Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday afternoon

I'm thinking about heading home. I think my brain is full, and studying seems futile at this point. No comprende presently, and this is not good. I need to take in carefully Mark 9:14-29, which seems to be talking about deficient faith and insufficient prayer.

The sun is out, but what happened to that warm weather? I went for a run this morning and was almost ill-prepared for what I faced. It turned out to be a good run, but a couple of degrees colder and I would have been cold. Ran some hills out at Spring Mill Park; felt good.

Did you like the pictures of the eagle? Friday I went to Bloomington to take my bike in for an overhaul. Fortunately for me, Pat A was available for lunch, so we met and ate at a little place right across the street from the Bikesmith. They were serving all the fish and fries you could eat. Wow, it was good!

I was really needing a break from things, so I took my camera with me and decided that, since gas is so cheap right now, I would take the long way home from Bloomington, hoping to see some things to photograph. I took Old 37 to Needmore, then dropped down through Peerless. Nothing caught my eye. I decided to head out 450 and then cut over to Stumphole bridge. I had seen an eagle there sometime back, way down stream.

When I came around the curve, I started looking. There he was - perched in a tree about a couple hundred yards from the road. I pulled over and turned my truck off. I leaned over and rolled the passenger side window down and stared snapping away. He sat there long enough for me to get those photos and then flew further away from the road.

It has been a busy day. I did quite a bit before running, and then after running I had some good meetings with various people. This afternoon I went to see I guy that I saw last week. He is a friend of a friend. Last week I went to his place, and he was sitting in the dark, in more ways than one. His power had been cut off. We got that fixed the next day, and today he seems to be doing better. I drove him around to do a few things, including getting some groceries. I talked to him some about God's redemptive love - where God loves to roll up his sleeves and join us in our messes, trying to help us out of them.

That's a pretty good thought to end this on, so see you later! Headin' home for a good supper!

The Seed

A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business.

Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.

He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. "The young executives were Shocked, but the boss continued. "I am going to give each one of you a SEED today - one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO."

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.

Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing.

By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure.

Six months went by -- still nothing in Jim's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn't say anything to his colleagues, however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil - He so wanted the seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection.

Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful -- in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives.

Jim just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!"

When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed - Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, "Behold your next Chief Executive Officer!

His name is Jim!" Jim couldn't believe it. Jim couldn't even grow his seed.

"How could he be the new CEO?" the others said.

Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead - it was not possible for them to grow.

All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!"

[with thanks to Dale Kendall]

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday night

It was a good day today! It really started last night with a quiet evening at home for me. Everyone else was gone doing something.

After being in bed for 8 hours, I got up this morning, did a few things, and then Ben and I headed to Bedford for a run. I went 14 miles this morning and felt pretty good. I could have run several more miles and faster, but I was very content with what I did.

Breakfast at McDonald's with some of my running friends was the next activity. It was nice and enjoyable. The pancakes taste very good after a long run.

Mundane thing filled the middle of the day: trash, reading, and napping. Then we took off for Bloomington. There we met Lester and Maddie, along with several other family members. I think we ended up with a party of 15 at Outback. After that a few of us went for some ice cream.

It was a great day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

An Eagle at Stumphole


Where did this week go? It has been an interesting week for me. I had some pretty serious counseling things this week, plus an extra meeting or two. Sermon prep got placed to the back yesterday, so today is the day. I hope to be done with all my preparation for Sunday by midday. I learned a long time ago that I cannot rush or force it, so we'll see.

I attended a lunch meeting yesterday put on by the Center for Congregations, which is a Lilly Endowment funded group. They help churches figure out things, AND they supply up to $15,000 in matching funds to make things happen. I have a few ideas...

Twenty-one miles is what I have so far this week, as far as running goes. I plan on doing 14 tomorrow, and now you know why I have 21 so far. That's right! I want a nice 35 miles for the week. Not 34 or 36 - I want 35! I am so predictable.

Today I am going to try get on my bike for a little while. I am going to take it in for an overhaul next week. I think it has been a while, and they have a really good deal going on. They take it all apart and put it back together again, repacking bearings etc. I need to get it ready for RAIN - Ride Across INdiana in July. I plan to do a couple of 100 mile rides between now and then.

Ben got his driving permit yesterday! He HATES Kedra's station wagon, so Kedra got my truck and took it to get the permit. Ben got to drive my truck home from the BMV and did really well. His problem, like my other sons, is going be over-confidence. Ben's been driving all kinds of things on the farm for years.

Rebecca is in the process of selecting a roommate for Lipscomb. They do all that differently these days. They've created a Facebook page, so now all the kids are kinda stalking each other, looking at pics, trying to figure out who is compatible etc. I told Rebecca, back in my day, that I received a letter in the mail telling me who my roommate was and where he lived. It worked out fine.

OK, time to get busy...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring is coming!

Last night, as I made my way across the parking lot from the Family Life Center to the original building, right before I went up the 3-4 steps, I looked down at the flower bed. There I saw some flowers that had broken through the ground. It won't be long until flowers are in bloom. [The picture above is from Julio's place. There are things in bloom year-round in Honduras, even though it is the dry season presently.]

Busy, active day head: Sermon prep for a little while, 4 mile run once it gets daylight, Center for Congregation meeting @ 11 (free lunch plus possible ministry funds from Lilly Endowment), marriage counseling @ 3, funeral home visit after that, and who knows what else... It's all good. I do know that I will not get my sermon done today but that's OK.

