Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Reflections...

I like to drive to a certain extent. Since we have 5 children and when they were all still home with us, air fare was typically not something we could consider, driving was our only option. My family has made numerous cross country trips from the east coast or the far north east back to see family and friends in Texas. From New Hampshire, it was a hard 3 day drive just to get to Texas and then another full day of driving to the Rio Grande Valley to see Cheryl’s parents. I have to admit there were times in that season of life I didn’t look forward to those brutal drives because of the stress on the kids which in turn would test the patience of us as parents. But there were lots of times of adventure and fun along the way. Attempting to find two hotel rooms side by side late in the night at a safe hotel with a tired family in the car always seemed to be a formidable challenge and adventure as well. Well this year Cheryl and I and our boys drove to Fort Worth Texas to be there with our daughter Rachel as she gave birth to our 4th grandchild Cameron Tate Miller (I’ll show you pictures if you ask me). This particular drive was still as long as I remember but we had a nice time.  I enjoy looking at the different states and a 3,158 round trip road trip provides you lots of time to reflect on some things.

One thing I reflected on as we drove mile after mile on interstate highways was the freedoms we take for granted. Crossing state and county borders without meeting armed guards and having to produce papers that give you the right to enter the state or county is something every American should appreciate. Having been overseas now several times, much of the world doesn’t live that way. Routinely being stopped and questioned as to where you have been and where you intend to go is something many citizens of other countries believe is normal. Being secure in your person and your effects against search and seizure is something we take for granted. At many a checkpoint I’ve passed through, it was nerve wracking even though innocent, to have a soldier there with a machine gun looking through your luggage and examining your papers. We speak English (well at least variations of it) in every state, we don’t have to try and remember a phrase in a different language to express what we’re doing to a soldier with a machine gun. Watching fireworks last night here in Bel Air in celebration of the freedoms we enjoy caused me to be thankful for the men and women who have fought and died to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted. Folks, we need to guard our freedoms and the liberty we have. We are rapidly heading toward giving up those freedoms because of our apathy. If we’re not vigilant, if we don’t use the power we have in the voting booth, those liberties and freedoms will vanish.

Another reflection I had on my drive was an appreciation for my family. I am grateful to God for the wife, the children and the grandchildren God has given me. Riding a roller coaster with my sons or sitting in my daughter’s living room drinking coffee, watching her interact with one of my grandsons, listening to her teaching him, talking to him about Jesus as she feeds him breakfast was so special. Remembering how that daughter in particular used to test me to my wits end made me marvel at the grace of God and how His word sown into the lives of our children and grandchildren will produce men and women of character who honor the Lord Jesus Christ. The tears I’ve shed and the prayers I’ve prayed for my family are worth every drop as my children grow into maturity. I was also reminded because of something that happened while I was away that I still have a long way to go as dad and my children still need me to be faithful to correct, discipline and teach them to honor the Lord with their life choices. Whether they are 15 or 25, I am in a unique position to influence them for Christ.  I reflected that as my role changes with them and they leave the nest and begin life on their own, I can still set a faithful example for them and encourage them to honor Jesus. As parents and grandparents, you have the same encouragement and opportunity I have with your children and grandchildren, no matter if they are currently honoring the Lord or not.

I reflected on God’s provision for us with thanksgiving. Even though it was going to add mileage of another 300 miles to our already long trip, I felt as though we needed to go to Houston to see our home that I’ve not seen in person since we moved to Maryland. For reasons God alone seems to know, He has allowed us to carry that home for nearly 43 full months without it selling. While there was definite work Cheryl and I needed to do and it set us back from intended travel time and arrival back to Bel Air, the home was not in as bad a shape as I thought it would be having now had two families rent from us. Our house is vacant and actively for sale once again so we invested 6 or 7 hours cleaning up and fixing things and are praying it will sell. Stopping there allowed me once again to connect with our kind neighbors who’ve been picking up the circulars, junk mail, and phone books that make it unsightly. What a privilege to pray God’s blessings upon this sweet couple in their living room before we left town.  I believe they were moved and so pleased we came by to thank them. I still don’t know God’s purposes for that house that He owns. Our neighbors, real estate agents and anyone familiar with it are buffaloed as to why God has not allowed it to sell. As much as I’d love to sell it today, I’d rather ask you to pray for God to show me what His intentions are for it and that I’ll continue to have the patience needed to continue with it. I don’t mind telling you at this point I am weary with the stress of it; but I marvel that we’ve not lost it and God continues to provide for us and I am truly thankful.

Upon returning home much later than we planned, I have reflected that the work of the kingdom of God is not just the pastor’s and staff, it is the work for all believers to engage in and be committed to. I was pleased to learn of the ministry taking place with our supper summer of service, our youth mission trip to Philadelphia we’ll hear about soon, our summer mission trip to Maine and even as you read this, we have a team of high school seniors and leaders in Haiti sharing the greatest news ever that Jesus saves. I am so proud of you my church family and I marvel at the great church the Lord allows me to pastor. Seeing other ministries as we went to worship was wonderful and going to church just to worship and not lead was a blessing. It made me reflect on the blessings of being part of God’s work right here at Calvary.

Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth where my married children are members is a great church. Each Sunday, their call to worship is that wonderful hymn of the faith “Jesus Saves.” I am reminded as I saw the host of Harford County gather yesterday to watch our 4th of July parade and see the fireworks, that Jesus saves. He wants to save every man, woman, boy and girl right here where we serve Him. He’s placed us here for such a time as this and we must be faithful to engage our community with that wonderful news that Jesus Saves! I’m glad to be able to share some summer reflections, safe at home, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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