Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the Day Before Christmas

Well, here it is- Christmas Eve day. One of the busiest days in a Pastor's life. And, once again, this pastor has the obligatory respiratory bug, making my preaching voice sound more like Kermit the Frog than the golden-throated orator I sometimes dream I am. But it is a beautiful day - sunny, crisp, and cool. This year, there's no snow to hamper church attendance like last year so we anticipate full services tonight at our 6:00 Family Friendly service and at our 8:00 traditional service. Only one service this weekend which is normally called Associate Pastor Sunday. This year, its my turn to preach to the hearty few who make it out to church 2 days after Christmas.

It's hard to believe that the past year has gone by so fast. I guess there actually were the same 365 days in the year but it sure doesn't seem like it. The year has been full of adventure, joy, some stress, a little disappointment but a whole lot of blessing. Judy and I feel so grateful as we look back over the year and realize all that the Lord has done for us and in us.

In lieu of a Christmas letter, I am posting this blog today to wish all our dear family and friends a joyous Christmas. And, since we are so bad about getting cards and letters out to friends and family, I hope this blog will help to keep you up to date on our lives. Maybe I can share just a few highlights of our year out of the many we experienced.

The year began with a New Year's Eve flight back to Seattle from Chicago where we had spent a wonderful week with Melissa, Jerry and Davis. It was fun to be in their home for Christmas and then, afterward, to spend a few days in Wisconsin at the Ostoff Lodge on Elkhart Lake. What a gorgeous, luxurious spot to relax, antique shop, watch football and play Super Yahtzee. We also got to enjoy a day downtown in the Chicago Loop seeing the lights, taking advantage of after-Christmas sales and eating deep-dish pizza - a Chicago hallmark.

Jerry still works at Motorola. Melissa works primarily from home for czmarketing, a custom e-zine publisher. Her job has enabled her to interview and write about some key Christian leaders and thinkers. Davis finished up 2nd grade with flying colors and has so many varied interests and talents I can hardly begin to list them here. He's a great kid and we have so much fun with him when we are together.

In February, over mid-winter break, Judy and I flew to Phoenix to spend several days with Kresta, Ryan, Sam and Joseph. We had a blast playing RockStar, going to the Wild Animal Park, visiting their church and going to see Sam play basketball. Sam played some awesome defense and is a great rebounder. He has become a great reader also has many unique interests. Joseph is the energizer-bunny and is in constant motion and good spirits. Kresta changed from working at Radiant Church's KidZone Pre-school to becoming the director of a pre-school in Peoria, just a few miles from their home. Ryan continues to work for Food for the Hungry which is a Christian Relief Agency headquartered in Phoenix. As director for their creative communication department he was able to travel to Peru this past year.

While visiting them, Judy and I realized that the housing market in that area was at its lowest value in years and so we got the wild idea to buy a house in Surprise as an investment and future retirement place. After a few months of looking, another trip down in March, lots of rejected offers, we finally found a great house at a great price. For Judy it is perfect because it is within a few blocks of a Kohl's department store. For me, it is very close to the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royal's Spring Training facility and just a few miles further from the Mariner's field.

Over the summer, our Chicago kids came for a two week visit. What a blast. Davis got to go to Vacation Bible School with us and then we spent a week out on Hood Canal on the boat. Davis got to pull his first crab pot, watch Boppa clean lots of crab, fish, and swim in the pool at Pleasant Harbor. He also got into some poison oak when he, his folks and Judy spent the afternoon hiking, swimming and rock climbing just up the road at property the Parks family owns.

After they left us, Judy and I spent another week on the boat. The stops on our itinerary were based on towns that sponsor waterfront park live concerts. We took in three great concerts; in Port Orchard we heard the Silver State Big Band; in Kingston we heard Locust Street Taxi and in Poulsbo we really enjoyed The Blues Connection. Strange as it may sound, we found a great little Mexican Restaurant in the heart of Poulsbo. Even though Poulsbo is noted as a Norwegian village, we discovered a place called A Taste of Southern New Mexico. The owners used to live in Las Cruces so it was fun to reminisce and even better to taste some authentic New Mexico cuisine.

Judy continues to teach 2nd grade at Southwood Elementary in the Magic Strings program (she also accompanies the group at their concerts). She is an Elder at the church and is in charge of our Christian Education Program and our KIDS choirs. She maintains a dedicated exercise regimen, leads a women's Bible Study and needless to say, is always very busy.

I have continued leading the Bible Study at the MINT, a local tavern. It has not only grown but has given us the opportunity to be a gentle witness to the staff and patrons. Its a little noisy in there but we've enjoyed the close fellowship, prayer support and discussions we've had.

One of my big things for the year was to carry out our church vision of being a church without walls by starting a Coffee House outreach ministry at Lindon Books in downtown Enumclaw. Each Friday night, we had live music - some Christian, some not - or a movie screening. Our hope was to provide a place away from church where people could talk, use wi-fi, listen to great music, and encounter Christ through contact with some of our folks. It was a noble effort but at the end of August we closed her down when the Bookstore moved to smaller quarters.

In October, I led a group of 8 people (from Calvary and from our local Rotary Club) back to Zambia. We followed up with a visit to the school we built in 2008 and then, this year, helped get a classroom started for a new community based-school named "The Healing Place." It was an awesome experience. Our local club had sponsored the project as part of its International Service and with that money we were able to have a bore-hole well dug (90 meters or 300 feet)to provide water for the community just north of Lusaka. We were truly blessed to have been able to work side by side with Winnie Takema, Pastor Johm Mbanga our driver George Banda, our liaison Chimwemwe Mhlanga and other wonderful folk from the Kabanana neighborhood. And of course the greatest joy was to be a part of the lives of those precious children who have so little but are so filled with spontaneous joy and love. More details of that trip were posted earlier on this blog if you wish to read about it.

Wow - there is so much more to talk about but I will stop for now and simply wish you the peace of God which came into the world in the person of the Christ child. May his love mercy and grace fill your hearts and lives and meet your every need in the coming year.

Now, in the words of the famous poem, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Church Without Walls or Divisions

One of the criticisms of the church I hear most often from those outside the church is thisL "Why would I want to belong to an organization that can't even get along with others who also claim to be Christians?" Good question; one not easily or comfortably answered.

The charge is true. Historically Christians have been some of the most contentious, hard to get along with people anywhere. There are some reasons for that of course. Some are valid reasons that are worth giving some thought to. For example, faith is a matter of a person's heart. It is intimate, passionate and very important. It deals with the inner most part of our being and so sometimes we have convictions that we feel strongly about and that we don't want to compromise. From the earliest days of the history of the Christian church, we read about discussions and controversy - some theological, some beased on personality difference. It is part of human nature, that when we feel strongly about something so close to our heart and our being, we are going to speak up for it and defend it.

The problem is that history has proven that, while the church has divided over some pretty important issues, most of the time, the dissension and division has been over less important or core tenets. For example, topics like carpet colors for a newly remodeled sanctuary or worship styles have divided many a church. One of the reasons we have so many different Christian denominations is because of debates over things not much more essential than these.

When the Ministerial Association in Enumclaw was struggling to decide on a Doctrinal Statement that we could all subscribe to, we were reminded of Augustine's gracious formula for getting along with other Christians: "In essentials unity, in non-essentials, liberty; in all things charity." Reduced to its true core essential body of teaching, the faith that the Christian church has held for centuries is best and most concisely spelled out in the Apostle's Creed. That then became the statement that would unify us as pastors and as churches on the Enumclaw Plateau.

When it came to other, less eseential matters like church government, ordination standards and worship styles, we decided to agree to disagree on them and not make them points of division. Instead, the major tenets of the Apostle's Creed became the thing that caused us to live in one accord and purpose.

For years (as long as my Enumclaw memory allows whic is 12 years) we have not only sought to live out that unity as pastors, but also encouraged our congregations to acknowledge and celebrate it as well. As Pastors, we look forward to the fellowship and support we get from hanging out together and sharing stories, concerns and joys. As congregations this has been expressed in different ways. One year, every Pastor in the fellowship agreed that we would all preach a series of sermons on the Apostle's Creed over a period of 8 weeks. Any of our members could have gone to any of the other churches in town and heard a message on the same topic on any given week. On National Day of Prayer (the first Thursday in may) we have gathered together on the lawn and porch of City Hall to corporately pray together for our nation, our community, our youth, our schools and for each other. We have come together for wonderful celebrations of unity at Thanksgiving, Pentecost and Easter. I have always felt those joint services were forerunners - appetizers if you will - for the experience we will have in heaven where people will come from east and west and north and south to sit at the table in Christ's Kingdom.

This past Sunday, I felt the grandest expression of that unity came when 8 of our member churches radically altered their schedules and traditions to participate in Faith in Action. High Church and Low Church, liturgical, reformed, charismatic and independent church all either cancelled their weekly services or radically shortened them so that God's people could come together and collaberate to serve our community in Christ's name.

Rough estimates suggest that over 500 believers from a wide variety of backgrounds, came together to feed the hungry, clear paths and trails, paint a tutoring center, write letters to soldiers and pray. For those of us from Calvary, Faith in Action has become an important part of who we are. We observed it three times last year. It was a great blessing - to those who were served and more importantly - to those who had given up their weekly church service to become the hands and feet of Christ in the community. We longed for other churches to participate with us, and so, this past Sunday's celebration was an incredible answer to prayer.

