Thursday, July 26, 2007

Layovers, luggage and random thoughts

July 19/07

Okay, I’m traveling again. I’m currently sitting by the cool fountain at the Detroit Airport in Concourse A. The last time I was here I was delirious with fatigue and I posted a blog in a semi-conscious state. Everybody seemed to like it so here I go again.

I got on my first flight in New Orleans and we took off almost on time. I made my 25- minute connection through Memphis and was in the air again. Since the in-flight snack and beverage service has been reduced to a small cup of ice with an ounce of soda, I was grateful for the Poptarts I had purchased at a vending machine. I’m still sipping on my bottled water, wanting to savor my $3.15 purchase. (For the record, I’ve paid less for XXX sherry, but that was some time ago.) The Poptarts were a timely buy, as we spent an extra hour in the air. Apparently we had to fly around some bad weather. We were obviously successful as it’s 80 degrees and sunny here. Yep, nary a storm cloud in the sky.

There’s a bird flitting around the fountain and I wonder if it’s the same one that was here before. A moment ago it flew away from the fountain and landed directly overhead. I mean directly…that thing couldn’t have centered itself better using a slide-rule. I waited for the inevitable, but by God’s grace it flew away. Thank You, Lord.

So, I arrived in New Orleans about 10am, have been in the air twice, still have another 3-hour layover and then a 2 ½ hour car ride to Mom’s house. It’s currently 5:40pm. I love vacation!!!

I’ll try to keep you posted on the festivities. Please pray for me (safe travel, fruitful visit, etc.). Thanks, talk to you soon. All glory to God!

Layover (cont.)

It was inevitable that there would be a sequel…so here it is.

I’m now on the plane again for the final leg of my journey. I spent 4 hours in Detroit and eventually wandered up to my gate in time to hear, “Final boarding call for all passengers for Syracuse, New York”. Yep, after schlepping through the terminal for 240 minutes I almost missed my plane.

Fortunately, Detroit is a pretty massive airport. I remember having a layover one time in Wisconsin where the entire airport consisted of four gates. I believe there was a vending machine, but I’m not certain. Anyway, Detroit is so big that it has a tram. I rode back and forth on it several times during my stay…down to A10 to check out Charley’s Subs, then back across the concourse to compare prices at Quiznos by A69. I eventually settled on a $4 PB&J. I’m serious…there’s actually a restaurant that specializing in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was pretty good. Disturbing sign though; posted below the menu was a sign with big letters explaining that their facility uses nut and peanut products. (You know something dumb happened to force that hand.)

I made some other interesting observations on my journey too. Sitting on the plane there are 2 instructions posted on my tray table: FASTEN SEATBELT WHILE SEATED and USE BOTTOM CUSHION FOR FLOTATION. Let’s take these one at a time. In the unlikely event that this plane happens to plummet thirty thousand feet to the earth, is my seatbelt really going to make that much of a difference? Oh sure, it might tell them that the body in 6A didn’t make it, but I changed seats already. My assigned seat (6B) is currently empty. Do you think they’d send out a search party?

Next, the whole flotation issue: I would prefer that my seat bottom cushion turn into an umbrella. That way, should this giant bird head south at mind-blowing speeds, I could simply pop out my umbrella and float to safety Mary Poppins style. I think it’s far more practical, particularly since none of my flights cross over any water. There’s very little need of a floatation device when I’m landing on concrete. I guess, if he tried hard, the pilot could swing us over to Lake Michigan, but I’m really feeling the umbrella thing. Maybe it’s a personal preference.

While I was meandering around during my 4-hour break I saw a little sign that read ‘Religious Reflection Room’. I followed the arrows, went on an elevator and eventually found the place. I was the only one there and when I walked in I noticed that the wall I was looking had said North. I looked around and saw that all of the walls were labeled. I thought that was a little curious but I sat down and took out my Bible to read. After reading for a while I noticed that there were chairs around 3 walls, but none on the east wall. There was a little box of blankets in the corner that looked like prayer rugs. I don’t know enough about religions to know who does what, but I know that some people pray to their god facing east at particular times of the day. It made me very grateful that I can call on my God, anytime, in any situation, even if I don’t know what direction I’m facing. That’s the kind of God I need.

