Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Carsons

The Carsons.

No, not the presidential candidate and family. I am speaking of Glenn and Paula Carson. Years ago (1983), in a county far, far, away, Sandy and I, along with an almost 3 year old named Justin and an almost 1 year old named Joshua, moved to Presque Isle, Maine (we were about 15 minutes from the Canadian border) to start a church. It was the old style method of church planting: you raised some support ($300.00 per month for us), went to a town, knocked on every door your feet could carry you, and shared the gospel. Prior to our going to Presque Isle, a man had tried to get a church off the ground, but he ran into an incredibly difficult stretch of health and had to sign-off. Sandy and I were very fortunate to have 7 sturdy people who remained from that effort.

Paula Carson was one of the remnant of the struggling New Life Baptist Church. I'm not sure who put more energy into resurrecting the fledgling church plant--Paula, or Sandy and me. Beyond working in the nursery and going door-to-door, Paula and her husband, Glenn, were often the difference between Sandy and me and our two little boys having food to eat or fuel to heat the leaky farmhouse that was built in 1901. Trust me, in northern Maine, the extremity of the cold winters cannot be exaggerated. And you could throw a cat through the cracks in that clapboarded house. My Texas bride thought she was going to freeze to death. Time after time the Carsons brought food, bought fuel, and gifted our children when Christmas and birthdays came around. When God chose to prosper the church with incredible growth, it was Glenn, vice president of a local bank, who guided us through the process of obtaining a loan and secured the favor of the lending institution.

Paula just celebrated a birthday--her 29th, just after my 60th. Over the last few days their kindness and friendship has returned to my thoughts many times. Over the years there have been some wonderful people in our lives. None better than the Carsons.

Happy Birthday, Paula! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sixty

For months, my wife, Sandy, worried about marking a special milestone in my life with a celebration. December 16 would be my sixtieth birthday. My response was always the same, "I'm just glad to be alive! Please don't plan anything." Laugh it you want, but I am much more of an introvert than one might think. There always has been, and I suspect there will always remain, a constant struggle to engage in many sorts of social settings. Also, our children, our daughter-in-law, our grandson, and others we deeply love would be visiting The Shire for an extended stay during Christmas. More and more, the anticipation of having our children and their friends around overshadow everything else.

In the meantime, two tricksy little hobbitses, Sandy and Sammy (our son Josh's girlfriend), secretly set-up a Facebook page for people to send along congratulations. Last night after I returned home from church, I was completely caught by surprise when I logged onto Facebook. Lo and behold, my family and a host of friends from all over the world--some of the friendships having begun over forty years ago, had sent me video messages, notes, and remembrances that brought me to tears.

Thank you, everybody! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Story

For over thirty years I have been preaching and teaching on a weekly basis. Never have I more greatly enjoyed the story of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus in Luke's Gospel. This year I have taken the time to help my fellow believers see that both births are truly The Christmas Story.

If you are reading this take time to read Luke's first two chapters. Compare the announcement of their births, the fulfillment, their assignments, and then ask yourself, "What are the implications for me?"

The births of Jesus and John are a seamless story that helps us understand The Greatest Story Ever Told. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Christmas Story: John and Jesus

Tomorrow I will bring a second message from Luke's Gospel, chapters 1 and 2. Doctor Luke did his homework when putting together his Spirit-guided record of the births of John the Baptist and The Christ. Last week we studied John's birth in chapter one. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was Malachi's prophesied fulfillment: John would break four-hundred years of God's silence and prepare the way for Messiah. I am almost embarrassed to confess that I will cover the births of both John and Jesus in only two messages. In no way am I diminishing the importance and impact of their births, but we know that John specifically identified Jesus' primary mission as the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. Jesus never once asked us to remember his birth. Instead, as Messiah broke bread with his disciples for the last time, he told them and future followers: This do in remembrance of me. Each time we gather to take the communion elements of the bread--representing his broken body and the fruit of the vine--representing his shed blood, we are confirming our trust in the saving work the Son of God accomplished through his death, burial, and resurrection. Sadly, we live in a world when the birth of Jesus has been grossly commercialized and his resurrection smugly trivialized.

Back to the two births... 

Although it's rarely pointed out, both the birth of John and the birth of Jesus were intended to be The Christmas Story, so I decided a while back that I would connect their births the following way.

The Christmas Story: John and Jesus

1. Their Fulfillment
2. Their Assignment
3. Their Employment (what is the implication for us)

Christmas is 13 days away...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Like You've Never Seen It.

On social media there have been several posts about the uniqueness of this coming December 25, the traditional date many around the world mark as the birthday of the Christ. For the first time since 1977 there will be a full moon on Christmas night. In 1977, Sandy and I celebrated our first Christmas together. I gifted Sandy with a pair of gold earrings (that she still has), a sweater, and a skirt. Sandy gifted me with gloves, a sweater, and dress pants. Since then, meteorologically, there literally hasn't been a Christmas like it!

But in fourteen days a brilliant full moon will climb above the horizon on Christmas night! If all goes as planned our children will be with us, plus our daughter-in-law, Erika, and our grandson, the amazing Wyatt! Sammy will be with us too! I'm praying for a crystal clear night above us, a crackling and colorful blaze in the fire pit, and a wonderful time with people that we love to the moon and back!







Thursday, December 10, 2015

No Room...

There have been several occasions when I was a guest in foreign countries: Gypsies in Bulgaria; Peasants in China, and church folks in Venezuela to name a few. Those dear people gave up their rooms, so that I could have the best accommodations they possessed. I am reminded of the Christmas story. Luke tells us that after a three day journey, Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn. "There is no room." Said the inn keeper. The exhausted young couple improvised and found refuge from the evening chill among the cattle. But in reality, there was room--if the inn keeper had been willing to give up his bed.

That's an age old quandary that each of us faces. No, we don't have to literally and physically give up our personal space for the Christ-child--who grew to be revealed as Messiah that prophesy predicted.  But we do need to look at the rhythms and clutter of our lives and find room for Jesus. Biblical reality tells us that Christ doesn't settle for a little corner of our lives. No, over time he invades every inch of our lives.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Applause...

After making rounds at two of the companies I serve, I had a space of time before I met with a friend for lunch in Cataula. I returned to The Shire for a few minutes of down-time and sat reading a book at the edge of our pond. To my right, about 75 yards away, I could hear leaves crunching and branches snapping on the south side of the pond. Suddenly, a doe burst out of the woods and ran along the length of the earthen dam that corrals the southern bank of our pond. Then another, and still another, and behind them still another--a small buck! I could see could the sun gleaming off his antlers. Less than a minute passed and three more does leaped from the woods and this time splashed into the pond. They swam to the back edge of the pond, scrambled to dry ground and high-tailed it towards the woods to the northeast. Seconds later, a larger buck averted the water, in pursuit. In all, twelve deer charged through the same section of woods! I stared in amazement and then went into the house and grabbed my 308.

A large buck crossed the back end of the pond, I grunted at him and he stopped. I had him in the crosshairs, but behind him there is the long driveway of one of my neighbors. At this time of year, with the leaves no longer cleaving to the trees, I can see vehicles traveling back-and-forth; I chose not to shoot. Though the chances were slim, I was concerned that I might put someone in harms way if I pulled the trigger. I clicked the safety on and chose not to shoot.

