Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Changing of Seasons

A changing of seasons is underway both on the other side of my window and inside my soul. With this change of seasons comes the end of this blog and the beginning of another. You're invited to join me on:

Friday, January 20, 2006

End Of The Spear

I am an emotionally challenged individual. What I mean by that is that I tend to keep my emotions tucked away out of view. I can only remember one time that I cried at a movie. It was when E.T. died.

Well, tonight Lynn and I went to see End Of The Spear which is the story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and three others who as missionaries to the Auca indians of Ecuador were killed by the indians. What an emotional experience for me.

I was overcome a few times and if I hadn't been in public probably would have wept openly. Every summer I go to South America on mission trips and was in Ecuador last year. I saw in the faces on the screen the faces of the people I spent 10 days with last year.

What moved me so deeply was the selfless love demonstrated by the missionaries themselves and then by the families of the missionaries after their husbands were killed.

Go see this movie! I learned some serious lessons tonight about the nature of our faith and the calling we all have to love the world around us - even when they hate us enough to kill us. I came away being reminded again of how lame my feeble attempts at selfless love really are so much of the time.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Well, the relocation is complete. We're fully moved into our home. The holidays are over. Life is calming down.

My soul also feels to be calming down. I've been in a constant state of emotional & spiritual flux for about a year. Since Christmas I've been back into a consistent routine of getting up around 5:30 every morning and spending an hour alone with God reading and praying. Afterward each morning Lynn and I spend about 45 minutes together eating breakfast, praying, reading from Oswald Chambers, and talking. And I feel a peace returning to my soul.

There are a lot of analogies to describe how I'm feeling: The fog is lifting. The clouds are parting. The haze is dissipating. And finally, one of my favorite songs from antiquity:

I Can See Clearly Now
I can see clearly now the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way,
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day.
I think I can make it now the pain is gone,
And all of the bad feelings have disappeared,
Here is the rainbow I've been praying for.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day.
Look all around, nothing but blue skies.
Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies.
I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day.

I'm enjoying a rediscovery of God's presence all around me in nature. I'm placing bird feeders in the back yard and watching and listening to these little creatures who are so important to God that He takes notice every time one of them falls. I'm planning a butterfly garden to attract hundreds of butterflies to remind me of the metamorphosis of sanctification that God takes us through as we fully submit ourselves to Him.

I once again am beginning to feel the close presence of God with me throughout the day. I seem to be developing some new skills in opening up and communicating with Lynn on a deeper level. (Long way to go). And Lynn and I are both once again beginning to see a vision for what God could be planning to do with us and through us here in ministry to others. And we're feeling and thinking the same thoughts. Harmony is good. :-)

This will be a good year. Lynn and I will come into new places of relational intimacy with each other and with God and with those whom God will bring to us to share the love of Christ with.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Voices From Across The Street

If I am a Christian, I have one primary purpose in life: To help others find reconciliation with God. (2 Corinthians 5)

To help others find reconcilation with God, it helps to understand why they are estranged. Everyday at work and in the community I have conversations with people who once considered themselves to be Christians, but as they grew older found themselves walking away from church and even from the belief in God. The following is a story written by one such person. I post this to awaken us to what often goes through the mind of the person in this postmodern culture who walks away from the Christian faith.

The Forest

I suppose that I must have been born in The Forest, because I don’t remember being Anywhere Else before it. All of my earliest childhood memories were there, and I grew up living there with my parents. The rest of our family and all of our friends lived there, too – in fact, everyone we knew lived in The Forest! I was happy there; it was safe, and comfortable, and everyone else seemed happy too. People even talked, a lot, about how much better The Forest was than Anywhere Else, and how glad and thankful they were to be allowed to live there. So I was happy and thankful too.

When I got to be old enough, my parents and a lot of other people helped me to understand exactly who I should be thankful TO for my wonderful life in The Forest. They explained to me that besides for the father that I lived with, I had another father – and he was also The Father of everyone else who lived in The Forest! We couldn’t actually see him or talk to him in person, although it was said that people living in The Forest a long, long time before sometimes did – and we were very lucky, because some of those people had written down stories about their experiences with The Father so that we would know he was real. Also, we could talk to The Father anytime – and even though he wouldn’t talk back so that we could hear him like we heard other people, he had promised that he would always listen to us and he would answer by showing us signs or giving us special feelings deep inside.

