Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Public Works, J David, and the thread I can't see...

I have taken on a part time, temporary job with a local municipality's Public Works department.  I am learning a lot about the inner workings of water pretreatment, park and field maintenance, and other things I never thought about before.

How much do you know about the process of taking waste water from your home to the treatment plant? Not much I'll bet.

How much do you know about the number of man hours it takes to maintain the fields where your children play baseball/football/soccer/lacrosse? Or the disproportionate numbers of hours necessary to open and maintain a swimming pool that operates for 90 days of the year?  Not much I'll bet.

And, if you are like me, you don't really care. Not in a rude way...just a take-it-for-granted way.

Except when the water won't go away or fields are muddy or the pool isn't perfect. THEN we know all about exactly what can and should be done, don't we??

Yeah...no. We still have no idea. Our anger simply fools us.

All of life is like this. We really know so very little, and mostly we are too self-absorbed to care. Until something bad happens.

Beginning in Sept 2010, my friend David - The Rev Dr. J. David Panther - led our church on a nine month journey through the Bible. With an assist from Max Lucado's The Story,  David showed us the wonderful thread that weaves itself from Genesis to Revelation...a thread that consistently shows us the love and care God has for us...a thread that is the Upper Story, God's Story, and His purpose.

We live in the Lower Story.  Lower as in right here on Earth, not Heaven's Story. Lower as in, we often have no idea how things work, nor do we care - as long as we like them.
Then darkness falls. And we demand answers.

Unemployment, addiction, car accident, illness...what is yours? What has happened to you to make you say, "WHY, GOD?"

David is firm and consistent in this message: God never causes a bad thing, and He doesn't like it - but it is the reality of life in this fallen world. And no matter what happens, how much it hurts, how devastated we are, God can lift us out of the mire, clean us from head to toe, and use the negative to make us better.
If we let Him.

David often uses stories to make a point. One sticks in my mind today.  It is the story of a farmer who has a series of events happen. The farmer 's horse runs away. A few days later, the horse returns, bringing a group of young studs with him. The farmer's son breaks a leg training one of the new horses.  The son was unable to go off to war because of the broken leg.
The neighbors are quick to rejoice or mourn, based on their judgment of each event. But to each expression of joy or sorrow, the farmer's response is , "We'll see."
The old farmer understood that we know so little. Our vision is extremely limited. We live in the Lower Story, often not even considering the Upper Story.

One of my favorite David-isms is "This is no surprise to God!"  A master at explaining difficult concepts to stubborn human minds, David has taught me that God has a plan, He knows the end from the beginning, and He will use ALL things to His glory and for my good.
If I let Him.

David  battled lymphoma for over a year.  A determined warrior, he continued to teach about grace and faith.  He was in his office and in services every single time his body would allow it. He smiled through the fight, ministered to others, continued his mission. Jana, his beautiful wife, has been a wonderful example of the healing power of love.

On May 26, my friend David met Jesus.  

We are heart-broken over this loss...for ourselves, for our church, mostly for his beloved family.

It is likely that everyone who knows and has been touched by David has had at least a moment of "WHY?"
He is a man of God who has an amazing gift for preaching and teaching. He can touch everyone - no demographic  is beyond his reach.  He has a heart for the have-nots in our community, and continually challenges us to reach out with God's love. His goal is not adding members, but sharing the Good News. His sermons are lessons in how to apply Biblical wisdom to everyday life.

He is a loving husband, father, son, grandfather, friend, mentor.     

Really God? This man? Right now?

Did You not see all the good he is doing? The changed hearts - some in folks who had never visited a church, some in folks who have sat in the same pew for decades but never had their souls moved? Do You not see how much more he has to do, how many plans he has, how many more people he could reach?

Really God?

There is so much we don't know or understand, isn't there? We want to identify "good" and "bad" - nothing in between, no "we'll see" responses. It makes us feel better, doesn't it?

Yet, even as I type these words I hear David saying , "Hey, kiddo, this is no surprise to God."  I am reminded by David's voice in my head that  in the midst of our grief we must rest in the assurance that God is omnipotent, faithful,  always loving...reminded that while this is not good, God can use it for good...reminded that God knows the plan, and it is a GOOD plan, not for harm.

I hear David reminding me that I don't question the good things, the comfortable ones, the ones I like.  I just accept,  even though I don't understand. I flush water, and drive on roads, and play in the park, never questioning how any of that comes about. But, oh, when something bad happens, I beseech God for an answer I couldn't possibly begin to understand even if He told me.

I hear you, my dear friend. I do. You taught me well. I trust the Upper Story. I trust God's grace and give Him all the Glory.

I know you are restored to perfect health. I know the crown you received is spectacular. I know you have been waiting your whole life to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

I do know...And I praise God for that.

But I miss you...we all miss you. The little smile, the way your voice squeaked sometimes when you were telling a funny story then boomed when you wanted to make a point, your explanation of what the Hebrew text really means in a given passage, your perpetual motion - coffee in hand. I won't ever hear someone say, "This isn't rocket science!" without thinking of you.

