Band Camp

Something recently triggered my memories of attending band camp when I was in high school. We would travel by bus to a large camp somewhere near Tobyhanna, PA, and spend about five days learning the fall show. It was everything you would hope the experience would be: fun, informative, social, and very challenging. Early morning “marching and maneuvering“ practice was the WORST. We would descend on the practice field still covered in heavy dew, and our feet stirred up all of the resting mosquitoes and no-see-ums (it’s a Pennsylvania thing.) Luckily this was done without instruments, so our hands were free to swat and slap.

Those days in the heat promoted bonding that I still feel with my fellow band members when I see their posts on FaceBook. I had the opportunity a few years ago to officiate the wedding of a former drummer’s daughter. We don’t even live in the same state, but the friendship that began on a sweltering practice field in the August of our youth made it seem like a natural fit, and it was a joy to re-connect with old friends.

Many of us probably don’t remember how to play the instruments we carried during those years. None of us could recall the intricate routines. We probably can’t remember all the names of the songs we had to memorize. But the bonds we made in those formative years last forever.

Philippians 2 (The Message)

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Band-life was Philippians 2-life. Except for the chair challenges, when each player tried to capture first chair in their section, we did not push ourselves to the front or try to get our own advantage. When we hit the field, we were a community that felt a deep-spirited friendship, and we worked together to defeat the other bands. We were a team.

If you have ever been part of something bigger than yourself, you understand. God calls us into community so that we might bond with other workers toward the same goal. In the community of believers, that means humbling ourselves in the way that Christ did:

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 

Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Where is God calling you to take second chair? Where might you make a bigger impact by putting others first? Is God inviting you to forget about yourself, and offer a helping hand to someone else?

Being part of God’s bigger vision for your life means being a part of a deep-spirited community. Let us choose to love one another, agree with one another, and be deep-spirited friends. This is the way we will win the world.

East Coast Champions by the Record Breeze via Greta Mattingly

WhatEVER

If you have ever had a teenager, if you have one now, or if you simply know a teenager, you have heard the word whatEVER waaay, waaay too much. It becomes the common response to EVERYTHING for a (thankfully) brief period of time…say, from age 11 to about 21. (31?) Often delivered with an eye roll, a foot stomp, and a perfectly dismissive tone of voice, whatEVER signals to the hearer that the speaker is finished with the conversation and has totally moved on. End of. Door closed. Don’t bother to knock.

Oh, the joys of raising kids!

In defense of the teens that we all raise and love, whatEVER also signals that your teen is overwhelmed, frustrated, distracted, and emotionally underwater. The dismissiveness is not always a lack of respect, as much as it feels like it. It is your kid’s way of saying, ”TOO MUCH. School is too much, social media is too much, my boy/girl friend issues are too much, the bullying at lunch is too much, my so-called-friends are too much, the pressures of hormonal life with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex are just TOO MUCH.” It’s perhaps in this moment that they need Mom and Dad the most, even with the strong-arm/push-away behavior that they are exhibiting.

And don’t be fooled…whatEVERness is not just restricted to teenagers. Look around your friend group, your workplace, and your community, and you’ll find someone choosing dismissive and off-putting behavior as a way to deal with their own TOO-MUCHNESS.

WhatIF we could turn their WhatEVERs into something lovely?

Philippians 4

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

When someone comes at you full bore and you get blindsided by their hostility, it is a good thing to pause and consider what else is happening. It’s also important to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, and pleasing about them. In other words, in the face of resistance, rebellion, and rudeness (whether from your kid or another adult) think to yourself: what is really going on? Is there ANY redeeming quality in this person (albeit not in this moment?)

If the answer is yes, take a deep breath and think about THOSE things. Then pray.

Someday, you will be glad that you did not overreact to your teenager’s hormones. Someday, you will be glad that you didn’t meet rudeness with rudeness. Someday that awful co-worker who was trying to undermine you may actually come back to apologize, and thank you for your graciousness.

And someday, that overwhelmed kid will be an overwhelmed parent of a teenager themself. And when that happens, and they come complaining to you about what their child just had the NERVE to say to them, you know what your response can be?

“WhatEVER!!!”

Whatever is Pleasing, Think on This by Michelle Robertson

Wind Shifts

Last week brought gale-force winds to the Outer Banks, and these winds often bring sound-side flooding. Our schools had to quickly scramble to declare an early dismissal so that the buses could get kids home safely before the roads flooded with salt water and became impassable.

