Monthly Archives: October 2010

Learning to See – again

I'm on a train heading back to Maine. I spent the last few days in New York City for some meetings on missions with my organization. I'm tired, yet hopeful and inspired.

Traveling has a way of helping me to see things from fresh perspectives…

Court has invited me to preach this Sunday at her church, and maybe because of the stories in Luke dealing with blindness and sight I'm more open to possibilities and thoughts on "seeing" and "sight".

My roommate in New York told me an encounter he had upon arriving. The Subway in NYC had maintenance work occurring over the weekend – which altered the service of some of the lines. He got turned around and, finally, asked for directions of a Subway official. As he headed back to the platform a blind lady stopped him, "Excuse me, from where did you come and where do you want to go?" He told her. She replied, "Well the directions that man just gave you are wrong. What you want to do is…" and she proceeded to tell him the best route. She ended with "I can't believe you didn't see the signs at Penn Station – they're everywhere."
We had a good laugh about that last point – and it had me thinking about we who can "see" don't really "see" at times.

The other story happened to me in Boston on the way down to New York. I had a 2 hour layover between trains and decided to grab coffee and try to write for a bit.
I sat at a table with my journal open, sipping coffee, and people watching. An auburn hair, freckled man set his things down at a neighboring table and proceeded to tally receipts speaking to himself in French and English. After he finished, he packed his bag, turned towards me looking intently, "And you, you have a VERY good week, sir." I paused and asked him if his accent came from Southern France. We chatted briefly, and as he left I said a casual, "Have a good day…" Yet this stood in stark contrast to his intentional parting comment a few minutes before, and I suddenly saw something that I had lost over time. He spoke his words almost as a benediction while I spoke with casual, American, friendly indifference. In every encounter I have an opportunity to speak a word of blessing into and over someone's life, and my eyes had grown blind. When did these cataracts of indifference occur? I don't know – maybe they form when I'm preoccupied or think I don't have time and rush by people. Maybe they form when I don't actively exercise the ability to pronounce blessing.

While in NY we had an opportunity to tour part of the 19-story (I think) building which houses my organization and many faith-based organizations. It's amazing how an elevator ride can grant a different perspective on NYC – which is the photo I have attached.

Well, that's the stream of consciousness for this week.

May you have a VERY good week, and may you know hope and joy in ever deeper ways.

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The "Jesus Loves You" Project – again

The other day I realized that I needed to restart the “Jesus Loves You” project. Honestly (and disappointingly), I can’t remember when I stopped the project.

However, the other day as I walked around Biddeford it dawned on me that I had not pursued this project much at all lately.

What is the Project? Well, to begin I have re-posted(and revised a bit)thoughts from a blog entitled “The ‘Jesus Loves You’ Experiment” (24.March.2009) followed by some other thoughts.
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The “Jesus Loves You” Experiment
“Jesus Loves You.” Frederick Buechner tells a story in one of his sermons in which he hears this phrase directed at him as he walks through Central Park in New York one Spring day. He says that it catches him by surprise and it takes him a few seconds to realize what just happened, yet as he stops he finds that she has mingled into anonymity in the mass of pedestrians.

I read this sermon about five months ago, and this story confronted me, challenged me, and would not leave me alone. I have re-read it few times. I decided to try an experiment, and it has made a difference in my life. I don’t feel nearly as bold as the woman in Central Park to speak these words aloud to those I pass on the street. However, as I walk down the street – or wait in line at the store – or people watch at the bus station, I look at each person and in my head say, “Jesus loves you!” This completely changes the way I see people. I say it in Latvian, and I need to learn the Russian – it helps me “contextualize” the situation. (When we were in Rome I tried to say it in Italian.) It challenges my inclination to judge or take offense or gawk or avert my gaze. It reminds me that God truly loves each and every person – the crippled beggar; the arrogant mafioso; the girl too young to have lost her innocence; “Jesus loves you!” – the important business person; the despondent store clerk; the toddler amazed by falling snow and his mother who needed a few drinks to cope with single-parenthood; “Jesus loves you!” – the bitter man too beat down to be amazed by anything at all; the young couple laughing as they walk arm and arm; the other couple whose yelling leads to blows; “Jesus loves you!”- the men from other countries here on “woman trips”; the young women who go after those men; the driver who cut me off in traffic; “Jesus love you!” – the …