We had a good class last night. We explored Mark's prologue (1:1-13) plus verses 14 &15. There is a lot made about wilderness in the passage, it seems to me. The good news (gospel) is announced in the context of wilderness. I woke up this morning with this thought:

The good news of God is not the absence of problems but to realize God’s presence in them.

On the way home last night I heard this song on the radio (don't tell me it was coincidental):

I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn’t there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That you would take my pain away
You would take my pain away

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

When you walked upon the earth
You healed the broken, lost and hurt
I know you hate to see me cry
One day you will set all things right
Yeah, one day you will set all things right

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding me
They hold me still

The song is entitle "Your Hands" by JJ Heller. It is beautiful!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday a.m.

Yet another reason that I love the Lenca Indians, the people we are working with in Honduras, is that they are all shorter than me. Well, at least most of them. When were hanging the dedication plaque for Butch Parish's house, the family kept pointing up and up, wanting it higher on the wall. Note that I am tip-toeing and my arm is fully extended. I think they were messing with me.

Wednesday morning. Again. Before you know it the day will be over.

Last night Ben and I went to Bedford to run with our friends. Tempo Tuesday. I decided that I would not tempo but just run the course, which is 7 miles. In the end, however, I did tempo slowly with another guy, just hanging with him to, hopefully, be an encouraging presence. We went 8.00, 7.43. & 7.23. Not bad. Ben, who is not getting enough miles in, due to various factors, did well. He went 6.26, 6.31, and 6.42. Once he gets a base, I think he can really speed up. He lacks confidence also but that will come.

I read this article, Death by Ministry yesterday, and I can't say that it was all that encouraging. I mean look at the title (ha ha)! I guess it made me feel better about some of the things that I feel from time to time. A lot of things do weigh on my mind a lot, so I have to be careful to not let them take me down. I am not always successful. I am guessing that some people are critical of the time I spend running and doing other things, but without those releases, I think I would be in trouble.

Not sure why I said all that last paragraph? I guess coming off a week in Honduras, where I pretty much left behind things here, I can see more clearly what it is that I do each week. I am not complaining, because I really do enjoy most of what I do. There is just a lot of it sometimes.

OK, it's time to get focused and really enjoy this day! I have lots of activities/meetings that should be enjoyable, and I look forward to my Wednesday evening class, where we try to figure out what the preaching text for Sunday is saying to us. I gain so much from hearing what others see.

Have a good un!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday a.m.

The re-entry to "normal" life continues today. Eight days in Honduras was so wonderful, and it provided a nice break from the routines that I love but that also have a tendency to wear me down. While in Honduras I slept 8, and sometimes 9, hours each night. It was great. Now I am back to barely getting 7. That's not a complaint, really, just an observation of how things seem to work.

Yesterday was good. I actually got more done that I thought I would, and I got my running back on track. I did not run in Honduras, which was disappointing. There were several factors that made running difficult, especially early in the week. As the week unfolded I became comfortable not running, so I didn't. It won't hurt me too much. I'm just glad to be back at it.

My Honduran sunburn is peeling, so I guess I can now be truly classified as flakey. Note to self: don't wear black shirts for the next couple of days. Is it fashionable to wear white at this time of the year?

I heard last night about the terrible earthquake in New Zealand. I used to have several friends in Christchurch and have spent some time there. I hope everyone is OK. Looks like close to 100 people died.

Well, not much to report today, so... See you later.

Oh, I forgot about the picture above. This was taken at one of house sites. Isn't that funny? I guess these two owners could not agree on sharing a fence, so they just built two. I think there is probably a really good sermon in there somewhere.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Honduras Winter 2011 Summary Report

Four of us made the trip to Honduras: Teresa Birtles, Dan Kerr, Steve Gilstrap, and me. We were there from Saturday to Saturday, February 12-19. We were met at the airport by Marc Tindall and Luis Estrada. They transported us to Julio’s, where we stayed all week. Marc organized our activities and transportation for the week, often participating in them.

While in Honduras we:

  • Built 3 houses - two of those were dedicated to Kenny Lee and Butch Parish, men from our church family who died recently.

  • Distributed 3000 pounds of food in three different locations: Mateo, Lepaterique, and Guajire. All of the distributions were done at church buildings and overseen by Leopoldo Villacorta or designee.

  • Installed a water treatment system at a Christian school located across the road from the dump. This school ministers to children whose parents work at the dump.

  • Provided medical care and/or pledged funds to help three individuals who were suffering.

  • Saw our future.

As we look into the future I’m mindful of a couple of verses from Proverbs (16:3, 9):

Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.

In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps.

Proverbial wisdom says that the Lord will work with us and help us but it may not turn out exactly like we hoped or planned. We experience that all the time, but it seems to especially apply in Honduras. We simply stay faithful and full of faith.

A long time ago there was a conversation among the long-term Apostles and the former-Christ-hater-turned-Apostle Paul and Barnabas. Paul describes how it ended:

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

We should help the poor. We should help them here, and we do. A lot. And we should help them in Honduras, and we are. God sees no boundaries. Perhaps what he sees most clearly is the poorest of the poor. Many of these folks are found in Honduras, and some of poorest folks in Honduras are the Lenca Indians.

