Sometimes I have to check my calendar to remember where I was the week before. Sometimes when traveling I have to ask myself where am I now? The weekend of August 19- 21 was like that for me. Landing in Buffalo got me dinner in Niagara Falls with Pastor Bob. Hardly romantic, but very friendly. I really love this guy. An old time Pentecostal, funny, transparent, and with lots of stories. I stay with some people and often need to do most of the talking. With Bob I did not have that problem. Wendy, Stephanie and I used to drive to Niagara Falls when we pastored in Michigan and went to prophesy conferences. To this day Wendy and Stephanie laugh at my assessment that the falls is "a really big hole". I remembered that when I saw that same big hole all over again with pictures of me and Bob, really nice. I needed that respite after the flight which rerouted me to Atlanta due to weather in Chicago. Got into Buffalo 3 hours later than planned, but we got there. Met the nicest woman named Suzette too on the flight, one I should have never made into Atlanta. Pastor Bob and I did not make it to his house in Liverpool, NY near Syracuse until exactly 1: 16. Bob explained he does not tire until 1:15. Sure enough he did not yawn until 1:14l, but by then we were already on the street where he lives.
I had a great reunion with one my favorite pastors, George. He had on a Saturday driving to California a few weeks before called telling me he was cancelling our meeting for Friday Aug 19 because he was fired. On Monday 2 days later as I drove back home he called to tell me his following at his church was reorganizing a new corporation with him as pastor. He called exactly one week later to tell me he got a new building in the same area that cost them nothing. He also re-invited me to be their 1st speaker in their new building for the originally scheduled date Friday August 19. The name of his new church - Abounding Love Fellowship. I am sure you have seen “ It’s A Wonderful Life”. The name of the town depicted is Bedford Falls which is fictitious, but the area it depicts is exactly where I was this weekend in upstate western NY. Pastor George, the same 1st name as George Bailey from the old Bailey Building and Loan, was the George of my weekend. He and his wife Debbie who just happens to be the daughter of Pastor Bob had the widest smile I have seen since George Bailey with his wife Mary underneath the Christmas tree congratulating Clarence for getting his wings. Jesus too says "its a wonderful life.”
On Sunday am at 6:15am I began my drive from Liverpool NY to Corning about 100 country miles southeast. I emphasize country because there are no freeways in these parts. One thinks of NY as crowds and technology, but NY State is not that way. It is beautiful in these parts. The air, the trees , the feeling of space , the land. It was here I fell into a time warp. I could not remember where I was as far as time goes but, I was exactly where my feelings wanted to go. I was in Woodstock, not the concert or the town, not 2012, but the 1980s. I was on our land. Our precious land. Like the song, " God gave this land to me". We were residents of Woodstock in the 80s. I have many stories regarding Woodstock and time to tell all that should be told, but for now all I can say is being in upstate NY , the small towns, the detours the soothing aroma of mountain air. I was home again. The drive was the destiny. I was on the 2 acres Wendy and I developed for our front yard, the other 35 acres were woods for long walks. It was on those 2 acres when I looked up and saw the face of Jesus.
I have never claimed to have seen Jesus only that I saw what he wanted me to see of HIm. I cannot tell you exact dates, but it was after May 1983 when I got saved in Woodstock and before May 1986 when Wendy and I sold all we had to begin seminary and a life in ministry. This was my 2nd special encounter with Jesus not counting actually getting saved. What I had going for me was enthusiasm. I did not have a lot of theology, but I am sure Gods intention in teaching theology is to increase enthusiasm not dampen it. I simply wanted to see Him. A grown man in his mid 30s, I asked to see Him. "I want to see you, I want to be with you. I want to talk with you." These were feeling thoughts and words I was saying. In the midst of this monologue of music and moments I looked up and saw His smile. Let me emphasize what I saw I saw His SMILE. It was that big. Not oversized, but huge with grace and forgiveness and kindness and goodness. The one other characteristic I take home with me now is He had a small space between His 2 front teeth. I only saw Him from His shoulders up , but He showed me His hands. Rudd , strong , He then let out with a huge laugh. A laugh without sound yet filled with expression, I can hear it still, whenever I think of His Kindness and when I remember this day. He says it is still this day. It is His ever abounding Love fellowship. He took me a young man lacking ... and gave me a family and the basis for, through His smile, all I would ever need to have. It is A Wonderful Life. I wish everyone knew about this life with all my heart and as I write this I want the best for all. I forgive all and I am forgiven by One, The One That Counts.
I did get to Friends Of The Cross Church in Corning. Very special. Got back to Pastor Bob’s church that evening . His son-in law George came to visit Sunday night too. George, as he shared his story of loss and gain, had on his face that familiar smile Jesus showed me that day almost 30 years ago. I even got to present “James the brother of Jesus” 3 times that weekend. If anyone knows that smile it would be James. I have Bible -acted the Book Of James over 100 times for sure. Its kind of a family thing now. I use to say more often then I do nowadays " look at a person’s baby pictures and you’ll see into who he is as God intended. Acting the Bible is going backward as much as forward. The more we learn shows just how much we need to unlearn. Funny, with all I have learned and experienced there is no more I can have, save to look into His face. Jesus I am sure looks just like His baby pictures, because His essence will never change. This gives me the strength to just look up and smile into His Face and that space between His teeth and just Laugh. It is A wonderful life. Isn’t it?