, , , , , , , ,

Middelsboro – again – and again!

This has been a busy week but I wanted to tell you the “rest of the story”…

As only God could do, I was in Middlesboro, Ky. this past Sunday for worship! It was not planned or even contemplated.

I am privileged to be part of a 4-generational family friendship. Our grandmothers were friends, our mothers were friends, we are friends and our daughters are friends. It has spanned continents and years. What a joy! My mother’s friend has been suffering from Alzheimer’s and her daughters, my friends, have been taking care of her – with the support of the other siblings.

It is a precious family and the grandmother, whom I call “Aunt Millie”, is one of the most cheerful, unselfish people I have known. No stranger to deep heartache, she has always been cheerful and giving. For several years she lived nearby and I counted it a privilege to care for her in small ways. And always enjoyed when her daughters would visit her – they were like sisters to me. They remember me in my crib – that’s how long the relationship – and how precious.

I was at Carson Newman University for a Friday – Saturday event for their Women of Vision of which I am the honorary chairperson. They seek to nurture truth, enhance beauty and enrich goodness on the campus and beyond. I am honored to be a part of such a great university. It is a joy to interact with their students and faculty and staff – lead by Dr. and Mrs. Randall O’Brien who have become sweet friends.

Anyway, my friend read my post about “snakes” and emailed me to say that she was visiting her sister in Middlesboro – only 1 and 1/2 hour from Carson Newman. So I decided not to let this opportunity pass me by. On Sunday morning I got up early, got the car packed up and drove to Middlesboro. We had a sweet reunion – I just don’t see these dear ladies nearly enough! The husband of the older sister is a pastor in Middleboro. I arrived in time to attend church at Grace Fellowship Church. Don Aven, my friend’s husband and the pastor of that church preached on the covenant God made with us and we enter into by baptism. He had us flipping back and forth through the scriptures as he gave a rich Bible study on the subject.

I couldn’t help but think of Pastor Coots who died from a snakebite in that same town two weeks before. Pastor Coots had only one reference on which he based his theology. My friend, Don, had many from both the Old and New Testaments. It is far better, safer, to let the scriptures corroborate themselves as we develop a theology.

And I will be back in Middlesboro the 26th of April to speak at Binghamton Baptist Church. We’ll see what God has in mind. Stay tuned!

, , , , , ,

Reverse Direction

This morning I helped deliver Meals on Wheels with other members of my church – we take the month of January for delivery. I was paired with a terrific lady and it has been fun to get to know each other during these weeks. Since I have a station wagon, I drove while she navigated then both of us would get out to deliver the meals at the various homes or apartments.

We went to an area of town my Mother used to call, “the gentle side of town”. These folks appear to have been worn down by life, tired. They are grateful for what we bring. To be honest, today, it didn’t look very appetizing: sort of an orange colored piece of meat with a side of gray-green butter beans, a small carton of milk and a piece of bread – maybe a fruit though I didn’t see it.

Since the forecast is for snow we took an extra meal – something canned and prepackaged. Like I said, not very appetizing.

It takes a lot of work to get those meals out the door to each home. The ladies in the kitchen get up early each day to cook and have the meals hot for us when we arrive at 10:45. It takes organization to know who gets what taking into consideration dietary needs. It also takes patience to figure out the routes for each group. And each week there are some whose meals have to be held for whatever reason but we need to know which ones. Then we have to have the addresses…it is quite a job…they do it day after day, week after week, month after month.

But anyway, today we had a new person on the route. My partner grew up in town so I relied on her to tell me where to go…she relied on her memory of who this person was and where he lived. A couple of times that did not work so well and I had to back up or turn around. She apologized. I told her, “That’s why I have a reverse gear.”

When we went on our way, I thought about that. God has given us a “reverse gear” in life. (This is not a theological treatise!) When we are going in the wrong direction what do we do? Assess the situation and recognize we are in the wrong place. We are not where we intended or want to be. We have to stop. Then we have to turn around. Often that means putting it into reverse.