Our desire is to work in one area, building relationships by carefully helping to relieve some of the poverty. We plan to work in the Mateo area, which is less than an hour outside the city Tegucigalpa. We are building a good working relationship with a local evangelistic, Leopoldo Villacorta. We trust him and his judgement in how to help people. He mentors several young men who go into the surrounding villages to teach and preach, initially in house churches. We are focusing on one of these villages, Guajire.

Guajire is a small rural village of about 3-4000 people. On the flight home I sat by a man who lived in Honduras for 9 years as a missionary. I told him what we were trying to do, and he told me that the Lenca people are the forgotten ones. They are the poorest of the poor in Honduras.

Why do we do all this?

1 John 3:16-18 — This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Here’s what we plan to do in the future:

  • Ship a container full of all kinds of supplies.

  • Send a team of about 30 people, July 30 - August 6

I’ll have a lot more to say about both as the (near) future unfolds.

Thanks for stopping by. Your prayers for our/your future work in Honduras is greatly appreciated.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Honduras Day 8 Feb 2011
[Made it back home around 1 a.m.]

I am in Houston presently, waiting on our flight to Indy. Everything today has gone very well. We had our breakfast at 7, and then Marc Tindall picked us up around 8 to go to the children’s home for a little while. Big-hearted Dan distributed more toys to the girls and boys. Dan is so amazing. So much compassion.

There is a young lady who works at the children’s home named Pamela. She is 25 and very sweet. Sadly her husband was killed in an accident about a year ago. Several folks have taken her under their wings to care for her. Soon she will move into a new adobe house (costs about $4500). Today I was able to give her 2 of Elizabeth Root’s hand-knitted blankets. One for Pamela, and one for her son, Manuel. She was very grateful. We ended up meeting at the airport, since Pamela was in the city taking a class.

Before we went to Marc’s I got to tour Julio’s house. Julio has done very well. He is a retired engineer. He also makes the most amazing tables. The tops are from cross sections of really, really old trees. The legs are also made of wood. Beautiful!

I will try summarize the trip on the next post. For now I need to work on my report that I will present in church tomorrow. Hope to see some of you then and there! Everyone is welcome of course.

Thanks again for your prayers!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Honduras Day 7 Feb 2011

Honduras Day 7 Feb 2011
It was a most wonderful day in Honduras! Best ever out of my four trips here? Perhaps. It was a beautiful foggy morning, yet again, but it quickly gave way to warm sunshine. We made our way out to Mateo, where we met others. Then it was on to Guajire, the village that we hope to “adopt.”

We started the day by building a house for a very sweet family. They were living in a very old house that leans terribly. The little house has a wood cook stove inside, without vents, so the house is very smoky. We learned that this family had saved a lot of money to build a house. The husband works in Tegucigalpa as a security guard. One night when he was away at work, three men came to the door, took the woman outside and tied her to a tree. They then went through the house until they found the money. So sad.

This family has a deep faith and has been visiting the little church in Guajire. They have been praying for help, and today we were the means for answering their prayers for a house. It’s hard to explain how that made us feel. Our goal is to do this over and over again.

One of the men who showed up to help build the house was Jose, a man in his 50s. He is the local leader of the church. The Mateo church sends a preacher named Elmer out to preach each Sunday, but Jose is the one who seems to keep everything going strong locally. His house is next to where the church meets. The church meets in the home of a lady who has three disabled children. It is a sad but touching and inspiring scene.

As we were building today, Jose took a break and went into the house that leans. I followed. He then got his Bible out and began studying with a neighbor lady who had dropped by. He spoke with passion about the love of Christ. The lady, nursing a baby, listened intently. It was a wonderful scene of one sharing the Good News with another.

Jose has a bad leg that resulted from an accident 20 years ago. Now the screws are working their way out, creating terrible places and pain. He needs to have surgery. We learned from talking to Leopoldo, the minister at Mateo, that for about $600 he can have surgery plus be compensated for time off from work. We committed to take care of these costs.

After building the house, we went down to the church building to distribute food, clothes, shoes, hygiene packs, and toys. We also looked around at the building and Jose’s house. On a hill by the building you can look and see the city of Tegucigalpa. Beautiful view!

The area of Guajire is a rural area. It is beautiful and populated by Lenca Indians, one of the poorest and least educated people of Honduras. They are beautiful people, and their culture is noticeably different from the city people. I think we are really going to enjoy building relationships with these folks as the future unfolds.

After we left Guajire, we drove all the way across Tegucigalpa to the school by the dump. We needed to finish the water treatment system, and we did. We had to break in the room to get it done, so now we owe them a lock! We had no choice; the lock was broken.

We have a few things to do in the morning before we head to the airport at 11. We fly out at 1.30, go to Houston, have a significant layover, and then arrive in Indy around 10.30 p.m. Preaching on Sunday could be challenging. Role reversal may result: this time I may be the one trying to stay awake!

Thanks for your prayers! The Lord has blessed us tremendously. I will have a final post sometime soon, so check back. Thanks again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Honduras Day 6 Feb 2011

Honduras Day 6 Feb 2011
Thank you for stopping by and checking on us! We continue to be blessed in so many ways. Today was another great day in Honduras. We all are healthy and continue to work hard, striving to make a difference in the name of Jesus.

Today we built a house, way out in the countryside near Lepaterique. It is more than an hour from the city, but the drive was so beautiful! We drove up and down and around mountains. We were at 5700 feet above sea level.

