You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2011.

The email note was a welcomed surprise.  It popped up and the subject line simply said, “Let’s ride.”  For a few moments I ignored it and kept on working until I could find a moment for pause.

After I opened the email and scanned the contents, I was smiling.  The ride would just take part of the day.  The rendezvous point was 20 minutes away.

The invitation was open and the request was to pass it on to others.  I immediately forwarded the message to several others who like the two-wheel version of riding.  Our lives are so different but we share the joy of the wind in our face, the asphalt below our boots and the horsepower under our saddles. 

Solo riding is cathartic.  Everyone who rides treasures those moments of solitude.  Our individuality is reborn in those moments of rumbling down a country road.

Group riding is just plain fun.  The power of horsepower multiplied many times over is stunning.  It’s better than being a part of a parade.

Individual bikes are a reflection of someone’s personality.  No two bikes are identical.  Each rider takes pride in making his ride and extension of who he is.

Brand is a focus of loyalty.  Very much like a sports fan, riders like their company.  There is no logic that supports it and the facts are minimal.  It is subjective but always full of rancor and subtleties.

When a group pulls out from the rally point, the sound is exhilarating.  Engines fire up and collectively call attention.  Heads turn, people pause, a path is cleared and the leader leads the pack into traffic.

Safely, a pack of riders moves as one.  Most cars and trucks melt back.  A whole in the traffic is filled with bikers slipping into formation. 

It is a totally different feeling than riding alone.  You are part of something bigger.  It is an elixir that draws bikers around the world to love what they do. 

Individuality melds into a new identity.  You are no longer alone.  The group is now a hive of activity, synchronizing movement and acting as a one, just much larger.

But, I sighed.  My work is never defined by the hour but rather the project.  Sunday is coming and I had to study a long and challenging passage for the sermon.  Duty called, I had to pass and work and hopefully ride another day.

photo credit: google image

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The apostle closes his first epistle to the believers in the Corinthian church.  He does not speak for himself alone.  As a representative of the Gospel of Christ, he also is associated with many of the believers in Asia.

These churches are not specified but may be the churches in the Revelation.  Collectively, churches can unite for ministry in a powerful expression of love.  At the very least this kind of greeting shows mutual encouragement.

Aquila and Priscilla were fellow tent makers with Paul during his ministry in Corinth.  They joined Paul in his journeys.  No doubt their unselfish hospitality was a continuing ministry that they brought with them to support the ministry of the apostle. 

Their greeting is passed on by Paul with the added touch of warmth.  It was beyond human affection, rather, fueled because of what they shared in the Lord.  This couple offered their love and home for Christian gatherings.

Christians enjoy an amazing familial relationship with each other.  It is not personal perfection but a supernatural connection that God initiated through His Son.  This fellowship is a product of His grace not our works.

As each person is born again by grace alone through faith alone, they are baptized into a supernatural family of God.  It is a birth that knows no prejudice due to ethnicity, class or language.  All of us who have been so blessed are family, brothers and sisters because of Christ.

The relationship is expressed.  An affection beyond human eroticism should be shared.  In the early days it was in fact a kiss with the lips.

Over the generations and cultural mores variations, base explanations have tried to minimize this practice.  But, don’t start with the kiss.  Begin instead with the LOVE of Christ.

“Holy” is the operative term.  This is the overriding protection.  God designed it, desires it and protects it. 

Paul expresses himself deeply and personally in this epistle.  No one is speaking for him.  He doesn’t have secretary to do his correspondence.

Love is the symptom of real faith.  Likely Paul was taking a swipe at false teachers, trouble-makers, slanderers in the church.  Those more occupied with judging others in order to give themselves a false sense of significance. 

Paul knew that Jesus would take care of all those who tried to masquerade in the church without true love.  Grace was his focus.  He expresses the love of God without shame.