There is nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, there is a lot right with that! We all make mistakes and need to turn around. To pretend that we don’t will mean we get into a bigger mess farther from where God wants us to be. Or to continue down the road thinking we can correct it later…Or think we can figure it out on our own…It will be more painful and harder to make the correction. Not impossible – nothing is impossible with God – but harder and more painful.

What if the Israelites had recognized their error sooner and changed direction…they wouldn’t have had to wander in the desert for 40 years!!

Ok. We assess where we are, recognize we are wrong and decide to change direction. We stop. What’s next?

Look for signposts to tell us where we are and where we want to go. Ask for directions. Get help. Then move forward in the right direction and continue! In time you will arrive at your intended destination.

Don’t waste time beating yourself up for making a mistake! We all do. God allows us to begin again! He restores us and sets us on the right path – no matter how far off track we go!

, , , ,

Traveling in the Back

Today I took what, I hope, will be my last airplane trip for the year! Hooray! I will not miss the smell of AV fuel, the blare of CNN’s talking heads, the chatter of folks on cell phones, the rushing to or from a gate, taking off my shoes, lifting my suitcase…all the unpleasantries of travel.

Last week on my trip back to Virginia from Sacramento I sat in the very last row next to the lavatories in the aisle seat. Has to be the worst seat on the plane! My assistant, Anne, actually gave up that seat to sit in the middle – she can sleep standing up – or, as in this case, sitting up. I cannot. The accompanying odor just from the chemicals was noxious. And every time anyone came down the aisle they bumped me.

Okay, I can deal with all of that. But for 6 hours! After just a few hours, I had a headache from the fumes. Then I got annoyed at all the folks bumping me. After the food service it seemed as if everyone had to go to the toilet! I began to suspect they were just circling around in an endless parade. The fight attendants, who were not very friendly in the “friendly skies”, maybe they’d had a hard day too, let them stand in the aisle 10-12 deep. I didn’t think they were supposed to. (Those of us “in the back” are not allowed to use the first class toilet. Don’t get me started…) And, of course, the flight attendants still had to do their thing so they would squeeze by those in line. Those in line had to move somewhere so they moved into me! Brother! (Remember, I told you I believe each airline has a committee that thinks of ways to make travel more unpleasant? Well, they should get a bonus for that trip!)

About 4 hours into the flight, I got the giggles. I was struck by how absurd it all was. There was not a thing I could do about it! And I was reading an excellent historical novel about, of all things, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. A good treatment of a very grim event that so few know much about.

As we landed I called my wonderful travel agent in Boston and asked why I had been assigned those seats. She apologized and said she had been trying to get us moved away from the toilets and closer to the front but United was just hard to work with – I don’t have status with them as I do with Delta or USAirways. So I reminded her I would be doing the same trip this week and be sure I got a better seat. She said she had already been working on it.

We were the last to get off the plane and dear Anne’s suitcase wheels had a mind of their own. Like the grocery cart with one weird wheel I always manage to find. Well, we really got the giggles over that! People probably thought we were drunk – laughing, stumbling over this obstinate suitcase, unable to get ourselves together…What a sight!

What a flight! (in the back)

I had a few days home to do my laundry, see my grandkids and repack to go back out to San Diego to speak for the crisis pregnancy center in Escondido. Wonderful event. From there I rented a car and drove up to Riverside to stay with my friends, Tony and Angela Ferraro. He is on my Ruth Graham Ministries board as well as being a good friend and trusted advisor. He and Angela are a dynamic couple with big hearts for ministry. His first book, Killing Cows, is due out before Christmas. I’ll let everyone know. Until then I’ll let you guess what it is about!

