Impact Point

IMAGE.JPG

This week I was with the Generations Trip to Branson Missouri. We had a great time of fun, shows and food. We also had some complications. On Monday evening, we arrived after an easy bus trip. We ate at an all-you-can-eat buffet and arrived at the Andy Williams Theaters. We were full and the music was soothing and I have to admit that my eyes fluttered for a moment or two. The second half of the show picked up we all left with Christmas officially launched.

I headed to the bus and found the door closed and the bus driver in deep ponder. He turned at looked at me and said, “I need your help. Someone has broken into the bus.” We got on and I filmed the scene. At first glance it just looked messy, but then on closer examination I could tell someone had gone through bags and tossed stuff on the floor. We called the police. We waited. Eventually, we let individuals on the bus to determine what was gone. They took a blanket, backpacks, and the drivers credit cards and cash. In reality very little was taken. The backpacks had only water, snacks and some gloves. We lost some time and got back to the hotel after midnight. The next morning everyone was happy. It could have been bad, but it was not. We all agreed to let it pass and have a great trip and we did.

On Friday, we headed toward home. We made our last scheduled stop and then were headed to a short surprise stop. Suddenly someone screamed at the front of the bus. I was in the last seat in the back. The rear of the bus rose into the air. The nose took a dive as the driver slammed on the brakes. Impact. Confusion. Chaos. Stillness.

We started taking inventory. A twisted finger, a bump on the head was the worst we could find in our bus. The car was crumpled, the airbags deployed and the occupants taken to hospital (they only looked shaken but the EMT insisted). After about an hour, the car was cleared the bus drivable and we were on the road again. We were all laughing and realized it could have been so much worse. Apparently, they had missed a turn, decided to try it anyway, but overcorrected and ran straight into our bus.

Circumstances can control your life or your attitude can control your life. Some people would have let the troubles overwhelm the trip, but our people were great. Noting put a damper on our trip. We would all sign up tomorrow for a return journey. I’m so thankful for the positive people. Twenty years ago my father-in-law out his arm around me on my first Sunday and said, “This is a great church, don’t mess it up.” It is obvious that our people are great and their faith in our God is great, and they are a whole lot of fun even in the worst of circumstances.

Perspective

IMG_4231.jpg

The water was like glass. The leaves vibrant. The afternoon light infused the trees with a holy glow. The whole time I was worried. I made a lot of extra nervous noise. Occasionally, I clapped my hands for no apparent reason. You see, it was hunting season and this lake is right on the edge of the property and I was warned that hunters are sometimes in the meadow not far away to the right.

The beautiful scene was upended by the threat. As I walked through the woods I could not get out of my mind the story of the accidental shooting last week, when a hiker was mistaken for a deer and shot. I know it is rare, but I still could not shake the feeling that people were hiding in the woods with their fingers on the trigger and I might just be in the wrong place.

I got pulled over last week. I was taking Chris Stapper back to DFW for his flight home. It was about 5 PM. I pulled out of a parking lot at Grapevine Mills mall and drove about 100 feet and stopped at a light. A policeman pulled up opposite me and immediately turned on his lights came through the intersection and whipped around behind me. He blew his horn and indicated with his hand that I needed to turn. He was coming after me. I turned right onto the side street. I looked for a way to pull off the side road on into a parking lot, but he blared the horn at me again and so I stopped in the road.

He charged out his car. I assumed he believed me to be a criminal, someone fleeing a crime, I must match a description on the police radio. He came to my window. He was so angry. It was very intimidating. It was scary. I kept my hands on the wheel. I did not move until he told me. He got my license. He tapped information into his phone like he was chiseling through concrete. He lit into me. He was furious that my highbeams were on.

It was still bright outside and I did not even know my lights were illuminated. This is still a new car to me and I'm not used to the way they automatically turn on with the ignition. In addition, the blue high beam indicator is obscured by my sitting position in the car. It is behind the steering wheel. I slouched down and saw the light. I apologized.

He left and got back in his car. He came back. He was still angry. He explained to me that he wanted to give me a ticket and that this was one of his pet peeves. I apologized to him. I explained about the automatic lights and the obscured indicator. He told me again what a dirtbag I was. He explained that even though I was driving my own car, the fact that I had a CDL meant it would go on my record, it would cost me money and there was nothing I could do about it. He printed out a piece of paper. Finally, he stated it was a warning. He shoved it into my hands and stalked away to his car.

Chris and I were shaken. We both commented about his anger. It was the most intense angry encounter I had ever had with a policeman. I certainly was breaking the law, my high beams were on, but I was not doing it intentionally and he took it so personally as if I was attacking him. I left the encounter shaken by the magnitude of his anger and a feeling that this is the fear other people have when they meet the police. I have never really felt it before, I have a number of good friends in law enforcement, but it reminded me of the feeling from the meadow.

When people met us do we create an environment of fear or peace? Isn't this what our culture is facing, a serious reconsideration of people with power and how they exert it over others? I say we pray the prayer of St. Francis more often,

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Playground

IMG_4205.jpg

I'm so excited for Thanksgiving. We have family coming in and food being prepared. One of my jobs is getting the playground ready. The sea change has happened. My boys are officially no longer going to play on the playground. I know it happened a long time ago, but this week it was clear things had to change. 

