Judy and I are in the Phoenix area this week. Of course the highlight for us is the time we get to spend with our daughter Kresta and her family - particularly Sam (age 8) and Joesph (age 3). I have been out in the driveway shooting baskets more than I have since seminary days. Sam is a dead-shot from the free throw line and from the corner. Joseph likes to have me lift him up so he can "dunk." We've read books. We've played RockBand II (what a riot that is). We even had a small fire in the backyard fire pit and roasted (or torched) marshmallows. I continue t0 be gratefully amazed at the energy and resilience of kids.
I am also amazed at the innocent curiosity and wonder of discovery that these boys have. Yesterday, we went to a nearby Wild Animal Park and Aquarium. We bought the kids a yearly pass so they have been numerous times. I might have guessed the boys would be tired of seeing the same animals they have visited often over the past year. But each exhibit was a lingering experience of watching them stare with wonder at the incredible diversity and color and strangeness and complexity of the created order. I thought we might never leave the tank filled with Moray and Zebra eels. Of equal attraction to the eels was the rock wall at the base of the tank. It proved to be a wonderful climbing, balancing and jumping place. We got to feed stingrays, deer, ducks, goats and even a ravenous giraffe with an incredibly long, sticky tongue. What fun.
Coming to Arizona this time each year also affords us the chance to get caught up with friends from California. We met them in Las Cruces years ago but have maintained a close friendship ever since. Their daughter and grandkids live fairly close by and so we try to connect with them as they are often here visiting over the President's Day weekend as well. We had dinner with them at the ClaimJumper Restauarant and lingered over good conversation while gluttonously trying to finish off a huge, decadent dessert called the "I D'Eclaire" - a concotion made up of pastry, vanilla custard, ice cream, whipped cream and hot fudge. Until next year, emails and Facebook posts will have to suffice. It was good to see them face to face.
This morning, I had coffee with an old friend (friend of many years, not elderly) who served First Presbyterian Church in Las Cruces the same years I served Northminster. We were in a support group and together prayed over many family, church, denominational and personal issues. John was a true colleague and friend, a fact of which I was vividly reminded again this morning. John was also pastor to Judy, the girls and me at a critical time in our lives.
Halfway into our conversation, he asked how I was doing physically. "Had I recovered from the injuries sustained nearly 12 years ago in my freak encounter with a bus?" He then handed me a sheaf of papers he said he had been keeping for me for just such an occasion. They were email correspondences between friends and colleagues in Las Cruces and in the Presbytery of Sierra Blanca that took place between May 8, 1997 and July 10th the same year.
Unaware of at the time - and probably unintentionally underappreciated - these e-mails retold my story of injury, pain and recovery from a much different point of view. They reminded me of the sincere, deeply felt, prayer and concern that covered me from the first days after the accident all the way through my rehabilitation. Not only was my congregation at Northminster concerned, helpful and praying, our new congregation in Enumclaw was equally faithful in prayer and support. Most of all I felt such a deep appreciation for the bonds of love and collegial ministry that existed in that Presbytery, It was very moving for me to re-read some of these notes. It was also humbling to realize how faithful others were to me and my family during those difficult days. And it was also a reminder that in the 12 years that have passed since having been run over by a bus, God has been so gracious in healing me and taking care of our family.
Reconnecting with John gave me a chance to get caught up on his life and ministry, share in a good strong cup of Starbuck's coffee (with a couple of added shots) and remembering that God's love is unquenchable through the years. This morning I read from Song of Solomon these words:
"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away."
This trip has been a reminder once again of the power of love: the love of family; the love of friends; and most importantly the love of God - unquenchable, enduring, blazing hot. May that be your experience today, tomorrow and always.