Who knew? What fun finding out!!

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“Is that your Corvette?” I was asked last night in the Skatepark.

“Well,” I hesitated, “It will always be my father’s…”

Then there was no more hesitation as I was happily interrupted… “My grandfather has a 1985 Corvette, we had a 2002 Firebird, my uncle had a Bonneville, not sure on the year, and I have a ’69 Volkswagen Beetle, we named him Henry, my father painted him white but I didn’t like that so we painted him grey now, we bought him a top hat and a moustache!” deep breath ensued, “I love working on cars, some 23 year old guy asked me to change his tire for him…no problem… I do brakes, complete with calipers when they need doing too…”

“Wow!” I laughed joyously, “Have you looked into the Gilmore Museum’s Garage Works Program? It’d be right down your alley!” (The Gilmore Car Museum is one of America’s premier auto museum experiences and they have an internship program for area High School Students who can work on sight with learned mentors surrounded by INCREDIBLE cars and motorcycles from myriad eras)

“No I am a Senior and really want to be a diesel mechanic!” our SISTER of the Skatepark Family announced.

“You know that guy who asked you to change his tire,” Justin inquired, “he’s not marrying material.”

“I know!” she laughed too and they both agreed he had not been brought up right. “I’ve done a lot of research and want to attend a specialized program because I see where millennials aren’t pursuing mechanic careers and I enjoy it so… …”

“GOOD FOR YOU!” Justin and I echoed and he continued, “You will do well in a skilled trade.”

“You should talk to my brother when he gets here,” I encouraged, “he’s been a lifetime mechanic. You can’t miss him, he’ll be in the ’69 Roadrunner.”

Her eyes lit up at the mention of the car and she responded, “My dad and uncle are diesel mechanics…”

“Gotcha,” I jumped in, “you already have an ‘in’ and that’s great!”

So, I got to show off dad’s ’92 Vette in factory Black Rose Metallic, Pat’s ’67 Olds 442 looked CLASSIC in spotless black but my brother’s ’69 Roadrunner in era correct MOPAR Sublime was by far the most well-received machine there and multiple requests of, “Can I sit in your car?” were graciously granted.

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Eventually a pair of girls managed to bump the horn on that Plymouth muscle car and unleashed the “Peep, Peep” tuned in keeping with it being a… …Roadrunner!

“How did you like that horn?” I asked grinning when I saw them crossing the park.

“I bumped it by mistake!” one of the young ladies confessed red faced but giggling.

“I didn’t know how to work the seat belt,” her friend admitted, “then once I did, I didn’t know how to unclasp it! AND then we didn’t know how to get out with those door handles!”

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Which might have explained why they spent half the evening in the car!

Almost every week I am left marveling at my Skatepark Family and I think after 13 years I would finally throw my broad brush out of my paint set but you have to admit a bright-eyed, braided-hair, young lady slamming brake jobs, reciting the family car pedigree (this was just a small sampling of her wonderfully detailed description – which I overheard her sharing with my brother AND mother with no less zealousness), and desiring with an obvious passion to turn wrench on big engines, is a tad… …outside the stereotypical “norms” we conjure in our heads. And for a generation identified as solving problems (which I have no problem with) with their phones after quick online searches; it was fun to witness them having to figure out seat belts (which we never used back in the day) and door handles from cars to them which must look like Model “T”’s looked to us at their age.

Planning the evening, I just thought they might take a passing interest in the cars and simply ask if I had more pizza (which they did and I did) but I never assumed we would connect via the cars with our family down there on such a “common bond” level and/or see the excitement in their eyes like we get when we cross paths with cool vehicles!

Who knew? I thought this entire generation believed the internal combustion engine to be the certain demise of life as we know it but instead I watched as a steady stream of young people giggled and laughed happily latching onto the steering wheel of Rob’s Roadrunner!

Don’t get me wrong – I rode my bicycle over 4,000 miles last year and many of them were doing trips I could have driven in my car. AND a few days ago Agathe and I were following a ’67 Chevelle Super Sport down the street in town and Agathe said, “IT STINKS!”

I wanted to reply, “No dear, that is the perfume of a beautiful bygone era!” as I drifted back to the days of cruising in my brother Andrew’s ’65 Chevelle Super Sport but the truth of the matter is we have – gratefully – made wonderful strides in emissions, economy, AND performance. So, I am glad we are raising an aware generation desiring to be good stewards of this good earth. I am also glad to see a young lady with grease under her fingernails, and blazing light in her eyes to fix stuff – because I like fixers and problem solvers and who knows what she will INVENT one day?

If we had a really good crystal ball we might be able to see it…

Then again, I was joyously surprised last night – yet again – and think I will keep enjoying the surprises as our Skatepark Family grows, learns, contributes, and keeps doing positive things which let me marvel at their abilities!

If you see a seed growing around you reaching for the sun of a bright future, nurture it with what you know, what you have done, and where you have been. You might be amazed at how much you have in common with this seeking generation and help them plant deep roots in this good earth ensuring a bright future for those who follow them!

 

BIGGER than BBQ!!

Grill

I like to grill meat.