The rungs to the ladders were broken. The platform was filled with sticks and debris. The slide was covered with slime ( a mixture of mildew, dirt and even some emerging lichen). The cover was torn and shredded. It had been too long since it was regularly used. I bought new ladders, a new cover, and swept the fort clean. The slide was a different story. The outside was not much of a problem, but I got soaked and filthy scrubbing it clean. The inside required a whole new method. 

We bought mildew cleaner and I started at the top. The spray covered well and dissolved most of the grime and the the rest came off easily with my scrubbing sponge. The first two feet I did kneeling on the platform. Then I laid down and reached further in and got nearly to the first joint. Several times I dropped the sponge. Then I would have to get up, climb down, get the sponge, climb back up and then crawl back into the tunnel. Eventually, I was upside down with my feet hooked over the edge reaching as far into the tunnel as possible. When I had sprayed and scrubbed all I could I had to shimmy back up the slide using my feet as hands and pulling against gravity.

I went to the bottom and started to scrubb. I reached the point where I had to go in the tube and realized I had done this all wrong. I should have started in this position and scrubbed from the middle down. Instead, my feet were in the water, the bottom of the slide was covered with the slime from the top,  the cleaning fluid smelled terribly and I was covered with it all. The fort is now ready for my grand nephew who will be the perfect age this year to play on it, which makes it all worthwhile. 

The process of cleaning an old mess is difficult. It's hard to know how to get a good handle on it. I replaced the wooden rungs with aluminum ones because the old ones kept rotting out. I did not want to go back to the old way. The last few weeks indicate that we are in a cultural shift that means that we have to put our world back in order, and it can't go back to the old way, but must get better. The way men treat women has to change in a deep and profound way. I imagine it will be messy, but it will be worth it, if we can be the generation to pass on a world where protecting individual dignity is not the exception, but the norm. 

turkey.jpg

It looked so perfect sitting on the counter. It was beautiful. The Treehouse Thanksgiving Celebration features food made by all of the classes. They mix and cook and plan for a big spread. All the families come to the Fellowship Hall. The children sing songs and recite poetry.

It is usually my first official event of Thanksgiving and I love it. I love the hats and vest they make. I love the placemats. I love the families gathering together all in the name of giving thanks. 

I can't wait to see family and friends this week who will gather together at our house. I have big plans this weekend to get our playground scrubbed clean for the next generation of Henderson kids to play on it. Our family brings dogs with them and that added bit of chaos is so much fun. We make an annual walk through the Cain Center after lunch and love the crunching of leaves beneath our feet. 

It's been a complicated year. Things look worse in the world--shootings, division, racism, rancour, sexual assault. I often just want to look away from it all. The discipline of thanksgiving is important. I scrolled through my photos and remembered lots I was thankful for, great people I work with, the Refresh Campaign and process, Route 66 readings, getting the church bell back, The Robie House tour, Hamilton, walking on a frozen lake, Ecuminical Israel, my dogs, waves on the beach, Presidential libraries (4), Pokemon Go, our own youth camp, Dnow, steeple lights, 20 year celebration, eagles, friends, community pastors, camping out, 2 GLS trips, birds, baptisms, salt, music, VBS, Colorado, mountain streams, deer, mini-golf, total eclipse, hiking, highpoints, serving, state fair, Lance's new job, our family, my wife, our church.

Every day God's blessings are real, sometimes I just need to get my eyes off all the other stuff and put it on the near stuff. The stuff that makes my life rich and real and beautiful. 

What three words?

The location of the well Hope Springs Water was drilling when I left Ethiopia

The location of the well Hope Springs Water was drilling when I left Ethiopia

Right before I left for Ethiopia I watched a TED talk confronting one of the problems of our modern world, 70% of people do not have an accurate address. It never much occured to me because i have always had an address. Since I was old  enough to remember, I know each of my addresses: 13 Rockne St., 3412 Country Club, Baylor Martin Dormitory, Baylor Brooks Dormitory, Quadrangle Apartments (5th and Daughtry), Brookview Hills Apt. (Brookview & 34th), 4218 Worth Forest Dr, 4204 Glen Ridge Dr., 802 Dressen, 1179 Oval. I received mail at each of these places. People could find me. 

Most of the world does not have this luxury. They live at a place, but it has no street name, no address, no governing organization. How do you find someone without an address? They live in a slum, down some forgotten rural road. Their house is made of cardboard and tin, the roof is a plastic sheet. 

Enter, what3words. This company decided that the whole world could be conceived of as over a trillion squares each about 3m by 3m. Each of these squares could be uniquely addressed by just three words. Instead of a cumbersome longitude and latitude system, just three simple words.

I looked up my home. 135 different squares identify my house and lot. questions,contour.stats defines the place where I put the garbage can for collection. flourish.unforeseen.screen is my front door. dream,incense.landlord is the swing in the backyard. 

While I was in Ethiopia, I marked different locations. The church where we held the GLS was hard to find. Last year we got lost, this year we got lost. Never again. The front door of the church is located and seatbelt.hopefully.sharp. One of my favorite coffee shops is located at quiet.strange.gathering. We were sitting on the edge of Lake Tana watching the birds and listening the laughter of families and the three word location was horizons.riches.universal. 

I had so much fun trying to find the right three words linked with the right place. We were walking down a hiking trail and came to a place identified and lawmaker.brambles.astounded. I thought to myself, "Yes, that is true."

The what3words app and map is free. Anyone can use it. Business are starting to use it. Pizza delivery companies are using it. Three countries in Africa are using it to deliver mail. Travel companies are using it to direct people off the beaten path. Its uses seem endless. 

