Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Billion


Billion....700 billion to be exact.


Am I the only one tired of hearing about the "bail-out" or "buy-in" plan to rescue our failing economy?


Am I the only one weary of hearing the "Wall Street vs. Main Street" references from our presidential candidates?


700 billion is a lot of money. I am not sure how much exactly, but I know it is a lot. I decided to try to get my mind wrapped around the amount, so I went to my calculator on my laptop. The number is to big to fit on my calculator in a way that I can work with.


I wanted to know what 700 billion would buy so I did a little research.


Here is what I found.


For 700 billion you could buy every NFL, MLB & NBA Team.
You could build each team a new stadium
AND, pay each player 200 million dollars.


If you changed 700 billion into US quarters and put them side by side
you will go around the globe 122 times.


If you stacked 700 billion quarters it would reach 3 million miles into space.


If you took 700 billion and converted them into $1 bills it would
circle the earth about 2662 times and would weigh 770,925 tons.


700 billion equally divided among US citizens would give
each person nearly $3,ooo.


Here are a couple of other interesting things to consider....


Did you know....


700 billion is 9 times the amount spent on education in the US in 2007


It is 140 billion more than what has been spent on the
Iraq war since the invasion


It is the amount spent on importing foreign oil into the US each year


It is twice the amount of all money given to all charitable
organizations in the US in any given year


I am perplexed by the magnitude of this number. I am saddened by the occasion that has gotten us to this point. This is not a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green Party issue. It is a moral issue that assaults the sensibilities of reasonable people.


The answer is illusive and will not be easily found.


America is facing a test of her integrity and competence. Politicians, economists and commentators are not adequate to lead America out of this conundrum. The Speaker of the House and Minority leaders do not have the fortitude to show the way. The President seems locked in the abyss of helplessness. What should happen?


It is time for people like you and I to step up and provide leadership in our circles of influence. We cannot wait for Washington DC or the State capitol to suggest a plan. We must be willing to stand up, speak up and be counted at this crucial time.


Well, I feel better now that I have committed my thoughts in writing. I am ready to take action and make certain that my financial house is in order. I wonder what would happen if each of us took responsibility and didn't wait for someone else to help us.


Just a thought.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Braces


Have you ever seen something that took you completely by surprise?


A couple of days ago I was wondering through St. Jacobs Farmers Market in Ontario. There were Mennonites everywhere.

I grew up in Amish and Mennonite country so there is nothing surprising in that.


What shocked me was seeing a little Mennonite girls about eight years of age. That is not surprising.


But she smiled at me. That was a little surprising.


But when she smiled I was really surprised.


She was wearing braces. That's right orthodontic appliances...railroad tracks....braces.


A Mennonite girl wearing braces....am I the only one that thinks that is strange.


This world, it is a changin'!


If little Mennonite girls are wearing braces, what's next?


Stay tuned.

Reflections


Over the last 72 hours my wife and I have had the opportunity to be at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.


We saw three plays. One was a Shakespeare play filled with irony and drama. We saw two musicals that were playful, provocative and entertaining. After each play I reflected on the message the playwright tried to communicate. Often what you see in the play is a reflection of what the writer was trying to communicate. Rather than being direct, he hides the plays meaning inside of the dialogue and requires the observer to extract its meaning.


Sometimes I get the meaning. Sometimes I have to really work to see what he is trying to say. This weekend I got it.


In addition to attending the plays, the experience of being in Stratford Ontario was a rewarding one.


There were bookstores everywhere and everytime I would walk pass by I would wander inside and fare sumptiously from the volumes


There was a farmers market that offered all kinds of homegrown vegetables and flea market items.









































There was a horse auction offering draught and riding horses.































There was plenty of places for fresh coffee.





















There was a lot of restaurants to feed "play attending patrons."















The experience a a veritable cornucopia of experiences. I tried to be fully present in every moment and allow the time away to refresh my mind and soul.


Today I am reflecting on my time away and giving thanks for the Stratford experience.



















Tomorrow I head back to my day to day responsibilities...the memories of this weekend are fresh in my mind and will continue to influence and shape me as I embrace my responsibilities.


I am thankful for the experiences that have enriched my creativity and life.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Baaaack


I'm Baaaack!