1 corinthians 16.19-24

The good book tells Christians that we are to offer hospitality without grumbling.  It’s a very short verse in 1 Peter 4, so it’s easy to miss it.  Some of us would rather miss it.

Giving yourself for the benefit of someone else is not natural.  Most of us are wired to give in order to get.  But, that’s is NOT the way God wants His own to live.

In fact the word “hospitality” has the interesting meaning of “love of strangers.”  This etymology comes from the historic flight of Christians fleeing persecution due to their faith.  Homeless and on a long journey to distant parts, they needed a respite along the way. 

This blog is built around this very concept.  You are on a spiritual journey.  My words are hopefully a respite for you along the road, like a refreshing cup of water with a comfortable chair to rest along with some fellowship.

Now, I am the beneficiary of this amazing ministry of hospitality to me.  The Wilsons are my hosts.  Gil, Ron and Roxanne are treating me like family. 

They picked me up at the airport.  Our week’s activities called for some stops in town before arriving at home.  They whisked me around but with the obvious disposition of having a great time themselves, never even letting off a hint that they were put out.

Food was a highlight.  Breakfast was light years ahead of a European Continental abbreviation for food.  It was, burritos, Bulgarian feta choice blended with prime cuts enhanced with ranch potatoes.

Lunch was custom wraps.  Smoked turkey, lettuce, spreads, mustard with the necessary condiments or home-made pizza that would make you vow never to call out for a pie again.  Snacks forever were laid out on the counter for grazing that men do on a guys week out.

Dinner would qualify for any 4 star YELP review.  Everything was tasty, well presented and balanced.  They did something to average things like cole slaw, beans and bread that deserved a “Wow!” after the first and last bites.”

Entertainment through the week was stunning.  You felt like you were on a cruise with the crew waiting on us hand and foot.  But, mostly it was their attitude. 

The Wilsons love to serve others for the sheer pleasure of bringing joy into the live of others.  That’s hospitality godly style.  Thank you amazing Wilson family!

photo credit: google image

Game 2 of the 2012 World Series was not played during a convenient time for my busy schedule.  Even if it was I didn’t have time to commit to a three hour game.  But, a great solution came my way.

A long-time friend had recorded the game.  I was delighted.  Now, I could watch it during my vacation.

Best of all, I could fast-forward through the commercials, commentaries and delay-of-games.  Even more, I could concentrate on my favored teams’ hitting.  My friend even gave me the courtesy of NOT telling me the outcome.  

My anticipation was heightened.  He told me that it was a great game and very close.  His smile meant that he enjoyed the match-up.

St. Louis was leading the series 1-0.  If they could win game two, then the pressure would be on Texas facing an uphill climb.  I wondered who would win game 2.

I fast-forwarded through all of the extras.  Just to save time I also advanced the recording through many of the early innings.  I saw two amazing defensive highlights by the Rangers, both at second base.

The Cardinals returned the favor with a brilliant double-play on the very two Texas players who were the heroes on second base outs against them.  It was fabulous baseball.  Even though the game was tied at zero the anticipation kept me curious.

Then, after the 7th inning stretch, the game became very interesting.  St. Louis drove in a run and the stalemate at zero was ended.  The beginning of the 9th was now a pressure cooker for the Texas visitors.

Nolan Ryan looked concerned.  The Cardinal fans were ecstatic at the possibilities.  They were on their feet ready for win #2.

The Rangers would not die.  They drove in a run and the game was tied.  Shock and worry swept over the stadium.

Again the Texas bats sounded; the crack of the ball meeting the laws of physics.  Runners advanced.  The go-ahead Ranger run crossed home plate.

It was the bottom of the ninth.  The host team had their final at bat.  Would they swing and win?  Could this exciting game give the home fans what they wanted?

I would never know.  The DVR did not have enough recording time for the game.  Game 2 went longer than scheduled.  The bottom of the ninth inning was NOT recorded. 

