Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Pen

I have a special ballpoint pen. I’ve had it for a long time, probably 10 years or more. It’s got three colors of ink in it and a mechanical pencil. That way I can use blue ink to mark up my books and black ink to write notes and write in my journal. And I only have to carry one pen.

I used to carry this pen in my shirt pocket until the clip got too weak to work well. Now it can slip out of my shirt pocket when I lean over. And these days I don’t wear shirts with pockets as often as I used to. So now I carry this pen in my pants pocket, with my car keys. But somehow, this pen keeps trying to escape. Once I got home from soccer practice and my pen was gone. I had to go over to the ball park in the dark and look for it. There it was in the grass at the edge of the parking lot. Must have escaped when I pulled out my car keys.

Often I have lost this pen in my car. Sometimes it can slip out of my pocket while I’m driving. How sneaky. I come inside and reach for my pen, and it’s gone. In a panic, I go back out to the car. I’m wondering if I left it somewhere or lost it. Where all have I been? Then I find it right there in the driver’s seat.

But there have been times when it’s not in the driver’s seat. Once we were at Applebee’s, and my daughter wanted a pen to use. I reluctantly gave her my pen. (You are so determined to carry that pocketbook, but you never have a pen in it. What’s the use?) Well, she indulged her artistic spirit, even making a fun note for the waitress. But alas, she left my pen on the table. When we get home, I’m hitting the roof, because she’s so irresponsible. I call the restaurant, glad that I left a decent tip, and fortunately they have found it. I make another trip to Greensboro to pick it up.

Once I was on an advertising sales call at a funeral home in Madison. I left the pen on the funeral director’s desk. When I get home, wondering where the pen could be, I immediately call him back. A woman answers. I explain what I need. She puts me on hold and goes to look. I wait. When she returns, she says incredulously, “I found an old, black pen with the paint mostly worn off.” Her voice seems to say, “I thought you were looking for a fine writing instrument. All I could find was this.”

Many times I have decided that my pen, this time, is forever lost. I was doing an interview at a cheering gym in Kernersville last winter. I felt the pen in my pocket as I walked in the building with my daughter. I instinctively check for it, lest it escape. After the interview, I walked to the car and unlocked it. I checked again for the pen, but it was gone! I felt an adrenaline rush. It could really be gone, this time. Only moments ago, I knew where it was. I go back into the gym where it’s about 80 degrees. I ask all the people I interviewed. No, they haven’t seen a pen. What’s the big deal? I’m really feeling low, walking back to the car again. It is truly gone this time. I’m walking along, consoling myself, when my daughter says, “Daddy! Here it is!” Yes! It had jumped out in the middle of the gravel parking lot.. Maybe it is wondering if I really care about it.

Just last weekend my mother and I stopped by to visit a cousin. I sat in a cushy, leather recliner in his den. We talked about family and old times. When I got home, my pen was nowhere to be found. Not in the car seat, not in the driveway. So, yet again, I called for my pen. I left a message on my cousin’s answering machine. A few hours later, my cousin’s wife calls. Yes! She had found it. She had to look very carefully. It was caught in the chair cushion. She may never have found it if she hadn’t known to look for it. Then she says, “I love finding things.” To her it was a treasure hunt, a special mission.

My pen may act like it wants to escape. But somehow it always seems to make it back home. Maybe it really wants to be home with me. Maybe it just needs to be wanted. Of course, maybe it’s just a hunk of metal with no feelings. I know that it is. But it still has value to me.

I think there’s at least one lesson about God’s love in there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Give That Noodle!

Sharing God’s love is fun. On Sunday we served at Humphrey’s Ridge and Carolina Marina. We gave out nearly 100 pool noodles, gave dozens of bottles of water, picked up trash and washed windshields. We also gave away a few Bibles.

There is blessing in giving. Giving is so unexpected in our culture. Sure, we’ll give to the needy or victims of disaster, but rarely do we find people who just want to give. Giving makes us more like God. “For God so loved the world that he GAVE…” I think I understand better the delight that God experiences as he shares his goodness with us. I think that I also understand the frustration when people treat a gift with suspicion. They think there’s a catch. They think that because many times Christians have given them that impression.

As followers of Jesus we are representatives of his character. We want people to see that Jesus is bringing good news. He wants to give us his love, so that it can flow out to others. He does call us to obedience, of course, but it is obedience borne of love for him. Serving him gives us joy – the joy of living unselfishly.

The project was so fun that it was hard to pull away from the marinas to gather again at the Long House. It seemed like we were just getting started. In a way we are just getting started. Our study of “Outflow” is designed to change our lifestyles permanently, so that we naturally live for ways to share God’s love.

I’m looking forward to our big Outflow Celebration this Sunday! Let me know if you have a story you want to share. It will be great to hear about all that God is doing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Faith and Sunshine

As we look forward to our Outflow service project this weekend, we are working behind the scenes to prepare. As you may know, we plan to cancel our normal Sunday worship time on May 20 and go out and serve our community.