I live on an island off the main drag, and so we have to be particularly aware of the three-mile road that links Big Colington Island to Little Colington Island to Kill Devil Hills. The low road is bordered by water on both sides and connected by two bridges. When the wind shifts, the lowest parts flood pretty quickly, and suddenly you can’t get on or off the island. But locals know to just wait, because the wind always shifts back and takes the water with it.

Island life is a constant reminder of who is in charge of the winds, the tides, the rising sea, and the setting sun. Whenever a change in the weather traps us inside for awhile, it is good to recall the words of hope and promise in Isaiah. And whether your entrapment is weather-related, or life-situation-related, the truth remains the same:

Isaiah 43

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.


When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.


For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior
.

Whenever you pass through the waters, I will be with you. I have two beloved women in my life who are going through very difficult custody battles. I think of them everyday, and pray this over them. When things like this happen, remember that you are only PASSING THROUGH this time of your life.

When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. Another friend just lost her husband. Waves of grief will now come on a regular basis for a while. I pray this over her. When someone you love dies, remember that you will NOT be swept away by the sorrow forever; it will not always feel this way.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. For all of you undergoing cancer treatments, spending another day of your life in prison, struggling to find work, advocating for your family’s rights, walking in protest, fighting your way out of abuse, overcoming addiction…I pray this for you. Remember that you will NOT be burned by your journey…just keep walking.

Eventually, the winds do shift. The flood water recedes, the dry land re-appears, and travel becomes easier.

Hang on. God had redeemed you. He has summoned you by name. You are HIS.

Colington Road Underwater by Amy Berge

Flight Delays

FLIGHT DELAYS. Everybody has them. If you fly in or out of Atlanta, you get more than your fair share of them. Mechanical issues, weather issues, personnel issues…it doesn’t take much for your flight to be delayed. But if you think about it, you may want your flight to be delayed. Flying with an engine part that needs to be replaced, or into a tornado-spawning storm, or with one of your pilots missing is never a good thing. Bring on the delay!

Said nobody ever.

Delays are annoying, inconvenient, and sometimes expensive. I heard a story about an extremely irate man whose plane had been delayed for weather. The man was very loud in his displeasure and demanded to see the pilot. (Because, of course, the pilot can fix the weather.) He was yelling about how much the delay was going to cost him, and said that the 2-hour delay caused him to miss a meeting to finalize a multi-million dollar deal. The pilot apologized and explained the situation for the tenth time, but that didn’t appease the man. He went back into rant-mode about the lost millions, the pilot finally responded, “Well sir, next time you have a multi-million dollar deal on the line, perhaps you should fly in the day before to ensure your on-time arrival.”

He’s got a point. That business man was leaving a lot to chance by only allowing two hours to land, make his way out of the large airport, find a taxi, and get to his downtown meeting on time.

Flight delays in life happen every day. A couple tries to conceive a child, and month after month they are disappointed. A college graduate waits endless weeks to hear about grad school. A tired Mom tries to get to bed at a reasonable hour, but the baby keeps waking up. An elderly man waits patiently for his son’s visit, but it seems to keep getting put off every month. A hospice patient takes months rather than days to finish their life’s journey. Flight delays happen.

The only thing you can control when a flight delay happens in your life is your response to it.

Isaiah 30

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion..
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!

God longs to be gracious to us in our delays. God will rise up to show us compassion if we use our waiting time LOOKING for him. Rather than rant and rail, can your response be one of hopeful anticipation? Of increased prayer? Of calm reassurance to your fellow passengers that all is well, because God is in charge?

God is with you in your waiting. God may actually be using the delay to prepare you for what is coming. Where is he active when you feel that your life has stalled? If you look for him, you will find him.

Blessed are all who wait for him.

ATL Sunrise

Binocularvision

Binoculars are fascinating. Heavy and clunky, they contain a series of lenses and prisms that capture light and image, flip them around, and bring them to the eyes with clarity and a close-up view that is impossible to the naked eye.