One more thought and then I’m signing off. Apparently I have officially now lived in the South for too long. I have become accustomed to the hospitality and chivalry of southern men. I had forgotten that in the north women are expected to open their own doors. At one point, while boarding an escalator, I mistakenly assumed a man was letting me go ahead of him. He was actually just jockeying for position and very nearly pushed me down the stairs when I attempted to step onto the moving staircase. That harrowing experience that made me realize, I miss southern gentlemen.

July 24/07

You’ll never guess where I am…back at the Detroit airport!

It has been several days since my last entry and I’m now headed back home. I landed safely in Syracuse Thursday night. My luggage, however, did not make the trip until Monday. I spent most of my vacation in the same pair of jeans and had to wear my mother’s pajamas. All in all though, I had a great time. I got to see my family, spend time with my nephews and really just relax. Good times, good food. (My Mom is a really good cook.)

I’m spending the next 3 ½ hours here at Concourse A so you may hear from me again. Thanks for your prayers and God bless.

Because enquiring minds want to know:
1917: that’s how many steps it takes to walk from gate A1 to gate A78 at the Detroit Airport. Educational, eh? Yep, I’m still here. Stay tuned for more fun-filled trivia…

Question: The following item(s) may be counted as carry-on luggage:
A) a small suitcase
B) a laptop computer
C) a live dog in a bag
D) all of the above

D…as proved on my flight between Detroit and Memphis
(I kid you not. The woman in the seat beside me brought her dog. Can you even believe it?)

I’m now on my final plane. I should be landing in New Orleans within the hour where my good friend T-Dawg is picking me up. It will be good to be home. I hope my luggage is on this plane with me.

An interesting dilemma: what is the appropriate response when a disturbing odor suddenly fills the surrounding air in a confined space? (You know what I’m talking about…like on an elevator or something.) I’m minding my own business and suddenly I’m assaulted by a waft of unholy stink. I decided to simply ignore it, but it was potent. Seriously, I thought the air masks might drop down from the overhead compartment. I didn’t dare look around in case it made me look like the guilty party. The air eventually cleared, but it was touch-and-go for a while. Definitely a funk among us.

I’m pretty tired. I probably need to sign off before this goes any farther south. Thanks for traveling with me again. God bless. All glory to Him!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Survival of the fittest

Yes, VBS has ended. Yes, I have survived. All glory to God!

For those who know me well, you know that my being associated with children's ministry is a display of God's sense of humor. After driving kids from North Baton Rouge to Highland and back all week, I have to say it was an adventure. I also have to say that I learned a lot from them.

Here are some quotes that were heard this week:
"What do you mean they killed Him? Who would ever want to kill Jesus?"

Volunteer: "...God made everything; the trees, water, me, you, everything."
Little girl #1: "God made me?"
Volunteer: "Yes, He made all of us."
Little girl #1 to Little girl #2: "Did He cut us out?"
Little girl #2: "No, I think He painted us."

"Please don't make me go home. Can I come home with you?" :(

The first night these kids got on the van I thought, 'This is gonna be a long week.' The truth is, it was a long week, but it was fruitful. We started with 27 kids and finished the week with 58. After the last night we had a little party for them at the Dream Center before we took them home to their apartments and houses. The kids thanked us, the parents thanked us...people we didn't even know thanked us and told us we were doing a good thing. But the coolest part of all of it is that these kids had the opportunity to experience Jesus. They found out that God is real, that He cares and that He is strong. These kids need a real, present, strong God. Some of them live in horrifying situations. Many of the kids had never been to Prairieville before, having never really been off their block. For these children, Avalanche Ranch was their summer vacation.

A big thank you to Miss Sherrie and all the crew that made this experience possible. You have forever changed the lives of these kids. On behalf of the North Baton Rouge families, thank you.

I love that Pastor Dino has a heart for the next generation. I love that HPC isn't content with just feeding the sheep, they want to increase the flock. I'm excited to see what God is going to do in our community, and I'm extremely blessed to get to watch. All glory to God!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

VBS Madness

I would just like to start by saying, God bless the Children's Workers. Yesterday was the first day of HPC's (Highland) Vacation Bible School. It's a little get together they have every year and they invite about 1200 kids (ages 4-11) to come and experience Jesus. Ohmigosh!

