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.