Saturday, June 30, 2007

collective bargaining of the brotherly kind

It's been said that growth is nothing more than successful change, yet change requires challenging the status quo. It often calls for more than we are willing to give. The paradox is that for us to grow, we must be willing to experience change, yet change is what comes after every stage of growth. Are you thoroughly confused yet? Let me explain the concept a little clearer with the following story.

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Joseph, the son of Jacob (Israel), and it is not because I am named after him. His story intrigues me no end because I am fairly confident that if we experienced the half of what he went through, we would probably require psychiatric therapy the rest of our lives. Consider being sold into slavery by your own brothers. This, after your confident announcement to them that God had shown you in a dream that one day they would bow down and serve you! As if that isn't enough trauma for any one man to deal with, Joseph finally ends up as a slave in Potiphar's palace (the captain of pharaohs personal guard). He rises through the ranks of "slavedom" becoming the favored and head "indoor" slave, only to catch the eye of Potiphar's wife. He steadfastly resists her advances and earns himself a tenure in an Egyptian jail for his troubles. At this point, most of us quit and give up on the dream. We blame God, our circumstances and everything around us. We become bitter and lose sight of the dreams that once burned so powerfully within us, energizing us towards our destiny.

After languishing in prison for two years, having been forgotten by the butler whose dream he interpreted (the butler is suddenly healed of "amnesia"), Joseph is summoned before Pharaoh to interpret a troubling dream that Pharaoh has had recurrently. As a result of his conference with Pharaoh he is named Prime Minister of Egypt, second in command only to Pharaoh, and charged with the responsibility of stocking away grain and food for the seven years of famine that he has predicted are imminent. This same famine, when it finally arrives, is what brings his brothers all the way from Canaan to Egypt seeking to buy food. Not recognizing Joseph, they bow in obeisance before him. Joseph reveals himself to them and they fall on their knees begging for their lives. The end of the story tells us a lot about Joseph. It identifies for us that his "explanatory style" (the way he chooses to interpret negative experiences in his life) is one of complete trust in the sovereignty of God even in the midst of the most horrific of circumstances.

Joseph declares to his brothers as they cower in terror, "Now don't be worried or angry with yourselves because you sold me here. God sent me here ahead of you to save people's lives...God sent me here ahead of you to make sure you have some descendants left on earth and to keep you alive in an amazing way." Do you see it? The world would have perished in a famine that would have taken them by surprise if Joseph had not been positioned to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. His brothers had no idea that they were unwitting tools in the hand of God. The key however, lay with Joseph all along. If he had given up on God and His promises, he would probably have succumbed to the temptation of Potiphar's wife, reasoning that he might as well enjoy the favor and good graces of his master's wife since God had "abandoned" him. His promotion to Prime Minister and his destiny to save the world from famine was always God's sovereign plan. Its actualization however, was completely dependent on how much change (no matter how painful it was and how ill prepared he was) Joseph was willing to endure so that he could grow. His growth was what prepared him to function in his role as Prime Minister of a pagan nation that held the key to the worlds survival during seven years of famine.

This is why Joseph's story fascinates me. Whatever you're going through, you must be willing to understand that the changes that are taking place are essential to your growth so that you can step fully into God's calling and purpose for your life. Whether you are in the pit, the palace (as a slave) or in the prison, your season of ruling as ""Prime Minister" is imminent if you are willing to endure the changes, no matter how painful, and grow. So, my two-pronged question for you is this. What fears are causing you to resist the changes that need to take place in your life? What changes do you need to make to ensure that you don't short circuit God's plans for you?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Amazing Grace (and this is no woman I'm talking about)

I thought boot camp was over! If you've read my "chronicles" you'd understand what I'm referring to. This may probably be the hardest blog I've written to date as I have to keep out the names to protect the innocent (the innocent being me, as I have been threatened to within an inch of my life not to divulge names).

