Thursday, August 31, 2006
We are camping at Greenbrier State Park ( http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/greenbrier.html ) near Hagerstown MD...about an hour’s drive from home. Maryland state parks are some of the best state parks we have visited. I am pleased that we will not be under canvas as we are going to get some heavy rain Friday evening.
We hope that the rain will be over by noon Saturday so that we can still go to a ballgame in the evening as we have box seats for the Hagerstown Suns baseball game. Evie and I enjoy minor league games more than the majors. They are more intimate and the players constantly hustle. As the players are still honing their skills there are more errors which add an extra unexpected element to the game.
What is behind the heavy rain means I will have with me my disaster response gear. This afternoon all emergency response crews and incident command staff went on alert. The heart of the tropical storm Ernesto arrives in the division around noon tomorrow in the northern VA area early evening. Arriving in the area around the same time from the west is a major storm front. So we have two heavy rain laden storms converging in our area. We are preparing for major localized flooding. My cell will be on all weekend. We all hope that we find that there was much to do about nothing.
To the side I have posted the as the “interesting link” the link to the national hurricane center. It has been a link on my office and personal computer for years. We use it to track various storms.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
No doubt the anticipation and all the hoops through which they have jumped heightened their joy and the trill of holding their own child in their arms. Their celebrative joy and pride is greater than most first time parents. There is no doubt that Gene and Rebecca will be godly upright parents. I am also confident that they will protect and guide their daughter with greater intentionality than the average parent. God answered their prayers and awarded them for their endless patience. Those who know them rejoice with them and utter a prayer of thanksgiving for them and their daughter.
Evie and I will do the same for Jenn and Kevin when sometime in the future they hold and love the answer to their prayers and desires. May God’s grace be with them and guide them through every step.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Catching my interest as to what would be inside, I stopped, grabbed my camera, paid the fee and spent an hour clicking away. This museum is clearly highly specialized, dedicated to tanks, howetzers and anti-tank guns. I was amazed by the number and range of items they have in the museum. Of course no tank in use in the last decade is in the museum, except a Russian tank used by the Iraqis and a Russian self propelled howitzer also used by the Iraqis.
Here are a few of the pics. The first is the US’s first tank, the M1917 Six Ton Special used from late 1917 to the beginning of WWII; second is of a German Mk IV Panzer from WWII; third is a Canadian Sexton 25 Pound Howitzer from WWII; fourth is a Russia’s main WWII tank, the T34; last is American M60A1 Patton from 1959 to early 1990s, one of the main US tank before the introduction of the M60A3 Patton and the A1 Abrams.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Pauline Wert – Pauline was a college friend. To merely apply the words wild and carefree would do a disservice to her and to the words themselves. Attending a conservative religious college Pauline was a free spirit with liberal and progressive ideas. Though I felt I was a little more progressive and liberal than most Asburians, compared to Pauline I was conservative. I found myself as one of her confidants, listening frequently to her frustrations and her dreams on a wide host of issues….and she listened patiently to mine. We debated faith and life issues with each other. Pauline helped me to broaden my understanding of faith and that faith must be relevant to contemporary life by actively expressing itself afresh.
Al Coppedge – Dr Coppedge was my seminary faculty advisor and professor of doctrine. Al with his analytical and sharp mind was the one who first turned me on to theology and its importance. He not only taught the Wesleyan perspective with dynamic passion but he also introduced students to the theological giants of other church traditions.
Clearly one of his lasting impacts is my interest in theological thought and reflection, in seeing how it is applicable to everyday life in a range of situations. Theology works itself out not so much in the technical language we use, but in how we build and work out our relationships with our Lord, with each other and the created order at large.
When Al spoke about other traditions and their concepts, we clearly knew where he stood. Though he noted where he and Wesleyans in general would disagree with another tradition, he never spoke despairingly upon the character, faith or passions of those with other view points. Rather he spoke with reverence and respect. Years later I would tell my students that as Wesleyans our tradition is to agree to disagree agreeably. For me that is not just a theory, but is an essential element which I seek to implement each day…and its roots go back to Al.
