Monday, December 29, 2014

Here's my little wolf cub, Wyatt, atop the same horse his Papa rides. It won't be long before he has his own boots, hat, duster, and reins in his hands. I can't wait!

Cary's horse, Cowboy. Justin and his daddy

Wyatt, and his beautiful mom, Erika!

Ready to ride!


Fearless and focused...

All Of It...

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… Ecclesiastes 3:1

Except for the sound of clothes tumbling in the dryer, for the first time since December 21, the house is quiet. On the 26th, our kids starting leaving: Josh left for Mexico with Sammy and her family, and on the same day, Meagan boarded a plane back to Seattle to resume another semester in pursuit of her master degree in psychology. Tears trickled down the cheeks of each and everyone of us when we parted. That kind of disengaging is painful, but unavoidable, especially, because as I said, we just came through a season -- within the Christmas season -- that was the best any of us remember and magnified by their departure. In the interim since then, Justin, Erika, Sandy, and the Amazing Wyatt have been here, and if you have been following any of these blogs, or my Facebook wall, you know that we have been having the time of our lives. Now, they too, are gone, winging their way back to the northeast.

Why the verse from Ecclesiastes?

The verse above, spoken by Solomon, is an introduction to a litany of changes that the adventure called Life throws at us. The ancient Sage reminds us that living is full of changing motions and emotions: from weeping to laughing, and from hugs to a lonely house. In an instant. While all the kids were here I had that truth amplified on several occasions…

As a chaplain, I am on call with CCA 24/7/365 days a year. Every 13 weeks we are off our in-business rounds schedule, and another chaplain covers for us. So, believe me, I am not complaining. I also work with one of the hospitals here in Columbus, GA. During the entire Christmas season and through New Year I am on call. Once again, no complaints. Being gifted to bring comfort to others brings no discomfort to me. But that commitment brought a reminder of just how quickly life changes. Life is a constant whirl of revolving seasons. Of course, like Solomon, I am not referring to spring, summer, winter, and fall.

No, I am thinking back to two different occasions. I was called in to minister to two different families who were deescalating a loved one (taking them off life support). It was particularly surreal for me. Why? Because I literally had to transition -- in seconds -- from rough-housing with my little wolf cub, Wyatt, to shedding my jeans and T and donning a suit and tie. Next, there was the process of disengaging from one season to engaging in another; an entirely different season. Sort of like being plucked from a sunny, edenic, invigorating, and exotic island and dropped into the frozen, snowy, life-sucking cold of Alaska in the dead of winter. That's how quick the seasons change when called upon to bring words of comfort to dear people carrying the burden of making the most final of all decisions -- it's time to die -- for a loved one who cannot decide for themselves.

Each time I got home I wobbled a bit trying to reengage in the sunshine of the prior season. Honestly, I felt a little guilt in doing so. But each night, in my thoughts, I returned to Solomon's words and reminded myself There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…  and I prayed for the grace and wisdom and freedom to make the best of all the time God gives me… all of it. 

Video Evidence...


The following frames are indisputable evidence that it's always an adventure when Papa and the Baby Wolf Cub are left unsupervised!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wolf Cub Wyatt


My little wolf cub had another fantastic day -- and made mine! Today we took him to Pine Mountain to see our friends Cary and Jeri. Jeri took Wyatt upstairs where she had a closet full of toys that her now adult children used to play with. Wyatt's favorite was a train that had a box car with animals, and an engine that tooted. We also walked across the pasture to the barn (little wolf cub purposefully tramped through several piles of puckies) where with wide-eyed wonder he saw Cary's two beautiful Tennessee Walkers. It was the first time he had seen real live horses (home is in the middle of Boston)! Big Red and Cowboy are beautiful creatures. Cowboy is the horse I ride. Wyatt fed them some oats, petted and brushed them, sat atop Cowboy, and explored the barn that houses them. We took pictures with Cary's phone that will soon be forthcoming.

I can't freeze time, but I can record my thoughts and pictures for days ahead when the Amazing Wyatt is no longer at The Shire...




Friday, December 26, 2014

Wyatt's First Christmas at The Shire

This was Wyatt's first Christmas at The Shire. Grandma and Papa were thrilled to have his mom and dad, his aunt Meg and uncle Josh, and Sammy here to celebrate the birth of Christ as family. Hundreds of pictures have been taken, and thousands of memories have been made! It's been a wonderful time! Later today, Wyatt is gonna see if that fishing rod works! It could be that he will catch his first fish!


Friday, December 5, 2014

Fresh Tracks

I dozed off and dreamed that I was trekking across a long field and leaving tracks in a new fallen snow. Do you ever dream of going where no one has gone before? My dream was a reminder that every day is a new adventure...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Unusual Experience

A few minutes ago, I looked out Sandy's office window and saw a deer bedded down on the very back edge of the pond. It's well over one hundred yards from my vantage point. I picked up my binoculars for a closer look. Bringing the lenses into focus, I could see that it was a young deer and that it had a scarlet red wound on its front leg. After a while it slowly stood up and and lethargically waded in the shallows along the banks. Surprisingly, it pointed its nose toward the center of the pond and began swimming. Slowly, it made a tired arc back toward the shore, rolled over on its side, and expired.

I dragged the young doe out of the pond. All the signs indicated that it had been hit by an automobile. The scarlet I could see through the binoculars proved to be a couple patches of severe road rash. Closer observation revealed a pair of jagged slashes that followed its spine.

It was an unusual experience to witness. The Shire is an unusual place...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Indian Summer

Behind the naked bony limbs of an oak tree the waxing moon's light is fragmented. The cottage is bathed in its soft light, and the pond reflects a perfect image of the horizon. A fire crackles in the ring of stones. Frogs sing, rejoicing at another day of warm temperatures. 