With our church plant growing ever so slowly but surely, my wife and I have really felt the need to downsize and scale back our living expenses. To this end we are selling our home, I've gotten rid of my really nice truck, and I've also just sold my Harley (parting was such sweet sorrow). All of this downsizing has it's attendant challenges, such as, we need a new truck to pull the trailer with all our equipment in it on Sundays. I had initially considered and even attempted to borrow the money for a used truck, but none of that really panned out. Just when I was beginning to wonder if I was finally at the end of my rope, something that is nothing short of miraculous happened.
Deciding that it was probably best to buy a vehicle outright, I needed to raise $9,000.00 in cash to add to what I already had so that I could pay for a truck outright and not have to worry about monthly payments, which, in our new and scaled down lifestyle would be an added bonus. I called a friend of mine in New England, and a few minutes after we had hung up the phone, he called back and informed me that he and his wife had decided to give $5,000.00 towards the purchase of the truck. After I'd picked up my jaw from the floor and thanked him profusely, I proceeded to call some other friends (also in New England) and share this incredible testimony of God's Amazing Grace. They committed to give us $3,000.00 toward the truck! On a roll now, and thoroughly excited about whatever it was that God had up His proverbial sleeve, I called another friend who happened to be in a plane on the way to Jamaica where he was officiating at a wedding. He pledged to give us the remaining $1,000.00.

As if that isn't enough, I have another friend who figured that, church planting must be pretty arduous work and so decided that my family and I needed a vacation. He proceeded to cover the expenses, including accomodation, airline tickets, and a rental vehicle for my entire family for a trip to South Padre Island in south Texas, for an entire week. I could really get used to this kind of pampering. Seriously though, it's been an incredibly tough battle as we strive to fulfill our purpose in this wonderful city to which we have been called. A friend of mine recently remarked that it would be nice to celebrate the occasional victories as we navigate this uncharted course. I dare say these count as huge causes for celebration. I am truly thankful for God's Amazing Grace demonstrably manifest through incredible people that love His Kingdom and believe in our calling.

My family's deepest gratitude and heartfelt thanks to all of you "glowing angels." You know who your are!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

To buy or not to buy? Is that the question?

If you've seen Shrek III you probably have an image of Antonio Banderas' character "Puss-in boots" indelibly etched in your mind. The most appealing part of his character (at least to me) was the way his already large round eyes would further enlarge, and he would have that, "butter-won't-melt-in-my-mouth" expression. It was usually too late for you to do anything about it by the time you discovered he wasn't as innocent as his demeanor suggested.

Yesterday, I was over at the home of some friends of ours and they showed me the two photographs that I've posted here, which not only reminded me of Banderas' character, but of subtle ways that we can get sucked into doing things that we ordinarily wouldn't be caught dead doing. Scroll back up and take a closer look at the two photos. The first one shows Catherine holding a long-haired chihuahua puppy with it's ear drooped, its little eyes round and pleading and its paws in a position that suggests that it desperately needs to be protected. This little runt whose name by the way is Duke, was at the dog shelter when they found him. He clearly recognized that competition for a good home was pretty strong and so he turned on all the charms and wiles that he could muster. It worked! Catherine insisted that they had to give the little fella a home (though she still swears that it was really Ron who couldn't resist the temptation and desperately wanted the dog), and so home came Duke to join the already happy dog clan of Penny and Pogie.

Now the next picture reveals Duke in his true form. Notice how he is comfortably nested in Ron's lap, by the pool, with both ears perked inordinately high, smiling eyes, and an apparently huge grin on his little chihuahua face (all that appears to be missing is a tall glass of tequila). To all intents and purposes he is eating out of Ron's palm, but the real story is that Duke has the whole Mast family including Penny and Pogie, eating out of his Palm. Circumstances can sometimes treat us the same way. At the outset they look, for all the world, to be placid and easily navigable. Somewhere during the journey though, things change and we find ourselves desperately trying to keep up with the circumstances, while asking ourselves what possessed us to embark on the project in the first place. I guess the moral of the story is, don't buy a long-haired chihuahua when you already have two other dogs, until you've really thought through all that it entails.

