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.