Tag Archives: sabbath

American Reflections

My wife and I took a cross-country trip in 2002 as part of home-schooling our two daughters (12 & 13) and partly as vacation. We also took a foster daughter (17) and my wife’s mother. This was my end of trip reflection that I thought I might use as the basis for a pastor’s letter, but never did. (Jan. 28, 2002)

My family and I just came back from three weeks traveling out west. Our purpose was to rest a bit, visit Gay’s brother in California, and to give the girls the ultimate educational field trip. We went through 16 different states and spent a day in Mexico’s Baja California region as well.

As is often the case, I found myself being educated probably more than the girls.

  • I learned that looking down from the top of the St. Louis Arch makes my knees quiver.
  • I learned that you know nothing about waiting and the need for patience until you try to drive back into the United States in this post-Sept. 11th era.
  • I learned that it is silly to take along three or four “fun” books to read in your quiet times when you have 6700 miles to go with five others all staying in the same hotel room with you every night.
  • Oh yeah, I also learned the names of parts of a car such as spindles, races, bearings, motor mounts, and axles… and I learned that every one of them can break without warning or provocation… whether I know their name or not.
  • I also learned how evil and sinful mankind can be, as we stopped in Las Vegas and were bombarded by the worst of humanity’s vileness, vulgarity, greed, drunkenness, and lust, (and this was at 6:00 in the evening!).
  • I saw the evidence of evil again in Oklahoma City at the bombing memorial and I came face to face with the evil and hatred possible even in us as Americans towards each other.

But I also, once again, learned how great God is. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God,” but places like the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, the Mojave National Preserve, the Utah buttes, the Texas plains, the Malibu beach in California, the High Plains of Kansas, the Colorado Rockies, and each day’s new and glorious sunrises and sunsets, just showed me in new ways how colorful and creative and imaginative and detailed our Creator is, and was, and will continue to be.

As we faced mile after mile, and hundreds of rest areas and almost two dozen nights in hotels and motels, I found myself seeing God at work in the “drawing together” of our family. We did homework together, we talked, we hunted for license plates from different states, we asked questions, we swam together, we got “lost” together (I still think I could have found my way out). We shopped together (OK… They shopped and I “hung out”). We toured museums, memorials, and national parks, a tea factory, the Gaither resource center, the Focus on the Family ministry center, three different car repair garages, visited old friends, sang together in a nursing home in Arkansas, visited churches in Texas and Missouri, and spent a day with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.

We saw God’s hand leading us as we found that we were in the right spot at the right time again and again. Each of the three times we had car troubles, we found ourselves close to someone who could help us, with a place to stay nearby.

Several times we found ourselves at the right spot to be an encouragement for someone else who needed someone to pray for them and with them. We arrived in Texas on the very day that a special speaker was coming in and holding special services at our friend’s church.

Throughout Scripture, God instructs His people to take time away from their regular daily activities. Weekly Sabbath days of rest and occasional extended Jubilees and personal retreats are ideas found in God’s Word. These times help us to regain our focus and recapture the sense of what is important as we not only serve God in our workplaces, but also in our families and in the wider ministry setting of His world.

How will your family use rest, Sabbath, and vacation to regain your connection to each other and to our amazing God?

 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Another post recalling that trip can be found here: October 1, 2008.

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Do You Want To Get Well?

This morning I picked up the Freedom in Christ Bible as I sat down to spend some quiet time with the Lord. When I went to open it, I stumbled upon Jesus’ question to the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda: “Do you want to get well?

That verse comes from the passage in John’s gospel where Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for a Jewish feast and Jesus saw this man lying there and learned that he had been lying there for the past 38 years. (John 5:1-15) In response to Jesus’ question, he never did say “yes” or “no.” Rather, he gave an excuse why he could not get to the healing pool in those rare moments when it had been “stirred” by an angel, and thus be healed.

In the devotional on the next page, titled: “Do you want to get well?” the author says:
“People who cannot be helped fall into three categories.”

  1. “people who will not acknowledge they have a problem…”
  2. “people who know they are in trouble but their pride won’t let them ask for the help they need.”
  3. “people who really don’t want to get well.”

The first group reminds me of passages throughout the Bible which refer to forgiveness starting with a confession of sin… and then God can forgive. Even Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs, have long taught that step one of recovery is to admit you have a problem. To not do so, is to live in denial. 
Much of the weight I carry continues to be with me, because I, through many years, have denied I really had a weight problem. Until I acknowledged (and confessed) that I had a weight problem, I could not be helped.
The second group reminds me of Scriptural passages like “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) A lot of people (especially us men), who are obviously suffering with an ailment or injury are like that. They know they’re sick or injured, and yet cannot bring themselves to go see a doctor. there’s a heart attitude there that says ‘I can take care of this all by myself… I am all sufficient to meet my own needs.’ In truth, however, we can never meet all of our own needs. To refuse to look to others for help, we essentially make ourselves into a substitute god. After all, only God is “all sufficient.” 
When I was 11, I lived this out as well. I decided to go sled riding on a late Saturday morning after cartoons at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Walking up the hill across the road from their place, I walked up beside the tractor path that we all rode on coming down the hill. I crunched my way up the hill. At the top of the hill you slid down and turned into the field off to the right of the tractor path.
It had been icy and snowy the night before and, unbeknownst to me, the tractor path was a sheet of ice with a little bit of snow cover over the ice. On to the sled I went and raced toward the turn off below. I turned the sled at the appropriate time and at the appropriate place, but the sled just kept going… the ice prevented the sled from being able to turn off the path.
Now, my grandparents lived one farm short of being at the top of a hollow on a dirt road in Potter County. I quickly looked ahead and to the sides and saw there were no cars coming. There seldom were any cars. So, in my 11 year old thinking I thought: ‘oh well, the road is cindered, that will stop me.’ It didn’t.
So I found myself in the yard plunging forward rapidly. So, in my 11 year old thinking, I thought: ‘OK, I’ll just turn the sled to the left and have all of that big yard to slide to a stop in.’ The sled (for the same reasons noted above) would not turn and I slammed into the cement porch of their house.  My grandfather, upstairs in the house and not the side near the porch, heard the thud and came to investigate. what he found was me unable to catch my breath, bleeding profusely from where my front teeth had been sheered off and cutting through my lower lip, and me holding my back because of the pain. (Years later, I would have to have surgery on my lip where teeth fragments had been lodged and eventually blocked off a salivary gland. Likewise, my back continues to hurt often decades later.) 
Looking back, I recognize that while I could have easily rolled off the sled long before the proch, I didn’t because i was convinced that I was actually in control. I could turn that sled, get stopped by the road, or turn the sled into the yard. I thought I was completely able and sufficient to care for myself. I was not. I continue to pay for my 11 year old pride. I wish I could say I don’t find myself in similar situations any more, but that would not be honest.
That third group, those who really do not want to get better, is where this paralyzed man is. All he has in response to Jesus’ question about wanting to get well is an excuse. And I think it’s pretty significant that the gospel clarifies that he had been in this situation for 38 years! Just lying there and begging for food or money or clothing is natural now. That was this man’s source of income and way of life.

