Matthew 7:13-14

Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and straight is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~ Matthew 7:13-14

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Journey Home

I went to see Madagascar 3 over the weekend. This is the animated film about zoo animals who travel the world. They desperately want back into their zoo in Central Park NYC ,and they finally do make it home. When they arrive they realize  travel is where adventure and imagination reign and where they feel alive. They decide to return to the worldwide traveling circus they recently joined.

I had a missionary friend who said God puts into the missionary the need to go ..This works in opposition to the human need to nest. How does one resolve this? I was talking with a special friend and church pastor in Abq where I live...where I sometimes travel to also. She spoke of the importance of home, and church as home. Sitting in the comfort of my favorite my spare room office....which in Jesus words is becoming "my closet", I agreed with her and said how I love having a home. I love home. I love writing and reading the One Year Bible. I love journaling...and having lunch with my daughter. I love mornings with Wendy. I love coffee from a fresh new bean with half and half. We have a high wall with leaves from a vine that grows deeper and wider each summer. I love sitting there especially in the mornings.  I love bike rides and long walks with Wendy. When I am driven to the airport I dread leaving. I never want to go. Yet I have worked night and day, prayer and patience to get that opporttunity to leave home and go somewhere else. ....the .......mind ......of a man........who moves. 
But as much as I love private I also love just "meeting" with people by chance along the way.

I spent the 1st 37 years of my life within a 200 mile radius of my birthplace in the Bronx NY. My 20-something days, which were somehow longer" than 10 years, I call the “Lost In Brooklyn” days.  I was in the men’s garment business and I never really accepted it, yet I adapted very well. To make it in NYC you need to know your own personal uniqness and then learn to be comfortable in it; how to live with it and how to express it. I think in hindsight that driving around and around those 5 boroughs of NYC and seeing my customers taught me how to travel and yet stay uniquely me.

People today ask me “how do you do all those different you act differently in each place?” A good question! Good questions help foster answers one did not know he had. The key to travel is to stay the same. The key to staying the same is to know who you are. The key to knowing who you are is to have experiences - especially with people. How many times at the airport I so would rather be at home, or like the animals in Madagascar, in a cage in the zoo, than to go where nothing is comfortable. Facing the unexpected is not comfortable. I call travel at my level the greyhound bus tour. Once I took a greyhound from South Bend to Hartford CT. It was one way and the cost 54.00. The gas for me to drive would have been 2 times that.  I took an ambien and fell asleep at 11pm and woke at 6am. The ride was longer than that but I got my sleep. I made my dates and God gave me comfort.  Time and again this makes up for the uncomfortable.

Sometimes when I do the Abq to L.A. trip by car I will get out of the car at night somewhere in desolate Arizona and look at the stars. I feel like Abraham. “See those stars, you cannot count them and, son, you cannot count how much I love you." Sometimes, filled with His glory and joy, I will then dance...and dance...with God.  He really is God with us....with me. He really loves it when I ask Him questions instead of me doing all the talking. I am alone when I travel and sometimes I reach out and when I do , He is there.  If I were never alone on the road I may never have known how good a conversationalist He is. How well He listens. How much He says via listening. He makes me laugh too…out loud! And He cracks me up with the way He says things. Some of His best stuff for me He saves for the road. So much of it is getting to the place of ministry. The ministry is often our focal point, but the travel, the special meetings with pastors, and making new friends,  is the life of the kingdom.

My famous saying is I do not play Jesus He plays me. It is not what we do for God,  but what we do from God. He, living in me, needs to be an experience of Him up very close.  He wants and needs this too from you and from me. He is so sensitive.

Yes, what works at home is what works on the road. We humans desperately need stability and normalcy. He is that. The YMCA cant do that, nor can the post office or the local bank, or the familiarity of all we see day after day after day. He is our stability.  Travel causes me to want and experience Him more and more. Being home makes me appreciate all He has provided in all the little things a loved one provides. Familiararity is so important. Learning to find Him as my familiar friend so often is the result of real trial that causes real stretching. Its good to travel I tell myself … or is it not God Himself speaking into my hearts mind?

So this is what I remember as I count the days, hours and final minutes until the next travel engagement begins. Knowing where I am going, i.e. where He is taking me today.... is my home.
As I tell my acting students “home is the foundation that never changes. Yes, Jesus is Home...the same yesterday today and forever.”  So we can change.........yesterday, today and forever.

Happy Trails!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Journey Through The Narrow Gate - A Fish Story

Last Saturday I drove to LA. I visited 2 churches on Sunday and drove home on Monday. After being home and looking back I see 2 or 3 different stories..maybe more.

First the drive out to LA. Hot! Praise God I actually started at 6am or 5 am time for LA where I was going. I drove for 4 or 5 hours without using my air conditioner; so proud of myself for leaving early. On the other hand when I came to the last "stop" in Arizona upon getting out of the car I was hit with a wave of vertigo......nauseating, dizzying vertigo.  It was just before the CA "check to see if you have any fruit stop" that I noticed the wire to the cell phone charger was wearing thin...very thin. I wondered if the heat through the window had melted the connection. My cell was on 15% remaining power. On my droid that does not last very long. From here you are looking at close to 200 miles before Barstow. I mention Barstow because that’s the beginning of the metropolis that brings you to LA. I so wanted to hear the Yankees on my MLB.TV! No way without the cell. One of the things one needs to fight off on these trips boredom. It’s a 13 hour trip to LA.

