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.