Summer: No Relaxation Ahead

I was just flipping through the calendar, trying to find a time for my bride and I to have a date night, and discovering anew how packed our summer will be. Remember when summer was the time for relaxation, vacation, and quietude? Yeah, me neither. It certainly won’t be this summer.

School ends for Sarah next week. She has one week free, then the last week in June, while I’m at a class, she’s got her first week as a paid (!) staffer for Jeremiah Project out in Winchester. Then it’s the week of July 4th, when Sarah wants to go visit a male friend of the boy gender variety (agh) in Roanoke before the 4th, and then I have another conference at the end of the week. The second week of July Sarah’s back to JP for a second week, and all of a sudden it’s the middle of summer.

David will be in Spain from June 30 to August 8, doing the first of his two archaeological field schools. The program actually ends August 1, then he’s spending a week bouncing around Iberia before flying out of Lisbon. Which means we won’t have a visit home to Vermont this summer, because four days later we have houseguests, and then…

…just a week later Sarah is one of the teen leaders for Chrysalis weekend C-99. She’s already been working hard on that, and it’ll be a great time of grace, but MAN, the summer disappears! Then we have to move David into his apartment before school starts for him at the end of August…

No, there is no rest for the wicked…

Advertisements

The Walking Wounded Come to Christ

Two weeks ago tonight, I was part of the team that began welcoming 24 pilgrims to their Emmaus weekend, E-185. Three days later, the Holy Spirit had moved tremendously through us, and every pilgrim had some fantastic stories to share about their weekend. It was SUCH a privilege to be a part of it!

My bride and I sponsored one pilgrim. Adam is a friend of nearly 25 years, who has gone through some serious struggles and upheavals in the last 11 months. When I came off the mountain for my own walk two years ago, I thought about inviting him, and had a distinct sense of “No, not now.” But once his turmoil began last summer, I started to hear the answer change. And he was happy to accept the invitation to the weekend.

This was my first teaming experience, and so in many ways it felt like my own weekend again, this time with more awareness of what’s going on. And it was deeply, deeply moving to see the experiences of the pilgrims as they came to confront the absolutely bottomless love of Jesus, time and again, throughout the weekend. There were grievously hurt men on the weekend. There was brokenness, there was shame, there was the inability to forgive oneself in spades. And over the course of our time together, the rest of the team and I could see people blossom, come out of their shells, and come to understand God’s love, perhaps for the very first time.

One pilgrim commented to me, after a lifetime of being a “Christian,” that this was the first time he really got it, and really could see how much depth there is available in Christ. That alone makes the weekend worthwhile. To have even one soul come to know God’s love more truly than ever before, makes it complete.

We can’t live on mountaintop experiences forever, unfortunately. And so it’s been doubly encouraging to see that the seeds planted on the weekend are taking root in Adam. He has a new energy, and a new commitment to being a genuine follower of Christ, which I pray he’s able to enlarge and deepen as the weeks and months go by.

Imagine. Imagine the possibilities if we could all make that shift in our hearts. What a wonderful place this would be if that could happen.

The Personality of Jesus

Recently, I had the opportunity to fill in for the pastor at Sydenstricker UMC, and preached on the personality of Jesus.  Have you ever considered that Jesus would have had a personality, just like you or I did? And what kind of personality would it have been? I try to show aspects of Jesus being focused and determined, yet playful, and capable of building deep, authentically human relationships with the men who surrounded him for three years. Give it a listen and let me know what you think!

Recovering From Surgery

Thanks for the words of concern and prayers in my recovery from a burst appendix two weeks ago. They’ve all been deeply appreciated. I wanted to pass along a few observations from my convalescence.

  • I really don’t do “recovery” well. I want to be out doing things and when I do, I chafe at getting exhausted. It’s getting a lot better; for awhile I needed a nap every afternoon. Now that’s less the case. I took one yesterday, and then had a hard time falling asleep at night.
  • Saw my surgeon for my second follow-up this morning. I’m healing well, according to him, but not there yet…he wants to see me Monday, and maybe that will be the last time. I’m really ready to be done with this…
  • We definitely have an Enemy, and I’m kinda not surprised he came after me. We go up to the mountain for our Emmaus weekend in eight days, and folks have commented that the Enemy often tries to do something in advance of a weekend. Glad I got to catch that particular spear…
  • It’s amazing to me how much my routines have been upset, and that includes my spiritual ones. I used my commute in each morning as prayer time, and now I’m out of that habit. I have to make time differently for Christ, and that’s been a struggle sometimes.
  • Prayer works. I really did feel bathed in security when I was being wheeled in for surgery, and prayers for healing since then have been answered. The secondary infection that set in has largely disappeared, praise be.
  • The dog really doesn’t understand what’s going on. She’s hurt and perplexed that she can’t stay in the bed with us at night anymore. It’s hard to explain to her that the last thing I need is for her, in the middle of the night, to hit a tender spot or pull on something that doesn’t need tugging on. So we’ve started teleworking together, that seems to let her feel more comfortable.
  • I’d been prohibited from lifting more than 20 pounds until today. Man, I’ll miss that excuse for getting the kids to do things…

Burst Appendix

Ten days ago, on a Saturday night, I started to feel a little twinge in the right side of my abdomen. Mind you, this was after working in the yard for a few hours at a charity event, and during bowling night, so I figured, I must have pulled something.