25 years ago I put down a three foot square base of firebrick in our rock garden and on three sides of that I shaped three layers of firebrick in a “U”. I then walked to the hardware store and purchased a round wire grill like you would find in the ubiquitous Webber and rested it atop my crude construction. I use wood that falls from the trees surrounding our property for fuel. That’s how I saw my dad grill when I grew up (but we had a field stone fireplace and a grill insert my dad’s father welded up for us) and it is how I grill.

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I have always liked grilled meat – ANY grilled meat – but especially the pork steak because it is a fat greasy cut that shrugs off high flames as I don’t often (ever?) wait for the hot coals to establish and I can flip’em as often as I like. Grilling is an action sport for me – start to finish! But there was a time my favorite pork steak offering from the grill was taboo to those desiring a right communion with God, until… …

It was about noon, and he [Peter] was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”

“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.

Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Acts 10:9b-17a

What could that vision mean? Well my humorous definition of heaven is an eternity of, “Randall, wake up, and eat!” but this is much bigger and if we are selfish and willing to select only certain cuts of scripture for our theological grill it may only mean PORK STEAK IS GOOD TO GO!!! And for a long time I was fine with that sizzling away but I don’t think serving one dish with this deep revelation has been a pleasing aroma to God.

The Bible is a BIG picture book and it needs to be considered, consumed and digested as such and this passage (like so many others) carries with it a whole lot more than our “new” ability to order every kind of meat at the butcher!

Let’s expand our spiritual diet with this passage and start at the beginning!

In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said.

Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.

And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.

The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. Acts 10:1-9a NLT – and that is when Peter fell into his trance.

So we have a Roman Captain of their conquering army who is ALSO a devout, God-fearing man.

This is HUGE and needs to be gnawed on.

Back in this context “to the victor go the spoils” was the order of the day and a Roman Captain certainly had NO reason to give generously to the poor of a conquered land and pray to their God! Additionally back then another held belief was – If we won, our gods are bigger than your gods – and this Captain was risking his rank and very life for not honoring his emperor who the Romans deified along with all their other gods!

Well he must have kept it all on the “down low” to keep his head on his shoulders!

NOPE!!

He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household.

No fear of a whistle-blower here!

And now enter Peter’s vision from God which was followed immediately by the arrival of Cornelius’ men…

Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there.

Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.”

So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”

They said, “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” So Peter invited the men to stay for the night. The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa. 10:17b-23

Are you starting to see the spark? And notice, although God said to go with them without hesitation, Peter invites them in, they stay the night, and leave the next day… Hm? “without hesitation” nudges me like “immediately” but… PETER WAS STILL HUNGRY! I am glad we serve a practical God who understands our very basic needs! It wouldn’t have been any good for Peter to rush off devoid of calories (and thinking of ALL he can eat now) and pass out along the way!

They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 10:24

Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.” 10:28-29

Cornelius recounts the angelic visitation and instruction to seek out Peter and concludes with this:

“…So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”

Feeling the wonderful heat yet? Hearing the Tongue of Fire speak?

“…Now tell me why you sent for me.”

“…we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”

Oh yeah!! There is a LOT more at stake here than what’s on the grill! Notice Peter doesn’t end with a question mark; it is a command to enlighten him on the purpose of his visit. Almost like Peter saying, “I could do wonderful things for you here, for your very soul, but I need to hear directly from you why you sent for me!”

When we are young our parents should take an active role in our choice of friends and as we mature they allow us – with wise counsel – to walk where we can best shine the flame of our proven foundational faith. “Don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t date girls who do!” Has merit because we should not court challenges beyond our youthful ability to overcome but when we are filled with the Bread of Life and Living Water don’t hesitate to go out into this hungry world!

AND – never quench the leading of the Holy Spirit by saying, “NO Lord, I would NEVER frequent with THAT kind of people!”

Lepers, Prostitutes, and Corrupt Tax Collectors? “Receive healing, pour out your life on me, weep, repent, be saved, dine with me – feed me today, welcome salvation to your house!” – Jesus says to them ALL!!!

God deems Peter prepared, (what is it about Peter and the number 3?) tenderizes the “meet” before him and…upon hearing the Good News of Christ, the Holy Spirit fires things up!!

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.

Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 10:44-48a

And then QUICK before any Jews saw Peter and his brothers in the faith hanging out with the Gentile, Cornelius – they dashed out of town under the cover of darkness!!

NO WAY!!

Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days. 10:48b

We have to process how much is involved in the New Covenant for us and what we have to GO DO with the in-filling of the Holy Spirit!! Peter’s dream has nothing to do with enjoying more grill fare and has EVERYTHING to do with the harvest field God opens to us! Our freedom from the law isn’t about pork steaks it is about who we can ignite with the Holy Fire within us!

Borders and boundaries have been removed! The sheet has ascended, the veil has not only been removed but torn asunder and no one is so unclean as to be beyond the cleansing power of the blood of Christ!!

We should be unleashed not to run, mouth watering to the butcher, but into the fields ripe with people who hunger for the Truth which can set them free!

Closing Thought

Notice God’s initial command to Peter: “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”

When I lived in Colorado I was hankerin’ a big ‘ol steak so hoofed down the road to the grocery store in a strip mall and as I was excitedly approaching the door, passed a giant cattle hauling semi loaded with beefy beasts heading to “the great ribeye supply in the sky”. Then, I noticed one of them gazing out at me from the punched hole in the aluminum frame of the long tall trailer, his big brown eye…desperate!