The goal is to be found. I kept hunting for my favorite listings. If I could switch right now, I wish I could have a square deep in the Alaskan wilderness. It's a place designated lost.found.saved. I am so glad God knew right where to find me.

Rings

IMG_4853.jpg

Rings. You are probably wearing one today. I can remember just about every ring I have ever owned. I remember the excitement of ordering my ring for high school. My graduation ring was the first ring of some value I ever owned. I cherished it. I've had other rings since then. But in reality, I can only recall having a few rings. My college ring. My football state championship ring. That's three. I have one more ring that means more to me than any of the others, my wedding ring. I didn't know what it was going to look like until Kristin put it on my finger at the altar. It wasn't even on my mind. What was on my mind was the significance of that ring. A covenant between me and my wife with God. A sacred covenant. 

We use rings for so many things: marriage, graduation, sports success, even fashion and fun. Some are expensive, some are less expensive. They all signify something to the owner. 

Last year at the GLS in Ethiopia, I was with part of our team at the Woliso site (pictured above). One talk really seemed to stand out to the leaders there in Ethiopia. Albert Tate shared a beautiful insight on the feeding of the five thousand. He drew our attention to the boy who brought five loaves and two fish to Jesus. Imagine the moment. A young boy looks out over the massive crowd. Then he gazes down into his bag. Maybe he had just caught those fish for his family. Maybe he caught more fish and traded them for the bread. It wasn't much, but it had to mean something to this young boy. But he brought it to Jesus. He brought what he had. And then he got to witness Jesus do the miraculous with his (seemingly) small offering. Albert Tate shared that we need to just bring what we have to Jesus, and watch Him do the miracle. 

On the last day of the conference, we watched all the leaders there bring their offerings. As we were getting ready for the last session, one of the local leaders came up to me to share what was in the offering. I was expecting him to give me a number. He reached out his hand and showed me something that I was never expecting... a small, gold ring. 

Our team is finishing up this years Ethiopia GLS. God has been on the move in Ethiopia through this conference. Pray for our team to come home safe. But pray for the seeds that have been planted in the local leaders to grow. Pray that their offerings, big and small, would be brought to Jesus. Pray for God to reveal opportunities for you to be that young boy. Bring what you have in worship. Bring what you have to your family. Bring what you have in the workplace. Offer what you have to Jesus and watch Him do what only He can do.

Wade

Fall Jacket

VRRKWVI3JO.jpg

I flipped through shirt after shirt. The sound of the hangers sliding across the bar, all the way to the last few garments. It wasn't there. Walking over to the coat closet, I began to search through old coat after old coat only to be again disappointed. Where could I have put it? It's not cold today by any means but it's perfect weather to wear my favorite light jacket. After searching for longer than my morning would allow, I grabbed the next best zip up hoodie and left for work. 

This hoodie is old. It's also a bit tight. Not what I was looking for. 

Living in Texas has it's definite perks. Most of the year a short sleeved shirt is all you need to get through the day. Sure, it does get hot but we knew that when we signed up to live here. When we lived in Boston, half of the year you needed at least a light jacket because the weather up there is relatively predictable - it's cold a lot. Back living in Texas, I find myself getting excited every time it begins to get a little cooler. I love wearing my favorite jackets. I love wearing a knitted hat to keep my ears warm. I look so forward to making a fire in the fireplace, cooking chili and soups. These are things we seldom do most of the year and I so look forward to this season. But I need to find that jacket, or else the fall just won't be right.

I was reading this week and this phrase really stuck out to me from Galatians 3:26-27.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (NIV)

I hope we never lose this clothing. I hope it never finds it's way to the back of the closet. I hope I wear this every day, not only when the season is right. 

May we clothe ourselves with Christ! May the fruit of the Spirit pour out of us in everything we do. May we love without boundaries. May we be joyful like a child. May we pass peace to the anxious. May we be patient like a loving parent. May we be kind, to everyone... always. May we be early anticipating everyday to proudly clothe ourself with Christ. 

Wade

Mañana Today Q & A

22499084_10155820669200909_5791942623966133417_o.jpg

Q. What is Mañan Today?

A: It s a six month public awareness event. We want Athens and our surrounding community to hear a very specific message. We believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ creates a new community. This community is made up of all the nations. The great commission teaches us that we are to go to all the nations. Abraham was called to bless all the nations. Jesus pictures the future as all the nations gathered at his feet. The phrase Mañana Today tries to bridge two gaps the gap between what we know today and what the heavenly community will look like. The second gap is a language gap, we love the juxtaposition between the English and the Spanish words that says, everyone is welcome here. 

Q. What prompted launching Mañan Today now?

A. Three things energized our launch. One, we have expanded our service to included a weekly bilingual service. There are lots of people in town who do not know that we are offering this service each week at 11 and we wanted the community to be invited. Two, The rise of racial ideas, that many people thought we had left in the past, caused us to want to differentiate ourselves from faith communities where racism seemed to be tolerated. We wanted to tell the world that we believe that Jesus tore down all of those distinctions and that our church is welcoming to all people. Three, with our renovation many people think that our church is just taking a break, but we wanted the process to be a true refreshing of our hearts and minds. This is the exact right moment to ask people to join a movement more than a building.