It didn’t get better, and I noticed I lost energy: I came home and slept 12 hours that night, and after church Sunday I slept another 15 hours. Something wasn’t right. Monday I stayed home from work, exhausted, but still not in a lot of pain. Tuesday, though, it wasn’t getting better and I figured I should find out what it was. With one bout of diverticulitis in the family this winter, I thought it could be that, and so went to an ER that could take pictures.

The CT scan showed my appendix had begun to burst. I was taken via ambulance to Mount Vernon hospital just before 1, and by 2:45 I was being wheeled back for surgery.

Things like this–sudden, emergency, literally life-saving surgery–can be a little upsetting. My bride was a little alarmed, but I remember feeling very calm about it. I knew I was in the best hands I could be, the healer above all others, and so I didn’t feel fazed at all.

I think that’s a difference from where I would have been years ago. I think I would have been much more assaulted by the feeling of not being in control, of wanting to research the best possible surgeon, pick a different hospital, etc., etc. Instead, I felt reassured throughout the day, reassured that I was being loved and cared for even beyond the walls of the hospital. I put out a couple of Facebook messages, and brothers and sisters in faith responded with a wall of prayer for me. That felt good, that felt welcomed, and as a result I was able to breathe in the gas in the OR without worrying about what came next.

Recovery has been uneven: discharged after 48 hours, and the first couple of days at home were good. Yesterday my drain showed qualitative and quantitative signs of change, so back to the ER to make sure everything was OK. The CT scan showed no structural problems, but they put me on a stronger set of antibiotics to kill off whatever’s still around inside. Part of the hardest thing to do is…nothing, just to sit around and rest and recover. I don’t “just sit around” well.

But through it all, I am being held, I am being supported, and I do believe healing is available for me. These are incredibly reassuring, and I hold onto them through these next days and weeks.

Always an adventure, huh?

Becoming Christ’s Hands and Feet

I’m in the second year of teaching a Sunday school class. We call it Navigators, and it’s for those who are perhaps newer to church, or it’s been awhile, and we cover some of the basic concepts of Christianity (but to a slightly deeper level than just a new members class).

One of the things we try to do is take advantage of opportunities to develop our “mission muscles”–to demonstrate that the grace we learn about in class has a component that leads us out into the world, to bring Christ’s love, in action, to others. One of our classmates, Bob, has elderly parents; his mom was put into hospice care last Friday, and his 90-year-old dad isn’t able to take care of stuff around the house as much anymore. And it had been a source of stress for Bob, that there was stuff nobody could get to while mom was ill.

So last Sunday, Navigators drove three hours to the southern tip of Maryland to Bob’s parents’ place, and spent the day being in service to a brother in Christ. We beat back bushes that had overgrown; we weeded and mulched the front gardens; we removed a torn awning from over the side door; we mowed, we weed-whacked, we generally did whatever Bob said needed doing.

When we were done, I have to admit, the place looked a whole lot better than when we arrived. Bob’s dad was off visiting his mom at the hospital, and so he had a wonderful surprise waiting for him when he got home. But all the more important was the lesson we all learned about going when Christ says “go.” It was a l-o-n-g drive, it rained on the way back, and we probably each had a dozen things on our own lists that we could have been doing with our Sunday. But for one brief day, our worship wasn’t in a church building. It certainly wasn’t mechanical, or uninspired. It was meaningful to us all, to be in service to Bob and his family, and it helped bring the Kingdom Among Us to a family who needed a little extra help.

I slept well that night. It was a good day to be growing as a disciple of Christ.

Dealing With Bad News

What do you do when the plans you were making, around which you’d built your expectations for the future, suddenly crumble and you realize they won’t become reality?

We’re dealing with that this weekend. We had some very disappointing news come into the family–shattering news, really, to the one making the plans–and it’s affected us all. I wasn’t the one making the plans, but this news has consumed almost all of my spare brainpower ever since.

When something like this hits, everything feels different. Things move in slo-mo. Brains race. Even, I’ve noticed, food tastes a little differently. Our primitive instincts begin to kick in, we get afraid, we fear. We lash out at anyone or anything we think got in our way.

At times like this our faith in God goes one of two ways. We can get angry with him–how could you let this happen? What kind of God claims to love and then ruins my plans?

Or we can get our egos out of the way and put more faith in him. We recognize that God might not be the actor causing the sudden crisis…but we recognize that he certainly can use it, that he has a plan for us, and that even if we can’t see what that is, that he still loves us.

Easier said than done. When we feel we’ve been wronged, there’s a part of us that likes to play the victim. That’s a whole lot easier than recognizing any role we may have had ourselves in the downfall of our plans.

The good news is, though, that even when we’re angry with him, God still loves us. And that, odds are, he wasn’t the one behind our misfortune. Remember, we have an enemy who wants to wreck our plans and sow discontent and drive wedges between us and God. But in the depths of our crisis, how hard it is to see anything else.

Sometime, yes, new plans will be made. This weekend’s devastation will be surmounted, even if we can’t forget it. And in the midst of it, that hope may seem so distant. But it’s there, waiting for us to discover it with new hearts.