Christmas And The Amazing Wyatt Are On The Way

Soon, The Amazing Wyatt will be making his first journey to The Shire along with his mom and dad. Grandma and Papa are like a couple of excited children as we create a world of hundreds of twinkling colored lights, gracefully moving reindeer shrouded in points of white, a candy cane lane, snowmen that glow, stockings full of goodies, and a nativity that symbolizes the real meaning of Christmas! I have a tiny child's fishing rod for Wyatt, and I can't wait to see his eyes as big as saucers when he catches his first fish out of our pond! Acres and acres of fields are waiting for him to criss-cross their undulating terrain with his electric F150 pickup truck (we got two batteries for it)!

Josh and Sammy and Meg will be here too; it seems almost too good to be true! Firewood is stacked beside the outside fire pit, four wheelers are ready to be ridden, and Elf and Christmas Story are on standby. It's been a long time since we have sooo looked forward to Christmas...

P. S. Justin and Erika… I promise to be careful with Wyatt!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Tennessee Thanksgiving...

In everything give thanks. ~ The apostle Paul

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. ~ G. K. Chesterton
Sandy and I are in Knoxville, Tennessee with our son Josh; he is in an MFA program at the University of Tennessee. His girlfriend, Sammy is here too! Later today, the four of us will gather with about fifteen other graduate students from the same University and cook up a humongous Thanksgiving dinner! There will be an outside fire pit, and the possibility of some light snow falling. Tell me that doesn't sound like fun!

From a grateful heart, I send up a prayer of Thanksgiving for our many friends around the world, our family in Maine and Florida, our other kids, Meg and Justin, and to our beautiful daughter in law, Erika. Last, but by no means the least, our grandson, THE AMAZING WYATT!




Monday, November 24, 2014

Rick and Liz

When our son Josh was six he became friends with Ricky. They attended school together all the way together through high school. We have a lot of history. Ricky, along with a group of classmates, used to spend many a weekend at our house. The guys used to build debris huts and camp out in the woods behind our place. As they got older and got driver licenses they used to travel up to Maine from Massachusetts to our cabin. There, in that beautiful place, they would fish and swim in the Penobscot River, sit around an open fire under a billion stars, and often journey a little further north to climb and hike to the one mile summit of Mt. Katahdin. I was also most of those guys pastor.

Months ago, Rick asked if I would officiate his marriage to Liz that would take place in Massachusetts. In the months leading up to the big day I talked with them on Skype about their soon to be joint adventure as husband and wife and plans were confirmed. I live in Georgia. This past weekend, Rick and his bride to be flew me to the venue there in the northeast. Josh was there too, along with many of those same boys, now grown men. Some of the girls they grew up with were there too.

It was a beautiful ceremony and not lacking in nostalgia. It was a time of reconnecting with a group of people I spent twelve years with and was filled with laughter and old stories…some stories we had all hoped nobody remembered!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Unquestionable

For want of a nail a shoe was lost. For want of a shoe a horse was lost. For want of a horse a rider was lost. For want of a rider a battle was lost. For want of a battle a kingdom was lost. All for the want of a nail. ~ A lyric used to teach the possible outcome of neglect

How then shall they call on Him whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? ~ The unquestionable outcome of neglect (Romans 10:14-15) 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Little Corner of Eden...

God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order. 
~ Genesis 2:15

I followed parallel tire tracks that hugged the tree line that formed the border of hundreds of acres of hay fields. Earlier this summer, an hellacious windstorm -- topping out at around sixty miles per hour -- and sideways rain blew down a cluster of four large oak and sweet gum trees. For decades, their roots had burrowed down into the soil, allowing them to stand tall and reach for the heavens, but the tempest overwhelmed them. What remained was a disc-shaped wall of soil and rocks twenty-five feet in circumference and perpendicular to the ground.

From its low of thirty degrees, the temperature edged upwards, and as the sun crept higher toward a cloudless sky it revealed a sparkling silver blanket of frost. By eight a.m. I had filled my saw with mixed gas and bar oil from the tailgate of my pick-up that served as a workbench. Protected by leather work gloves stained by red Georgia dirt and darkened by streaks of oil, my hands turned the flathead screwdriver adjusting the tension of the chain. "Tinkering with my saw and preparing to clear out the tangle of limbs gives me a sense of accomplishment. I wonder why I feel so much satisfaction doing something so simple?" I remember thinking.

Soon, the larger stuff was cut into stove length, and the whining of the saw ceased. I loaded the freshly cut wood into the truck bed; their ends formed a neat tier of blonde circles. Added to the sense of accomplishment came a sense of well-being.

Nature's destruction had made the forest floor invisible and rendered the trail for the four wheelers impassible. Now, it was back in order. Accomplishment? Satisfaction? I had done what God had created me to do: I had subdued my corner of Eden...




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans

To our Veterans: over the decades, wells of ink have been wicked dry, and oceans of tears have been shed to express our appreciation for your sacrifice. Those of us who have never left family and home to protect our families and homes will never fully comprehend or appreciate the depth of your commitment.

Please accept our feeble expressions of gratitude. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Unbelievable!

On Sunday nights, along with a couple of our friends, we meet with some young married couples. It's an informal gathering. We are about 25 years older than the young marrieds, and we have made ourselves available to talk with them about life. These couples are newly married, or just starting a family, and are in a season of life that we have already passed through. Our contribution is to talk to them out of our experiences and to be a spiritual and practical resource at this season in their lives. Don't for a minute think that we see all the benefit going in one direction -- from us to them. That's not the case at all. They are transparent, thoughtful, and engaging. Their questions and perspective challenge ours and keep us relevant in communicating the faith once delivered.

Tonight we had something extremely unusual happen. Our fire pit is right next to the 2-3 acre pond in our back yard. As we sat around the crackling fire conversing, all of a sudden we heard a loud splash. One of the couples asked if we had alligators. I said, "No." Me, I thought it may have been a tree fall into the pond. Someone else wondered if a beaver had leaped from the bank into the lake, or a really large fish jumped. All of us arose from our chairs and the mesmerizing fire and stared out across the dark surface of the pond. We could see nothing. Sandy went into the house and got our powerful flashlight with the pistol grip handle. Standing on the bank, she swept the beam across the water toward the area of the commotion. Believe it or not, the white lane of light revealed a deer swimming in the lake. As she swept the light right and toward the south, we immediately saw why the deer had plunged into the lake. Several sets of eyes belonging to a pack of coyotes glowed. They had chased the frantic deer into the pond. Legal or not, I retrieved a couple of my handguns and fired in their general direction. They scattered. After a few minutes, the frightened deer climbed out of the pond and bedded down under a large pine tree amid a stand of high brush.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Disappearing...

