Thursday, February 19, 2015

From North America to South America...

It's the eve of our mission trip to Peru. By late Friday night the cold snap that has engulfed much of North America, even Georgia, will be thousands of miles behind. Our team is bound for South American jungle villages on the banks of the Amazon and its tributaries. What a contrast! Once there it is unlikely we will see the mercury descend below the mid 80's, but most likely ascend to the century mark!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Signs of Spring

After months of disappearing, over the past week, deer have begun to emerge from the deeper woods and thickets around The Shire. As I write, a doe is browsing along the wood line at the southeast corner of the pond. A couple of days ago a doe and yearling leisurely walked straight down our driveway. It's a reminder that spring is just around the corner in our neck of the woods, though I, having grown up in Maine, never consider winter to ever really arrive here in Georgia.

Each day the sun rises higher, and as May and June roll around the majority of does will begin to drop their fawns. Sandy and I can't wait to see the first spotted little one clinging close its mama! Last year we had a set of twins. The babies make us smile as we watch them romp around on skinny little legs that seem to slender to support them. From time to time their mama will stretch out their long necks and give the youngsters a little disciplinary thump with their head.

It's time to start putting out the deer corn again. They love it! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Other Things...

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus--the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. ~ Acts 20:24

The countdown begins…

On Friday, my comrades and I board a plane and fly direct to a watery gateway of the Amazon River. My gear is ready to be stowed in my backpack and daypack. Last week, I started my malaria medicine. This time I am taking my camera and praying that it survives the steamy jungle climate. For me, it's worth the risk; I want to be able to share this adventure with so many that prayerfully and financially support this mission. It's true: A picture paints a thousand words.

Number two pencils for journaling and sketching will be at the ready.

Plans for a mission trip are always fluid, meaning, nothing goes as planned. Lord willing, our team will be building a simple church structure. Also, we will be building rabbit hutches for a sustainable source of protein for our remote friends. However, the teams priority for me is to spend the bulk of my time with a young Peruvian named, Moses, in another village. It's his desire, and the villagers recognition, that Moses is to be trained to provide spiritual leadership for the families that live on one of the tributaries of the Amazon. We have been praying for the Spirit of God's wisdom in how to go about such a task.

Above is a quote of the apostle Paul. His God-breathed words have always stuck with me. I've tried doing the other things. Those things have never filled the void of the most important thing--finishing well...

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ready Or Not...

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 
~ 1 Peter 3:15

"Honey, your phone is buzzing." I had forgotten to turn the ringer on, but Sandy heard it and stirred me out of my sleep. I looked at the caller I.D. and saw that it was from one of the area hospitals. Someone was in crisis, and I was being called to their bedside. The clock told me it was just before 1 a.m., so I put on a pair of khakis, a blue oxford shirt with button down collars, and a leather jacket.

As I stepped outside the house, the air was crisp, the moon's face was aglow, and the light from the stars were only slightly muted by its brightness. The headlights of my pick up flooded the fields and gravel crunched under its wheels as I headed down our long driveway. The automatic gate gave its high pitched squeak as it swung open.

From the moment my phone rings in such instances there is a routine I go through. I begin to give thought to what kind of situation I will soon step into. Accident? De-escalation? Suicide? Premature birth? What will be the frame of spiritual reference of the person or persons I will soon be ministering to. Often, due to the catastrophe, they can be swirling in a hundred different spiritual and emotional directions.

In such times, the apostle Peter's words at the top of this post are never far from my awareness, so I pray that God would grace me with wisdom, gentleness, and respect. As a believer I know I must always be prepared, and the only way I can be prepared is to be cheerfully submitted to Christ's Lordship. That's not a given in the wee hours of the morning. Also, I learned long ago, that I cannot see into the heart and mind of the people I meet. That is God's territory. He alone knows if the people I meet are prepared to invite Him into their situation. But my part is to always be ready.

Last night's couple were seeking some kind of understanding of how to avail themselves of God's comfort and presence. They asked me the direct question "How do we pray?" Neither of them came from a "church" background. I took the time to tell them of God's over-arching mission of redemption, and we made our way to the gospel's invitation to call on Christ. They did. No pressure was needed. There was a true sense that they recognized God's gracious Presence in the conversation. Their's was, I believe, a real encounter with the living God. Before leaving, I assured them that I would continue to pray for them, and that I was available to walk with them in their new adventure.

Arriving home, I couldn't sleep. Sharing the gospel has never gotten old. How could it? It ever remains the starting point and focal point of knowing God.

On Sunday…

My phone buzzed again, but this time I was in the middle of a message at Emmanuel Baptist Church. I had my phone in the pulpit to keep track of time. The caller I.D. told me it was another call from an area hospital. As soon as I finished the message, I returned a call, got the information I needed to respond, and soon after I was at the hospital.

Outside the patients room, in this instance, I was required to put on latex gloves and a gown, before entering. I quietly cracked the door open. In the dimly lit room, I could see the patient propped up on the bed. She stirred awake as a band of light from the widening gap in the door crossed her. One glance revealed that she was extremely ill. I introduced myself, and we began a conversation. Having been bedridden for months, she said the thing she missed and wanted most was to have a church service.

"How about you and I worship together?" I asked her.
"Really?" She seemed surprised.
"Absolutely!" I said.

I told her I had just taught about a central theme in the Lord's Prayer: Forgiveness. I asked her if she knew the Lord's Prayer. She did. "Want to recite it together?" I asked. And we did. Then I asked her, "Do you want me to share with you what I learned from that passage?" She said, "Please do." So, I compressed a thirty minute message into a ten minute one.

When I finished, I asked her if she had any questions or wanted to add anything to it. She did, and then for the next ten minutes she witnessed to God's forgiveness in her life, the forgiveness she had extended toward others, and her confidence in God's Providence in spite of her condition. It was beautiful.

"We can't have church without singing." I smiled. "How about you and me worshipping God together with a song? Would you like that?"

She literally lit up, and responded, "Oh yes!"

I started singing Amazing Grace, and my sister in Christ joined in. Her version was a soulful spiritual. She was singing and grinning, as I tried to octave surf with her and find a harmonizing part.

When we finished I took her dark skinned hand into my blue latex covered ones, and we prayed. After the amen, she said to me, "Thank you. I needed a church this morning."

"Thank you! I needed church like that, too!"

I got out of her room before I started crying...


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Thank You, FBPC!

First Baptist Church, Phenix City gave me a kind and generous send-off. Today was my last as their interim. I was truly surprised and absolutely elated when I received the first gift--a New England Patriots football jersey with none other than Tom Terrific's last name across the back! The second gift was equally surprising--a fistful of gift cards, so that I can buy a new suit! Lastly, I also received a third gift that I was sure would be on the pulpit when I got up to speak--a deflated football!

During the presentation, my good friend, Fred "Bubba" Copeland, flashed photoshopped pictures--none to flattering of me or my Patriots--that gave everyone in attendance a good laugh!

Thank you, FBPC!
Fred, watch your back!

Is this a happy face, Fred?