The house build went really well. The family was very grateful for the house and the other things we provided, things like beans, rice, paper, hygiene packs, blankets, and a few other items. Today’s house was built in memory and honor of Butch Parish. Butch was a wonderful Christian brother and a pleasant presence at the ReGeneration Store. He left us too soon and too quickly. I fought hard not to well up with tears as we dedicated the house. I thought of Butch and thought that he would be proud.

After the build we went into the heart of the village–such a neat, quaint place. The minister from the church in Mateo, who has a regional ministry that employs young men on motorcycles, met us and asked us to come to the little church building. Our October team built the building. He had gathered many of the church there to thank us. It was a wonderful, moving experience. Part of our vision is being realized. We are hoping to build relationships, as we build houses, in this region.

After a little while at the church, the ministers asked us to walk to the home of a little girl who is disabled. She is nine years old and was normal until two years ago when she fell on the playground and hit the back of her head. Now she cannot walk and she seemed to be semiconscious; she has a feeding tube. We were welcomed into the home by her family. They wanted us to pray for her. We were more than happy to do so. As we walked in, we noticed that they had hardly any food, maybe enough for one meal. Teresa went to a little store and bought several things for them. They were very grateful.

This trip continues to be a blessing in so many ways. Tomorrow we go back out into the region where we were today. We are going to build a house and distribute food in the village that we hope will be our focus for the future.

I love this place and its people.

Thank you for your continued prayers!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Honduras Day 5 Feb 2011

From Honduras Day 5 Feb 2011
It was another beautiful day in Honduras! Today I was struck by the juxtaposition of poverty and beauty in this land. There is so much of both, and they seem so contradictory.

We started our day back at the school where we installed the water treatment system yesterday. We did not get finished yesterday, and as we were winding down, we realized that placing the system outside was not a good idea. We did not realize until late in the day that the campus was not secured. We made the decision to move the system inside. The move went pretty smoothly and quickly, but we still did not get finished. Something was not working quite right, so Steve is going to ponder it overnight. We will probably return there tomorrow afternoon, after we build a house in Mateo.

Around midday we went to the dump to help feed the people who live and work there. Marc Tindall prepares food each week and is building relationships. He tries to speak to each man who lines up for food, shaking their hands. The dump is indescribable. I think it is the most disturbing thing I have ever seen. It is certainly the most disturbing place I have ever been. It’s nearly unbelievable. I wanted to weep but couldn’t/didn’t.

From the dump you can see, off in the distance, the back of the famous Jesus statue that overlooks Tegucigalpa. Some have said it appears that Jesus has turned his back on those who live in the dump. Forgotten. Unloved. Uncared for. It’s not true. Many care about those folks and many are striving to help them. I saw it clearly today.

I felt helpless/useless at the dump. Totally. I shook a few hands and gave a few hugs. Behind the filth and the face masks are image-bearers of God, dearly loved by him. It seems to me that many of these folks long for touch; perhaps to touch someone, to connect with someone, who lives in a world far beyond theirs. Hope?

The sights, the sounds, and smell are so striking at the dump. Surprisingly, you hear a lot of laughter. Some seem very happy. There are lots of smells, as you can imagine; it is a garbage dump. There are lots of smouldering fires. A word that Jesus uses fairly often, the one we translate “hell,” is a Greek word that points to a smouldering trash dump outside the city of Jerusalem in his day. It was a horrible place, a place to avoid. The dump in Tegucigalpa is some kind of hell.

I am so thankful that people are working to rescue these folks from hell. The school across the road is an amazing ministry, as is the regular feeding. All kinds of folks are trying to do all kinds of things to help these people escape this present reality. We met some of the children of dump workers today. They are sweet and beautiful. If not for the school, then I think they would be up on the hill looking for scraps of things to recycle and perhaps for some things to eat along the way.

The Jesus statue may have its back toward the dump, but his people are looking at it squarely in the eye. Thank God.

Here is the video I shot last year at the dump.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Honduras Day 4 Feb 2011

Honduras Day 4 Feb 2011
It was another stunningly beautiful day in Honduras! Up on the mountain where we are staying it has been damp and cool, which is great eating and sleeping weather, but once we go down into the city and other areas, the sun warms us as the temperature reaches right around 80. It is very pleasant.

Today we spent all day working on a water treatment system at a school right across the road from the Tegucigalpa dump. We got along really well and will finish the job tomorrow. Part of the reason things went so well today was the help of Jose. He is the maintenance man at the school, and he was very eager to help. He and I spent a lot of time talking, exploring each other’s language. He had a great sense of humor.

The school is very interesting. It is Christian ministry directed toward kids whose parents work at the dump. It started out as a group of Christians gathering the kids at the dump to teach them, then they moved their classes to a tree across the road, and then eventually, about 10 years ago, built a few classrooms. The kids are allowed to attend for free. Education is expensive in Honduras. Many students do not receive an education because they can’t afford it. The kids in this school were working in the dump alongside their parents before this ministry began. The school will graduate their first class this year.

Most of the parents of the students work in the dump, making a little more than $1 per day. I will have a lot more to say about the dump tomorrow. We are going there to help feed people. It is the most disturbing place I have ever been.

We are having a great time and feel like we are accomplishing a lot of good things. Purifying water, today’s activity, is very important. The people here have so many stomach problems, mostly do to the water.

Thank you for your continued prayers!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Honduras Days 3 February 2011

Honduras Day 3 Feb 2011
It was another good day in Honduras. We got up and ate breakfast at 7, and then we were on our way to work by 8 a.m. We traveled out to Mateo to meet a local minister. He had arranged for us to build a house close-by. We also made arrangements to pass out 200 bags of food after the house was built.