Fred Layman – Dr Layman was one of my professors in seminary who had an impact on two significant concepts that are part of how I look at life. From him I learned the value of taking time to reflect upon ministry. He helped me to develop the skill of ministry reflection a coupled with it that there is a difference between theory held versus theory in practice. In the Salvation Army we are busy doing ministry, going from one thing to another without much reflection. Fred helped me to understand that taking time to reflect what we have done in ministry and why, learning from those experiences and then intentionally applying them to the future. He is right, that if we do not take time to reflect we can find ourselves in one of three traps, a) doing something right for the wrong reasons, b) doing something wrong for right reason or c) repeating over and over again making the same mistakes.
The second impact was that Fred built upon the passion for theology that Al Coppedge was laying in my life. Fred was first turn my attention to historical theology, the understanding of doctrinal and theological development within the context of history.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Since the time spent at the William and Catherine Booth College I have often used spoke of God working in mischievous ways rather than in mysterious ways. In doing so, I am using mischievous in the positive humorous manner.
To say “mysterious ways” leaves matters, at least from my perspective, in the ethereal realm of the incomprehensible never never land. It says that I cannot understand how and the timing of God’s work, and I should not worry about understanding His providence.
As I look back, I can only smile at the timing of various moments and events in my life, how things flowed together, sometimes slowly and gently, and sometimes more tumultuously. It is not uncommon that only by looking back that I can see how the various elements, with me being unaware, were coming together into a life changing or key life moment. There is a sense of humor in the timing and flow, in how through divine providence God was at work moving me forward while I was unaware of the surprise that He was about to spring. Following are just three of a host of examples from which I could pull.
1. I smile when I recall a vacation that took us through Iowa City, and the positive comments we made about the area. I recall driving by the education building and us commenting upon its design and the appearance of the heart of the campus and the downtown. Little did we know that three years later that Evie would have an office in that same building and be receiving $14,500 per year scholarship from the university.
2. I smile that we took a vacation that brought us into the Washington area and comments that Washington would be a lovely city in which to live. Two years later we were living in the Washington area.
3. I smile on how Evie and I started dating. Evie was still awake on the bus as we returned from a band trip and we talked for hours. I had planned on asking another young lady out to the Junior-Senior show but during the talk ended up asking Evie instead. I smile that during that same Junior-Senior, over dinner our waitress at the Beaumont Inn told Ken, my roommate and his date Pauline that Evie and I were going to get married. I smile that we dated face to face only for about five or six weeks before I asked her to marry me. That both sets of parents recognized I would propose and Evie would accept before Evie and I recognized it ourselves. That when Evie first saw me for the first time on the bus going to the Lexington Corps that she said to herself that she was going to marry me (I was sitting there talking with Liz my girlfriend of that point). That our plans were to marry in June 1981 but both sets of parents responded in the same manner, why were we waiting when we should get married June 1979. All these years later, I still adore the young lady who happened to be the only woman on the bus who was not asleep…God does work in mischievous ways.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Colonel and Mrs. David Moulton – This retired officer couple moved to Wilmore the same year I started to attend Asbury. They provided pastoral care to the Salvationists at the college and seminary. They often described themselves as “actively retired”.
Just like my parents, the Moultons had an open door policy. Their home was open for any student who need to a place to relax. Every Sunday evening the 50 to 70 students descended upon their home were greeted warmly and served refreshments as they visited with each other in their basement. To myself, and hundreds of other students over the years, they became quassi-grandparents.
Over twenty-five years later I look back upon their quiet influence and warmth with deep fondness. Grace and godliness was their hallmark as they quietly encouraged and counseled students. Their nurturing certainly made life at college much more pleasant.
Gary and Cheryl Miller – the Millers were my college Corps Officers from my first year in college through to my first year of grad school. As a freshman I spent many Sunday lunches and afternoons at their home. Before going to Asbury I somewhat followed the CFL but it was not until that first Fall that I became acquainted with the NFL and American football. Since, each August I have looked forward with anticipation to the College and NFL season.