So I started dancing and singing, “I am gonna eat your brother!!”

Nope…I came home with a couple cans of tuna.

True story.

Here is the thing about the New Covenant and the Holy Spirit, they aren’t about keeping our lives comfortable. They ARE about making our ETERNITY comfortable but right now – they will ask us to KLL some stuff in our lives if we want to dine forever with God!!!

I officiated a wedding yesterday and at the rehearsal one of the bridesmaids said, “I wish we knew about you before our wedding! We asked 18 different people to marry us and they all refused because we have two sons…” I almost fell off the giant rock I was sitting on at the park where the wedding took place and was speechless for a millisecond for my sorrow and then just quivered with anger! She continued, “Finally someone agreed for $2,500 and preached at us (scolded was implied) through the entire ceremony.”

Jokingly I announced I would have gladly done the wedding for $2,450 because if I said what I wanted to say about how awfully they were treated it would NOT have been pastoral. When I recovered, I confessed, “I am so sorry that happened to you. For TOO LONG the church has been its own worst enemy and that NEVER should have happened!” I avoided the benediction of, “EIGHTEEN TIMES!!!”

What do we need to kill? That kind of self righteous STUPIDITY in the church!!! And after killing it, we must completely incinerate it because it ain’t a cut worth eating!!

Imagine if Peter had stood outside Cornelius’ home and refused to go in because Cornelius didn’t commune with God exactly like the Jews did? What if Jesus condemned the woman at the well? What if Jesus said, “Yup! Stone her!” to the woman caught in adultery instead of offering her saving grace? What if Jesus said to you, “I can’t welcome you into the embrace of the Divine because you have done… … … and I can’t call you my child because you already have one.”???????

WE NEED TO KILL THAT because the New Covenant is BIGGER than BBQ and LOVE does not mean we condone everything – it means we LOVE people like Christ did thereby entering into RELATIONSHIP vs. sending a couple off shaking their heads 18 times over the “love” they had offered them!

There is no “Interim Covenant”

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There are these three ON FIRE Jewish Christians who were raised in the Jewish Faith and with open hearts and minds connect the “Old Testament” to the “New Testament” in very real understandable ways! You can watch them on “Day of Discovery” at Channel 64.1 (we only have antenna TV so I don’t know how to dial that in with cable or satellite) on Monday nights at 8:00. Listening to them makes you see how the 12 year old Jesus could spend THREE days in the Temple asking questions and providing answers – and forget to consider his mom and step dad might be distraught at his absence from the pilgrimage home!!

If I was sitting in with these three gentlemen I too would lose complete track of time – Their insight is AMAZING! My scholarly-wired wife also gives them HIGH grades!!

So, one of these guys will mention something from his Jewish heritage and before he is even done the other two will practically be jumping up and down excitedly – and they are older than I am – with how they too executed a certain Jewish ritual AND it pointed RIGHT to Jesus! GIANT thinking but they present it in such a common sense way you might just start giggling as your “Bible Brain” is tickled joyously!!

This past Monday they were connecting the dots between the sacred days on the Jewish calendar and the fulfillment of the purpose of those days in the life/death/resurrection of Christ and the delivery of the Holy Spirit. There were too many connections for me to recount here but as I started my devotional reading Tuesday morning it was spot on with what struck me most the night before from “Day of Discovery”. As I understand it, a portion of the Jewish Festival of Weeks related to the giving of the law to Moses…

Guess what day falls within the Festival of Weeks on the Christian Calendar?

Pentecost (my favorite day)!

Guess what my Bible reading was Tuesday morning… 2 Corinthians 3…

It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. 3:5-6

A neat transition from last week’s encouragement to do the good things God created us anew to do in Christ and the thought for today…

Paul goes on, as he is good at that!!

The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! 3:7-11

Can you see why the three “Day of Discovery” guys were jumping up and down?

Their Festival Weeks celebrated God’s delivery of the “Mosaic Law” but then in the midst of that remembrance, almost 2,000 years ago God delivers the promised Holy Spirit which seals the New Covenant initiated with his sacrifice and resurrection and a freedom from the old law!

Now, I think Paul was jumping up and down!!

Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.   3:12-15

And Paul was nearly killed numerous times for this message because in the Jewish mind you don’t mess with Moses and the law but Paul saw EVERYTHING pointing to Jesus and Paul was LEARNED in the Law of Moses being the equivalent of an Ivy League Lawyer! But Paul realized it was all nothing in the light of the Good News!

This is where we find initiation of the New Covenant – and it is critical!

But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 3:16-18

WE should all be jumping up and down now!!! Yes, it is a beautiful truth that God revealed his glorious law to his people with the intention of sanctifying them to himself. But it failed and Christ had to establish the New Covenant through his sacrifice and our renewal via grace and the gifted Holy Spirit – HUGE STUFF – but if the veil has been removed from you, are you reflecting the glorious image of God?

You see, there is no “Interim Covenant” you either shoulder the “Old Covenant” or you dance with the Divine being freed under the “New Covenant”. You can NOT shrug off the 613 Mosaic Laws, and think you are free unless you have put on Christ like new clothes!!