After three days in the uttermost parts of the earth (Petoskey) I have returned to the land of cellular service and internet signals.


There were both in Petoskey but to get a cell signal you have to contort in configurations that look like old TV antennaes on top of homes in Scranton Pennsylvania.


Finally, I walked downstairs in the hotel where we were staying and asked about internet service in the hotel.


"Oh, yes...we have wireless internet throughout the whoooooole hotel."


I said, "I have been here two days and nights and I got nothin'"


He looked at me with a pitiful stare. Mumbling, he walked off to "check" on things.


He came back a few minutes later and said, "try that." I did. I had internet.


They had been so busy checking people in and out of the Stafford Bay View that they forgot to maintain the signal.


Life is a lot like that. We can get so busy that we fail to maintain the "signal."


Now that I am back on line I will be sharing some pictures and stories from my travels. Believe me, there have been a lot of both. You may get a couple of posts over the next few days so stay tuned.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall

It is hard to believe that fall is right around the corner in our neck of the woods. While others are sweltering in torrid heat, we are seeing leaves on trees turn colors. The autumn air is coming our way and we are anxiously awaiting its arrival.



Late last fall we carved pumpkins on the deck. We laughed and enjoyed an afternoon of culinary carvings.



I was assigned the responsibility of cleaning up the pumpkin guts.


I did the best I could but there were a few seeds left over and I brushed them off the deck into the flower bed beside the deck.



Imagine my surprise when a huge vine emerged from underneath the warm spring soil. Thinking it was a weed, I made a mental note to pull it later. Time got away from me and before long the huge vine began to sport yellow flowers followed by small green gourd shaped objects.



Then the sun kissed the green objects and turned them into orange pumpkins.


I have watched them all summer and tonite I took the big butcher knife outside and harvested the pumpkins. I don't know if it is the right time or not but cool weather is coming and I have already seen pumpkins at the grocery store, so now I have three pumpkins.


One is going to my son.



One is going to my daughter.

And we will keep one for ourselves.


Fall is here and it is my favorite time of the year. The harvest (three pumpkins) is done for our small farm.


We used to sing a song at Thanksgiving that had these words....


"All is safely gathered in
ere the winter storms begin"



We will carve the pumpkins soon....then we will be shovelling snow....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Confusion


I was flying home from Houston last evening and when we boarded the airplane at Bush Intercontinental Airport I noticed something unusual in the row in front of me.


There was a man and a woman who looked like a husband and wife.


They were seated in the Exit Row.


You know the shtick....the flight attendant came back to tell us that we were sitting in the Exit Row and in addition to having extra leg room we had extra responsibilities.


I have heard the speech hundreds of times so I was already doing something else while all of this was taking place.


All of us seated in the Exit Row grunted an affirmative response to the questions posed by the flight attendant. Everybody except my neighbors one row ahead of us.


They were busily reading the instructions entitled "In the Event of An Emergency"


After a few minutes they summond the flight attendant who sighed and walked back toward them.


What happened next was shocking.


The man spoke and said, "Excuse me, there is a discrepancy between the written instructions and the instructions printed on the Exit Door. One says pull the door in and store inside the plane and the other says open the door and throw it outside the plane. Which one is it?


Say what? The man's comment had my attention.


I realize that in the event of an emergency I and a hundred others will have already crawled over the man ahead of me while he is still trying to decide whether to store the Exit Door inside the airplane or throw it outside.


But wait there's more.


The Flight Attendant took the written instructions and began to read them. The last thing I heard him say was, "you know I have worked for the airlines a long time and I have never really read the instructions myself."


"WHAT?"


Here's the bottom line...I prayed a lot. There was no emergency requiring my neighbor to take action.


The flight attendant finally mumbled something like, "If we have an emergency do whatever you think."


I am glad to be back on terra firma.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Family


Over the last several days I have had the opportunity to be with my extended family. Many people live in close proximity to their family and have the privilege of seeing them often. Unfortunately, we do not get to visit each other as often as we would like so we try to take full advantage of the times when we are together.


I am in Houston for my nieces wedding.