Seriously though, I guess the real moral of the story is the fact that, not everything is as it appears to be, so we really need to take the time and think through whatever it is we are doing and make sure it is what we are supposed to be doing. Come to think of it, what's such a tiny dog doing with a name like Duke?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. It's true, the name of my blog has changed. This change is evidence of the continuing metamorphosis that I am undergoing in my life. I am learning more and more each day that, in order to significantly impact the world around me, and the lives of the people I am called to invest in, I must be willing to jump to the next curve. I can't be content with improving the same curve I find myself on by 10 or 20%, but instead, I must be committed to being willing to make mistakes while pioneering new ventures and new paths. I must be willing to polarize people and create emotive responses to what I do.

Don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that I go out of my way to make people mad (though some might argue differently), but I'm saying that what I do must elicit a response one way or another, good or bad, rather than leave people impassive. It's kind of like Harley Davidson motorcycles. No one is impassive about Harley's. Whatever your feelings about them and the people who ride them, you almost certainly have an emotional response one way or another to these classic, powerful machines. Another great example is TIVO. A great invention no doubt, especially to those of us who love watching shows like Heroes, 24 and NFL football, but find ourselves unable to always watch them live. TIVO guarantees that we don't miss our favorite shows. I assure you though, that advertisers hate TIVO. Anything that allows the viewer to randomly skip through the ads and get to the juicy bits of the show, is definetely going to polarize the advertisers. Other than that one Sunday in January or February (Superbowl Sunday) most of us would rather skip the ads, and that's why there's such a great market for TIVO.

I am learning that I can't let the "status quo" dictate to me what can and can't be done. I'm learning that Western Union made a huge blunder when they determined that there would never be a market for the telephone and so they remained a monopoly in the telegraph industry instead of making the leap to the next curve. Unfortunately, their lack of innovative insight remains a topic of barbs and jabs around the water cooler in many offices where the internet is now standard. It's hard to imagine the leap from telegraphs to internet without the invention of the telephone!

So I'm trying to be innovative and creative about how we go about carving a niche for The Well in the Orlando area. I'm beginning by revising our Mission Statement (which I'm confident most of the folks that attend our church probably couldn't recite) and simply going with a mantra that better expresses who we are and what we are called to do. When you think of The Well, think simply of "an encounter that authentically changes lives."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!!!

It's Sunday June 17th, and it's Father's Day. It's meant to be the day that dads are celebrated and we get to do no work (unless golfing is considered work). It didn't quite work out like that for me. You see we have to tow the trailer containing all our equipment, to the theater where our church holds services. Since I am one of only two people with a vehicle that can tow the trailer (the other one is my associate pastor, Ron, who lives next door to me, and so it's either his car or mine every Sunday), I was up bright and early and set out for the storage unit where the trailer is parked during the week.

We leave home at 6.45am ( a friend of mine would call this O-dark-thirty am) so that we can get all the equipment set up and tested before service begins at 9.30am. My son, who diligently helps with this every Sunday (those of you who have teenage kids know that it is no mean feat to have them voluntarily get up before the sun does), forgot the keys to the trailer padlocks on the bumper of my car, and so when we drove off, they dropped off! It wasn't until we got to the theater and wanted to unlock the padlocks that we discovered we had no keys. I had to carefully wind my way all the way back to the storage facility and then back to the theater, until thankfully I found the "mangled" keys lying in the middle of the road somewhere.

While we were in service, My car, with the trailer still attached to it, was towed from the parking lot where it had been parked across a couple of (okay ten) parking spots. We had to ask the theater if they would be willing to allow us to store our carts and other equipment in their storage room until we were able to recover the trailer, and they very graciously consented. Meanwhile my wallet containing my ID, bank cards, and other valuables were all conveniently left in my car during service. I'm still looking for the silver lining in this cloud. So, other than that it's been an incredible Father's Day. How about yours!?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sermons and Cookouts

Huh? What do sermons and cookouts have in common, I hear you ask? I've been recently reflecting on some great advice I got from a mentor of mine a while ago, and on how that advice is impacting the way I think about and approach ministry. As I met with my Lead Team yesterday (the guys and gals who help me think, so that I can do a better job of leading The Well), something stood out to me. We got a ton of stuff done but in the process we laughed and joked with one another a lot. We genuinely enjoyed being with one another and that point was borne out by the fact that we all hung around for a full hour after the meeting concluded.