There were lots of stories that I learned growing up in The Forest, about The Father and important things that had happened a long time ago. I listened to them and learned them all, even though they didn’t always make sense. I trusted that my parents knew best and that whatever they told me must be true. Besides, everyone else believed the stories too, so I figured that if I didn’t understand parts of them it was just because I was still young and had much to learn.I’d always been told that the Other Places – basically, anywhere outside The Forest – were not places that anyone in their right mind would WANT to go. They were said to be scary, ugly and dangerous places, especially dangerous to anyone who lived in The Forest. Sometimes, people we knew talked about loved ones who had left The Forest and never came back. They were always very sad, and hoped that the loved ones would someday come back. Sometimes they talked to The Father and asked if maybe he could find a way to help bring their loved ones back. Sometimes they did come back, and everyone was very happy again. Some of those who came back told us, very seriously, that they had discovered for themselves how true all the bad things we heard about the Other Places were. They always seemed very happy to be back in The Forest, and warned the rest of us not to be fooled like they had.

Sometimes they talked about Someone Else that we couldn’t see or talk to, sort of like The Father, except for that he was very bad and instead of loving us and watching out for us, what he really wanted was to hurt us and make us want to leave The Forest. They said that he even had friends, like The Father, who had some special powers, and that they were especially dangerous because they were always trying to find ways to trick us into thinking bad thoughts and maybe even wanting to leave The Forest.

I was pretty scared of them. Sometimes I had nightmares about them coming to get me, but my parents told me not to worry because The Father’s special friends were stronger and would surely protect me from any harm. Other than when people would tell stories about it, I didn’t really think too much about the Other Places until I got older. And I became very, very curious.

One day, I just couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer. Even though I felt very guilty, I went to the edge of The Forest and found one of the paths that led to the Other Places. At first, I just peered out through the dense trees and caught a glimpse of what was on the other side. It didn’t look scary or ugly, but I felt very bad because I was doing something wrong and so I went back home. But I found myself drawn back to the path, and after I’d peeked out at the path beyond The Forest a few times, I decided that maybe it would be okay to walk out just a little way.

I was very, very surprised! And it was confusing, because as I made my way down the path, it wasn’t really ugly or scary at all. I even met some people who said they had been living out there for a long time, and they seemed very happy. They didn’t seem to have any desire to live in The Forest, even though they knew where it was and that they would be welcomed there. I didn’t know quite what to make of this; I’d always been told that everyone living on the outside was very unhappy, even if they didn’t realize it. But these people didn’t seem to be pretending, or deluded either.

For quite some time, even though I still lived in The Forest, I began visiting the Other Places more frequently. After a while I started finding out some very interesting things, things that didn’t fit in with everything I’d been taught in The Forest but that made a lot of sense. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn, and so I continued further and further down the path, seeking out new information along the way, until one day I realized that I had gone too far to go home to the Forest. I was a little scared, but I knew that I could always go back eventually if I wanted to.

As time passed, I discovered that all the stories I’d learned growing up in The Forest really were only stories and hadn’t really happened. At first, it was hard to understand why everyone there believed them and taught them to their children, if they weren’t true. But I figured out that there were a lot of people who were born in The Forest and never left The Forest, so they truly didn’t realize that the stories were made up. When they grew up and had children of their own, they naturally passed the stories on because they had been told that it was the right thing to do. I even found out that there were OTHER Forests besides the one that I had come from, and that the people who lived in them did exactly the same thing! Their stories were usually a little different, but they believed in them just as much.

As I traveled further down the path, I eventually began to wonder about something other than the stories. At first it was just a little question in the corner of my mind, and I didn’t really want to think about it too much because I’d always been told it was a silly question, one that only bad or stupid people asked. But I couldn’t help it, and I didn’t think I was bad or stupid. So I let myself think about it, finally. After all, I’d come so far that The Forest seemed to far away to ever return to, even if I’d wanted to. There was nothing to fear. And I realized that The Father was only made-up, too.

At first this made me feel a little foolish, but I realized that it wasn’t really because I was foolish that I had believed in him. I’d simply believed – and trusted, as children do, in what I was taught. If I hadn’t followed the path out of The Forest, I would probably still believe. I knew that I had passed the Point of No Return. So I turned and looked back, toward the place I’d come from… The Forest. Although I could no longer actually see it, it was still there in my mind’s eye, as clear as ever. Looking back in the direction of that now far-away place, I found myself imagining that I could see The Father standing there at the entrance. Of course, I’d never actually seen him, but even so I could visualize what I’d always thought he would be like – with warmly welcoming arms for his children, and an aura of gentle kindness.