We participated in all of the activities leading up to today's wedding. We ran errands, moved tables, decorated tables for the reception, rehearsed for the wedding, and attended the rehearsal dinner. It was cool to be together and to watch the anticipation and excitement.


Last night after all of the wedding eve festivities, my wife and I stopped by Panera Bread to enjoy coffee with my aunt who lives in Phoenix. She is my mother's sister.


We sat outside in the fresh Houston air and watched the sun set over the Texas Horizon. We sipped coffee, shared stories, laughed, swapped lies, sipped coffee, told childhood stories, sipped coffee until the half moon rose in the night sky.


I listened as my aunt regaled us with stories, many of which I had already heard and some which were new to me. I had lots of questions as we talked about family and I felt as though she was a link to a past I was to young to remember.


All families have stories.


Last night the stories told around the Panera Bread table encouraged my heart by reminding me of the rich heritage that is mine. I laughed when I heard some of the stories because they reminded me that our family is "human" and that we do not have it all together. Some of them helped me to better understand why I am the way I am and that even if I had it all together I wouldn't remember where I put it.


Finally, after the coffee was gone and the stories were told, I said, "let me tell one more story," and I did. It was a funny story about my uncle. We laughed.


I am thankful for a family that is strong enough to laugh together, live together, laugh together and last together.


Today we add another member to our family and I have the privilege of pronouncing them husband and wife.


I am heading off to the wedding


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Galveston

This morning Diane and I got up early and headed down to Galveston to assess the damages caused by Hurricane Ike.



The evidence of destruction is a pathway from where we are staying in Houston all the way to the Gulf shore. The distance from where we are staying to Galveston is about 70 miles.





You see the whole range of destruction from boats stuck on the edge of the Interstate to debris fields as far as you can see.


Homes are missing roofs, windows, decks, lawn furniture and vehicles.


There was nearly a five mile line of people waiting to enter the Causeway that takes you to the waters of the Gulf shore.


We traveled throughout the city which was rather quiet except for an occasional car passing. There were very few people due to the fact that the city is closed.



As we entered Galveston you immediately notice the destruction caused by Ike's horrific winds. You can see evidence of the path the wind took as it assailed the mainland. Even though many homes and windows were boarded up, Ike still left an indelible mark on people's property.



We traveled down to Sea Wall Boulevard (this is the area where the majority of the media shots were taken) and we walked along the sea wall.




Pillars stand at attention in the waters. These once held restaurants like Joe's Crab Shack, Hooters and several "mom & pop" ocean front restaurants. All that is left is a shell of a building. Everything else is gone.



We were in Galveston about an hour and the stench reminded us of New Orleans following Katrina. Black mold hidden in the walls of buildings is already advancing faster than the recovery efforts. Residents are not allowed back in and want be for a long time. There is a major problem with the sewer and water systems that will take weeks to address.


This city is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other small communities that have been ravaged by Ike.



Recovery will take weeks and months and perhaps years.


I have already heard from some of you with questions like, "when do we head out?" and "what can we do?" The answer to those questions are a little way away.


Assessments continue to be done. Evaluations need to be made and a plan will be put into place. Galveston will test the resiliency of her people and stretch the efforts of Nazarene Disaster Response.


Both will respond. I am thankful to be a part of helping people and will look forward to how we can do so.

Electricity

We don't have any.

Today we are in Houston for my nieces wedding. We arrived on Wednesday and had a great lunch with my niece and her fiance. We enjoyed dinner with the fam in the evening and then returned to the hotel.

There is no electricity in the hotel. This would seem to be an inconvenience to some people, but it sure saves a lot of time when it is time for bed.

Here are the timesavers I have observed after staying one night in the Best Western with no electricity.

1. You don't have to discuss who will turn off the lights.
2. You don't have to set the 60 minute alarm on the TV.
3. You don't have to wonder when it is time to go to bed...it gets dark.
4. You don't have to worry about when to get up in the morning....it gets light
5. You don't have to iron clothes, curl hair, dry hair....etc.
6. You don't have to worry about a USA Today outside your door...no lights.
7. You don't have to check the weather on the Weather Channel...just look outside.
8. You don't have to worry about room service....there ain't none
9. You don't have to worry about Parking Lot lights shining in the window.
10. You don't have to worry about whether or not the Air Conditioning will be to cold at night.
11. Continental Breakfast? Nope!

