Thursday, May 29, 2008

What's Floating Through My Mind?

Highs are expected to be in the 80's all next week here in K-town.

Indian Springs VBS kicks off this Sunday night. Although I have very little involvement this year for the first time in many a moon, I am looking forward to seeing how VBS works in my new environment.

For years, Chick-fil-a has ruled the chicken sandwich roost (read that again-- that was a funny play on words that I did not plan for but it worked out rather well). Now, however, both McDonald's and Arby's have entered the fray with a "southern-style" chicken sandwich complete with pickle. I have tried them both and I can safely say while they are better than their fried chicken breast cousins at their respective restaurants, they still do not hold a candle to Chick-fil-a. Besides Chick-fil-a closes on Sunday because they love Jesus- got to give them props.

The ISBC softball team lost a nail-biter in the last inning tonight. We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I retired from the game after going 2 for 2 with an RBI.

I did not have a chance to eat dinner before the game so afterwards Paige, Ellie and I hit the Blountville Burger King at about 9:54 PM. That is a very interesting place with a rather unique clientele late on a Thursday evening. However, what I wanted to share is in regard to the move by the fast food giants to see how fast they can kill you with fat. Burger King has a new Steakhouse burger. I had eaten pretty light today so I decided I would drown my losing sorrows in it. They up-sold me to the "loaded" Steakhouse burger. This bad boy has a rather large (although paper thin) beef patty with cheese, fried onion rings, bacon and, last but not least, potato spread. That would be smashed potatoes with butter and chives mixed in-- and that goes on the burger instead of mayo, lettuce and tomato. I felt like I was sinning.

Summer Interns are a wonderful thing. James Eaton is his name and he is doing a great job. He reads this so at the risk of giving him the big head, I will tell you that he is demonstrating a passion for ministry. If you don't have a passion for it, ministry is certainly NOT the place for you. James, play time is over now that you are back from HHI. We have a big few weeks in front of us.

We broke out the Indiana Jones trilogy the other night to study up before we head out to the theater to take in number four. I did not remember The Temple of Doom being that full of gory stuff and, well, doom. It pales in comparison to the first. I am The Last Crusade away from going to the movies.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How A Casual Canoe Trip Turns Into A Parable Of God's Providence

Note: This is the longest blog I have written to date. Read it when you have a few minutes.

Friday afternoon, Paige and I decided to take a little canoe trip down the Holston River. It was our first time on any body of water besides Fort Patrick Henry Lake. The plan was to put in at Laurel Run Park and float down to the Surgoinsville bridge boat ramp. By car, that is about a 5-mile trip. By boat... well, let's just say that was a miscalculation that will come into play later.

As we waited for Paige to get off from work, Ellie and I worked to pull together all the things we would need for the trip. I ran through the house with my manly fanny pack obtaining items I thought might benefit us. Flashlight, pack of matches, billfold, Leatherman, .40 caliber Glock--check. The flashlight was a complete and total God-thing-- again, more later.

We had hoped to get on the water by 4PM or so. But after a few delays, we wound up pushing off from Laurel Run at straight up 6PM with a few bottles of water, a sack full of snacks and the cutest little sea-faring, pink-clad, five-year-old you ever saw.

6:05- Feelings of bliss and satisfaction were abounding. Each of us seemed to have that feeling of having never experienced something, yet, we were immensely enjoying the great weather, wildlife and weird looking fishermen.

6:18- Ellie saw her first "gooses" of the day and promptly had her grammar corrected by her father.

6:20- We passed under the Goshen Valley Rd. bridge.

6:38- Observed how shallow the river was in most places.

7:00- Paddled around the second island we had encountered. Once again we opted to paddle around the right side.

7:15- Ellie finally asked about the "wavy water." After explaining that they were called rapids, however shallow and "unrapid-like" they may be, Ellie promptly began referring to them as "rabbits."

7:16- Ellie decides she does not like going through the rabbits and demands that they be avoided at all costs.

7:30- Ellie is hungry and has had enough of the trip. Mom and Dad decide they have had enough of her and plot to bring along a smaller rubber raft which can be pulled behind our canoe at a distance of our choosing.

7:56- I start thinking we should be seeing something that looks like Surgoinsville by now.

