Friday, October 19, 2012

Reconnections . . .

I blogged recently about "reconnecting" to something spiritual during my recent 2 week stay in New Mexico. That reconnection has changed me, and my understanding of it continues to develop, almost to the point where I hope to put it down into words.

I've experienced several additional reconnections since, two in just the past few days. How this has all happened is pretty amazing to me.

The first new reconnection ...

On Wednesday morning, a church member who recently experienced an accident came to see me. It was the year anniversary of the accident itself. During our conversation, she presented me with a small guardian angel medallion that she had worn every day during the past year of her recovery. It had been given to her by another church member. That member received it from me. I presented it to her when she began a very long period of rehab as the result of a stroke.

This little pendant is showing its age! It's tarnished, a bit pitted, and the edges are a bit worn and smooth. It has travelled with two dear people through their individual recoveries. It has been held tightly in a hand while prayers were offered. It has been touched by fingers when times got rough, listening to words of their doctors and during ah ha!" moments.

I am wearing it now on a chain under my shirt. Please ask me to show it to you. I'm glad to do it. I'm going to have it with me every day until my doctor says the words "cancer free." Then I will pass it along to someone else.

If you would like, or would be blessed with having your own little guardian angel pendant, then please let me know. I try to purchase about 25 of them a year from a little church in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. That small church has a beautiful little garden from which you can see the Christ of the Ozarks Statue across the valley above Eureka Springs. It's a holy and sacred place for me personally. Perhaps you can wear one for a while, and then pass it on to someone else afterwards as a blessing to them in their journey.

The second reconnection ...

Yesterday I was reading Twitter posts, when lo-and-behold, I notice an 18 day old message from my old "Youth for Christ" director back in my high school days down in the Rio Grande Valley. Rev. Bob Hager (he was just "Bob" back then) is now a retired elder in the Arkansas Conference of the UMC, and is currently involved in creating independent documentary films. I hope we are going to connect again by phone later this morning. (We did .... an almost hour long conversation).

Bob was as instrumental as anyone with helping me discern a call to ministry, and how we could be about doing ministry in a new way that would reach teens in the culture of that day back in 1975. Bob was my first example of an "official" religious leader "thinking outside the box" in a day and time before that descriptive phrase was even conceived. Pretty much every breath he took or word he spoke was about new ways to reach teens in 1974-1975 with the love Christ. His recommendation helped me get my first youth ministry job as an 18 year old high school graduate at FUMC in Donna, TX.

He was, in that day and time, a bit of a rebel. No, make that a full blown rebel. He was our YFC leader, he had a weekly radio program for youth on Saturday nights (and got fired from it for having youth actually come onto the program). He brought contemporary Christian bands through the area (Chuck Girard and others) and got blasted for it because they played "rock" style music on guitars. He hosted Burger Bash's, world's longest banana split contests, Earth Ball Olympics (with a giant 7 foot tall air-filled ball (oh, was that thing hard to pump up with old hand pumps) and other events that attracted teens in large numbers. He was accepting of everyone. Youth programs today put some of the things we did back then to shame (but then, we had little to no access to "technology. A little red painted battery-powered "Hot Seat" stool, guitars and a film projector was it.) ... but such wasn't the norm in the middle 70's in Deep South Texas.

The biggest problem we faced daily was from pastors of area churches who I guess were questioning our theology, long hair, music ... They basically insisted we had to be in a church classroom with nice clothes, short hair, with a red- letter "approved" Bible in our laps for "correct" Christian teaching. Personal expression was a still a bit of a no-no. But Bob kept going forward, in-the-process training a group of youth leaders and future church workers and volunteers (and I'm still damn proud today that I was on that leader team - probably because I carried a guitar on my back everywhere I went in those days). We met on Tuesday nights I think, in homes or in schools.

Bob left for seminary in Massachusetts about the same time I left for college and we quickly lost track of one another. It's going to be good to reconnect, mainly because I never got the chance to thank him for letting me watch him struggle to honestly and uniquely live out his Christian faith and beliefs with integrity. (I did give that thank you. Felt good. Should have done it a long time ago.)

'Tis a season of reconnections in my life right now, especially during this time of surgery and treatment for thyroid cancer. They all mean a lot to me ... and pondering about them all seems to be leading me to something. I just don't know what yet. I believe and honor that this is all part of a process, a journey. It's all good.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>



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