Despite this, Jesus decides to heal the man. “To show his gratitude, the man turned Jesus in to the authorities for healing him on the Sabbath.”

The devotional goes on with a challenge for all of us who find ourselves in a place where we need healing or another chance in life. “If we really want to get well, we will make whatever commitment is necessary to overcome our infirmities or live productive lives through them. We won’t get mad at God or blame anybody else. We will choose to believe that we are overcomers in Christ and that we can do all things through Him who gives us strength.”

“We will do whatever it takes to become the person God created us to be because Jesus did what it took for us to be alive and free in Him.”

Denial, pride, or an attitude of not wanting to change a way of life; these are all signs of one who cannot be helped except by a Sovereign God.

O God, I personally have had times in all three of these categories. Times when I couldn’t believe I had a problem and so denied it. Times when I knew something was amiss, yet thought I could “take care of things” on my own. Times when i was so comfortable with the way things were in the status quo, that I couldn’t bring myself to face the uncertainty that change might bring and so opted to stay longer in whatever situation I found myself. Forgive me. Clarify my thinking. Help me to see my own life as you do. And when I need your healing in my mind, in my heart, in my body, help me to quickly recognize when I’m in denial, feeling self-sufficient, or becoming too comfortable in the status quo. AMEN!

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The Freedom in Christ Bible, Neil T. Anderson, general editor (Zondervan: 2001) pp. 1204-1205.

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Status Report

It’s been a wild couple of months! By looking at my blog posts you might think I’ve pretty much dropped off of the face of the earth… I’m still here… just busy and somewhat preoccupied.

We’ve celebrated Michele’s graduation with a great party with our family and some friends coming from some of our former churches to wish her well and even a family from the Corry area who lived down the street from us when we adopted the girls who knew us before we were in the pastoral ministry… that was A LOT of fun!

Sarah left July 3rd for a Leadership Development program (sort of a military school setting) and we finally were able to visit this past week. (It’s over 3 1/2 hours away from us!) She’s still settling in and adjusting to the different routines.

Josh is finally ‘getting it’ with this whole potty training thing. PRAISE THE LORD!!!!

My mom is going through intensive chemotherapy to deal with her lung cancer… I guess the doctor says they’ve pretty much wiped it out… now they just simply want to try and make sure it never comes back (as best as anyone can ensure that at this point in medical history). She has a GREAT attitude and has become quite an inspiration for me.

Our church has just come through Vacation Bible School… a joint VBS with the Presbyterian and Christian Missionary Alliance churches in town (along with a stray Lutheran who just wanted to help out). They did SONFORCE KIDS where the theme is centered on the idea that we are all called to be special agents for Jesus Christ. Phenomenal excitement with those kids! (And they even had classes for the teens and the adults!) Last year I got to come each night for their VBS and it was just as wonderful and energy packed. One of the neatest things is to hear some of the music being hummed or sung by kids (and adults) afterwards!

We have finally finished the preliminaries of our building project… Any day we expect to have the permit in hand and break ground for our elevator/entranceway project on the church building. In anticipation, we have been cleaning out storage closets and garages so that we can compact our ‘stuff’ and be able to get to everything we might need when a whole section of our building becomes inaccessible because of construction. I am AMAZED at how much STUFF can be collected. Thus far, we’ve filled two huge dumpsters (the big roll off kind)… and of course, we weren’t throwing away everything… so that gives you some idea of how much stuff we’d accumulated!

I’ve now been back to work just over a month and am pretty much back to the full swing of things. Having missed two complete months, I’ve had A LOT to do in the office end of the ministry, but I have gotten back to some visitation. Part of my problem is that I still get tired easily… so I do what I can and then back off for a little bit and then go again. A couple of times I’ve simply laid down for a nap when Josh does.

One more note: The Mix family has bought a camper… it’s a pop-up style and I get to pick it up later today and we’re taking it to Cherry Run Camp for what remains of the 2007 campmeeting. When our last pop-up reached the point where it needed more help than either gay or I could give it, we sold it. That was about 2001. We’ve tried the tent thing somce then, but with the changes in our health (especially in the sleeping) the tenting just wasn’t working. Hopefully this allows us to use our days off and the occasional vacation to get out of the parsonage and “Be Still” and take some “Sabbath Rest.”

That’s the way things are here…

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