Q. Are there more events that will make up the Mañan Today Campaign?

A. Yes. We have five major outreach events planned for the campaign. North Pole- Dec 3; Three Kings Day - Jan 6; Wildflower Planting Day - Feb. 11; Easter Butterfly release - April 1, Dia Del Nino - April 28. 

Q. Where will the Wildflower Planting happen?

A. We are developing a meditative garden that will be a place of beauty, prayer and pictures that will be a open to the community. We intend for the multitude of flowers to be a visual representation of the Mañana Today idea-all people dwelling together in harmony?

Q. Is this just a spillover of the agenda from the world?

A. No. In 2014, our church adopted the "Closer-Broader-Younger" strategic ministry plan. Over a year of prayer and planning went into the goals developed through that process and then adopted by the church. We set the goal of reaching 18% diversity in our congregation, which represents the diversity in Athens.  Since that time, we have blended our staff, our children's ministry, our youth ministry and our Sunday morning worship services. We think this is the leading of God. We are holding firmly to the core essentials of the Gospel and trying to live more deeply in the implications of God's future community. 

Q. What has been the response?

A. We have had 11,892 people view the video we posted. 1,211 people have clicked on it to find out more information. ∑e have had incredible comments, "This is MY church...and I love it! Come join us!", "Awesome!!", "love our church!!!." We even had some calls from people in San Antonio who watched the video and wanted us to know how proud they were of our church.

To say or not to say

IMG_3392.JPG

This week we have been reading the book of Job. We had a tragedy at TVCC. We are grappling with Las Vegas. Sunday, we are going to be talking about ways to help others in trouble. Here is a list I have compiled from emails and suggestions and grief advice resources from people on what helped them and what did not help. 

Things NOT to say

Timing and appropriate grief

  1. Time heals all wounds.

  2. It’s time that you got over this.

  3. You have to move on.

  4. It is not good to visit the grave so often.

  5. Why are you still crying?

  6. It’s been a month. Maybe you’re not grieving right.

  7. You need to put this behind you.

  8. I thought you would be more upset.

  9. Are you over her yet? She’s been gone a long time.

  10. Don’t let the children see your sadness.

  11. This too shall pass.

Speaking for God as if you are God

  1. Grief must be teaching you something you needed to learn.

  2. It’s part of God’s plan.

  3. She/he’s in a better place.

  4. It was not meant to be.

  5. He brought this on himself.

  6. Everything happens for a reason.

  7. You know that he cannot get into heaven until you accept his death.

  8. If you separate his ashes, he will never get to heaven.

  9. God wanted him more than you.

  10. Heaven needed another angel.

  11. Everything happens for a reason.

  12. God will never give you more than you can handle.

  13. This must be your fault.

Minimizing the individual's actual pain

  1. I know what you’re feeling.

  2. I understand what you’re going through.

  3. Others have it worse than you.

  4. You must be strong.

  5. You are still young; you can always remarry.

  6. You never really got to know the baby.

  7. At least the other twin lived.

  8. Can I tell you about my surgery/pain/trouble?

  9. It’s going to OK

Speaking for the dead

  1. She wouldn’t want you to be so sad.

  2. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go.

Faux Helping

  1. Call me if you need anything.

Things That have helped people

  1. Its Ok to grieve and you don’t have to follow any script.

  2. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

  3. I don’t know why this is happening.

  4. I don’t know what to say.

  5. I can only imagine what you are going through.

  6. I am sorry for your loss/pain.

  7. Can I just sit with you?

  8. I miss them, too.

  9. I love you.

  10. I’d like to come take you to lunch or bring you some food, when would be best for you.

  11. Once when I was hurting someone________________ for me, can I do that for you?

    1. Washed some clothes.

    2. Did the dishes.

    3. Helped me blow off some steam.

    4. Took care of some errands.

    5. Put gas in your car (then wash it as a bonus).

  12. Im praying for you.

  13. Here is a book that has helped me (be very cautious and only do this if it is true. Do not do this if you have not yourself read the book during a real crisis in your own life.)

We all scream for Ice Cream

IMG_3305 (2).JPG

It started with such hope. His on the top of its glistening white surface was a tiny curl. The signature of a cone artist that twirled the ic ream away from the machine in a flourish. The days are still long and hot so the cold temperature was perfect to break the monotony of the heat.

This cone came with a wrap proudly displaying its name and protecting the consumer. Gently the hand took it and held it. Then lick by lick the cone began to disappear. The sweetness rushed into the tastebuds.

Then suddenly, without warning or preparation the cone was on the ground. There was nothing to explain it, there was no one to blame it was gravity that did it. The three second rule did not apply. The cream slumped when it het the concrete. It unseated from the cone. There would be little chance of scooping it back up again. Its softness was now its weakness.

The sun had warmed the surface and the melting began almost immediately. By the time I saw it the white cream had slid away like a graceful breeze. When I saw it I was all alone in the parking lot. I could not hear any stifled sobs or hysterical screams. It was just me and the sad cone.

There is nothing like the death of a dream the aching sadness of loss. Its just an ice cream cone I told myself, but It kept making me feel sad. I was thinking a lot about my mom this week and my mother in law I think this cone make me thing of them. Ice Cream was both of their love languages. It was the reward, the treat the salve of life. Back when I was a kid the Dairy Queen gave a small cone as a report card reward. 

Not all sadness is bad. That little cone reminded me of so many joyful moments. It reminded me that with the bitterness of life, there is often real sweetness. There is no love without pain, it is the way of things. Cherish the good to hold you through the hard.