Life is simple....and we love it!

Howdy from Houston!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike




I have had a lot of questions about Hurricane Ike and its effects on the Gulf Coast. I have been asked if we will deploy a team to aid in the recovery efforts in Texas or Louisiana. Here is the latest information that I have.




The damage has been extensive in the Lake Charles, Louisiana and its surrounding areas. Galveston has been devastated by the effects of storm surge, winds and rain. Houston still continues to struggle to regain electricity as of this afternoon.




I am not aware of any assessments from Nazarene Disaster Response yet, however the District has a coordinator responsible for these assessments. I am certain that over the next several days there will be additional information updating the needs and ways that we can respond.




On a side note...I leave in the morning for Houston, Texas to conduct the wedding of my niece and her fiance on Saturday.




While in Houston, I will scope out the area and see what is unfolding.




I should have a better understanding of the needs upon my return late Saturday evening.




Several have already offered to go and be a part of either a "first response" team or a "response team." It is thrilling to see people who are willing to go and be a part of helping people whose lives have been devastated by Ike.




I do not have any dates or plans for teams. If we are contacted, I will be in touch.




Stay tuned.

Chesterton


I am a big fan of the writings of G. K. Chesterton. I don't agree with everything he writes and there are times that he leaves me scratching my head, but I resonate with this quote....


The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting:

it has been found difficult and left untried.


I just returned from the Emergency Room of our local hospital. I was visiting one of the saints of the church who over the years has not only tasted the faith, but has been nourished by her faith.


Although she was not feeling well, when I held her hand and prayed for her she grasped my hand with a tenacious grip.


Holding her hand I was reminded of three things.


First, in the midst of grim circumstances, He holds our hand....tenaciously! Remember it is us who loosens our grip, not Him.


Second, in the uncertainties of life, He stands as a constant in the middle of our muddle.


Third, in the turbulence of life, He is a "storm-calmer."


She held my hand firmly even though her body is frail. She held my hand firmly even though she does not know the prognosis. She held my hand firmly to remind me to hold His hand in a similar way.


I went to encourage her and her family, yet I walked away with greater encouragement than I was able to offer her.


She has "tried...tasted and tested" her faith. Seeing her lying on the gurney in the Emergency Room reminded me that her faith was standing the pressure of the moment.


If her faith can stand then so can mine. Thanks to a "woman of faith" for a great reminder!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Holiness


On Sunday I started a series on the concept of Holiness.


I want to be able to communicate that the way of Holiness is something that is often misunderstood but something that is essential to the life of the serious pilgrim.


I have been wrestling with ways to meaningful describe what I feel in my heart about this subject. It is easy to go to sources and read what others think and say about holiness. It is tempting to allow other sources to shape my thoughts and words. But I have opted to allow the Word to speak and bring definition to this important tenet of the faith.


So I am journeying through the scriptural narrative in an effort to explore the terrain of holiness.


Sunday I shared the first nugget that I have gleaned from my studies. I shared it and realize that it is an obvious statement, but sometimes it is in the apparent things of life that the depth of the truth most clearly surfaces.


The clearer our vision of God,

the greater our desire to walk in the way of holiness


The Word says, "And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness." Isaiah 35:8


There is an old saying that says, "It's my way or the highway."


This is often seen as an ultimatum offered at a time of tension. But I wanted to re-frame that saying to read, "it's my way or the highway of holiness."


I don't always have a clear picture of God or a clear indication of His activity, but in the moments of clarity that are mine, I have a desire in my heart to walk in the "way of holiness."


Rather than praying that I would have the courage to walk in the "way of holiness" I am praying for clearer pictures of God.


I think that if I can get a glimpse of Him, I will have a greater desire to walk in His way.


Just a thought. What do you think?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pictures

The Cast


The Finished Project






A close up of what the Inspector saw


The house tarped to prevent rain from coming in



A 24 inch diameter tree obstructed the view of the house




The house was completely obstructed by a fallen tree




The process of removing the fallen tree







Thursday, September 11, 2008

Inspector

Do you remember the guy in the white truck? The Baton Rouge Building Inspector?

