Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Thank God you're an American!"

Last week I went to Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios Orlando with my son Ragan.  (He was in early for a conference and I was finishing up a week of my work there.)  We purchased our (entirely too-expensive!) admission tickets and proceeded to the entrance.  Not really cognizant of the folks ahead of us, it did seem it was taking a while for them to maneuver through the turnstiles. 

As it became our turn to scan our ticket and our finger-print (where does that information go?!), the gate attendant exclaimed “Oh, thank God you’re an American.  I can understand you.”  Ragan and I both chuckled at this as we passed through, not because of any ill feelings toward the world’s visitors ahead of us, but because of the one who had made the statement.  She was a very pleasant southern-Asian woman with a definitive accent!

She, too, at one time had ventured from her homeland to “the land of promise” and found a home here.  At some point, I assume, she too had difficulty with the language.  But, here she was now recognizing that verbal communication is limited when one doesn’t know the language.

This moment in my journey last week allowed me to pause and reflect on how I am no different than she or the park attendees entering ahead of us that day.  We all are strangers in a distant land at times.  Orlando is a city in which the whole world converges.  Anywhere you walk you will hear languages other than English being spoken.  Yet, there we were all together to enjoy the same things: fantasy, thrills, Harry Potter World, roller coasters!  With just a quick observation of those around, one notices that folks were from all walks of life.  No one’s status, language or religious affiliation awarded them special privileges.  We ALL had to walk through the maze of queue lines to “enjoy” those 47.6 seconds of “thrill.”

My God doesn’t look upon my or anyone else’s status, color of skin, nationality, political affiliation or language spoken to determine whether we can enter His Kingdom.  We all enter the same way:  trusting and believing. And I would add what the entirety of Scripture says, live like you do.  So, isn’t it great that God will not say, “Thank Me, you’re an American; come on in”?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Heights I'm Gaining Everyday

Did I tell you that I am extremely afraid of heights?  I don’t mind flying at all.  But, get me out on a ledge and my knees get weak and I slump down into a safe grab of anything solid.

Seriously, this is not very manly.  Particularly for one who used to be a firefighter!  Climb ladders? Check.  Roof-top Chimney fires?  Check.  One hundred foot tower platform?  Check.  But, all of this was as a “volunteer” so I normally volunteered to stay on the ground!

As a family we have vacationed in many high places.  Once we were in Toronto, Canada and ascended the gigantic CN Tower.  I was okay as long as I was inside.  Then we found, inside, the glass floor!  Yikes.  All of a sudden tomorrow’s headlines were streaming through my head, “Glass Floor Breaks.”  Susan and the boys were enjoying their “walk on the clouds” looking down.  I tried to insist they get off and back on solid flooring.

Last year we went west to Las Vegas.  Outside of the gambler and entertainment Mecca are some captivating and beautiful mountains.  Every inviting rock formation my family would climb.  And all I could envision was one slip and their off.  We went on a tour of the Grand Canyon.  Yes the “big ditch.”  Holy Toledo!  What are you thinking?  Get away from that edge!  No, I won’t come over there to look over!

This little runoff at the keyboard seems contrary to my last blog entry, doesn’t it?  I wrote of “reaching the top” and seeing from high atop Georgia’s mountains God’s beautiful world.  But remember, I was on solid ground safely away from any ledges or seemingly slippery slopes.  I was safe.  I placed myself comfortably away from any possibility of danger.

As I go through life, I attempt to position myself safely in God’s protection.  I am successful sometimes.  Sometimes circumstance or my own stupidity pushes me toward a ledge.  When I do, I prayerfully slump down and reach out to grab hold of something solid.  Without any judgment or accusations I find the waiting arms of the Solid Rock of my salvation.
I'm pressing on the upward way,
New heights I'm gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
"Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan's tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
  Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Harry, I've reached the top!"

This quote is from one of my family’s Christmas-tradition movie series, “Home Alone.”  Real aficionados will know which of the movies it is from and what comes next!

This past week I took advantage of the landscape within which I have now found myself—the north Georgia mountains.  After a great conversation and lunch with a friend, I took a serendipitous stop to explore the invitation of a sign pointing to “recreational areas.”  What I found was breathtaking!  A mountain trail near a man-made lake.

Unfortunately, I had not dressed for a good, brisk mountain hike.  But that didn’t stop me.  With my dress trousers and shoes I trudged on.  It was a beautiful, sunny cool day.  I found myself on a path to which I really had no idea where it would lead.  So, after about fifteen minutes, I decided to reverse my direction.  While doing so, I listened to the sounds and observed my surroundings.  All of this I had not been privileged to experience in a very, very long time.  I soaked it all in.

What I began to realize is that this reminded me of paths we take in life.  While I could only see a short distance in any direction, I journeyed on.  I trusted those who had gone before and planned the route; I anticipated what was ahead.  I continued on despite all of the uncertainties.  In my life I forge ahead along life’s path, knowing perhaps only what is ahead for only a short distance.  I prayerfully trust the One who has guided me to this path.  And, I eagerly keep forging ahead anticipating the next view or even the next “fork in the road.”

After safely returning to my car (and being assured I was not in a recreation of Deliverance!), another path invited me to enter.  This one looked promising; it appeared to be going somewhere.  It was headed upward.  I thought how the view must be wonderful from up there. 

It did not disappoint!  Midway up I reached a plateau of sorts with a green lush grassy area…in the mid of winter!  What was this?  Why was it here?  How was this happening?  I didn’t get the answers to those questions, but the spiritual analyses are plentiful!

I walked on, and then I finally reached the pinnacle, wow!  WOW!  Breath-taking…literally!  I had reached the top!  I could see for miles!  The song “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” was playing in my mind!  (I would have sung it but I was literally breath-less; attempting to let my lungs and heart catch up!)

While I know that I haven’t arrived (or reached the top) yet.  One thing I do know, is that I am going to keep on walking, keep on climbing, keep on reaching for all that God wants and has for me! (Philippians 3:12, paraphrased)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Where to begin?  Usually "the beginning" is a good place.  But, where is THE beginning?  For me and this attempt to share on my "blog" I will begin now, "not way back when."

As a church person I have many times said, "the only people in church who like a change are the babies in diapers."  Whether it is in church or in life, change doesn't come easily to any of us if we are honest.

My world "changed" recently.  For the good, I might add.  Not that what I left was bad by any stretch of the imagination.  But, I look at this new time in my life as good.  Why?  Because my wife and I sincerely believe God  is in control and His plans for us are best (Jeremiah 29:11-12).  We have moved to a wonderful community in the northwest Georgia mountains which we just adore.  We have been welcomed warmly and graciously by a wonderful congregation with which Susan will work by calling and vocation, and I will find my place by choice.

A change for me will be the uncertainty of "gainful employment" at this time.  I have been privileged to serve as a minister, an administrator, a chaplain, a community leader.  Now I wait (and work diligently to find!) to see how the LORD will take all of who I am, all of what He has done in and through me, and all of what He wants to accomplish and allow me to be a part of it.

So, as I "DEAL" with my world, I will share thoughts, anecdotes, opinions and perhaps other useless nonsense!