July 16, 2005

The Change

This evening our elders spent time praying with Towle. He is a man who is late in life. He just found out about a month ago that he had cancer. Two weeks ago his doctor told him that he would die soon. The doctor told him that if there was something in his life that he wanted to and had not done it, he should get to it because time was very short.

Towle came in for prayer and to confess. Times like this with the elders are so hard for me. There was much joy as we prayed because Towle has lived a good life. Yet, at the same time there was much pain because of the quickness of his coming death and the fact that his family is very dear to us at South. These were not the most amazing things, though.

The most amazing thing was how Towle sat at the end of our ridiculously long conference table and shared the struggles of his life--how he continually dealt with lust, how he wished he would have loved his kids even more than he did. He was the quintessential tough old man who would never cry who had been turned into a heap of humility and tears.

It is amazing to me how God could take such heartache in the ugliest of situations like quick death from cancer and make such joy come from it. I fear that the church has underestimated how huge our God is and how ignorant we are to think that we can fully figure him out.

My prayer tonight is that Towle and his family have peace, joy, and comfort throughout the next few weeks and months. I also pray that I have much humility and wonder when I approach my God who holds the world in his hands and measures the mountains with his fingers. (Isaiah 40)

July 11, 2005

A Gentle Wind

It's been awhile since I sat at my computer and typed in my journal. I have gotten used to writing in my journal instead of typing, because I like the portability of it. But, I'm by my computer and so I'm going to type.

There have been many ideas going through my head this past week. So much going on with my ministry, so many things I'm seeing in the world, Your presence that I'm noticing from day to day. But, I haven't taken the time to sit and write it out. Hopefully that will change as I create space for you.

One thing is what a call a Gentle breeze. Ever since my time at Elkhorn Valley Christian Service Camp with Jack Everetts, I have at times noticed the gentle breeze. It was one night when we were at the pool for a baptism. As we were all there around the pool, a gentle wind started blowing. Jack made the comment of noticing it and mentioned a verse of scripture, which I cannot find right now. The idea was that as the wind blows, it is like the soft presence of God's spirit around us. And it's stuck in my head and with me ever since. That must have been almost 15 years ago.

I normally do not notice it, and when I do, it really catches my attention. The most prevalent of these times has been at camp the last couple of weeks. When we were at vespers on Saturday night praying and readying ourselves for camp, I felt the gentle breeze blowing over us. Not a strong breeze that moves your hair or the leaves. It was a soft breeze that you could feel on your face and barely tell it was there. Cool, refreshing, and inviting. I noticed it this Saturday as we stood on the banks of Rock Lake. It was there, blowing, seeming like it was keeping watch over us. I've begun to notice it a lot.

It's interesting how we go through life so busy and focused on other things. But, God is always present and around us, even when we don't realize or acknowledge it. Lord, thank you for helping me to take notice of your presence around me. Keep my eyes open and my ears listening to their fullest so I can take in the most of you I can.

July 8, 2005

Stained Fingers

The last few weeks have been long and painful. I have already done one week of summer youth camp and I'm quickly preparing for another that starts in a few days. A few weeks after that, I'll head to CIY with my students. It is always good to get away from regular life and spend time with my students. This, however, does not come without much pain. When I plan to be gone for a week, I have to work twice as hard before I leave so I can be gone and then twice as hard when I come back to catch up from being gone. I guess it is one of ther perks of ministry. Even with the best of intentions, it always seems like 90% of what I need to get done before I go ends up being completed in the last 2 or 3 days in the office. Needless to say, the days have been dragging along.

One of the things I hate most about when things are hectic is that I don't get the chance to (or better put--I don't make the time to) sit and watch what is going on around me. I think I've been to my favorite coffee shop once in the last 3 weeks. During these times, I find that my most reflective time is spent on the lawn mower, though it is hard not to concentrate on straight lines and patterns in the grass.

This afternoon as I cut the grass, I was mentally chewing on some struggles and frustrations that I'm having with my ministry. It was a good time to sit and think, though I would have liked to actually come to some conclusions. As I made the last few passes back and forth in the yard, agruing and pleading with God about my ministry, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye in the brush and weeds--black raspberries.

Now, some of you might not get excited at the sight of fresh, non-store fruit. I do, though not entirely because it is fresh, non-store fruit. When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother did a lot of canning and freezing. For those of you who have no clue of what in the heck I'm talking about, canning and freezing are ways of perserving the things one grows in a garden--yet another thing in my past that is becoming extinct in the present world. Liken it to the cans of soup and veggies you buy at the store, only a million times better.

My mom would always make homemade tomato sauce and tomato juice every year, along with canning green beans, yellow beans, pickles, pickled red beets, pickled peppers, grape juice, and sauerqraut. We would also freeze things like corn and strawberries. It was always a brutal time of the year because I was the ever present helper. It would be 90 degrees outside and I'd be stuck picking the veggies, helping her prepare them for canning, and then watching them boil for an hour so the lids would seal.

My grandmother would always outdo my mother. She, in addition to the above assortments, would also make jams, jelly, some canned meat, and an interesting concoction called minced meat, which was sort of like fruitcake without the cake.

The worst of all the things we prepared were raspberries. Not because it did not turn out good. The raspberry jam was always the best of everything Gram made. No, the reason it was the worst was because picking raspberries is not a fun thing. Raspberries grow on vines that are much like rose stems--laced with barbs and thorns. Adding to the mehem, most raspberries grow in the wild. Thus, take the barbs and thorns that are included on the vines and add to them the assortment of other malicious plants that have taken up residence nearby. AND, adding to the agony of cuts, jabs, and much pain, the raspberry juice would stain your fingers a nice deep purple bruise color.

After dinner and our worship rehearsal at church, I took the time to trounce once again into the briars and thicket. I ended up with a small bowl of very nice black raspberries and slightly stained fingers. All the while, my mind was flashing back to long days of berry picking with my mom and my grandmother. Gram has been gone now for quite some time, but the memories of her and the joy that she shared with us are still there and vivid.

And now, as I sit here and type, I realize that through memories and fruit, God has helped me to be a little more patient with my frustrations. Picking raspberries is really not that fun in itself, but the time spent with family and the jam that results from the efforts are beyond priceless. Am I taking time to enjoy the family? Am I making jam? Or, am I focused on how bad the briars are at the moment?

July 1, 2005

My Little Sunshine

This is my little sunshine. She's almost 18 months old now, and talking up a storm. She even loves to talk on the phone with anyone who will listen. Go figure. She's not supposed to touch the remot control she is holding. . . what are you going to do?