I ran upstairs. “The recording ran out at the middle of the ninth!  Who won?”

photo credit: google image

My alarm clock wasn’t necessary.  True to historical form I was not sleeping soundly.  It was the first night in a new bed away from home.

Sleep is a precious commodity.  But, when it is elusive, then it finds penalties throughout the day.  When God made our bodies, He designed to need sleep.  If we fail to sleep we will get tired.

But, it’s not all bad.  Deep sleep is coming.  It will catch up to us and we will drift off in a car, nod off during a television show or rest our eyes for a moment during a telephone conversation. 

There is one good benefit that comes from getting up early.  With the necessities out-of-the-way, it is time to climb the stairs and greet others who are also awake.  I wasn’t the only one who could not sleep well last night.

We exchange greetings.  Our host welcomes us to a new day.  He points to the scene outside and I marvel with a smile.

The darkness of the night is disappearing.  Radiance from the East is glowing and now bursting on the scene.  Great blends of reds, oranges and yellows spill into the sky.  It is called a sunrise.

Getting up early offers the reward of a special scene especially spectacular.  I am mesmerized for a few moments.  The beautiful portrait of creation is constantly changing.

Soon the day arrives.  Landscape landmarks pop out of the shadows.  There is a familiar texture in the landscape. 

Birds fly overhead.  A pair of large St. Bernard dogs barks enthusiastically.  Their lovable faces and slobbery welcome is part of life here on the plateaus of Wyoming.

In the early dawn my eyes shift to movement to my right.  A rabbit hops out of view looking for safety from overhead predators.  Then a small herd of pronghorn antelope stare at me.  When they are uncomfortable they bound away at amazing speeds.

We drive through rock formations that deserve a long look.  Balanced on a spire is another rock.  God left this for us to wonder.

A large Mule deer watches our journey.  He and his family dart away, zigzagging through the forest of pine trees.  They saunter through one of the meadow that defines pristine means in God’s creation.

Man is here too.  Ranches, trailers, roads and reservoirs make this home for a few.  Cars, trucks and trains travel through this region.  It is peaceful, relaxing and meaningful.  It is Wyoming.

 photo credit: google image

Our wives smile when we guys plan a trip with fellow guys.  They know that we are headed for manly adventures.  It’s a guy thing.

Our agenda is simple.  Essential things like food, fun and fellowship are about all we need.  We sorta talk about an agenda, but we are as flexible as the shifting wind.

We are polite with the newbies.  We are overtly interested in each other’s lives, what they do back at home and what they do for a living.  But, that doesn’t last long since we are all guys.

Soon the “stories” start.  That’s not really accurate.  These are not “stories” but exaggerations based on a slim slice of historic truth.  But, it is what guys do.

The more that you’re razzed you know that the guys love ya.  It’s in the man-code.  If you’re a man and never knew this then you need to read the fine print on the back of your man-card.

Please don’t ask your wife where yours is.  She won’t have a clue.  Furthermore, more than likely she won’t believe that there is such a thing.

But, the man-card credential is very real.  Every man is issued one. Look for it.

When the yarns began to spin, the new guests, especially the young ones, look bewildered.  Occasionally they look shocked.  But, soon they realize that this is manhood modeled for their benefit (ala Grand Torino with Clint Eastwood, one of my favorite theologians).

Guys eat a lot during a manly retreat.  We are doing that for sure.  The grub is first-class.

We play hard too.  Some of the guys have been on long hikes, exploring vistas, climbing rocky cliffs and traversing across ravines.  Others do four-wheelin’ up and down 18 degree inclines.

Manly stuff like marksmanship is enjoyed by guys.  Gun powder and challenges are in the man code.  Records are broken in the middle of denials and boasting.

Can you imagine hitting a target with a rifle that is only 6 inches in diameter at a distance of 300 yards?  Our guys consider that a novice shot.  A new record of 630 yards was established by Cowboy-Eagle-eye-Master-shooter Ron Wilson. 