One of the catch phrases we have used in association with Faith in Action has been "Don't just go to church....be the church!" As a pastor, I experienced the presence and power of God by working together with about 45 other Christians from other churches. We cleared leaves, fallen trees and other debris from a nature trail behind Westwood School. In many ways, this was a more profound expression of Christ's love than any church service could provide. And now, for months and years to come, students will have a safe clean trail through which they can wander - marveling all the way at the natural beauty and complexity of the world God created. All because a group of Christians set aside their own agendas, services, theological distinctives etc.

St. Francis of Assissi is attributed as having once said, "Preach a sermon everyday. If necessary, use words." All over the city, a powerful sermon was preached and words didn't have to be used. Jesus said "By this shall all people come to know me, that you (Jesus' followers) have love one for another.

In the Book of Acts (the history of the earliest church) we are told that Christians gained favor with both GOd and man because of the quality and character of their unity and love for each other and their care for the needs of others. (Acts 2 - 4)
Somehow, I can't help but feel that not only was God honored by that demonstrable show of unity in service, but that people in the community might sit up and take notice, and, just perhaps, give thought and praise to the Lord.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Christmas Coup


I needed an afternoon pick-me-up today so I stopped at Starbucks and plunked down my Gold Card without thinking. I had just ordered a Grande Quad Gingerbread Latte (If that doesn't get me going, I don't know what would). Using a gift card that automatically reloads by charging my VISA account is really a dangerous thing. It makes it seem like drinks from Starbucks magically appear without cost - until you look at the VISA bill of course. $5.73 for my afternoon indulgence. Yikes! Even with the 25% discount my Gold Card allows, that is still a lot for the extravagance of Gingerbread flavor, whipped cream, 4 shots of espresso and a slight, momentary burst of energy.

When I returned to my office I began working on details of a campaign we as a church are embarking on during Advent. It is called ADVENT CONSPIRACY. The whole point of this subversive plot is to recapture the true meaning of the Christmas event; namely the incarnation of God into human flesh. How radical can you get huh? After all, for the last month at least, businesses have been displaying Christmas decorations, playing Christmas music, and advertising the latest and greatest electronic toys, fashions and power tools that will make the perfect gift at Christmas. In some small way, we are hoping to take back Christmas from the rebels who stole it in the first place.

Our battle strategy is simple. We are asking each of our members and friends to consider redirecting the dollars that they normally spend on extravagant parties, excessive, highly caloric foods, and expensive gifts (that are often times unwanted and unused by the person receiving them). Where will they be redirected? Towards a gift and an act of compassion and love that will truly exemplify the true meaning of the sacrifical love that brought Jesus to earth in the first place.

If every member of our surruptitious cabal redirects even a small portion of the money they would otherwise spend on other things, we can pool those resources and provide safe drinking water for a community and for people in an underdeveloped country. We plan to team up with Food for the Hungry (a Phoenix-based world relief agency) to provide either a bore-hole well or a hi-tech water filter or both (or even several)for a village in Kenya.

Ever since seeing the joy of a community in Zambia over a simple well, I find myself thinking alot about how easily I take water for granted. It is reported that 4 children die every minute from diseases caused by unclean water (the H2O project). Over one billion people (1,000,000,000) lack access to clean drinking water. (Lifewater.org). 2.5 billion are affected by lack of proper sanitation.

One of the tools we will use is to ask people to consider giving up (not entirely)some of the other beverages they normally drink and setting that same amount of money aisde towards this effort. For example, if the average person cut back on the number of sodas, sports drinks, coffee beverages and juice they drink every day for a month, they would feel a sense of solidarity with a large portion of the world's population. Not only that, they would have saved over $150.00 to give towards the completion of a well that will produce clean, safe water for hundreds - maybe thousands of people - for years to come.

That is a Christmas present, wouldn't you agree? That speaks to the heart of the Christmas message much more than the frantic rush for great sales on "Black Friday."
And that is just by drinking mostly, if not entirely, water instead of other beverages for the month.

So, I think I will start right now. I'm going to finish this rich, calorie-laden, artery-clogging, caffeine rich, over-priced coffee drink. Then I am going to cut back to only a cup or two of plain drip coffee each morning and drink water the rest of the day. I figure by Christmas day, I will save a lot - a whole lot - of money that can be used so others can live and have better health.

Judy and I have also determined that we are not going to buy each other gifts this year but use the same amount of money we normally spend to go towards this project. Instead, we plan on making gifts, or doing special things for each other as a way of saying "I love you" and "Merry Christmas."

Sounds a little subversive to our commercial, consumer driven culture doesn't it? You know, a lot of people are fighting to take Christ out of Christmas. Maybe we already have by giving in to the material and commercially driven focus it has become. To put Christ back in Christmas is much more than being able to call it Christmas in speech. Let's really do it right. Let's overthrow the citadel. Let's re-take what truly belongs to us - the message. "That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage." (Matthew 20:28 The Message)


Lord, help me be strong. Help me keep the needs of others in view this Christmas. Allow me to make a difference by "worshiping fully; spending less; giving more and loving your people."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Looking back



It hardly seems possible that 3 weeks ago we were in Lusaka Zambia. It's not like I have forgotten what an incredible experience it was. It's just that life has returned to such a busy, "normal" pace - whatever normal is.The first few days were spent trying to figure out what time zone I should observe (There is really strange TV on at 2:00 in the morning). The next few days were spent clearning off my desk, answering messages and trying to get my voice back.

It all culminated last week with a near 70 hour marathon full of meetings, appointments, services, calls and staff reviews. In some ways I didn't even have time to remember and reflect. Were it not for our team meeting where we shared pictures and recalled memories, Zambia would have been a long-distant memory,

The saving grace has been that the Lord has continued to thrust those memories and lessons learned back to the front of my heart and mind. First, I had emails from Chimwemwe, then Pastor Mpanga and Winnie. Then this weekend, we had a visit from missionary friends from South Africa. It afforded anoter opportunity to focus on the needs and people in Africa. Tuesday, Ken and Suzanne Popp from Village Steps sent pictures of the continuing progress of the work we started. Over the last few days, team mates have stopped in or called to talk about the trip and the people. Tomorrow, our team presents the program at our local Rotary Club.

Three weeks out and today, I decided I needed to take more time each day to pray for the people of Africa and to slow my life down just a bit. Today was a good day in that respect. When the power went out at the office, it was almost a sign for me to take a few minutes at a cool new coffee house in Buckley and a chance to blog a little. (By the way, Main Street Coffee has great Cappucinos).

Three weeks out and I have to remember that God is not finished with me yet. I continue to experience and learn more and more about the Lord and about myself. I am grateful for that. A verse in Philippians says, "the one who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6) So I am slowing down, trying to be more patient with myself and taking advantage of opportunities for relationships.

That same verse applies to what we began in Zambia. Though we only got a well dug, foundation trenches dug and a footing poured, God is still at work and is using others to complete the work we began. I guess not everything depends on me. That is a great realization. I guess I'll have another cappucino then try not to hurry off to the next event.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Out of Africa

It is with mixed feelings we all leave Livingstone today. We have created unforgettable memories, lasting friendships, a profound sense of accomplishment and a new respect and compassion for the many needs of Africa's people. 11 days is hardly long enough in one sense to have really accomplished much. In comparison to what needs to be done for children, orphans and widows, there is an almost insurmountable need here. Hopefully we can adequately tell the story when we return.

The other day, as we were saying goodbye to Winnie Takema, the director of Healing Place School, she read for us a passage from James 1 that reads "pure and undefiled religion is this: that you visit the widows and orphans and care for them in their need." She said "this is what you have done. We cannot thank God enough for you."

We sometimes think our actions have to be grand and our accomplishments significant in order to be worthwhile. Yet a few days of work, of sharing with children, of giving clothes, school supplies and food - while pretty small in our estimation - means so much to those whose daily existence is subsistence at best. Did we do all we could? I will ponder that question for some time to come? I am sure we could have done more. Was it worth it all? You'd have to ask the children and teachers in Kabanana. WOuld I go again? Absolutely? Did I grow and mature? Without a doubt.

That is what Africa does to a person. It casts you back to basic assumptions about life and meaning. It strips away the pretense and the haughty attitudes. It humbles you by its grandeur, mystery, beauty, primitive naturalness.Most of all it reminds you that God loves all the people of the world.

So we sadly say goodbye.We are anxious to return home but will always carry the sights sounds and people of this land in our hearts. I hope you will as well.
See you soon in the US.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Safari time




I think I wrote in last years blog entry that it was a jarring step back from being servants to the people of Africa who are most needy to being the ones waited on hand and foot by African hosts. The starkness of this change makes what we did in Kabanana even more important in my life. The opulence and comfort of the Zambezi Sun Resort is only several hours drive time from Kabanana yet every time someone comes to wait on me, I find myself thinking, "I am supposed to be the one serving." To me it is a good lesson of how different my life is from the children and adults in that little hilltop community surrounding Healing Place School.

Africa is hauntingly beautiful. It is exotic and rugged; beautiful and wild; filled with wide open bush country and dotted with populations of wonderful people. Once Africa gets into you, you can't get it out. This is an expression we have heard again this trip.

Saturday was Zambian Independence Day. 45 years ago, the brave men and women of Zambia fought to overthrow cololonial rule and they are very proud of that fact. Yet we didn't see the excessive displays of fireworks or partying that we might have expected. People were very mindful of the importance nontheless.