Then I attended and participated in the Raw Church Unconference at Sandals Church, Riverside. David Vigil, Blaine Bartel, Ed Gungor, Michael Cheshire, Ted and Gayle Haggard, C.J. Chaung and others were there to discuss the restoration process in the Church for leaders who fail. We discussed race and how to gracefully address that as well as same-sex attraction, among other topics. The conference was a safe place to discuss these sensitive, difficult issues. There was good stuff. What I took away was that it all boils down to “relationship” – with God, each other regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, religion…and that sin is an opportunity to show God’s grace. We are not called to be judges but to love each other.

I am not talking “woo woo” stuff but hard-core love when it hurts. I’ll write more about this later…but I want to tell you about my flight home…

This morning I was up early to catch my return flight from San Diego. (I drove down from Riverside last night, turned the car in, and got a hotel room and some snacks for supper so I would be close to the airport this AM.) Boy! I am thankful I don’t have to drive in California regularly!

I checked in for my flight but it was going to charge me for my checked luggage. So I had to iron that out – because I have the United credit card I don’t have to pay the fee. But I noticed on the seat chart that I was in the very last row back by the toilets. Again! But this time I was by the window. Land-locked! Brother. I asked the agent if there was a better seat. He said only middle seats were left and the plane was full. I was not happy. But I determined to try to make the best of it. I had a good book in hand. My nut mix and a bottle of water. This trip would only be 4 hours.

I keep telling God I want an airplane but He is not impressed!! And I don’t really want one – just the use of one!!!

A nice man was standing in the back and I asked him if he’d help me put my bag up top. He was more than willing and volunteered that he would help me get it down. I settled into my seat. Soon I realized that he was to be sitting in the aisle seat of my row. We commented that these really were the worst seats on a plane but at least we weren’t walking! Or riding a donkey or in a cart – like so many dear missionaries have to do. We both said we hoped no one was going to sit in the middle seat but it was too good to hope for. He happened to place the book he was reading down on the middle seat – it was written by my nephew – Tullian Tchividjian!

I had to comment! Now, if it had been one by my father, I would not have said anything but “Tchividjian” is a far cry from “Graham” and figured he’d never put the pieces together. I told him Tullian was my oldest sister’s son. He actually hadn’t read Tullian’s biography so didn’t even think of the Graham connection. We chatted as the passengers continued to get settled. Soon we realized no one was going to sit in the middle seat! God is good.

This man, Dave, was on his way back from a surfing trip to Hawaii. He is connected with Campus Crusade and is interested in reaching professors on college campuses. He played soccer for Yale, lives in Northern Virginia, was saved in his mid twenties, has a very tender heart for the things of God, 3 kids and happily married to a lovely wife. It was such a thrill to have sweet fellowship all the way across the country. He had great stories – that I can use for my next book as well as some contacts and resources for my ministry. (It didn’t take him long to put my pieces together and seemed blessed by it. He was really cool about it. Didn’t get all excited but seemed to have a deep appreciation and respect for my father.)

When he texted his wife, she said she had heard Anne, read Gigi’s book Weather of the Heart and had ordered In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart! Small world.

As the flight attendants served the snacks you pay for these days she said she would give them to us since we were in the “crappy” seats. She made up for the flight attendants of last week!!

So that’s what happened as I traveled in the back of the plane!

, , , , ,

God’s Work in the Corners of this Country

I was in California past week. That trip will provide many stories in the weeks to come! My goodness! What a full but wonderful week it was. (The travel wasn’t so good – but that’s a whole other story!)

My friend, Don Harris, a member of the Sacramento City Council, invited me to speak to his “3rd Thursday” businessmen’s gathering in Sacramento. Not an ordinary businessmen’s meeting – this one meets at a homeless shelter: Safe Haven. What a miraculous place! It was carved out of a block of warehouses owned by a dear Muslim man, Mohammed. I followed him as he walked among the homeless gathered in a park he provides for them – he knew them all by name, their stories, touched them, greeted their children… He provides a place for them to store their belongings, make phone calls, shower, use the computer, job training… So dear. And he was the one who had approached Don about the need for a place for these folks to worship Jesus!