I was walking across the street toward downtown. In the middle of the road was a lump. As I got closer I could see it was a bolt. Then I realized it was not a bolt, but part of a blot and a nut. The broken end was jagged and gave me a shudder. It was a wheel lug stud. This is the part that sticks out of the wheel hub. It sticks through tire rim. Then a lug nut is screwed on and keeps the tire connected to the car.  I thought about the person driving around without this lug in place. I wondered if they knew or if they were oblivious. I wondered if it mattered. There are other several patterns for cars and trucks, but 4-6 seems to be standard. Missing one is missing alot. I worried about this missing lug enough to check my own wheels. It would be silly to be driving around without one on my own cars. All of mine were present and accounted for. How quickly does a person need to respond to a missing safety nut? Can I just live with three? How about two? Will one work in a pinch? Can I use duct tape? How long would you let the situation degrade until you responded and fixed the underlying problem? Lots of people in life are living on the ragged edge. They are abandoning the safety measures that protect themselves. We ignore the advice of our doctors. We don't get enough rest. We don't eat the right foods. We neglect our inner lives, hurrying before praying. All the while we hope that none of it catches up with us and the wheels don't fall off.  I picked up the bolt and carried it around a while. I eventually threw it in the trash. I'm trying not to forget its lessons.

I was walking across the street toward downtown. In the middle of the road was a lump. As I got closer I could see it was a bolt. Then I realized it was not a bolt, but part of a blot and a nut. The broken end was jagged and gave me a shudder. It was a wheel lug stud. This is the part that sticks out of the wheel hub. It sticks through tire rim. Then a lug nut is screwed on and keeps the tire connected to the car. 

I thought about the person driving around without this lug in place. I wondered if they knew or if they were oblivious. I wondered if it mattered. There are other several patterns for cars and trucks, but 4-6 seems to be standard. Missing one is missing alot. I worried about this missing lug enough to check my own wheels. It would be silly to be driving around without one on my own cars. All of mine were present and accounted for.

How quickly does a person need to respond to a missing safety nut? Can I just live with three? How about two? Will one work in a pinch? Can I use duct tape? How long would you let the situation degrade until you responded and fixed the underlying problem?

Lots of people in life are living on the ragged edge. They are abandoning the safety measures that protect themselves. We ignore the advice of our doctors. We don't get enough rest. We don't eat the right foods. We neglect our inner lives, hurrying before praying. All the while we hope that none of it catches up with us and the wheels don't fall off. 

I picked up the bolt and carried it around a while. I eventually threw it in the trash. I'm trying not to forget its lessons.

Find a penny

IMG_2978.JPG

I saw this penny on the floor. I thought long and hard about  leaning down to get it. Sometimes the effort does not seem to be worth the reward. I wondered what I was going to do with the penny. I already knew the answer. I was going to put it in the brass tray where I empty my pockets at the end of the day. It would sit there for a long time. Someday it might get counted. Someday it might get put back into use, but I can't remember the last time I picked up and handful of pennies and put them in my pocket. 

After our long brutal hike this summer, where not much seemed to go right, we shuffled back slowly to our tent about an hour after dark. We took off our packs, cooked a little dinner and then went straight to bed. The next morning dawned brightly. Birds came to visit our camp. We started to pack things back into the car. Cindy saw a penny lying on the ground behind the car.

"Look a penny, " she said. Logan deadpanned, "If only we could have found that yesterday." We all got a good laugh.  I wondered about the connection of pennies and good luck. Why do we hold on to such ideas? Where did they come from? What am I supposed to do?

I leaned down and picked up the penny. I put it in my pocket. I forgot to take it out. It is riding around in those pants right now. It's in that little pocket inside the right pocket. Eventually, it will join the other pennies in the brass tray.

While on vacation, i stopped in a gas station and was buying something. I need three pennies to keep from breaking a twenty. I checked my pockets, nothing. I looked for the penny tray, nothing. I have put so many pennies in those trays, but almost never gotten one out. Last week, I purchased something and the computer signing pad asked me about donating to some cause. I declined. Later, it happened again. This time the request was, "Would you like to round up and we will give the pennies away to a good cause?" I immediately checked, "Yes."

I'm for rounding up and giving the pennies away to good causes. It seems like a simple thing that I could do every day. Then we could do away with pennies and create lots of good. 

Our church has been pinching our pennies recently. We are behind in our giving. It happens sometimes in the summer. We are six months through our budget year and are about 3 weeks behind in our giving. We need a few more people to round-up, to give a little more to help us complete our God giving commitments for this year.  

 

Miraculous

By Wade Huggins, Worship Pastor

599bcbf2d95d5_j62qq9wnw5hz__700.jpg

This week, America stopped to witness a miraculous celestial event - one that all lower 48 states were able to witness to some degree - a solar eclipse. On Monday at 1:14pm, here in Athens only 20% of our sun was visible. It was stunning, beautiful, miraculous. We briefly stepped out of the hectic routine of life to marvel at something that doesn’t come around all that often. As I began to see the images from the eclipse flood the news and social media feeds, I thought I would do a little digging around into the details of the eclipse… as I read more and more I could not help but be taken away by God’s master artistry. 

The diameter of the sun is 864,576 miles. 

The diameter of the moon is 2,159 miles. 

The distance from the earth to the sun is on average 93,000,000 miles.

The distance from the earth to the moon is on average 239,000 miles.