The night sky reveals nothing of the clouds except their light feathery edges. Above me, the moon is a giant, glowing, silvery disc hovering over The Shire. Slowly I stalked across the lawn. My bare feet soon became numb as the cold dew upon the grass chilled them. Beyond the white board fence, the beam of my flashlight illuminated the glowing green eyes of a deer that was making its way to the kernels of corn I scattered behind the barn. Like a ghost, it silently moved into the fringes of the woods, disappeared, and awaited my retreat.


Delays, Detours, and Distance

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for… All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and stranger on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country -- a heavenly one. There God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. ~ Hebrews 13: 1, 13-16

Can we persevere in spite of delays, detours, and distance?

Ancient believers were commended for that very thing. Along their sojourns delays, detours, and distance seemed to thwart the possession of things God promised, but when their hearts stopped, and their very last breath gasped through pale lips, their faith was still alive and well. Their outward man perished while clinging to the belief that they would receive all God had promised.

Surrounded by a world that validated only what the physical senses could confirm, the ancients were different. How so? Physical evidence was subjugated to a greater proof -- faith. Their contemporaries looked down upon them with pity and disdain, but those ancients looked upward with unshakable confidence and hope. Un-blinded faith revealed a universe that faith-blinded eyes could not see.

Nothing has changed. Faith that pleases God must live with the exhilaration and tension that the complete fulfillment of all God guaranteed -- for the meantime -- is subject to delays, detours, and distance. Here, in this unsure and uncertain world we, like the ancients, are strangers. But we keep our gaze fixed forward in faith, and constantly move forward toward a better place. Delays, detours, and distance only serve to remind us that we ache for a world just beyond our grasp. But faith keeps us reaching.

And like the ancients we keep the faith. And though we wrestle with the delays, detours, and distance, God is not ashamed to be called our God... 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Deactivating

At the risk of sounding obnoxiously pious, in order to be more disciplined with my time and energies and the kind of food I feed my mind and soul, I am going to deactivate my FaceBook page for an unspecified time.

I am going to continue to blog (more hopefully) and forward to my Twitter acct.




Friday, October 31, 2014

Timing...

A few minutes ago, I stepped outside and started toward one of our outbuildings. It is there that I keep bags of corn to feed the deer. It was time to set a spread for them. Most mornings and evenings a couple of does, along with their young fawns, show up to get a healthy, and to them, tasty meal. As I started across the yard, I stopped to look at the setting sun; we have just enough cloud cover to hold out the hope of a colorful western horizon. Only the tip-tops of the trees were crowned with the final glowing rays of the sun. As I took it all in, a bright red cardinal flew from north to south. It was high enough for the waning beams of the day to light up its brilliant red feathers. Beautiful.

Perfect timing, of a perfect God, with perfect love for me, his imperfect creation.

P.S. Just checked on the feeding spot: Mama doe and her baby are eating un-cobbed corn. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Equipped (pt. 2)

The amigos are Rick and Royce inside a simply constructed church on the Amazon. They have led medical, construction, and evangelism teams down there for nearly a decade. 

"Simple Church"

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship… Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires… rather offer yourselves [your bodies] to God… and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness…  ~ Romans 12:1; 6:12-13

Every personnel on an aircraft carrier is specifically trained to carry out an important mission (See: Equipped: part 1). Not all of them will climb into a supersonic jet and be catapulted off the deck. But the jets and pilots are absolutely dependent upon those who maintain, re-arm, refuel, and receive them after they hit a short, floating runway at two hundred plus miles per hour that may be pitching and bucking like a wild bronco. Imagine the results, if in the midst of the dangerous drama everyone stood around comparing their credentials, validating that they belonged on the ship, checking out other shipmates colors, and discussing whose job was more important, rather than springing into action working like a cohesive unit ensuring that each of them carried out their mission in the successful operation of an aircraft carrier.

Our spiritual gifting is similar. By God's mercy we are placed in the body of Christ for the purpose of: serving God, serving one another, and for the overall good of a mission much larger than we can fully comprehend (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4). But Paul makes it crystal clear that Spiritual gifts cannot operate unless our physical bodies are given over to their Giver's purposes. Not one Spiritual gift is functional apart from our bodies being set apart as a holy and a living sacrifice. Credentials, validating who's on board, and comparing our importance does nothing to please our Holy God. Faith can never be separated from our physical bodies being offered for spiritual acts of worship.

The Apostle Paul was laying that foundation as he proceeded toward describing spiritual gifts later on in this letter to the Romans...



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Buck Stops Here

There is a fence line off to the northwest that had a lot of small hardwood trees twisting themselves among the barbed wire fence that used to keep a small herd of cows at home. Last spring I cut down the sweet gum and oaks, stacked them tree-length, and left them to wilt and dry. This morning I began sawing them up with my chainsaw. Tonight, a couple of friends are coming over for dinner. After we eat, a circle of fire will be at our feet, and a million stars above our heads. That wood will be put to good use.

As the saw whined, a nice buck came loping across the field from the east. The rut is on, and no doubt,  he was on the trail of a doe. Our field is a good two-hundred yards from edge to edge, so I got a good look at him. I shut down the saw and bleated at the buck; he stopped. His rack spread outside his ears, curved toward the tip of his nose, and the main beams and eight tall points glistened white in the bright morning sun. I bleated, and he stopped; twice. And then sprung off into the shadows of the woods. About three minutes later a second four-pointer, and much smaller, came loping across the field in the same fashion and from the same general direction. Once again, I bleated and he stopped. As he started moving, I bleated again, and he stopped again. Like the big guy, he then bounded off and out of sight.