People should have to shade their eyes because you are shining like the Son!

Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

Being Spirit-filled MUST permeate EVERY aspect of our lives and our testimony must bear up under scrutiny from the Divine!

There is no “Interim Covenant”.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 4:7

Do people who cross your path daily get to see you “lift the lid” on the source of your power? What happens when you really “crack”? What comes out? Is it the shining light of Christ or something much thicker? Does your every word and deed make it obvious you are in communion with the Author of the New Covenant?

Does the “Good News” radiate boldly from your life?

Don’t worry, you aren’t called to be Paul. You probably won’t have to endure flogging, caning, stoning, and imprisonment. You won’t be seen as a murderer as a poisonous snakes hangs from our hand while starting a bonfire after being shipwrecked and then, when God spares you, being considered a god (for the second time in your life).

Chances are you won’t travel that missionary journey.

But if you claim salvation through grace and have been touched in your heart-of-hearts by God’s renewing Holy Spirit – YOU SHOULD BE DOING SOMETHING DIRECTED BY THE DIVINE WITH YOUR LIFE!!

There is no fence to sit on between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. We can’t claim freedom from the Law and operate freely from the teaching, commands, and example of Jesus Christ. Freed from the law puts the wheel in the hands of the Holy Spirit and that will be an inspired journey!

Closing Thought

So what do our lives under the freedom of the New Covenant look like? Without all those laws written in stone to follow how do we freelance a successful faith-full life? Well we talked last week it should make us tremble fearfully with the joyous responsibility of our salvation in Christ but there are no hard and fast formulas other than your life under the New Covenant should reflect Christ in all you do… As you do what Jesus through the Holy Spirit instructs you to do!

I received this communication on Thursday and was asked to share it with you all as my Church Family. Please take note ALL who uphold our Skatepark Family relationship in your prayers and with your generous support because it is for you too:

Hi there Randall!

I just got done reading your post about the last night at the skate park this summer, and I just wanted to say thank you.

Without you going down there every week, giving these kids a place to eat, giving them advice that they NEED to hear, that some wouldn’t ever hear because some parents don’t care enough. Without you, I know my skatepark generation, and the ones before and after mine, would definitely not be the same.

You have changed the lives and paths of sooo many people, all because you just WANT to help.

Ever since I started going down there, I have read every single one of your blog posts about Wednesday’s, and every time I read them I can’t help but tear up because of how amazing of people you, your wife, and your church family are.

I am truly so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet all of you.

You all changed my life for the better, and not just mine, every single kid at the skate park lives have been changed.

I thank God for bringing you all into our lives. I will never have words to thank you enough.

Please pass this message onto Aggie, as well as your church family. Without you guys, I’m not sure where I’d be today. I probably would’ve chose the wrong path.

You all will FOREVER have a special place in my heart god bless

I wish I could say it was my idea but it was God’s and honestly I was profoundly reluctant to even light that first fire in the grill…How would these wild spirits see some old road cyclist coming into “their house”? But if I am free from the law I am a servant of Christ led by the Holy Spirit and what a wild ride it has been!

And what I WANT is to love these young people so they see the love of CHRIST and hunger for that Bread of Life and Living Water!

THANK YOU ALL for responding to the Spirit and being part of it!

And Saturday I officiate the wedding of the first young man to ever accept a hotdog (he ate three) in the Skatepark 13 years ago!!

How do we cope?

2019 Skatepark

Thank you Lois for the pic of our crew last night!

Sunday the weatherman assured us of a 100% chance of scattered storms and severe thunderstorms possible. I guess that means it must have been raining SOMEWHERE? We rolled out to our Woodgrove “Bike and Ice (cream)” ride just the same and we all got home to shower because Mother Nature didn’t. Last night for our Hastings Skatepark – “Summer Send Off” – the weatherman yet again predicted I shouldn’t bother procuring eats or splitting any wood – thunderstorms were a foreseen certainty…

What a beautiful night!

Brats were grilled, dogs were grilled, chili was in the house for embellishment, double stuffed cookies, chilled drinks, and chips aplenty filled the picnic tables under the pavilion… THANK YOU to all who have supplied food and GENEROUS donations this year!

“Randall,” Joseph asked over my shoulder, “are there going to be any contests?”

“CONTESTS?” I laughed swiveling around in my chair, “My brother, tonight was about stepping up the food but I hadn’t planned on any contests! If the guys want to throw down some of their best stuff we’ll line the park and cheer’em on though.”

“Okay, because they are doing that right now,” Joseph replied.

So our Woodgrove Family along with other friends uprooted our lawn chairs and moved from the cool shade by the grill to the cool shade next to the skating surface…

AND WHAT A SHOW THEY CAN PUT ON!!

These ATHLETES make the difficult look easy and the impossible very manageable!!

Most everybody were on high performance scooters (costing more than a GOOD bicycle) and they were FLYING! Crazy tail whips, double tail whips, soaring 360’s all done with smooth measured precision. You all should go down there on a nice evening and marvel at them!

Then Jeff – carrying the torch for the BMX discipline – unleashed this spinning, twisting, forward and backward run that I can’t even describe! The rub of his tires against the ground was about all you heard but if you were a trained listener, breath inhaled and held then released at just the right time followed immediately by a weather changing deep rapid inhalation might have been observed too!