The house build was one of the easiest ones I have ever experienced. The site was completely accessibly by vehicle, which is such a blessing. Sometimes we have to carry all the lumber and tools to site that is very difficult to reach. In the past, we’ve climbed steep hills hundreds of yards from the closest road; other times we have built on steep slopes. Today the site was flat, and we drove right up to it. There was lots of Honduran help, which also made it easier. We were finished around noon.

The house today was built in memory of Kenny Lee who died recently. Kenny was always very generous and helped fund previous trips to Honduras. The young family that will move into the house was very grateful. We gave them a bag of goodies, including two hand-made blankets by Phyllis Mundy.

After we finished the house we went to the church building for the food distribution. The local preacher is very organized. Everything went very well, and we helped lots of people. I appreciate all of you who helped with this by giving us donations.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in getting ready for tomorrow. We are going to install a water treatment system at a feeding station near the dump. We went to the warehouse and got all the supplies that we have brought down on previous trips. We will go to the site first thing in the morning and figure out what else we need.

Before we ate this evening, we had a good meeting to plan out the future, including the shipment of a container. We will need to collect lots and lots of things that are needed down here. There will be plenty of details in the near future. Our summer trip is July 30 - August 6.

Everyone is doing well. We sure appreciate your prayers!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Honduras Days 1 & 2 February 2011

Honduras Day 1 and 2 Feb 2011
[Sorry about the delay in this post. I didn’t have internet access.]

Saturday - Day 1

We had a good, successful trip. Quince Earls, our faithful driver, and I left Mitchell at 3 a.m., stopped in Bedford to pick up Steve Gilstrap and Dan Kerr, and then we made our way to the airport. We got there around 4.30 and met Teresa Birtles. The four of us got checked in without any problem. We had extra bags–5 duffel bags–full of supplies for the Honduran people.

I did have the full experience with the TSA! I got the complete pat-down, and it was very complete. Wow!

The flights from Indy to Houston and then from Houston to Tegucigalpa were both on time and smooth. I managed to get a little sleep and read a lot. Marc Tindall met us in the airport, organized our bags, and then took us to Popeyes Chicken to eat. It’s funny that my first trip to Popeyes happened in Honduras; funny to me at least.

On our way to the place where we are staying, Julio’s, we stopped at a tire place. Marc had a low tire and needed it and another one replaced. It’s certainly wasn’t Big O, but I found the experience enjoyable. I think it had a lot to do with 80 degrees, sun, and a light breeze, plus there were several entertaining sights..

At Julio’s we got settled in and then started dealing with 3000 pounds of beans and rice. We are going to distribute this to various people in need during the week. It took us a few hours to get it all organized into smaller bags.

Our first meal (not counting Popeyes!) in Honduras was amazingly good. We sat around the table and talked about the day and week ahead. It’s good to be here. We appreciate your prayers.

Sunday - Day 2

I think most of us slept well last night, Those envious of my comment about the warm weather will be happy to know that we woke to cool, damp, windy weather this morning, and it’s been cool all day long.

We had a nice breakfast. After breakfast we found a scorpion in the shower. That was kinda neat. Dan decided that the scorpion should die, so it did.

We worshiped with the church at the children’s home. It was a nice worship assembly full of kids and life. I didn’t understand much of it, but I recognized some of the songs. I had two children leaning on me, hungry for love, during the assembly. It was precious. The kids are so sweet.

After church we went to a nice local restaurant. The food was wonderful! I had some grilled chicken. Yum. There was a little boy playing bongo drums at times during our meal; quite entertaining.

This afternoon we went to the hardware store to get some supplies for a water treatment system. We are now back at the children’s home repairing a system that Steve and other put in during an October 2009 trip. This evening we are going to organize supplies and get ready for long day that starts early in the morning. We are going to build a house and distribute food.

We appreciate your continued prayers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Past, present, and future

As I was doing some last minute things for my Honduras trip, I remembered that 3 years ago I was in Russia. I'm not really sure why that came to mind, but I do think about Russia often, just about everyday I think. Here is my account of my last full day in Russia.

Going to Honduras sure is a lot different than going to Russia. I feel pretty comfortable heading to Central America. This will be my 4th trip, so I am pretty familiar with everything. This will be my first trip staying in a new place, however, but I think it is pretty similar.

I enjoy travelling, especially international travel. I've been blessed with a lot of it. Of course, living in Australia and New Zealand for nearly 7 years gave me lots of opportunities. I will confess that I do not like traveling that far (more than 24 hours). Honduras is great - leave the house at 3 a.m. and arrive in Tegucigalpa at 12.28 p.m. their time (2.28 ours).

I'm all checked in; boarding passes printed; all set! Hopefully I will be able to communicate here on a regular basis, as well as Facebook. I will try to post pictures daily.

We certainly appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I do lots of dumb things, and I am pretty good at hiding them. I don't get caught often. This one I could not hide! My dumb thing made noise and other people were around. One heard, came running, and saw. Busted!

Yesterday around 5.30 I got in my truck, which was in the garage, preparing to return to church for our Wednesday Evening Meal. As I got in my truck my phone told me that a text had arrived. I fumbled around to read it; it was nothing. Well, actually it was a distraction. I put the phone down, put the truck in reverse and started backing out of the garage. Here's the problem/dumb thing: the garage door was still down. This is not good.