If it was just football, the Millers would not be on my list as divine gems. Their lasting impact was helping me to broaden my concept of ministry to include the social ministry and the importance of development/public relations. I became more acquainted with how TSA’s pulpit ministry goes hand in hand with the social ministry, that the business and social service side of ministry supports the pulpit work and the pulpit work should impact the social ministry. I came to value a thoughtful orderly approach to the business and social side of ministry.
Gary and Cheryl hired me to be an intake worker at the Lexington emergency shelter. The shelter provided a powerful opportunity to become engaged with the homeless at a level. My interest in the homeless and near homeless has continued to impact my life. A year after being hired, I was given additional responsibilities of supervising the intake staff, scheduling and interviewing prospective intake workers. This additional tasks was my first steps into the world of being a supervisor. Today I can see the seeds Gary and Cheryl planted back then continue to flower in the present. I am most pleased to have during their last days as Officers that they are now stationed at NHQ. As we worship together at the Arlington Corps the Lord has most fittingly provided Evie and I to get to know them more as friends.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Kay Gage – In various ways Kay gave herself to the young teens in the Corps, whether it was as a Sunday School class or hosting a gathering in her home. Kay’s heart was and still is one of the biggest hearts I have known. Besides the gift of hospitality, one of the greatest gifts she provided was acceptance of the plethora of wild ideas and questions teens raise. We felt comfortable expressing in her presence questions of doubt or venting without fear of rejection or condemnation. Not through her words, but through how she accepted behaviors and comments, she made me feel that it was okay to question faith and life. She acceptance helped to lay the foundation for me moving beyond being a repository of “the handed down faith” to having my own. Also from Kay I learned that sometimes, and likely more often than not, it is best to just quietly listen as a person vents their thoughts.
Ken and Lil Kurtz – It is only in recent years that I have come to understand the impact of Ken and Lil had upon me and other teens in the Corps. They did lead any youth programs. They did not teach any teen Sunday School or Corps Cadet classes through which they imparted wisdom. They did not seek accolades or recognition. Last year during my parent’s 50th Anniversary celebration, Lil and Ken were there still serving in the background. They would be willing to be leaders, but would be reluctant to do so if there were others who could do the job. They recognized that there are many who are seeking to be the Chief while few are content to remain as the supporting Braves.
I have discovered that I am attempting to live out. There is joy in being content to serve in background, to enable our Officers and other leaders to do their jobs. Kudos go to Lil and Ken for their quiet instruction that in its own quiet way has colored my life.
Lee Fisher – Lee was one of my undergraduate psychology professors as well as my faculty advisor even though I feel well short of the qualifications of being one of his advisees. Most of his student advisees were on academic probation with the remainder just off. When I switched majors to psychology, for various reasons he was willing to take me on as an exception, one of which was his friendship with my father.
His classroom instruction and stories disappears into the background when I recall the day I visited with Lee in his home. That late afternoon he shared with me part of his story, the personal feelings and issues behind why he left training college. Years later, well after he had passed away I learned from Annette that he very rarely shared those feelings with any but his closest friend. I was not such a close friend. Years later when Evie and I were going through our issues related to officership and our move to Iowa Lee’s story came back to me. It helped me to understand that sometimes God can guide one into one form of ministry only to later take a person out and into another form....a novel and somewhat radical view within The Salvation Army. Lee was brought into a different ministry, a ministry through which he had a much wider impact upon The Salvation Army and other congregations than he would have ever had as an officer. I am grateful for Lee helping to broaden my understanding of God's grace and providence.
Friday, August 11, 2006
He gave three reasons. The first, being a week away with his friends with his parents around. Another sign of growing independence. The second, each day the would have time to play concert band music. And lastly, the week is a time to do crazy things with his friends.
The time spent at Orkney is an intensive week to make solid progress on their marching band program. Their day starts at 6:30 with rookie drills and then by fundamental drills all before breakfast. Each day finishes at 9:30 with an hour of free time (they also have free time for an hour before dinner). Their day is given to marching, sectionals and concert band rehersals.