Applause accompanied “OOHS and AHHS” like chili on a dog!

Truly a spectacle!!

And in keeping with life…a few falls occurred and a few dramatic “tuck and roll” tumbles which brought us from our seats to check if all was well for the fallen – and thankfully it was!

Then I witnessed something I had NEVER seen in the Skatepark…

But before I recount it, let me give you a touch of the technical terminology of the park. Where two perpendicular surfaces athletes ride meet, these surfaces are often joined by a metallic piece conducive to sliding over with the flat base of a skateboard deck or truck, scooter deck, or BMX freestyle peg – this round or angled length of union is called “coping”.

So… Logan had been doing some off-the-chart scooter tricks along with the other athletes but as the night wore down he rolled up the curved face of our five foot high quarter pipe to join his friends gathered on the horizontal deck. He jumped off as he neared the top, his feet landing squarely on the tubular coping…

But he ran out of steam, and for what seemed like an eternity, he hung between the safety of reaching the deck or falling backward down onto the steep metallic slope!!

Over the last 13 years I have seen some hard falls with limbs twisting and body stuff slamming and breaking but this one would have been top 10 for sure and my heart was in my throat and I wondered, “After all that intense athleticism don’t tell me Logan is going to take this fall doing something he does 100 times a day!!!?”

Suddenly Nate realized what was happening and thrust his scooter forward and at the last possible second Logan caught a hold on the handlebar…

WHEW!!!

But that wasn’t the end of it!

Scooters have wheels and Logan’s momentum was heading for the void behind him over the thick hard metal deck – and the scooter rolled that way with him!! That’s when Nate braced himself against the evil enemy of physics and pulled Logan safely up!!

Suddenly I found myself catching MY breath!!

That would have been a head slamming body bouncing disaster if not for the quick reaction of a good friend!!

So how do we cope?

We may head out to do something we do a 100 times a day and suddenly for reasons outside our control things go disastrously sideways on us. Sirens blared throughout the evening last night as just two miles away a pickup truck crossed the center line on a busy state route and slammed headlong into an oncoming car. Helicopters airlifted the injured.

We may never know when dire tragedy can touch us!

This last Saturday we gathered to celebrate the life of an incredible lady whose accomplishments on the bicycle make me look like a hobbyist! She was caring, connecting and communing constantly in creative ways with SO MANY people she loved dearly! Almost everyone present found it amazing this wonderful lady did for SO MANY what she had done so personally for them – they felt like they were the only people who were blessed by such a heart-to-heart friendship! And no one felt neglected, for it just amazed them all with the depth of this lady’s genuine LOVE!!

How do we cope with a loss that extraordinary?

Who do cope when we teeter on the brink of pain, flailing our arms desperately to reach a place of security or haven?

We need a friend!

We need a quick reacting friend like Nate!

We need someone who recognizes an immediate need, doesn’t hesitate, and braces for what they are going to have to do to keep us from the gaping maw of pain we are about to fall into – or need hauling out of!

We need a friend who not only throws us a lifeline but anchors it for us! A tangle of rope doesn’t help the drowning unless there are strong hands at the other end! And the more the merrier – because sometimes we can’t cope with the weight of suffering or calamity and it takes a team, a cadre, a cohort, and a FAMILY to draw us back into the warm embrace of security.

AND when it gets truly sketchy with our souls involved too – We need the Christ!!

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27 NLT

Logan didn’t have time to go “wake Jesus up” or even throw up a quick faith-rich prayer, so my prayer of thanksgiving includes Nate this morning and in that contemplation it includes YOU ALL because if you are reading this YOU have had a hand in making my life richer and more secure for your friendship having helped me cope!

Give thanks for those people in your life today and if the storm seems bigger than any of them – go wake up Jesus – you’ll be amazed how he can help YOU cope! AND then go find a good church family and enjoy the best of both worlds as your coping skills will grow and grow!!!

 

Free ride or hard race?

Sept22

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12 KJV

Hm? This teacher must not have ever heard Paul preach, because Paul taught:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

We simply can’t work out hard enough to gain eternal fitness with Holy God. If my salvation were entirely up to me I would certainly be afraid AND tremble!!

Well Paul said BOTH of these things (and you probably knew this) so was the man confused or did he want to charter two different kinds of churches to see if the theology of works would bear more fruit than the theology of grace? Maybe James was a member of the church in Philippi and was a heavy giver so Paul had to go 180 degrees out of phase for him? (just kidding)

Let us take a look at apples from the same bushel and read the Philippians passage from the same New Living Translation we looked at Ephesians in:

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. Philippians 2:12 NLT

This certainly helps!

Our salvation does not initiate with the sweat of our brow but instead with the drops of blood from our thorn-crowned, crucified Lord and Savior. However if we have been saved by this sacred gift of grace we have entered a fearsome fray…

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

OH!!!! It causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!!!

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

So sings the American Folk Hymn and a new light has shown for me on this powerful lyric in the contemplation of today’s message.

Peter do you love me?

Peter do you love me?

Peter do you love me?

Yes Lord – YOU KNOW I DO!!

Then feed my sheep.

OH!!!! It causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!!! Peter’s love of Christ and dedication to his Lord and Savior cost him his life…

When is the last time your truly committed service to God Almighty in the light of your salvation has caused you to tremble?