My Reese Hitch pushed on the defenseless old aluminium door, making a big bow. The door screamed out in pain. Rebecca came running. She looked at me, like a parent would look at an inexperienced child driving, and then exclaimed, "You hit the door! Didn't you know it was down?!?" She couldn't believe it (that anyone could be so dumb, and she used that tone). I just looked at her sheepishly. Wow, it was role reversal. Oh well.

Now the door is a mess. I got it bent back, but the rollers popped off one side. I got those back on and felt like it was fixed. Then I tried to raise and lower it. POP! CRACK! It's all out of alignment and the cable is off one side. Should be a fun-filled evening of garage door repair.

This is what I get for doing a dumb thing. I'm just glad I only get caught once in a while.

Getting focused

Time to start focusing on our trip to Honduras. Our fund-raising has been different this time. A lot of it came in at the very end, and we can actually buy a little more food than we anticipated. We are very thankful.

Today I am going to help pick up some furniture for the Store, and then I am going to do my long run for the week - 12 miles. After that I have to get several things organized for Honduras. I need to make sure the van is ready to go and load 4 duffel bags into it. Yesterday I got my suitcase out and started putting things all over a spare bed. Today I'll move that process on a little further.

The weather in Tegucigalpa is going to be nice. Highs are in the low 80s and the lows are in the high 50s. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to that, even though I really don't mind winter that much at all. I am really looking forward to the work in Honduras. We are going to build 3 houses, install a water treatment system, help feed people at the dump, and distribute food in our "adopted" village.

So many people have donated so many things for our trip. The biggest prizes to give away are hand-made blankets by Phyllis Mundy and Elizabeth Root. New house recipients will receive these, plus there is a lady I've been reading about that I want to make sure she gets one. She works at a children's home, and her husband was killed in an accident last fall. Some of our friends are building her a house this week. I hope to meet her and give her a blanket.

Luke is on his way to Guatemala this morning. He made it to the Nashville airport, even though they have about 3 inches of snow on the ground. He flies from Nashville to Houston to Guatemala City. I would appreciate your prayers for his safety.

OK, I better get going...

Forgiveness at the Super Bowl

From ESPN’s Rick Reilly:

In 50 years when they write the life story of Aaron Rodgers, they won’t tell so much about his freakish arm, they won’t go on about his Houdini feet, they won’t write about his grace under pressure, his rifle-scope accuracy or his courage when the land all around him was burning. What they’ll write about is his unlimited capacity to forgive. Through all the hell Brett Favre put him, through all the yo-yoing Favre did with his career – all those years — Rodgers NEVER lost his patience, and never lashed out. Instead he forgave, and he got to work. Fast forward to the biggest moment of his life — February 6th; Super Bowl 45; Dallas, Texas. And teammates are starting to turn on him again. They started dropping the ball — literally. Five different, perfect passes went begging.

The main perpetrator was [wide receiver] Jordy Nelson, a third-year kid who dropped not one, not two, but three wide-open, room-service, pretty-as-you-please passes. But did Rodgers lose patience with him? Did he lash out? No. Rodgers did something amazing. He KEPT throwing it to him. With the game in the balance, and Pittsburgh trying to pull out the greatest come-from-behind Super Bowl win ever, Nelson DROPPED a spiral that could have iced the game. Anybody else but Rodgers would have bitten a hole in his helmet. What did Rodgers do? He threw the very next pass to Jordy Nelson. He ignored his safety valve, and he waited for Nelson. This time, Nelson’s hands were finally true. He caught it for a colossally huge first down. Two plays later, Green Bay scored the winning touchdown, and the game was over. To err is human, to forgive divine. But to forgive in the Super Bowl — is even better.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Today at the Hoosier MAMA meeting, the host, a Methodist minister, a man I admire deeply, said he wanted to share a hymn that speaks of the winter. He said he was tired of it, etc. Here's what I thought he said, "a bleep midwinter." I thought it was funny, and then he clarified, "BLEAK midwinter!" Oh, I get it now! Anyway I thought the words were pretty cool:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

I went for a run mid-morning. It wasn't too bad at all. On the way back I ran past Penny's Pet Connection and saw this on their sign:

Corn and King Snakes: $39 - $49

I thought this might a good valentine gift idea for some.

I just got back from WalMart; bought supplies for Honduras. The WalMart greeter did not greet me when I went in. What does this mean? She was just sitting off to the side looking at a magazine, I think. When I left she was still sitting there, still not greeting.

Nouwen on Consolation

Consolation is a beautiful word. It means "to be" (con-) "with the lonely one" (solus). To offer consolation is one of the most important ways to care. Life is so full of pain, sadness, and loneliness that we often wonder what we can do to alleviate the immense suffering we see. We can and must offer consolation. We can and must console the mother who lost her child, the young person with AIDS, the family whose house burned down, the soldier who was wounded, the teenager who contemplates suicide, the old man who wonders why he should stay alive.

To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, "You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry the burden. Don't be afraid. I am here." That is consolation. We all need to give it as well as to receive it.
Good morning, Wednesday! You're the long day, right? Yes, you are. We'll work through this thing together, won't we?

This morning I have a meeting with the Mitchell Area Ministerial Association, MAMA for short. It has been proposed by me that, since we are all working in Indiana--the Hoosier state--we should call ourselves Hoosier MAMA. Rejected. Shot down. Some people have no sense of humor.

