Tuesday, August 16, 2005


been trying to do an outreach project of some kind every second saturday of the month, which had to be rescheduled to sunday this month because of a wedding this past saturday. i hadn't gotten much response from people in the church yet, so as i drove to church sunday morning i still wasn't sure exactly what we'd do after church. passing the Sunoco station off U.S. 23 & Carpenter Rd in Milan, though, i felt a sense of conviction that we should start by washing the bathroom there.

after church, i could find only one person who wanted to join me, a 10 year old named Sarah. (a little background: Sarah, who loves Jesus with all her heart, had heard about our last servant evangelism project a couple of months ago, and then the next day she'd called me saying she read an article in a magazine about a vineyard church in another state doing the same kind of outreach, and how God had done something awesome through it. she made me promise to take her along the next time we washed bathrooms.) i knew Sarah was really eager to go, but i also knew it probably wasn't a good idea to go out if it were just going to be she and i. so i told her and her parents we could reschedule for another time when there was at least one other person available.

as we were talking about it, servant evangelism veteran Jon overheard and said, "oh, you're not going?" as i explained the situation, he told me he was up for it, if we still were. alright, we decided, it was getting late, but it would be worth doing at least one bathroom, if only so Sarah could get a taste of serving Jesus this way.

we loaded cleaning gear and some chocolates into my car, and pulled out of the church parking lot. on the road, i shared about my sense earlier that morning. we agreed to go to the Sunoco station, and prayed that God would use us and that we'd be allowed to clean their bathroom, since it was the only place we had in mind.

inside the station, there was a small line of people waiting to pay. we got in line behind them so that we could ask the cashier permission to clean the bathroom (funny, huh? you can dirty bathrooms without permission, but you've got to ask to clean them). the line took some time because the cashier was on the phone for a while, writing something down on a sheet of paper. eventually the line moved, people payed, and we got close to the front. only one young woman was in front of us--she'd been up front the whole time in fact, as people we're paying their bills. she hadn't moved. that is, until it was our turn to talk to the cashier.

she turned to face us, and seemed to be on the verge of tears. our eyes met hers, and she seemed to be pleading. "are you o.k.?" we asked.

"no," she said, and began to cry.

"what's wrong? is there anything we can do to help?"

"i'm lost. i just moved to Monroe a month ago, and now i don't know where i am or how i got here or how i'm going to get home." there was panic in her voice, and despair, like she was confused and trapped.

"it's o.k.," we said, trying to reassure her that Monroe was only 20 minutes or so from Milan, and that we were sure we could help her find her way home, no problem. that seemed to produce no relief whatsoever. then the cashier told us that she already had directions (that is why she'd been on the phone, writing down directions on the paper).

"is there something else?" we asked.

"i ran out of gas, and i don't have any money..."

aha! it suddenly became clear why Jesus had sent us to this gas station today. "no problem at all," we said, "your gas is on us today. that's why we're here. will you let us pay for it?" as we gave the cashier money, the anxiety and hopelessness melted away from the young woman's face, giving way to relief and bewilderment.

"would you like some chocolates?" Sarah asked, handing her a gift box of Godiva chocolates. the tears on her cheeks seemed to change midstream, from sadness to joyful surprise as her face brightened.

"would you like us to pray for you, too? we'd be happy to."

"yes...please. that would be great..." so we did, briefly and simply, there in the checkout line, and her whole person seemed full of peace when the prayer was done. Jon said he looked at the cashier while we were praying and her eyes were tearing up as well.

after the young woman went out to fill up her car with gas, the cashier asked what we wanted. "oh," we said, "we're here to clean your bathroom for you...may we?"

the expression on the cashiers face was genuinely priceless, as she nodded, temporarily too discombobulated (is that a real word?) to speak. we gave her some chocolates as well, and attended to our business, cleaning the bathroom to the best of our ability.

we thanked her for the opportunity to serve her afterwards, loaded the car back up, and drove back to the church, praying for the people we'd served and rejoicing that God had met us at Sunoco. rejoicing that he'd loved that young woman enough to send us to express his love and care to her. and rejoicing that he'd loved us enough to let us play.

senses, part 2

continuing from the previous post...

