Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav


It is deja-vu all over again. Gustav is bearing down on the Gulf Coast and my email inbox has been inundated by weather updates, email updates and information about its track.


I have watched its projected path on several television stations today.


My heart is moved with compassion when I watch the faces of those boarding buses and trains in the New Orleans area. The look bespeaks a deep sadness as they walk along the same sidewalks and pathways they walked three years earlier.


Many have already left, others are leaving this evening and still others are "waiting" to see what will happen.


There are many things that I do not know. Here is what I know.


In the midst of confusion, chaos and the cacophony of disasters, there is a God who is close.

In the thunder of rising waters, there is a God who is the Living Water

In the unknown, there is a God who knows.


At the end of this day I am celebrating His closeness, I am celebrating the fact that He quenches our thirst, and I am celebrating that He knows where I am.
I plan on sticking close to Him in the days that are ahead. I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I know that He will be close....that brings me hope in the midst of adversity.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Direction


Signs, signs everywhere a sign
blocking out the scenery
breaking my mind
Don't do this, don't do that
can't you read the signs.
---Five Man Electrical Band


Yes, I am old enough to remember that song when it played on a transistor radio....aaah such sweet memories!


I love signs...


I am always intrigued by signs that I see along side the road. When I saw this picture it made me wonder which direction to go....which direction is the right one?


Life is a lot like that sometimes. Sometimes people look at other people's circumstances and are quick to give directions and suggest pathways.


But it is one thing to have all the answers about what should be done and it is another thing to be in the middle of circumstances and try to decide which is the best pathway. Maybe this sign is closer to reality than we would like to admit.


Angels on a dark night made a profound announcement that changed the course of history...


"this will be a sign to you..."


That statement has provided direction for pilgrims in search of direction. It has offered hope to those caught in the quagmire of "direction-less" living.
The bottom line on the sign says, "good luck." When you seek the right path, it doesn't require luck....it requires trust.
Stay on the path!




Friday, August 29, 2008

Upside Down


Glen Tullman, the President of CCC Information Services, wrote these words...


Everyday the world turns upside down on someone who thought they were sitting on top of it


We have seen it over the last several days as the Democratic Convention has unfolded. In all likelihood we will see it when the Republicans meet in the Twin Cities.


We have learned another example of it today in the selection of the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States. I am sure there are those who already had their bags packed for future stardom and accolades. This afteroon their world has been turned upside down.


We have seen it in our communities...in our workplace and in our families.


Anticipation and expectation are dashed when what we thought would happen is turned upside down by circumstances beyond our control.


On a Sunday morning nearly thirty years ago I was sitting in a worship service in a prominent church in Kansas City. (writing that sentence makes me laugh...every church that is committed to seriously following Christ is a "prominent" church....but BITD 'back in the day' churches were categorized as "flagship," "prominent, "struggling," etc....)


Back to the worship service....


The pastor made a comment that I have never forgotten....


The best way not to get knocked off your pedestal

is to never get up on it...


Sometimes people put us on pedestals....


"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. Matthew 23:8



Sometimes circumstances and situations knock us off our "pedestals of presupposition." It is in those moments that we begin to discover who we are and who He is.


I am learning both. So if you are on top of the world....great! If you world has turned upside down....I'm sorry! What matters in these moments is the fact that He has called us to be "fully present" in this moment....and to learn.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Atonement


Atonement, in Christian Theology, is "the reconciliation of God and humans brought about by the redemptive life and death of Jesus Christ." Christs' sacrificial death on the cross was for our sins.


There is a lot of discussion these days about what that means exactly. There are heated debates about the meaning of words, yet the fact remains that Scripture teaches that the finished work on the cross makes a difference in the life of a person who expereinces His forgiveness.


Imagine the horror of the church that paid for a sign announcing that "Christ died for our sins" and saw this picture.


Did Christ die for "Dunkin Donuts?"


I thought this picture was funny and I couldn't resist the temptation to post it today.


In the words of one of the comedians on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour...."now that thar is funny!"


