Ghana Beckons…

like Alaska and Uganda before, their beauty, their people, the Faith we share and the service we can give.

The bags are almost packed, every vaccine has been given, and there are gifts waiting to be shared. It’s a week and change at a youth camp, the first of its kind in a country where Orthodoxy is young and the horizons are vast and broad. Everything we have is needed and much of what we carry will be left there.

In days the planes will take us from across the country to Florida for a brief stop to meet and make plans. Then on to New York, Amsterdam, and Accra, all in one airborne day. One night’s sleep and we’ll already be about our tasks, sharing our lives, and building relationships. Just servants, I guess, to something larger and greater than ourselves, and servants, too, to people we have yet to meet and whom we’ll never forget.

In time faster we can imagine we trace the route back, Accra to Amsterdam and then departing each back to our home in separate ways, one long last flight home to those who are holding the fort while we were gone. Yet having done this before I know all of us will never quite be home in our entirety again. A part of us will remain in Ghana, people, faces, emotions, memories, and a bit of our heart. Once having gone you can never completely come back but that’s how it’s supposed to be.

The bags are on my living room floor, just a few more things to pack before everything starts in motion. Nervous? A little. Excited? A lot. Ready? I guess as ready as I’ll ever be.

Godspeed, and in your mercy, Lord, watch over everyone I leave behind.

I Hate My Country…

sometimes. We can be a very selfish people, self-centered, greedy, and given to violence. Often we seem like a culture with only goods and services and no soul, no heart, and nothing beyond the next gadget to buy. We can be promiscuous and vile, indulgent to our every whim as if it were the entire definition of our existence, and every feeling has become, for us, an ultimate truth to be defended at all costs.

I love my country…

because there is amazing beauty here, everything from the arctic to the tropical in one country. There is goodness here, as well, and if you understand that the movies, the TV, and the news aren’t documentaries so much as lurid attempts to get you to watch you’ll notice kindness, civility, charity, and friendliness in many places. We’re always among the most charitable nations on Earth and even though we could always do more we’re still moved by the poverty and tragedy of others. We forget them sometimes, but we really do have high ideals and there are very few countries that are as diverse of people, faith, and vision and yet have somehow still found a way to be together.

And because I love my country I recognize everything that’s wrong but still believe in what’s good and right and decent about us all. I enjoy traveling the world but this is home and I plan on fighting for the best of it, not with force or violence but by trying to be the best and most honorable person I can and by living my Faith to the greatest extent possible. I can’t control the past, but today, and the future, are surely something I can make better. And every time in the Liturgy when we pray for our nation, its leaders, the armed forces, every city and countryside and the faithful who dwell in them, I’ll mean it like I always have and perhaps even more.

There is a Beauty…

in the night as the sun sets over St. Paul. The pavement is hot because the July sun baked it then frosted it with oil and tire rubber, but the air quickly begins to cool as the tall buildings push themselves in front of the waning sun.

I used to ride my motorcycle at times like this. In part it was because the traffic was lightening up and the road seemed more free and then, again, it was also a good time to see and hear and smell a city settling in for the night. As the sun descended lights would turn on one by one and a kind of calm would fall.

As a younger person I remember coming to St. Paul while my dad was commuting each week from our home in Wisconsin. Everything seemed so tall, so large, so much more of everything than where I was from. It still is that way and there are times when it all seems so noisy and oppressive and hot and full of people crawling around like ants. Yet it has also become my home, the beauty of it, the quiet tree lined streets and even the places where it would be wise to leave before the street lights come on.

When we moved here more than two decades ago we came because we could find places we could afford and we came because we wanted to live, serve, and minister in the city. Older now, we sometimes think of selling and finding a townhome in the suburbs where someone else will mow our lawn and shovel our walks. Yet we are still here, most of the neighbors who were there when we first came have come and gone and the lady across the street who was there before us is thinking about selling and taking up an apartment somewhere. Yet we are still here.

Sometimes I like to drive through the city with the windows down and take it all in. If we ever leave I will miss the sights, sounds, and even the smell that comes up Swede Hollow from the Mississippi. Sometimes at night when I’m awake I just pray for my neighbors, and the city; pray for God to take care of us all in the night and that peace would fall on our little patch of a sometimes crazy world. For the most part everything has been good.

One day its almost certain that a truck will come and take our things and ourselves away from this place. That’s the way of life. Yet here we are on a hot July night in this place we’ve made home, this place where a church was started, this place that we can move away from any time but never leave. That’s also the way of life.

God, in your mercy, wherever we may travel in this life please keep an eye out for St. Paul.

There are moments…

black-and-white-pictures-phone-34252.jpgwhen I wonder if it’s too late. If the decline and fall has been too great. If the hate is too strong. If the sickness is too deep. If the case is terminal.

There are moments when I light a candle at church and just throw up a prayer for any and everything because I’m not sure what else to say other than “God you know and because you know you care and will handle things…”

There are moments when the world I knew as a child seems like a million years ago and the world I know now is a stranger to me, a place I inhabit like a permanent tourist seeing the sights but never really sleeping in my own bed.

Hearts have grown cold. Apathy is the cure for despair. And more often than I would like to admit, I’m tired. Yet I know there is Light somewhere and everything pure and holy may be deeply hidden but still visible to the discerning eye. So I keep praying, and looking.

Perhaps the only and best thing for me is to keep close to whatever Light I find and keep it lit as a gift to people yet born who will rediscover and rekindle it for themselves. If nothing happens in my lifespan it will at least be something to leave behind, a treasure infinitely more important than money.

Perhaps, too, in my journeys I will discover fellow travelers and for brief moments in time when our lives intertwine we can see what the future will one day be in the shared warmth of our holy flame.

Regardless, I have no intention of giving up. In a plan larger than my own I was brought into the world in this time and so everything, my purpose, my hope, and my reasons are all here. By God’s grace I plan to make the most of it and leave the rest up to heaven.

Perhaps that’s part of what they mean by the word “Faith.”

When you realize…

everything you could possibly own is temporary and often unnecessary

science and technology are full of amazing things but there is a reality of human life which science and technology cannot define in and of itself

your discontent in this world may be a sign you were meant for something more than just the here and now

when you realize things such as these you begin the journey through knowledge to wisdom.