About twenty-minutes later a doe raced across the southern pasture with a buck in hot pursuit. Once again, I got the buck to stop, but this time the road was the backdrop. I chose not to shoot. Instead, I leaned my 308. against the porch rails and applauded God for the experience.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Benefit Of Darkness

And you, child (John the Baptist), will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1: 76-79 ~ Prophecy of Zechariah at the birth of his son, John 

This weekend I strung thousands of colorful, blinking Christmas lights. Santa and one of his helpers welcomes visitors to The Shire. White lights in the shape of reindeer graze on electricity that keep them glowing at night. Red and white striped candy canes line the walkway between the house and cottage. On its screened-in porch, the cottage has its own tiny tree. Hedges outside it sparkle on each end with alternating green and red in between.

Sunlight bathed The Shire as I illuminated it to celebrate the Christmas season. Warmth and visibility made my projects a pleasant chore. Temps were in the 60's; the days were spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute outside, because it was a labor of love. Soon, all of our children will arrive for Christmas, along with Sammy and Erika, and among the crew will be our only grandchild, The Wolf Cub Wyatt! Batteries for his F150 are charged, and soon he will be whirring around the yard and up and down our long driveway. Every twinkling light represented a musing of anticipation of having our family together.

But I would need the darkness of night. Why? Because during the day it's impossible to see if the lights are evenly spread out and producing the beautifying effect my mind imagined.

The Scripture at the top of the post was on my mind as I puttered around the yard. I thought about what I was doing in light of Zechariah's prophecy. I was bringing light to the darkness. But without the darkness, I couldn't see the effects of my efforts. Aged Zechariah realized that his son was destined to shed light, and to do so, John would have to enter into darkness and the shadow of death. As a light, John would be useless if he chose to stay in the safe and secure company of those who, too, were lights. Apart from entering the darkness and death there would be no way to see the effect and purpose of his life.

For Believers, rather than fear darkness and death, we need to enter it, and with the knowledge of God's mercy and a message, let our lights shine... 

Friday, December 4, 2015

All For One..

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. ~ Luke 1:1-4

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. ~ Acts 1:1-2

Luke is an obscure figure in the New Testament. We know little more than that he companioned the apostle Paul as a co-missionary and personal physician. Were Luke alive today and had access to social media, I feel safe to say he would not have been regularly uploading his latest "selfie" of himself. That's pretty significant when you consider that he penned the longest of the Gospels, and that if you sit down and read his Gospel and the Book of Acts, when finished, you will have read more than twenty-five percent of the New Testament. Nearly half of what Luke recorded in his Gospel goes unmentioned by Matthew's and Mark's Gospels.

But here is one more thing that struck me...

As Luke bent over his parchment with quill in hand to write his Gospel--an account of the life of Christ on earth, and The Book of Acts--his account of Christ's work on earth from heaven, a single individual was on his mind, Theophilus. Theophilus is as obscure as Luke. We know very little about this Gentile--except that Luke (also a Gentile) traipsed all over Palestine to compile "an orderly account" of the eclectic bits and pieces of information Theophilus had gathered about Jesus. Luke trudged the highways and hedges interviewing those who were eye-witnesses to the life of the crucified, risen, and ascended Savior.

Isn't it obvious? Luke cared dearly for this man, Theophilus.

Luke compiled an exhaustive account of the life of Christ. Is it beyond reason to believe Luke interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus; the other apostles; many who had been healed by Jesus; the 120 who were in the upper room at Pentecost; the seventy, whom Jesus had sent out, and many of the 500 witnesses Paul speaks of in his letter to the Corinthians who had seen the resurrected Christ? I think not.

Exhaustive and exhausting.

So, I leave anyone who is reading with this encouragement: It's worth it. All that you may be investing in the spiritual well-being of just one.

That one you keep praying for
That one who is always on your mind
That one who is wandering, or lost
That one who is struggling
That one who is seeking, but can't seem to find
That one you can't give up on

That's what Luke's commitment to Theophilus does. It inspires me/us to keep giving it all we've got.

All for one...


   

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving Attention

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God's mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. Ephesians 6:18-19


We are to give attention to God at all times, and in all situations. In short, that is what prayer is. Without a heart and mind aware of its dependence upon the Spirit to guide it, it is impossible to walk and live in the Spirit. Without the Spirit's help we randomly react to the events that make up our lives. Between the lines, a question hovers, "How dependent upon the Spirit of God are we?" The answer,  "Completely."

Paul couldn't imagine explaining his new life--that definitely demanded and explanation--without the Spirit of God giving him bold and clear and concise words to define the mystery of all mysteries. Without the Spirit's help it could never be conveyed as Good News.

"Pray for me, and pray for each other." Paul pleads. Ask humbly by praying persistently; a paradoxical request, until we come to grips with our absolute dependence on God.

Stay alert, and give attention to God at all times.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Peace Of Wild Things...


Beyond the windows of my study the brilliant green of summer is slowly giving way to yellow and orange and faded colors. Leaves, heavy with raindrops and hassled by brisk winds, fall to the surface of the pond. In the heavens above there is not a trace of blue sky.

For reasons I don't fully understand, just as a low-pressure weather front has enveloped The Shire, so too, a heaviness presses down on my spirit. During such times, I lean heavily on prayer and sit quietly listening for the encouragement of God's quiet voice.  I expect the Comforter to speak comfort through His word, through poetry, through music, and through my senses. It's not a demand. It's an expectation.

I found this poem by Wendell Berry. Maybe this poem found me...

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, 
and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water. 
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 

~ Wendell Berry, Collected Poems

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Last of the surgeries...

For my friends and family who have asked...

On Friday, I had the last of my surgeries; two on my left arm. Already, most of the feeling has been restored in my palm and fingers that since my accident have been numb. Unlike my right arm, these surgeries didn't require the ulnar nerve to be re-routed. The surgeon was able to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve without re-routing it. He said there was extensive pressure in the carpal tunnel that needed to be released. A few weeks of strength training should return my hand to the dexterity I am used to.

It's been over seven weeks since the surgeries on my right arm. As of today, little has changed and feeling has yet to be restored. But the damage in my right arm was a lot more significant. Re-routing the ulnar nerve was necessary, and there was a lot of compression in the carpal tunnel. My surgeon says that feeling should return at about the six month mark.

Thanks to my friends and family for their prayers!

  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

It's Real...

From prison, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a Faith Community in the city of Ephesus. He's not an angry young prophet, or sensationalist. Paul is a veteran spiritual leader, seasoned by years of unswerving commitment. When we read that letter today, it is broken into chapter and verses. You probably know all that, but it's helpful to think of its personal nature, rather than approach it impersonally. Paul writes with the passion of experience. He knows. He cares. He loves the recipients.

