Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Job’s Friends and Their Kin

I really am enjoying my facebook connection on the web. It connects me with so many people who have been part of our lives at one time or another. Spending time there is part of the reason I post here so infrequently. However, every now and then, I get stirred up and it is time to blog.

Another thing with facebook is keeping up with the struggles people are going through and supporting each other through prayer and encouragement. It can be a real blessing.

Then there are the people who take their cue from Job’s friends and consider it their duty to be the voice of God via the comment box. “You really should....”; “If you weren’t...” ; “The Bible says...”; and so on.

In the book of Job, the main character of the story is set upon by all kinds of hardship and heartache. Then his three friends arrive:

Job 2:11-13 (NIV)
11 When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

After a week, they couldn’t keep silent any longer. They had plenty of time to think up reasons that Job was in such trouble and they had many wise things to share with him. For the next several chapters they take turns spewing their wisdom all over a man who is already suffering from angst and self-doubt. Thank you so very much.
Recently, a friend of mine was sharing the loss of the 13 year old son of one of his friends. He started the thread out with, “Words fail to express”. Three comments later, one of Job’s friends found plenty of words that were inconsiderate and abrasive.

When friends are suffering, do they really need our advice or do they just need our presence? For the first week, Job’s friends got it right. They wept with him and shared in his hurt. Most of the time, it is enough. Often, it is just the right thing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I’m blown away by the attitude of one particular person from my new church. She and her family don’t have much in the line of material things. They collect bottles and cans for deposit and use the money to buy food for themselves and their animals. Often she will come in praising God that she found five dollars worth of cans or was able to get her bicycle across a normally busy highway as if the seas had parted for her.

Today, during a phone call, she was talking about what she experienced as she shoveled snow yesterday. She realized that when she moved the snow, it was no longer beautiful the way it was when God moved it. “Only God can truly enjoy the beauty of the snow and move it so that it still glistens. That’s what I was thinking about the whole three hours I was out shoveling snow!”

Me, I have to have a snow blower to clear my 50' driveway. She’s out shoveling, for three hours no less, and praising God and learning from Him in the process. I come away thinking I’m missing something. But I think if I keep listening to this Godly lady, I might just catch a bit of her humble heart.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Do Right - Stay Left

There won’t be bumper stickers.

I’m starting a movement. I don’t know how many will be moved, but a few would help.

It started with a personal inconvenience and has moved on to change the way I drive. I’m talking about drivers who clog up the right lane at four lane intersections. They plan to go straight through the light and eschew the left lane because there are more cars in it in favor of the right lane that has fewer vehicles in it precisely because of the right turn on red law. So, there they sit, blocking the lane while car after car stacks up behind them impatiently running their right turn signals.

I’m proposing a national movement of courtesy that simply says “Do Right - Stay Left” when going through on at four lane traffic light. However, there won’t be bumper stickers, because every now and then, I forget myself and I am the clod who clogs up the right lane.

(For my friends in Lansing, you can thank the turn from Waverly Rd. (South bound) onto Saginaw Rd (West bound) for this public service announcement.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tree by Rivers of Water

On Friday we were down in DeWitt packing up pictures & such and patching & painting walls where they used to hang. I also took my kayak down to bring north. It was a gorgeous day and I took a break in the afternoon to take the boat out for one more float on my beloved Looking Glass River.

The water was very shallow and slow, so it wasn’t spectacular kayaking, but very pleasant. I chased a blue heron down the river. He would fly off and then wait for me around the bend, repeating the process four times. I could get quite close if I spotted him early and coasted in. There was also a kingfisher that I saw several times skimming the water, picking off bugs and a half dozen large snapping turtles sunning themselves on logs.

As I floated along I looked back a dry tributary and saw a tree whose roots were exposed by earlier heavy rains and had lost the battle with gravity. It was a huge tree, very tall and probably two to three feet thick. It had grown large by being by a nearly constant source of water. But it hadn’t put roots deep enough to support itself, because it didn’t need to to get sufficient water and nutrient. Life was too easy for its own good. When the heavy rains came and the torrents washed away the supporting earth, it became easy prey to the wind.

Psalm 1:3 talks about the person who is like the tree planted by rivers of water. He prospers and bears fruit. I guess the counter point to that is to not get secure and lazy in my supply. God has blessed me abundantly and it is easy for me to draw from the wealth of spiritual riches he has provided. It is equally easy for me to take the supply for granted and only go deep enough to support what I need for daily living, but not enough to stand serious storms. So, I want to go deeper than I seem to need. I need to seek more and more of Him and get firmly rooted. Because the storm is sure to come.

What’s Happening?

It’s been a long time between entries. That means one of two things: a) nothing’s happening or b) life is nuts. That’s right students. You get an A for the day - the answer is b.

The move to Traverse City is going well, but consumes a lot of time. We have been coming down to DeWitt to stage the house and keep the lawns and such up. With each trip a little more of our life moves north. We were also stopping by the hospital or hospice with each trip to see our friends Don and Sandy.