Take a minute to read those numbers again. How amazing is it that our tiny moon could come right between us and our massive sun at the perfect distance to create such a beautiful spectacle? To put this into perspective, if the moon is the size of a BB, the sun would be a ball 6 feet tall. Now, imagine holding that BB 12in from your face and going far enough away to just precisely cover the visibility of that 6 foot tall ball. 

Eric Metaxas writes about this miracle. He points out that in order for the miracle of the moon crossing the path of the earth and sun in such a perfect and beautiful manner, the size and distance of the two (moon and sun) celestial bodies had to be just right. Not only just right but precise to a degree that is difficult to comprehend (on a massive scale). On top of that, the distance from a person to the moon also had to be perfect. All of these massive numbers aligned in perfect fashion this past Monday and it was hard for us not to stop and marvel. 

Then just two nights later I was taken away again by something so beautiful; our moon, in a perfect crescent, reflecting the light of the sun through the clouds while a thunderstorm rumbled and flashed below. I was reminded that the miracle of nature doesn’t only come once in a while but is constantly surrounding us. Psalm 19:2 says, “The heavens declare the Glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech. Night after night they reveal knowledge.” 

This week take the time to marvel at the miraculous. Gaze upon the moon in all it’s beauty. Take time to watch the sun rise on the horizon. See how the stars marvel at the Glory of God. Be taken away by the strength, beauty and sounds of a thunderstorm. As we read this week in Colossians 3:1 ““Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

Next time this miracle of the solar eclipse comes around, be sure not to miss it. Be sure not to marvel at it’s beauty. It's coming our way in 2024. But in the mean time, take the time to recognize the beauty that our Father has provided us every day.

Numbers and analogy referred to from:

https://pjmedia.com/faith/2017/08/21/the-incredible-miracle-of-a-solar-eclipse/#comments

Still

juif.jpg

I'm trying to visit all of the Presidential Libraries. I love the experience. I love the small slab of history, the patriotic passion, the reflection on contemporary society (all of them are since Hoover). We have three more to see all of them (one is under construction). This week we saw The Eisenhower Library and the Truman Library. The brochures say that most people spend an hour or two--we spent 6 or 7. I want to soak out of it all I can. I am in love with the experience. 

In the Eisenhower museum we had spent 3 hours when we looked at the clock for the first time. We realized we had not yet left the WW2 section, we still were not to the section of the presidency. Panel by panel, artifact by artifact we read and studied his command of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. The section on the end of the war and the liberation of the camps was particularly moving. 

I read the memoir of a soldier who helped liberate a camp. He shared this in a letter to his parents, "While there they showed us the stars which the Germans made them wear with the French word "Juif" meaning Jews. I told them now that we had arrived they wouldn't have to wear them again." The words jumped off the page. Why are we still fighting this battle! How can it be that people still think that Nazi ideology is appropriate?

We traveled to the Truman museum and read about his efforts to integrate federal employees. He had entrenched racist in his family, yet he knew that our constitution and our history spoke to fairness. He decided to work to change the world.

Our work is not done. We must continue to press forward to eradicate the narratives of hate, division, superiority until we achieve God's eternal design, "on earth as it is in Heaven" what we are calling Mañana Today.

Here is your sign

I go in the vehicle. I saw the sign. I saw the cup. I took the picture.

The sign could not be any clearer. The cup unquestionably was a drink. It was in the vehicle. This is no "grey area." There was a clear disregard for the rule. Let's say you are a "spirit of the rules" kind of person, then you read the rule as "No spills will be acceptable in this car." The simplest way to achieve that is to have no cups in the car, but I can see the logic of the person who thinks, I am not the kind of person who spills. Therefore, I can have a cup in the car. Unfortunately, it is still a fail. There is no lid on the cup. It would be easy for a simple turn or an urgent stop to send liquid over the edge of the cup. 

When you see a rule, when you hear a rule, what do you think? Are you trying to adjust to the rule or avoid the rule? Do you only follow the rules you like or agree with?

The people saw me taking the picture. They said, "That sign was put up by the previous management." I assume that means they did not agree with the rule, therefore it was ok that they were ignoring it. I wondered to myself, "Why not just get rid of the sign, it is only held in place with tape?" Upon clarification, they affirmed that other people were bound by the sign, just not them. 

What are the rules, the laws, the truths that apply to our lives that are in force whether we agree with them or not? I can say I want to float here, but the law of gravity does not care and exerts itself over my life. I can say, I don't need to rest, but your body will arrange down time for you even if it comes as a heart attack. You can cheat your family time, but time and truth will walk hand in hand and you will eventually be left alone by the people you leave alone. You can lead your family to put other things before God (sports, family time, rest, the Sunday morning paper), and the consequences will seem to be minimal. The truth, however, is that you cannot violate God's eternal, unchanging principle (6 days on 1 day off -remember the sabbath day and keep it holy) without terribly destructive consequences. 

In over 38 years of ministry I have never met someone who regretting giving up something (a sporting event, extra sleep, more rest) for a real relationship with God in corporate worship. I, however, have met many people who grieve that their children and grand children have nothing to do with church. I have met many people who realize too late that they taught their children that church was common and they were willing to sacrifice corporate worship for almost any diversion. I have met many people who know that they did not lead their family in the way God expects. The cumulative effect of ignoring God's command, "Do not give up meeting together" (Heb 10:25) is painful and real. As we approach a new season with the beginning of school, make a concerted effort and real choice to honor God, his bride, his body and his family this year. Gather with his people every week for corporate worship. The rule applies to you.

