Monday, January 09, 2012

That's What Heaven's Going To Be Like

I remember waking up at Glorieta Baptist Conference Center in New Mexico on dozens of June mornings. I was there leading teenagers at "Centrifuge" camps. Every morning in June, tucked into those stunning forested mountains, was incredible. Up at 7. A chilly breeze rushed down from the 12,000 foot peaks and into our camp at a mere 7,500 feet. I would meet my kids to walk to breakfast wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. The sky was cobalt blue and the air smelled pure. I couldn't wait for breakfast so that I could sit with my friends and map out the glorious day ahead of us.

That's what heavens going to be like.

I sat all alone on the top of a 300 foot sand dune. The view to the west was a pristine Lake Michigan. Those little dots were teenagers that God had placed in my care. They were swimming and throwing frisbees and playing "Chicken." I would burrow my feet into the sand and feel each grain caress my skin with the warmth of summer. A young man or woman in shorts and a t-shirt would run past me on my right and leap into the sky as the hang glider strapped to his back carried him heavenward to drift on the rising warm air ascending from the sand. Then I would watch as he swooped low over the lake, carried by the cooler air from the water. Up and down. Up and down. Watching my kids. Watching the glider. Feeling the warm sand. Sun in my face.

That's what heavens going to be like.

The full moon was rose over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jekyll Island, Georgia. I sat on the wooden steps that had carried me over the grass covered sand dune. A hotel of sleeping teens was to my back. I alone saw the waves crash in as I reveled in my impromptu 2:00AM quiet time. The air smelled of water and salt. The heavens were ablaze with a billion stars backed by the blackest of nighttime skies. I thanked God for the moment and drank in His beauty.

That's what heavens going to be like.

My grandson sat on the hardwood floor of my living room. He played with toys that screeched loud sounds as buttons were pushed or levers were pulled. The delight in his eyes lit my aging heart. He reached for the stuffed animal, squeezing the paw to make it talk. He chattered back at it in syllables only he could understand. He stopped and looked up into my eyes. His grandfather. He stared. I smiled. The corners of his mouth bent upward and his eyes took on a new glow. I held his gaze as long as his one year old attention span would allow until he went back to the next toy. My heart was full.

That's what heavens going to be like.

I stuffed my feet into the awkward boots and then clicked the toe and heel of the boots into the special made bindings. Strapped to high-tech boards of waxed polymer I stared at the drop off before me. The snow was a hard pack, recently groomed into the shape of perfect corduroy. My heart beat faster as I mentally planned my way down the fall line. A deep breath. The wind in my face. My breath working to fog the goggles covering my eyes. A scarf tucked snugly around my neck and mouth. Sock hat pulled over my ears to the top of my goggles. The weather station in the cafeteria a mile below me told me that I was standing in 17 degree air with a steady 20mph crosswind coming off the continental divide to my left. I sucked air one more time and pushed off ... committing to my very first run down a ski slope in the Rocky Mountains. It was an intermediate "blue." I didn't know a soul within 600 miles. The adrenaline kicked into over drive as I made a solid run ... upright and non-stop ... to the bottom of the mountain. I slid sideways to a stop and looked back up from whence I had come. One thought possessed my mind. "Again!"

That's what heavens going to be like.

Except better. Many, many, times better...

nearly heaven

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Thank You From Mr. CrabbyPants

I admit it. I woke up crabby this morning. I had one of those dreams last night that you wouldn't even schedule on a late Halloween night horror show marathon. It was ugly. And it was right at the end of my night sleep so when I woke up from it the clock on the night stand told me not to bother trying to doze off again because, if I did, it was going to be the next thing to haunt me.

I hate alarm clocks.

So I got up and showered, dressed myself, ate a banana, and went to church. That is when everything changed. If I were not the pastor there is a fair chance that I would have just chalked this one up, rolled over, and tried to eek out a better dream before beginning the day. But when you are the pastor ... you go. But I'm human enough to admit that I wasn't smiling as I turned left on Old Collinsville Road.

And then I walked into Towerview Baptist Church. I was met at the door by a great guy. His name is Lynn. He always has a smile for me. And as a bonus he holds the door. I walked through the outer office and came across Ila. She is our Sunday Morning Secretary. Yeah. She smiled at me too. Her husband and my friend, Bob, is locked in a battle with Acute Leukemia and yet she shows up on Sunday morning and even has the juice to love on people. Next I met Trish in the hallway. She is our worship leader. She smiled at me and even patted me on the back.

That's when I noticed it. I was smiling back at them. The crabby's were gone. All gone. I walked through the entire morning being loved on by members of "my family." Nobody scowled at me or complained. Nobody smacked me upside the head (literally or figuratively.) They loved on their crabby pastor. Oh, true, they didn't know I was crabby. That doesn't matter. The fact that they loved ... that's the whole ball game. By the time I stepped onto the stage to teach them my own smile was genuine and fresh.

So this one is for you, Towerview family. I want you to know something. I love you. I really, really do. I love seeing you, I love talking with you, I love teaching you, I love being taught by you. Tonight we had a business meeting that was preceded by two hours of meetings. There was love woven through the fabric of all of that. You are reminding me what the church is about. You are reminding me why we are different than any club or organization. We serve and worship God together. When I showed up on your doorstep for the first time almost exactly three years ago God told me to begin teaching you "The Great Commandment." Love God ... and love people. Well, Towerview, you paid attention. I cannot think of one other place on the globe where I would rather "do church." And I can't think of one other group of people that I would rather "do church" with.

It is an honor to be your pastor.

It is an honor simply to be your friend.

I can never say "thank you" enough. But I'm going to say it anyway ... THANK YOU.