We will go to two local marinas on Belews Lake and give out pool noodles, wash windshields, pick up trash and serve in any other ways we can. There’s no hidden agenda. We are simply trying to share God’s love with our community. God loves everyone, but not everyone knows it. So we are giving and serving to show God’s love.

Now, Sunday morning at the marina can be a very lonely place, if it is raining. We won’t find anybody there to serve. This community service time does depend on the weather. But we are moving ahead in faith. We believe that God will take care of the weather. I have been very encouraged as we have planned the event, because we are looking ahead with eyes of faith. “Let’s just trust God to take care of the weather,” people are saying.

We are willing to plow ahead with a plan, knowing that we can’t control one critical variable. But we do know that we can trust God. Even if the weather is rotten on Sunday, God is worthy of our trust.

Admittedly, we are not betting the farm on good weather. We do have a rain plan. But when it comes time to lay it all on the line as we follow Jesus in faith, we need to be ready trust him. We need to follow him into situations that could turn disastrous if he doesn’t show up.

Of course it’s safer not to take any risks. But then we would never see the glory of God revealed in our lives.

Trusting God to take care of the weather, rain or shine, is a relatively small thing. But will we trust him with that financial decision, that difficult choice we must make, that career move, that difficult conversation? Will we trust him with our time and our abilities?

Let’s work on trusting him with the small things. Let’s prepare to trust him with the big things. Let’s expect to see him at work in amazing ways!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The God Who Knows

In reading the One Year Bible yesterday I came to the story of Hannah, who desperately wanted to have children. Her husband’s other wife was cruel to her and picked on her for being childless. In the story, she went with her family to Shiloh, so that they could worship. She went to the Tabernacle one day to pray. She poured out her heart to God, begging him to let her conceive. She promised to dedicate her son to God, if only God would so bless her.

In time, she does bear a son. She nurses him and weans him. Then she takes him to Shiloh, where he can give his life in service to God. She celebrates when she gives her son to God. She declares (1 Samuel 2:3) that, “the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.” The Lord knew her heart for him. He knew the suffering she endured at the hands of her rival. He knew her loneliness and helplessness.

God knows. He knows it all. Nothing ever occurs to God – he knows it already. Ironically, nothing is ironic to God. Nothing is unexpected to him. (He obviously delights in irony among humanity because the Bible is full of ironic stories. In Esther, the man who built the gallows is hanged on it. In Genesis Joseph, the runt brother, ends up as the big boss. There’s tons of irony in the Bible. Irony works on us because we don’t know everything. Unexpected things happen to us all the time.)

God knows. He knows my heart, just as surely as he knew Hannah’s. He knows my struggles. He knows who helps me and who wants to trip me up. It’s not a secret to God. He also knows the crud that’s in my sinful nature. He knows how often I indulge my selfishness. He knows what I really deserve.

God also knows that the heart he gave me is good. It is brought to life by the Holy Spirit who lives in me. The heart he gave me is life. “Above all else,” Solomon tells us, “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

He knows everything, and he knows me. He is the standard by which my deeds are measured. Whoa. I really need to get to know the One who knows. He hasn’t forgotten us. He longs for us to experience intimacy with him, the intimacy made possible by the death and resurrection of his Son. He knows us, and he wants us to know him.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What a Party

Our Homemade Ice Cream Party on Sunday afternoon (April 29) was a blast! God blessed us with a perfect day – beautiful sunshine, hot in the sun, cool in the shade. We had plenty of homemade ice cream, toppings, and drinks.

The water slide was a major league hit. The kids had a great time with it, even the older kids. The background music, the kids shouting and playing, the laughter of friends, the whipped cream – it all made for a picture-perfect day!

Then having the band playing and “fans” cheering was great. I thought the band sounded good, even if I was singing a little. I do know it was lots of fun, and great to see people enjoying the music. I’ll have to work on my rendition of “Rocky Top.” We also had a guest fiddle player, adding a great new sound.

And of course the flamingo display was tacky and memorable. The Crossroads Youth invited us all to have our friends’ homes “flocked” secretly with dozens of lovely pink flamingos. They have raised over $300 for their mission trip to NY this summer. Some fortunate folks have already been flocked. Who will be next?

Back to the party…Thank you to all the folks who helped with the set up. The youth and many adults showed up early to put out tables and get things ready. Thank you to the family who shared their giant slide with us. Thanks to all who helped move our music equipment to the porch and back.

I saw lots of people I did not know. We did a great job of inviting people to come. How come nobody showed up that I invited? Oh well…

Last Sunday will stand out in my memory as one of those perfect days. God answered our prayers as we asked him to pour out his Spirit at the party. He showed up, and we celebrated him. He increased our joy and he was glorified. He keeps making life better and better!