We boarded a van at 0730 and headed for the border crossing into Botswana. The Chobe River, where it meets the mighty Zambezi forms Africa's equivalent of the USA's four corners area. Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe all meet right at that place. Chobe game park is just inside the border of Botswana along the river near the town of Kasane. Arriving at the Chobe Safari Lodge, we boarded a small boat for a morning of cruising the river around an island where Water Buffalo, Hippos, Elephants and Red Leeschi Antelope graze contentedly knowing they are safe from Lions who don't like to swim.

On the island side and on the shore side, we saw innumerable Impala, Hippos, Water Bok, Warthogs, and every imaginable bird. We saw several crocs but nothing too huge. One man on our boat was dangling his feet over the front until the guide reminded him that crocs can jump up to five meters towards their prey. He quickly complied by bringing his feet in.

There was a herd of nearly 50 bull Elephants crossing a shallow spot in the river to graze on the island. It was a remarkable sight that none of us will forget and one which the guide said was highly unusual.

Around 1300 hours we returned to the lodge for a wonderful meal. I had the impala stew which was very good. Most others stayed on the safe side. After lunch we boarded canvas-covered 10 seat Land Cruisers for our Afternoon drive through the park where we saw even more incredible, and wonderful animals. Most amazing was that there were over 100 female elephants with calves heading down toward the water to take a mud bath and drink as well. Seeminly unconcerned with our presence they appeared to be acting out their natural instincts - one even tussling with a territorial hippo. All in all it was an amazing day.

We arrived back at the hotel around 1900 (7:00) for dinner and relaxation. One somber note we found out was that at the border, where our driver was waiting for us on the Zambia side, a young man who peddles hand made goods to tourists had laid down in the shade of a large semi-truck for a nap. Not seeing him, when it was this drivers turn to head down to the ferry to cross the river, he drove over the poor man. Our driver had seen it and was very upset as you might imagine. I was able to pray and talk with him. Having been on the other side of such an experience and yet alive to talk about it, I think he found encouragement from our conversation and said he was thankful to the Lord that he had allowed me to live and share that story with him - not to mention to do the work we had been doing in Lusaka.

Today some are on a lion encounter. Others are planning to bungee jump (not me) and take a helicopter tour. Me, I plan on sitting by the pool and reading. We head back tomorrow. The week has gone by much too fast. We look forward to seeing you all and sharing stories with you after we arrive Tuesday night around 6:00 pm. Blessings to you all.

Africa Hot - Africa Time

I am not sure which has been tougher to adjust to: Africa Hot or Africa time. Africa hot means unrelenting sun baking the earth’s reddish brown crust. It means temperatures right around 37 – 39 degrees Celsius (100 degrees F). It means drinking about 8 bottles of water a day but still not needing to answer nature’s call very often because you are sweating away most of that fluid along with vital chemicals and electrolytes. The body’s automatic cooling system is hardly able to keep up. Africa heat means competing for the few spots of shade that dot the landscape – an isolated Mango or banana tree; Africa hot means sore, dark red shoulders and necks even after swathing in sun block. The sun and the heat have been a difficult thing for most of us Northwesterners to adapt to. One redeeming grace in it all are the cold showers at our lodge at the end of each day’s work.

Africa hot means that an entire community comes out to watch as a borehole is drilled and water comes gurgling to the surface; a precious commodity in this arid climate. Even the members of our team felt the elation of water having been discovered on the site. Africa hot – what more can I say except one day soon, I am guessing, a video will be posted showing Jeff chanting a dirge about the heat while sitting on a pile of stones at the end of a long work day in the sun.

Africa time is no less difficult for a group of Americans used a much more pressured and time-bound culture to adapt to. I am writing this entry from a 26 passenger bus that is transporting us to Livingstone. I insisted the team be up. packed and on the driveway ready to go by 5:45 am. Our bus arrived at 7:15 – not an uncommon occurance in a world where one seldom sees a watch, let alone relies on scceduled arrivals or departures.

Africa time means a normal 15 minute drive to the store taking 30; it means sitting in a jumbled maze of busses, vans and taxis all merging in the same intersection with no space to navigate; Africa time means expecting a delivery of sand or rock at a certain time and waiting until the next day for it to arrive. Africa time means trying to remember that loved ones back home are just arising from a night’s sleep as your day ends; it means scratching your head in bewilderment as people talk about 1400 or 0630 and expecting that you know exactly what time that is. It all takes a little getting used to and just as we begin at acclimate, it is time to return to American time. I hope you will all be patient with us while we continue to move along slowly in Africa time.

Our last day in Kabanana was an exciting one. After a later than normal wake up call, some of the team went to the Arcades Mall while 5 of us Rotarians went to the Taj Pahmodzi Hotel where the Lusaka Central Rotary Club meets at 1230 hours every Thursday. Wsanting to be polite and on time, we arrived at 1220 and were served club sodas and cokes by uniformed waiters in crisp white smocks. No Rotarians were in sight however. We waited patiently having been assured that they would be arriving soon. At about 12:45 people began sauntering in one at a time and around 1300 every one was seated for a moment of fellowship. Then the president announced “Shall we please all be upstanding and offer a toast to the President of our beloved Zambia."

Then we were invited to partake of a sumptuous buffet that inclided lamb stew, rosemary chicken, parsely potatoes, fresh fruit and vegetables, and much more. I couldn’t help think to my self that the food in front of the 25 of us could have fed the children at Healing Place for a week.

I was asked to introduce Jeff, Myung, Jon and Lauren and exchange a banner from our club. Later in the program I was able to talk about our project and encourage their participation with us. At one point I overheard the president of the club speaking to the Projects Committee chair telling him that they needed to adopt a project in Kabanana. She has made a commitment to visit the site herself and meet both Winnie Takema at Healing Place and Rachel Kasanya at Balm of Gilead. It was a rewarding time that I think will bear ongoing fruit in establishing a partnership for the work we have been involved with.

After club, our friendly and ready to please driver George gathered the entire team for one last afternoon at the site. Just as we arrived the drilling company was bringing up the first muddy showers of water from the 90 meter bore hole. The lowered welded pipe sections to carry the water and then capped it until a hand pump can be purchased. To me, it was a more thrilling site than just about anything I have witnessed or experienced. That is until just an hour later when after distributing more supplies, giving gifts to the workers and exchanged goodbyes.

When I had awoken Thursday morning, I had a heavy impression on my heart that in addition to giving my boots, gloves, caps and t-shirts to the men who had volunteered and helped us prepare the foundation of the classroom, I needed to give my Bible to Pastor Jesse Mbanga. He is a faithful man who not only preaches to a congregation of 45, he is a spiritual shepherd to the community and lives with very little. He and his wife have 7 children of their own and have taken in 6 other orphaned children in their small two bedroom house. When I handed him my Bible, his look of shock and the tears in his eyes told me I had done the right thing. He told me he had wanted to ask me for a Bible the day before but didn’t know how to ask and so he prayed about it and left it in God’s hands. To him, that Bible was a precious possession. I have over 20 Bibles in my study not to mention the many commentaries, dictionaries, language helps, and unread books.

We sang a song by the side of the van called "tupende cine amopolo" – Bemba for count your blessings, then we began the difficult, long process of saying goodbye. These were highlight moments as we held hands and prayed in three languages, ngyenge, Bemba and English. Getting last hugs and high fives from the children was most difficult. To make it all bearable we knew we left having made a small difference in an impoverished, vulnerable area of the world and in the lives of real people whom we will never forget. Tearfully we left Kabanana for good (at least this time) and headed back to the lodge where we celebrated the night with Chimwemwe’s
26th Birthday party.

So, that brings you up to "speed." Speaking of speed we are finally moving at a pretty good clip of 90 kph.We should be arriving at a roadside coffee shop soon. Then on to Livingstone and Victoria Falls for a couple of days of real touristy things. We miss home, we miss our families. We miss all you who have supported this effort. We can’t wait to tell you about it and try to share not just details but the spirit of what we have been a part of. It has been remarkable. We are blessed. May you be also

UPDATE: We are sitting alongside a gravel road in the middle of the African Bush right now. It is our third “rest stop.” We will not make our 1600 (4:00) pick up time in Victoria Falls for an evening cruise on the Zambezi River. A six hour trip is “quickly” turning into a 7 or 8 hour trip (one that started 90 minutes late). Sigh, that’s Africa time

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Invisible Hand




The Invisible Hand.
Have you ever sensed that there was a power or a presence that was at work in circumstances that you could not explain or attribute to human effort? As I sit on the shaded veranda reflecting on the events of the past few days, I am reminded that there is “an invisible hand” that is at work, guiding, helping and working out circumstances in ways we just can’t comprehend.