In chapter six, the Apostle Paul, tells his Christ-follower friends that they are under spiritual attack from multiple directions. Descriptive language, describes layer upon layer of oppression and unrelenting resistance against their profession of faith. It isn't fanciful, it's real. Whether they recognized it or not, Paul describes the marshaling of evil like a siege of sorts, schemed by a brilliant, but rotten to the core, mastermind, called, Diablos. Diablos is an old word that means "Accuser." For us English speaking people it's translated "Devil." It's more than a name--it's a description of his character. His bent.

And how's this for irony? The "Accuser" is actually the first of all created beings to be accused--and found guilty--of high treason against his Creator. Yet, day-after-day, the Accuser rails accusations against those who have humbly confessed to that same Creator that they, too, are guilty sinners. But with one gigantic difference: they found grace and forgiveness and redemption in the provision of God's Only Son.

Consider this...

The Accuser sees God's people, individually or collectively, as target rich environments. He is methodical and sly. To be successful, he must disarm them. What does he do?

Truth? He waters down God's, by mixing an ounce of it with an ocean of lies.

Righteousness? He would convince the faithful it is of the designer type--self-righteousness. Make your own check-list. It's easy!

Standing and withstanding? "Take a stand, but neither on, for, or against anything."

Shield of faith? With soul killing intention, he lets the red-hot arrows fly. Unstoppable, and unquenchable, except by the shield of faith, that he would convince the timid to lay down.

Helmet of salvation? Heads, once clear and discerning, he numbs and confuses with cloudy thinking.

Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God? With an evil heart, he slashes at the believer's spirit. If possible, have them forget there is a sword with which they can fight back.

Paul says, "The battle is real. Put on the whole armor of God...and fight!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How Big Is Your Shield?



Title: How Big Is Your Shield?
Text: Ephesians 6: 16; Mathew 4: 

The Roman soldier’s armor. 
While on the battlefield the Roman soldier never took off certain armor: the wide leather belt that covered his lower abdomen, could, at a moments notice, be used to tuck in all the loose ends of his tunic, making him streamlined, illusive, and battle ready. His breastplate protected him from unseen archers who could launch an arrow that could pierce his heart and kill him. He would always have his specifically designed battle shoes on--if he couldn’t stand or withstand he couldn’t fight. 

The Believer’s armor. 
Like certain pieces of the Roman soldier’s armor, as metaphor, the believer had the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the gospel of peace. These were meant to be constantly worn. 

Staying with the metaphor, Paul uses a specific a specific word when talking about the Believer’s shield of faith. The Roman soldier carried two types of shields. One was disc shaped, about 2 feet in diameter. It was used to parry the sword thrusts of an enemy in hand-to-hand combat. Many a little boy used the pickets of a fence, and the cover of a garbage-can as a make believe sword and shield of this sort. I know I did. 

In battle, no soldier was in the preferred situation when he was isolated, and fighting for his life with the smaller shield as his only protection. The optimum strategy for success and survival was to stay behind the big shields held by those on the front lines of battle. The big shields were over 4 feet tall and more than 2 feet wide. Soldiers could crouch behind them; their entire body concealed and protected against fiery darts/arrows. The big shield allowed soldiers to link-up with one another. side-by-side, the bearers of the big shields could form a wall and ceiling of protection. From behind those big shields, archers and swordsmen would strike back against the enemy. Also, those big shields could be soaked in water, so that incoming flaming darts would be quenched when they struck the shield. This was important. Why? Because the big shields, drenched in water, snuffed out the fiery arrows and prevented collateral damage from burning shards and splinters and shrapnel that could wound fellow comrades.

The believer’s armor is the Big Shield and described with this subtle change, In all circumstances take up the [BIG] shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. ~ Ephesians 6:16 This piece of armor is to be taken up and used at specific times.

This Sunday, we will work through the question, “How Big Is Your Shield?”

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Come And Help Us...

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. ~ Acts 16:6-10

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes God's Divine Providence prevents us from following through on what would seem to be lofty and godly intensions. That was the case with Paul and Silas. The entire trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, and God, forbade the duo to speak the Word in Asia. For the time being, someone else would be commissioned to sow the seed in that world.

It's in this story--one that I return to on a weekly basis--that we see something with a curious application that we could easily miss. God, it seems, knows where the greatest needs are and, just as importantly, how each of us is best suited to meet those needs. For Paul and Silas, it took a Spirit-inspired vision to let them know where the triune God wanted them: Macedonia.

As a pastor in a fledgling work, I appreciate--check that--adore God's concern for those who might be considered out of the way. I believe that the "Macedonian call" is in effect in our day and age. I believe that there are gifted believers who would find a better fit going where they are most needed, rather than staying where they are most comfortable or feel the mission field is more assessable.

As the pastor of a small village church, on a daily basis I pray the Macedonian prayer; Come over and help us. I believe in such prayer, and I believe that God will answer. Thirty years of church planting, pastoral work, and missions have shown me that there are many people who are in good churches, but at the same time are not engaged in advancing the Kingdom. Some of those people have found a much needed place of rest, anonymity, and feeding in the midst of a large congregation. I fully understand that. Been there. But like my own sojourn, you, too, sense an inner niggling urging you to go where you can be exponentially more helpful. You are gifted to teach, witness, mentor, or serve in a way that would bring incredible encouragement to a faith community that is lacking your spiritual gifting. You could make a difference in how far the message of the Good News spread.

So, once again tonight I sat down by the edge of the pond, tilted my head back, gazed toward the heavens and prayed, believing that the voice of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, and Father God would speak the words Come over and help us...

And someone would be listening.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cutting, Stitching, And Healing...

Let the cutting, stitching, and healing begin! Tomorrow, the first of four surgeries begin. Two on my right wrist and elbow area at 9 a.m., at the Hughston Clinic. The goal is to repair nerve damage in both of my hands.

Thanks to my friends and family who have prayed for me and visited me. Thanks to my Band of Brothers that took me to Drs. appointments when I couldn't drive. Thanks to my bride of thirty-eight years (next week) who has given me the kindest of care.

If all goes well, the surgeon will repeat the process on the left arm as soon as my right arm sufficiently heals. It will take about eight months for the repairs to heal and restore feeling in four of my fingers. The constant burning in my hands (whenever I am horizontal) will not be missed. Uninterrupted sleep, it's been a while. None of the surgeries will keep me out of the workplace.

My hip replacement is responding without a hitch. I have been walking three miles a day and doing many different strengthening exercises. This morning, I walked and jogged in intervals. To say that I have missed the companies I serve through Corporate Chaplains is an understatement. Soon, I will be reconnecting with my friends! 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

To Believe Is To See

I write these short posts on FaceBook and my blog. For me, they are a personal expression of worship evoked by living in this little bit of God's creation that surrounds me. The Psalmist’s prose speaks to his Creator's intention that His created world be our first Evangel. Behind the visible is the Invisible Creator. "The heavens declare the glory of God."

It’s Saturday afternoon. On the front lawn, winds bend the limbs of the elegant river birch tree downward. Amid sheets of falling rain, leaves twist and flutter helplessly. Bird feeders that dangle from black iron rods sway, but so far, cling to their moorings. Water makes a gurgling sound as it is slides from the roof and funnels down the gutters. Hummingbirds zip through millions of pellets of precipitation that fall from hundreds of feet above them and siphon the red nectar from their food stations. Our flat, serpentine, fieldstone walkways shimmer. Green mosses, that grow between the uniquely shaped stones drink with relief. Skies overhead are an unbroken, smooth, silvery canopy.