Go ahead and laugh, it will make you feel better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Informavores


Michael Agger writing in Slate introduced me to a new word today.


The word is Informavore. It means "people who forage in information fields." Agger uses this description to profile people who look for what he calls an "information scent." We graze for information and when we find a set of appealing facts we stop and consume them.


He cites Jakob Nielsen who is a "usability expert" when it comes to eye-tracking reseach, web design erros and banner blindness.


Stick with me.


In a nutshell here is what he says. Eye tracking studies show that online readers tend to ignore large blocks of text. Shorter is better.


Font size matters.


Monitors matter.


Eye rest is essential if you are an informavore.


Brevity is an art.


It caused me to stop and think. Most of my reading is done in front of a screen, that includes my time in the Word. Agger and Nielsen are right....I tend to graze when I read. Maybe it is my attention span, but I think it is that the material has to be laid out in a user-friendly manner if I am going to stop. There can't be a lot of busy-ness accompanying the text. There needs to be a Dragnet moment..."just the facts ma'am," when it comes to holding my attention. Long paragraphs tend to distract me in my search for kernels of truth and bullet points. If the narrative is to long, my tendency is to skip over it and keep grazing in hopes of catching the "information scent." As I am writing, I realize that this paragraph is getting long and you may already be looking for the next thought so here it is...


Be a Ludic Reader. I met one today at lunch.


She is a "pleasure reader" who enjoys reading for the simple joy of entering into the text and the narrative. She enjoys the tactile feel of paper. No computer screen for her. She loves holding a book in her hand.


If you are an informavore, it is time to go on to the next information field!


The end.



Monday, August 25, 2008

Yesteryear


The community that I live in has a rich history. It is a town replete with examples of financial success and manufacturing prowess.
That was then. Now is different.
In many ways, there are more successes in the past than can be imagined for the future.

Painted on the sides of buildings downtown are advertisements for goods and services reminiscent of days gone by. It is akin to "graffiti" from the 50's and 60's beckoning consumers to sample their services.

It is interesting to me that the signs remain even though the businesses have long since disappeared.

I have traveled a lot and had opportunity to see this pattern repeated in other communities. It makes me wonder why. Why do signs outlast the businesses they represent?

What does it say about the business that the advertisement outlasted the company?

It makes me wonder. Did the owners invest more in advertising than they did in creating longevity for their businesses?

It is easy to spend time, money and energy investing in the "surface" things of life. It is easy to be distracted by the advertising and promotion and miss the product.

It is easy to say "yes" to things that will not last and miss out on things that will stand the test of time.

What are you doing today that will have a lasting impact through time?

What are you investing in that will weather the assault of our culture?

What are you living for that is worth dying for?

Just a few thoughts that I had while staring at the painted sign on the exterior of a building downtown.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Recovery




The Iowa Disaster Response Team has been home for nearly 24 hours and we are in the "recovery" mode ourselves.




I did not realize how weary I was until I slowed down and reflected on all that God allowed us to experience.




We are "recovering" from an intense time of ministry and work. And it is refreshing.




Here is one final story that came to light en route back from Iowa.




My cell phone rang and I recognized the number as an Iowa area code. Kurk was on the other end of the line and he wanted to thank the team for all that we did while we were in Oakville, Iowa.




I asked him what he was doing. He said that he was behind a big truck that was towing a FEMA trailer.




What he said next was thrilling.




He said the trailer was headed to his mom's house and would be installed and set up the next morning.




What made this thrilling was that the new home for the trailer was the exact location where our team worked. Ruby was going to have a temporary home until her permanent home could be built. We cleared the way for the construction of her new home and FEMA brought her temporary home.




One last thought....Ruby has promised to prepare dinner for those who helped her and her family in their time of need. Getting her temporary home is one step closer to her permanent home which is one step closer to a great dinner of celebration.