Yesterday was a good day; gotta a lot done. The best part was meeting and eating with Maddie and Lester in Martinsville. We met at Chili's. We've been a little frustrated over the years of trying to meet Lester at a good restaurant. We have not found a good place to meet/eat in Martinsville; had a couple of bad experiences. It was good last night, so maybe we can do it again. The funniest part of last night was when the wait staff came and sang, very loudly, to Lester. He turned red, and we loved it!

What will today hold? Well, let's see. Hoosier MAMA meeting, 5 mile run, meeting with a few other people, lunch with an elder, trip to Sam's to get some things for Honduras, pack duffel bags for Honduras, Wednesday Evening Meal, and class at 7, plus all the unexpected calls etc. Sounds like a pretty normal day.

I forgot to mention something from the weekend. Rebecca was a candidate for Homecoming Queen. She did not win, but she is still royalty in my heart. In fact, for a long, long time, I have called her my Purple Princess. (She loves purple.) The other 2 candidates were really good girls as well, so there was no disappoint in her not winning.

This is NOT like when we entered Lester in a beautiful baby contest when he was 6 months old in New Zealand. I was so sure he would win! And when he didn't win, I was so angry. The contest was in a toy store (good marketing). After he lost, I went into a rage and tore the store apart. Later I came back and bombed the place, creating a huge fire. How could the judges be so stupid to not see how beautiful Lester was! Oh, wait a minute, there I go again, mixing up fantasy with reality. And by the way, I am totally over Lester losing that contest.

OK, got to get mentally prepared for the Hoosier MAMA meeting. I just love using that - Hoosier MAMA.

Referee Training

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My favorite Super Bowl commercial

Three years ago today

Three years ago today I flew to Russia. It was one of the most exciting, frightening, thrilling times of my life. You can go back into "older posts," (February 2008) if you want to see what I did there. HERE is the first one.

Twenty-three years ago today Lester was born. Happy birthday Son! He was born in New Zealand on a warm, humid day. I have some very vivid, specific memories of that day. Lester has been a delight and blessing to us all his life. We are going to meet Maddie and him in Martinsville this evening to celebrate his birth.

Between now and then I have a lot of things to do/accomplish. Honduras prep is looming large, and I hope to advance my writing project for Lilly Endowment. I will also spend some time at the food pantry this afternoon, followed by a conversation with a very good man and a wonderful thinker, Mike Church. We go out drinking sometimes - Pepsi, hot chocolate, etc.

That's enough for now...

Monday, February 07, 2011

Yesterday's sermon

What are you afraid of?

Central America Here We Come

On Saturday I, along with 3 others, leave for Honduras. Interestingly enough, my son Luke is also headed to Central America and will be down there while I am there. He will be in Guatemala from this Thursday until the following Tuesday, and I will be in Honduras from Saturday to the following Saturday.

Luke is going down with Lipscomb's engineering department to continue working in a very remote part of Guatemala. They are doing some really neat construction projects. He was supposed to go in January, during his Christmas break, but there was serious unrest in the region. Mexican drug gangs were attacking people in order to gain control of a drug-running route. I'm not sure how all that was resolved, but evidently the threat is no longer present. I am a little concerned about his safety but trust in the Lord's protection.

Honduras seems to be very calm now. I was thinking the other day about how we were caught in Honduras during a coup. That's pretty wild, really! I was never frightened or afraid during that time.

Today has been good! I got a good 7 mile run in this morning. It was pretty pleasant; a little snow was falling but it was relatively warm. I had a couple of good meetings, visited the hospital, visited the nursing home, stopped by the store, and a had a visitor drop by my office later in the afternoon. Now I am sitting in front of the fire place enjoying the warm of the fire.

I wonder how long it will be until the urge to sleep will overtake me?
Here we go again! This week is going to be different for me. I leave for Honduras on Saturday, so I don't have the hours of sermon prep that I usually have. Those hours will quickly fill with other things, which is fine.

Last week didn't let up much. I had things to do everyday and all weekend, so anticipating a week in Honduras is helpful. I feel like I need a break from the usual routine. Being Honduras is not a vacation by any means, but it is a different kind of work. It is refreshing in a lot of ways. Even preparing for the trip, as I will do this week, provides some revival.

Looks like we are going to continue to dodge weather bullets this week. Looks like it will be cold but the chances of a major snow storm have diminished considerably. Everything I am hearing says that we will experience a major warm up sometime next week. I know I will for sure, since the average temperature in Honduras will be around 80. Sorry.

My running for the next couple of weeks is going to be challenging. Since I leave on Saturday (3.00 a.m.), I will need to do my 10-12 miler either on Thursday or Friday. I am going to have to figure when to do my tempo run this week, because tomorrow evening we are going to meet Lester and Maddie in Martinsville, I think, to celebrate his 23rd birthday. None of this is a problem, just a simple adjustment.

OK I need to get after it.

Maybe I'll check in later?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Today is not going to be a relaxing day off, which is what I always dream about Fridays being. Rarely happens, which is fine. I didn't get my sermon done yesterday, and I'm not sure how long it is going to take to get it done.

I need to get a 7 mile run in sometime today. I did 10 yesterday. Tomorrow I have a funeral at 10 a.m., which means I won't be able to run the 5K I was hoping to run. Not complaining! I just need to get my mileage in today.