8:03- We enter a narrow corridor on the right side of another island that is slightly dark due to the now-setting sun and the proximity of the trees. Abandoned boats and flood debris litter the banks causing Paige to comment that it feels like we just entered a scene from "Apocalypse Now." Unbeknownst to me, Paige begins a personal prayer vigil while she paddles.

8:04- I strap the fanny pack around my thigh and unzip it to allow for quicker access to its contents.

8:27-The sun continues to plummet on the horizon and uneasiness begins to rise in our hearts. I begin to run through scenarios in my mind. Example: If I call my brother-in-law ( a Major with the Johnson City Police Department) perhaps he could get a GPS track on our cell phones without me having to create too much of a public ruckus.

8:39- Ellie awakens from her 3rd nap and wonders aloud for what seemed like the 178th time, "When are we going to be at the car?" I spot a flock of geese and in an attempt to distract her (and ease the mounting tension) I proclaim that I can speak goose. After exchanging a few honks with them, they fly off together as if on cue. I tell Ellie I told them to go find our car. Ellie doesn't seem to believe me.

8: 43- Ellie asks, "Daddy, did you really tell them to go find the car?"

8:48- Darkness is fast approaching and we are nowhere close to where we need to be. I make the decision for us to paddle across the river to the opposite side where I had spotted car lights passing by on a road. Finally, my spirit of frivolity gives way to survival mode. Paige is visibly nervous and Ellie is becoming more frightened as she senses that all is not well. I pray.

9:02- We reach the bank and make our way to a spot that we can more easily get out. My arms ache because I had been paddling with great purpose for a solid hour and, bless her heart, so it was for Paige.

After we all got out of the canoe I grabbed the front of it and hoisted it out of the river as far as I could and scotched it up behind a tree. Reaching into my fanny pack I was thankful that somehow I thought to grab that flashlight because now we faced about a 30 foot climb straight up a steep embankment, through some thick underbrush to reach the road. We could not make out foot placements because it was so dark under the trees now and even with dim light from the flashlight it was slow going. At one point Ellie became entangled in some thorns and cried out. The only thing I could do was to grab her up and carry her the rest of the way.

When we reached the road, Paige finally returned a phone call to Aunt Sue who had been one of the multiple phone calls we had received. Our cell phones had been ringing off and on for well over an hour, but we were too determined in our paddling to mess with them. MamaRie had gotten worried when she had not heard from us and rightfully so. Now Sue was in on the act.

As we walked down the road, I see that just ahead is a house with someone walking across the road in front of it. "Excuse me, where are we, sir," I ask.

"You are on Miller's Bluff Road," replied the gentleman, though I could still not make out any facial features.

"How close are we to the Surgoinsville bridge," I inquired.

"You are about four miles away," He responded.

My heart sank, but I asked, "If we continue to walk down this road will it lead us there?"

Before he could answer, he turned and began to walk toward his house and as he did so the light from his porch illuminated his face just enough for me to make out his features. I KNEW HIM!

"Stan!?" I said.

"Tiger?" he responded.

I had known this man for years. He is a licensed Christian counselor and minister who had preached at my former church once and whom I had also had the pleasure of interviewing at WCQR. He never hesitated to offer to take me in his truck to get our vehicle while Paige and Ellie stayed and warmed up in his cabin.

As we drove and talked about our misadventures, it hit me. The feeling was so overwhelming, I almost got misty eyed in his truck. My God had impressed upon me to get off the river precisely at the home of a friend who could meet our needs. A friend who just happened to be out and about at the time when we were walking by. That's my God!

In retrospect, I get angry with myself for not taking enough time to make sure I know exactly how long a trip like that should take on the water instead of the road. However, it just so happens that I have done a lot of study in recent months about living the kind of life God created us to live (Wild At Heart by John Eldridge) and taking risks and making the most of our opportunities (In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson.)

It is possible to totally minimize risk in our lives. We can map our lives out so that we can totally control nearly every aspect of it. And where does God fit into that? There have been times in my life in which God probably could have rightfully asked me, "What do you need me for?" I did not have big enough plans, nor were my goals lofty enough to merit God's interceding in them.

My family now has a story to tell of God's amazing providence in our lives all because we chose to break the mold that has dominated our lives as of late. No one can convince me that my throwing in my flashlight at the last minute or our departing the river at just the right place to find much needed assistance was anything but God's provision.