Ruby....get out the pots and pans...we're coming to your house!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cast


Jim - Work Team Leader














Berta






Diane-Cook/Photographer












Kevin-Work Team Leader













Tom











Molly









Scott-Trailer Transportation











David








Randy-Communications Support










Kerri









Gabe












Tom








Chad











Javier - Medical Support







Cody











Bob









What a great cast!

Finale


There is an old saying..."tomorrow we will get up at O-dark-thirty." Sure enough that is what time the team was up this morning.


We were supposed to leave at 8:00 am, but a decision was made over dinner last evening to leave around 11:00 am. The reason was so that we could finish painting the exterior of the church where we are staying.


So, at 5:30 am the team was rising and getting ready for a morning of intense work. It looks like the weather will cooperate and we will be able to get it all done.


As I am writing these words the team is standing around waiting for enough light to begin painting.


This paint job will not be the "Sistine Chapel" variety, but it will be a much needed improvement.


I need to head outside and blow the whistle.....its Game Time!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Response







I have been privileged to work with a great cast in Iowa this week. They worked tirelessly under adverse conditions and made a difference in the lives of people who call Oakville home.



Today it rained and rained and rained. What do you do when it rains?

On the side of our vehicles we have signs that say, "Disaster Response."

Response is an interesting word. It means to "take action in light of a need."

We have seen great needs this week and it was frustrating to not be able to get "out there" where the needs are.


Then our host pastor said, "What are you going to do since it is raining?"

We didn't know.


He said, "there are several things that we need to have done around here."

You can imagine the teams response in light of the signs on the outside of our vehicles.


There was a flurry of activity. People went different directions and returned with supplies. Working through the rain, we installed vinyl siding on the church, we did major landscaping at the church, and we "responded" to the needs of our host church.

The pastor showed up and stood there speechless. The expression on his face made working in the rain worth it all.


Here is the interesting thing...the rain showered down on us and refreshed us. His rain refreshed our spirits as we were again reminded that what we do for others we do for Him!

Thanks for stopping by and visiting. Your interest and prayers have made a huge difference to those who have served the people of Iowa this week.

We received a card of appreciation from the Wapello congregation tonight. Inside were these words....

"It is sure a "God thing" your giving of your time and energy
without receiving pay..."

After dinner the team shared what they felt and experience this week while working in Iowa. It was obvious that they felt rewarded for the work they completed.

Thousand


A picture is worth a thousand words.




Rain


The plan for today is to paint the Wapello Church and install vinyl siding on the exterior. That is the plan, however it is raining. One of those tasks will have to wait until later.


Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of work to do and we will be busy.


Last night we purchased all of the supplies for a full day of work here at our base, but we will adjust our schedule.


Here are the three principles that we live by on our teams:


Nobody act big

Nobody act small

Everybody act medium


We also have three rules that guide what we do:


We are flexible

We will not whine

We will have fun


The principles and rules have ensured a great experience for fifteen people who took off a week of their work, slept on the floor, paid a hundred dollars and worked in the low 90's.


What a country!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blessing




We were working on a house this afternoon on 3rd Street in Oakville. I was reflecting on all that we have done this week. We have made outstanding progress. Here is a list of the projects that we have completed.


We demolished a full size 40x70 pole barn to make room for a new house.
We demolished another full size barn that was 40x80.
We demolished a home that is 48x80 so that another new home can be constructed.
We have "mucked out" two homes.
We have stripped the aluminum siding off of another house.


Back to the house on 3rd Avenue....We were feeling the effects of the scorching sun when a lady walked onto the job site. I walked over to her and listened to her story.


"Are you guys with the Nazarene church?"

"Yes, we are..."


"Really?"


Then her story unfolded. She told us that she was from Louisiana and that she was working in Oakville with a Methodist Disaster Recovery team.


I asked her, "where are you from in Louisana?"


"New Orleans"


Then she told me that she was a member of New Orleans First Church of the Nazarene.


I couldn't believe what she said. In the next few minutes I learned that she was a member of the church and that she was the treasurer of the church. Then it hit both of us. She was a member of the church where our teams spent nearly nine months repairing the damage of hurricane Katrina.