I move to the back porch, where I sit two stories above the ponds agitated surface. Discontented patches of wind-stirred water form islands that are separated by fiords of calmer disposition. There is no sign of its usual peaceful face.


It's all beautiful. It's all to be enjoyed. It's all intended to turn our thoughts, appreciation, and adoration toward our invisible Creator. 

"By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."

To believe is to see. 


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Scars And Stitches

I am about to enter a stretch when I will be having two dental implants, a root canal, and four surgeries. The surgeries will be in each arm to repair (hopefully) nerve damage in my hands.

It set me to thinking and counting...

There are a lot of scars and stitches on this body of mine.

The first scars and stitches began accumulating at about age five. I ran into a low tree branch and picked up 3-4 over my right eye. I still have a hairless furrow in my eyebrow from that one.

The next ones were over my left eye. I believe it was from a friendly rock fight. You've got to keep things balanced.

I had another 3-4 in the top of my head that came from playing in a hay mow. One of my friends, or maybe my brother, threw something down from the hay loft that accidentally hit me.

The big time stuff came when I was in third grade. My appendix burst, and that resulted in two more life-saving surgeries. Complication upon complication nearly took my life. My abdomen is criss-crossed with some Frankenstein-like stitches. How many stitches? Probably dozens.

There's more. One day I was helping my grandfather--the one I am named after--jack up a storage building. The blocking shifted, the small building fell on my right hand, and I ended up with another 5 stitches in the heel of my right hand (just checked it. It's shaped like a "J").

Then there were the 6-8 stitches I received in my chin that came from a skating accident on a frozen pond behind Penobscot Valley High School when I was 14. We were playing "crack the whip" and I fell on the back of someone's skate blade.

In High School, David Hughes, my brother Burleigh, and I were shooting rats at the local dump. I got hit with a ricochet from David's .22 caliber. No stitches, but it did draw blood.

For awhile the scars and stitches were replaced by a broken nose, broken teeth, and a broken leg while playing sports.

Then, in my thirties I had that little mishap with a chainsaw. Yes, I accidentally cut a deep trench in my left thigh that required many, many stitches. It left a nice scar (I tell people a shark bit me).

A brush with skin cancer resulted in another 8-10 stitches in my back. The cancer has never returned (thank God), but the indented reminder remains (sometimes I tell people I was shot).

Next, came the double hernia operation in my 50's (nobody sees those scars).

Once again, I took a break from stitches and replaced them with a violent motorcycle accident. In 2009 a car pulled in front of me from a side street. I hit it broadside and landed nearly 30 feet from the point of impact. I never lost consciousness and remember hoping I would not be run over by oncoming traffic as I lay in the middle of Route 140 in Massachusetts. My back was fractured. God preserved my stitched body for more adventures.

On July 13, a little more than a month ago, I had a bicycle accident. The next day I had to have a total hip replacement. Now I have another Frankenstein-like scar on my right hip. But I like scars (friends tell me to stay off anything with two wheels).

Once again, it's time for stitches. On September 4, I will be having the first of 4 surgeries in hopes of repairing nerve damage in my hands; small incisions at my wrists and elbows. First, the right arm, then the left. The nerve damage is likely an accumulation of the list of crashes and collisions plus those I have forgotten, or didn't  bother to list.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Healing The Broken

On August 14, it was a month ago that I had the hip God gave me--which I broke-- replaced with a man made titanium one. I probably don't even need to say this, but I believe He blessed men and women with the medical savvy, brilliance, and technology to create such a spare part. This morning I walked 3 miles.

I've thought much about the healing process that has taken place in four weeks. It started with the simplest function--standing like a newborn calf on wobbly legs. Then later in that same day, six shuffling steps to the threshold of my hospital room door and back to my bed. The next day, a cautious walk the length of the hallway, and a quick tutorial on how to climb stairs--I did four.

Once home, I used a walker for two days, and then got down to business with Anthony, my PT, at our  home. He put me on a regimen of exercises that I followed to the letter. Before long, I took my first journey up and down our stairs. Before I knew it, I was outside looking at focal points that would become daily goals. All the while, I was listening to the coaching I was receiving, and the concern of my wife and friends not to overdo it.

We have all experienced another kind of brokenness, and that is spiritual brokenness. The correlation between spiritual and physical healing is not to be missed. Several parallels come to mind: the severity of our brokenness needs to be determined; the limitations it puts on us; the healing process needed, and the help that must come from outside ourselves.

One caveat would be is that there is no human cure for spiritual brokenness. Neither surgeons or physicians can fix us. Meaning, there is no titanium soul to replace your broken one. In the end, The Great Physician is the only one who can mend a crushed spirit.

For me, it's been a time to reflect on both kinds of brokenness. Regarding my broken hip--I thank God for the professional medical people and friends who have helped me through the healing process. Thanks for calling me, taking me to appointments, bringing in lunch, phone calls, cards, prayer, and so much more. Over the years, many of you are the same people who have been there when the healing needed was not physical, but, instead spiritual. Thank you...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Another Update...

Today I had my appointment at Hughston Clinic regarding my hands. The specialist there administered three separate tests and those tests revealed several different issues that are resulting in nerve damage. In his words, "You've got a lot of stuff going on." Another group of doctors will evaluate the tests, but according to the doctor I met with today, I will most likely be facing another surgery.

Here's the good news--I am part of a small percentage of people whose ulnar and median nerve take an unusual route down my arms (there is a specific name for it that I can't recall). That is good news, because it may result in less long term damage to the nerves (not getting feeling back in my hands), or it may provide an alternative re-routing of the median and ulnar nerve. Hughston Clinic will let me know the next step tomorrow or Wednesday.

Well, there you have it. Thank you for the prayers!


Thursday, August 6, 2015

For my family and friends...

For those who have been asking, X-rays show that my hip replacement is healing, and I continue to get stronger and more mobile. Today I walked over two miles. Hallelujah!

On Monday I will return to the Hughston Clinic to meet with a hand specialist for tests (EMG for starters) that should pinpoint the problem I continue to have with my hands since the accident. Three weeks later there has been no improvement. I still have no feeling in four of my fingers, and the burning sensations surge through my hands whenever I try to lie down to sleep. I will be glad to get this resolved.

Thanks for the kind concern and prayers... 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Flight Delayed...

It was a long-shot--getting permission to fly--but nothing ventured nothing gained. All the x-rays showed that I am healing really well, and for that I give thanks to God. But the doctor said no traveling for me, because the risk of blood clots is too great this soon after surgery (3 weeks). He also wants me to wait 5 weeks before he reevaluates me and releases me to return to work.

On Wednesday I see a specialist for the problem with my hands. It appears the ulnar nerve is the culprit.

Stitches are gone! Hallelujah!


Three Requests

A couple of weeks before my bike accident on July 13, Sandy and I scheduled our vacation time and bought airline tickets to see our family in Maine and Boston. Not to whine, but seeing family, and in particular The Amazing Wyatt (AKA Wolf Cub), only twice a year is difficult for us. We were supposed to fly to New England this Wednesday.