Peachey

Last week in my sermon I talked about the legacy of peach loving that my mother gave to me. I brought a fresh peach with me. The smell was intoxicating. I borrowed the peach from Cindy. Her Dad had given it to her. He told her, "This is a great peach and it does not deserve anything other than the very best. Wait until you can eat it with Blue Bell."

She drove it back from Tyler with high hopes. We did not have time to eat it on Saturday and had pinned our hopes for it on Sunday. I forgot it after my sermon and left it in the ROC. Fortunately Cindy remembered it and got it during chair stacking. We went to eat lunch and decided that we could not leave it in the car or it would get roasted. We put it on the table as if it was a center piece. It was a beautiful peach.

After lunch, Cindy headed home, I went to drop off one of the boys at their car back at the church. When I got about 3/4 of the way home Cindy called and asked me if I had the peach. I turned the car around and headed back to the restaurant while she called to see if they still had our table decoration. I pulled up with a little trepidation, but could see our peach on the counter. The waiter caught my eye and proudly held it aloft. I explained that it was a special peach. It had been given to us by my father-in-law.

Later that night, I ate my portion of the peach with Blue Bell. It was perfect. I saw on facebook that the Bluebell flavor of peaches and homemade vanilla is back in stores after a two year absence. It can not substitute for the real thing. 

Too often we accept substitutes for reality. How is your relationship with the Father? In what ways are you pursuing his mind and his heart for your life? God has not gone anywhere, but is patiently waitng for you.

Greetings

Its a terrible picture. Its grainy and dark, but it was a great moment and I decided to keep it. Last Saturday Cindy and I drove to Houston to be with a good friend. The husband had acted in such a way that he lost his job and might lose his marriage. The husband and wife are dear to us. We sat with them separately, different locations, looming darkness. We cried with them. We cride in the car. Cindy and I cried in each other's arms. It was painful and it is ongoing. We wanted to lift the pain and heal the hurts, but betrayal is real and lasting. It will take time and grace, forgiveness and faith if they are going to make it. We wished there was more that we could do. Our hours came to an end and we started the long and lonely drive home. We talked and cried again. It was dark when we came into the neighborhood. We rounded a corner and i stopped as the headlights caught an huge owl sitting in the street. He scooped some water out of the gutter. I waited. He winked at me. He gulped again. I gazed. I tried to turn a little to see him better and he hopped up into the tree. we stopped and watched. He didn't screech of flee. He just sat quietly and it was enough.  His quiet wings sounded like a comforter hanging on a clothes line. His eyes were open and almost unblinking. It was enough. He didn't do anything. He did not say anything. He just showed up. In over 50 years of watching birds it was the longest and closest I had ever had with an owl.  I wish I could have helped my friends more, but all I could do was show up. I could listen, I could play close attention. I could surround them with my arms. I'm praying it was a help and that it will be a help in days to come. Maybe there is a place you need to show up. It will be enough.

Its a terrible picture. Its grainy and dark, but it was a great moment and I decided to keep it.

Last Saturday Cindy and I drove to Houston to be with a good friend. The husband had acted in such a way that he lost his job and might lose his marriage. The husband and wife are dear to us. We sat with them separately, different locations, looming darkness. We cried with them. We cride in the car. Cindy and I cried in each other's arms. It was painful and it is ongoing.

We wanted to lift the pain and heal the hurts, but betrayal is real and lasting. It will take time and grace, forgiveness and faith if they are going to make it. We wished there was more that we could do. Our hours came to an end and we started the long and lonely drive home. We talked and cried again.

It was dark when we came into the neighborhood. We rounded a corner and i stopped as the headlights caught an huge owl sitting in the street. He scooped some water out of the gutter. I waited. He winked at me. He gulped again. I gazed. I tried to turn a little to see him better and he hopped up into the tree. we stopped and watched. He didn't screech of flee. He just sat quietly and it was enough. 

His quiet wings sounded like a comforter hanging on a clothes line. His eyes were open and almost unblinking. It was enough. He didn't do anything. He did not say anything. He just showed up. In over 50 years of watching birds it was the longest and closest I had ever had with an owl. 

I wish I could have helped my friends more, but all I could do was show up. I could listen, I could play close attention. I could surround them with my arms. I'm praying it was a help and that it will be a help in days to come. Maybe there is a place you need to show up. It will be enough.

Sunrise, Sunset

We started the long drive back from Colorado in the early morning light. Between Stonewall and Zamara we stopped along the side of the road to shuffle our seating positions. I pulled up beside this church. The early morning light created a glow around the front of the church. I got out of the car and took a picture. 

This little church looked over a beautiful valley of farmland and forest. We saw deer and cows grazing in the fields. The community and the church looked like it had seen better days. I thought of this tattered structure sitting alone in this valley and wondered whether it was experiencing a sunrise in its life or a sunset. Was it beginning and being born anew or was it struggling and about to close its doors?

We live much of our lives trying to answer these questions. Is this job beginning or ending? Is this relationship growing or fading? Is this project going to succeed or fail? Am I going to pass this class or be in summer school? 

If you saw this picture out of context you would need to know if the church is facing East or West? When you know that, then it is easy to know it is a sunrise. The difficulty is that most of our lives are not lived on a map and can be externally measured. Instead, life is lived on the filed of relationships. They are much harder to measure, much harder to discern. 