Our lead team meetings are a little different now from how we started out. We used to meet around a large conference table over at the church offices, and in an attempt to create a warm and relaxed atmosphere (which really engenders creativity), I would make sure we had snacks and a bowl of candy in the center of the table. I don't know how much community we built, or how relaxed the atmosphere was, I'm not even sure how much we accomplished, but I do know we all got a lot of sugar.

We do it a little bit differently now (I call this, "progressive revelation" which is simply a more polite way of saying I'm learning and growing into my role), as we meet rotationally in the homes of the different members of the Lead Team and we do a potluck meal (If all else fails, make sure there's good food available). The relaxed atmosphere is definetely not contrived, and because of it, we are more open to throwing around ideas without the fear of getting them "shot down" since there is a lot more trust and cameraderie.

This brings me to what my old mentor once told me. In response to a discussion we were having about impacting people through ministry, he remarked that I was at my finest when I was behind a barbecue grill at a cookout. At first I was a little affronted by this as I supposed it to mean that I was better at barbecueing that at teaching the scriptures. With further clarifying conversations and the passage of time, I have come to realize that he was simply speaking about the relaxed, easygoing and comfortable style about me anytime I was hanging out with friends at a cookout. He insisted that my preaching and teaching skills were abundant, but that if I could just transfer the persona that was behind the grille to the pulpit, I would connect with and impact people significantly more.

In hindsight I'm truly thankful for men like my mentor who are willing to tell you the truth about you, even at the risk of offending you, so that you can become all that God has called you to be. As I've continued to "evolve" in my leadership and pastoral skills, I am learning to apply this idea consistently so that I am the same person on the platform as I am off it. Besides, people just seem to identify better with someone who seems more human and flawed, rather than hyper-holy and near-perfect. Sometimes though, I think I need a big old barbecue grill beside me on the platform to remind me to relax and enjoy the moment. Steaks anyone?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Moving to Colorado Springs was easier said than done. Making the decision to move was not the hard part though. You see, I had read Ted Haggard's, Primary Purpose and became convinced that Colorado Springs was where I needed to be. In November of 1996 ( as I'd previously stated) I was praying and fasting to get some real clarity concerning what our next step would be. I began to sense that we were supposed to relocate from South Bend, IN. The problem was that I had three places I was considering, of which Colorado Springs was one, and I needed to have something or someone tip the scales one way or another.

I had really loved my first trip to Colorado Springs in 1994, and Ted Haggard's book certainly weighed in heavily in favor of our moving there. I loved the fact that there was someone who believed that a city could be transformed through love, prayer, communication and relationship. Ted's book was like water in an arid desert. To know that what I had always believed about city transformation was not only documented in print, but was actually taking place in Colorado Springs through New Life Church, convinced me that I was supposed to be a part of that. I spoke to a couple of trusted confidants and they had nothing but positive encouragement for me in my desire to relocate to Colorado Springs. In fact, the Dean of my college said, "I can't see anything but good coming out of a move to Colorado Springs." (Years later he would move there himself).

With all of that positive affirmation in the "bank" as well as my wifes hearty support (and nothing else in the bank), we packed up all our wordly goods into a 24 foot Ryder truck (we had sold most of our entire household furniture for $750.00 wholesale), hitched my SAAB 900 turbo to the back of the truck, and my six year old son and I set off on the journey of our lives. My wife had some professional exams to take and so she remained behind with our two daughters, one of whom was just three weeks old, for three more weeks. My first clue that we were headed in the right direction was when the brakes locked up on the trailer hauling my car, somewhere on the border of Illinois and Iowa. It took over five hours to finally get a replacement trailer from Ryder, and we finally made it to Omaha, NE at the ungodly hour of 12.30am, having left South Bend at 7.00am. the previous day.