In case you are curious about the science of binoculars, read this from https://www.explainthatstuff.com/binoculars.html:

Binoculars are simply two telescopes side by side, one for each eye. But there’s a catch. When light rays from a distant object pass through a convex lens, they cross over. That’s why distant things sometimes look upside down if you look at them through a magnifying glass. The second lens doesn’t sort out that problem. So binoculars have a pair of prisms (large wedges of glass) inside them to rotate the image through 180 degrees. One prism rotates the image through 90 degrees (flips it onto its side), then the next prism rotates it through another 90 degrees (flips it onto its side again), so the two prisms effectively turn it upside down. The prisms can either be arranged in a back-to-back arrangement (known as roof prisms) or at 90 degrees (known as Porro prisms).

Are we clear now?

All I know is that owning a pair of binoculars on the Outer Banks is almost essential. There are many times when I see something in the water, or across the harbor at the club house that needs a closer look, and my handy binoculars do the trick. Our clubhouse parking area is the local heliport for emergencies, and I have observed several take-offs and landings there. It takes a moment to focus the binoculars, but then everything is clear.

Ephesians 1 (The Message)

15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.

But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

This prayer that Paul lifted up for his friends in Ephesus is one we should continue today. We should ask God to make us intelligent and discerning. We should ask him to help us know him personally. Especially today, we ask that our eyes are focused and clear enough to see EXACTLY what it is he is calling us to do.

This is my prayer for you. You have a calling. You have a divine appointment! May God grant you binocularvision so that you might see and know your calling in the world. May he grant you clarity of sight so that you know without a doubt what actions you should take, what words you should utter, and what step to take next. Focus in! He will show you the way.

I can’t stop thanking God for you.

Up close and personal.

Edgar and Ali

Edgar was a very refined Snowy White Egret. He lived all his life on the Reedy Creek Swamp with his family and friends. He was a very special bird, who had been rescued as a young baby from the jaws of an encroaching raccoon at the edge of the water.

This brazen predator had wandered where raccoons usually dare not go, due to the presence of alligators in the swamp. When Edgar attempted his first flight, he fell from the nest and was grabbed by the raccoon, who bit hard on Edgar’s wing. His brave mother rescued him by attacking the nasty thing and forcing it to drop Edgar. Unfortunately his wing was injured in the melee, and he had a wing-wobble for the rest of his life which made flight impossible. But still, his life on the swamp was happy and warm.

You see, when Edgar was recovering from his injuries, he met a lovely young alligator named Ali. She had spotted him by the edge of the water and swam over for a closer look. Seeing his despondent face, she asked, “Oh, dear! What ever is the matter? Your face is as long as a meadow horse!”

Edgar had never seen a meadow horse, but she seemed kind, so he took her word for it. “Well, I fell out of the family nest a few weeks ago and a raccoon bit my wing so hard, Doc Heron said I will never fly again. My family is off right now, flying to the other side of swamp, and I am stuck here.”

“Dear, dear,” said Ali. “That is very sad, indeed.” Ali thought for a moment and suddenly her face brightened. “Well, there is only one thing for it. All aboard the Ali-Boat!”

Edgar blinked. “The whaaaat?”

“The Ali-Boat! Just hop on my back and I will take you over!” Edgar hesitated. His mother had warned him that living in the trees above the gators was for their protection, as the possums and raccoons who eat egrets did not live near the gators. But gators were known to eat the discarded egret eggs that fell from the nests, so you never could be too careful…

Edgar looked at Ali with her big toothy grin, and decided to take a leap of faith. Anything was better than sitting under the same tree, day after day.

And so the friendship of Edgar and Ali began with that first ride, and they have been going around the swamp together ever since. They love to talk, and laugh, and observe swamp-life together. Edgar’s sharp eyes help Ali see things far in the distance, and Ali’s smooth swimming helps Edgar get to places where he could never fly.

Ecclesiastes 4 (The Message)

9 It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!

11 Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.

12 By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.

I bet you have an Edgar in your life. Or an Ali. God created friendship to be a symbiotic partnership, so that we might not feel lonely, so that we might protect and be protected, and so that when one of us falls, the other is right there to help us get up. With a friend, you can face the worst.

A wise grandmother once told me, “To have a friend, you have to be a friend.”

Go and be a good friend to someone today.

BFFs

A Sign from God

We were sitting outside by the hotel pool on an unusually chilly Florida day. I had wrapped myself in a beach towel for warmth and was watching kids running around the pool and going up and down the water slide. Surely these children were from Minnesota. It was way too chilly to actually be WET out here.