Rescheduling isn't easy, because Sandy teaches year round, and I work with multiple companies. So, I am asking my praying friends to pray for 3 things today:

1. I meet with the surgeon today to have my brand new titanium hip evaluated. According to my PT I am weeks ahead of the curve in my strength and mobility. Hallelujah! I am going to ask my surgeon if it is safe for me to fly. I am asking you to pray that I can.

2. There has been no improvement in my hands. I still have very little feeling in 4 of my fingers except when I lie down and they feel like they are on fire. My appointment today will address this issue.

3. I am going to ask the surgeon to release me to return to work on August 17.

In closing, I want to say thank you to so many that have reached out to us. Thanks to the guys that have taken me to appointments and spent time at The Shire talking and praying about things that matter. I trust all is well with you...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Update...

First, I want to thank so many who have reached out to me, and my caretaker, Sandy. There has been no shortage of kindness and well-wishes. Your prayers have touched our hearts.

According to the physical therapist my new hip is doing quite well. I am diligently following the routines given me. A part of the therapy relies on my willingness and wisdom to know when to push myself and when to accept a limitation. I have been alternating between walking a mile one day and then a half-mile the next day. Along with that I have been doing stairs with the same varying intensity. So far-so good.

Next week, I return to the surgeon to have everything evaluated. I know I have a long way to go as yet. Lateral movement is limited, and when I tried to get into a vehicle on Sunday it was difficult. But all of that is to be expected.

Regarding my hands: It has been two weeks, today, since I had the accident. I still have very little feeling in my ring finger and pinky on both hands. Also, those same digits often feel like they are on fire; especially when I try to lie down. Sleep is a key ingredient in the body's healing process, and to be candid, sustained periods of sleep are not to be had at this point. I am constantly tired, so, I ask my friends who believe in prayerful intercession to lift this need up to our Father.

Also, I have three venues (mission fields) that God has blessed me to minister within. They are: Hamilton Baptist Church; the five corporations I serve through Corporate Chaplains of America, and Columbus Regional Hospital. At the present, I am unable to serve. I am housebound. The CCA companies I serve are being cared for by two of my chaplain friends, Mike and Dan. Last Sunday, due to special circumstances, I stammered through a message at HBC, but I am truly limited at the present. I don't have the physical resources to engage.

We are never out of God's care, and during this time I have a strong sense of God's Presence and care (it's there even when I don't sense it). I am using it to read, listen, and pray. I believe God is pleased with what I am doing with this time on the sidelines. I see it as an opportunity to be filled up in order to be poured out in God's time.

Last, keep Sandy in prayer. She continues to teach each day at CTC, and provide me with loving care. She is a remarkable person in all aspects and deeply devoted to all that matters in this temporal world.

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Somewhere Around Midnight

Josh arrived last night. He is always pleasant and helpful company. As I write, I am in the ejection seat/recliner and Josh is fast asleep on the couch (we have three other beds, but he just wants to look out for his dad).

If there is any pattern to my nighttime, it is this. I start out in bed around 10 pm. Then, somewhere around midnight, aches and pains (and other issues I am sure you do not want to know) force me out to the lift-chair/recliner specially designed for people recuperating from surgeries like mine.

Next, I try to read, which is next to impossible, followed by writing down a few thoughts which is frustrating (I have no feeling in 4 of my 8 fingers). Using a modified two-finger pecking system, I manage to gather letters from a swirling keyboard that become words. Thoughts like the following emerge…

After spending the bulk of my adult life around peers who, like myself, consider themselves Christian, now only a fragment of my face to face time is with people who are regular church-goers. But during this recovery, this remnant have indeed been Christ-like toward Sandy and me. They have prayed for us in our presence and over the phone. Generous baskets of food have been delivered, and they continue to reach out to us however they sense God prompting. It's beautiful...

A second group of friends and caregivers has emerged. As most of you know, although I still pastor, I am in somewhat of a different career. The end-game is the same, but my route is quite different. My second career, with Corporate Chaplains of America, allows me to build relationships with some of the most caring people you could ever meet. Yet, I may never see them at church. However, as the events of this accident unfolded they called, came by the ER, sent baskets of food, and reached out in many ways. A couple of these friends, not frequenters of houses of prayer, told me they would pray for me... like I prayed for them during their crises. It's beautiful...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Quiet Moments...

I missed being out of the pulpit yesterday. Not so much the pulpit, but the group of people that have become my church family. They are dear to me. I hold them in my thoughts and prayers differently than I have held other congregations. As I prepare messages from God's Word, even that process has changed from days gone by.

It's the wee hours of the morning. I do what I can, when I can. To this point, there is little structure to my life apart from scheduled medical appointments of various kinds and medications. So I close my eyes and bring to mind the faces of the people I serve. I give thanks for them. I intercede, bringing whatever needs I know them to have to our Heavenly Father. Likewise, I retrieve from my memories a list of the many friends that have reached out to Sandy and me throughout the day in so many ways, and I give thanks.

There is a real sense of God's presence...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Keeping Watch...

Last Monday, my bike went out from under me. I choose to ride clipped into my pedals, because it provides the most efficient use of energy. There is at least one drawback to being clipped in; you can't always get your foot released if things go wrong.

On Monday things went wrong.

My front tire went flat as I made a slow right turn. In an instant, I went down. A young guy from Ft. Benning was coming toward me--in a vehicle--in the other lane, and stopped to give aide. I asked him to wait a minute while I did a self-check, but that I didn't think I had hurt myself. In seconds, I realized I couldn't move my right leg, and when I slid my hand down to my hip it didn't protrude--it was concave.

So, on Tuesday I became the proud owner of a titanium hip. Due to my age and health, they didn't recommend a partial replacement. To date, physical therapy says I am way ahead of the curve in my strengthening and healing. Pain management has been exceptional, but is accompanied with the most wonderful sort of drowsiness that makes it hard to read or focus. I have no feeling in my ring and pinky finger on either hand which makes it difficult to do any word processing. And last, but not least, I will be glad when the catheter is no longer needed.

I love the Lord and trust my life and this stuff into his hands. Today, I am resolved to keep watch through this new adventure, rather than ask, "Why?"  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Valley Of Vision

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee
in the heights;
hemmed in by the mountains of sin I behold
thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
     that the way down is the way up,
     that to be low is to be high,
     that the broken heart is the healed heart,
     that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
     that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
     that to have nothing is to possess all,
     that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
     that to give is to receive,
     that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime the stars can be seen from
     deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
     thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
     thy life in my death,
     thy joy in my sorrow,
     thy grace in my sin,
     thy riches in my poverty,
     thy glory in my valley. ~ Arthur Bennett, Canon of St. Albans Cathedral, England



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dinner time at The Shire...


Our hummingbirds are extremely cautious, but I will continue snapping photos until I get the pictures I like. In the meantime, I will share what I have with my friends.

You can also see that the lizards are pretty healthy, with no help from us. I watched this guy grab a bug and wrestle with him. The bug lost.