As you know, one of the main projects that we had hoped to accomplish this week was to see a well drilled and capped to provide safe water to the children of Healing Place School and this particular area of Kabanana Compound near Lusaka. Driving each day to the work site, you see children pushing large 55 gallon drums of water from community wells to service their homes and family. They roll these heavy drums over bumpy roads, uncultivated fields and through thick undergrowth just to have something that you and I take for granted. Women also help roll these barrels but often they are seen carrying large pails or jars of water on their heads. Some walk as far as 5 – 8 kilometers. Near our project the closest water is 4.5 kilometers in either direction.
Children, in order to get water for their family often miss school. And yet at Balm of Gliead School where a team from Enumclaw worked last year, enrollment has climbed from 217 to 330. They have a well but are unable to pump water because of the high cost of power. At Healing Place, the enrollment is 235 ranging in age from pre-schooler age to teenagers studying to take exams for entrance into government school.
Water for this school and community is critical. That is why Enumclaw Rotary donated such a sizable amount of money for a well to be dug. That is why most of us committed to coming. Yet when we arrived we were deflated to learn that water at the site was much deeper than first thought and the first three attempts at a bore hole well were unsuccessful. Discouraged, we set our sites on other projects. The next priority was to dig a foundation for a first classroom building. That in itself seemed too daunting for our group but we said, “Okay, let’s do what we can. We are few in number but whatever we can do, it will be a help. So we prayed that somehow we could do something positive. And the next day – Monday – we pulled up and saw a cadre of 9 men ready to help us. An invisible hand guiding us in this project.
The well situation still remained however. And in typical African fashion, the company responsible for drilling said they would be back Monday. Monday came and went – no drilling team. Tuesday came and went. No drilling truck in sight. More discouragement. But then again, last night we just said if it was to be, it would happen. When we arrived this morning, there was sand, gravel, cement on site so we began working under the hot African sun to mix and pour concrete footings. About half way into that project, the drilling rig showed up. What a stir that caused in the community. Children were dismissed early from school, husbands, wives grandparents, babies – all came out to see this exciting prospect of water coming to their community. They drilled to 65 meters before running out of pipe but the last 10 meters showed wet sand. Encouraging. Later this afternoon – after we had left – the extra drill bits arrived and they were able to find good sustainable water. Tonight they are putting in the pipes to bring it to the surface and then they will cap it. The commissioner for the area was deeply grateful as was Pastor Mbanga, Winnie Takema, and all the people of the community. In spite of our discouragement, an invisible hand brought more to completion than we had thought possible. Your support in prayer and in finances has brought water to a community; the beginnings of a classroom building for a school that is ministering to over 200 children who are the most vulnerable in Lusaka; and most importantly a sense of love and partnership that spans over 17,000 miles.
In Genesis 50 Joseph declares to his brothers who had sold him as a slave “You intended to harm me. God meant all this for good.” Everything seemed against us at the first of the week. Now here we are on Wednesday night and incredible things have happened.
We are all safe and well – mostly! Even cold water showers are welcome after working hard at the end of a short handled shovel in 98 degree heat. But it is worth it as we see the fruit of our labor and prayers take shape. Thanks for your partnership.
Tomorrow we go to Lusaka Rotary to seek their support and partnership in this ongoing prokect. I’ll keep you posted.
Todays prayer on my heart - “Lord, may my heart be broken by the things that break your heart.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hello from Zambia

today was a day of raw emotion for me. When we first arrived at Healing Place we delivired clothes and coloring pages to the youngest children who didn't receive anything yesterday. To see them cling to a pair of cast off jeans or a t-shirt like it was the greatest treasure in the world once again reminded me how sheltered and how rich I am in so many ways. All of us were moved again by the warm welcome and greeting songs.

One girl recited a poem about having lost her mother to AIDS. WHen the father remarried the step-mother slapped and abused her telling her she was not the girls mother. She couldn't finish the poem but broke down in tears. As we comforted her, she told us it was not her mother that died but the mother of her best friend. Unfortunately the story is told over and over again in this impoverished area of Lusaka. The most vulnerable of all the people of Zambia are the children in this poor community called KABANANA. Yet they are filled with such love and faith and expectancy that our hearts were more blessed by their resilience and faith than they might have been by ours. There are 42 double orphans in Healing Place(both parents dead) and many more that are single orphans. HIV/AIDs continues its tragic toll on the people of Africa. Seeing these children and putting our arms around them reminds us all that AIDS is not a statistic - it is real people and real life and even among the poorest in our world, the hurt and loss is even more heart-wrenching.

Today was cooler in temperature. Yesteday we spent the day digging foundation trenches for the new school building. The night before we prayed that we didn't think we could do all that was being expected of us while we were here. SO when we arrived on site - there were 9 experienced, strong young men to wield a pick or shovel and they intend to stay and work until a building is completed. We are grateful for the financial support of Village Steps to make this all possible.

Since it was cooler today, we were ready to roll up our sleeves and work but as is usually the case in Africa, we had no supplies with which to pour the footings. Most of the team spent the remainder of the morning playing with, teaching, loving and encouraging the children who flocked around each teammate like African flies. Sometimes one feels almost claustrophobic with the needs. That is balanced by the incredible love and tenderness these children crave. We are emotionally drained and filled with an even deeper sense of the needs of the world and our responsibility to help share in meeting those needs. We could have sent money only but the deepest point of contact with these children is in touch - how they crave hugs, love and care. Our prayer is that we can continue with energy and compassion.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mosquitoes, stars and fireworks


Where do I begin to tell you about our first day in Lusaka? Do I tell you about how tired we were when we clamored off BA flight 255 at 6:00 am local time (9 pm PDT) after a 10 ½ hour flight from London? Or should I tell you about the beautiful purple flowering trees surrounding the airport terminal as we walked fro m the plane across the tarmac to the customs and immigration desk? I thought about spending some time writing about the group of Anglican women, their crisply starched and pressed habits providing incredible and sharp contrast to their beautiful, glistening black skin. As we left the terminal with our bags (By the way, every single bag made it here this year. Yeah) they were in two columns on either side of the promenade singing and dancing a welcome song. Did it matter that they weren’t there to greet us but another group of Brits who had come to Lusaka for much the same reasons as us. We took it as a welcome to us.

Then there was the helpless sense of being in a strange country, knowing few people at all and wondering when Chimwemwe, our host and friend from last year, would be there with our van to take us to our lodge for some needed rest and washing. She arrived and for those of us who were here last year, it was awesome to see her striding across the street to greet us. What a beautiful sight and what a relief it was to reunite with her. She is everything her name implies – she radiates joy and beauty inside and out.

I could have written about our lodging accommodations at the Vineyard Guest House. They are homey and comfortable and the garden area is filled with Palm Trees, Jacaerinas, Bird of Paradise plants and other numerous, indescribable plants. There is a thatched roof lanai as well as a slate tiled patio that is sheltered from the sun and is a very pleasant place to let the African breeze sweep across your face (and blow the mosquitoes away. We sat outside last night before dinner, later into the evening (at least Myung and I did – the rest were already in bed) and this morning. Last night, we had the added treat of watching colorful aerial fireworks exploding across the night sky as Zambians prepare to celebrate their Independence Day on October 24th. When the mortars weren’t showering the night sky with their variegated display , God had put on an even better show with the stars of the southern hemisphere glistening with God-given radiance.

If one thing stood out about the day, it was our trip to Kabanana. As we passed The Balm of Gilead’s Green water tower standing sentinel over the school and the beautiful children we met and worked with last year, a wave of profound emotion swept over me as I remembered so fondly all that we did and all whom we met last year.Our first stop Monday morning will be there as we deliver school supplies, clothes and soccer balls to Rachel Kasanya, her staff and the students at Balm of Gilead. Just a few more miles down a winding, dusty road however, we came to a roadside stop near a government school. Madame Winnie Takema was there to greet us and show us the way to “The Healing Place School.”

We pulled up to the familiar chants of “Ey Yah, Ey yah.” About 40 – 50 of the students from the school had come out on a Saturday to welcome us with song and dance. They were wearing the bright orange and green shirts that had been purchased with money from Calvary’s 2009 Vacation Bible School. To say they were standing at attention would not be accurate as they were moving and dancing in ways that I, in my 59 year old Caucasian body couldn’t begin to emulate. It was a thrill. It reminded us of last year’s greeting but even more, it represented a new chapter in our partnership with the people of Kabanana District. If I may use Charles Wesley’s phrase in a different context, “my heart was strangely warmed.”

Inside Pastor Jesse Mbanga’s one room church building were another 70 or more precious children sitting quietly, waiting to greet us. Also in the building were there parents, who after a few words of greeting began singing and dancing as well. Since it was recorded on tape, I can’t deny that even I was compelled to dance alongside some of the parents who came out into the aisles to dance. It’s not something I intend to post on You Tube, but I am afraid some of my team mates may decide it should be.

It was difficult if not impossible to pull ourselves away from those beautiful children who, with beaming faces, expectant eyes, were reaching out for our touch. We will never forget those faces. But pull ourselves away we did because Headmistress Winnie and Pastor Mbanga wanted to show us the parcel of land that Village Steps had helped them purchase to build the school. Disappointingly, they showed us the three test bore holes that had been drilled. Because of the elevation of the sight, the depth to which they had bored (50 metres) was still dry so worokers will be out again early this week to drill to a depth of 70 metres (250 feet). They say they are confident water will be found – we’ll wait and pray.

Now, it is Sunday morning. We are preparing to be picked up to go to church with Joy. After church we will go to the Arcades Mall for lunch and for the open air market where one can find amazing, hand crafted jewelry, baskets, hand-carved teak and soapstone figures, animals, and walking sticks. Another great adventure to add to the list. At some point, I will stop at an Internet Café to post these blogs.
Right now it is breakfast time – scrambled eggs, corn flakes and toast. MMMM- good. More later. I could have written about any or all those things but you know what, there's too much to tell. So I think that for today, it is enough to tell you that I am glad to be here, that the Lord is good and that this week holds adventures and blessings that will amaze us all. For today, it is enough to say
“This is the day, the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

A foggy Day in London Town

I say there chap, instead of coffee, I think I’ll have a spot of tea. That is pretty much what I expected to hear once we landed at Heathrow around noon Friday. After clearing customs and security, we decided as a team we didn’t have time to go into town and do any sightseeing, Instead, everyone scattered to the four corners of terminal 5 (a city to itself) to wash up, find something to eat and check out the duty free shop.

