Friday, August 18, 2017

90 Days on the Shelby County Line

I had no words to answer his question, "Have you ever ate beaver." I looked at him as we stood in the cafe, outside the sanctuary of the church. I can't even describe the thoughts that were in my head. After taking the time to collect my thoughts I replied, "Well, I used to hunt with my dad and I've eaten squirrel, rabbit, and deer, but I've never had beaver."

Well, I've eaten some crow a time or two as well.

A week later I was standing in the Shelby County Fairgrounds, in what was locally referred to as, "The Blue Building" even though it was now tan, eating a fork full of shredded beaver. It was quite tasty.

This is life here on the Shelby County Line. 

I make no apology for the path that led to this place. I make no apology for my claim that God called us. Even more than ever I am convinced that it was His voice that drove us from Guatemala to Ohio where we would learn to wait on Him. His ways are higher than my ways.

During the waiting months of August, September, October, and December, God used the churches that we visited, preached at, and even candidated... to mold us, shape us, and sharpen us. It was his hand that guided us to this place, living on the county line.

Ninety days in, we turn and look back for a brief perspective. It's like hanging upside-down in a hammock... the world is the same, but my view is shockingly different. 

I can see the path behind me, I can feel the pressure of the days that hold me secure, and I can look beyond to a beautiful horizon. 90 days in and we know this to be home. 

I draw deep from the views of God and faith that are found in Central America. We stand ablaze with hope in the face of despair. The cross represents God who loved you so much that Jesus stood in defiance of the Roman Empire, declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand, offering true belief that was more valuable than even personal safety. Faith requires us to act. Our actions don't save us, but our belief cannot be tied down. 

Like John Wesley, we first feared God and desired to keep his commands, and then we discovered that it was only the love of Jesus that saved us when he demonstrated his great love in death and resurrection. Now we find freedom in his great love, as we engage in his Kingdom, declared eternally as his sons and daughters. 

Yes, my perspective has changed. I thank God for our time spent in Guatemala. There is evidence of his hand that shaped our lives during that time. 

That's life, on the Shelby County line.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Table Thirteen

Eight people who had never met, from different states, careers, and storylines gathered around a common table. 

When I first walked into the banquet hall of the Wyndham Grand in downtown Pittsburgh, I wandered through the mass of strangers feeling disoriented and out of place until I spotted my favorite number.

To many the number thirteen represents an unlucky number. The hotel we're staying in doesn't even have a thirteenth floor. But I have knowledge that goes beyond superstition. 

A hijacking occurred in history. The most holy of numbers, the number of the tribes of Israel and their God, the number of the disciples and Jesus, was tainted by a Friday slaughter of Knight's Templar, single-handedly smearing them from the earth and mocking their belief by killing them on the sacred number of thirteen. 

And so I embrace that number. The room begin to fill as others avoided table thirteen. I sat there, tattoos and earrings visible, watching the other tables fill. 

But slowly, one by one, the chairs around table thirteen began to be filled as others who came alone sought a place to sit. From our commonality of aloneness, we formed community. 

This is our story. We are unlikely characters who find that we share the narrative. We follow the same carpenter. We've all walked paths that have taught hard lessons. We've all experienced suffering, disappointment, and we've enountered hope.

We've looked despair in the eyes and fiercely embraced it. We've carried grief and layed it at the feet of the One who has suffered for us. We find hope in the love of a God that suffers with us.

We love because He first love us. We offer life because He gave us life. We can provide hope because He is with us now. We look those in the face who mourn, who grieve, who rage... and we do not shy from their torment.

We take it on, and we carry it to thr feet of Jesus. He is the One that took on our suffering, and made a way to hope.

This is our story. We are Stephen Ministers. We are table thirteen.