After stacking the wood next to the fire pit, I got my rifle and crept down into the hardwood bottom that separates The Shire from our neighbor. Sitting down against the base of a pine tree I watched the rising sun form dappled shapes that moved across the forest floor. Leaves slowly sifted down from above. There were woodsy sounds.

No deer -- no problem. The bucks stopped here, but not for long... 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Equipped (Pt 1)

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts… A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other… It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. 1 Corinthians 12

Nimitz Class aircraft carriers are the largest in the world. They can carry up to one hundred thirty aircraft capable of supersonic flight. Six-thousand personnel are needed when it is fully operational. Ultimately, their cooperating function is the responsibility of its Commanding Officer. Imagine harmonizing such a multitude of different skill sets.

Yet, when the CO stands on the bridge he can immediately see if all personnel are carrying out their mission. How? Each crew member on deck wears a specific color that identifies his or her responsibility: as jets hit the deck at two hundred-plus miles per hour, he knows who should be there to get them stopped on an extremely short runway; he knows who is to stow away each aircraft in a particular place by particularly trained personnel; he knows munitions experts are to be loading and unloading ordinance; he knows refueling is complicated and dangerous, and not a job for everyone, and  he know there are those trained to respond in the event of an accident. There is more, but you get the picture. The point is, every person on deck has a specific job to do, and jobs they don't do. For instance: the Commanding Officer does not want purple suited personnel -- whose job is to refuel -- rushing to a flaming aircraft with aviation fuel. No, he wants those trained to do so -- emergency responders clad in red uniforms -- responding to such calamities.

It may be helpful for us to think of the Church in such a manner. First of all we are not on a cruise ship, but more like an aircraft carrier. Our gifts and abilities vary. God has a specific function within His purposes for each of us, and we depend on each other. We are not on the Good Ship Lolli-Pop where:

It's a sweet trip to a candy shop 
Where bon-bons play
On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay.

Lemonade stands everywhere.
Crackerjack bands fill the air.
And there you are

Happy landing on a chocolate bar.

No, by all Scriptural accounts we are in a spiritual war. Christ's Church functions counter-culturally and redemptively. On top of that, each of us constantly battles with our own fallen-ness. But, in this war every believer has been equipped with a particular spiritual gifting and calling by The Captain of our Salvation. With that gift we can support our fellow comrades and keep the Churches mission moving forward.    

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Addictions...

It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows through the cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if a man's ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple: shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relations. If you want to get through the world with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side. As soon as a man begins to enlarge his life, his resistances are multiplied. Let a man remove his petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ, and his sufferings will be increased on every side. ~ J. Henry Jowett

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the Saints,) 1 Corinthians 16:15 KJV

This morning I spoke about taking risks (blogged a little about it yesterday). It seems that faith at work in God's people characterized them with such a disposition. They took chances. 

I realize there is a danger in becoming addicted to risk/excitement -- the need to create circumstances that release a surge of adrenalin. Believers throughout the ages have misinterpreted such moments and tendencies as spiritual highs and spiritual warfare. They were neither. They have even discovered that following such spiritually manic times the pendulum swings back and something else occurs: we can feel insignificant -- if we are not embroiled in some kind of turmoil, commotion, or off-the-chain activity. Spiritual or otherwise. 

Jowett talks of an equally addictive habit. It is every bit as destructive and not uncommon among Christ-followers. One in which we either consciously or sub-consciously commit to: the cultivation of an insignificant life. The driving ambition becomes avoiding risky ambitions. Cultivating a world where we stay clear of challenges that would require us to enter into the messy-ness of others lives or chart a course into the unknown, we prioritize comfort, smallness, and detachment. In short, we reduce our landscape to one so tiny there is no need for a growing and courageous faith. Would it be fair to call this spiritual immaturity?

It's probably a good thing to prayerfully take stock of our lives and ask ourselves, "Has the pendulum swung in either direction too far? Is there a place where my soul is engaged and expanded simply because Christ is enthroned? Am I venturing out where the risk is worthy and the reward eternal?" 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Synonyms And Antonyms

Synonyms for Risk: danger, hazard, threat, peril, jeopardy, uncertainty, exposure, and gamble

Antonyms for Risk: safety, assurance, and security

God-followers in the Scriptures seemed to be in constant danger and peril. Jeopardizing their safety--brought on by their counter-cultural message--was commonplace. Getting the Good News to another person or people group was worth a roll of the dice. A profound sense of eternal security bound them to God and freed them from the pursuit of temporal security. Christ-following was synonymous with Risk.

What does Christ-following look like today?   

Friday, October 3, 2014

Love It...

Watching a classic--Princess Bride. Cordelia is here, born and raised in China. She is our good friend. A few years back I led her to Christ and baptized her. About every other weekend she comes to the quiet land  of The Shire and stays with us.  Cordelia is a delightful young woman and fully engaged in an MBA at Columbus State University. We are sooooo proud of her.

Cordelia is one of five Students from China that we met with every Monday night for a year. To this point, it was one of the most engaging periods in our life. Cordelia also taught at SIAS University in Henan Province, China. Priceless.

Tomorrow, we will take a ride on the RZR. Miles of trails criss-cross the 1200 acres that surround us. Deer will take flight and ground dwelling creatures will scurry. Forecast for tomorrow is a sunny high of 65 degrees! As I write, her attention is divided between the movie and her iPhone.

Princess Buttercup and the brave Wesley are about to elope. She is giggling. Princess Bride is finished.

"Can we watch, Under The Dome?" She asks. Love it...



Thursday, October 2, 2014

1/2 of a 1/2

Here in Georgia it's that time of the year--mornings and evening are Edenic. Humidity's assault is weakening, and the oppressive heat of July and August is losing its power to wilt all things living. Lawns, once needing to be mowed twice a week, are slowing down in their production of chlorophyll, and no longer grow so fast you can nearly hear it stretching for the sky.

