. Today. . .Tomorrow. . . Every moment we share together.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Full Day

It still doesn't seem possible that we are back in New England. The reception has exceeded all expectations. Folks have gone above and beyond the call of duty to give us a warm welcome. After an 8 year absence it is amazing how most of the adults we knew look that same, but those who were children when we left are nearly unrecognizable. We are reminded that time has not stood still.

By the time the work day was done, I got most of my books into my office and found a place for them on my shelves. Also, I got a lot of the necessary meetings scheduled for the next 6 months. When I got home this evening it was still bright, sunny, and almost devoid of humidity! Most of our unpacking is done, and the house is becoming a home.

We are planning to have a house full of people for Thanksgiving -- mostly family. My parents are really excited about coming to Massachusetts. It will be the first time many of us have been together for a long time. We continue to have people we haven't heard from in ages contact us -- another serendipitous gift from the hand of God.

The Sox are up 3-0!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Picking Up Where We Left Off

We are still technologically crippled until Monday. I truly miss posting. There is always something in the journey I want to pass along. Hopefully, I can get back in a groove soon.

Today I spoke for the first time as Sr. Pastor. The experience exceeded all expectations. There was an atmosphere of anticipation, and everyone seemed to track really well with the message. Reuniting with so many friends that Sandy and I raised children with, experienced highs and lows with, and chased the purposes of God with, brought an inexpressible joy. We also met for the first time scores of people with whom we will continue the adventure. We were received with open arms.

Tomorrow will be busy -- I will be meeting with many of the 34 staff members to begin reorganizing and integrating my life with the ebb and flow of the new community of faith God has placed me. Also, Sandy and I continue to use any available time to unpack, organize our home, and reengage in our New England setting. Yet, in many ways it seems like we never left, and that we are simply picking up a life that has been on pause for a while.

We miss Josh and Meagan, and we talk to them everyday. Many of our friends back in the southeast have called, e-mailed, or contacted us through FaceBook. As soon as we get online permanently it will be much easier to stay in regular communication. Hopefully, we will be able to go on SKYPE Tuesday night and continue our study with our Chinese friends.

Please pray that the technology demons will be exorcised, and pray that the many threads of our life will weave a mosaic of the grace of God.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Arrived

We have arrived. Tonight we spend our last in a hotel, and tomorrow we unpack. A bunch of our friends will be there to help. They have already spent a lot of time getting the house ready for us. We can't believe how gracious they have been. They have gone far beyond expectations.

We called our family to let the know we have reached our destination. They too, have been supportive and prayerful as we embark on this adventure. Next Sunday will be my first, and I will be speaking on the last few verses of 2 Timothy. Karl and Darren, associate pastors, have been teaching through this book, and they asked if I would like to close it out. I feel honored to do so. I have been thinking and praying through the passage. I believe God is giving me something of significance to deliver.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Day Two

If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere . . . New York, New York! ~ Frank Sinatra

We landed in New Your late this afternoon. We have over a thousand miles behind us. No tickets, and no accidents -- thank God! Tomorrow we arrive in Taunton, MA., and then on Monday a crew will be there to help us unload and get settled in.

Surprisingly we are really tired. The week before we left was so busy that we didn't get the deep, heavy sleep all of us need. Also, I talked to Meg today. She has been overcome by a bug for the last 48 hours, and has been under the weather (where did that saying "under the weather" come from?).

Going to bed soon. Good night!







Friday, August 29, 2008

First Day

We got behind our windshields later than we expected. Sandy and I are driving separate vehicles -- I got the big truck. We got into Roanoke, VA., several hours later than we expected. As we got closer to Virginia, and the rugged and beautiful mountainous landscape, the Blue Ridges stirred my deepest yearnings. I live with a constant desire to experience the grandeur of God's created world.

Before we settled in for the night we got something to eat at TGI Friday. Sitting across from one another in our booth we talked of how much we are missing Josh and Meagan -- already. Miss Meagan is our baby. She has one more year of college after this one. Once finished with undergrad work, she is exploring the possibility of doing her graduate studies in the Northeast. Our children are very close to us, and to each other. Before we left Josh told us not to worry about Meg -- he would look out for her. Thankfully, the holiday season is approaching, and those days will mean a reunion of our family.

