Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Love Stokesdale

Rarely does a week go by that I don't consciously thank God for Stokesdale.  It's a treat just to live here.
Every time I go into the Bi-Rite grocery store, I see someone I know.  The people who work there are personal friends, and invariably I find other customers to talk to.

Mail gets delivered to me, even with an old address.  The people at the post office know me and where I live, and where I used to live.  Even the Fed Ex and UPS delivery people know where to find me.  Yeah, they know that the church has moved to another address, and they know they can deliver stuff to my house.

And at the post office, no one ever has to wait in line.  If there is a line, I probably recognize some of the people in it.

People care about one another.  When a family has a hard time, the community is there to help out. 

At Parker's, they know what beverage I have with my breakfast.  At Southern Hardware, I know the owner, and he remembers what kind of chainsaw I have.  At Snatchers, they repair my car honestly, stand by their work, and help me find a good deal on tires. 

The Christmas Parade is a parade of friends.  Kids we know wave from floats of churches, clubs, schools and businesses we know.
The fire chief helps the elementary school coordinate with our church, so that we can help raise funds for a school field trip.

A Stokesdale traffic jam has six cars in it.

The season opening of Humphrey's Ridge Restaurant is like a family reunion.  Everyone is excited that the weather is warming up and we can soon swim in the lake.

We are close to Greensboro, Winston-Salem, the airport, Belew's Lake.  We are outside the frenzy of city life, and just a few miles from real wilderness. The Blue Ridge Parkway is about an hour away.  I can see Hanging Rock Mountain from my street.  This is a beautiful part of the country.

Somehow God has smiled upon us, allowing us to live in a small place with a big heart, where we can experience the beauty of his creation.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Thanks and Thirst

Yesterday we were blessed at Crossroads to have Christ Winter, a representative from Living Water International, share with us about their ministry.  For years we have given to Living Water as part of our Christmas offering, and Chris helped to make our giving more personal.

Chris told us that when Advent Conspiracy and Living Water teamed up in 2006, there were over 1.2 billion people in the world who needed clean water.  Today "only" 884 million people need clean water.  In just a few years, our giving has made a tremendous difference.  Millions of people now have clean water to drink.  It's working!

Living Water drills the wells and trains villagers to take care of them.  Periodically LW sends representatives to check on the wells, perform repairs, and make sure that the water is accessible to everyone.  All these visits provide opportunities to share with people the good news about Jesus. 

As we keep chipping away at the water problem in the world, I imagine that in 10 years we could virtually eliminate the lack of clean water.  Through LW, this work is done in the name of Jesus.  The wells are a constant reminder that Jesus came to be with us at Christmas.  Jesus redeems from the diseases of dirty water, and he redeems from the dirt and hurt in our souls.

At Thanksgiving we celebrate by giving thanks to God .  With a big meal we feast and celebrate the blessings God has given.  But I don't think I have ever raised a glass of water at the meal, just to thank God that we have it to drink.

This Thursday, I'll do that.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I love writing, especially when it is going well.  Sometimes the words just flow.  The phrases just flow through my fingers onto the screen.

But then there are times that I can't get the words to come.  Sometimes I can't think of what to write.  Other times, I find that the idea is there, but the way to say it you get the picture. 

I also suffer from writer envy.  When I read good ideas, presented in a compelling, colorful way, I find myself wishing that I had said it.  Sometimes the writer is saying what I have been thinking, but never put into words.  And that's my frustration.  I like to write, but don't make enough time to do it.  I want to write a book, but I'm not making any progress.  I can barely get a blog uploaded.

Recently I came across a file, something I worked on years ago, never published anywhere.  It was just a start of a writing project -- one of those things I started and never did anything with.  It was good.  I was surprised.  Lately, it seems like I can't write anything.

My daughter is doing the November writing challenge.  "Everybody who's a writer knows about this, Daddy."  Guess I'm not a writer.  Anyway, the challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  She's already got 30k. 

I need to write more.  I need to write every day.  Writing has an impact that can potentially last through the rest of history.  Of course, you have to write something worth remembering.  I'm not trying to write 50,0000 words in a month.  But maybe I can write more than two blogs a month.  And maybe I can write something worth remembering.  I'll never know unless I write something.

There, I wrote something.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Visiting with God

I have often wondered about prayer.  What is praying, really?  Sometimes I wonder what "counts" as praying.  If I am thinking about a friend with a need, am I praying?  Do I have to ask specific things for the person?  Do you have to pray out loud, or is it OK to pray silently?  What if I fall asleep...have I really been praying?  What about day dreaming?  Does that count as prayer?

Fil Anderson's book, Running on Empty, has really challenged my thinking about the spiritual life.  I recognized myself in his descriptions of his own prayer experiences.  Like Fil, I have spent countless hours bringing requests before God, telling him what was happening and what he needed to do about it.  I have been very careful to say just the right words.  I have prayed the scriptures, prayed while walking, prayed on my knees, prayed with cards and lists.  There is nothing wrong with any of those practices.  But the form of prayer is not really what prayer is about.

For many of us, prayer is just a monologue.  It is a formula of worshiping, praising, confessing, asking and thanking.  When we are through, we say amen and go about the day.

But prayer is not a monologue.  Maybe prayer is more like a conversation.  I have spent many hours talking to God and then listening for God's voice.  Usually after a long litany of needs and requests, I will pause for a minute, just in case God wants to get a word in edgewise.  "OK God, here's your chance to speak, if you want to say anything... How 'bout it?... Nothing?... OK.  Amen." 

If I don't rush the conversation, I will listen for God more patiently.  I might actually hear his voice.  Still, these conversations can feel like times of prayer that "count."

While talking with friends this morning about prayer, it occured to me that prayer is really more like a visit.  During a visit, there will be times of speaking, listening and silence.  You can do something while you visit, or not.  A visit is about being with someone, not going through a formula with just the right words, for just the right time.

I think that prayer is like visiting with God.  Sometimes it can be structured, sometimes free flowing.  But it's all about relationship.  I just need to make time to be with him.  I need to be in his presence so that I'm not too distracted to hear his voice and speak to him.  I can't let time with God always be something that I barely squeeze into my schedule.  On some days that may be necessary.  But there have to be some days every week when I can put away all my distractions and visit with the Creator.

I want to stop worrying about whether my time with God counts as prayer.  I want to begin enjoying his presence, opening my heart to him, hearing his voice and experiencing his embrace.  God doesn't need to be something else on my to-do list.  He is someone I like being around.  More profoundly, I am someone he likes to be around.  Wow.