Sunday, November 26, 2006

Don't Make Me Pull This House Over

We took the motor home to the church this weekend. It was nice and the church members have been very welcoming and supportive. In between services, the kids played outside. Gloria ate sand. Elijah carried around a microphone. Occasionally, he would stop and sing. Gloria enjoyed throwing her baby down a small hill. So much for that "motherly" instinct! Nicholas is a good helper. He has taken his role as "RV expert" quite seriously. If there is anything to be stowed or retrieved, you can count on him to do it. Noah likes to get dangerously close to a rather high and steep hill behind the church.

Scott & Dan picked up Dan's drums from J's house. They also put together Dan's kids' beds. Dan & his family moved into the parsonage this weekend. They too are happy to be closer to the church which he has been called to pastor. Dan is an interesting individual. We've had the opportunity to witness his calling to the ministry and his subsequent growth and power from God being placed in him. Dan would be the first to tell you that he is an unlikely pastor. He is younger than most of the church members. He has a "checkered" past. His tattoos are not kid friendly. He is proof that God will accept a willing servant, regardless of his previous station in life.

All of our kids like Dan. Elijah was covered in peanut butter (what else is new) and said to Dan, "I want you to hold me." Elijah is so loving, but he is also very shy. This was very out of character for him. Dan, in his very very nice Sunday's best suit, didn't even hesitate. He picked him up peanut butter and all. Hope that comes out. Elijah said that Dan is nice to kids, but he yells when he is praying. Noah agreed, but reminded him that Bro. Terry (past pastor) did that, too. In addition to the entire "selling our stuff and moving into an RV", we never would have guessed that we'd be attending "hell fire and brimstone" churches. We're still not big fans of Southern Gospel music, but the music does not a church make. We're there for the word. This church mixes in some contemporary Christian music. They have found a nice balance.

December 9 we are hosting a "Youth Christmas Party". Scott & Dan have promised to play some music and you can be sure that there will be something embarrassing to teenagers. They seem like a very nice group of kids. I am sure that they are not without their problems, but they are friendly. Looking at them, I am reminded of my youth and how blessed I am to have made it through that time. I think that they have more to endure socially/spiritually than we did 15 years ago. I would not trade them.

On the way home, we were driving the motor home through the country and looking at Christmas lights. We had Christmas songs on the radio. At one point, the boys started to argue. Scott, in his most authoritative fatherly tone, said, "Don't make me pull this house over!"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving & Black Friday

The day after Thanksgiving. Traditionally the biggest single shopping day of the year. The day that neighbor turns against neighbor and both fight it out over a television, laptop computer, digital camera, or other item absolutely essential to survival of the species.

What does 5 a.m. at a discount store look like on "Black Friday"? I can't quite describe it to those who have never experienced it. I have a photograph, but it does not do the situation justice. There are so many people per square foot that, throughout the store, you can taste the smell of perfume and cologne that has been over-applied in a feeble attempt to compensate for a lack of bathing. Yes, people are willing to ignore rules of good personal hygiene and manners on this very special day. People literally have come to blows over discounted toys and electronics.
I should probably not be shocked. I think too many people are already "one rude comment" or "missed parking space" away from stabbing someone. You used to expect this from "thug" types. I am talking about Grandmothers who have become violent. They may have crochet hooks for shanks, but they hurt just the same.
As if this is not bad enough, Thanksgiving day is rapidly becoming one of the busier shopping days of the year. It seems like, after people become bored with eating, they are looking for something to do. Instead of staying home and spending time with each other, many folks are doing what they do best. They are spending money that they don't have on stuff they don't need to impress people they don't like.
This alone wouldn't offend me, except for the fact that the people who work at those retail establishments might just enjoy spending Thanksgiving with their families and will not be able to, as more and more people are willing to drop cash on Thanksgiving day. I promise you that retailers who are closed on Thanksgiving are looking at those who are open and salivating at their lost sales. This is not good. I guess the same goes for restaraunts and service establishments.
Eventually, all of the government employees, lawyers, bankers, and priviledged business people will get to enjoy a full day of conspicuous consumption at the expense of the people in the service & retail fields.
Why not just stay home?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's No Sacrifice

I've been somewhat suprised by some of the people who have commented to me about what "sacrifice" we have made. I understand why they would think that, but it is simply not true. I spend quite a bit of time explaining that we have made no sacrifice, but that we have gained more than we have given. Matthew 13:44 is the perfect parable for this.

Mat 13:44 Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which when a man has found it, he hides it, and for the joy of it goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Where is Your Treasure?