There isn't a whole lot to write about when you have been in the cab of a U Haul all day, but I did spend time cultivating a grateful heart by thinking about all the people who have been so helpful during our preparation for this move. We would still be packing and loading and cleaning without the aide of our gracious friends. Quiet and solitude can be found in unexpected places.

Each step in our Adventure seems to carry with it a greater sense of risk and sacrifice. At the heart of the matter is the absolute truth that following God is never risk free or without sacrifice -- at least not the kind of follow-ship we see in the testimony of Scripture. But the reward far surpasses the risk. Nonetheless we, like every sojourner, struggle a bit as we try to find our spiritual equilibrium. The paradox of belonging to God and the human race keeps the journey interesting!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Down The Trail

I just came back inside. I have been sitting under the spell of the beautiful skies of the southeast. I saw one meteor streak across the star dotted night. Tomorrow we pack the U Haul, and on Friday Columbus and the state of Georgia will be in the rear view mirror. The thought brings on a bit of melancholy.

The last couple of weeks have flown by. From sun up to sun down we have been filling boxes with the remnants of 30 years of marriage and memories. Sorting through pictures, clothes, books, and sundry other items has been akin to entering a time machine. Traces of our sojourn have been reviewed, revisited, and relived. It is an unusual experience -- a reminder that there comes a point when life turns on the after-burners, and the future rushes to meet us.

Everyday, friends from around the country extend encouragement, well wishes, and the promise of continued prayer. Many of the faces that have been a part of our everyday adventure will, in all probability, never be seen again until we are finally enveloped in eternity. There have been few good-byes. Our circle of relationships have secured time immortal through faith in Christ.

See you down the trail . . .

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Last Night

Tonight we met with our Chinese friends at Robert and Sara's house. On Friday we will be northeast bound for Massachusetts, so from here on our communication with them will be through skype, email, and phones. With few exceptions, we have met every Tuesday night for the last 8 months. Cheerfully, faithfully, and hungrily, they came seeking a deeper understanding of what it means to be in relationship with God. We depart knowing they are left in good hands and God's hands, but nonetheless, saying good-bye is difficult.

After sharing a bountiful meal that Sara cooked up, we huddled for testimonies and questions. Some of them continue to ponder the claims of Christ. Another gave testimony of how she came to Christ through the Tuesday night study. All of them clearly articulated their spiritual encounters, yet I fumble to find the words worthy of capturing the beauty of this evening's fellowship.

In the coming months the seed sowed will get the spiritual water it needs, and the harvest will come. When it does, Sandy and I will be booking a flight back to Columbus, GA., and we will be celebrating and baptizing our new brothers and sisters in Christ!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Full Circle

Eight years ago we joined God in a new ministry adventure -- we moved from the Northeast to the Southeast. Georgia to be more exact. Wow! To say the least -- it has been quite a ride! We could fill page-after-page of all we have learned and experienced while in Columbus. By God's grace there was far more advance than retreat. We know God trusted us with a big assignment. We leave with absolute confidence that we were where God wanted us and we came when He called and we faithfully did what He asked.

Now life has come full circle and Sandy and I are moving back to Norton, Massachusetts. Once there, I will be the Sr. Pastor of the church I previously led for nearly 12 years. For sure such a move is not an everyday occurrence in the modern era. Though unusual -- it is not unprecedented. The apostle Paul made such returns a matter of course. Philippi was one such place and held special sway in the apostle's heart. The book of Acts gives us a glimpse of the crushing pressure and persecution that came against the apostle as he advanced the kingdom by preaching the gospel of grace. Yet, when all was said and done, it was the church in Philippi that stayed with him from start to finish -- they never flinched.

Over the years the believers in Massachusetts forged a similar place in our heart. In our early days there the gospel of grace met tremendous resistance. But God in His perfect timing showed up -- bringing revival with Him. During our 8-year absence a close friend of mine led the church by following Christ. Community and maturity in the Body has grown gloriously and deepened. It is beautiful. We are grateful. We are humbled. We can't wait to get there.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Beat The Sun Up!

I got out of bed before the sun. It's still snoozing somewhere to the east of me. In my neighbor's yard it is raining from the ground up. I am in the back yard writing, and a few flying insects have made a beeline for the daylight of my computer screen -- only to come to an abrupt stop. They are the fortunate ones -- the soft white light is much kinder than the the glowing, blue landing strip their buddies chose!