We drove into the morning light and I watched as the sun grew strength and floated above me out of sight, but the church stuck with me. I have gone back to the picture over and again. It's been making me pray, "God gives us a sunrise of strength and joy and light."

Between the earth and the sky

We raced off for a long weekend in Colorado last week. It was an amazing, simple, primitive trip. We had little time to plan and almost nothing we needed to accomplish. Our plan was to get to the mountains, set-up our campsite and do nothing for about 50 hours. We would camp like we did when we were just starting out-cooking simple meals and relaxing around the campfire. I located a place in southern Colorado that fit my requirements, high, cool, running stream, remote and no cell service. We had never been to that area before and I was a little afraid that it would be "Colorado light." I was wrong. I was spectacular. 

We drove on Friday night to Amarillo and spent the night and then drove the rest of the way on Saturday. We took our time stopping by a National Monument, Capulin, and eating at a great sandwich shop in Trinidad. Then we drove into the mountains. We had a difficult time finding a campsite. We were turned away at four different locations. We, however, were told that we could camp anywhere in the National Forest if we could find a pull out place. We checked location after location only to find every place filled. We pulled into the last place with a plan to drive back 35 miles to a town and return in the morning to find a campsite. It was already occupied. As we were turning around the occupant motioned for us to roll down the window. He told us he was about to leave and we were welcome to the place. He quickly finished his packing and disappeared in the trees. It was as if he was holding the spot for us until we arrived. 

It was perfect. It was an isolated place. Our nearest neighbors were over a half mile away. It had a large clearing perfect for our tent. A ring of rocks designated the spot for our fire. It sat twenty feet from a roaring snow melt river. The previous occupant bragged about the trees. He was right, they provided almost continuous shade. It was nestled between a steep forested mounatin side and exposed monumental soaring rocks. We lay down to sleep and the air was cold, but our sleeping bags were warm. 

I got up early on Sunday morning and set up our hammocks. I picked a big strong tree and placed all four of them radiating out of it like rays of sunlight. I tied the foot of mine to a very tall Aspen tree. I had taken a book of sermons by Eugene Peterson to read. I sank back in the hammock and listened for the voice of God.  I watched the Aspen leaves quiver between bright green and white. Tiny dust particles sifted through the broken shafts of light. Insect wings sparkled like a snowfield in winter. The sound of the rushing water at first overpowered and then faded into the background. I lay in the hammock and was embraced by a slow rocking motion. Then, I felt a much deeper movement. 

I looked up. The top of the Aspen tree rose above its neighbors and there the wind caught it like a sail. Like vibrations on a bow the quivering came through the tree and and into me. I felt small and afloat on the sea of the forest. The tree strained and resisted, but the wind did not relent. I hung between the earth and sky surrounded by fabric and color and read the beautiful words from Genesis, "In the Beginning God Created," which formed the title to the first sermon. 

There, in a cradle made of fabric, surrounded by ancient rocks and watching trees I read and listened and learned again the great lessons of God's love, God's purpose and God's leadership. I was so glad to be there with a friend who has so often helped me be with God. I was so thankful that God can speak so clearly. As it says in the book of Revelation, "his voice was like the sound of rushing waters" (Rev 1:15).

I marked the location on a map. I will return to that place. 

Fear

I answered the phone. It directed me to call the IRS immediately. I called the number and identified myself. I was given a case number. The officer told me his name. I wrote it down. I made him stop and spell it carefully. I noted his badge number.  He then told me that a warrant for  my arrest had been issued. Local officials would be coming to arrest me. I would have to post bond. The IRS was going to freeze my bank accounts. They said I had been audited and had filled out my taxes incorrectly. That means I had committed a federal offense. This was a serious case. I would have to adjudicate the charges in Washington D.C. They told me I owed $4256.23.

They wanted an immediate answer. I could pay the amount which included penalties right now. Upon receiving the amount they would cancel the warrants or I could get arrested and fight it in the courts. It would be expensive and embarrassing. I was told anything I said on the phone was being recorded and would be used in my prosecution.  The officer demanded that I tell him what I was going to do next.

I told that I was first going to call the IRS number listed on the IRS website to see if this was a legitimate call, which I doubted. Then, I said, if it was a legitimate call I would contact an attorney and would not answer any questions until I had consulted him. Finally, I told the officer that I was going to call the local officials because I knew them and check on the status of the arrest warrants. I would go turn myself in if necessary to avoid the hassle. The officer got unhappy and hung up on me.

I immediately typed "IRS fraud" into Google and found the page explaining this scam. I documented the encounter and submitted my report. Later, I got another similar call from a different number in a different area code. It went to voicemail. It says in part that if I want to "avoid initial appearance before a magistrate judge of a grand jury" then I must call immediately. I did not call. 

People use fear. It worked on my for awhile in the conversation. My heart raced. I thought through the long hours of tax preparation, I do my own, and had to admit that maybe I made a mistake. Maybe this was somehow true. During the call my heart began to slow as my mind began to engage. It just did not add up. I became more and more convinced that it was a scam, but the guy was good. I have heard noises outside my door a couple of times and thought, "OK they are coming to get me." 

The Bible says, "Fear not" Is 41:10. It's just really hard sometimes. What fear comes, I rehearse in my mind what i know to be true. I'm loved. While I was a sinner lost in sin, I have been redeemed, my debt has been paid in full and I am free. Satan keeps making the same call, Jesus keeps calming me down.