Sometimes this phrase leads to giving a loaf of bread or placing a coin in a palm or praying for a person throughout the day. Hopefully this can lead to the courage of the Central Park woman, for it is not enough for me to see people as loved by God, because they need to know it, too.

This experiment has me thinking of another experiment along similar lines to carry out simultaneously – the “I forgive you” experiment…

As you go through the rest of your day today, May you know in a tangible way that God loves you and that God’s love is for everyone around you.
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Biddeford and Riga may seem worlds apart, yet many things are still the same. People deal with hopelessness, exhaustion, domestic violence, crime, addictions, broken dreams, disappointment, failing health, aging parents, ‘bad’ things happening to ‘good’ people…

Although these manifest themselves in different ways in different communities, they happen all over the world. The same world in which we CAN make a difference by taking small steps everyday to be peace, to give hope, and to love those around us.

During the last few minutes of writing I have become distracted and struggle to string words together to make coherent sentences, so that is all for now.

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"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…"

The other day in Court’s sermon she mentioned that recently we introduced Ceara to “Finding Nemo.” She likes the colors and sounds for about 15 minutes, and then she finds a hangar, empty box, or blocks to carry to another part of the house.

A song one of that characters sings is, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…swimming, swimming…” That’s how I feel today.

I said I would write every Monday – whether I had something to say or not. And for those of you who know me, it’s rare when I don’t. My problem today is that I don’t know where to begin or about what I should write. Yet I know that I need to “just keep swimming…”

On Friday, Courtney gifted me a few moments to go and write. Strands of thoughts that had been traveling on different tracks for the past two weeks finally seemed to merge in my head, and in some ways, my heart.

I wrote eagerly. I wrote with purpose. It felt good.

Today, however, I don’t know how to put simple sentences together. (It has taken 35 minutes to write this much.)

But, today I need to just keep swimming… just keep typing… just keep thinking… just keep writing… just keep praying… just keep on keeping on…

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Great Fall Day with New Friends

Maine trees have amazing color in the Fall. We have enjoyed watching the colors change the skyline over the past few weeks.

The sun has graced us with its visible presence the past few days. Its light dances on the leaves and makes the clouds’ white *pop* against the blue sky.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to hang out with another clergy couple in the area. Their kids are about one-year and four-years in age. Up to this point with Ceara we have avoided the “princess phenomenon” – until yesterday. Our friends’ 4-year-old insisted that Ceara dress up in a Snow White dress. They told us, “We tried to prolong this stage, too, in fact all her princess stuff came from friends and family.” That being said, it was cute to watch Ceara play dress up with a new friend.

We ate a NC-style bbq for lunch with Maine orchard apple sauce and cider. Nice confluence of two worlds.

Caleb will be 10-weeks-old tomorrow. Wow, has the time flown. He spends his time either eating, cooing, or pooing – par for the course.

Ceara has two new ‘habits’ – first, she points at the cd player and claps her hands letting us know that she would like us to play some music. Once the music starts, she alternates between bouncing up and down and turning in circles – it’s cute when she tries to do those things together. Second, she will pick up a toy purse, put it over her shoulder, look at us, wave, say, “Bye,” and then walk into the other room – only to come back in two seconds to repeat the process again and again.

Court started back to work on the first of the month. She has already done two Sundays, and they have gone well.

Dan is getting things ready to begin traveling, presenting, and preaching on mission.

We give thanks to God for our family, for heat in our apartment, for a working toilet, for clean running water, for appliances to help cook and clean.

That’s all for now.

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