On August 22nd, Don’s struggle came to an end. God’s amazing timing came into play. A year ago I accepted the wedding of Wes and Catherine, a neat young couple, not knowing that I would be moving to TC. The wedding was originally scheduled for July, but because of his training schedule, it got moved to August 22nd. Because of this, Marcia was with Sandy during Don’s last moments and I was able to be there shortly after. Don and Sandy have been great friends and we miss Don greatly. A couple weeks after, we were down to Lansing again and as we pulled onto the Lake Lansing Rd. exit, “We should meet Don and Sandy @ Applebees” went through my head before I had a chance to stop it. Ugh. Those are the times grief really bites me.

Don’s funeral was scheduled for Wednesday, the 26th of August, so I went into the office on Monday to get the week started. Lori Barclay, the volunteer church secretary, was doing an amazing job of catching me up on things. I was so impressed on how well she was catching on to how I wanted things done and did things with such excellence. A real delight to work with and quickly becoming a great friend. She was to come in that morning and around 10:30 I wondered where she was. A short time later, her husband Pete called. Lori had dropped him off at work early that morning, went home, lay down for a nap and never woke up. She was only 48 years old. A stunning loss to her family and her church and community. Her funeral was on Friday of that same week. Two friends in less than a week. A loss I’m still trying to process. Please pray for our friends, Sandy and Pete as they try to walk from day to day. I can’t imagine what they face each morning.

The following week was the DALMAC ride. This is where I ride my bike from Lansing, over the Mackinac bridge and on to the far eastern tip of the upper peninsula in five days while camping in a tent and call it fun. And it was and it was just what I needed after the rush that has been our life since we got the “why don’t you send your resume” call back in May.

The weather leading up to the week of DALMAC was less than stellar. Cold, windy (directly out of the north) and rainy. The week of the ride was gorgeous - cool (a bit chilly in the a.m.) but sunny each day with light breezes that helped almost equally to hindering. The route changed a bit this year and took us over some new hills and through some beautiful country.

I beat the wall, but it wasn’t pretty. The wall is a short hill outside of East Jordan that goes up to 22% - the steepest paved road in lower Michigan. It is preceded by a long slow climb out of East Jordan that saps the strength out of your legs before you make the turn and start the climb. After last year’s failure, it was not going to beat me again. That is, until I actually had to take it on with far less training than the previous year and a fair amount of additional weight. About half way up I had to stop. I stood there astride my faithful yellow and black racing bike panting and cursing (preacher style - no profanity, of course) my lack of ability. After a couple minutes I began to feel better and a plan came to mind. I walked the bike over to the other side of the road, pointed down hill and got going enough to clip into the pedals and then turned back on the beast. It wasn’t easy and this is NOT the recommended way to ride hills, but I beat it!

Every other time I rode the wall, there were crowds of people standing at the top, cheering. This year, hardly anyone. I think it may have been because of the change in route. There was an added hill called “five tears” hill. It is a hill that goes up and over a ridge leading in to East Jordan in five tiers. The first of which is longer and higher than the wall by quite a bit but only at 17%. There were a lot walkers on that one as well and it took a lot out of people and probably sent many on the alternate route around the wall.

My best funny story from this year’s trip happened only a few miles from home. I was riding into Kalkaska with another rider who had picked me up. We were getting to know each other and having an enjoyable chat at about 20 mph on the flat, wide shoulder along 131. There was a fair amount of traffic, but the shoulder gave plenty of room. So, we really didn’t expect to hear the air horn coming from behind. We initially thought it was an exceptionally loud truck horn, and then I thought “Gabriel!”. It would seem like one would hear a freight train coming. There is a set of tracks that runs parallel to 131 about 20 yards to the east of the road. The train was coming to an intersection, so he had to blow the horn, but I’m sure the engineer was enjoying the moment. I loved John’s response: “I guess I’ll be buying new shorts in Kalkaska”.

Now we are getting into more of a rhythm with the new church and our life in TC. Marcia has been hired in as my secretary and it is great working together again. She does an amazing job but the big disadvantage is that both of us are learning the people and the church. This week’s big challenge has been trying to find out how to get into our AOL email account. Lori was the administrator and no one else seems to know the password or the answers to the password hints.

Last Sunday I preached the “Pace of God” message and ended with challenging the church to take time to give God room in their lives. I committed to putting my hands in my lap and taking a deep breath at each stoplight this week and giving a word of praise. It’s Saturday morning as I’m writing this and I have had 59 opportunities to practice that this week. It has been an exceptionally relaxing week in so many ways. I think I’m going to keep this practice up. It has actually been disappointing on a few occasions when a light turned green just as I was coming up on it!