The bragging rights are now his.  It is a record that has been verified and validated.  One hole in a target a long ways a way is a proud achievement.  Simple things please simple minds.  After all, we’re just guys.

photo credit: google image

My buddies have been looking forward to our reunion as much as I have.  We will meet half way.  All of us are heading to the airport today.

We will all leave from an international airport.  Then, we will connect at another international airport.  There some guys will drive but others will hop on to a puddle jumper and make the last distance in the fuselage of a turbo propeller driven commuter plane.  I’m one of the latter guys.

When guys get together for an adventure, they pack light.  There are no suits, no ties, no briefcases, no displays, no brochures, nothing that is for show but instead everything functional.  Still, stuffing everything in my duffel bag calls for contemplation of the highest level of thinking.

All of my stuff was on the floor.  Piles of necessities we neatly folded.  I thought through each choice.

More importantly, I considered our outdoor activities and the past experiences of weather.  Inside a cabin the fire keeps us warm.  Food entertains us and the satellite TV takes from game to game.

But during the days we are in the out-of-doors.  Sometimes we are on ATV’s zipping over thee rocky ground, dodging boulders and fording streams.  Other times we have been racing across the plateaus on dirt bikes.

When the weather is really tough we are in a 4×4 peering through snow storms, squinting through cloud bursts or dilating our eyes through the stingy light of the morning dawn.  But, we are in the middle of God’s creation.  Our eyes see what very few humans every see.

Maybe it’s that rare moment of being engulfed with His marvelous hand of artistry.  I have always loved the sunrise.  It is the beginning of something new that we can seize and make it worth closing our eyes at the end of the day satisfied that we have lived well.

Over dinner we men will feast.  We always have.  The teasing is prolific.  That’s how guys express their devotion to each other.

Memories are sealed not just in pictures but in shared experiences.  Our lungs are cleansed in the outdoor air.  Each of  us can decompress from high stress and demanding jobs. 

Now, men can be men.  The rough tough determination of our kindred spirits united.  It is the kind of friendship that edges against the dangers of life and emerges stronger in our everlasting enjoyment of a bond of brothers…sort of.

photo credit: google image

The Tigers lost game six.  The Rangers have won.  I cheered loudly but they must not have heard me.

This past weekend was tough.  Several of the teams that I cheer on in the arena of sports met with defeat.  One is defeat is tough; but several on the same weekend is a big downer.

My Detroit Tigers losing the ALCS was tough enough.  But, the weekend did not stop there.  On Sunday my Detroit Lions lost as well.

That loss was deeply felt since it was the first loss of the season.  Not was it the first loss of the season, it was a loss at home.  To make it feel even worse it was a loss against the San Francisco 49ers; that’s the city where I currently live.

The 49er fans are rabid.  They are fierce, loyal and rampant about their team.  I was frequently reminded of the SF victory by teasing fans.

It made their victory so much sweeter with a defeated foe to razz.  I understand that.  My being here helps them celebrate even more enthusiastically.  It is a pleasure to help others rejoice. 

Nevertheless, I am a fan too.  My team did very well this season.  Entering into the post season championship run to the World Series is always exciting.  It is a tribute to the excellence of the team.

I have been away from Detroit for two years.  When we lived there, a Tiger’s game was always on the calendar.  Our trek to the ballpark with good friends was a memory-making venture.

We lived in the Motorcity for years yet the Tigers kept losing.  Each season our hopes would soar but we saw more losses than wins.  But, we kept cheering on our men wearing the English D.

This past season our Tigers did very well again.  With the ups and downs of professional sports the mean growth up the charts was exhilarating. We had a lot to cheer and celebrate this year.

Pitches were laser-sharp.  Bats cracked at just the right times.  Defense in the infield was acrobatic.  Outfield heroics snagged fly balls like a bat snatching bugs with radar precision.

