Going to Vieques – gone 2 Monday mornings

Sally Jo and I leave for Vieques, PR this evening. This is the island where our daughter Carla/Sea has lived for 4 years – is massage therapist…and sometimes eco kayak guide (7 hr trips) – will stay in her Casita – 16 X16 – 2 story -with two decks looking out over lush green valley to ocean beyond. Can only see 18 lights in the distance at night. Incredible place for us – beyond utilities – only way in and out is 4X4. Jayson Reitz and David Speers spent 2 weeks in the building process – many others have helped…I took friend from church down for a week. Truly incredible place – queen size bed was made from bamboo – hangs from ceiling – mosquito net incase bug comes at night…no screens…no front on casita… water off roof into 1000 holding tank…we pump up to two 50 gal barrels – one is outside, painted black…heats water for shower…waste water from sink and shower used to flush ordinary toilet into septic system Jason built. Normal gas stove/oven…

Anyway – I will stay with Sally Jo for 12 days – then I leave and friend from Bakerville Church (1966-70) will fly in when I fly out and they will be together for another 9 days.

It will be good to get her away from ice…very much afraid of slipping. Her bones are healed…muscles still trying to catch up. She is scheduled to go on bike trip with sister in Chechloslovakia in June – helps her keep focused on getting stronger.

Wazi and MaMa Lee (for you Deerfooters) will be staying her until I return.

God is good… let us remember to praise Him – in our hearts, our living, and with our mouths.

Does it work? #46

Sally Jo and I spent three weeks studying under Dr. Francis and Edith Schaefer at the L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland and three weeks under Major Ian Thomas in at Capernwray Hall in England. Whereas I felt I had a reasonable understanding of Christian doctrine and the Christian life, I did not feel adequately prepared to answer the challenging questions the students at Middle Tennessee State University would raise.

Both of these ministries focused on meeting the spiritual needs of the students, and others, who came. Dr. Schaefer wrote “How shall we Then Live?”, “The Mark of The Christian” and other books. Each Saturday evening he would sit on the hearth of the fireplace and ask “What shall we talk about tonight?” Out would come the questions.

Dr. Schaefer never backed off his position that the Bible was God’s Word and could be trusted as such. I do not remember that he answered questions with a barrage of Scripture. What he did was tie the question into the total perspective, the overall teaching of the Bible. Surprising to me, the students were satisfied – and moved on to the next un-anticipated, often deeply personal question. During the three Saturday evenings we were present, he repeated the same basic answers over and over again – God’s system, God’s plan, was cohesive, and both broad and specific as to it’s guidance. How shall we then live? The Bible tells us. Try it…it works!

Students at L’Abri, at Capernwray – and those attending colleges and universities in the US do ask difficult questions, but behind almost every real question is: ”Does my question have an answer that is consistent with the teachings of the Bible and work in daily Christian living?” My personal challenge continues to be to convey to students that the Christian life is a cohesive philosophy of life with implications for daily living. The Bible teaches that God created humanity and loves His creation so completely that He sent His Son Jesus to demonstrate God’s love for His people, even to the place where Jesus died for their forgiveness. God desires that His creation choose to trust Him, to enjoy His goodness and to choose to love Him. People have always struggled with what God tells people to do and not do, but when any person chooses to seek to obey God’s directives, he increasingly understands God and His ways, to love God, and over time, experience God’s work in him and through him.

We see this truth in many Biblical passages including:

  • “Noah was a righteous man…he walked with God” “Noah did all the Lord commanded him to do” — Gen 6:9, 7:5 25
  • ”Enoch walked with God” — Genesis 5:24
  • “Abram believed the Lord” — Gen 15:6
  • “Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded” — Exodus 7:20
  • “Joshua…left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” — Joshua 11:15
  • “David did as the Lord commanded him” — II Samuel 5:25
  • “Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water” — Matthew 14:29
  • Paul said: “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which Good has called me” — Philippians 3:14

Jesus brings this perspective to His own teachings: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” Jesus said: “You are my friends if you do what I command. Jn 15:14

Does living God’s way work? Does it satisfy me? Yes! Do I fear death? No! Do I wonder how I should live or focus my efforts? Not really. God knows my heart. I seek to live In Partnership With God – as did Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Peter, and Paul and many others.