He is the guy that showed up and announced, "you guys are doing it all wrong."

Well....He shut our work down yesterday and reprimanded us for working without a permit. He hoarsely gave us instructions about the necessity of getting a permit.

After he left we made the arrangements and within two hours we had a building permit.

One of the last things he said as he left us was, "ya gotta have an inspection. No more work until you get the inspection."

After calling for an inspection we got to the job early this morning and we waited. We waited and waited. The inspector was nowhere in sight.

Finally a decision was made to start working. Yes, you guessed it we were going to begin working without an inspection.

Rain was on the horizon and we had to get the shingles on the house. So we started.

45 minutes into the work, guess who showed up?

The Building Inspector. Same white truck, but a DIFFERENT person.

He wanted to talk with me so I nervously got down from the roof. He asked a few questions and then thanked us for volunteering our time to make a difference in his city. He said, "you probably didn't need a permit so I am going to sign off on the final inspection. Keep working and have a great day!"

I ran back up the ladder with a new surge of energy and gratitude to a God who hears the prayers of His children.

The homeowners father had called the Mayor of Baton Rouge and the City Councilman to register a complaint. A threat was made to contact the local news affiliate to bring attention to the plight of non-profit volunteers that are slowed down by government bureaucracy. None of that brought about the results.

It was prayer.

One final thought...our Nazarene Disaster Response team this week saved this homeowner nearly $10,000 in costs associated with cleaning up the devastation caused by Hurricane Gustav.

Tonight, Annette, the homeowner will come home to a home that is cleared of all of the debris in the front yard. She will rest knowing that even if it rains the inside of her home will be dry.

I am riding on I-55 North in central Mississippi as I write these words. I am tired, but renewed after spending a week in Baton Rouge. I am saddened by the losses I have seen but comforted by the hope in the eyes of people we were able to help. I rest in the assurance that God is at work and I am thankful that He allows me to be a part of what He is doing.

pictures of this project will be posted shortly

Path


We are watching the path of Hurricane Ike. The people of Baton Rouge are watching it with keen interest and praying that it spares them from another direct hit.


Last night I received a text message from our Communications Coordinator in Flint advising our team to be on the road no later than 2 pm today to avoid the outer bands of weather associated with Hurricane Ike.


We will do our best.


This morning I looked at its projected path again and the weather forecasters are saying that it is headed to Houston.


There is a message posted advising nearly 1 million people to begin evacuating to avoid being in the path of another hurricane. Some will comply, some will stay and some will wait and see. All will be affected.


Today we will end our work in Baton Rouge. Other teams are already in the staging process to address the effects of Ike should it come ashore as predicted.


After seeing the damage caused by Gustav, my heart goes out to those who will have similar experiences in Texas later this week.


It is comforting to know that there will be people who will travel many miles to provide aid to those affected by the storm. Even then it is sad to think of all of the destruction.


As we head home, we go back with the assurance that in small ways we have made a big difference. The same will be true for the people of Texas.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Regulations




Today was an interesting day.


The white truck rolled up to where we were working. He got out of the truck and walked toward where we were repairing a roof damaged by a fallen tree.


"You're doing it all wrong!"


Those are encouraging words when you are doing your best.


He walked across the yard and climbed the ladder to look at our work.


"I'm shuttin' ya down."


Welcome to the world of Baton Rouge Building Inspectors.


Yes, you guessed it. Nazarene Disaster Response met the Building Inspector.


He shut the job down, so we sat under the shade tree and waited for a building permit. It gave us a chance to get out of the heat, to relax and sip chocolate milk shakes from Sonic.


The good news is that we got a permit and continued to work.


But America has to be the only place in the world where the government can tell volunteers to stop working.


We will return tomorrow and wait for the building inspector to show up and approve the work that we have done.


I am practicing my best smile.

Meeting







Last night the Leadership Team from Baton Rouge First Church came over to the area where we are staying for a brief visit. They were in their monthly meeting and decided to come over and express their appreciation for all that Nazarene Disaster Response is doing.

There were many kind words shared.

There were many funny stories shared as we introduced ourselves to one another.

At the end of the evening I reflected on our meeting.

Here are some thoughts that I had this morning when I first woke.