Bonding is integral to the week. As the trombone section leader he is responsible for helping the other trombones not only to learn their drill and hone their techniques but also for helping the younger students to bond with the group. We have discovered that those who are involved in the marching band program become close friends. They help each other throughout the year with homework and other projects. Seniors report at the end of the school day to the bandroom so that they are available to help the freshmen with their school work.
As Evie noted in her blog, at Oakton marching band is taken seriously. It is viewed as an intercollegiate sport. These are three pictures of Josh from today's drilling. Other pictures taken today will soon be posted on the band's web site.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Uncle Bert Sears – One Saturday as my father was out of town on a band trip, Uncle Bert drove (about 45 miles each way) from Stoveville to Erindale (now part of Mississauga) so I could get to my 45 minute hockey game. I would not have been ten at the time. The game took less time than he spent on the road. Through that act that day, as well as through his words of encouragement during and following the game, Uncle Bert demonstrated the importance family, that supporting one’s family goes beyond one’s parents and siblings.
I am also forever grateful to Uncle Bert for his words of wisdom many years later. The week prior to returning to college for my senior year I spent at his cottage. I had started dating Evie three weeks before the end of the school year. Through our summer correspondence I fell in love with her. It was my conversations with Uncle Bert who helped me to understand that it is the depth of my feelings and the quality of my feelings in partnership with one’s own readiness for marriage that should govern when I should ask her to marry me, not the length of time we had been dating. The end of the story is, within two weeks of returning to Asbury, Evie and I were engaged….and we have been married now 27 years.
Earl Camuti – Think about that high energy child who is always in motion and an extrovert who loves being people. Couple with that upright passion and service to his Lord, a passion for his wife and family. To that mix add compassion for those in pain and outstanding common sense. The result is you would have Earl and though I knew for five years he is a man I miss tremendously. Yet I am thankful for his impact upon my life.
His greatest impact is through the gift he gave me….my life’s partner, his daughter Evie. Too often when we live with a person day after day their impact becomes unrecognized because of the breath and depth of the impact one’s loving spouse has upon the other. Further lost, is the tremendous influence of the parents upon the nature and character of their children.
The influence of Earl, and Dorothy his wife, is demonstrated in my life each and every day of my life through their daughter.
Another lesson I learned from Earl is an example of how a godly man is able to slowly loose the battle with cancer over years, and to relinquish his life and family with dignity, peace and grace. Witnessing his spirit, hearing his words in those early weeks and during those last days are burned into my memory. While I do not know what may be ahead in my life, if death is not sudden, I hope that I will be able to go through the process of being promoted to glory in the same spirit as Earl.
Dorothy and Paul Seiler – Dorothy’s character and loves are reflects in the life of her daughter Evie. In 1985 Dorothy married Paul. We have watched how each embraced the other’s family as their own with generosity and love. Paul's cogent wisdom and insight has given me pause numerous times to think about broader implications. This couple has further enhanced my appreciation for family and its breadth. Since moving to Washington DC five years ago one of the blessings that have come with the move is that my sons have been able to get to know and appreciate Paul and Dorothy.
Four more gems to be posted this weekend.
Monday, August 07, 2006
As I type this I am sitting in a hotel room in Denver. I arrived at the hotel late Sunday, actually just after 12:30 local time. By the time I got something to eat from room service and got settled it was close to 2. A 6:45 wake up call got me to my 7:30 meeting. What am I doing in Denver? Along with three others I am visiting various community and arts centers in this area of Denver with a design team that we are looking at using for a Corps building in Tidewater. Tomorrow there are three more centers to visit before heading home (arrive home around 1:30 AM Wed). Wednesday and Thursday will be sent on the road visiting three Corps which are 3.5 to 4 hours from home. I think I will be making Friday a shorter day.
Here are some pics of what we are looking at including in our new facility in Tidewater.
Friday, August 04, 2006
After the service Jim and Carolyn were talking about the days when they were serving on Pendel’s summer Gospel team. Evie looks back upon her association with Jim and Carolyn with great fondness as they are among the gems the Lord has brought into her life. Having to come to know them over the years, I have come to value them as well. It will be some time before we will see them again as Jim and Carolyn are now in Australia.