one of the striking things about that sunset experience for me was the realization that the sunset conveyed to me the same feelings as the primary images we've used at church for our mission statement: "infusing the milan area with the life and love of Jesus by faithfully creating breathing room for the disconnected to connect, the disfavored to find favor, and the discounted to count." more specifically, when i was searching for those particular images, what i had in my mind was, in retrospect, like a pre-vision of that overwhelming sensory experience i was yet to have. or something like that.

anyway, i'm growing in awareness that "home" for me might be connected to mission. as if mission (God-directed purpose) is an integral part of what it means to have a "home." makes me think of Israel's longing to be in the promised land during their wandering - not only was it to be a good land "flowing with milk and honey", but also that God's purposes through them were to be accomplished there. obviously, there is much more to home than that - and at some level, we'll continue to have a longing for home that is only satisfied in God, and even at that, only fully satisfied when his kingdom comes in fullness. but i imagine we'll continue to have a mission when the kingdom comes in fullness - what kind of kingdom would it be if we have no purpose, nothing to do creatively in cooperation with God?

so enough rambling on that for the moment. got a good story to share from this weekend. next post, though...have a lunch meeting to get to.

Friday, August 5, 2005


reflecting back over this past week, a multilayered God encounter has revealed itself to my sometimes well insulated mind. last saturday, the milan vineyard worship team led worship at the ann arbor vineyard church's saturday evening celebration. i came along for the sheer pleasure of it all, and to help take care of our kids while Ronni did her thing.

my dad's sermon (which was excellent) was about the role of the senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) in experiencing God. the senses like the gates to the temple that we are. enjoyment of God-provided pleasures (through nature, people, words, music, etc) as way for the joy of the Lord to be our strength. afterwards, during prayer ministry time, Don (associate pastor at the a2 vineyard) anointed me with oil and prayed a blessing over my senses that they might be awakened to holy enjoyments.

driving home to milan that evening, as i exited u.s. 23 onto willis road going west, perhaps the most beautiful sunset i've ever seen arrested my attention. the light was gold, brushed with the oranges and reds of wood embers, soft, almost fluffy, and warm, flooding the woods surrounding the old psychiatric hospital. the sun was melting on the horizon like a glob of honey, swelling, pulsing, singing, slow dancing with the tall, lanky trees as they glided past my window. the air seemed to glow and swirl along the ground, leaving thousands of droplets of dewy light to settle on the grassy ground. for the eighth of a mile before the stop sign at platt, i was enthralled. my thoughts stretched out like a cat awakening from a nap, my breathing slowed, my heartbeat found some ancient rhythm and settled into it's grooves. at platt, i let the car idle and drank in the pleasure. how long, i'm not sure. it felt timeless. probably just a few seconds. then another car drew up behind me, and i turned south towards home, the glory slipping back behind me.

that night was / will be / will have been? the last night we spent/d? in milan for a couple of months. we moved after church sunday morning into my parents home in ann arbor, and we'll be here until our new house is completed near the end of october. this is one of the houses i grew up in, in the city i was born in and spent my entire childhood living in. and strangely, though the house is full of love and peace, and though everytime i've visited for Christmas or a birthday party or some other such occasion, i've felt in some sense like i'm coming home, and though i have great affection for the city of ann arbor and though i'm cheering on God's activity here, i feel distinctly 'away from home'. blessed? yes. happy? yes. loved? yes. in God's will? yes. well provided for? yes. home? yes at one level that's real and true, but also no, at another level that i've never really realized before. and i've noticed that every time i drive into milan now, whether to go to the office, or clean up something at our old house, or to check out the progress on the new house (682 Poppy Lane, btw), i feel like i've come home.

and then driving through downtown milan the other day, the thought came to me, perhaps for the first time, God wants to make this city great. great in what sense, i have no specific idea. but great, for sure. i have the impression the Lord must be up to something significant over this brief time away, either doing something in my heart, or revealing something in my heart, or probably both. looking forward to it all.

more on the sunset significance in the next post...but have to run now, off for the closing on our st. louis street house. praying the new owners experience as much blessing and joy there as we did.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

back online

just a quick note to say that computers are operational and connected to the net again, so blogging should re-commence with regularity now. (i'll give more details tomorrow, but in brief, we've moved to my parents house while we're waiting for our new home to be completed in October. as a result, i didn't have access to the internet for a bit as offices were being moved around and set up.)