Just for a moment, I was sorry that he wasn’t real. But I knew what I had to do, and so I raised my arm to wave goodbye. As I waved, he began to fade away. It was to be expected, of course, since he was just a vision, but it still felt a little like saying goodbye to an old friend. When the illusion had faded entirely, I turned back around and continued down the path, toward whatever was yet to come. I was seeing the world around me with new eyes, strange and wonderful at the same time, and I had the sudden sense that if I wanted to, I could fly.

Friday, December 30, 2005


I had a poignant moment today at lunch. I went to my favorite Chinese buffet over in N. Augusta and took today's newspaper to read while eating. Near the end of my meal I read a news story about a 16 year old high school student who was so passionate about experiencing the battle between good and evil happening in Iraq that he spent his Christmas vacation traveling to Iraq to experience it firsthand. He didn't tell anyone except a couple of friends.

Now, after reading the story, say what you will about the lack of wisdom or naivette in this young man. But I was not only deeply impressed with him - I was moved to sadness as I thought about myself. I was saddened because, frankly, I don't think I care about anything enough to do what this young man did. I am so slow to inconvenience myself for the sake of somene else. Too often I elevate my own comfort above the needs of everyone around me. I often feel like the Pharisees to whom Jesus said, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them."

I was most deeply moved when I read these words written by this young man in his essay about the experience.

"I know going to Iraq will be incredibly risky. There are thousands of people there that desperately want my head. There are millions of people there that mildly prefer my demise merely because I am American. Nevertheless, I will go there to love and help my neighbor in distress, if that endagers my life, so be it... If I know what is needed and what is right, but do not act on my moral conscience, I would be a hypocrite. I must do what I say decent individuals should do. I want to live my days so that my nights are not full of regrets. Therefore, I must go."

This pierced my heart. Earlier in the story he stated that he had no religious affiliation. Yet this young man's heart sounds to be nearer to the heart of God than mine is most of the time.

Leaving the restaurant felling pretty much like crap I turned on the radio to hear this song playing:

yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
yesterday is a promise that you've broken
don't close your eyes,
don't close your eyes

this is your life and today is all you've got now
yeah, and today is all you'll ever have
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes

this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be

when the world was younger and you had everything to lose
yesterday is a kid in the corner
yesterday is dead and over

this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be

when the world was younger and you had everything to lose
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes

this is your life are you who you want to be
this is your life are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed it would be

when the world was younger and you had everything to lose
and you had everything to lose

This is my life. Am I who I want to be? No, I am not. I want to care about something deeply enough that I would be willing to follow my moral and spiritual compass as far as it would lead me - even if it led me directly into the hands of those who would gladly destroy me.

Dinner With A Friend

Wednesday evening was a good evening. Lynn and I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with some friends from Illinois; Randy & Barb Sands from Hillsboro. Actually, Randy and I were colleagues in the Gateway Conference there. He is the pastor of Hillsboro Free Methodist Church.

While in Gateway there were a handful of pastors that I felt a special connection with - a kindred spirit. Randy was one. Bruce Cromwell, Rob Kirkham, Darrel Riley (my new Superintendent here now) and Greg Nitchman were all men that served with me as district leaders there. We spent great time together in our meetings every month, traveled together every year to places like Orlando, Oklahoma City, Ohio for meetings. Ahh....good times.

But I am. And it was so refreshing to spend time with Randy & Barb & their kids eating steak at Logans and meeting Barb's family who all live here in Augusta. Familiar faces...familiar voices...shared memories here in this unfamiliar place.

Love and miss ya Randy & Barb!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christianity; A Fresh Perspective

I just finished reading a book I got for Christmas called "Velvet Elvis." Pastor Rob Bell has a fresh perspective on what it means to be the church in this culture. Here's an excerpt that I particularly enjoyed and resonated with.

"Among Christians, the powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer on nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the "un" and "non", they work against Jesus' teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, "God shows no favoritism." So we don't either.

Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them to the Christian faith. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn't really love, is it? It's something else. We have to rediscover love, period. Love that loves because it is what Jesus teaches us to do. We have to surrender our agendas. Because some people aren't going to become Christians like us no matter how hard we push. They just aren't. And at some point we have to commit them to God, trusing that God loves them more than we ever could. I obviously love to talk to people about Jesus and my faith. i'll take every opportunity I can get. But I have learned that when I toss out my agenda and simply love as Jesus teaches me to, I often end up learning more about God than I could have imagined."

~Rob Bell; Velvet Elvis

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Announcement; With Deep Regret