Now the eastern sky is brightening, and the stars are fading. Weather Underground says today's thermostat will be set at 88 degrees -- a virtual cold front for the southeast. My to do list is long, and single spaced. I have back-to-back appointments, but I can do all my running around on two wheels. Today, I sign up for my final 3 classes -- in December I will have completed my Masters!

A fat toad is hopping in slow motion, if that is possible, looking for some cover from the soon to arrive heat. Just beyond my ability to see, but not beyond my ability to hear, a few little creatures have begun rustling up breakfast.

I think I will go rustle up some Honey nut Cheerios.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's (not) About Time!

Time is the best teacher, but unfortunately, it kills all of its students. ~ Robin Williams

Not really . . .

Time is neither the good, better, or best teacher -- time teaches us nothing. Neither has time killed any of its students. Students die intellectually by choice. Students die physically by Providence.

We can't blame time, or give credit to time for what we do or do not learn. Time is not responsible -- it is a passionless, harmless, speechless bystander as life's adventures and misadventures unfold. Time is neither on our side or our opposition.

Listen to what the apostle Paul said about time as he quoted an Old Testament prophet, Make a choice. Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.

Time only defines the boundaries where life happens, and we can only live in the moment. Choices are the real substance -- they determine whether we truly learn, truly live, or truly die.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Worth The Wait

Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch . . .He put spit in the man's eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, "Do you see anything?" He looked up. "I see men. They look like walking trees." So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked hard and realized that he had recovered perfect sight, saw everything in bright, twenty-twenty focus. ~ Mark 8:22-26 (The Message)

Last night I sat outside until the wee hours of the morning. Only one meteor passed within sight, but it was worth the wait. In a blur that looked like a pitcher of milk splashed across a blackened canvas, a meteor came zooming out of the northeast. It seemed like its trajectory barely cleared the tree tops.

If you have never given your eyes time to adjust to darkness you will be pleasantly surprised when you do so. The contrast is dramatic. Those who have researched such matters tell us that within 20-30 minutes our eyes can fully adapt from bright sunlight to complete darkness and become one million times more sensitive than at full daylight (Wikipedia). I have found this to be true on many an occasion -- staring into one quadrant of the sky, stars began to appear that were once invisible, but first I had to stay in the blackness.

My astronomical investment of time brought great dividends -- this morning the story of Jesus healing a blind man in stages came to mind. Rather than restoring his sight with one divine act, after Jesus' first touch he asked the man, What do you see? The man replied, I see men. They look like walking trees. Men are not trees and trees are not men (I bet you already knew that). But it did take a space of time, and a second touch, before the blind man's eyesight was completely restored, and he actually knew what was going on in the world around him.

In our journey with God it may be late in life before we realize that we have been living in some sort of complete spiritual darkness, or perhaps we have stumbled through seasons of personal blindness. In either case,
like the blind man Jesus healed, our ability to finally perceive may have been a process of slow change and multiple encounters with God. Then, all of a sudden the Spirit of God transformed our day vision into night vision, and the reality of our spiritual environment came into focus.

When full sight is graciously given -- it is worth the wait.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Latent Spirit

It is another near perfect evening in Georgia, and the time of year when meteoric activity is at its zenith. Flaming, random debris flash like tracers across the August sky. Next Tuesday is supposed to be busiest night for the galactic travelers, and Sandy and I are hoping the weather forecast will change -- a cloud covering of 80% is predicted. If the night is clear, we are going to find a dark, quiet place away from all artificial light, and fix our eyes on galaxies far-far away. Hopefully, we will be eye witnesses to this heavenly phenomenon. Meteor showers are just one of the many freebies from Our magnanimous God. In eternity past, His thoughts turned to words, and His words set the universe into its courses. Wonders that take our breath away are ours to contemplate.