As many of those who know me can attest, I enjoy wrestling with the human struggle and conflict for spiritual and personal fulfillment as well as in the working out of theological and philosophical ideas in the space of life. Hence I have been fascinated with battles and human conflict. To that end, this past Monday Evie and I toured Gettysburg and its battlefields. As we toured the hallowed soil with all its monuments I recalled the stories of particular legacies left by men, many of whom gave the last full measure on the fields and hills of Gettysburg. While some soldiers knew at the onset that what was taking place on those fields was pivotal, most did not. The did their duty each day unaware that they were at a pivotal moment. None would have dreamed how their little parts determined the destiny and shape of a nation by the sweat, tears and blood they poured forth.
In my mind Sunday’s visit and walking the battle fields flowed as two independent streams into one river of thought and thereby become a single event. Seeing Jim, Carolyn and Evie interact as they talked about the days of yore reminded me that throughout our lives there are dozens of people who contribute immensely to our growth or who we recall with great fondness for a special reason. Sometimes the contribution is over months or years, but in some cases it could be a conversation or act that resounds throughout our lives as a clear majestic chord. Regrettably, we often do not to recognize their impact until years later when sober wisdom and divine hindsight have settled upon us. It is most unfortunate that such insights often come too late to say thank you.
On the tableau of my mind I started to pen a list the people who have been divine gems in my life. Once or twice a week over the coming weeks I am going to list these human gems on my blog. I will also give a brief explanation. Intentionally, I am not going to be able to include all gems in my life. Evie as my life partner has been the dominant gem of these last twenty-eight years. Parents, grandparents, siblings or my children are also gems and I am excluding because I wish to look beyond my immediate family. So over the next few weeks and mingled with my blogs I will be listing individuals who shaped my thinking in at a significant point or who I recall with great affection. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, nor should it be viewed so. I am also intentionally not listing anyone who I have come to know in the last five years as their impact will only become clearer as time progresses.
Back in June, a tag was given to the family members who were blogging. I am issuing a tag to Evie, my sisters (and Stephen when he gets into blogging) and all our family bloggers to intentionally identify those who impacted their thinking and lives. I am sure each will be surprised, as I have been, by the length of the list.
Following is my first gem posting.
Gord and Marg Kerr – I once asked Dan Brown a friend of mine and an Advisory Board member (whom I will discuss in another blog), why he returned to going to church after decades of being away and being skeptical about faith. While I cannot recall his exact words that day over lunch, the profundity of his statement has continued to shape my thinking. Dan noted that there are two types of people in ministry. There are those who feel they are called to a church profession and seek to serve. There are those who are truly called and you can see it by their nature and how they live out a servant faith. Dan returned to church because he finally met a person in ministry who was the latter and who helped him to understand faith both at the heart and head level.
I am pleased that during my teens that I had Gord and Marg as my Corps Officers as they clearly fall into the latter group. I can say that I met the type of pastors in my teens that Dan met in his adult years. Gord and Marg had a dramatic influence upon my life, not so much by their preaching as by their quiet gentle ministry. They did not put on faith airs, they lived the faith through their patience and forgiveness. They lived out the faith by enduring unkind comments with grace and being at the side of their attacker as pastors, as if the arrows slung days or weeks before never existed. Preachers they were not, (which Gord would freely admit he was not) but the Kerrs were pastors par excellence.
They helped me to feel comfortable with expressing doubts about faith and The Salvation Army. They were the one’s who helped me to move beyond accepting the “hand me down” faith to laying a foundation for shaping my own understanding of faith that would occur at Asbury. They also helped me to understand the nature and value of transparent ministry. For numerous reasons I view Gord and Marg to be my spiritual mentors.
Years later, Evie and I were truly privileged to have them as friends and colleagues in Winnipeg. While I regret that I could not express these words to them, I also know that they would not feel that they did all that much. Let me finish by saying, well done most good and faithful servants. Rest well in your promotion and in His arms of peace.