It didn’t hurt the week that on Tuesday we got a call that we had an offer on the house in DeWitt. It wasn’t a great offer, but not awful either. Our realtor recommended a counter offer and we did that. Wednesday was silent but on Thursday morning we received the call that our counter was accepted. We will lose a chunk with closing costs and price, but not as bad as many people. Chances are good that we will be able to make it up on the purchase in TC. Now we can start looking seriously.

As I reflect on the last two of the paragraphs it occurs to me that, once again, God comes through when I am teachable. When I give up the tension of minor things over which I have some control (my response to traffic lights) He gives relief from the major stressor - selling the house and lots of travel back to Lansing. Thanks, Lord. I’m trying to listen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Life is So Much Easier

I’m reading through the Bible in two years in my daily devotions. I’ve done the one year plan and always feel rushed, so when I found my Bible program allowed a two year plan I decided to give it a go. Much better.

However, right now, I’m reading through Leviticus - inspiring. Lots of blood and discharges and uncleanness until evening. The program also takes me to the New Testament to the book of Mark, so I am getting some reading that is a little more digestible.

Interesting contrast today.

I was in Leviticus 16, the day of atonement and I was thinking about how much easier things are today, especially as a pastor. I can’t imagine doing all the things the priests had to do in those days to make atonement for sins. Then I went to the book of Mark and my reading is from Mark 2, the story of the paralyzed man let down through the roof.. I run across this verse:

Mark 2:5 (NIV) When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

What a contrast! Bring this animal on such and such a day and kill it in this manner and sprinkle its blood here and there and don’t do this, because you will have to start all over again or “Son, your sins are forgiven”.

No wonder the religious establishment was upset. Their business depended on complicating things. Jesus made it simple. He made it personal. He made it real.

I’m going to go contemplate how I’m complicating things so I can have a job now. See you later.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Moving Story

Marcia and I are in the process of making the move to Traverse City a bit at a time. We started at Journey on August 1st, but are still in the process of selling the DeWitt house. So, we are living with our son, Kyle and his family while we sell and start and look for a new home, once the old one sells.

To take care of the DeWitt house we are going downstate on our days off, looking after things (lawn, hedges, dust furniture) and bringing a load of stuff up. Last week (Aug 2-3) we borrowed a tow vehicle and enclosed trailer from friends to bring up the freezer, washer and dryer and whatever else would fit. Monday turned crazy and we rushed almost the whole day, not getting away until 6 pm. Earlier that morning, when I picked up the trailer, my friend Gale, almost as an after thought said, hey, I’ve got the spare in the back of my truck. I didn’t have time to get it replaced, it has a chunk of tread missing, but if you had a flat, it might let you limp into somewhere safe. So, I picked it up and indeed, it had a chunk of tread missing about 8 inches long and 3 inches wide.

Spent the week working, never gave a thought to fixing the spare, why would I need it? We headed back to DeWitt on Sunday (Aug 9) and were looking forward to a much more relaxed weekend. According to Gretta (our Garmin), we were to arrive around 5:45 p.m.

Everything was going along great. I keep watch on trailer tires and wheels because they can go bad quite quickly. Just north of Clare I checked the driver’s side mirror to see that the tire was soft. We were only three miles out of Clare, so I kept watching, Next thing I know, it’s not just soft, it’s flat and floppy. Pull over – way over and pull out old baldy. No problem, only three miles.

Problem. It’s Sunday evening. No tire suppliers open in Clair. Nearest Walmart is in Mt. Pleasant. We set Gretta for back roads and limp toward Mt. Pleasant @ 45 mph. The tire is showing a bulge on the inside but we make it. Whew.

Problem: Walmart doesn’t sell that size. They suggest Tractor Supply. They have a tire, wrong size, already mounted on rim. $104.00! We decide to limp as far as possible and then park it in a safe place, lock it up and come back Monday with a new tire.

Miracle: We set Gretta for back roads and find a delightful route on very good secondary roads through the farm lands. I keep watch on the tire, we keep praying. Shepherd passes, Forest Hill, Alma, Eugene, Middleton. Finally Maple Rapids Рwe are within 25 miles of home! As we cross M-21 on DeWitt Rd, just outside St. Johns, it lets go. We are less than 14 miles from home! Plus, there is a church with a large empty parking lot right there. We pull in, disconnect and finish our trip. We arrive in De Witt in time to see some of our friends in our HomeGroup. Laughter and chocolate cr̬me pie make everything better.

Life is an adventure. You never know what will come. On this particular weekend, things didn’t go as we had planned, and yet all the while we were driving on that tire, I kept waiting in expectation for what God would do. Would we make it all the way or would I come across a front yard with a trailer tire chained to a tree with a for sale sign on it? Or, would it get us close enough to home and go just where I could find a safe place? The latter as it turned out. As we were crossing M-21 I saw the church and thought, if it is going to go, this would be a great place. I looked back, and it was gone. I literally drove about 200 yards on it flat. Thank you Lord, for taking care us us and for eyes to see that you were doing so.