Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Camp

There is something about summer camp that always gets me.

For years of summers, I have watched my sons go off for a week away from their parents and return different from the way they were when they departed for their camp destination.

All of these camps must have had some kind of life-transforming and/or life-shaping experiences because even now Seth (my 24-year old) spends most of his days creating both hilarious and meaningful videos for some of the best camps offered this summer -and he even gets paid to create them!

Our two youngest sons returned today from our church student camp. They are both different young men - it really is that visible - even on the outside. Who can imagine what has happened on the inside. Certainly God knows - after all - He did it.

I love this photo of Matt - it was taken two weeks ago at Windy Gap in North Carolina while he was attending Young Life Camp.

If I created a caption for this photo - it would read, "ahh, now, this is summer camp!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

29 Years - Lost and Found

This post is an admission of negligence and grace.

One evening sometime in the month of April, I came home from work and did what I always do - I removed my watch and my wedding ring, slid my wedding ring onto my watch band, connected the watch band and then..........

For the past 60-70 days, I have been in search of my lost watch and wedding band. I have (as they say) turned things upside down in search of it. After looking everywhere possible, I finally confessed that I was afraid that I had somehow "thrown them away" in a bag of things brought home from Target or somewhere.

Who knows? All knew was I was not happy about losing my wedding ring after 29 incredible years of marriage.

So, one afternoon on my sabbatical, Karla and I went shopping for a replacement wedding ring. As I entered each store, the conversation began with me announcing "I made it for 29 years before losing my wedding ring". That usually brought about a very willing sales person to offer ridiculously expensive replacements.

My how rings have changed in 29 years!

Well, on the afternoon of June 22, 2008, I purchased my new (replacement) wedding ring - see photo!! Karla loves it (that's all that matters), and now my ring finger no longer feels naked, and that's a good thing.

So......all is well......until tonight......

I was searching for something else that was lost (not nearly as important as my lost wedding ring), and guess what I found? lost watch and my lost wedding ring!

So, now the dilemma......keep the new one or wear the old one?

At this writing, that decision has not been made, but I am still in shock that I actually found this lost wedding ring.

God extended grace to me - yet again.......

Friday, June 27, 2008

One Month

On May 27, I "officially" began my sabbatical. I am not going to elaborate on the past 31 days in this post, but I am going to quote from one of the many wonderful books that I have been reading.

I read this quote on the plane home from Chicago yesterday. It hit me in the face as if I turned my head right into someone's left hook.

The book is entitled, The Rest Of God - Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath - written by Mark Buchanan - pastor and author (3) books.

What he wrote on page 147 is what nailed me........

"As I left for sabbatical, many people in my church wished me well. They told me they'd miss me, that they'd be praying for me, that they hoped I came back refreshed. And then they usually said, "You deserve this".

I don't. I can think of all kinds of people who deserve it: a single mother who works three jobs to ensure her kids have a decent home and good clothes; a couple who have been clocking twelve-hour days or more six days a week for many years, trying to keep a small business from sliding over the edge; a tradesman who never has time for a holiday when the work is on and never has money for one when it's not; a millworker whose shifts change like the clouds so that he's seen the inside and out of every hour of every day and now never quite sleeps and never fully awakes. I can think of all the people who do their jobs faithfully and capably, even though they die at it a little every day. I like what I do, and I have not worked half as hard as half of these people, and few will ever be given the luxury of a sabbatical.

No, I don't deserve it. It's pure gift, like being born in peacetime and not war, like being forgiven, or kissed, or told you have beautiful eyes. I never earned a minute of it. I don't deserve a scrap of it.

But I feel obliged to the people in my church who have allowed me it. Obliged, not to come back smarter, or thinner, or more eloquent, or more studied up, though all that could help. The obligation I feel is not to pay them back. These things don't work that way, on some barter system where the church trades several months of leave in exhange for shorter, pithier sermons.

The obligation I feel, rather, is to come back restored."

God bless Mark Buchanan, and I thank God he wrote this book

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Taking A Walk With A Legend

I have to admit that I seldom take walks. I either jog or do nothing. Shame on me.