Earl Best – Earl was a good friend of mine who came from a large blue collar family. With such a large family, Earl’s family did not have much money. What spending money he did have was earned. He helped me to get a job in a grocery store. Though Earl frequently wore hand-me downs he was neat and well groomed. He did not look at what he lacked but at what he possessed, a loving home, a welcoming Corps, a good mind, solid faith in Christ and good friends.
From my friendship with Earl I learned the value of enjoying what you had more than what you did not.
Another lesson I have taken from Earl’s life that continues forward lies behind why he transferred after graduating High School to another Corps. Earl was late to band rehearsals from time to time and would miss the odd one. The bandmaster who had been getting on him for tardiness started to get on him for not replacing a white shirt that had been becoming well worn. Earl told him that he was often late because he was picking up extra hours at work. One night I overheard the conversation and it was clear that the bandmaster was not receptive to Earl’s explanations.
The matter came to a head when, two Sundays in a row, Earl wore dark brown shoes with his uniform. I suspect that the bandmaster was attempting to uphold band discipline and trying to keep this young man in line. He told the man that he should either shape up or leave the band. Earl left the band and the Corps. The brown shoes he wore those two Sundays were his elder brother’s shoes and he wore them because it had been raining those two Sundays and his black shoes had holes in the soles.
Unfortunately, Earl died in an accident about eight months after he transferred to the new Corps. He was returning home after a band practice and he had fallen asleep at the wheel. The two days before he had worked double shifts.
As I mentioned, Earl had a fine mind. He was one of the smartest young men I knew. He would have excelled in college but he could not afford to attend. He had a brother two years younger with a mind almost as equally strong. What the bandmaster did not know, nor other Corps members, was that Earl was putting money into his family’s income and was working overtime when he could so that put money aside so that his younger brother and two younger sisters could have the opportunity to attend college, and maybe even attend himself three or four years late.
From what happened to Earl, I learned the value of listening and attempting to try to understand a person’s issues within their context. Coupled with that, I learned that there may be much more behind the presented explanation that will only come out with honest listening and acceptance. Another lesson I learned is that standards are to serve us, not us standards….there are times when the standard may actually hinder the goal that the standard is intended to achieve.
In the Church we preach and encourage personal and corporate sacrifice. It is part of our worship language…and sometimes we move beyond encouraging to cajoling the faithful to sacrifice. I am fearful that we sometimes use the language of sacrifice to force someone to do something against their will and for our own selfish benefit of an individual or system. Use of sacrifice in such a manner is form of spiritual abuse. I am equally loathed when individuals speak of personal sacrifice as a means to draw attention in order to garner praise much like the donor in the temple who announced boldly the size of his gift.
Most people have a general sense of sacrifice. Functionally we use it to mean surrendering something you or I am reluctant to surrender, or doing something constantly that is contrary to one’s will. Hence, sacrifice becomes highly subjective.
I am not comfortable with such an understanding of sacrifice that is tied to closely to reluctance or doing something which imposes upon another because it can readily lead one into an abusive situation, spiritual or other. We need to encourage and challenge each other in the Church to move beyond our current state without force or coercion. A person who is forced or coerced into doing something is not sacrificing, they are being abused.
I believe that guilt is a divine gift to help us to be sensitive to God’s will and guidance, and to act as a guide, albeit flawed, as to what is right and wrong. Yet guilt when inappropriately used, even if well intended, to manipulate and control another taints a divine gift. Guilt and encouragement need to be used within the bounds of still maintaining the ability of the other to retain full free will.
I have come to view sacrifice as doing something or giving up something willingly. Free will surrendering is the key for when it is done willingly, and sometimes with little thought, it is more often than not accompanied by spiritual joy and peace. From the perspective of others it can appear to be a sacrifice but for the one doing the act, they may well be oblivious to the sacrifice and view it as just as something that needs to be done. They are not just willing to do it, they are happy to do it. Hence, in the sacrifice that others recognize is found joy and peace in the contentment.