As my husband and I chatted (my teeth were slightly chattering,) a plane flew overhead and began to write something in the sky. Our hotel was located between Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, so I figured the message would be something akin to “Surrender, Dorothy.” Imagine my surprise when the words “TRUST JESUS” appeared. Why yes, don’t mind if I do!

I had been worrying over a retreat that I am leading in a few days. We couldn’t find a curriculum we liked, so the organizer asked me if I could write something. Let me pause here and say if any of you are aware that I have been asked to do such a thing in the future, please slap me upside the head until I say no.

But since none of you were there to slap me, I said yes, and have been diligently writing, planning, and dreaming away ever since. This job is so much bigger than I am. How should the timing of each session go? Do I have enough interaction planned? How much music? Is there a good balance of quiet reflection and table-talking? Should we do a craft? What craft?

It will probably amuse you to know that the subject they wanted me to focus on is WORRY. At least my firsthand knowledge of the subject will give me that authentic voice we all long to hear when we go to a retreat. I have worried, fretted, lost sleep, changed direction, talked incessantly to my running partners about it….oy vey.

This morning I discovered that my sermon for the final worship session (which I finished on the plane on the way to Florida) has somehow managed to go missing in cyber space, and the last two-thirds did not get saved.

Trust Jesus, indeed.

Proverbs 3 (New International Version)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

So what do you have going on right now? Where is God calling you to stop leaning on YOUR understanding, and submit to him? What are you holding back because you don’t actually trust him?

This scripture is calling you to trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. Not just for the little things, parsing out simple tasks to him, but with EVERYTHING. Your home, your life, your marriage, your health, your kids…your unfinished retreat sermon.

When I need reminded of this the most is when I think I am in control, or that I can solve my own problems. I hurry ahead, plow through, push on, and forget that God, in HIS understanding, has already worked it out without me.

And so the lost sermon was re-written. I don’t know if I wrote the same thing, or took it in a totally new direction, but I do know this: it was God’s work all along.

So too will he come into your situation and work it out for your good. Just trust, and obey.

Let This be a Sign Unto You…

Surf Fishing

Surf fishing is a very popular sport on the Outer Banks. Our entire coastline provides numerous spots that are perfect for this. Wherever you go on the beach, you are likely to run into a surf fisherman. I am a beach walker, so I know to carefully look for the sun’s reflection on their lines and walk under or behind them. It would be counterproductive to decapitate myself whilst trying to get in shape.

The beauty of surf fishing is that you can simply walk to your fishing spot. No boats, nets, piers, or docks required. Take off your shoes and cast your line! Of course the challenge is the surf itself. Negotiating the waves and the unknown depths of the water just beyond the break are part of the fun. More than once I have watched someone excitedly reeling in a fish while walking into the waves, only to hit the underwater drop-off and submerge up to their chest. By the way, the fish love it when that happens.

Surf fishing also requires a fair amount of “situational awareness,” especially as you cast. Always look around you, and especially behind you! Nobody wants to hook a sunbather in the eye. Or the bikini top.

Jesus knew a lot about fishing.

Mark 1 (The Message)

16-18 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.

19-20 A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.

So, had you realized that surf fishing is in the Bible?? Simon and Andrew were net-fishing from the beach. James and John were in a boat. All were given the instruction to leave their work and follow Jesus. The new job would be to fish for people.

Fishing for people also requires a kind of “situational awareness.” How ready is this person to hear the Gospel? What is the best approach? What do they need…a testimony, or a sandwich? What would communicate God’s love best?

You are also called to people-fish. Dropping the net you are currently holding is the best way to approach this new task. How can God use your abilities, resources, and personality to spread a word of hope, acceptance, and love?

Jesus calls us to follow him. May we be like the disciples and drop what we’re doing, leave everything behind, and immediately respond. You never know what you’ll catch.

Sunrise Surf Fishermen by Michelle Robertson

Something from Nothing

Two of my favorite shows are Project Runway and Top Chef. Everyone who knows me is probably surprised by this, as I can’t sew, I can’t cook, and I am certainly no fashion maven. My style sense runs to “does this solid look OK with this solid?” I am pretty much a jeans-and-top girl except on Sunday, when I show up in the same old thing every week. Thank God for clergy robes.