Every church Leadership Team desires to be effective in their outreach to their community
Some churches become effective when the circumstances demand it, and others talk about outreach as if it is an option to be considered. Baton Rouge First Church has had an opportunity thrust upon them and they are responding admirably.


Every church Leadership Team is a mixture of great talent and diversity
We saw it last night. As each person introduced themselves and described their secular employment as well as their responsibilities on the Leadership Team it was obvious that God has crafted this group of individuals "for such a time as this."

Every church Leadership Team looks the same
There is an old television show that started with words similar to these..."What you are about to see is real....the names have been changed to protect the innocent." As I listened to the stories from Pastor Brad's Leadership Team, my mind went to a person on our Leadership Team and I thought to myself, "that is (fill in the blank)"



It is early and the sun is still hidden below the horizon in Baton Rouge. It will not make an appearance for another 30 minutes or so. When it does, it will again reveal the magnitude of human need and the devastation caused by Hurricane Gustav.

Baton Rouge First Church is responding to the needs that they see.

Our team is responding to the needs that we see.

Here is the question....Are you willing to respond to the needs that come across your pathway today?


Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fallen


The tree fell across the fence and served as a reminder that trees know no property boundaries when they fall. The heavy limb had fallen from nearly 60 feet up in the tree.


We pulled up to the church members house and unloaded the equipment. Upon closer inspection there was only eight feet of tree on his property. The culprit was the sixty feet laying on the other side of the fence.


We easily cut up the tree on Howard's property.


I asked about his neighbor. He said, "I have lived here eight years and really haven't talked to him much."


One of the team members accompanied Howard to visit his neighbor over the fence.


The purpose of the visit was to offer Nazarene Disaster's Response help in removing the tree from the property.


He said that he was a skeptic and seemed wary of the offer. He finally agreed to let us on the property to clean up his property.


We removed the fallen tree. We raked his property. We replaced the broken fence boards. We swept his property. That was important work.


But the most important work was Howard and his neighbor standing under the carport talking about life. I overheard Howard talking about how proud he was of his church and extending an invitation to his skeptical neighbor. His neighbor agreed to visit sometime.


His neighbor had the opportunity to see people who genuinely believe in helping others.


I saw a sign while driving home the other night. It said, "With Heart to God and Hand to Man."


That describes why we are here.


Today I saw a tree become a bridge.

Anticipation


Anticipation is an interesting thing.


When I was a kid I would anticipate a coming event. I would wait and wait until the event actually arrived. Sometime the anticipation was worth the wait and at other times it wasn't.


Today as a "grown up kid," I am anticipating the day ahead.


Getting up early helps. Even though I am anticipating another day of intense heat, high humidity, oppressive working conditions, and hurting people, I am confident that today will be a great day.


The smells of breakfast are wafting into the eating area.


The aroma of servanthood calls us to the field of service and we are anticipating Him to be there ahead of us.


More stories tonight.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Friends




The homeowner came to the door this morning and she blurted out, "I knew the Nazarenes would come and help."


I laughed at the thought of her waiting for the Nazarenes to show up.


She was truly grateful and thought that once we opened up the doors to the trailer that all of her problems would subside.


The Nazarene family is strong and resilient.


One of the privileges of ministry is partnering with others who have similar callings and passions.


We have been blessed this week to join with a sister congregation to meet the needs of the people of Baton Rouge.


We are grateful for new friends whose hearts beat for His Kingdom.


Dinner tonite was superb as we celebrated another day of ministry. It was like a family. We laughed, told stories, and reminisced about a day in the blast furnace known as Baker, Louisiana.

Deadwood




"There is a lot of deadwood around here."




Here is a multiple choice question.




Does the above question refer to:




A. The people from your local church


B. The place where you work


C. The people that attended your last family reunion


D. The effects of Hurricane Gustav




If you answered "A" you probably need to have Him light a fire under your congregation


If you answered "B" you may need to change jobs


If you answered "C" I can't help you out


If you answered "D" you are right.




There is a lot of deadwood in the neighborhoods of greater Baton Rouge.




We spent all day cutting trees that averaged 24" in diameter. We worked in 97 degree heat with a heat index to match. The work was grueling and the pace was demanding. In spite of all of those factors we were grateful to work in His kingdom.




