Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Fall Foliage Tour

The other evening Dorothy and I were talking with our neighbors in their front yard. It was a typical cloudy fall day. Suddenly I realized that the sunlight had broken through the clouds and a shaft of light was shining directly through a tree – a glorious red and orange-leafed maple tree in the front yard of a neighbor down the street. It was like a spotlight had been turned on and God was saying, “Look at this!” We all turned and looked with awe.

One of our family traditions is to take a Fall Foliage Tour. I drive, Dorothy is in the front seat and, when they were at home, the girls rode in the back. Now they have to ride in their own cars, with their own families, behind us through Tulsa’s Memorial Park Cemetery. The place is quiet. There is not much traffic, and the trees are spectacular. The roads are a little tricky in places, but the trip is worth it. In the old days we could feed the ducks, geese and swans, but since the pond has been renovated and the swans moved across town, the signs say we cannot feed the birds.

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I learned long ago to embrace the beauty of a cemetery. I have a life-time of friends and loved ones buried in cemeteries. I do not fear the resting places of the dead. In fact, many of the tourist spots of the world are really cemeteries (the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal of India, the cathedrals of Europe, etc).

c96207c0Here it is Halloween 2009. In today’s top-ranked movies, books and TV programs, vampires and zombies are everywhere. It’s a world of fear out there where people don’t die and stay buried. But I still hear God saying, “Look at this. Behold the beauty of creation. See the wonder of grace at work. Find life in the midst of grief and death. Know the love and truth that will set you free from fears of death and life. Follow Me, I know the way.”

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Stand in awe of God’s majesty. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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It’s Magic (and Hard Work)

During our adventure at the Tulsa State Fair this year, we stopped to see the magic show performed by Ridgeway and Johnson. This husband and wife team have become world famous for their large and dangerous illusions. While Kevin Ridgeway is the master magician and showman, his wife, Kristen Johnson, is his assistant and the escape artist. He waves the blades around; she gets in the box that is sliced down to a small cube and then it is pierced through with five swords. Amazingly, she gets out of the box unharmed. They have a larger illusion where she is passed through the blades of a full-sized 747 airplane engine. She is a hard worker.

But Kristen is best known for her underwater escape, patterned after the water torture box that Houdini made famous. She is draped with locked chains. Handcuffed with her feet shackled she lowers herself into a Plexiglas tank of water, which then is also locked. Holding her breath in full view of the audience she proceeds to try to pick the seven locks and escape. Watching her do this takes your breath away. Watch her performance here.

I have long been fascinated by magic tricks and illusions, and have been a member of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians for over 25 years. I know some of the science behind illusions, but Kristen still has to hold her breath underwater for about three minutes while picking the locks. They put on three shows a day for the 10 days of the fair, and then they go on to the next city. I wonder what keeps them motivated to do that many shows. They just keep on going.

Their timing has to be perfect. The many steps have to be precise. Their trust in each other has to be absolute. But most of all they need to love what they do and do what they love. They persevere and are blessed.

So, too, it is with the Christian life. We are called to love God and everyone else. To forgive and be forgiven. To build up the body of Christ. To take up the cross, daily, and follow Him. How do you do it? What keeps you going?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Keep on keeping on. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Adventures at the State Fair

Attending the Tulsa State Fair got expensive for us this year. Dorothy and I were given admission tickets, so the initial cost was not a factor. Parking was the problem. Of course everyone wants the closest parking spot without paying the $10 fee for the special parking sections. I guess we could have parked at one of the pick-up points and taken the free bus. We eventually found a spot that a parking attendant held for us until we could turn around and get back to it. He was very nice. We gave him a tip. Then we headed on to do our Christmas shopping.

We always start our Christmas shopping at the fair. All of those new inventions/gadgets/tools/toys/really practical things are just made to be gifted to someone who did not even know they needed them. We bought some items for ourselves and ate some “fair food,” which exists nowhere else in the world the rest of the year. This year we managed to get most of the family Christmas shopping done in record time. It was a good thing we did.

A distress call came from our relatives who had left the fair to pick-up their child from school. (How did we get along without cell phones?) They could not find their car. It had been towed away! Apparently parking spaces are for parking, not just any space—even if others were parked there also. “No problem,” we said naively. “We will pick you up shortly.” Dorothy spotted our flat tire first. I spotted the shiny nail. I had not spent much time learning how to change a tire on this car.

A very nice couple named Matt and Lauren appeared and volunteered to help. They were heading into the fair. He was young and strong and new all about jacks and spare tires for my kind of car. He changed it for us in less than 10 minutes. We thanked them often and gave them a little extra spending money for the fair. The new tire cost more than we spent that day at the fair.

Meanwhile our distressed relatives were frantically trying find where their car was actually taken. The police officer said it was on the fairgrounds in a holding area where they take all mis-parked vehicles. The sheriff deputy said he had it towed away by a wrecker service in east Tulsa. It took a while to sort that dispute out. The child at school was surprised when he was greeted by his little brother and hastily recruited other grandmother.

To retrieve a car from this wrecker service involves producing the title, insurance verification, personal identification and lots of cash. Storage fees change as the day and night progress. We wondered how out-of-town fairgoers with little children would manage, especially at night.

Later that evening we went back to the fair to see more exhibits, wander past the midway, pass up some “really good deals,” gaze at the large sand sculpture, and admire some of the animals.

It seems everything costs too much and unexpected things cost even more. But I am thankful for the generous people who helped us along the way. They were a blessing to me.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be generous. Be a blessing. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Church with the Cemetery

The last church where I served on staff during my college days was located in a sleepy little town just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. The decades-old church had recently completed a modern new sanctuary. It was built mostly in the round, with the pulpit located directly under the skylight in the middle of the roof. The church roof was circular and pointed to the sky. The church owned the attached community cemetery. Life was peaceful but things were changing.

It was the late 1960s. Birmingham had experienced a number of dramatic racial incidents. This little community consisted of people living mostly on small farms and in semi-rural homes. Because people had started to move from the city to this town, the church felt it could afford a new church building. The schools started to grow but the new families continued to drive back to their churches. All of the new people in town and the cultural changes that were happening created a general uneasiness. The pastor, staff and deacons met one night to talk about this.

The problem seemed to be that people were buying old houses and spending a lot of money to fix them up, or they were tearing down the old places and building new ones, then leaving town on Sundays and not supporting the local church (namely theirs). The discussion seemed to be along the lines of: we need these new people to come join our church so they can give us the money we need to pay the mortgage. The pastor had a solution that most in the room agreed with: “What we need is another Great Depression that will bring people back to God!”

Flash forward over forty years. Today that church finds itself in a highly desirable suburb of Birmingham with great access to freeways and shopping malls. Praying for another great depression and enlisting new members to help pay the bills, though, has proven to be a poor strategy. The church with the cemetery stayed inwardly focused and sits almost forgotten by its community. Outreach and witnessing to the un-churched is not about fundraising. It’s about a life changing through Jesus.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be someone’s life-changing witness. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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