For Father's Day, Sandy got me some more bird feeders. A black sunflower seed feeder will attract cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, and a host of other birds. For our bluebirds, a block of mealy worm seed cake (which does not at all look appetizing). And last, but not least, two bluebird boxes! It's a beautiful and entertaining world…






Saturday, June 13, 2015

Birds And The Bees...


Deer, a blue heron, king fisher, turkey, doves, bluebirds, wood thrush, cardinals, gold finch, and a host of creatures make the surroundings of The Shire their home. About a week ago, we put up a feeder for hummingbirds. Now we have a ruby throated pair zipping back and forth from their yet to be located nest. The bright red syrup, suspended from the curl of a black iron holder, draws them in for a sweet tasting meal. Every morning, Sandy and I sit on the front porch sipping hot coffee and waiting for them to arrive at first light. They always do. Cautious, they flit in quickly. We look forward to the day when their timidity eases, so that we can get some close-up photographs. If that never happens we still enjoy them!

This evening, the tiny couple had syphoned off the final droplets of nectar from the feeder. After a few dry runs they flitted away disappointed; their needle-like beaks found the portals to yield nothing. Finally, one of them flew up to the living room window, hovered there, and stared in at us as if to say, "Hey, Bill, we're out of food!"

I responded to their guilting.

Refilled, the reservoir of the feeder captured the final rays of the setting sun and transformed it into a sparkling red ball. Our little friends were happy! 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Incredible Little Creatures...

Acrobats...threading a needle...
Sunset...

Try as I may, I am finding it difficult to get photographs of our hummingbirds that have come to the feeder we just put out; to this point they remain shy and cautious. 

We love watching them flit and hover and suspend themselves perfectly still so they can thread their needle-like beak into feeder ports not much larger than the eye of a needle. 

There are never more than two birds at a time peeping and chirping around the sweet nectar specially blended for their pleasure and health. Their wings rapidly flapping create more sound than seemingly possible for such miniature creatures. 
A brief stop...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Idiot...

Yep, that's what I'm feeling like--an idiot! Why? Didn't bring my camera. A little while ago I got on the 4-wheeler and traveled through the canopied trail that follows Standing Boy Creek and snakes through sweet gum and oak trees that spill out into enormous hayfields to our west. Shutting down the 4-wheeler, I stretched out with my feet hung over the handlebars. My head leaned back on the carrier rack. Slashing the deep blue skies above me, zipper-like streaks of jet fuel streaked the otherwise pristine skies. On the horizon was a line of trees, and a storage barn that provided sage-haven for the giant round-bales of hay that will feed cattle once winter sets in.

Dragon files--the size of hummingbirds--buzzed over my head. Bats swooped. As the sun slowly sank toward the distant horizon, it silhouetted the undulating landscape; the modified A-Frame barns will  house enormous bales of hay. Sitting there in the silence, a herd of young beef-critters slowly raised their heads, and curiously stared at me. I was but a momentary distraction as they grazed on the healthy green pastures.   

Monday, May 25, 2015

From The Edges To The Center

Raphael's painting of Luke's narrative (Sandy saw this at Victoria and Albert Museum in London)

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. ~ Luke 5:1-11
From Scripture, we know that Luke was its only Gentile writer, a missionary companion of the apostle Paul, and a doctor. Church tradition hints that Luke's contemporaries knew Luke as an artist, also. If you look at the way he wrote, he was at the least an artist with words. His writing is beautiful, lively, and colorful. His detail suggests the eye of an artist. 

Many of us, when we drive an automobile or hike through the wilderness, use focal points or landmarks for navigation, a sort of picture map in our minds. You know what I mean: turn left at McDonald's or turn right when you come to the ledges. We pull up photos of experiences and they become muses that help us recall an adventure. If Luke were an artist, then the pictures in his memories could later serve as metaphorical prompts, major points for his descriptive stories. Luke would tell the story of the life of Christ in words but also in word-pictures. Christ transcended vocabulary. Powerfully crafted images helped. Indeed, “A picture paints a thousand words.”

At Hamilton Baptist Church, I have started a series of messages from the Gospel of Luke. Luke's story of the calling of the disciples follows Jesus' announcement as the fulfillment of Isaiah's promise of the coming Anointed One. Talking through Luke's images, I saw three:

From The Edges To The Center
From The Shallows To The Deep
From The Simple To The Complex

Having fleshed out the palette, on Sunday, May 31, we will begin by seeing what it means for today's Christ-follower to move From The Edges To The Center.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Ripple Effect (Intro to May 17, message)

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me [Jesus], because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the LORD'S favor…when they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him [Jesus] to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down from the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. ~ Luke 4:18-19; 28-30

During the Chinese New Year break, while Sandy and I were teaching in China, we flew to Bangkok, Thailand. Then, via boats and busses, we went further south to Krabi and Ko Lanta, Thailand—a welcome reprieve from the smog and cold of China. Once there, we took deep breaths of the fresh sea breezes, soaked up the warm tropical sun, and walked miles of beautiful beach. It wasn’t hard to imagine we were in the Garden of Eden. 

One day, with about 25 other tourists, we took a boat cruise that carried us to several different islands. At some of them we snorkeled in crystal clear water among reefs and swam with neon-colored tropical fish. The big finish of our day-trip was to drop anchor just offshore an island that formed the platform for a volcano that had been dormant for hundreds of years. What remained were the petrified remains that shot upward like a chimney for hundreds of feet. To see its innards, though, we had to put on life jackets, tumble out of the boat, and swim through an underwater cave. Emerging from the dark tunnel we waded ashore, and through squinting eyes beheld fruit-bearing trees that had taken root in the grainy sand. Brightly feathered birds flitted among their branches. From a circular blue heaven high above, sunlight illuminated the gray ragged walls revealing veins of lush green vines. It was exotic.

At one point, Sandy asked our guide, "Were there any people in this volcano when the tsunami hit in 2004?" 

"Yes, I was here with a group of tourists." He responded. 

Elaborating, he said, "Surprisingly, for those in boats out in open water it was barely noticeable…like a ripple that raised and jostled them a little bit. For us in this volcano, there was a roar, the water surged about 20 feet, and we scrambled for our lives up trees and the volcano walls. My partner was outside the volcano with the boat, which was dashed onto the rocks and destroyed. Nobody with us died."

An imperfect metaphor…the tsunami, so powerful, yet it could move along nearly undetectable, until it came ashore…

Two New Testament books were written by a gentile named Luke. Luke was a highly educated man, a missionary, a physician, and a companion of the apostle Paul. Luke, out of great concern for his friend, Theophilus, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, meticulously chronicled a detailed and thoroughly researched account of Jesus' earthly ministry in his Gospel. Dr. Luke’s backstory includes details neither Matthew nor Mark recorded. In his sequel, the book of Acts, he outlined with equal precision the work of the ascended Christ through the Holy Spirit extending his Kingdom throughout the world. In both of his books he speaks to the work of the Spirit of God—a work that went undetected and unnoticed by most of the world. Barely a ripple… 

In Luke's Gospel, the work of the Holy Spirit begins as ripples in the grand scheme of things. Most of the world is oblivious to his Presence. His first mention comes when the angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, announcing that he and his wife, Elizabeth, who had been barren, would have a son. They were to name him John. He would be filled—that means saturated and fully influenced by—the Holy Spirit from birth. In days ahead, John’s Holy Spirit anointed preaching would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. But for years nothing is mentioned of the Spirit’s presence in John’s life. Barely a ripple… 

Next, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to Nazareth to announce to Mary and Joseph that Mary would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit who would be great and would be called the Son of the Most High…he would reign over a kingdom that would have no end—spiritually, literally, and one day geographically. 