Losses come with the game.  None are planned.  Each one leaves the heart a bit sad.

But, the wins were just at the right time.  They were just the right amount.  We went a long ways this year.  Thank you Tigers for another great year!

photo credit: google image

My driver was waiting for me at the appointed location.  I had my bag packed.  On my back was my daypack filled with my entertainment and work items.

Together we climbed into his van.  Now, we were ready for the long 2 hour drive in from the Oregon Coast to the bustling metropolis of Portland.   We climbed the steep road to intersect with the highway over 75 feet above us.

Then, with some good road planning we slipped into the highway without missing a beat.  Just off to the left on the steep cut away we were treated to a remarkable display.  An elk cow was grazing only 37 yards from the asphalt.

She was oblivious to the traffic.  Her head was down and she was actively grazing.   The elk’s distinctive white rump was shining in the sun.

Oddly, however, she was alone.  On the meadow where she was feeding there were no other animals within sight.  She didn’t seem to mind her solitude nor show any concern with the humans who were racing by in their vehicles.

The highway wound through the evergreen forests.  The ground cover that stretched deep into the shadows toying with the human mind that this could very well be the home of talking animals, trolls vying for freedom and maybe monsters of legend that guarded the recesses of the woods for adventures that could only be lived by the brave hearts of magical stories.

Clear cuts scattered themselves in the woods.  New conservation reforestation projects followed those business enterprises as well as helped the woods heal from natural disasters from windstorms and forest fires caused by electrical storms.  The vast tree decked mountains played games with the sun that sparkled through the many gaps of boughs and trunks.

A multitude  of birds fluttered about the trees and bushes.  Larger animals stayed far away from the human presence on the travel route.  There was a huge rabbit that perched up on a dirt mound and strained his ears and eyes to see what was making all of the noise that alerted His ears to twitch.

Small bridges easily took our vehicle over the babbling brooks that followed the contours of the mountains.  When they went under our highway, they offered a quick glance at their pristine means of bring delicious water to support the wildlife.

The forests soothe my mind.  It relaxes my spirit.  Oregon is a favorite place for many reasons.

photo credit: google  image

Time is a precious commodity that must be spent or it will time itself out automatically.  We can’t get it back if it slips away.  It is not just losing time but life that doesn’t take advantage of opportunities is a life that will be filled with regret.

My office hours are always filled.  People believe that their issues are important.  That is normal and right.

But, they then assume that their concerns are equally shared by others.  Priorities or obsessions in their minds need an outlet.  We who are called to be pastors become the objects of that sharing.

That calls for time spent with them.  It is a worthy investment.  God’s people need shepherding and this is part of that high and holy calling.

Between appointments and in those gathering of hours during the day, I find snatches to bury my heart and mind into my studies.  There are not enough daylight hours to accomplish what is necessary.  My evening hours give me some options.

I read and read and read during the hours when the sun has set.  Thinking fills in the gaps between reading.  Meditation is the art form of those quiet hours. 

It’s a busy life.  So far I have NOT watched an entire football game this season.  I’ll catch a chunk of a quarter and catch up on the internet for the outcome. 

My Detroit Tigers are in the ALCS this year.  I have only seen a few innings.  Game 4 was played and I missed it completely. 

The U of M Wolverines are on a roll and MSU is playing well.  But, I end up scanning over the results page on the internet news.  Arghh!  Life is way too busy.

Life is very busy when there is not enough time for football.  That’s a barometer of being occupied beyond reason.  But, it is a season.

No one can keep up this kind of pace for long.  Instead, it is a matter of being challenged just beyond what is reasonable.  Dialing it down happens enough to catch a couple of deep breaths of fresh air.

I keep on treading water, launching a few strong strokes toward a good goal and thanking God for a great past week.  Then, it is time to reload and go after it all over again.  Some fires are out, others smolder and thankfully few are growing.  But, no time for football? It’s time to punt?

photo credit: google image

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