We had a good Honduras meeting last night. I leave a week from tomorrow and will be gone for a week. It's in the 80s there.

OK, maybe more later. I have a meeting in 15 minutes...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Few more thoughts on fear

What are you afraid of? Most of us are afraid of something. Some of them are relatively minor: spiders, snakes, heights, public speaking, etc., and some fears reach to the core of our existence. Death seems to be a big concern for a lot of people; maybe the biggest concern.

It seems to me that at the root of real fear is a concern about significance. Do we matter? Is our life of value to anyone or anything? Do we fear death because it signifies the end of our quest for significance? Are we concerned that when it’s all said and done we really made no contribution to life? Do we fear coming and going and no one knowing?

Is that what we are really afraid of? Does that then lead us to do all kinds of things so that others will say that we are important and are significant? We want to control things, people, and especially our lives, and when we can’t control things, then fear shows up and takes over. Then we look for something to calm our fears. We want control back so we can matter.

What's the solution? I think Mark 4:35-41 is a good place to start. Now, I need to go finish this sermon.

Shut Up!

Last night in class we were discussing Mark 4:35-41. It's a text that describes Jesus sleeping in a boat while a furious storm threatens the lives of the disciples in the boat. These guys, experienced mariners, are terrified by the storm and apparently annoyed that Jesus is sleeping through it. They wake him up by shouting in his face a question, "Don't you care that we are dying here?!?"

The text says that Jesus got up, "rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." Someone pointed out that this rebuke was not a quiet request but more like a shout of "Shut up!" to the unruly, out of control sea. Now, this made me think of an old Cheech & Chong skit. I asked the class if they had heard of it - Sister Mary Elephant. Much to my dismay only one person out of the 15-20 people acknowledge knowing about it. (Since Cheech & Chong are of questionable character, maybe no one wanted to admit it, ha ha.)

The Sister Mary Elephant skit involves a Catholic nun substitute teacher who repeatedly yells, "SHUT UP!" to the unruly class. You can read about it here. I know the juxtaposition of Jesus and Cheech & Chong is probably not a good one, but, hey, that was what came to mind!

Our class was really good last night. I hope to be able to capture the spirit and the comments of the class and incorporate them into my sermon today. I'm not sure how the Spirit of God works in all this but I am convinced he does. Since I went public in my request for input regarding fear and received a lot of input from a very diverse group, I am thinking of publishing the sermon on Facebook as a "note," hoping it will serve as an opportunity to share some Good News with some folks who otherwise won't hear it. Knowing this affects my sermon prep in a good way. I have to be more aware of the message and how it comes across to those who are not used to a church context.

OK, need to get busy on all this. Gonna be a busy weekend - got a funeral on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Wow, what a beautiful snow is coming down right now! Nice surprise! I think it's about over.

I hopped on my bike trainer this morning and rode for a while. I need to get on it more often and am going to make it my goal to do so. I also did a pretty good core workout. Biking is my main goal for the summer. Specifically I plan to do RAIN 2011 on July 16th. RAIN = Ride Across Indiana, which is about 160 miles. I think I can build up to that and do it successfully. Several of my friends have done it without any problem. I am new to the endurance biking thing, but my running will certainly help. In turn, the biking will help my running in the fall.

The 2 hour delay was nice but it kinda throws everything off. It's later than I think! I got a call this morning saying that our ReGeneration store was broken into over night, so that's where I started my away-from-the-house day. They were nice burglars - they did minimumal damage to the door and to a drawer under the cash register. We leave no money in the Store and the cash drawers are left open.

Need to get busy...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I've been thinking about fear a lot today. I'm happy to announce that I am not afraid to think about being afraid! Now, I didn't say that I don't have fears.

Ben and I were not afraid to go out and run this evening! Not being afraid does not necessarily equal sanity, but, hey, we had fun. It was cold, wet, and windy, but there were 6 of us. The roads were wet, very wet, but it was not slick. We saw and heard several evergreen tree limbs snap and fall to the ground from the weight of the ice that was clinging to them. That was kinda weird.

I think school may go on time again tomorrow. They sure dodged a big bullet. I thought at one point they might miss 2-3 days. It looks to me like the precip is finished. Now the wind and dropping temps should dominate.

Popcorn is calling my name...
From Christianity Today
Well, it looks like school is a "go" this morning. I think our warning has been cancelled. I find there is a lot of inconsistency in forecasts, which, I think, comes from the fact that we are in between 2 markets (mentioned yesterday). Oh well, I'm glad life as we know it continues another day.

As I looked out my office window this morning I saw not one but two skunks, maybe 3. I think they were cleaning up the leftovers under my bird feeder. Let's just hope they mind their business and move on. We don't need them around here this morning.

I don't know why, but this morning some comments made on Sunday came back to me. I try not take too deeply or seriously the things people say after a sermon. I don't want to fall into the trap of measuring sermonic success based on comments, yet it is hard not to notice what people say. Sometimes no one says anything at all, which makes me think that there was no connection (see, there I go doing what I said I try not to do!). Anyway, on Sunday there were 2-3 really heartfelt comments along the lines of, "that's what I really needed." And then there was the comment, "I slept through part of it." Interesting. What I want to do/try to do is to be faithful to the text. I plant and water. God gives the growth. [Whose job is it to keep people awake?]

Today looks like a "normal" day, so that means some study, some meetings, and some contact with various people in various places in life. I'm not sure about our run this evening; might be a cold rainy one!

About time for breakfast...