Seek Him. Be adventurous. Watch our Lord and Savior work in your midst. Tell the Good News.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tacos and Toaster Ovens

Most people know by now that I am utilizing NutriSystem in order to lose a little weight. While trying to make tacos last night, I had a little mishap.

NutriSystem tacos come with three small corn tortilla shells and a little packet of topping to which you add water and nuke it in the microwave. While my taco topping was reconstituting, I decided to pop my shells in the toaster oven to heat them up. I had just turned around to stir my topping when my shells burst into flame. Yes, I am dead serious... I had a big, hairy fire going under my kitchen cabinet. So what do I do? I size up the situation and quickly decide I need to open the door in order to get the shells out and throw them in the sink. Bad idea. I forgot that opening the door would oxygenate the fire. I barely got out of the way before the fireball could singe my eyebrows.

I have to give props where props are due. Paige, reached under the sink and handed me the fire extinguisher. It only took a quick blast for me to have everything under complete control.

The moral of this story is two-fold:
  1. Don't nuke your NutriSystem taco shells.
  2. A fire extinguisher in the kitchen is a must.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Latest Narnia Installment... "Off The Hook!"

I'm not going to lie to you. Sometimes the radio gig has its privileges. I got an email a few days ago that said a deal had been made that would allow the WCQR staff and families to catch a special viewing of Prince Caspian this morning at 10 AM. The kicker was that Paige was scheduled to work today. However, yesterday she informed me that she was taking Friday off in order to "get some stuff done." So we were able to go. Don't be hatin' on me-- but we got free popcorn and drinks too! Heck, that's about a $35 value for a family of three.

Anyway, the movie rocked. I regret that I never read the books growing up- and still may. I would not want to ruin anything for you so I will refrain from elaborating, but, like the books and the first film, this film is replete with theological metaphor.

In one scene the Pevensie kids have returned to Narnia and are in the process of trying to find a certain place when Lucy, the youngest sister, catches a glimpse of Aslan. Now Aslan has not been seen in over 1300 years (Narnia years), so that was a big deal. No one else sees him and finds it hard to believe that Lucy actually did. At one point, Susan, the elder sister, says to Lucy, "I wonder why I can't see him (Aslan)?" Lucy replies, "Maybe because you aren't looking for him."

And so it is with Jesus Christ. The not-yet Christ-follower wonders why he sees no evidence of Christ in and around him. The Christ-follower experiences periods of time when Christ seems nowhere to be found or distant. Both situations occur as a result of not making the effort to look for Him. It is so easy to become distracted and lose focus on Christ's working in your life. If you are not centered on Him, you will begin to attribute the things that happen around you to your own ability, or science, or medicine, or luck or... whatever.

Each day we must decide to pursue Christ with the expectation that we will find Him and the understanding that He never lost us.

p.s.- Thanks to Marquee Cinema in the Fort Henry Mall for hooking us up. GO SEE THE MOVIE!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Since I Last Posted...

I have been extremely busy...
  • I watched one of my former students/disciples receive his Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech. Congrats, Matt! I am extremely proud of you and am glad you will be coming back to grad school in God's country, the University of Tennessee.
  • Last week, I literally had something church-related to do every single night.
  • I have gotten a new summer intern. James Eaton, a young man who grew up in ISBC and just finished his freshman year at North Greenville University, will help make the magic happen this summer.
  • We started working with WCQR to bring an artist to ISBC for a concert this fall. Can't say anymore than that right now. DON'T ASK!
  • Saw DecembeRadio rock the house in Kingsport last Friday night.
  • Rejoiced as a young man who went to the concert prayed to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior!
  • Saw (and participated) as our ISBC softball team went 3-0 during the first week of competition, winning the last 2 games by a combined score of 41-0.
  • Saw and praised the Lord as ISBC voted to free up the funds necessary to complete the cafe construction in the Student Assembly Center.
  • As for weight-loss, between going to Atlanta for the graduation, having a busy week and Mother's Day, let's just say I had a few more extracurricular meals than I should have. We will get back to the weigh-in this Wednesday.

Hopefully I can get back in the swing of things and start posting on a regular basis.