Last week, I had the extraordinary privilege of taking a walk with arguably the most respected musician/arranger/orchestrator of our time, but more importantly, a true gentleman, husband, father, grandfather, and genuine friend to many.

What a joy to simply take a walk with and converse with Ronn Huff.

Besides being a true genius of an arranger and orchestrator, this man is a deep thinker, he asks hard and great questions, and he expressed a sincere interest in my life and my career. He is quiet and determined. He is passionate and sensitive.

I treasured our time together in ways I will never be able to adequately articulate, and I pray we will have more "walks" in the future.

Here is what was written about Ronn when he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame (3) years ago:

"Being inducted as a non-performing member of the Hall of Fame, Ronn Huff’s legacy is well-known to anyone who has directed church choirs in the last 30 years. While minister of music in a Denver church he arranged and published two highly successful books of hymns, "Celebration, Music for Festival Choir" and "Celebration II." But his arrangements and recording of Bill and Gloria Gaither songs into a 1973 musical called "Alleluia, A Praise Gathering" brought national prominence and was the first religious recording to receive an RIAA Gold Album certification, selling over a million records and books. A Christmas work called "His Love, Reaching," a collection of early Praise and Worship songs entitled "Exaltation" and a series collaboration with the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma are among the successful church music publications he authored. Huff claims to be an arranger, not a composer, but his work is found on many recordings, both sacred and secular. In the past two years alone his name appears on and arrangements are heard in the recordings of Faith Hill, Charlotte Church, Amy Grant, Celine Dion, Jewel, Martina McBride, Allison Krauss, Sandi Patty, John Michael Talbot, Keith Urban, George Strait, Clint Black, Lonestar, Boston Pops, and The American Boy Choir. Until recently Huff held the position of Pop's Director for the Nashville Symphony, but a battle with Parkinson’s Disease has limited his activities in recent years."

While these credits speak to the amazing accomplishments of Ronn, you would never know any of this from a simple conversation with him. He would rather talk about his family, his faith, and ask questions about you, your family, and your faith.

If I could only take more walks like this one!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

Time and People.......

Two very important ingredients of life, and I am realizing during my sabbatical that I am pretty horrible at both - I don't build in nearly enough margin of time with regard to anything I do, and I don't spend nearly enough of the 24 hours in a day with people - especially people with whom I enrich their life and (as I am discovering on my sabbatical) with people who greatly enrich my life when I give them my undivided attention.

I spent the day on Wednesday in the beautiful city of Baltimore, Maryland. (Since Karla and I are such NCIS nuts, I loved seeing signs on the interstate for exits that Gibbs and crew are always talking about in the TV show).

I was in Baltimore for one reason - to meet with a new friend, worship pastor, author, and one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He gave me an entire afternoon of his time - something I will always treasure because even though I don't build margin into my time, I know what it takes to "give up" an afternoon with someone - especially someone you hardly know!

So, realizing I did not want to waste one minute of this man's time, I wanted to make sure I got to where I was supposed to be "on time".

He asked me to meet him for lunch at a restaurant (47) miles from the Baltimore airport. By my Google Map calculations, it would take anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes (depending on traffic) to get from BWI to my lunch destination. With my plane arriving at 10:30am, there was no way for me to have enough time to rent a car and get there on time, and the last thing I wanted to do was to be late to the beginning of an afternoon of conversation.

So, I took a cab - yes, a cab - 47 mile cab ride! What an adventure as my cabbie drove 80 on the interstate (not wearing a seat belt) while glancing often at his portable Magellan he would hold up with his right hand. I was strapped in holding on for dear life. We left BWI at 10:45am. We arrived at my lunch destination at 11:15am. He certainly got me there on time - 45 minutes early! Talk about margin.......

Oh, and yes, it cost a fortune!

Fast forward to the end of my amazing afternoon with this fine and gracious colleage. (I knew I was not taking a cab back to the airport, but was not sure of my options, and quite honestly, I was not about to fret over them while immensely enjoying the company of my new friend.)