What are the chances that a person from New Orleans and a person from Flint Michigan would meet in Oakville Iowa and that both of them would be doing relief work?


Here is the best part of the story?


She said, "You are the reason that I am here. Because you came and helped us, I decided to go and help others."


I am sitting in the Wapello church at the end of a very long day giving thanks for what He has allowed me to experience.


I am seeing lots of Kingdom signs reminding me that the "whole earth is full of His glory."


What does the view look like from where you are?

Bonus


Every once in a while you run across a profound quote. You know the kind of quote that you want to write down and remember. I am talking about a quote that says it all.

This morning I took an early morning walk to the Kum-n-Go mart two blocks from where we are staying. I was having "USA Today" withdrawal pains.

The closest thing that I could find was The Hawk Eye, one of Iowa's great newspapers.

I opened up to page 3A and there was the quote. It was by Mark Lumbeck, County Sheriff. The reporter asked him to give an assessment of the effects of the 2008 flood. Here is what he said:


"We're going to be dealing with this for the rest of this year,

and probably next year."


Say what?


I don't know, his comment struck me as being funny in a serious kind of way.


Then it hit me...that is the way life is....we deal with things for the rest of this year and then probably next year as well.


Maybe Mr. Lumbeck has something to say....hmmm, just a thought.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Heat







Today it was 92 degrees with a heat index approaching the mid-90's. The sun blistered down. The dust on the country roads formed a trail behind our vehicles as we returned to work today. The conditions were formidable as we prepared to complete the work we started yesterday.



Both barns on Ruby's property have been reduced to a pile of smoldering embers. Years of memories went up in smoke. She smiled and said, "what a view, I always wanted to have a clear view across my yard." Now she does.



Patty is her next door neighbor as well as her daughter. She stopped by to ask when we were going to be able to begin working on her house. I told her that we would be there sometime this afternoon. The sadness in her eyes reminded me that her loss was overwhelming. From Ruby's property, it is about 5oo yards to Patty's home.



Patty and her husband moved into their home seven years ago today. It was a brand new home when they moved in. Today their home, after being inundated in 14 feet of water for several weeks, became a victim of the Iowa flood.




She wept as we demolished her home. Although you could not distinguish my tears from the sweat, I was sad. I wish that I could fix the pain evident in the lines on her face, but I can't.



We finished late in the afternoon and loaded all of the equipment en route back to Wapello. It was another day of learning...



Here are three lessons I learned today:



We are family and we have met some great "kin-folk" in Iowa
A broken heart feels the same in every time zone
Loss is painful and getting more stuff doesn't make the pain go away.



Dinner is over and we are learning the home towns where we were born, our favorite brand of potato chips and other trivia that gives us another opportunity to laugh.



Sleep is calling and I am going to respond quickly.

Wafting


It is 6:30 am and the smell of sausage is wafting through the Wapello Church of the Nazarene.

Batter is becoming fresh pancakes. Muffins are waiting for consumption.


The Disaster Recovery Team is fueling up for another day in the "zone."


Yesterday was a grueling day and today looks like more of the same.


There is a great sense of anticipation as the team heads out.


I am excited to see what will unfold as we return to an area where the Iowa River and the Mississippi River converge. Even though I have seen the scene over and over again, I am still moved by the devastation and the people's loss.


Simplicity is a buzzword in today's culture. Getting rid of our stuff on our terms is one thing, getting rid of our stuff because of a natural disaster is another. Either way, I realize that our culture is adept at collecting "stuff."


Today we will go and begin the process of "stuff reduction."


Here is my prayer for today...


God, help me to hold on loosely to things so I can

hold on tightly to you. Amen

Monday, August 18, 2008

Work











Today started at 5:30 am with a glance at the clock. My heart was pumping and the adrenaline was flowing as I laid on the floor of the Wapello church thinking about the day.

I knew what was planned, but I didn't know what was going to happen.


We loaded all of the equipment and headed toward Oakville a community at the nexus of the Mississippi and Iowa River.