Two years ago the chapel was just a vision – to see the fruition of the vision was a joy! It is a simple but appropriate place where these dear folks can worship. They have a dedicated chaplain, Joe, who came from the streets and has his own story of redemption. It is so encouraging to see what God is doing downtown Sacramento.

Don had suggested I speak on “integrity in the work place”. I am not a businessman – but I do have a small ministry. I talked about John the Baptist. A man of integrity – even when it cost him his life. He’s a great character and illustration of how we are to live in the face of persecution. (I was reminded yesterday that persecution is at our door: If we oppose abortion what happens? If we decide to close our business on Sunday, what happens? If we voice our belief in the 10 Commandments, what are we called?)

From there I went to Lido, CA. in the middle of wine country to speak for the Pregnancy Resource Center. What an important work they do – love the folks who are committed to ensuring life for every baby…but also, reaching out in love to those who choose differently. So honored to be part of their evening. They transformed a high school gym into an elegant ballroom for about 400 guests. Wonderful evening that was smack dab on time!! Love that!

You know, I am really blessed to be part of what God is doing in the corners – and in between – of this country.

, , , ,

Real Power

In keeping with the “birds on the runway”…it is obvious I was walking near the runway. Actually, quite close. Being a small island, everything is close! But the road ran right along the airport perimeter fence.

Most mornings a much smaller propeller plane took off. But on the weekends, there was jet service into the island.

So…on a weekend morning a jet was scheduled to take off. I could watch the people board and the luggage being loaded – all the pre-flight activity through a space in the shrubbery. I was fascinated. Maybe I travel too much!!

Then I heard the engines come to life as the plane began its very slow taxi to the end of the runway. I got impatient with the slowness so resumed my walk. Soon I heard the whine of the motors as it turned and began to speed down the runway for take off.

It rushed down the runway in a crescendo of roar and wind that was overwhelming as it climbed into the sky. Though I could not see it, I could feel and hear it. The takeoff was a mighty show of power as the enormous plane lifted off the ground. It was quite a real (but infinitesimal) illustration of God’s power for me.

“The Lord’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake. But the Lord will be a refuge for His people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.” (Joel 3:16)

That prophecy seems so very relevant for our world today. And with all the noise in Washington, Damascus, Moscow, Tehran and elsewhere, it reminds us that God is still powerful over all the events. He is in charge. His way will prevail.

, , , , ,

The Birds on the Runway

I spent the last week on Cayman Brac at the “barefoot and Breaking Free” retreat hosted by Mary and Russ Brandes – very special people.

The island is small – only 12 miles long! Each morning I got up to walk just as it was dawning. Even then it is hot and humid. My walk took me parallel to the airport runway. One morning after a storm I noticed puddles along my path. A fence separated me from the tiny airport but I could see the lights and the commotion as the early morning flight was preparing to board.

I continued my walk and came upon a flock of birds bathing in a storm- left puddle. The were inside the perimeter fence, just feet from the runway. They seemed to be having a grand time splashing in the water as well as picking at any bugs or grain they spotted.

They were oblivious to the airport activity. The folks who had gotten up early, packed their bags, ate a hurried breakfast, driven to the airport, said their goodbyes…I could only speculate but perhaps there was one rushing to the bedside of a loved one, another to the funeral of a friend, a harried business man concerned for the future, a grandmother eager to see a new grand baby…who knows the many and varied reasons the folks were traveling that morning.

As one who travels frequently, I am in an airport now, I can tell you if the stress of travel. I have written about it. No doubt that morning was stressful for some. Perhaps fear of flying over open water was causing stress…

But those little birds were carefree. They trusted the bounty of God’s care. They were secure in God’s love. I thought about that. Why can’t I trust God that way? Why do I add to my stress by worrying.

Even now with a 24-hr flight delay I am fretting about the days ahead. Can I get everything done in time to leave again on Friday?

I am reminded of the birds…”Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable to him then they are?” (MT 6:26 NLT)

Of course we are. He takes great care of our every need. Will you believe that for today? Will I?