I just returned from from outside. Each morning and evening I put out corn for the deer. Perfect temperatures surrounded me and The Shire. Earlier today I mowed and piled dead limbs that gusty breezes frequently shake from the trees, scattering them at their will. They will be delightfully re-purposed in a ring of stones. For now, however, not a leaf of the willow trembles or flutters, and only the faintest of rings curve out upon the pond spoiling its perfect complexion. Birds are singing.

Halfway up the horizon, one-half of one-half of a waxing moon hangs suspended in the dim stars of the heavens. A few days from now it will be full-orbed. Beyond description is the beauty of this place in the midst of the brokenness of this world. I try not to let this truth become dull to my physical or spiritual senses. It could all be gone tomorrow, but today, I revel in its gift.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Viewfinder

It was about sixty-three degrees this morning at five a.m. Stepping through the front door I swept the yards toward the west and south with a flashlight. Its beam flooded over a doe and its young fawn bedded down under the oak trees about twenty yards from the apple-scented corn I have been spreading out for them. From where I stood they were about the same distance away. Two sets of eyes glowed and two sets of ears twitched. Mother and child seemed oblivious to my presence and the wash of white light that featured them. After a few minutes they stood up and meandered off into the darkness. Momma was limping, probably hit by an automobile.

This afternoon, the mercury red-lined at eighty-three degrees, so with a pistol strapped to my hip I cruised The Shire giving particular attention to the patches of sunshine around the pond. Snakes love to curl up and incubate in such places. Mornings are becoming cooler, and free heat is getting in shorter supply for cold blooded creatures. No sign of them. Turtles, about the size of a Frisbee, were suspended on the surface of the small lake exposing as much of their armored home as possible. They, too, were soaking up the late afternoon sun; head and neck protruded above the waterline like a periscope.

Toward the west, scattered cloud-cover might provide the palette for a beautiful sunset. Believe me, very often the sinking sun makes an epic statement to the glory of its Creator. If so, I will grab my camera, get on the four wheeler, thread through the shadowed and winding and canopied woods trail that opens to hundreds of acres of pastureland, to see if I can capture some of the magnificence of this fading day framed in my viewfinder.





Friday, September 26, 2014

Unbroken

What stays with you latest and deepest? Of curious panics, Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains? ~ Walt Whitman, "The Wound-Dresser"

A friend joined me at the cabin in Maine last month. We fished a little and talked a lot. I think we would both be considered "readers." I think we read fairly widely when it comes to genres. Through the years we have recommended books to one another and then enjoyed the deepening camaraderie that comes from discussing what we have read. Such conversations are sacred gifts. I've learned a lot from my friend, Hill.

While at the cabin, Hill insisted that I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (She also wrote Seabiscuit). It's about a forty-five minute drive to Bangor, and Books A Million, but we went, and I picked it up. Before I read a word, I knew Zamperini would find freedom, because he just recently passed away. But the POW's story took me prisoner. During our five days at the cabin, whenever we weren't fishing, kayaking, talking, or eating, I had my nose in the book. And by the light of a headlamp, as the sound of the Penobscot flowed by the front of the rustic cabin and owls hooted at the night, I read it with fascination. Each morning, as we sat drinking coffee, Hill and I would discuss it. Our conversations were often short, because the story is so overwhelming.

However, being the poster boy for ADHD that I am, and my constant practice of reading three to five books at a time, Unbroken became one of many in the fan-shaped half-circle of books that always cover any flat surface around me (I have three to five books going at three different locations in the house). Once I got home, my brain jumped the tracks and I never finished it.

Last week, Hill and I met for lunch. "Have you finished the book?" he asked. "Shoot! I put it down once I got home and haven't finished it." I told him where I had left off. "Zamperini is free." I said it in such a way as to suggest that I had probably read the best part. "It gets better." he said. "Not possible. He's been rescued!" was my response. "It gets better. Trust me." Hill promised. "Man, I need to get back on that book!" So I did.

It got better... I just finished it. Some of it through tears.

The dedication, six words on the white field of a single page, invites you into Zamperini's story: For the wounded and the lost. 

It's one of the best books I have ever read.  


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Heart of the Young and the Young at Heart...

This evening I will be at First Baptist in Phenix City, Alabama. Usually, forty or more from the student ministry gather along with several others who are young at heart. More importantly, God has been there too. Over the last several months eighteen have professed Christ as their Savior. The majority of those have followed the Lord in baptism, or are about to be baptized in a couple of weeks. It's enough to make you smile!

I have a challenge for them... 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Just Enjoying It...

Fickle skies, once streaked with dark threatening clouds and lava-like bands of blue, are now unbroken and clear. A dome that will do nothing to dim the stars covers The Shire. Humidity is dropping, and the air temperatures are idyllic. Barely a breath of air stirs the leaves and pine quills.

Bases of the trees are enveloped in shadows, contrasting with the treetops that glow as they collect waining streaks of sunlight. Their green is no longer as brilliant. Beyond the edges of the wood line, little creatures scamper around, and a deer--I never did see--blew its warning when it caught my scent.

Orange and yellow blossoms in the raised flower bed circle two soaring pine trees, and a hummingbird flits from bud to bud trying to syphon and savor a few drops of sweet nectar through its needle-like beak. Otherwise, no deer feed in the pasture or coyotes slink along the forest's shadows.

Ghostly ground fog collects and eerily rises from the trough of the northeast pasture. As I write, I can watch it lift higher and higher obscuring more and more of the landscape. It accentuates the emerald lawn that spreads out toward the white board fence. So picturesque is the quaint guest cottage nestled among the trees, I just stand on the porch appreciating it, enjoying it, and offering up a sincere prayer of thanks.



  

Fall Is Here...

Behind me, in the east, the horizon is dark. Low hanging clouds drizzle rain. The smooth surface of the pond is disrupted and pocked with a million dimples. To the east, there is another layer of white, a strip of light blue, and then another layer of gray that is perforated with cerulean openings. Tree tops, that form a serrated edge against the horizon, are cloaked in shrouds of mist and fog. A lone crow passes above squawking.