Our inauspicious arrival in Colorado Springs was marked by a deluge of rain, and so I didn't unload the Ryder truck for two days. Finally I contacted Ted, whom I had met a couple of times, and had discussed the possibility of coming to work for New Life Church. He expressed joy at hearing from me and mentioned that he had tried to reach me back in Indiana a couple of weeks earlier to encourage me to consider moving out to The Springs and working for New Life. I was shocked, because I had actually picked up from South Bend with no guarantees of employment, and since I hadn't heard from him, I assumed he wasn't interested in hiring me. Apparently, at the time he had called, my phone had been disconnected (for a day or two) for non payment of my bill, and of all the times he could have called, it was then.

I guess God really wanted to see if I would be obedient and move even when I didn't know that I had the guarantee of employment. If the truth be told, it never crossed my mind not to move even though I hadn't heard from Ted. In fact, I was willing to take a customer service job answering the phones at MCI (at the time, the largest employer in The Springs) in order to ensure that I was in Colorado Springs. I set up an appointment to meet with Ted four days after arriving in The Springs, and that was the day I began working for New Life Church. Ted had the administrator cut me my first paycheck and I couldn't contain my excitement at what God had in store for me. The next five years would prove some of the most memorable and rewarding years of my life.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Home is where the heart is!

I'm finally home! Yay!! I left Naples at 4.30am this morning, with a couple of other guys who are riding all the way to Montgomery, AL today. Yikes! A number of the other "sissy" guys decided that they would sleep in and hit the road around 10.00am, which, incidentally is when I arrived home after a long and exhausting ride. Was the trip worth it? In tangible as well as immeasurable ways, it was well worth it. I connected with some dear friends and made some new ones. I had a chance to catch up on some much needed "me" time, as well as some great prayer times. You'll be amazed at how focused you can be in prayer when you have nothing but the hum of a harley and a wide open road.

I am posting a couple of photographs for you to see. One of them is the picture we took at the southernmost point in Key West. The other one is a photo of a wet and bedraggled group of guys at a gas station on Alligator Alley, having survived the downpour. If you can't tell, I'm the good looking one with the "high waisters" and suspenders. I hope you had a great week too. Come back soon and visit, and I promise that we are returning to our Chronicles of an Alien saga.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Kiss of Grace

Today was without a doubt the most eventful and unusual day of our trip. The day started out ordinarily, with the traditional photograph at the southernmost point in the USA, which is only 90 miles from Cuba. In fact, at that point in Key West, you are closer to Cuba than you are to Miami. As we rode towards Miami, the first couple of hours passed by uneventfully, and then the drama began. One of the guys lost control of his motorcycle and ended up in a ditch while going 45 miles an hour. He hit his head and the bike landed on top of him. He had a welt on his head the size of a coconut as well as a deep gash. Against his vociferous protests, he was taken to the Homestead hospital ER where he literally spent the whole day until he was checked by a doctor and certified a veritable "miracle." Meanwhile Dennis' wife called him to find out how Rick (the injured rider) was doing. She informed him that for the last hour (prior to the crash) she couldn't stop interceding for him in prayer because she'd had this ominous sense that something was not right.

When Dennis informed her of the accident, it immediately made sense as to the urgency in prayer that she had sensed. Most people who crash on a motorbike at 45 miles an hour, without a helmet on, and who hit their heads, generally don't walk away from the scene of the accident.Dennis stayed behind with Rick at the ER while the rest of us left for Naples where we were scheduled to spend the night at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club (a really swanky place).

As we hit Alligator Alley, the heavens opened up with a deluge the likes of which I have never ridden in before. For the next 90 odd miles we crawled along at 35 to 40 miles an hour. Even with our rain gear on we were soaked to the skin from the splashes caused by semi-trucks driving in the opposite direction at 70miles an hour. The rain was so heavy, even the alligators were smart enough to stay under shelter. We had decided on the route primarily because we wanted to see the alligators sunning themselves along the shore. We saw nothing! By the time we arrived in Naples, we were famished, and since it was our last night together, we decided to splurge on a really nice meal. Dressed in our biker gear (shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, skull caps and whatever other comfortable paraphernalia goes with the biker image), we rode up to Flemings ( a rather upscale steak house) and informed them that there would be ten of us for dinner. They said they would set up a table and let us know when it was ready.