The homes we worked on stood in water until two weeks ago. The flood hit on June 14th and has only receded recently.


Ruby, our friend and the owner of the house, has been through four floods. She is undaunted and at age 76 worked circles around us as she persistently worked to create some semblance of order in her yard.


I was sad as I watched her say farewell to equipment, tools and personal items that filled two barns on her farm. The water level was over 12 feet at the height of the flooding.


She had a smile on her face that reminded me that people and relationships are more important than the contents of our houses.


She told us the story of the trees in her yard and how they were planted by her children. Now the trees are mature and so are her children. Her children have suffered the devastation of the floods and yet the floods have not devastated their family.


Sitting underneath the trees in her yard, we celebrated the joy of being connected to one another. Talking together we shared common experiences and laughed together. And we sweated. With perspiration dripping from our foreheads we enjoyed one another.


Aaahhhh....the Kingdom of God is at hand, and we are enjoying it!


I can't wait to hit the sack so I can hit the road tomorrow!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fuel



















Lots of stories already developing....
Lots of traffic around Chicago...
Lots of laughter over burgers at McDonalds...
These are great ingredients for a great week of ministry....
Take a look for yourself....
Stay tuned...

View


This is my view from the passenger seat cruising down I-94 West. I am sitting comfortably enjoying the scenery in preparation for a great week.


The GPS unit says that "if everything goes as planned" we will arrive in Wapello, Iowa at 8:39 PM CST. We have driven 162 miles and we have 305 to go.


I love that phrase, "if everything goes as planned."


How often does that happen?


There are always glitches along the way that interrupt our plans. We experienced that as we loaded all of the equipment and supplies in preparation for our trip. It was as though the supplies neatly stacked in the Common Ground area multiplied overnight. We got it all in, but it was a challenge.


As I ride along, I am thankful for a great day of worship, Word and communion. It was exciting to watch Him at work today as we waited on Him


This week begins a new chapter in our kingdom journey.


"If everything goes as planned," I will keep you up to date on the events of our work in Iowa.


Stay tuned....and get ready for some great stories.


Now we are headed to Iowa and I am excited to see "if everything goes as planned."


If it does, that's great. If He has another plan, that's great to. What a great way to live!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Preparation


Here is an interesting sentence tucked in a hidden passage in the Old Testament.


"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."


I have been alive for 2,651 Saturdays. That means that for the vast majority of those Saturdays, I have spent getting ready for tomorrow.Tomorrow is another Sunday...2,651 to be exact.


The word "consecrate" is a word that is not often used today. It means, "the act of connecting oneself to a course of action or purpose."


It takes preparation.


"Prepare yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."


I am prepared for tomorrow. I have "connected myself to His actions and His purposes." And I am counting on the Lord to do amazing things.


Tomorrow will bring communion, worship, the Word, lunch and then a trip to another part of the Kingdom of God. Iowa.


I am prepared for tomorrow. I don't know what amazing things He will do, but I am living in a sense of expectancy. I will not be disappointed.


Over the next week be sure to come back as I share the "amazing things" that He has done.


Stay tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Letting Go


I read a statement this week that made me stop and think.


"when the rate of change inside an organization is slower

than the rate of change outside the organization, the end is in sight."


It made me realize that every new beginning is in part an ending of something else that has been familiar.


It made me realize that every part of life is about "letting go" of the way things are so that new beginings can take place.


Here are some examples that came to my mind this morning.


Taking a child home from the hospital and "letting go"of the security of hospital staff.


"Letting go" of your child as they head off to day care, pre-school, or the first day of school.


Allowing your child to get behind the wheel of the car for the first time....maybe that's not so easy to "let go."


Watching as your child goes off to college...."letting go"


Hearing those words, "who gives this woman to be married to this man?" "Letting go,"... sadness and joy mixed together.


One more...."letting go" of dreams, hopes and ambitions may be the toughest of all, but necessary.


And the list goes on.


