Tuesday, February 28, 2012

People Watching

I have heard people say many times, “I love to go to the Mall just to watch people.”  Of course, this is a fun activity just about anywhere you go.  Since I have been in a lot of airports recently, I tend to do my observing there.

Recently I had a rather lengthy layover in the airport in Nassau, The Bahamas.  NO, I was not there on vacation!  My first flight from Treasure Key, Abaco had gotten me up very early—before sunrise.  In this little airport on this somewhat remote island in the northeastern part of The Bahamas, I literally helped open up the airport.  Soon a few more passengers-to-be arrived as did a few of the employees.  Eventually the plane arrived and a well-dressed Bahamian National Police officer went to greet the plane.  Off stepped one casually dressed Bahamian man wearing a ball cap, smiling and speaking to everyone as he walked by them.  Except for me of course.  I figured it was obvious I was not a registered voter and he passed me by.  But, I didn’t jump up to shake his hand either.

As I was exiting to board the plane I asked the gate attendant who the gentleman was.  Well, she looked at me disgustedly and said, “That is the Prime Minister.”  Holy cow!  I had ignored a world leader!

After arriving in Nassau I quickly sought after my morning dose of caffeine and a breakfast sandwich.  I watched as others passed through the shops and food court.  Some were also looking for their morning meal.  Soon I spotted one young couple which appeared to be ending their tropical vacation.  What caught my eye was the amount of flesh that he had not tattooed.  Well, I sized them up immediately and began to conjure up my humble analysis of them.

Then, the strangest thing happened.  He brought their food back to where she had sat; he sat across from her, they clasped hands and prayed!  They said grace; they had the blessing; they thanked God for the provisions they were to partake.  Great!  All of the negative thoughts I had assigned to them due to his appearance fooled me.  These two were sincere followers of God and were acknowledging His provision for their sustenance.

I was thankful that they could not hear my internal thoughts judging them by their outward appearance.  I had to seek forgiveness from the same One to whom they prayed. 

Wasn’t this pretty typical, though?  We tend to “judge a book by its cover,” not really caring about the true content of one’s worth in the sight of God.  For me, this was just another time in which God reminded me that beyond my short, chubby appearance, it is who I am in Him that matters.  My prayer needs to be over and over again, “LORD, give my eyes to see others as You see them.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"...But the Greatest of these is Love."

On this day set aside each year to pad the coffers of greeting card companies, chocolate manufacturers and Jewelry stores, I can’t help but follow the trend to express to my Valentine my love and affection for her.  For almost thirty years now she has been my constant companion, true friend, and mate.

I recall the first time my eyes saw her.  I believe the words which went through my mind were the same which Adam first uttered when God presented Eve to him: “Hubba Hubba!”  (Seriously, it’s that way in the original manuscripts!) I know, not very romantic, but truly sincere.  Long before Cupid drew back his bow, God had planned for her and me to meet then and there.

Let me give to you a little background information.  Susie was born to Bill and Ora Parr in Fort Worth, Texas in 19__ (what?  You think I’m stupid!).  These two Alabamans were living there because Bill had taken a job after graduating from Devry Institute in Chicago.  They were very faithful and active members of Rosen Heights Baptist Church where Dr. R. Earl Allen was pastor.  After Susie’s birth in September her parents dedicated her to the LORD in a special Parent/Child dedication service at church.  Dr. Allen held this little precious newborn girl in his arms and prayed for her and her parents.  Soon after that Bill and Ora moved back to their home state of Alabama to raise their family in Huntsville.

Fast-forward to 1980 when Susie graduated from college and headed to Fort Worth to continue her education and follow her Calling to ministry.  Her parents and friends at Rosen Heights Baptist Church had remained close over the years and when they heard Susie was coming their way, they let it be known that they needed a pianist.  Dr. Allen was still pastor and was delighted that this now young woman would serve the Lord in the church in which her calling had begun.

In 1981 as a struggling seminary student myself, I needed additional income in order to buy groceries.  I learned of a “job made for a seminary student” at a church on the north side of Cowtown.  I got the job as night custodian at Rosen Heights Baptist Church and began on June 3, 1981, the night referenced above (“Hubba! Hubba!”).

Little did Susie Parr or I know that the Lord had a plan for each of us—together.  From Alabama and Virginia God brought our very different paths together at the same church under the same pastor that held her many years earlier and with her parents dedicated her to the Lord.  Thus began a journey of love that has taken us from Texas to Georgia, Virginia, Florida and back to Georgia again; has blessed us with two sons who love and serve the Lord; countless friends and colleagues in churches and ministry settings we would have never dreamed of; and a wonderful extended family that has blessed us all these years.