After an all night flight with only a few hours of fitful sleep, I decided that tea wasn’t what I needed. Instead, I headed straight for – you guessed it – Starbucks and had a Iced Quad-shot, Americano. It did the trick. I am now wired and ready for the next leg of our endurance flight – a ten hour flight from London to Lusaka. It will be Saturday morning in Lusaka. In Seattle, it will still be around 9:30 Friday night.

Speaking of Seattle, a nice young woman came up to me on the plane this morning and said, “Aren’t you a pastor in Enumclaw, WA?” It turns out Erin is Dorothy and Keith Blackburn’s granddaughter. She and her newlywed husband are in London to visit family before heading on to Spain for their honeymoon. What a surprise that out of a packed Boeing 777, we would bump into someone from Enumclaw with Calvary connections.

During our approach to London, Jillian, our flight attendant sat down in the jump seat just opposite my exit row seat. She asked what we were all doing because she had noted we were traveling as a group. When I told her we were going to minister at schools that reach out to orphans in Zambia, she began to open up and talk about her faith and that she has gone for the past several summers to help at orphanages in South Africa, Kenya and other places in Africa under the sponsorship of the Catholic Church.

It was cool and cloudy in London when we landed. In some ways it felt very similar to landing in Seattle. And to top it all off, once we got to the terminal we were reunited with Swampy Marsh – our ninth team member who flew to London from D.C. after seeing his daughter married. We are once again a complete team. It has cleared now that we are about ready to depart. Once we hit Zambia, it will be a different story though. Forecasts are for it to be very summer like there: Sunny and hot.
Joy, our close friend from last year’s trip will meet us at the airport tomorrow and help us get settled in the Vineyard Guest House and Lodge. Once we have washed up and rested, we intend to head out in the afternoon to visit “The Healing Place School.” We want to meet Winnie, survey the site where we will be working and meet some of the children. School will not be in session but if last year’s experience is any indication, children from all over the neighborhood will be curiously attracted to our presence there. This trip is all about the children after all. We have lots of donated items to give. But even more, we have lots of love and faith to share also. Pray that this would be our focus throughout the week.

God has provided in amazing ways for us to be here. I want to represent Enumclaw, Rotary, all the people who have supported this trip and Calvary well. However, I desire that I and our team would be ambassadors of Christ’s reconciling love.

Let me remind you of who is on our team. Myung Hong, Jon Funfar, Lisa Mierke, Lauren Hardman, Cate Underbrink, Terry Marsh (Swampy), Jessica Iunker, Jeff Iunker and me.
In the cars on the way to the airport yesterday, someone shared about some interviews she had heard of ten people who had just attempted a summit climb of Mt. McKinley (Denali). Only four made it to the top. She asked if we could guess what each of those four said was the reason they made it to the top and the reason that the other six said they didn’t. Those six who didn’t summit each said that they set out to give it their all, to put out 110%, and to strive as hard as they could to attempt this climb. Instead, they burned out. But the four who did make it said – to a person – that their attitude was to take it one step at a time, to learn from each experience along the way, and to focus on the journey, not the summit. And in the process, ironically, they were the ones who made it. Pray that we all focus on the journey and the growth from the experience and that we don't burn out.

Lord help me to focus on the journey, on the people I am teamed with, on the lessons I can learn along the way and the joy and blessing of having this opportunity. Don’t allow me to get lost in the details of simply accomplishing a great number of tasks and physically working as hard as I can. Open my heart so that the children of Lusaka can touch my heart even as I pray, I might touch theirs.

Well, I won’t be able to post this until after we arrive in Lusaka. But it is just about time to head towards our departure gate so I think I will finish another good strong cup of coffee and then prepare myself to be used this week however God wants.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Number Two

What does the number two mean to you? Right now, it means the number of days before our Zambia team heads out on British Air for twelve days of ministry and work in Zambia. Two means the number of carryon items I can take with me which will be a small back pack with a change of clothes, some books, and maybe some snacks. The other will have my computer so I can blog from Lusaka. Two also represents the number of checked bags each of us will be hauling. One will be filled with clothes and personal belongings. The other will be filled with some of the overwhelming number of clothes, toiletries, school supplies and book bags that the people of Enumclaw, Rotary and Calvary have donated to this effort. The response has been so incredible that the piles of items are now spilling over into room number two in our office.

Two is the approximate number of weeks we will be gone. We leave on October 15th and return on October 27th. Two is the number of flights it will take us to get to Lusaka. We leave Seattle and fly over the north pole to London. From London, after a layover, we fly directly to Lusaka.

Two is the number of schools we intend to visit while there. We want to stop at Balm of Gilead (where our team worked last summer)to reconnect with some of the students and teachers there. But most of our time and energy will be spent at school number two - The Healing Place. It is a new school that is just getting started and the money that has been donated by team members, Rotary and other faithful people has enabled us to provide a well for safe water. It also will help us get electricity to the site, buy food and cooking utensils so these children can have nutritious meals at lunch, and provide school supplies for the children. We also will be doing some back breaking digging of trenches that will be used for foundations for the first classroom building on this site.

Two is a small, seemingly insignificant number to most people. My blackberry phone just vibrated twice, signalling me that I have just received an email or a text message but not a phone call; not anything urgent that I need to stop what I am doing to attend to. Two is the number of heaping scoops of ground coffee I have found works best in my French Press travel coffee maker (They mostly have Nescafe instant coffee in Africa so I am taking my own).

Two is more than one but it is less than a few. It is way less than a lot. When I think of how much I have here in my life in the United States, I have more than I need or deserve. That is why I am going back for trip number two. I want to share from my life with others who have even less than most.

This week, I received a special gift from one of my grandsons. Inside were two one dollar bills and a note saying he would be praying for me and that he wanted this money to be used to bless the children in Africa.

You be the judge. Is two too small a number? It two too little to give? Is two, too few a number of times to travel to a place to make a difference? I don't know. But I do know that two represented a very generous and sacrificial gift for a nine year old who likes to keep track of his money. Two US dollars is worth nearly 10,000 Zambian dollars or kwachas. Two dollars will buy enough food to feed several children a couple of meals.

Two - what does it mean to you? More importantly what would be the proportional equivalent for you to share with your church, a mission agency, a relief organization or a local food bank? I am inspired by someone who is willing to part with a significant part of his resources simply to bless others who have nothing.

My prayer is that I will use that $2.00 wisely so that it may indeed be a blessing.

Pray for our team while we are gone. Pray that the Lord would knit us together as a close knit team. Pray for our safety and health.Pray that the Lord would use us to encourage, witness to and be of significant help to the people of Zambia that this trip will be worth it. And keep posted at this site as I hope to be posting several blogs from various places along the way. Thank you all for your prayers, support and encouragement.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

mealie-meal, nescafe, no water pressure

I am sitting at my desk drinking the last dregs of a cup of Starbucks Coffee that I bought earlier this afternoon. At best it is lukewarm. It brings up images in my mind of Revelation 3:16. To paraphrase, it is neither hot nor cold - just lukewarm and it is close to being spit out. Yechh. Still, it is better than the coffee available at most places in Zambia, the country I will be visiting again in just 9 short days. All you can get there is a cup of moderately hot water and a packet of Nescafe.

The title of today's blog is in reference to life in Zambia, which, once again this year, I will be visiting in a week and a half. Yes, that's right. I am going back to the country and city Judy and I visited last summer (2008). This time, there are 9 of us going as a joint team from Enumclaw Rotary and Calvary Presbyterian Church.

My local Rotary Club has named Village Steps and its commitment to assisting in educating Lusaka's poorest children as its International Project for 2009 and 2010. They have donated a significant amount of money toward Village Steps and to one of the schools Village Steps supports. With the money Rotary has committed, a well for safe water will be dug, we will purchase equipment to help the staff of The Healing Place School provide lunches for the children, and we will begin digging foundation trenches for their first classroom building. Right now, there are approximately 110 children who attend this school which exists because many of the kids in the Kabanana district cannot afford the $90.00 USD it takes to buy a uniform and books for one of the government schools.

Even for an in tact family, that is more than the average household annual income in Zambia. Most of these children are living with friends or extended family because they are orphans. One or more of their parents has died or is sick with HIV/AIDs.

While there, we will also be seeking to elicit the support of the Lusaka Central Rotary Club for this project which will enable us to apply for matching grant money from our Rotary District and from Rotary International. We read about the extreme poverty and need in the world and, at times, it is almost too overwhelming; we feel paralyzed from doing anything about it. Hopefully, 10 days, 9 people and lots of prayer and support from back home can make some difference in the lives of these children. They are only a small percentage of the orphans in Zambia (over 1 million) and in the world (130,000,000). But each one is an individual. Each one has a name. Each one is an object of God's love. Each one has a right to safe water, a nutritious meal each day and an education that will better equip them to live a productive and healthy life.