It is intereting to me that as we "let go" there is One who never "lets go" of us. And that is what makes it possible to "let go."


What are you holding onto today that needs to be released?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Proposal



Thursday's are my writing day. It is a day set aside to capture the thoughts rambling through my mind and nail them down in print. It is a sacred day that allows me to shape words and thoughts into a narrative of meaning.


Some days are easier than others when it comes to the craft of writing. Some days are diamonds and some days are stone.


I am sitting in one of my writing spots and on a banner in front of me is a phrase that has arrested my attention.


Proposal for a Well-Lived Day

The best days go fastest. Keep Up


Keep Up.


That is a pretty tall order. That is easier said than done. But I think that is a great proposal.


Here is my confession...It is difficult at times for me to keep up with all of the things that are going on around me. Life seems to be a whirl of activity and sometimes I come to the end of the day and look up and realize that another day has passed.


They say (I am not sure who "they" are) that the older you get the faster the days go by. And I am discovering that is true.


I start out each day with a long list of things that I want to get done only to discover that life comes my way and I am trying to "keep up."


I ran across a website that can be found at www.gottakeepup.com. I thought about subscribing to some of their ideas, but then I realized that I was adding one more thing to an already busy day.


So here is my proposal for a well-lived day...


The best days are the days that we are fully present.

Keep this moment.


The task of writing is calling me and I am saying, "Present."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Blankets




On Friday, January 6, 2006 I walked into my favorite local bookstore and purchased Blankets by Craig Thompson.




It is an illustrated novel.




Imagine a comic book format with a novel plot line and you begin to understand what an illustrated novel is.




It is closely related to a graphic novel. It has similar characteristics to manga, which is a form of Japanese cartoons for adult readers. It also has the subtle influence of anime, which is a form of animation found in some of the Disney films.




All that aside, I purchased Blankets and took it home.




I am not sure what it is that so poignantly affected me when I read it. It graphically tells the story of Thompsons early childhood raised in an evangelical christian family.




Through nine chapters Thompson tells the story of his life and his relationship with his brother.




In the last chapter, Thompson describes his life and the process of how he abandoned his faith. He describes what it was like to move out of his parents home and moved to the point of independence in his living arrangements as well as his thinking.




The pictures throughout the book are startling and very moving. The storyline is abrupt at places and heartbreaking in others.




The nearly 600 page book ends with several pages of a man walking through the snow. The black footprints in the white snow are riveting.




On page 581 these words appear




How satisfying it is to leave mark on a blank surface


To make a map of my movement




Turn to page 582...




--no matter how temporary




The book sits on my shelf in my office. I have recommended it to several people and they have read it. There is something in that book that reminds me of why I am a Christ-follower. There is something in Thompsons writings that resonate with my quest to be a "learner" in a world that values mediocrity.




It is not for the faint of heart. But it can strengthen a heart that is fainting. Maybe that is the test of great literature.




Blankets.












Monday, August 11, 2008

Itinerary




I love that word.

It is a word that you have to be careful when you pronounce. If you are not, you might add to many "erary's" in the middle.

The word means, "an account or record of a journey."


Here is my itinerary from the last 48 hours.


Depart Flint on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PM (EST)



Arrive in Kansas City on Monday morning at 1:00 AM (CST) 760 miles
Depart Kansas City on Monday morning at 7:30 AM (CST)




Arrive Wapello, Iowa at 2:30 PM (CST) 310 miles
Depart Wapello, Iowa at 5:00 PM (CST)


Arrive Cedar Rapids at 6:30 PM (CST) 75 miles
Depart Cedar Rapids at 8:30PM (CST)


Scheduled arrival time in Flint on Tuesday morning at 5:00 AM 515 miles


Whew! That is a lot of driving. But it has all been worth it.

Here are a few of the highlights
We picked up the Nazarene Disaster Response Trailer
We met with the people at Wapello and surveyed damage from the floods
We met with the pastor at Cedar Rapids and assessed needs in that community

Now we are headed back home with fresh stories and insights into what God is doing in another part of the world.