A couple of weeks ago the expanse of the pasture was mowed. Now, blades of grass have recouped from the churning and whirling of the giant clippers drawn by a chugging tractor and respond to the sun and rain. Regenerating, they reach out to the weakening sun as a new fall gains momentum. Paving stones wet with precipitation glisten. Sweeping paths curl around the ivy and ground cover. Moss, that withstood summer heat and its parching sun, is turning greener.

From the eaves of the farmer's porch water droplets yield to gravity and fall to the flower beds and shrubbery. Leaves drop, too. On the north side of the giant pines, their callous skin of bark is darkened by rain that has been driven against their ragged exterior. Acorns fall on the tin roof of one of the outbuildings and bang loud enough to startle me.

Out on Holland Road, cars carry their passengers east and west. I can see them, but they can't see me. They create the only sights and sounds of a civilized world beyond The Shire. Bluebirds have returned, if only for a few days, and the Japanese Maple reminds me that summer is over. Its foliage is a mixture of diminishing greens and increasing reds, yellows, and orange colors.

Bow hunting is now legal, and the seldom seen deer are aware that the once quiet forest has an added danger. I watch them. Every noise raises their suspicion. Ears, like radar dishes, turn to receive maximum sound. Through my binoculars I can see their nostrils flare to pick up non-woodsy scents. Their senses are on full alert.

I look forward to the temperatures dropping and wood popping in the outdoor fireplace. Kindling has been gathered. A neatly stacked row of firewood has been drying throughout the summer. Soon, flames will crackle, as their hungry tongues lick up the stored energy and reflect off the placid surface of the pond. Light will leap and dance as night sounds echo beyond its influence.

Fall is here...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Writer's Block


In 45 minutes it's midnight o'clock.
I've searched for verse but found writer's block.

My creative side still longs to be fed
I've tried, I'm tired, I'm going to bed


The End...



















Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happy Anniversary!




My beautiful bride!
In Dallas, Texas around 6:34 pm, at Marsh Lane Baptist Church, Sandra Joyce Staton and William Vernon Shorey repeated their vows. It was September 10, 1977. 

Our honeymoon was a scenic ride back to Maine. Nothing exotic. Part of it took us through fog in the Blue Ridge Mountains as thick a pea soup! Along the way we by-passed the modern and sought out the rustic. We were kids. We had a blast! We've been back over that trail more than once! Today, Sandy I have been married for 37 years, and God has lavished on us the opportunity to to see a lot of this world. From the playgrounds of the rich and famous to the battlegrounds of the poor and forgotten….

We had no idea what to expect from our union, except that God would see us through the unexpected. Sure enough, we have seen the "for better or for worse and in sickness and in health." But you know what? we wouldn't trade our adventure for anything!

Each season of our journey--from starting out, to raising children (all three of them are wonderful like their mother), to an empty nest--has taught us a lot about loving God, loving others, and living by faith. We have not received the grace of God in vain. Troubled waters and living springs have flowed together carving away the sands of our lesser selves and leaving us with a foundation of rugged tenderness.

Thirty-eight years ago, our lives converged in Springfield, Missouri. Have we done everything right? No. When we haven't we have trusted that to God's grace, too. But we have done a lot! And as best we knew how we followed God's leading to Texas--to Maine--to Massachusetts--to Georgia--To South Carolina--to China. Along the way, thousands of people have loved us and spoken into our lives. And we have always tried to do the same.

When Sandy and I look at our lives through earth eyes the greater part is behind us. But when we look through the eyes of faith--eyes that will never close or fail--the greatest adventures are ahead. Yep, we really believe that!

We've never stopped!
  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

It's Beginning To Rain...


Sitting beneath the farmer's porch, a stiff wind pushes droplets of precipetation under our overhang and spatters our faces with the fine, cool, mist of hard falling rain. The Shire is engulfed in a surround-sound of liquid white noise, interrupted by the booms and flashes of lightening that crescendo with the power of an air raid. Looking across the pasture, trees on the furthest edges of the wood line are obliterated by opaque sheets of rain. Trees sway as gusts of winds hassle their willowy limbs.

Out in the woods, beneath the humbled water-laden branches of pines and oaks and sweet gum trees, deer and creatures of the forest wait-out the downpour that has descended on us like a tempest. We await the recession of a moody weather front.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Place At The Table

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. "You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!" they said. Then Peter told them exactly what happened… When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, "We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life."
~ Acts 11 

It was a problem that began in the Old Testament. The prophet, Jonah, would rather the Ninavites come under the judgment of God than repent and receive the grace of God. Likewise, Messianic Jews in the early church were no less eager to embrace God's grace toward Gentiles. And with good reason. As it was in the past, so it was in the present, the Chosen People were under Gentile rule and a continuing saga of oppression.

Then, God sends Peter into the house of a Gentile to minister, just as His Son had. And now those who for ages were considered unclean and unredeemable were to be received as brethren? That would take some convincing. God chose the fisherman--turned preacher, and the military man--turned seeker to break down that barrier.

In Caesarea, Peter did his part and shared the story of Jesus. God did what only He could do, and gave those Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life. And God did something else... He put an exclamation point on the moment. It had been twelve years since God had poured out the Holy Spirit with the miraculous signs of Pentecost. With conviction, Peter testified, The Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Gentile Cornelius, along with his friends and family were gifted with repentance, the Holy Spirit, and a place at the table in the Kingdom.

One more thing to consider…

Peter was a stand-up guy and championed the reception of those first Gentiles into the kingdom. However, Scripture's record gives testimony that Peter fell off the grace wagon lapsing into prejudice toward those unlike him. That's an age-old tendency for all of us to keep in mind. Guarding against consciously or unconsciously closing the door on any people group and giving up on them as unredeemable is every believer's battle.

While here on earth we will never reach an epoch of time when our society is beyond the Gospel's reach.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Fisherman And A Swordsman

The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. 
~ Acts 10:22

The boundaries of Peter's faith were about to be stretched and expanded. Roused from a most unusual vision and a dialogue with heaven, Peter stood before a trio of gentiles. Perplexed, he listened. An angel had given their boss, Cornelius, Peter's address and had sent for him. "You are to come with us to Caesarea." They said.