I thought that Needles, only 20/more miles, away would have a Verizon store. I remembered Needles had 3 exits off I 40. Just like to say a few things about Needles. I am sure it used to be a beautiful desert city. You can tell by the buildings. Also I observed, after being positive there was no Verizon store here, that the people I asked directions from to Family Dollar, which I was told had chargers, really loved living in Needles. The directions I heard 3 or 4 times was go under the bridge and come to the road for "a while " and you will see Family Dollar. My problem was there were 3 or 4 bridges and I am sure the 3 or 4 people all knew the right bridge. Finally I stopped about an hour later at a fine Peanut store. (Big cities may not have such a delicacy) The white haired gentleman sold me pistachios. Oh how I love protein. He gave me the final mile or so directions and after leaving the key to the men’s room at Family Dollar in the men’s room I was ready to leave Needles. They were nice about the bathroom blunder and encouraged me that they keep a spare key because these things happen, especially in my case.

Traveling is an end in and of itself. Getting there and ministering is important too. I am only half kidding here. Traveling is hardly ever comfortable. One is forced to play well on the road. For me it causes a passion and a conviction to what is true, good, and of God. While I was driving through Needles I asked myself a philosophical question. "How many times in your life Denny have you gotten entangled with a cause for a day, month, year, years, that it would have been wiser to just say "quitting time?” Good question. These trips can quickly switch from boredom to just plain self-confrontational.
Almost to make the point....thinking the Yankees were playing at night and starting at 4pm Pacific time I was ready to listen to the game all the way into the LA area. One problem. The game started at 11 am Pacific. My purpose for Needles was a waste and I wasted time and energy and.... for what I asked myself.

Not sure if it was the pistachios but I stopped the "theatre tragedy". Something in me changed the channel I was on. I felt I had time so I called Keith my pastor friend who I would be staying with and told him not to make dinner for me as I would be coming later. I knew those pistachios would cover my dinner. I made a good decision. I was glad to stop rushing for a made up deadline. Glad I had stopped in Needles and seen the town. Hey! I was even glad the Yankees won without my even cheering for them. I was glad I was planning a major exercise walk at Azusa Pacific University - where Wendy and I went to seminary in CA 1987 and 88 and where Stephie our daughter was born. I decided this was a good trip ......for a very good purpose.

Jumping forward a day - On Sunday night after doing Jonah for the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Barstow CA I did a Q & A with the audience as Jonah. Someone asked me what it was like to be inside a big fish for 3 days and 3 nights. My reply reminded me of what I felt like having driven through the desert heat of NM ,AZ, an Ca. First. I asked the audience if they had every flown first class in an airplane....the answer mostly no ....  How about coach? More responded yes. Well, I said to this " 2012 audience ",  being in the big fish was like being in the airplane bathroom  - without lights! ...And being sick from motion sickness as the plane rocks and rolls. Then the final insult and injury -  being "vomited" from the mouth of the big fish.." on to dry land". (well, the dry land is not so bad, but how about being vomited out in the fish vomit plus your own vomit, ewwww!)  I think they got it as they laughed a lot as they related this to their own experiences

In answering questions as Jonah, I encouraged people to “come off the fence" and decide. That I, Jonah, was living proof that many others are affected by the decisions we make. That not making a decision was a decision too and ultimately - the wrong decision. That people in your time, 2012, do what I did in my B.C. time, and self justify those decisions and call it theology. That our little vine is our comfortable area of control.  Its all indecision with the appearance of activity and decisivness. When God took this from me (Jonah) my anger, and depression rose in me...but then He saved me from me. I no longer had to play God.....He could now play me.  Real ministry is not for God it is from God.....and that our the decision that truly decides. He supplies the Truth. Jonah wanted the comfortable....He offered the Comforter – the Holy Spirit.

Jumping back to my Saturday driving trip - 15 hours after leaving Albuquerque, as I was driving through the Hollywood 101, I came to my one and only traffic jam. This was beautiful too. I promise you. I opened the windows smog..the sun had heat. First a breeze then..... Suddenly a wave of love overcame me. Faces, names, people I knew from this very place of Hollywood came to my mind. Not just a dry remembrance mind you, but a wave of love ,affection and hope. The names Ira, Randy, Bill, Rich, Dave, John. It felt like a parade and I was in a car waving. I was arriving.....a Holy-Wood guy...a minister... a ministry. I was so glad to be here. It was now this moment I was getting my True perk. I love this.  I love what I do, what I have and who I am. I would not want to be anyone else.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  May the Lord bless and keep you on your journeys with Him by your side - even in the belly of a big fish.
Dennis Cole