Where the Church fails today is in the belief our receipt of grace gives us something shiny to hang up and a good night’s sleep knowing our spiritual mantel has a treasure displayed over it that we can take down on judgment day and say, “Lord, we knew you were a hard Master so we didn’t want to get this dirty… Look nothing has changed since the day you gave it to us!”

Grace does not work that way and our salvation should not be something sanctified into a trophy case!

I raced the bicycle leg of a team triathlon way back in 1986. It was not a United States Cycling Federation sanctioned event so it did not require helmets. “Cool,” I thought, “I’ll race like a pro!” and cast aside my mandated helmet. As a non-sanctioned event there weren’t race marshals either so as I blasted through a stop sign thinking traffic was controlled I saw out of the corner of my eye – GMC – in the grill of a 50mph pickup truck… Eight days later I wobbled out of the hospital and eventually made my way back to the bike shop to replace my bent up racing bike. “Dad can I borrow $350 until the insurance comes in on my bike?” I asked as we both contemplated the red Specialized Allez right in that price range.

What he could have said was, “Son you need to learn your lesson. You fouled up. You should have worn your helmet. You should have stopped at that sign…”

But he didn’t, instead he looked thoughtful and then gazed back into the boutique portion of the shop, “What are those frames?”

“Unattainable,” I confessed trying to redirect dad into the realm of what was possible, “those are Tommasini frames and I could never pay you back.”

What happened after that remains a blur, dad called the shop owner over, had me sized, it was determined the sapphire blue frame would fit, and dad commanded Kenny the owner to build it up for me! “Dad,” I uttered again, “this is impossible! I can never pay you back!”

“Son, I am glad you are alive,” was all he said.

It was an INCREDIBLE gift and the first time I rode it I exclaimed, “It is like this is ALIVE!!” because with every power stroke of the crank it leapt forward like a racing horse when the gate is opened and the track lies ahead – ground to be covered, races to be won! It was amazing!!

So I zipped home and never rode it again!

OF COURSE NOT!!!

I trained harder and rode more than I ever did before and in college I raced cold, hungry, often sick, sleeping on floors the night before races and eating tough old bagels with peanut butter or tuna for breakfast – but I loved every minute of it!

C State Team 001

How much do we respond to our gift of salvation?

Peter do you love me?

It is important to finish Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians and remove any confusion with what he was also delivering to the Philippians:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

Should the good things he planned for us long ago make us tremble and fear?

I had a probationer on my caseload in Brooklyn New York, circa 1990, who arrived to be interviewed my first week on the job. He had full blown AIDS with open sores visible on his exposed skin. His eyes opened the window to his soul bearing evidence that he was not much longer on his earthly journey. His gaze shakes me to this day. “You don’t need to come here any longer,” I announced breaking a cardinal rule practically on my first day. My decision was not based on fear nor was I trembling, I simply knew he was preparing himself to face the ultimate Judge and my dogging his every step was profoundly unnecessary.

He left completely indifferent to our conversation – not out of disrespect – just knowing his spirit was on a different plain.

Well, while we good God-fearing Protestants weighed in on AIDS with all kinds of dire judgmental rhetoric – and my voice was in that chorus until I looked AIDS in the eyes attached to a God-created child – but I tell you what, the Catholic Church was loving these desperate souls right up to their clerical-collared necks and over their curiously clad nun’s heads!!! Open sores and all – our brothers and sisters of that theology embraced these cast off people! We trembled and shook fingers they WORKED and LOVED!

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:12-13 NLT

Were you there when he rose up from the grave?

Were you there when he rose up from the grave?

OH!!!! It causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!!!

Were you there when he rose up from the grave?

Our salvation should bear constant testimony to what it has removed but as importantly, our labors should bear constant testimony to the Author of it! Maybe it is time you rolled away the stone of the stuffy hole where you have squirreled away your graced salvation keeping it safe until judgment day.

Feel the ground shake today and be willing to be led of God to a place where you may tremble and quake in this crazy world shining His light!

“You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16 NLT

Closing Thought

“Randall you need to get over to Kenny’s shop and see this bicycle he just built! It is the coolest bike I have ever seen!” my friend Mike uttered over the phone, “It is a blue and yellow Tommasini!”

I had to answer humbly because I already knew it was a level of bicycle beyond my ability, “It is mine. My father bought it for me.”

Long silence…

“He is glad I am alive!”

What if we all deeply reverenced the true meaning of our imparted grace and trembled again reawakening to the race our salvation asks us to run?

What if people called each other and said, “You need to get over to Woodgrove Parish and see this coolest thing I have ever seen! There are people there loving and caring, and embracing the marginalized and it is obvious they are a holy people saved by grace, and celebrating their salvation with ALL they do!!”

It won’t be a free ride but wearing the helmet of salvation as we race hard will ensure we have something treasured to wear on our heads when it is all over!

 

 

Can your brother cook?

DOD 9 (16)

As the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter. He was an outdoorsman, but Jacob had a quiet temperament, preferring to stay at home. Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!” (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means “red.”)

“All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”

“Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”

But Jacob said, “First you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn. Genesis 25:27-35

What is wrong with this picture?