We will carry on your work. We will smile. We will love on your family...and always miss you.

Rest well, dear friend. Can't wait to see you again - you can tell me more about the thread I can't see right now and I will finally understand.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Robin Roberts, yard wanderings and our vision...

I had an interesting dream last night. Well, pieces of a dream - you know how that goes. 
Robin Roberts and her lovely sisters, Sally-Ann and Dorothy were at my door, asking if I was ready to go to dinner. I was in work clothes...clearly not ready.
We will come back to this in a bit.

Yesterday I had the luxury of a few hours to work in the yard. Straightened landscape edging, made spot repairs to the grass, dug weeds, cleaned a couple flower beds - normal "spring" things. Also requires little thought, which allows great praying and mind-wandering time.
This is the 13th spring we have been in this house. I looked around the yard and the neighborhood and thought about how much has changed.

Changed about the yard? Sure. I had a vision for the landscaping when we moved in. In many ways, I have worked that plan. Then changed it.

Changed about the neighborhood? A bit. Some new neighbors. Kids grown.  

Changes about life? Absolutely. Many changes.

How about you? Lots of changes in the last 13 years?

I walked through my yard and laughed some tears thinking about how silly we are when we believe anything about this life is in our control.  Even when we have good plans. Even when what happens is good.

Thirteen years ago, I developed a picture of my yard in my head. As I set it in motion, some of the plants either didn't work where I planted them, or didn't look the way I envisioned. So I changed the plan. Moved flowers, dug new beds, moved flowers again. Plan B then C then...I think I am on Plan F now.

That is what we do, if we are going to be happy and healthy...we change the plan.

In the past 13 years, people have left my life. Some to be with Jesus. Some just because.
I have many new people I cherish so deeply. People I didn't know existed in 2000. And now I love them dearly.
I started a job, ended that job and started a new career path.
Was rescued by a dog who owns my heart.
Been through very dark times...a very good times.

And none of it could have been imagined 13 years ago.

The most predictable thing about life is that it is completely unpredictable.  We want certain things to change and they don't. We want other things to stay the same and they don't. We want out days to go according to schedule and they don't.
We think we always know what is favorable and what isn't...and we don't.

Do you understand...or is it just me?

“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”  Robert Frost

TRUTH right there.

Life rarely turns out the way we imagined - daily, weekly, yearly.
Even when we execute well-made plans, even when our dreams come true, it doesn't look exactly as we imagined.

But it goes on.

Ask Robin Roberts about a vision changing. In 2004, her bright star was on the rise at ABC, after 15 years at ESPN.  Since then, she has lost both of her beloved parents, helped her family and her home state of Mississippi recover from Hurricane Katrina, survived breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndromes AND shared her journey with her television audience. But through it all, the Good Morning America team has overtaken the number one spot on morning  television.
More importantly, Robin has continued to love her God, to embrace life, to LIVE life.
Robin Roberts set out to be a sportscaster. Now she is a role model, an inspiration to so many and was recently named the Most Trusted Person on Television by Reader's Digest.

Could she see any of that coming? Unlikely.
No matter what, Robin goes on.

We all do. The question is, how well? How joyfully? How purposefully? How lovingly?
We have the choice - every day, every hour.  Bitter or better? Joyful or miserable? Loving or nasty?

Sure, life hurts. Of course it does. But it hurts for everyone. Hardships are no respecters of anyone.  
And it doesn't turn out the way we planned.

So what are you going to do? Pout? Be less than you can be? Wallow under the hurt?

Or go on?

Back to my dream ...I have been blessed to have occasional email contact and a brief meeting with Robin and  email with Sally-Ann.  Both are incredibly genuine. The woman you see on GMA each morning is the same Robin her friends and neighbors see - kind, caring, the real deal.

In my mind... no, in my PLANS this dream becomes reality. Robin, her sisters and I WILL have dinner.
Maybe it will look like I imagine. Robin or Sally-Ann or Dorothea will read this blog and laugh and say, Dinner it is!!
Or maybe it won't look the same. Maybe they won't come to my house. Maybe we will happen to choose the same restaurant when I am in New York next. Maybe we will run into each other in a grocery store on the Upper West Side...or on the pier while she walks KJ.

In any case, I am going to hold it in my heart and picture it in my mind...just like I do other plans I have.
Plans are certainly necessary.  I work toward my plans. I pray. I believe.
And I understand that my God, who knows all and sees the beginning and the end, has the best plans.
Everything, everything, EVERY.THING. can work together for my good...if I allow it...if I trust...if I can let go.

Will you join me?

Very few things about life will look the way you imagine.
Really. It's true.
Accept that and live. LIVE. OUT LOUD. JOYFULLY. Today.

We will talk again soon...
BP :)

ps I will let you know when I hear from Robin...