God knows what is best for us! God will guide us into situations for which He has given us the gifts and the training. Will some of these be faith-testing? We can hope so! It should take courage to obey God. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him!” Hebrews 11:6

I do not believe history provides a better way to live.

We Never Know #45

Solomon wrote: “you cannot understand the work of God” (Ecc. 11:5) and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will direct your path.” (Pro 3:5-6KJV). If we cannot understand God, how can we possibly understand in advance what the good works are that God has planned for us? (Ps. 139:14-16, Eph 2:10). The decision to move from Bakerville, CT to Murfreesboro, TN was difficult, in part, because we did not know what was ahead for us. Yes, we had a general job description, but that was it. We had no clue what the positive/people result of our move would be. Sally Jo and I agreed: we had to move to Murfreesboro.

Bob, Jane, Ann and Martha Sue were present at our first meeting with The Presbyterian Student Fellowship of Middle Tennessee State University. Ann and Martha Sue were from Murfreesboro. Bob was the son of a military family – they had lived in many different places. Jane was from North of Nashville.

Bob Todd was bright, capable, and personable – he planned to become a medical doctor. At some point while we were there Bob decided to go into the ministry. I remember questioning him about this decision. After Bob and Jane graduated from Middle Tennessee State, they married and moved to Illinois where Bob attended and graduated from Trinity Theological Seminary. He then pastored a Presbyterian Church, and Jane earned her RN degree. Three years after seminary Bob went to medical school. While in medical school I told him I was sorry we had somehow caused the detour. Bob laughed and assured me he was very glad he had gone to seminary. He medical school bills were paid by the U.S. government in exchange for his serving as a doctor in a rural area where there was little medical care available.

Bob and Jane moved to Abbeville, SC. They bought a small house and Bob set up a small medical practice and pulpit supplied in local churches. Their two children grew, and a third was born. The little house became exceedingly full. About this time a widow in town came to Bob and Jane and asked if she could trade houses with them. They wondered about this as her house was much larger, had a swimming pool, and a very large garage. The lady explained that she appreciated their work in the community, and she did not need her large home any more. The swap was made! Bob’s practice grew to serving over 10,000 different patients – with a staff of 4 medical doctors and a nurse practitioner. Bob also taught a course in medical ethics for a medical school. This past year Bob moved from the family practice into working with Hospice. When Bob and Jane moved to Abbeville, they had no clue as to the impact they would have on the community, and how God would provide for them. Bob and Jane seek to live In Partnership With God.

Martha Sue was 6’ tall and our young daughter, Carla, told us she wanted to become as tall as Martha Sue. We’d say “no way – you don’t have tall parents.” We were wrong. Martha Sue’s dad, Burns, was the church elder who worked tirelessly with me on the opening of the Morgue for my office, for use by the PSF, and many other people. I called her mom “Mother Martha” and I can still hear her laugh! She made plum jam – and insisted that leaving a pit in the jam increased the flavor. Martha Sue was an only child and her mother worked hard to raise a proper southern lady. Burns wanted to be sure Martha Sue knew how to do out door activities. He helped her become an excellent horseback rider. Burns bought a boat so Martha Sue could learn how to water ski – she also learned to rappel down rock cliffs. Mother Martha was mortified! and laughed about it all.

Martha Sue earned her Masters in Christian Education and went to work with students at Montreat Anderson College. She eventually married Randy Bowyer, the Director of Student Development, and they had a daughter and two sons. Their sons, Tom and Tim, became campers, Guides and staff at Deerfoot Lodge. Tim became a Guide Leader. Martha Sue just finished her R.N. degree and is now a nurse in Clemson, SC. She, Randy, Katherine, Tim and Tom seek to live In Partnership With God.