About ten minutes later, the duty manager (a rather sorry fellow named Rick), came out and informed us that, while their restaurant was by no means prejudiced, they did not serve people of our dress style at that restaurant. He further stated that, since he didn't want to turn ten people away, he had arranged to have a "private" room set up for us where we could dine in peace. The only snag was that the airconditioning was not working and so it might be a little hot. A little hot? In a room with no windows or exterior egress? What a brilliant deduction. Now, a few of the guys have tatoos on their arms and legs, and evidently, Rick in all of his limited wisdom, figured that they would be bad for Flemings business to be seen hobnobbing with the more "comely" crowd. The amazing thing about Ricks steorotypical prejudice, is that one of the tatooed guys comes from a stinking rich family, and all of them are pastor's of incredible churches. If this wasn't prejudice then I don't know what prejudice is.

We calmly informed them that we would solve their predicament by taking our business elsewhere. We ended up at Outback Steakhouse, a few miles down the road from Flemings, where we ordered a sumptuous meal. Our meal would have totaled somwhere north of $250.00 with gratuity and tax, but when we asked for our bill we were informed by our waiter that someone had noticed us praying before we ate and so decided that we would be a great group to invest in. He had anonymously picked up the tab. So let me try and summarize the day. A miraculous deliverance from death, a heart stopping downpour, and then "kicked" out of one restaurant, only to be celebrated and feted at another. What an amazingly fitting ending to a really unusual day. I think it was a kiss of grace from God. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Heaven is weeping

Today is our only down-time while on the bike trip. In other words, it's the day we get to rest our sore backsides from sitting in the saddle so long. We had planned to tour Key West and visit some of the historical sites, but interestingly enough, today turned out to be down time in more ways than one. I found out that Key West has the lowest amount of rainfall in the state of Florida (something about the land mass being too small to capture major rain clouds forming over it). While Key West boasts 57" of rain a year, much of the rest of the state would have had that much rain by this time of the year already.

It would appear that Key West decided to have all 57" of their allotted annual rainfall while we are here. It began to rain last night. Driving sheets of pelting rain. The kind of rain that turns a three hour bike trip into a five hour bike trip. It hasn't stopped raining yet and it is past 9.00pm. That means it's been raining for more than 24 hours non-stop. It almost makes a liar of the statistic that suggests that Key West has the lowest amount of rainfall in the state.

Then it struck me. Of course it's raining in Key West, Heaven is weeping on our behalf. Heaven knows how devastated we are at the passing away of Ify, and so heaven joins its tears to ours. She must have really made an impression, for heaven to weep for 24 hours straight, in a land that usually experiences very little rain fall. My wife tells me that it rained rather heavily in Orlando too. My tears are also incessant and unceasing. I am comforted though, by the knowledge that a wise man once said, "the darkest time of the night is just before the dawn." It seems to me to be pitch black right now, so dawn must be around the corner.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Goodnight Ify, we'll see you later!

I arrived in Key West this evening as planned, but today has been somewhat of a difficult day for me. You see, I just found out that the wife of a very dear friend of mine died of cancer yesterday. I was in London, England at the end of March this year and spoke at his church. I remember encouraging him as we spoke about his wife's illness, telling him how fervently we are praying for his wife's healing. The death of a spouse has to rank highly on the list of the hardest things a man might have to deal with. To have to bury your wife at a young age (I'm not even certain if she had turned 40 yet, and if she had she certainly wasn't much past that).

I grieve deeply with her family for their irreplaceable loss. She has left behind a couple of young kids who will have to come to terms with the fact that their mom will never see them grow up and get married. She won't be at any more recitals, sporting events, family vacations and all the great things families do together that create memories and history. Ify, you will be sorely missed! I'm not even sure what to say to my friend Agu, to help console him in this terrible season of pain and loss. What words adequately convey one's true feelings without sounding trite and empty? I imagine that the only way to get through this sort of devastating loss is to take it one day at a time. The loss is immeasurable. But that is only true for those of us left to mourn Ify's homegoing. For her, it is no loss at all. Like Paul stated in his inimitable style, "To live is Christ and to die is gain."