Tonight the cicadas are fully engaged in their rhythmic chatter, and crickets scattered long the tree line are talking to one another. Nights are for dreaming, and my bucket list (things I want to do before I kick the bucket) is a collection of visions that take me to rugged places of wild and natural beauty. Our Creator intended for us to enjoy such panoramas, and even wants to be our personal tour Guide. In my dreams there are also people awaiting the arrival of Evangel, and they will not hear unless someone goes. As the years fly by, Sandy and I lean more and more toward a minimalist lifestyle, and a global outlook. Our view of God, which was at one time small and anemic, has expanded gloriously, and we are making it our goal to urge others out to the edges of God's immense kingdom. We believe there is a big frontier in front of us, and that there are many who suppress a latent, pioneer spirit. Multiplied thousands of God's people just need to hear someone say . . .

Let's follow our Leader into the glorious unknown . . .This is the greatest journey that the human heart will ever see . . .The love of God will take us far beyond our wildest dreams . . .This is what we were created for. ~ Stephen Curtis Chapman

Monday, August 4, 2008

Oh No!

Sandy decided that this would be the summer to push her kayaking skills to another level, and commit to becoming a genuine small mouth bass fisher-woman. She employed me as her instructor. It has been an experience that has far exceeded my expectations. Let me explain . . .

Kayaking: I will be the first to tell you that I was really excited that my bride wanted to become more adventurous and daring in her kayak. But pushing the envelope a little is one thing -- pushing the envelope off the table, and then out the door is altogether different. I have unleashed an elegant, beautiful, soft, dazzling, but none the less -- wild woman!

In front of our cabin is some pretty swift water. Ordinarily, the water is lower at this time of year, so the hydraulics through the ledges are relatively calm. Not this year! The majority of the time I was there it poured rain. One afternoon, in between downpours, we went for a sunset glide. On our way back I did the usual thing -- hang back, and watch Sandy zip across the rips, back to the cabin.

This time was different.

Without warning she aggressively attacked the higher than normal white water, started blading her way toward the roughest, whitest water, and about 15 yards into the swirling current she , not the kayak, turned half way around, and yelled over the rumble of the river, "Awe, this is not nearly as fast as I thought it would be!" Immediately, louder, and with just a slight edge of agitation, I hollered across the boiling cauldron, "Just turn around and watch where you are going!"

It gets worse.

Since I left, it has never stopped raining. Now there is some reeeealy serious water rushing by like a run-away freight train! The Penobscot is thrashing through normally dry cuts, and has even crested the ledges, creating a torrent that is pouring over them.

Sacajawea Sandy has been kayaking through the slot, across the flooded ledges. Alone -- without me -- her instructor!

Fishing: Earlier today she was thrilled that the rain had slowed down enough for her to go fishing! She has recently raided Wally's buying her own tackle box, lures -- top water and diving, bullet sinkers, split shot sinkers, swivels, and hooks of varying sizes (She is reconsidering whether the size I recommend is the best choice. I hate that!). She picked out another rod and reel -- without me (I hate that, too!)!

And then today she called and asked, "Would you go online and check Dopler radar, and see what kind of cloud cover I am under (you can't make this stuff up)? The sun is peeking through, I have all my tackle organized, and I want to go fishing. I have one rod set up with a deep-diving Shadrap, and I Carolina rigged my other rod for bait."

"The cloud cover is over 90%, but you should be fine, I don't see any heavy stuff."

"What? You are bringing two reels? You Carolina rigged one of your rods?"

"Yes. It's legal. Every fisherman can use two rods."

Later on today she called me back, and excitedly gave a fishing report. Because the river is 2-3 feet higher than usual she was able to get to some new places she and I could never get at (I hate that even more).

"Yeah, I caught one bass that was 17 inches long (she has a creel with measuring numbers on it). I figure it must have been over 2 pounds. I also caught 3 white perch (I was the only one who had ever caught white perch on the river)."

"That's really good honey!" She shared a few more of her harrowing adventures, and we said our good-byes.

I needed to hang up -- and finish folding the laundry -- without her . . .

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hanging In The Balance

After church Billy introduced me to Ronnie. Ronnie and his wife are homeless and have been sleeping in one of the abandoned buildings up the street from Christ Community Church. Early this morning the police very politely told the couple they would have to leave. In desperation, Ronnie turned to our church where kind and benevolent people have established the Jericho Road ministry. The purpose of the ministry is to help people out -- when they are down-and-out.