I never go, as it's a fairly well known facts that I am not called to children's ministry (huge understatement). This year however, since God has such a great sense of humor, it was decided that we would bus in a few dozen of our inner-city kids, and I get to drive one of the vehicles!

Now, I've only done it once so far, but here are some things I've learner so far:
1) When they say '15-passenger van' that is only an estimate. You can actually fit 7-8 kids per seat.
2) Kids are like magic tricks: they disappear in an instant and then, just when you think the show is over, they pop back up again.
3) At VBS nobody likes to talk in a normal voice...there's a whole lotta screaming going on (and on and on) and the kids love it!
4) The presence of God changes matter what age they are.

Once the screaming stopped and all the kids reappeared we headed back to North Baton Rouge. The kids were laughing and joking, and then some were begging us not to take them back home. The reality of their lives is bad. There is abuse and violence and addiction continually swirling around them. The fifteen or twenty hours they spend with us this week may well be the best part of their summer. We are their vacation. Father, let us do it well. In Jesus' name.
All glory to God.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

God's Timing

I am ever amazed at God's timing. I know that He's perfect and awesome and ever-present, but somehow He still surprises me in the way He sets things up. For example, we were doing outreach downtown on Saturday. Our plan was to visit some of the people in our neighborhood and hand out cold drinks and chocolate bars. Nothing earth-shattering; just saying hey and reminding folks that God loves them. Pastor Johnny walks up to a guy to give him an ice tea and finds out that the dude is trying to cut his grass with a weed-whacker because somebody had stolen his lawnmower. Pastor Johnny just happens to have a lawnmower in the back of his jeep so he cuts the guy's lawn for him. Maybe not a big deal to some, but to the man with only a weed-whacker it's huge. Reach the world by serving one. God's timing.
Another example: as we're walking down the street a guy wanders out of a building in his sock feet to have a smoke. We walk up with our kit-kats and visit with him for a while. When asked if he needs prayer he tells us about his son being killed, a lawsuit he's in and a painful back injury he's dealing with. One of the volunteers tells his son to pray for the man, so the eleven-year-old hands me his chocolate bars so he can lay hands on the man. Afterwards the gentleman thanked us for our prayers and told us we were doing a good thing. He came out for a smoke and got touched by God. Again, God's timing.
After covering three streets we only had a few things left so we went to The Alamo. For anyone who doesn't know, The Alamo is a by-the-hour motel that's located on a rough strip of Florida Blvd. We go there pretty frequently so the regulars know us a little bit. They don't always stop dealing drugs or pimping girls when we roll up, but at least they don't shoot at us. Pastor Alliece always blows the horn several times to let the people know to come out and get some free stuff. This time when we showed up, the commotion scared off a man who was attempting to attack a young woman. He had already gotten through her door and had started tearing her clothes off when the trucks showed up and sea of red shirts swarmed the area. He didn't know what was happening so he got up and ran off. The woman told one of our volunteers what had happened; and thanked us profusely for saving her. Once again, God's timing.
There was no way we could have planned any of the events that took place on outreach. All we did was show up. We spoke to dozens of families, handed out hundreds of items and prayed for countless people; all because we showed up. I am so grateful that I don't have to figure out the plan or the timing for anything. Every time that I am willing to stand aside and let God move, He shows up and shows off. And if I show up, I get to see miracles. How cool is that? All glory to God!
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:16

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Morning

Every Friday I have the opportunity to watch God move. Down at the Baton Rouge Dream Center we have Ladies Thrive, a support group for women living in the area. These are not the same women you would meet at Chick Nite or at a Sunday service at Highland. These women, like the Highland gals, are (to a large extent) a product of their environment.

This morning I watched women steal, cuss and lie. Then I watched those same women be brought to tears in the presence of God. As Pastor Alliece taught from God's Word these women shared their struggles of fear, hate, addiction and abuse. In group they discussed their families, their failures and their dreams. In the course of an hour I saw women walk through our doors desparate and despondent, and then leave with a glimmer of hope. Now, a glimmer may not seem like much, but in the darkest dark a glimmer can carry you a long, long way.

I believe that one day these women will be free. I believe that because I know that God did it for me. I don't steal, cuss or lie any more. I used to; all the time. But God changed my heart. As these women continue to learn about Him and be in His presence they'll be changed. What an awesome privilege to get to watch. All glory to God!