Who loved Esau?

Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home…

So why did Esau go to his brother to be fed and not his father?

I don’t think it was a matter of convenience in seeing Jacob over the cooking fire with a bubbling pot of stew. I think Esau’s contempt for his birthright is indicative of an absent love for Isaac. Esau’s willingness to shrug off his rich inheritance certainly suggests a distance from his father. If Esau was reciprocating the kind of love Isaac had for him Jacob probably wouldn’t have suggested such a lopsided exchange and a loving Esau would have retorted, “I would rather starve than give up what is entrusted me!” AND a loving Esau would have entered his father’s tent and found an abundance of nourishment to be given him as a loved son!

Christian martyrs do not sacrifice out of obligation, it is an inspired love of the Father which sets their sails full in fatal storms. If it only took a growling stomach for Esau to forsake his inheritance how far away was Esau’s love for his father?

We must be warned by Esau’s bargain because we have a Father who loves us to a depth unfathomable but when we do not abide in that steadfast love and hunt to feed our starving souls at another bowl… Oh what we stand to lose!! A weak starving faith not drawing constantly from the sustenance of the Divine will entertain dire offers of trade, and once contracted, we evolve from an initial uneasy justification to an eventual outright “normality” of having lost the ultimate inheritance.

We can NEVER show contempt – in any way – for our re-birthright!

God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. 1 Corinthians 7:23

I wonder if Esau was embarrassed to go into Isaac’s tent for fear of having to admit he failed in the hunt and disappointing his loving father who so enjoyed that offering? Whatever we go through – at the end of the day – we must pull our chairs up around God’s Table! We can’t dine elsewhere for fear of losing our inheritance!

We can’t dine elsewhere!!

Closing Thought

Don’t be an Esau, even if your brother can cook! Stay in relationship with the Father, serve him lovingly as his child should and give thanks for the meal he serves you now and the inheritance we have in eternity!

In college my brother Andrew and I were always looking out for cheap vittles because we worked hard at our studies and even harder at our athletic pursuits so we were ALWAYS hungry. Then Andrew discovered those little plastic bags of bean/split pea/lentil soups. I wasn’t patient enough to wait overnight to soak the little legumes, but he was, and it always ended up being a really good thick soup or light stew.

As good as that was however, if we truly wanted to be fed – we went home!

Gone in 60 seconds…home in half an hour!

DOD IV 2012 037

A classic Skatepark memory from DOD IV…

I am blessed to know this incredible lady and sister-in-the-faith, Martha, who owned an ice cream parlor which was a local institution. I even looked forward to going there when we visited Hastings in my youth and often my father would take a van load of us to go get a cone after he took my cousins and brothers all cane poll fishing in an area lake. Martha is a member of my congregation – at a distance now – and when she revisits Hastings we try to connect as schedules allow. She is blessed with wonderful family and friends and I am honored when we can gather to catch up as we did this summer where she gave me a generous gift for our Skatepark Family with one string attached, “Use this for ice cream!”

Blest be the tie that binds!

Tuesday dawned nice and cool but as I prepared to turn wrench on some bicycles with Jeremy Nichols for our upcoming Woodgrove “Bike and Ice (cream)” cycling event, a massive warm front came sweeping over us. It flew in like some mythical fire breathing dragon from the south and in its wings delivered uncomfortably heavy air, hot, and humid. It arrived out of the blue and was of such a sudden nature my once cool-to-the-touch tools in my shop suddenly became clouded with a film of moisture. Our new flying arrival appears to find Michigan its “happy place” and has roosted making the thought of splitting wood, gathering all my supplies and standing over the flaming grill in the Skatepark a less than joyous consideration…

Thank you MARTHA!

“You better do a ‘drive by’ and even see if there is anyone in the park tonight with this weather,” my common sense wife advised. Our Wednesday “Luke Out” guys at the church have been helping Dave and MaryAnne with some landscaping at their new home and yesterday saw us relieve Dave of a trailer full of stone he needed to relocate. I recommended my driveway, so a quick (sort of) test ride of Jeremy’s refurbished bike got me to Dave and Maryanne’s to help add a few shovel fulls into the trailer before pedaling back to my house and spreading it in my driveway when Dave and Pat arrived.

Have I mentioned it has been hot and humid?

“Good idea,” I sighed to my wife having had just enough time to get washed up after the gravel project (and snagging a chocolate malt at Richies with my stone haulin’ faith brothers), “I have the cones and will snag a tub of ice cream at Tom’s Market so I can easily swing by the park and check.”

I didn’t need to.

All the way from State Road I could see our Skatepark equipment lined with shirtless young men out there riding in the heat so a big tub of ice cream it would be!

You never really know how an offering of food is going to go in the Skatepark. As many of our youth are of working age and with this economy offering a job to anyone who wants to work they often proudly and politely announce, “No thank you, I just ate at _______________ !” because they have the means to provide for themselves. They are workers – some of the best you’ll meet – and I am proud of how they go about it but if I bring pizza – like last week – that goes up like dry wood in a hot fire and speaking of dry wood and hot fires my wife thinks they have gotten tired of burned hotdogs after 13 years. She might be right because last night…

“Guys I’ll be scooping up the ice cream for anyone interested in a cone,” I exhaled shuffling from my Jeep to the pavilion carrying our old faithful cooler. Now there have been times I was so tired I will simply buy a variety pack of ice cream sandwiches, cones, and Eskimo pies and have to work to “sell” them to gathered before the frozen treats melt so I was not too sure how the old fashioned tub with me at the scoop would be received?