In the wilting heat we labored to assist people who had no other alternative but to pray for someone to come and help.




The families that we helped today were speechless when we left. They tried to think of words to express their appreciation, but all they could say was, "we don't know how to thank you, we don't know what we would have done without you."




My response was simple. "We're here to help."




I am sitting in the area where we ate dinner reflecting on the day. Earlier one of the team members said this, "I felt the prayers of people today."




Thanks for praying for the people of Baton Rouge and thanks for praying for us.




Tomorrow we rise to work another day.

Swing


It is one thing to clean up after a hurricane, but it is another thing to think about the coming effects of a hurricane that is churning in the Gulf waters.


We are working to repair the damage caused by Gustav and people who call Louisiana home are already bracing for the the arrival of Ike.


There is a sense of urgency to our work as we try to cover holes in roofs so that water will not cause further destruction to homes already damaged by Gustav.


At times it feels like you are not making any progress and there are times when you think that you are making a difference.


Things that one takes for granted at home are rare here in Louisiana.


Ice. Electricity. Running water. Air Conditioning.


Yesterday I met a family that had lost all of these with the exception of water. You could tell that they were a busy family and accustomed to a demanding schedule. Gustav arrived and altered their lifestyle.


During the morning I looked across the yard and noticed a yard swing covered by an awning. It didn't look like it had been used very much pre-Gustav, But yesterday the family of four was sitting on the swing, laughing and enjoying each other. The father was holding his daughter and she was giggling.


It made me stop and think...Disasters have a way of slowing us down and making us appreciate things that are neglected in the busy-ness of life.


It could be that swinging on the porch swing is more valuable than the size of our plasma screens, more valuable than the myriad of sports schedules, more valuable than the constant pace that saps our energies.


My heart was refreshed by a dad holding his daughter swinging on the porch swing. I hope that when life gets back to normal for this family they still swing together under the shade of those beautiful pine trees in Baker, Louisiana.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Listening


A picture is worth a thousand words

Limitations






Today we were tested.






The temperature was in the mid-90's...the heat index was in the upper 90's.






The work from the ground looked rather simple. Remove trees and branches that had fallen on a steep (emphasis on the word "steep") roof and then install FEMA roofing (blue tarps).






It all looked good from the comfort of the air conditioned 2007 Yukon.






Life is a lot like that. Things look simple from a distance. Have you ever given into the temptation to offer advice and solve problems when you were in your comfort zone?






Today we were looking at the job and it looked so simple.






Then we started to work.






At the end of the day there was great satisfaction that we had accomplished something great for the kingdom.






I learned some very important lessons today.






I learned that people who are hurting express true gratitude with kind words.



I learned that when we think that we cannot go another step, He walks with us.



I learned that in tragic circumstances, there are humorous moments.






Let me close with a great example.






Before I left I scurried all over our community gathering plastic tarps to bring to Louisiana. I gathered as many as I could. I was loading them on the trailer and I looked down on the end of the box. Tarps bought in Flint were manufactured in Louisana.






Yes, you have it right. They were made here in Louisiana, shipped to Flint, and then we turned around and brought them back. Does anybody think that is strange. I had to laugh.






So we are continuing our mission...

Sunday


Jesus asked provocative questions.


Sometimes He asked questions that needed no answers. Sometimes the response was so obvious that people who heard Jesus stood there dumbfounded by the power of the question.


Such is the case in today's question.


The work around us today in Louisiana is staggering. People are struggling to find solutions to their distress. Problems don't know what day of the week it is.


Here is a personal confession. I have been taught that Sundays were sacred, and I beleive that.


However, Jesus asked a very powerful question to a group of people that were judgmental.


Here is the question.


"Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?"


The scripture tells us that the "people with all the answers" simply "remained silent".


That is funny to me....people who are experts remaining silent. It must have been a powerful question.


As if that is not enough, He went on to illustrate his question.


"If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?"


Again, there response was silence.


I am trying to figure all of this out, meanwhile I hear oxen bleating in the ditches. My job today is to go and pull them out.


Not a bad way to spend a sabbath if you really believe that all work is sacred.


Just a thought.