So I am willing to drink Nescafe (or take my own supply of ground coffee and a French Press) and eat nsima (also called mealie-meal, it is a staple of the Zambian diet. It is a thickened corn meal whose closest equivalent in the states might be grits). And I am also willing to endure sponge baths or weak showers. It seems a small sacrifice to make if I can do something to affect even one child's life.

From last year's experience, I also know that the greatest impact of a trip like this is the effect it has on the people participating. My life was transformed by going to Africa last summer just as it has been by building houses in Mexico or helping rebuild houses and lives after Hurricane Katrina.

Jesus once said that "the Son of Man did not come into the world to be served but to serve." Sometimes I look at my life and think of all the things I feel entitled to like really good coffee, abundant food, and way too many material possessions. Then I go to a developing country and see the stark contrasts of what is normal, and I am reminded once again that of all the things I enjoy in life, the greatest is the opportunity to serve others in Jesus' name. The Son of Man didn't even have a regular place to lay his head. I guess I can endure - and maybe even enjoy - living a little more like the majority of the world's people do.

Our team will be reflecting on Mark Labberton's book "The Dangerous Act of Worship while we are in Zambia. He says (among a whole bunch of thought provoking and convicting things)that a vigorous theology of worship...is never escapist. It's never about forgetting the neighbor, not least the neighbor who is blond and poor and oppressed and hungry. It is about never submitting again to the wrong yoke of slavery, but instead taking on the yoke of Jesus whose burden is light."

This trip is different in that it is not a church sponsored trip. So I can only speak for my own motives and my own convictions today, but I don't want my "yoke of slavery" to be my own personal rights, privileges and possessions. I want it to be the freeing yoke of servanthood to those the world tends to overlook and forget.

Now, I think I will finish that lukewarm cup of Starbucks. It may be one of the last one's I will have for awhile.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What's inside?

I was out on some errands today and happened to drive by the new hospital that is being built in town. It's not huge but for our small community, it is pretty impressive to see a two story plus structure going up. I love watching buildings being built. We had a house built once and I could hardly stay away. I think I drove the contractor crazy. And when we built a new addition to our church in New Mexico, I got very little office work or pastoral calling done - I was too busy "supervising."

Our new local hospital has been a long time in the planning and once they broke ground, it was several months before there was any real, visible progress because lots of foundation work had to be meticulously laid.

Then they started laying some steel this past spring and things really began staking shape. It looks like a building. When I came back from vacation having been away for a few weeks however, I was surprised to see that little had changed. To the untrained eye looking at surface level, it appeared that nothing had been done for the last few months. So today I stopped and took a closer look (Don't worry, I didn't go inside the construction gates and bother any workers). Deep on the inside of the building are several massive, slanted, steel bracings. They are made of large circular pipe and they are welded to floor and ceiling in several straategic spots on each floor. Ah, earthquake reinforcements! That's it. Now I get it. The real strength of a building is not what we see on the outside. That is all architectural and cosmetic. The real strength is deep inside, shoring up walls and floors where, once the building is done, very few people will ever see or care about.

While Judy and I were on vacation on our boat, we raided our vault of favorite DVD movies. One night we decided on a movie neither of us had seen for a long time but one we both truly enjoyed. "Chariots of Fire" tells the story of Eric Liddell. Liddell was known as the flying Scotsman. Ultimately he was martyred by the communists in China where he was continuing the mission work his parents had begun.
Before that, he was known as the fastest man in Great Britain. During the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris he made headlines around the world by refusing to run in a qualifying heat for the 100 meters event because it was held on a Sunday; a day he considered to be the Sabbath. Imagine, giving up a chance for glory that few of us can even dream about.

Instead, that very same Sunday he preached a sermon in a Paris church. Based on Isaiah 40:28 - 31 he asked people to consider where the true strength in life is truly found. Isaiah's words echo still for me: Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and all but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint."

I talk with more and more people all the time who are just simply weary. Their strength is gone. Working 70 hours a week, out every night with commitments and family responsibilities, worried about the financial pressures of paying for all the stuff they have, exhausted from strained marriages, broken freindships and worried about the condition of the world, many people - myself included at times - seem to be stumbling along; barely able to walk through life let alone sense any grand fulfillment or joy.

We put so much emphasis on appearing strong; shaping, tanning, dressing and toning the outer self we sometimes forget the need for the inner, strengthening braces of God's power in our lives. We expend so much energy trying to keep up the facade that we are strong and able to cope with life's trials, that we are worn out before one of them comes.

Where does the strength come from? For Eric Liddell - and for Isaiah - the strength comes from God who never grows tired or weary. That God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak - inwardly. What a great promise.

It has been my observation throughout 37 years of ministry that this increasing of power and strength in life is a joint process where our spirit and will is active and alert to work with God's Holy Spirit to accomplish His purposes and help us redirect our priorities and efforts towards things that are truly important.

I see some of those inner bracing pieces in my life as my relationship with God first - if that is not right, nothing else will fit or make sense. I also see having healthy family relationships, one or two strong friendships, and the fellowship of God's people surrounding me as key ingredients. They may not be part of my outward persona or architectural appearance. But the Lord welds those other, more important, even if less obvious aspects of my life into place and uses them to provide strength in the midst of trial.

Sure I get tired to. Yes, my resolve and my courage wane. After a 60+ hour week of dealing with people and their unique needs and problems, I feel like "crashing" at times. It is then I recall, "Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength..."

"Teach me Lord to wait on you; to put my whole trust and life in your care; to let go of the worry and stress that each day presents and find me hope in you."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spiritual transformation

Ever feel like you were in need of life support; spiritual life support that is? Machines beeping, lights flashing, ventilators pumping, IV bags dripping: These are all things the body needs when it can't live by itself or until it recovers from a surgery or a trauma. The body and its many complex functions and delicate organs may need assistance - not just to keep a person alive, but to help them heal and recover strength.

We got news last week that the mother of a close friend was in the hospital in a coma and on life support. No one knows if she will ever regain consciousness or be restored to her former vitality. Medicine can do some amazing things. God can do even greater things.

I don't have much memory of it. And, I wasn't in need of a breathing machine. Not long ago, I was looking at pictures from my stint in the hospital though, and it struck me just how helpless I was after my unfortunate meeting with a bus. I am told (again, I don't remember this) that I was annoyingly insistant to anyone who entered my little cubicle in ICU. I wanted to get up. I wanted to go back to work. I wanted to get back out on the running trails. I couldn't understand why I was strapped down to a rotating bed, head, neck and legs immobilized by traction. I had no real idea of how utterly helpless I was without the assistance of machines, orthopedic equipment, specialized nurses and doctors and medicines. Without all that, there is no telling if I would be here writing this today. At the time all I could think of, apparently, was how determined I was to get back on my feet and doing everything I had done the moments before I was run over. I didn't realize my neck was fractured and dislocated. I had no clue how the lacerations and road rash on my back posed a huge risk for infection. I wasn't aware how badly fractured my hips, pelvis and ribs were. It didn't dawn on me that even if I had tried to get up, I probably would have collapsed from the neural weakness in my extremities and that I could have done more serious damage to my already compromised spinal cord.

I wanted to be transformed. I wanted to be normal and healthy. No way! Wasn't going to happen. I needed help.

Not long ago, a group of us were up at 6:30 am studying some wise words from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. This idea of transformation captured my attention and has been on my heart since. Paul said, "And we...are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (II Cor. 3:18)

I run into people who think they can become better Christians simply by their own determination and effort; that it's possible to pull ones self up by their own spiritual boot straps. "If I just do more good deeds; if I just pray harder; if I just go to more church meetings" are some of the phrases I hear from the people who come and sit in my study or with whom I visit at Starbucks, in living rooms or across the fence on warm summer evenings.

The reality is that we can't do it on our own. "Apart from me, Jesus said, you can do nothing." (John 15:5). There are times when the best we can do is just lie there, helpless and yielded. That's all. Then, at the place of our own greatest weakness, transformation starts to take place from the inside out. Spiritual life support; God's Holy Spirit working in and through us to make us whole; to transform us into the likeness of Christ himself. Wow!

Wait, there's another part to this to. I hadn't thought of it til just now. Part of the healing and transformation does come from the outside. Just like physicians, nurses, therapists and technicians work from the outside to heal the inside, God uses other people to encourage, strengthen, challenge and build us up.

My own experience - and I do remember at least parts of this - was that I couldn't have made it through some of those long nights of pain, immobility and discouragement if it had not been for people who came to read to me, tell me jokes, or just pray over me. My friend Cyril, a Jewish Rabbi came and read the Wall Street Journal. Bill read some of his brother's sermons through one long night. Daryl brought by CDs to play and filled me in on the latest box scores. Bob read Bible verses and left me the small pewter cross he had carried in his pocket since the previous Lenten/Easter season. Melissa told me about her final English paper. Others just came and sat. Like God with skin, their presence encouraged me.

There was one momentous day at Rio Vista Rehab Hospital in El Paso that stands out. Three men from Calvary Presbyterian had come all the way to El Paso to spend three days with me. That church had just called me to be their pastor. I think they wanted to make sure there was some hope of my recovering enough to eventually assume that role.

This particular day was the first day that Gina - my 4' 10" Phillipina Physical Therapist had tigihtly cinched a gait belt around my waist and wheeled my wheelchair in between two stainless stell standing rails. With a sly grin she said "let's see if you can stand upright for 15 minutes." This was the first time in over 2 1/2 months that I been on my feet. As I stood there, it was all I could do to support my weight with my emaciated arms and my one weight bearing leg. Sweat began to pour off my brow. Nausea welled up inside. I came to learn that she was more devious than I gave her credit for and that 15 minute challenge soon became 20, then 25, then 30 minutes - all the time Gina patiently standing there grinning.