Peter was thoroughly Jewish. Growing up in a tight community of Hebrews, he followed the religious customs passed down to him (he even took time to enlighten Jesus on that fact), and his father, Zebedee, taught him and his brother, Andrew, the family business of harvesting the sea. As a fisherman his days were spent on or around the edges of the Sea of Galilee. Then one day, Christ said, "Follow me." Peter, along with his brother became landlubbers and fishers of men.

So far, Peter had been casting the net of his new-found faith in familiar waters--to Jews only. Now he would set sail into an ocean of humanity that for his entire life he had avoided. Jesus called him to a risk and a spiritual leap into the unknown. Amid an entourage of his friends and complete strangers he left Joppa. A Gentile household, led by a sword-bearing centurion, would be his audience for the telling of the gospel. The fisherman had to have felt uneasy. Recollections of the incident during Christs' arrest had convinced him he was not a swordsman. But he went, and that was what mattered.

For us contemporary Christ-followers, we are living in a day of decision. Will we, or will we not, be stretched? There is a growing distinction between those who follow the historic tenets of Christian faith and the masses of people we live among. Our calling to engage will unlikely be preceded by angelic visitations, dreams and visions. We have to trust the veracity of Scripture and its testimony that such events did happen and we are to mine the truth those stories hold. There are instances of modern day Corneliuses--people who live in the shadow of church-goers--who are much closer to the Kingdom than we have imagined. Persons who are calling out to God the only way they know how. Individuals who have generous and compassionate spirits that express themselves in their concern for the downtrodden. God is speaking to them. They are looking for God, who, unknown to them, has already found them. God knows them. God is drawing them in. God is causing the paths of those who are in relationship with Him to go to them and tell His story.

Like Peter, we will often feel ill-suited to take our faith across unfamiliar boundaries. Like Peter, we will sometimes dialogue with Jesus about why we can't engage. But let's go anyway. That's what matters.

Like Peter, we can take the risk...










Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Tale of Two Converts (Chapters 9-11~Book of Acts)

By vocation, Saul of Tarsus was considered a holy man--a Pharisee. But true righteousness revealed him to be violent and unrighteous. As a young man he presided over the death of Stephen, and then used it as a catapult to launch a full fledged attack against the fledgling church.

But he was converted. Is it any wonder that his salvation came amid a violent encounter with Christ? Luke tells us that Saul's conversion was not an ambling journey that finally acknowledged the saving merit of the risen Christ. Instead, like a laser guided missile, Christ sent a bolt of light from heaven that left Saul blind and sprawled on the desert sand. How terrified the pharisaical bully must have been when Jesus shouted out his name telling Saul that He took his persecution of His followers as a personal affront. Those of the Way belonged to him. Their pain was his pain.

Saul was a changed man--a 180 degree turn around. Once the scales fell from his blinded eyes and the hands of those he wanted to shackle nursed him back to health, Saul preached Christ's redemptive message with abandonment. His life's work and mission would no longer be accomplished by the point of a sword. Instead, his work and mission would be spiritual. Saul became Paul, the greatest missionary the world would ever know, and the spiritual point of the spear in the worldwide advance of the gospel that would pierce the darkness.

Then there is Cornelius, by profession a centurion--a man of war. We are not sure how this officer who held authority over a subjugated Jewish people became captivated by their monotheistic God. Judging by all that Jesus said throughout the Gospels, Judaism was but a shell of what God had intended it to be.

Cornelius followed the spiritual bread crumb trail, and dim light that he could see, and set about on a journey of devoutness, generosity, and prayerfulness. Even though his reach fell short of his grasp, he hungered and thirsted for righteousness and God saw to it that he would be filled. When he could see but a faint trace of God, God saw his heart clearly, brought Peter and the soldier together through His sovereignty, and saved him. Jesus always looms larger than the institutions that through neglect hide Him.

The single conversion of a Roman centurion announced an opened door for people from every tribe and tongue to one day stand before God fully redeemed.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Good Company


We get some pretty amazing sunrises, too!
We cherish the sense of well-being we received from one another's company this Labor Day weekend. Peaceful and laid back, our setting is perfect for sitting on the farmer's porch in the big rocking chairs and sipping hot coffee. Conversation flowed easily, but often stopped mid-sentence to point out deer crossing the field, or a ruby throated hummingbird peeping and oscillating back and forth in front of someone's colorful clothing. During the day our pistols barked and wax covered targets told the truth about the shooter's marksmanship. Each night the kids went out to the back fields to watch the sinking sun paint the western sky with pastel streaks. Old movies and playing Quelf--their choice--capped off each day. None of us went to bed hungry either!

Now, the shush of the air condition vents and the hum of the dishwasher are the only sounds heard in the house. Josh and Sammy left for Knoxville this morning. Cordelia returned to town. Ben is on his way back to UGA in Athens. None of them wanted to leave.

Between now and Christmas there will be a happy reunion at The Shire.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Confessions...

But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name." his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary holding it in; indeed, I cannot. ~ Jeremiah 20:9

Church this morning had a predictably lower attendance and even lower energy. SEC Football, coupled with Labor Day weekend seems to leave the community gathering with little more than the dregs of focus and attention. Speaking as a preacher, I try to steel myself against the inevitable, the letdown, but it drains me. It is more than psychological, it is spiritual. There is a noticeable disconnect as we gather to worship the Creator.

I know, I know, it's part and parcel of the culture we reach out to. But nonetheless, I struggle with the reality of our obsession with mainstream life versus our ambivalence toward eternal realities.

After "church," I laid face-down on our bed. In a funk. Covered not by a blanket, but, instead, weariness. I slept, awakened, took a walk, and settled in with my family and guests. Tomorrow, I will once again open my Bible, read it silently, then aloud. Look at each noun, verb, adjective and adverb, all the while asking God to make it real to me. I will ask for the faith to believe it is indeed the living Word of God. I will ask for spiritual guidance to "rightly divide it." I will ask for strength to live it.

