December 2009

Desperate Prayer

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In the summer of 1876, grasshoppers decimated crops all across Minnesota. Desperate farmers worked day and night to keep their fields from ruin. As the crisis mounted, Governor John Pillsbury proclaimed April 26, 1877 as a statewide day of prayer and fasting. All the schools and businesses closed as people gathered in churches to pray and fast.

From Ordinary to Exquisite

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Most of us have honed the ordinary into a finely tuned expression of daily life. With few exceptions, we arrive into this world with the ordinary accompanying us.

Few of us startle the attending doctors, nurses, or midwives and few leave the birthing room entourage speechless. Just ordinary infants, emerging from safety into a strange, perplexing environment of bright lights, loud sounds, and frequent discomfort. Only when the ordinary comes into contact with the extraordinary does it seem so, well, ordinary!

Enduring with Hope

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Exile is not something we actively seek out as a favored experience or place to visit. Indeed, there is something ominous-sounding in the very word. Typically, exile means being temporarily relocated in a place not of one's choosing, due to circumstances, consequences, or conditions that are uncomfortable at best.

Adam and Eve experienced exile because they disobeyed God's command. Israel was in self-imposed exile in Egypt and forced exile in Babylonia. Joseph and Mary left Bethlehem for a time of protective exile in Egypt because Herod sought to kill Jesus.

Making Disciples in Africa

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Writing this, I am 10 days into my second jurisdictional trip to Africa this year. As a young person, and later as a pastor, I heard remarkable stories of God's work through the Church of the Nazarene on that vast continent. Africa's history is replete with strife, oppression, and warfare. Civilizations have come and gone. Today, the people of Africa are in places where poverty and disease are so prevalent that an entire generation is in danger of disappearing. The contrasts are staggering as we find them in gleaming high-rise office buildings, or driving expensive late-model vehicles.

Happy Holiness

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I grew up on the road. I still remember the numbers of many highways. Route 66 stretched from the Midwest to California. Route 54 ran from Chicago to El Paso. The 401 would take you from Toronto to Ottawa. Long before U.S. superhighways were known as Interstates, there was Route 1, snaking along a history-laden corridor of Americana. On the West Coast, Highway 101 traversed spectacular scenery and geography from Los Angeles to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Living the Message of Holiness

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We will not easily forget seeing a wall of water overwhelming shorelines and destroying lives in southern Asia on December 26, 2004. News broadcasts relayed devastating accounts of the tragedy. The rising death toll surged beyond comprehension.

We were captivated and stunned by the stories of lost lives, of orphaned children, of people wandering the streets crying for family members who were swept away. Tears filled our eyes as we watched parents weeping and cradling the bodies of their children. A dismayed world faced the ominous reality of our frailty.

The Father Has Everything Under Control

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Sometimes people ask me how general superintendents survive the demands of the assignment, referring to the thousands of miles we travel, the countless decisions we make, and the basic acts of serving in such a confusing world. Since my retirement begins in August, I have been thinking. How do any of us survive in this difficult, imperfect, demanding environment? Everyone faces enormous challenges in life.

Things Change—the Message Remains

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Lengthening shadows and shorter days characterize the month of October in the northern hemisphere. For those living in places where daylight savings time is observed, October is the month when the time change occurs. We "fall back" to "normal" time. Sunset occurs earlier in the evening, and dawn, at least early in the month, disturbs our sleep. But October is also a time when the church is abuzz with activity.

The Big Tent

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Big tents are often symbolic. As a child, I remember seeing a huge tent with throngs of people milling around it. I asked my father what it was and he responded, "Would you like to go find out?" My childish curiosity was pegging the meter, and off to the big tent we went. To my surprise, it was a church service. A Baptist preacher was conducting an evangelistic crusade under the huge canvas.