But my fascination with these shows is that fact that every week, they all make something from nothing. On Top Chef, they are given a challenge and a pantry of ingredients and VOILA, gourmet food is produced. “Here is a can of SPAM and a bunch of fresh fennel. Your challenge is to create an amuse bouche for a team of Alaskan dog sledders. Don’t forget to make it packable, and GO!” Project Runway is even more amazing. “Create a red carpet look with unconventional materials found in a candy store. You have one day for this challenge.”

These programs are an homage to the creative spirit in all of us. Well, at least in all of them. I would have just sent the can of SPAM with a can opener to the dog sledders and called it a day. And eaten the candy. But I am FASCINATED by people who can make something from nothing. This ability is a true reflection of God’s creative power.

Genesis 1 (The Message)

 1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
        And light appeared.
    God saw that light was good
        and separated light from dark.
    God named the light Day,
        he named the dark Night.
    It was evening, it was morning—
    Day One.

From nothingness, God brought forth the universe. From the bottomless emptiness, light was born. In the inky blackness, animals and humans were created. It was a labor of love.

The reformer Martin Luther, once said, “God made the world out of nothing. It is only when we become nothing that God can make something out of us.” Something to ponder as we bask in the glory of God’s creation today.

What would God make of you, if you emptied yourself of ego, need, agendas, preoccupations, doubt….? How can you become nothing, so that you can become his everything? What do you need to lose so that you can be made into something useful for the Kingdom?

You are also a labor of his love. Let him make something from your nothingness.

Beauty from Nothingness by Wende Pritchard

A Pig’s Tale

A pastor’s job is never done. All day long we are about our Father’s work, laboring with him to save souls. Then we get in our cars to take our weary bodies home, still thinking about saving souls.

Then there was that one day when I got in my car and had the chance to save something else. A 300-pound pig.

I was driving home from my office on Kitty Hawk Road when the little lass in the picture darted across somebody’s front lawn and ran in the road directly in front of me. I made a U-turn, parked in someone’s driveway, and set about chasing her. She had a good head start, but I am a less-than-300-pound runner, so I caught up. She turned to look at me as though to assess what kind of game we were playing, and suddenly I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I would do if I actually caught her. All I wanted was to keep her from getting hit on our busy road.

At that point I was only a block away from the Kitty Hawk Police Department. Having been raised to trust and respect the men and women in blue, I immediately set out to get my new friend over to the police station. Listen, it was a good plan…even their cars say they “protect and serve.” I was sure that in Kitty Hawk, that is not limited to people.

So I began to walk toward the station, calling, “Here, Piggy Piggy!” For those of you laughing, what exactly would YOU have said?? After all, Piggy and I had not been formally introduced.

At first she just stared at me. I think she liked the chase better. But after rooting around a little more in somebody’s yard, she began walking my way. (Do you think she maybe recognized the call of a savior?) I had to stop traffic when I needed to get her to cross the road (next morning‘s Sentinel headline: Why Did Piggy Cross the Road? To Get to the Police Station) and she trotted right over to my side.

I piggy-piggied her right up to the front door of the station, and walked in the front lobby and told the very startled receptionist, “I’m here to report a rogue pig.”

“Excuse me, M’am, a rogue WHAT? Oh….well, that’s just Caroline. She gets out all the time.”

She called an officer up from the back and he took one look at the pig and said, “Caroline, did you take yourself out for a walk again? Come on, let’s get you home.” And the Caroline and the officer trotted off to a property behind the police station where Caroline was safely delivered back home. Thus ends my pig tale.

Caroline is apparently a notorious Kitty Hawk wanderer, and I was not the first to save her. In fact, it was obvious to me that Caroline wanted to be saved.

How about you?

2 Peter 2 (The Message)

21-25 This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

He never did one thing wrong,
Not once said anything amiss.

They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.

He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.

Jesus used his servant body to carry our sins to the cross so that we might be saved. His actions enabled us to be free to live the right way. By his wounds we are healed! No longer lost sheep, (or pigs) we know the way home. Jesus did that for you.

Are you longing to be saved? Today is the day. Kneel down and confess your sins. Ask Jesus to cleanse you and make you whole. Ask him to live in you from now until he calls you home. Dedicate yourself to a life of following him, serving him, learning about him, and never straying from his path again.

Jesus saves. Is he calling you? Get yourself home.

They call me the Wanderer.