Confessions…




Saturday, August 30, 2014

Company

Josh and Sammy are here. Cordelia is here. Ben is on the way from UGA. Ribs from Billy's are here in abundance. We love the company of our kids and their friends. The Shire is a most peaceful place, and  Sandy and I find great pleasure in the fact that our guests seem to melt into its tranquility. Their stay will be short, so the agenda is simple… relax. Sooo, conversing, napping, reading, and chilling has ruled the day.

As the sun rose, we drank coffee and sat on the farmer's porch. Our entertainment was a doe with twin fawns bolting across the field from east to west, and then settling into a shaded corner of the pasture to  forage the freshly mowed fields. After a while, I took the RZR for a spin across Standing Boy Creek. Up and down the network of trails I went, breaking through hundreds of spiderwebs that form a dragnet for anything that moves. Wooded ridges and bottom land that grows thick with vegetation make up the topology. Incredible. Blessed.

The skies have alternated between blazing swords of sunbeams hot enough to wilt anything bearing life, and billowy cloud castles that cruise across the heavens leaving great shadows upon the earth and whipping up brief solar winds that give momentary respites from the heat. To the northeast someone has turned their backyard into a target range. I suspect it's for black powder weapons. Throughout the day they bellow from time to time. A hunter getting his long gun sighted-in for the brief primitive arms hunting season that will be upon us soon?

Speaking of hunting…

Next week I will take my twenty-plus year old compound bow to an archery shop and have it tuned. My friend, Scott, told me. "Don't let them talk you into a new one. The one I have is fine." I agree. It's been three years since I have sat in a tree stand clothed in camouflage waiting for the darkness around me to lighten to ever increasing values of silver dawn. There is a rhythm in nature of sights and sounds that you can't experience any other way. I could care less if I fill a tag.

An armadillo has been tearing up our yard (my northeast friends have never seen the damage they can do. Like little bulldozers running amok) and has dug out a den beneath our our stack of firewood. Ben, Josh, and I will evict him….

Ben just arrived!   

Friday, August 29, 2014

Prelude

The undulating acres of pasture around The Shire are freshly mowed, filling the air with a splendid aroma. Sitting on the farmer's porch, aromatic wafts of air awaken our sense of smell. According to the weatherman, much needed rain showers will visit at first light. With a little moisture, the bristle-stiff amber stocks remaining will magically transform into emerald blades of grass.

A raft of turkeys have been scratching for food in the fields of late. Nearly every day they bounce across the prairie-like landscape with their peculiar strut, their light colored heads bobbing up and down as the sun reflects off their dark feathered bodies. As many as a dozen have been gleaning mother nature's bounty.

Sandy and I got on the RZR and cruised the shaded perimeter of the wood line and circled the peaceful face of the pond. Then we took the cool, shadowy, tree canopied woods road down toward Standing Boy Creek. It's nearly dry now, a mere trickle, shouldered on either side by golden sandbars and gnarled roots that protrude from the banks.

It's all a prelude to a great weekend. Josh arrives later tonight. Over the next couple of days he and I will thread through the cross-stitch of trails amid the 1200 acres that surround us.

Sometimes this spot on God's earth seems too good to be true…


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Peace and Fear: A Beautiful Melody...

The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it become stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers. ~ Acts 9:31

Have you ever stopped to think about what it must have been like for the early Church to grow spiritually--into an increasing head and heart knowledge and intimacy with Jesus? No canonized [New Testament] Scriptures, only scant dispatches of verbal testimony from the apostles as their remembrances of Christ's teachings trickled out from Jerusalem and occasional eye-witness evidence of those same apostles' transformed lives. Try to imagine their dependence on the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God in their lives. A holy niggling worked at their souls' level, urging them toward Christ-likeness and conforming them to His image--validating the new life that Jesus promised.

As far as we can tell, miles of distance and the scrambling that results from fleeing for their lives had to have broken down the lines of human communication. Yet, once again, we see the essence of being a believer--the indwelling and affirming presence of the Holy Spirit. Christ in heaven, just as he promised, spoke into their hearts, confirmed His promises, encouraged them, and urged them forward, through the Spirit in them that was the exact likeness of Himself.

Beautiful and paradoxical, is it not? Peace and fear seem to be in such discord. Yet, think about it...their spirits were fine tuned to a complex melody: Chords of the fear of God harmonizing with the chords of the peace of God and orchestrating a spiritual symphony in their souls. Reverence of God expanded, and a crescendo of strength resulted. Peace that passes understanding, and fear that speaks to reverence toward the unseen God, equalled growth in their innermost being, and their worldwide influence, as the Church that Christ was building, expanded...

  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Higher Ground...

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. 
As he was approaching Damascus on the mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?" 
"Who are you, lord?" Saul asked. And the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." 
[After these events] The church had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers. ~ Acts 9:1-2; 31

Under duress, the Church that Christ was building left the building--the Temple. Saul of Tarsus, on the heels of the martyrdom of Stephen and unsatisfied with the bloodletting of a single saint, stayed hot on the heels of the fleeing Christ-followers, dead set on dragging them back to Jerusalem in shackles. Driven by an unholy hatred, Saul's lynch mob, with the written blessings of the high priest, left no stone unturned and no safe place for the harassed refugees of the Way. 

Then Saul of Tarsus, the hunter, became the hunted. From his seat at the right hand of the Father, Christ ran him down and knocked him down--confronted him and converted him. The persecutor of the the Way became a preacher of the Way!

At last... the harried and harassed Church was at peace.

What now? Would the neophyte followers shift into neutral? Would the Great Commission of Christ be de-commissioned? Would they relax, and get lax? Would they move on to higher ground or just hold their ground?

What lessons does this moment in the lives of the first believers hold for the lives of present day believers like us? How do we respond to "peace?"

That's what I will be talking about at 11 a.m., next Sunday at First Baptist Church in Phenix City, Alabama….