There is no doubt in my mind that when Holy Scripture was penned, canonized and provided for all to read, that love was and is its ultimate theme.  Yes, love for God; love instead of hate for one another; and His unfailing love for us.  The model of love that should dictate all of our thoughts and actions.  Yes, there is faith and hope; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)

Happy Valentine’s Day, my Love!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Arrived Safely

“Arrived Safely…”  This was the message that I was able to send to my wife and family that I had arrived at my destination safely.  My destination?  Mount Hope in Abaco, The Bahamas.  I am here for the week to teach “Leadership” in the Bahamas Bible Institute, a seven years partnership between CBF of Florida and CBF of The Bahamas. (Yea, I know, “tough assignment.”  But, somebody’s gotta do it!)

The rest of my message, however, expressed some “trying times” ahead: “…luggage has not.”  Only one other time in my seven years of extensive travel around the Caribbean for Fellowship Baptists has my luggage taken a different trip than me.  The last time I went to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) and three days later my suitcase caught up with me after going to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO).  Unfortunately, I was not awarded its frequent flier miles nor reimbursed for expenses I incurred to have clothes presentable for the Baptist meetings I attended.

I take for granted the pleasures of daily rituals that were going to be a challenge without certain items not in my possession.  Toothbrush? No. Medicines? No. Clean clothes? Uh-uh.  I wasn’t too stressed at the moment.  I was (almost) confident that I would once again be reunited with my things.  I did have with me my notes and items for the four nights of teaching.  I had spent the better part of two weeks reading, studying and preparing and I was not going to part with them.  However I wasn’t encouraged by the airline agent who looked at my claim check and declared it was not theirs.  What?  Wait!  It was YOUR airline agent in Orlando who put the matching tag on my bag!

My host, Rev. John McIntosh, is well-known throughout the Abaco Island.  He made a quick call to Marsh Harbor, the next stop for the island-hopper which left me at Treasure Key, and the search began.  It wasn’t there or on my plane.  It had been left in Nassau and would be on the next plane over…tomorrow!  The good news arrived the following day and my body was soon refreshed with its contents.

Isn’t this typical of how we go about life?  We entrust our worldly possessions to complete strangers in hopes that promises will be fulfilled.  And most of the time we are not disappointed.  However, we tend to do similar with our spiritual lives—entrust it to others to get ‘r done for us: preachers, teachers, deacons, leaders in the church.  But if I am to be a follower of Christ, I need to keep those precious items close and in my own possession, opening up only to the One who gave all and desires my daily contact.  My growth in spiritual matters is no one’s responsibility or fault but my own.

Prayer: Loving and gracious God, thank you for loving me, in spite of me and for bringing me back to You, when I entrust my relationship with You to someone else.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

(Almost) Daily Trek

For the past seven years I have been “traveling” somewhere.  Many days, one would find me on Interstate 4 between Orlando (where I lived) and Lakeland, Florida (where my office was) a distance of 58.3 miles one-way, but who’s counting?  Many friends and family often asked me about my “commute.”  The answer I usually gave was “it was my spiritual journey!”

Most of the time, I found it was a good time to “listen.”  I usually listened to “talk radio” getting caught up on the news of the day and the hundreds, yea even thousands of opinions that went along with it.  Easy listening and Christian music radio was another standard.  All of these, of course, gave regular traffic reports which aided me in decisions of the route to take.

When radio didn’t suffice, or I couldn’t find what I liked, I popped in a CD (yes, I had not commandeered the iPod shuffle!)  Sometimes a book on CD was a great way to brag that I’d “read” a good book recently.  Whatever the medium, I listened.

Some of what I “heard” went in one ear and out the other.  Every once in a while, something goes in and camps out on a brain cell and I have one of those “a-ha moments.”

One morning I found myself maneuvering the “Nascar” style traffic heading west on I-4.  You know the type I’m referring to:  65+ mph, lots of cars and trucks bunched together, and everyone “jockeying” for position.  Right around Walt Disney World you lose one west-bound lane.  I know it is there; I’ve handled it hundreds of times; I’m preparing for it.  Then all of a sudden a Dodge Ram green pickup truck flashed up from the rear at a speed which made me appear to be sitting still.  He swerved around me and glares at me like it was my fault that he did not have clearance for take-off!

Well, I did what many do—I gave him a “holy honk” of the car horn.  Racing through my mind were thoughts of anger, disgust, ridicule and judgment.  Just prior to this I had popped a CD into the player by a male trio of Southern Gospel music that I was introduced to some years earlier.  I love their music, style and presentation.  It is classy Southern Gospel.  Usually one would pass me and observe me singing at the top of my lungs with them as their “fourth” singer to make it a “real quartet.”

Wouldn’t you know that God sent a message to me to “hear” in that particular moment?  The group and I were singing “I’m happy with you Lord; I hope you’re happy with me.”  Oh, boy!  I got the message!  In that moment, I did not portray one with whom the Lord of Heaven and Earth could be happy with.  I had not given a “good witness” to that other driver.  Rather than voice a prayer of thanksgiving for His protection upon me and the Dodge Ram driver, I had feelings of anger that the other driver felt entitled to the piece of asphalt that I was occupying.

Oh, Lord. Forgive me for not listening as intently as I should during my Daily Treks.  Thank you for protecting idiot drivers like me!