I left the house at 4:55 – I was home by 5:25 – including the shopping!!

“No chocolate for me please,” Joseph requested, “I don’t like chocolate.” Joseph is a fine young man and loves his new job but I will pray for him on the “chocolate thing”! Haha

“A mix for me!” a few more encouraged as I scooped ice cream as fast as I could.

“Straight STRAWBERRY would be good!” I heard from one discerning ice cream lover.

I planned on being there until the ice cream was gone or melted – it didn’t melt! Except I did see one young man struggling as his cone was down to the last inch as he held the second one in his other hand and it was beginning to drip…

“He makes us all look lonely down here,” one of my popular regulars announced thoughtfully consuming his cone, “because he gets calls all the time on his phone.”

Hm? I wasn’t exactly sure who he was referring to but I never saw the phone in the light of a testimony to relationship. I‘ll have to ponder that…

“Tell you what,” I slurped licking the last ice cream off my scoop as the tub had been cleaned out in less than 10 minutes, “when I resign from my calling I am going take my phone, toss it in the air, and hit it with a baseball bat!”

“DO IT DOWN HERE!” they all encouraged.

“Don’t get me wrong,” I back tracked, “My people don’t ever call me unless it is important – and I love my people and what I do – but I just don’t like the electronic tether.”

They all nodded then an inquiring voice shocked me with this simple question, “But then how would you update us?”

“Wow,” I laughed, “guys I still use a TOWER computer ON MY DESK! I am a DINOSAUR!”

“You’re NOT that old,” one of the guys supported, “What? You’re like 50?”

“52 my brother!” I kept laughing.

“I would have put you at 40,” one young man declared and someone comically accused him of hitting on me and we all laughed.

“I’m good there,” I testified, “my wife is pretty incredible, smart and hardworking. She just started last week teaching college and it’s her 25th year!”

“My girlfriend is going to be a math teacher. She’s really smart!” Joseph declared.

“Superb! Math teachers are in demand!” I agreed.

One great guy kind of snickered, “My girlfriend and I work at Burger King…”

“Hey!” I called him out, “You know who worked at McDonald’s for his first job?” They all got a little wide-eyed because I was getting wound up supporting our friend getting it done at the Burger King… “NEIL ARMSTRONG!! That’s right!! The first man to walk on the moon!! His first job was at McDonalds!”***

I think they thought that was a good thing but they might still be a little shocked at seeing me “preach”!

Then we talked about the Skatepark and our dreams of expansion until I stopped them, “Hey! I rode by here this morning, on my way to breakfast with my church folk, and the park LOOKED GREAT!! I have to give you guys a lot of credit – IT WAS SPOTLESS! You know when we don’t hear anything about our park in the community…it means we are doing it right!” We kicked around some more ideas after my positive rant and then walked the park and shared visions of future grandeur for it…

“Well guys,” I sighed I have to get rolling but as I started to leave…

“Randall,” a quiet young man approached me holding out his phone in front of me, “We’ll have to go Jeeping together. This is my new Jeep and in December I should have my license! It’s a Cherokee Sport with a 4.0 litre engine. It has a bad main bearing but we are going to fix it and rebuild the transmission so it can handle turbocharging or a supercharger. The guy I talked to said when we are done it will be good to take 800hp!”

WHAT???.. .Yesterday this youngster was a quiet kid not up to my armpit who was always a good presence in the park…but now he is four inches taller than I am, and has become a motorhead?!

“I had to take the front bumper off, but my cousin bought a Jeep like this for $300 and he is giving me his custom front bumper like yours! That is worth $300 by itself – he got a deal!!” Then it was my turn to stand wide-eyed as he was preachin’ Jeep all the way back to mine from where we started across the park!! “Okay we gotta go!” and with that he nodded to his friend who was also involved in the knuckle busting Jeep project and they left the park!

“Keep me in the loop on your Jeep!” I shouted… after I recovered. All this in less time than it will take you to read this (sorry about the length) but I think it is about connection…

Martha always got it as her business was more than ice cream – it was a gathering place, a place of local communion, welcoming and sustaining. And they had other flavors than chocolate… Martha still “gets it” understanding on a hot night – a hotdog – may not get it done. BUT…ice cream – not from a box – but served up with a little chatting and laughter from one hand to another can feed the soul because there are the lonely who need a call from time to time – who need to be updated that on Wednesday night we will connect and care about each other!

And then one day you might find out a quiet young man who never said 10 words to you in 13 years has noticed how you roll and when he starts, he wants to roll with you!

My calling is 24/7/365 but last night reminded me, sometimes in all of that, 30 minutes might make a bigger difference than we may ever know when we share an inspired treat that connects us with a cord that cannot be easily broken.

Keep your spirit open like Martha does – who even from a distance – helped us connect with those who might have been lonely and hungry!

*** I might be wrong on this – I am thinking it was John Glenn who worked McDonalds… Still impressive! I will update the Skatepark Family when I am sure.