Luk 12:15 to 34

And He said to them, Watch and keep yourselves from covetousness. For a man's life is not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. And He spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room in which to store my fruits? And he said, I will do this. I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and I will store all my fruits and my goods there. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat drink and be merry. But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul shall be required of you, then whose shall be those things which you have prepared? So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. And He said to His disciples, Therefore I say to you, Be not anxious as to your life, what you shall eat; nor for the body, what you shall put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap, having neither storehouse nor barn, and God feeds them. How much more are you better than the birds? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature? If then you are not able to do even the least, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they do not toil, they do not spin. And yet I say to you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass (which today is in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven) how much more will He clothe you, O little-faiths? And do not seek what you shall eat, nor what you shall drink, and stop being in anxiety. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you have need of these things. But rather seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms. Make for yourselves purses which do not become old, an unfailing treasure in Heaven, where no thief comes nor moth corrupts. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I read this passage and consider how many people live just to impress their neighbors or "keep up with the Joneses". I will be the first to say that I have been guilty of this sin. It is a little easier for me to deal with this, since we moved into the RV, simply because I don't have much space to store new junk. Also, nothing makes you more apprehensive about buying and bringing home more "stuff" than having spent weeks getting rid of all of your old "stuff".

I used to buy things, because I thought they were "a good deal". Many of the things that I'd buy were purely decorative. If they were actually useful items, they were hardly ever used. I'll bet that I had purchased my wife more kitchen implements than she could use in one day. Why? They were "a good deal" and would make her life more enjoyable.

One of my favorite stores sold cheap Chinese-made tools. I could not leave the store without buying something. I always had grand plans for these tools, but more often than not I'd just put them in the garage and never use them (see picture of part of my garage). A friend of mine's grandfather-in-law passed away last year. He had a three car garage full of tools, most of which purchased at my favorite cheap Chinese-made tool store. Many of his tools were still new in their original boxes. I couldn't help but think how much of his time and resources he devoted to this pursuit. I saw my own sin in his garage through those cheap Chinese-made tools. Is your treasure sitting in a box in your garage? Is it in a display case in your den? Is it hanging on your wall or parked in your driveway? Don't let your heart reside in something that will be sold by your heirs, after you're gone.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mt. Roosevelt - Roane County, TN

Roane County, TN (35.8666;-84.7142) 2036' Elevation - Mt. Roosevelt
We took this picture on the way back from a trip to East Tennessee. It was taken from a lookout point close to I-40 in Roane County, TN. The view makes this a nice "lunch spot". There are several picnic tables at the site. The access road is somewhat steep and I would not attempt it in an RV. There is an old firetower at the top of this mountain and the building below appears to have recently burned down. If you've seen a large lighted star on the top of a ridge, while driving West on I-40 West of Knoxville, you've seen Mt. Roosevelt.

Friday, November 17, 2006

About the Wilderness

Recently, our pastor was speaking about how God didn't bring Israel "through" the wilderness, but he led them "about" the wilderness. He noted how their journey was not a straight line from point A to point B. That was a well-timed sermon for our family. I don't know for certain what we had been expecting, but it was not what we have been asked to do.

My wife and I were driving to town recently and discussing what God would call us to do next, when I got a phone call from a friend and fellow musician. We learned that the church where he had been serving as their youth minister had called him to become their full-time pastor. Their only question for him was; who could take his place with the youth. He said that I had immediately come to his mind. He asked if I would be interested. I told him that his timing was amazing and that, while I would not have been interested in this prior to our decision to "become available to serve God", I definitely would be now. It is amazing how "before" our conscious decision to serve God, we would have professed to want to serve him, but discounted opportunities like this out of consideration for our own selfish pursuits.

God has been so amazing to us, in that he has not made his will difficult for us to discern. As long as we have committed to "be available" and removed obstacles in our lives to that goal, He has made our "next" move apparent at each turn; never too far in advance, but always in good time.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Trumpet

I know that God is faithful, even when we doubt His very existence. When we have the audacity to, having seen, touched, and tasted the wonders of this world which He created, still desire to probe His wounds, He remains faithful.

Too many times we attribute amazing works in our lives to "coincidence". I am ashamed to say that I am guilty of this. When my faith has been weakest, I seem most willing to excuse amazing examples of God's perfect plan at work. During one of these particularly weak times and shortly after my recent medical troubles, a family friend prayed with me that I would experience something so impressive in my life, that I could not simply attribute it to "coincidence".

I had all but forgotten that prayer, in the midst of our getting rid of property and preparing our home to sell. Then, one rather unimpressive item we had decided to get rid of would come to symbolize God's faithfulness to another family, and to ours, by using us as a vessel.