Ann Crenshaw was steady, and full of life. Her mom ran the Ceramics program at The Morgue. Ann earned her Master’s Degree in Christian Education and has served churches in the field of Christian Education for 32 years – while doing this she also has served as the Chaplain for a Police Department! Ann is presently in Georgia, and there is no indication she is about to stop. Ann seeks to live In Partnership With God.

These five people encourage others to live In Partnership With God. This ripple effect will continue.

Sally Jo and I are very thankful we obeyed God’s challenging directive: move to Murfreesboro.

None of us know the extent and impact of the good works God has planned in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)

Side Benefits to Ministry #44

Our family has enjoyed many benefits from being in full time Christian work. In Murfreesboro these included:

A Flexible Schedule: Our schedule was generally flexible – if we planned ahead. Yes, there were weekly services to lead and meetings to attend, but most of the time spent doing required office work, study and meeting with individuals and small groups could be flexible. Thus I could take our daughter, Carla, to school most mornings. If the weather was “bad” I could spend extra hours in the office. If the weather was good…and nothing was scheduled, I tried to be with the family.

Supportive Church Members: Our family was warmly welcomed by the people wherever we ministered. Many opened their homes and hearts to us, and treated our children like their own children or grand children. As an example, in Murfreesboro, Dr. Ernest Hooper loved to take Carla, age 6, and Jenna, age 3, to parades! He was an incredibly warm, encouraging person, as were his wife, and their daughter, Mary, a favorite baby sitter. Virginia Saunders took care of our months-old son, Dirk, so Sally Jo could go with me on retreats and to other student functions. Dot Crenshaw was in charge of the ceramics lab located on the second floor of “The Morgue”. We still enjoy using the plates the girls painted under her guidance. And there were other people who were very special in our lives, like Burns and Martha Carroll. B.B. Gracie was paralyzed from the waist down – and taught me so much about how to relate to handicapped people.

Students Want Family: Through the years we accepted and affirmed young people and they accepted and affirmed our family. In Tennessee, students were often in our home and our kids could crawl all over them, sing with them, eat at their cook-outs and participate in their retreats. One particular retreat comes to mind. Our family, except Dirk, went with the students to a large, beautiful state park with nice rental facilities. The cost was low because we did all our own cooking. On Saturday afternoon, after being assured by the park ranger we could do so, those who wanted to set out on a hike around the medium sized lake made by damming up a river. When the dam was built, the water came up and the trees died. Over time the shore had became a tangled mat of stumps and branches. In the area of the state park the shore had been cleared, but the shoreline of the rest of the lake was a mess. After we had hiked for a couple of hours, we realized the ranger was simply wrong! Soon after we turned around, it started to snow and the temperature dropped – not in the weather forecast! Hiking around, through and over wet stumps and branches was almost impossible. We were in trouble and we knew it. We hiked from the lake into the dense forest and headed for the road we had driven in on – a risky idea, but really our only alternative. We kept going in a straight line by using a technique I had learned in camping. Carla and Jenna were carried by the students. Carla still remembers the students putting her in a large sweatshirt with the sleeves tied shut. Two hours later we arrived at the lodge just as it was got dark, really dark. Those who remained at the lodge fixed a hot meal – and were ready to call the ranger for help. Everyone was tired, safe, and ready to eat. We did it! Our family shared and remembers this challenging, unity building experience!

New Interests Begun: The Sikes family had lived on the same farm since the Civil War – there were blood stains on the floor and bullet holes in the walls of the big old house. The Sikes family raised horses and ponies…and ran a horseback riding program. Here it was that Carla was introduced to horses. The Sikes gave us a Shetland pony named Dolly, with her very young colt, Tinker Bell, to put in a small fenced area at the back of our 200 foot deep yard. Carla learned to take care of the pony. In the morning I would go out the back door and call out: “Hello Dolly” and the mare would whinny back. Carla went on to raise and train a Chincoteague pony and eventually become an instructor for the Camp Horsemanship Association – she certified instructors for the organization in both English and Western riding.

Just as the Lord has used Sally Jo and me – and our children! – to enrich the lives of many, a very large number of people have enriched our family member’s lives – a result of living In Partnership With God.

Are there experiences you can provide for those who minister in your life?