Today I had one of those unique and special experiences that happen around things you quite often take for granted. How often do you get your haircut and think nothing of it? A task to get done. Something to cross off your list that must be done in order to continue living an ordered life…unless you want to be like my brother and go for the hippy look…which I could never pull off with any kind of class or dignity. Anyway, this morning a haircut was on my list and I stepped into Burton’s at the center of Kennett Square. Bob is a member of First Baptist Church but more importantly he is a third generation barber. He gets to the shop around 4am and spends the day getting to know people, building relationships and on the side he happens to cut hair. I was there for over an hour met five people, each of whom Bob called by name and quickly shared a piece of their story. It is clear that the shop is a place where “everybody knows your name”, a community within a community. The walls are lined with all kinds of history, tracing the people and sports teams of the Kennett community. You could spend a few hours looking over the pictures and my sense is that Bob could tell you a story about each image, each artifact which has found its way to the Barber shop. I left with a haircut (item # 1 crossed off my list for the day) and more importantly I felt like I had been somewhere special…with people I could call friend even after spending such a short time with them.
The moving truck arrived in Kennett Square late Friday, July 25th. An army of new friends and church members arrived at the house nice and early on Saturday morning and made quick work of unloading what took an entire day to pack. By lunch time the truck was empty, except for my shop equipment which was moved to a storage unit later in the week. We stood in what would become our living room and looked at piles of boxes and wondered where all this stuff came from. We had done a good job of going through our possessions and purging unnecessary items back in Locust…or so we thought. It all felt overwhelming, which box to open first, what room was most important, how was this house ever going to become a home? Well we have been hard at work (okay, Rayann and Nancy have been hard at work) for four days and things are beginning to take shape.
Rooms once filled with boxes are now open and look inviting and provide a place to rest and live together. We had dinner at the dining room table the other night! The birds (don’t ask, or at least ask Nancy) have been moved from their “travel cage” to their real home and have started to sing again. Life is starting to take on the feeling of normalcy. Nancy won, Rayann and I did not put a pool table in the guest room, so…Joseph has a bed should he ever decide to visit…hint…hint…hint.
Thank you to everyone who has done so much to help make us feel welcome and has extended themselves to help make the difficult transition easier.
I got quite a special treat today. I came out of my office and was told there was a very important message. Roger Vanderwerken, his daughter Christina and their friend Steve were on their way to see me. Roger was the first pastor I served with when I graduated from seminary. We worked together at Memorial Baptist Church in Cortland, New York. He was/is a great guy with a heart for Jesus who loves to help people grow in their understanding and relationship with God. One of Roger’s greatest strengths, and one of the things that helped me grow the most during the time I spent with him is the fact that he is very secure in who he is. There are no games, no need to worry about people “stepping on toes”, we shared a common vision and were able to work towards it very well together. Roger helped me see and develop my strengths and I would not be the pastor I am today without spending those four years with him. He left Memorial Baptist to return to the Navy and has served as a Navy chaplain for many years until recently retiring from the navy and now serves as a disciple making pastor for a large church out in California.
Christina was in Jr. High, maybe a freshman in high school the last time I saw her. She has grown into quite the amazing young woman! She is one of two masters trained biologists (there is a special name which you would be impressed with but escapes me now) in the state of California who study algae. It was great to catch up with her and to see how she has grown and matured. Steve was one of Roger’s friends who would pop in every now and then when I was at Memorial…it was nice to renew that friendship as well. I appreciate Steve letting Roger and Christina “get away” the day before his daughter was going to be married…Roger was in town to perform the ceremony.
We had a great lunch together in downtown Kennett Square, talked like we had never parted company…when in fact we had not seen each other for over 10 years. It is great to have such friends, to be able to build that kind of community…it is the kind of community and fellowship I hope to build during my time here at First Baptist. Roger, Christina & Steve…I wish you nothing but the best and thanks for thinking of me and taking the time to stop by and say hello.
Today at 7pm I walked out of Corning’s Concord fiber optic plant for the last time. In February of 2008 I showed up in Locust NC with no job, no home…nothing but a very real sense that God had led me to this place for a period of time. I worked a couple of smaller, part time jobs until in May I was hired on at the Corning plant and began to learn about the process to make fiber optic cable. I went from preaching and walking with people in times of need to being concerned about shutting a manufacturing plant down due to loss of airflow, water pressure or a power outage. I have learned a lot about myself these last six years…most of all I have learned how God has been present to provide for me every step of the way. There were times I have wanted to walk away, throw in the towel and at those moments I was given just enough strength to continue on. I was granted a rare opportunity to see the world through different lenses, to live in a totally different way and it has helped shape me for the next season of life and ministry. I am glad it is over…I am thankful for the opportunity…I am thankful for the way God has used Corning to provide for my family these past six years. Driving out of the parking lot for last time was a bittersweet experience…I will miss some of what I left behind…most especially some of the friends I made as we worked side by side to produce the worlds best fiber. Next time you are online or using your smart phone to check email…think of the people who work 12 hour swing shifts week after week, month after month, year after year to make it happen. So often we take things in life for granted without ever giving any thought to the efforts and sacrifices of others that make so much of what we enjoy available.
Grace & Peace,
There have been a pair of Cardinals calling our yard home for the past month or so. We have watched and tried to find their nest but they have been good at keeping it a secret. Today I was working in the den and heard a racket in the front yard, I ignored it for a while. After about ten minutes my head started to pound so I went to see what was causing the noise. I found the mother cardinal with one of her offspring in our bird feeder. The baby was constantly chirping, demanding to be fed. Mother would pick up a few seeds and put them in the young birds mouth. After a little while the father showed up, chased them both off…it looked like he was trying to get the young bird to try and fly. I went back to work and about ten minutes later recognized the same racket outside as the mother and baby cardinal had returned.
I got some okay pictures through the living room window.
As I examine my life today, and look forward to the transitions that will occur in the days and weeks ahead it feels as if I am caught right smack in the middle of two familiar biblical themes. The first comes from the writer of Ecclesiastes when he says,
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? Ecclesiastes 1:9-10
What has been done will be done again…we have packed our home into boxes before, we will do it again. We have loaded a moving van before…we will do it again. We have moved into a community knowing very few people before…we will do it again. We will make new friends, start new ministries, find new jobs, shape a new life in a new part of the world…nothing new under the sun.
And yet the writer of Isaiah says,
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
Forget everything you know…I am doing a new thing! You may think you know your way through what is to come but if you would simply trust in me you would be surprised at where I take you…at what you will experience. This is something new, you have never seen or even dreamed about what I am up to today. Are you willing to fully trust, to believe that I want nothing but the very best for you? Forget what you know, do not dwell on the past…my Spirit goes before you making “a way for you in the wilderness.”
Monday, May 19th was a big night in our family.
Joseph graduated from the Stanly Early College High School. He has put in five years of hard work and we are very proud of him. He graduated with his high school diploma and a two year Associates degree. This fall he will be heading off to NC State to study game design.
Great job Joe!