One of the items that we were disposing of was a trumpet. I had purchased it some years before at a thrift store or yard sale. I couldn’t remember which or exactly when. We had it for several years. I had given it to one of my sons. He and his brothers occasionally spit and coughed into it in attempts to make sound. My wife and I wanted to donate it to a thrift store, because we didn’t really feel that it was worth the effort to put on E-bay. My son would have none of that. He insisted that we attempt to sell his prize trumpet. However, the several times when we attempted to list the trumpet, he could not produce all of the parts required to make it work. It seemed we were always missing a mouthpiece or some other integral part of the horn. One day in late August, we found everything and listed the trumpet and case on E-bay. My son was quite pleased.

A couple of days into the auction, we received an e-mail from a potential buyer asking us if there was any identification on the trumpet or case. Oddly enough, we had never even looked at it that closely. Upon close inspection, we saw that the name “Chic Burlingame” was carefully scratched into the handle of the case. My wife and I wondered if Chic might have been a famous jazz musician. I performed an Internet search for his name and learned that Chic was not a famous jazz musician, but he was quite an amazing trumpeter, nonetheless.

I learned that Charles “Chic” Burlingame was the son of two military parents. He and his brothers and sister were brought up in a loving and supportive home. His mother encouraged a love of music and dictated that each child learned to play an instrument. Chic selected this trumpet. He practiced it every day, while he was learning to play. His sister, from the other side of a bedroom wall, could testify to his dedication to learn this instrument. On Sundays, Chic would strap this trumpet in its case to the back of his bicycle and ride with it to church, where he played in the band. Chic played the trumped in the High School band with his younger brother. Chic went on to play the trumpet at the United States Naval Academy, where he attended college.

In addition to his love of music, he had a love of aviation from an early age. At the age of six, he fashioned a model airplane from scraps of wood. On the wings, he wrote the letters “U.S.A”. Chic, with his trumpet in hand, eventually went on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. He was known as a gifted pilot. He flew F4 “Phantom” fighter jets from the U.S.S. Saratoga aircraft carrier. He served several tours at and was an honor graduate of the Navy’s elite “Top Gun” school in Miramar, California. He remained in the Naval Reserve, even after became a pilot in the private sector.

Chic was definitely a great American success story and an example of exemplary character. We were proud to learn that we had found the beloved trumpet of his youth. The more we learned about Chic, the more we were inspired.

We learned that, during his time at the Naval Academy, Chic played the trumpet with a man named Frank Culbertson. Frank was also a gifted aviator. He went on to become an astronaut. Frank Culbertson observed the events of September 11, 2001, from his position as the Commander of the International Space Station. He, with his trumpet, was the lone American in space that day.

Frank Culbertson watched the smoke rising after the attacks on his homeland. He did not know, at that time, that his classmate and fellow trumpeter was the Captain of American Airlines Flight 77, which had been hi-jacked and flown into the Pentagon earlier that morning.

After learning of Chic’s death, Frank memorialized him and the thirteen other Naval Academy graduates who lost their lives during the attacks on September 11, 2001 in a special broadcast from space. It concluded with Frank playing “Taps” on his trumpet. Frank later commented how differently tears flow in space.

We ended our auction of the trumpet.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Giving It Away

To say that we were "packrats" would be an understatement. We had a 400 square foot rec. room and a two car garage that you could barely navigate through. At one time, we owned a light bar from a police car, at least half a dozen army cots, and a large collection of electrical and mechanical parts from dozens of small home appliances that we had taken apart over the years. Our friends were always amazed that, when someone mentioned renting some tool or toy, we usually had one or two. We had enough camping equipment that we could literally outfit a cub scout pack. The items that were of value that we donated to local charities ended up filling five moving trucks. It was cathartic as we watched the trucks pull away time after time.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

How It Started

We had been feeling as if we were spending too much time cleaning, mowing, and constantly rearranging a few thousand square feet of junk. We had been feeling as if we were avoiding our parental responsibilities by sending our children to different parts of the house, rather than teaching them to get along with each other. We had been feeling that we were called to some different way of living, other than what we had been pursuing. We had these feelings for several months, but we never took action. Then, things changed.

In one week, we were accused of child abuse by a lunatic neighbor and investigated by the Department of Childrens' Services, Scott's position at work was eliminated, and a minor sinus infection turned into several doctor's visits, an E.R. visit, and resulting general questions about faith and purpose.

That week we were "knocked off of our donkey", so to speak. It was a blessing.

We prayed for guidance and reaffirmation of the faithfulness of God. Some people say you have to be careful what you pray for. It became clear to us that God was calling us to get rid of these things which were consuming our time and financial resources. We decided to give away or sell almost everything we owned. That included our 4 bedroom house in the suburbs. We didn't know exactly where we were going to move. Then, as providence would have it, we found an unadvertised motorhome for sale priced $8,000 under its wholesale value. It would fit our crew and provide us the mobility to travel where He would call us. No more would we be tethered to our spiritually, emotionally, and physically suffocating "American dream."

By faith, but not without much criticism, we would make this move.