At the birth of Jesus, we are told of a holy and devout man, Simeon, to whom it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit, would not leave this world without first seeing the Lord’s Christ. It was Simeon to whom Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated. Under the Spirit’s direction Simeon prophesied to the young couple, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” But for the next 30 years the Presence of the Holy Spirit in Jesus of Nazareth was nearly imperceptible. 

Luke’s chronology then takes a leap in time. John the Baptist has come of age and out of the desert he marched. He preached with the force of a spiritual tsunami calling everybody to repentence. God’s people were to prepare their hearts and lives for the coming of Messiah, he declared. It was in this general time frame, that John baptized Jesus, and again we see the Holy Spirit’s activity, but it’s subdued. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Barely a ripple in the big picture. 

Next, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days. But out of the wilderness Jesus comes, sustained by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Reinvigorated by the same Spirit, into the backwaters of Galilee he goes, powered of the Holy Spirit, preaching in synagogues, performing miracles, and moving out of obscurity.  


About a year later in Luke 4:16 we read that Jesus returns to Nazareth where he had been brought up. Why? The time and place had come for him to publically declare his Messianic mission. The ripple of the Spirit’s work was about to come ashore… the tsunami was coming... 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Babies On The Way.

At dusk, two does foraged in the field just beyond the living room windows. Quietly and slowly I opened the front door and raised the binoculars to my eyes. One of the pair, its head hidden by the tall grass, continued to feed and meander off. The other, however, caught a glimpse of my movement in the door frame and stood as still as a statue. Rotating her ears toward me, she didn't move a muscle. It was clear that a baby, or babies, will be arriving any day now. Her belly sagged under the weight of the little one (or perhaps two little ones) that has yet to leave its mother's womb. Soon, though, mama will be accompanied by a spotted fawn that will bounce around feeling carefree and completely naive to the dangers of life in the wild.

For me, it's a time of vigilance. I will do what I can to increase its chances of survival. If I have any say in it, no coyotes will make a meal of the wobbly and helpless babies. The .308 that my father gave me will be at the ready...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hello, My Name Is Bill...

In the early 80’s Sandy and I—along with our two small boys, Justin, not quite 3, and Josh, not quite 1— left coastal Maine and moved into an old farmhouse in northern Maine. Built in the early 1900’s, it sat in the middle of hundreds of acres of rolling potato fields. Attached to the old, two-story, white, clapboard house was a garage. Why did we move there? We were in Presque Isle, Maine to start a church.  

We weren’t there long before we discovered there was a problem with our well. I think Sandy first noticed that the water tasted and smelled differently. A friend recommended we contact an elderly man who was retired, but had built a career remedying those kinds of problems, so we did. 

He agreed to help us, and after some investigation our new friend discovered that the well casing was cracked, and through that crack ground water was seeping into our well. Testing the water he found it was contaminated by the run-off of the powerful fertilizers and insecticides used on the potato crops. Patiently, he guided me step-by-step on how to repair the damaged casing, and then he bombed the well with gallons of bleach to purify the water. When he was done, another water sample proved it worked—the water was clear!

Working side by side we struck up a friendship, and I invited him to our fledgling church that had outgrown our living room and moved to the garage. He said he would come if I would first go to one of his weekly “meetings.”  He assured me they were of a spiritual nature. 

Later that week, arriving at the venue we seated ourselves in a circle of chairs. The meeting started with some preliminaries and then continued with a half-dozen confessions and testimonials that went something like this: Hello, my name is ________. I am an alcoholic. I have been sober for ________. Alcohol affected my life this way___________ (a catalogue of brokenness).  

I was caught off guard. Alcohol was not a problem I struggled with. I had never been to a meeting where people were so transparent as to their brokenness! After a while it came time for me to say something, so I did. 

I said, Hello, my name is Bill. I am trying to start a church

My response caught them off guard. There was an awkward silence. I suspect they had expected me to say, “I am an alcoholic…”  Slowly, they kindly leaned toward me and sympathetically said things like, “It’s OK, Bill. It’s safe here. Just go ahead and tell us your story. You won’t be rejected here; we will walk with you...” 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dear Jed...



Dear Jed,
Thirty-five years ago, you and I punched a time-clock five days a week at Digital Equipment Company in Augusta, Maine. We were hardly more than boys back then. We even took a couple of college classes together at the University of Maine.

You were exceptionally bright, sunny, positive, and tenaciously committed to whatever goal you set. Without fear of contradiction, I can tell you that you have flitted in and out of my mind a thousand times since those days--days when you and I used to have some pretty significant conversations. Often, we talked about this life and life after death, even though at that time we believed life would go on forever. Those conversations led to a time when, in the place Sandy and I called home, you prayed to receive Christ. Me? I have never forgotten that. Truthfully, I worried that you may have.

But you didn't.

Our lives went in different directions for more than three decades. Then, a few months back we reconnected. You told me of your diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. Then, point by point, you went over that conversation we had and your decision to receive Christ so many years ago.

Now, you are in hospice care. Your dear wife Lynne and others lovingly surround you. Physically, I am not there, but trust me my friend, I have been drying tears all afternoon. Soon, you will pass through the shadowlands. Soon, you will find that Christ's promise of eternal life to those who believe is true.

Your Bride tells me that you are resting comfortably and encouraged me to find comfort in that. I'm trying, but I so wish we could have sat--face to face--and talked. One more time. I love you, Jed.

 

Friday, March 27, 2015

A New Cycle...

Yesterday's advance of changing seasons acted like the squeeze trigger on a spray-bottle releasing a mist of pollen from the pine trees. Yellowish-green spores hung in the air like smoke. Swirling winds drifted them to the pond where they formed swooshes like the foamy top of a Starbucks latte. Then everything--no matter what color it once was--took on a pollinated hue. My contact lenses were cloudy and my eyes itched. Spring fully engaged the southeast. Last night rain fell and cleared the air. The rippling surface of the pond is once again clear.

In these parts, Old Man Winter does little more than display fits of grumpiness. Winter months consist of a few days when blasts of chilled air coat dormant pastures with frosty crystals and skim puddles with sheen of ice. But he is gone for good, and now our long rectangular hedges form a bunting of green and purple that front the wrap-around porch declaring, "Spring has arrived!" A new cycle begins: birds building nests; deer criss-crossing our fields; days growing longer, and the sun rising higher. I love this place!













Thursday, March 26, 2015

Community: About Friendships (Pt. 2)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. ~ Galatians 1:10

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. ~ Romans 12:18

All of us live in some kind of community. We have a circle of friends, family, or co-workers in our primary orbit. That being said, relationships can bring out the best in us, or result in our succumbing to our community's approval--when to do so--would result in God's disapproval.