Ify is in a much better place than we are right now. Her labor is over. Her work is done. No more bills, no more laundry, no more exercise, no more traffic... all of the things that seem to loom so large while we walk on this earth, suddenly pale to insignificance when viewed through the lens of eternity. A good friend of mine used to say that our lives are simply micro-narratives in God's greater story, which is the meta-narrative. Like Shakespeare said in one of his many inspired writings, "Life is a stage...with its entrances and exits." Ify your part in the grand meta-narrative of God's story no doubt sweetened the plot for all of us. As you bow graciously and take your exit, we bid you goodnight with heavy hearts, consoled only by the knowledge that we will see you again soon. We love you, and thanks for the memories.

Monday, June 4, 2007

This Incredible Life

We didn't quite make it to Miami today. We stopped off in Boynton Beach (about 50 miles north of Miami). This was the plan all along. I just didn't know it! It's weird not setting my own schedule and having to entrust others with the daunting task of how my time is spent. I mean, what if they don't allocate enough time for me to save the world? The "road captain" tells us what time we will meet for breakfast in the morning; when we will meet for our Bible study; what time we will set off from the hotel, and on and on. Man, it seems the only thing not planned for me on this trip is when I go to the bathroom. But these are some of the rigors of the road and I am content to not have to worry about my own schedule for one week. We were supposed to have set out from Daytona Beach at 10.00am this morning, however, someone's bike developed a problem that had us sitting in the Daytona Harley dealership (the worlds largest Harley store) for more than three hours while the problem was being fixed. Mind you, I can think of a lot worse places to have had to spend three hours.

It turned out to be a really good thing, as we spent the time getting to know some of the other guys on the bike trip that we aren't quite as familiar with. I got to talk to a guy who has buried five family members in the last two years. His 17-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver two years ago. Last year both his parents were also killed by a drunk driver. In january this year he was diagnosed with a debilitating terminal disease (I forget the medical term used to describe his condition), and told to get his affairs in order. He was informed, rather matter-of-factly, that he may or may not live to see Christmas '07. As his condition has continued to deteriorate, he finds himself now needing to walk with a cane. He is, however, one of the most joyful people I have ever met. Constantly laughing and joking, he is convinced that God's plan for his life isn't fulfilled yet and so he isn't about to die soon. He came on the bike trip (though he moves with extreme difficulty and is in constant pain) because he wanted to be around godly men who could pray for and encourage him.

Godly men? I felt like such a whiner! I often think I am in dire straits with the stuff I have to contend with until I meet guys like Andy. Suddenly, in comparison, it is obvious that my life is relatively easy, and that instead of focusing entirely on my small universe and the pressures I face, I need to be about the business that has been appointed for me by God: Loving people and impacting their lives for the better. Parent's shouldn't have to bury their kids! In the Nigerian culture, if a child dies prematurely, the parents aren't allowed to attend the funeral, because traditionally a parent is not meant to see their childs corpse. I am praying for Andy daily this week. After all, it's not as if I'm busy doing a ton else. Why, I don't even have to set my own schedule! I'll speak to you from Key West tomorrow. And, oh, if you remember, and you can carve out the time, please send up a prayer for Andy too!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

On the Road Again!

Okay, so I lied when I said that I wouldn't interrupt the posts on Chronicles of an Alien. I can't help but bring you up to speed on where I am this week. I am writing this sitting in my hotel room in Daytona Beach overlooking an amazing view of the ocean. For the last four years I've done this annual motorcycle ride with a group of pastor friends of mine. We spend a week covering roughly 2000 miles. We've ridden in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we've done the Florida East and West coasts, we've started in Alabama and worked our way up into Northern Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

This year we decided to do Florida again, which is particularly good for me since I don't have far to travel. We'll make our way down through Fort Lauderdale to Miami tomorrow. On Tuesday we'll go all the way to Key West. We'll spend a day in Key West and then begin the return journey on Thursday, up through alligator alley on Florida's west coast. This is one of the most relaxing and refreshing times for me. The open road and the sound of a Harley engine are all that I need to help me focus. I usually come back from these rides re-invigorated and ready to jump in at the deep end again.

I'll give you a brief summary of each day as we arrive at each destination. See you in Miami!