Keith, John and Charlie all stood or sat nearby watching this spectacle as well. I have to say it couldn't have been very exciting for them - kind of like watching grass grow. But they were there cheering me on. I think I would have quit much earlier had these three men not been there for me to try and impress. When it was over, I collapsed back into the chair and was bone tired physically. At the same time I was exhilarated emotionally and spiritually. Against the dire predictions of neurologists and orthopaedic specialists, I had stood upright under my own strength (with Gina holding on tightly to my gait belt). I knew I would eventually regain my ability to walk. The support and encouragement of others made that even more realistic.

Transformation comes from the authenticity and care of others. It comes from the respiratory help of God's Spirit living in our hearts. Becoming more the kind of person that God wants us to be does not and cannot happen simply by just trying harder. It is only when we are sickest or weakest and least capable of helping ourselves that we come to realize God's transformational life support.


I don't know about you, but I think I need that today - and just about every day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WIRED


It was a cool, crisp Friday night in October 1969. I was a young college junior who had just transferred to Wheaton College in the western suburbs of Chicago. What was I doing walking around by myself on these "mean streets" just a few blocks from the Cabrini Greens Housing Projects and not much further away from Old Town. Cabrini Green was a 4 square block area where over 20,000 people lived in cramped, run-down, overcrowded apartments. Gang violence, drugs, and crime were nightly occurances. Old Town was Chicago's version of San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district. It was where run aways gathered, hippies stood on every street corner, tourists gawked and users bought and sold everything from marijuana and LSD to heroin and cocaine.


Just less than a mile to the east was the "Gold Coast" district - an area of expensive, high rise apartments, condominiums and exclusive restaurants, shops and businesses clustered along Lake Shore Blvd.


Here I was - a total neophyte to the big city, wandering around talking to strangers, inviting folks to come over to our coffee house ministry at the corner of Division and LaSalle. We called this practice "fishing." Unlike some other Christian groups who cornered people on the streets with tracts and hard-sell witnessing or else megaphone amplified preaching, our approach was to invite folks in for a warm shelter, a cup of coffee or tea, a place to shower, get fresh clothes, engage in conversation and listen to music. It was there that many, diverse folks were introduced to Jesus and found their lives changed.


That was a long time ago. We had Beatles posters on the walls, black lights everywhere. Wild, vibrant paint on the walls, bean bag chairs and pillows on the floor. For tables we used large industrial wire or cable spools left over from the public utilities company. The atmosphere was about as far different from church or traditional Christian hangouts as it could be.


Out in front, bikers parked their Harleys and on the corner of Division, the greasy but impelling aroma of Sammy's Red Hots was a magnet that drew people right to our door (I don't think it is still there but Sammy's sold the greasiest and best polish sausages in Chicago - smothered in grilled onions and dripping with grease from the hot french fries piled on top. MMM, I can still taste those - literally, I think I can still taste them 40 years later.


Anyway, those memories came flooding back to me as I was walking the "mean streets" of Enumclaw this morning. Funny you should ask "why?" Because I was headed to Lindon Books to meet some folks for coffee and to talk about the vision Calvary has for a coffee house ministry right here in our little town. Yeah, that's right, in this coffee-glutted area where Espresso stands are on nearly every corner and the 'green mermaid' seems to hold a monopoly over every other roaster and vendor of caffeinated beverages, we are joining forces with our local independant bookseller to create a venue for great coffee, good reading, authentic conversation, live music and much much more. It is the 2009 version of what I was doing back in 1969. Wow! Deja Vu all over again, huh?


So, this Friday night (May 15) is the unofficial grand opening and debut of WIRED and it features a group called the PHEROMOANS (I am as curious as you are) who describe themselves as a local, indy, acoustic folk band. In the mean time we are lining up groups for Friday nights during the summer. We also may do some open mike poetry and music. We very likely will have a trivia night or two. And everyday, there is free WiFi and fresh espresso from Longbottom Coffee out of Hillsboro Oregon.


It doesn't sound very churchy does it. It may not be as radical as my 1969 coffee house. But in the same vein, it will be a place where people can come, relax, have a good cup of coffee, and talk about important stuff; spiritual stuff; whatever. No preaching, no altar calls, no offering plates. Just the kind of place I think Jesus would probably hang out in if he were present on earth today. I think it is often in the market places where people gather - outside the sometimes closed confines of institutional churches - that people engage their minds and their hearts and meet Jesus. We are praying that people meet Jesus because they meet some people who are his followers who live out their faith authentically and are at ease talking about it naturally with others.


While we see the music and wifi appealing to some who are part of a younger generation, it is by no means closed to others who want to come in and browse the shelves, surf the net, share a cup of coffee and conversation with a friend or with a stranger, or simply have a few moments of quiet to themselves - away from the hustle, routine, and pressures of everyday life.


So come on out and get WIRED. Tell your friends and family about it. I had a great cappucino there this morning with my friends. I may go back for another cup this afternoon, just to try the wifi and outline my sermon. Maybe I'll see you there.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Just another day

What do you have planned today? My guess is that, if you are like me and like most people, you didn't stop to think beyond the busy-ness of your schedule; the appointments you have to keep; the responsibilities you have to fulfill; the birthdays or anniversaries you can't forget; the bills that have to be paid. Daily life for most of us becomes a routine. We get into those routines and then seldom pause to think about what life would be like if that routine were interrupted.... especially by some life-changing event, phone call, chance meeting or profound spiritual revelation. If you are like me, you just assume that the plans you have made and the relationships that you have come to take for granted will be constants - maybe even things you take for granted.

"Now listen, you who say ' Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why you don't even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will we will live and do this or that.'" (James 4:13 -1 5)

Who are the important people in your life? Have you told them you love them and that they are special to you? Who, in your life, are you at odds with? Have you sought reconciliation with that person? What important tasks are sitting on your desk...not just the mundane, daily chores of everyday life... but the things that you really value and want to accomplish? Will they still be sitting there tomorrow, waiting for your attention?

Did you pause this morning to pray? Did you say thank you Lord for another day of life? Did it occur to you that perhaps you should submit your plans to God, realizing that in gracious providence, the Lord may have something different for you than what is on your agenda?

May 8th, for the last 12 years, has been the occasion for me to remember that I can't take a single thing for granted any more. It sounds corny, but the slogan seen on some bumpers which reads "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" is true. Each day provides an important reminder to reconsider priorities; evaluate activities; renew relationships and live life to its fullest because, in fact, our lives are a mist and we don't know what tomorrow will hold. In some ways, it could be just as accurate to say that "Today could be the last day of the rest of my life."

12 years ago today, I was living in the delusional bubble that I was in control of my life and that my daily routines, my plans, my goals, and my relationships were all on track and that I could assume I would have the next day, and the next day after that, and the day after that to do what I wanted to and what I had planned on.

So, I was going about my daily routines with that mindset. Getting ready to make a move from Las Cruces, NM to pastor a church in a new place called Enumclaw, Washington, I went through the paces of doing my usual stuff plus preparing for what I assumed would be a fairly non-eventful transition to a new pastorate. One of the tasks on my agenda that day was to show our church's bus to prospective buyers from a church in El Paso.

The appointed time - which I had entered into my infallible day planner - had come and past. Our buyers weren't there. So I was just leaving the parking lot to go home when they pulled in. I hesitated but then went back to meet them as had my friend Bob who was an elder and the mechanic who took care of the bus.

To make a long story short, 30 minutes later, I was being loaded into an ambulance to be rushed to Memorial Medical Center. Bruised, battered, partially paralyzed, and fighting for life, I came to realize that my closely planned schedules and plans for life were tossed into complete disarray. Fourteen weeks of hopsitalization later, several surgeries to mend broken bones back together, and hours of therapy, and I was a changed person...no longer in control of my life.

I can't tell the whole story here. Perhaps if my book is ever published, you can read more about the events of that day and the ensuing lessons our family learned as a result. For now, just let me be a voice of reminder to you not to take today for granted.

The chance to play some jazz with my group for a Ladies' Tea this weekend seems like a great gift. Being able to go work out at the gym - even though I don't like spending 45 minutes on an elliptical trainer and stationary bike - is a special privilege I didn't think I would ever have. Just being able to walk downtown to hand out some posters and flyers for our church's new coffeehouse venture seems like a blessing today and and activity that twelve years ago, I would have taken for granted. The coffee I bought from Starbucks tastes just a little richer to me today. So, I think I will stop writing and finish it while it is still warm. Thanks Lord for the gift of life today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Soul
Café

A place to connect,
reflect and discuss

Do you like espresso? How about a casual, relaxed atmosphere where you can read a book, listen to live music or meet friends? Do you like the challenge of engaging conversation about relevant issues and sharing stories of faith? Have I gotten your attention? Are you sitting on the edge of your seat? Then read carefully. Big things – new things are “brewing “at Calvary (sorry, that was too easy a pun).

SOUL CAFÉ – doesn’t that sound cool? Last night (Tuesday, April 14th) your Session approved a plan to try a new outreach ministry this summer. And, we need some folks who feel called by God to get involved in order to make it work. More about that in a minute!