So, not surprising to me, my new friend offered to drive me back to the airport. Well, that was not an option because I had already imposed by taking up an afternoon of this man's time - the final straw could not be a 2-hour (in traffic) round trip for him just to get me to the airport, but to give you one more reason to understand what a great guy this man truly is - he would have done it without thinking about it.

I asked him about the Metro - (rail train public transportation). He looked it up on-line, and we landed on a most adventurous (and lengthy) itinerary of two different trains, and finally a city bus to get me back to the airport. (margin, sweet margin)

So, I took the red train, then the green train, then a 30-minute wait for the city bus at the last train station to get me to the airport - I finally arrived at BWI having spent 90 minutes watching the scenery blow by me, rushing through dark tunnels, loving the smell of the city bus, and enjoying the heck out of watching people - all at a total cost of $7.60.

You gotta love public transportation.........

Margin, margin, margin - it allows you to enjoy this beautiful world that God created!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often

Karla and I returned late last week from a few days at the beach. It was paradise. I forget what the ocean and sand does to my state of mind. Our trip was an incredibly gracious gift from many people with whom I serve along-side-with (I know that is horrible grammar, but whatever) - the point is - I am grateful beyond words for that gift - the time away with my precious wife was immeasurable.

On Saturday night, our family gathered to celebrate Father's Day - a great dinner, conversation, laughter, some tears, and even some gifts. I received some neat cards, a DVD collection of a TV-series that I have not seen but looks extremely interesting, a "sleep-noise" machine - (gotta love the sound of the ocean as I drift into sleep mode), and two different photo-sets from my sons that I will treasure. In keeping with "tis better to give than receive", I am most excited about my gift to my Dad. (Because I am such a loser and did not get it until I returned from the beach, he will not receive it until tomorrow). I so look forward to his call when I can tell him how to most enjoy it!

This particular Father's Day was also a day of "firsts".

Our first without BigBy - Karla's father who passed away on January 2. It was difficult at times because we miss him, but Seth's prayer reminded us that he is in a better place. Where would we be without that hope?

It was also Seth's first Father's Day. He is a great Dad, and he brings loads of joy to his family and to our extended family....and to me.

My heart is full of gratitude for the experiences of ocean, beach, companionship with the most important person in your life, and the gathering of family around the table.

We have a sign that is visible above our kitchen table - If it were not so large, I would carry it around with me because it should not be limited to our kitchen.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Celebrating 15 Years

One thing that a sabbatical affords is time to reflect.

About a month ago, the incredible choir that God has allowed me to lead and serve along side with for the past 15 years did a most wonderful thing - they gave me a book of congratulatory notes written to me (by choir members) on the occasion of my 15th anniversary as worship minister at church.

For whatever reasons, last night I decided to open the book and read some of the notes. It was a most humbling experience to read nice things that people wrote to me.

I must share one of them in this post because I laughed out loud - for quite awhile -oh my gosh - this is hilarious and so fitting considering the person. (I so love you GT!)

Here ya go - and this is EXACTLY what he wrote:


You are a such a loser! Talk to me after you have been at one job for 30 years. 15 years is just getting started. Seriously, I love you more than my 20-gauge shotgun. You are awesome and I admire your heart and your love for God and His people. It is an honor serving under your leadership. If there is ever anything you need, ask someone else.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Forgiveness - Don't Waste Your Life

This past weekend, I enjoyed going to see two of the top movies currently playing in all local theaters.

In each of these movies, a particular line jumped out at me as being refreshing and possibly even redemptive (if not surprising) considering I was not at church, but sitting in a dark room for two hours with total strangers having paid alot of money to be entertained.

In one of the movies, one of the main characters asked this question, "but what about forgiveness?"

In the other movie, the main character at one point says, "I just don't want to waste my life."

Two blockbuster movies with totally non-contrived lines spoken by lead characters as part of the overall plot of each movie.

I just keep thinking about those lines.....

I hope I forgive more frequently than I judge, and I hope I'm not wasting my life.