The apostle states something we all know: deep within our core is the desire for approval. Generally speaking, approval comes from pleasing--not displeasing our peers. Yet, he was crystal clear, he knew that instances could arise where he couldn't twist his ethics and behavior in such a way as to simultaneously please both his God and his fellow man. He knew that his actions and allegiances would raise the dissenting eyebrow of one or the other. Paul knew that whomever he tried to please defined whose approval he most desired.

You notice that Paul also said, If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Once again, the apostle is clear. First, we have an enormous responsibility to seek to live peacefully in our world, but against that he says, its not always possible to do. Why? Because, for the one who serves Christ, it is impossible to live in the narrative of today's world (or during any epoch in history) without coming to a place where you must chose whose approval you most desire. Sooner or later the gauntlet is thrown down, and then we must declare our allegiance. You must chose peace with God or peace with godlessness.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Colored Eggs And Baskets Of Candy...

The walk to our mailbox, back and forth from our front door is just under one-half mile. At the beginning of my short sojourn when I walked out the front door pairs of blue birds and cardinals were flitting around the yard. Along my walk, I looked for deer tracks in the loose gravel and patches of sand that make up our winding driveway. No disappointment. Heart-shaped hoof-prints crossed the twisting drive that leads to Holland Road.

Each day, the grass grows greener and taller, and the days grow longer and warmer. Skin warming temperatures always bring to mind my friends and family that live in the northeast. People I love await green grass and a landscape to appear absent of dirty mounds and furrows of snow and slushy roads. In April, my mom and sister will arrive at The Shire for a week of relief from the stubborn grasp of winter, and the hesitant arrival of spring that has been shy to appear in the great State of Maine. Mom can't wait to attend Hamilton Baptist Church and hear her eldest son preach the Word of God and to see the place Sandy and I live that I have written so much about. We can't wait for my Mom and sister, Barb, to arrive and get a taste of southern hospitality and a respite from the harsh winter that has surrounded them since late October of 2014.

All of us, regardless of your religious leanings, are influenced by Easter. Which, to Christ-followers, supersedes Christmas as the highest and holiest season of Christian worship. Yet, for our post-Christian culture, it is little more than a holiday of seeking out colored eggs and baskets of candy. As a Christ-follower, I look forward to speaking to the spiritual impact, and rationally defended privilege of preaching of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Winter Is Past...

A couple times a day I ride by oceans of hay fields that are part of Standing Boy Farm. Gently, like waves on the sea, warm breezes cause those grasses, the first signs of spring to shimmer and dance. Over the last month the sun has been pouring its warm rays on the pastures. Spring rains fall, and cause the once dull amber expanses to give way to spears of emerald green rye grass that stretch toward the heavens. Dotting the landscape, a herd of beef cattle eat and meander from one tuft of grass to another. Storage barns form islands of manmade structures that stand out amidst the cooperative handiwork of God and man.

Here at The Shire, the fescue grass comes to life, too. As of yet, the turkeys have been shy to make their spring appearance, but soon they will be scratching at the earth scavenging bugs and buds. Just before sundown--moving from west to east--seven deer emerged from the wood line and nervously started and stopped--then started again--across our pastures. At the end of the procession was one large deer; I presume it was an antler-less buck.

As I write, rain pours down and rain patters audibly off our roof. From sun-up to sun-down we have been under intermittent showers, and a layer of clouds that have hung low over The Shire and Harris County. Tomorrow, shafts of sunlight will break through the cracks in the gray canopy. Winter is past... 

First Sunday...

Today was my first Sunday as the Sr. Pastor at Hamilton Baptist Church. I felt an incredible freedom as I brought the message that connected the opening scripture verses from  Genesis 1, John 1, and Acts 1 (there is a beautiful connection). When I finished speaking I gave an invitation for all who listened to join Sandy and me at the altar and prayerfully commit our hearts to seeking God's heart. Many joined us.

I live with a confidence that as we at Hamilton Baptist Church live completely dependent on the truth that Christ promised, "I will build my Church," God will add to our number in the days ahead. I believe He will take us deeper into what it means to be Christ-followers, as well. However, I read recently about a pastor who once approached Charles Haddon Spurgeon--the great English preacher--and complained to him that the church he was currently leading was too small. Spurgeon asked the pastor how many people he spoke to on a Sunday. When the preacher told him, Spurgeon replied that perhaps it was enough people to give an accounting for when the preacher stands before God.

I couldn't agree more with C.H. Spurgeon...

  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Invitation

To our friends in the area:
If you are not plugged into a spiritual community, or, you are exploring the possibility of doing so, I extend to you an invitation to visit us at Hamilton Baptist Church tomorrow morning. We are located in Hamilton, GA. and easy to find.
Worship begins at 11a.m., and I believe you will be pleasantly surprised by the friendliness and atmosphere of genuine welcome and worship. Childcare is also available.
This will be my first Sunday as their Pastor, and Sandy and I, look forward to connecting with our new faith community. Best of all, our new church community has a great desire to find ways to connect with the community at large.
Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill and Sandy

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Compass--Enjoying The Adventure Of Faith

Many of you know that I have recently accepted a call to become the pastor of Hamilton Baptist Church in Hamilton, GA. Soon, Sandy and I will be starting a community group/class that will meet for one hour, beginning at 9:45 a.m., at Hamilton Baptist Church on Sunday mornings.
Our purpose will be to help each other find our way personally and in community in journey with God. The name of our gathering will be called: Compass--Enjoying the Adventure of Faith.
If you are interested in being part of this new start-up class, please private message me, or, you can email me at bill.shorey@gmail. com
Enjoying the adventure (join us)!
Bill and Sandy

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Too Much Beauty For Words… :-)




A New Adventure...

Over the last couple of months I have met with the Search Committee of Hamilton Baptist Church. They also came to another church where I was speaking to hear me. In spite of this [you're smiling] they extended an invitation to candidate as their pastor. This morning I spoke to the congregation, and after the service the church voted to call me as their pastor. We all believe this is God's leading and provision. I am grateful beyond words for this opportunity, and I look forward with optimistic anticipation to what God has in store for us as we follow His lead. 

I also want to thank the many friends who made the special effort to attend as guests at Hamilton Baptist Church this morning. It was good to see so many people with whom we share a long spiritual history. Lots of people at Hamilton Baptist are hoping you will return!

We at Hamilton Baptist Church are praying that as we begin this adventure together, our church will grow in every way that would reflect the glory of God's Presence among us and His intentions for this world.  
  
I am equally grateful that I will continue to have face to face contact on a weekly basis with hundreds of people who do not have a spiritual community through my continued employment with Corporate Chaplains of America and Columbus Regional Health System.

Enjoying the Adventure...  


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sunset...

Josh and his mom backlit by a beautiful sunset

Need to paint this...

And this...

And this...


Sunsets around The Shire and Standing Boy Creek give glimpses to some of the Creator's artistic imagination. Tonight, along with Josh and four students from the University of Tennessee, we took the trail through the woods that opens up to hundreds of acres of pasture and a colorful palette along the western horizon.