I don’t know if you realize it or not but Western Washington has one of the highest (some say the highest) per capita rates of non-churched people in the country. Though many if not most of these people – particularly younger people – would say they believe in God, pray and even think Jesus was a person worth following most studies suggest that 75 – 77% don’t attend church.

Is there a way of reaching people like that? Is it possible to engage those people without telling them they have to come to our services at our church? We think there is and that is what SOUL CAFÉ is all about. It’s not intended to just be another place for church people to hang out (although no one is turned away at the door) but a place that would attract people who are non-churched.

Beginning in June, our church is entering into a unique partnership with Lindon’s Bookstore. They are going to keep their doors open on Friday evenings for just such an opportunity. Each week there will be live music, a thought provoking movie, or some kind of discussion venue back in the lounge/stage area. There will be comfortable seating, warm lighting, and a very relaxed atmosphere. It is simply a gathering place that would be inviting for folks to come, drink coffee and, perhaps, play a game of chess or backgammon, pick a book off the shelf to read, or share a conversation about something deeper; maybe something spiritual.

Up in front of the store, there would be a coffee house atmosphere with café tables, comfortable chairs, and – this is really key – free Wi-Fi and, of course a coffee bar. Out in front would be a sign telling folks that SOUL CAFÉ is a joint venture of Calvary Presbyterian and Lindon’s Books. It would also be advertised on the church web site, and with posters around town too.

During the Lindon’s regular business hours, that same atmosphere would be present – minus live music or any programming. But on the tables, there would be a small card saying free Wi-Fi compliments of your friends at Calvary and maybe some thought or verse for the day.

When Paul visited Athens he headed up to a place called the Aereopagus (Acts 17). It was the hill where all the philosophers, all the curious, most of the non-Christians hung out to share thoughts and ideas. He didn’t wait for them to come to the synagogue or to one of the house churches – he engaged them on their turf and talked to them freely in language they understood. He said, “I see that you are very religious and that you have markers all over that read, ‘To an unknown God.’ I want to tell you about that God.” That is the idea behind SOUL CAFÉ – reaching people where they are at.

I am praying that there would be 8 – 10 people who would see this Friday night outreach as God’s calling to ministry in their life. We would train folks in ways of naturally sharing faith, running the espresso machine, and planning for ongoing Friday “programs.” These people would work closely with Lindon’s owners in a unique partnership that will help a downtown business as well as allow Christ’s body and opportunity to be salt – not in a saltshaker but poured out. For those who commit, it will not mean an every week commitment on your part. You would be part of a greater team. It would also not be a substitute for your attending worship and being part of the regular fellowship of our church. We hope to begin a trial period for this ministry June 5. How about it? Are you in? Let me know as soon as you have had a chance to pray about it and feel God’s call.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I've been playing the trumpet a lot more lately. I recently re-joined Gateway Concert Band - a local community band here in the Enumclaw area. I think I chose the wrong time to join because I have only had two rehearsals with the band prior to this weekend's upcoming concerts. When I walked into rehearsal a few weeks ago I presumed that I would be happily cruising along playing a second or third part. Jack, the director handed me a folder of music and when I sat down I realized he had handed my a First Cornet part. Lot's of high notes, lots of fast moving black notes (all too tiny for my deteriorating eyesight) and lots of demanding music. By the end of my first rehearsal, I felt like I needed to put my lips in a sling and that I would never be able to use them again.


That was the day after my jazz group BY COMMITTEE had performed for nearly ninety minutes in our first ever "concert." (We had played for some dinner parties, a birthday celebration etc. This was a real live concert, with people putting money in donation trays to support our church's youth mission trip.) So, I thought I was pretty set to go. WRONG! When you are playing jazz, particularly in a group like mine, you may only play half of each song or less because the rest is solos. So 2 hours of rehearsal, playing nearly 75 - 80% of that time really had me worn out and discouraged.


Yesterday I recorded and watched a PBS televsion special featuring trumpeter Chris Botti. He is an amazing talent and a new phenom on the music scene. Blond, boyish looking, fairly small in stature, he can play the trumpet like few others. This show was recorded with the Boston Pops Orchestra and featured a number of special guests including YoYo Ma, Steven Taylor from the rock band Queen, several beautiful, sultry chanteuses singing classic jazz ballads and the person who really gave Botti his start in the music and recording business.


In between songs, he quipped that people often ask him what the secret to his success has been. He said he always answered with four simple things: "Practice, practice, practice and being good friends with (recording giant) 'Sting.'"


I don't worry about aspiring to any measure of the fame or greatness of Chris Botti. But there was something profound that struck me in what he said. First of all, you never get anywhere worthwhile in life without practice and hard work. Aren't you glad the Doctor performing surgery on your loved one went to school for long and then spent years honing his or her skill?

Due to my recent encounter with tough music and sore lips, I have been reminded of the necessity of practice. No matter how good I think I am, the final test is the music and whether I can play it. Without practice, it is unlikely.


The second thing about his "half-serious" remark that struck me is that where we go in life has a great deal to do with the company we keep. It's not that we get there simply by hanging on the coattails of others. But it is hard to become the person you want to or know you should be without keeping company with those who will encourage, strengthen, and hold you accountable. That's how we grow.


That's how Jesus prepared his disciples for the rigors of ministering the Gospel after he had ascened. The company of friends is a powerful force to help challenge and encourage us to go as far as we can using the gifts and callings God has given us.


This truism is revealed in a few different ways in my life right now. Judy and joined a new gym in January. One of the things that encourages and keeps me going is the knowledge that I might be (probably will be) asked whether I worked out today. If not, why not? The challenge of keeping up with Judy who is much more disciplined and regular at working out than I am keeps me going.


Same thing with reading the Bible. Knowing that I will be meeting with a group at the MINT tonight and leading a discussion over the portion of the Bible assigned for these seven days of the Through the Bible in 90 Days keeps me honest, accountable and on my toes. I am glad for that.


Tomorrow morning I meet with some fellow Presby pastors in the area. We meet once a month for prayer, sharing, encouragement and a little friendly, rear-end kicking if deserved. It helps us all be better husbands, fathers, pastors, and men.


So how do we get to be all that God wants us to be? Practice, Practice, Practice and be good friends with someone who will keep you going. Now I have to sign off and go practice Symphonic Suite and Celtic Dances so I don't embarass myself at the concert Sunday.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keeping up with the times - electronically speaking (LOL)

I'm exhausted. My fingers are cramping up! My eyes are blurred and bloodshot. I need some coffee. Why this litany of complaint? Why all the discomfort you ask? Because I am trying to stay up with modern technology. Today alone, I have been asked to join three FaceBook groups; read two blogs; check out several YouTube videos and respond to innumerable, "urgent" SMS messages as my new Blackberry Phone merrily buzzed away in my pocket, signaling the arrival of yet another important communication. I have been invited into 2 instant message conversations on my computer while trying to write a sermon outline. Each time one of my online contacts signs in, I am notified by a little gong sound and notice of an IM conversation flashes across the bottom of my screen. Someone wants to talk. OMGWe laugh about it in our office because, though we are only separated by 20 feet distance, we tend to communicate with each other via emails or instant messages instead of getting up and walking to one another's office to talk face to face. Now there is a new voice is being heard. Perhaps you have seen it or heard of it. Maybe even some of you are doing it. "Twitter" is the latest way of staying in touch in real time. Just today I have heard at least three references to "tweeting" and Twitter.com. A person who is on Twitter can tell the world what they are doing at any given moment - as if we were all dying to hear the intimate, sometimes strange details of a person's thoughts and actions as they are happening. Dos anyone remember landline phones? How about stopping by someone's house just to visit or taking time over a cup of coffee just to get caught up with someone you haven't seen for awhile. No, we live in an age of instant, electronic communication. I for one don't know, understand, or really appreciate the value of some of the abbreviated codes. I refuse to end each sentence with the cryptic LOL (oops, I guess I just did). You'd think that for an introvert like me, the anonymity and safety of electronic, instant communication would be a welcome way of interacting with others. But something there is, inside each one of us, that longs for the reality of eye contact, human voice, and, at times, even touch. That is what the incarnation of God was all about.

In order to make God's plan most clear, the Lord- the Eternal Word or logos - took on human flesh and lived among us. He invaded our planet; ‘moved into our neighborhood.’ "We beheld his glory, full of grace and truth," John says. The author of Hebrews agreed when he wrote - "Long ago and in many times and many ways God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, He has spoken to us through his Son.He is the exact radiance of God’s being" (Hebrews 1:1-3) God made us as communal creatures. We long for contact. We hunger for personal relationship. Last week, I was at a conference and I saw a friend I hadn't seen in some time. I knew, via some of the unofficial channels of communication in our denomination, that he had been going through a rough time over the last few years. He'd had some health problems. More recently he had resigned his pastorate of 25 years. I had assumed he probably was hurting and I kept thinking to myself, I need to contact him. Every time I sat down to write an email, I thought to myself that it would be too impersonal. But then I just kept putting off calling him to make arrangements to meet. My fault totally - not his at all. We had a great talk. I appreciated his candor about his pain and struggle. I also appreciated that he was willing to share some valuable lessons with me.
We parted saying we would get together in person when there was more time to really catch up. I hope I don't drop the ball. Lord, help me follow through. Let me be a person to my friend; an incarnation of your love and grace. I think I'll text him right now and see when he can meet. Oh, oh, I feel my phone vibrating. Better check it out. L8R!