I will not go into all the details, but from the content of Ronnie's stammering words, I am quite sure that he believed God and His Church to be one in the same. Quite a thought. When he finished his story I gave him a hug and Billy prayed over him. Hours later I can still feel Ronnie's rough, unshaven cheek against mine, and hours later I still smell his stench I have been unable to wash away.

Billy was about to help someone move (he is always helping someone), and had to leave. The van driver was waiting for him at the house. Billy asked me if I would set Ronnie and his wife up at one of the nearby hotels. I was more than happy to help, but I couldn't give them a ride because I was on my motorcycle, so I asked Ronnie to hold tight, and I would get him a room close by and return.

At the motel I explained to the lady at the front desk who I was, what I needed, and why I needed it. She was taken aback. I handed her my AmEx, and she asked the Lord to bless me (He already had. And just for the record, Jericho Road will pay for the room). When I returned to the church, Ronnie's wife was walking a beat up bicycle across the church parking lot. I jokingly asked her if she wanted to trade bikes. She smiled shyly and said, No. Ronnie said, Yes!

We didn't trade!

All of this adventure was preceded by another tremendous message from Keith (I would feel better if he would bomb at least once), about the love of God. All I could think of as I looked at Ronnie and his wife was the answer Jesus gave when he was asked, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus summed up the entire message of God's Word this way: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

This morning, the spirit of all of God's Law and His Prophets hung in the balance -- God asked us to love Him -- by loving our neighbors -- who lived in an abandoned building -- one hundred yards from His church.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hosts

(Internet access is limited, but here is another post. Enjoy the Adventure!)

Sandy and I agree . . . this has been our most enjoyable time in Maine over the last several years. From the time we left Georgia we set our heart on looking for opportunities to live from a spirit of generosity. Since then, we have made it a point to go the extra mile to bless people with whatever resources we have available. Ours is not the Life Style of the Rich and Famous, but we do possess a temporal asset that is rare and invaluable - our cabin in Maine. Few places provide the unique experience of this spot along the Penobscot.

For instance . . .

As I write, the sunset is displaying colors that defy description. Each band of tinted sky blends and bleeds into the other. Then, there is the dynamic contrast of an intense bald eagle hunting for its evening meal, and the gentle, melodic lullaby of the wood thrush singing the forest to sleep. The baritone voice of the river joins the songbird's aria adding, and the syncopated popping and crackling from the fire pit keeps tempo. The setting is inimitable.

During our entire two-week stay we have had less than two days without company. We have extended hospitality every chance we’ve had, and it’s proved to be the recipe for the best vacation in years.

Life after 5

After 5 days of rain, and only sporadic glimpses of the sun, a stiff southwest breeze carried away dark rain clouds, and sticky, humid air. Along the river leafy oak and pine and maple trees lazily sway to its rhythm. Unrelenting downpours raised the river 8-10 inches, cranking up its music as it squeezes through the narrow slot between the ledges and the east bank. Ever changing currents catch rays of sunshine in their tumbling swirl and, turn the surface into a million glittering diamonds.

Earlier in the day we kayaked south around the foot of Birch Island. The confluence of the two branches that circle the island caused the unusual effect of towing our kayaks up stream. Resting our paddles across our laps, we enjoyed the phenomenon of currents flowing north on each side, as we gently moved south defying gravity. Elevated waters had opened cuts and channels we could not explore when the water is down, so we pointed our bows toward their mouth and let the current, that in a matter of yards returned to its normal pattern, pull us through. God’s natural world blessed us with a serendipitous gift.

Late this afternoon I split and stacked a pile of wood from the maple my father and had I felled last year. Tonight, I look forward to an evening around the fire pit. It appears that the sky will be black and clear, and the stars will make a grand appearance. a few hours from now the sunset will shush the wind to a whisper, nighttime will deepen, and the absence of daylight will eliminate one less distraction for the senses. Hearing will become keener, vision more intentional, and new, fresh wonders will emerge.

Later . . .

The night didn’t disappoint me. At 10:11 and 10:24 and 10:44 P.M., wonders of man's creative genius, satellites, passed slowly over the ragged hole in the canopy of trees above me – two came from the southwest, and one came from the northeast. But God would not be out staged, so at 10:45 and 10:54 P.M., He slung a couple of streaking meteors my way that zipped across the sky in a blink. At midnight I decided to leave the fireside and say good night to my Father and give Him thanks for His special gift.