Monday, June 30, 2014

Throwback MONDAY ('Cause I'll be MOVING Thursday)

I will not have time to do this on Thursday, so here it is today.

In honor of our move this week to our new house in Kernersville--some pictures from our first house in Charlotte. 

It was built twenty-four years ago.

Lorie and I were still in our 20s, and David was 9 months old. I had just been appointed to the "Southwest Mecklenburg Mission" -- what would later become Good Shepherd United Methodist Church. 

The house was a "starter" home, in one of the new subdivisions that were rapidly springing up in that section of Mecklenburg County. It was on Indian Hills Lane. Don't know where that name came from. The whole neighborhood was flat as a pancake, and I never saw any Indians. 

Lorie and I chose the style of the house from a selection of three or four pre-planned designs. Then we got to watch it go up. Almost every day we drove out from our apartment in the city to see the progress. 

We lived in that house for ten years. Lots of memories. 

Every now and then I look at the house on Google Earth. It blows my mind to see the trees in the yard. When I planted them they were tiny little things. Now they almost hide the house. I imagine the people who live there are now enjoying the  the shade from the trees I planted long ago.

There's a spiritual lesson in there somewhere. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Slow Work of God

I'm trying to stay positive, but this moving thing is getting to me. I don't like transition periods.

So when I read this quote this morning as part of my devotions, it spoke volumes to me: 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. Yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability -- and that it may take a very long time.
                                          -- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (emphasis added) 

 OK, God, I hear you. Message received. 

Now back to packing boxes, address changes, canceling services, tracking down people I've borrowed things from, etc. etc. etc. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday--Ordination

They say when you steal from one person it's plagiarism. When you steal from more than one person it's research. 

Tuesday I committed plagiarism by stealing from Talbot Davis. Today I'm doing "research" by stealing from practically the whole social media universe by participating in "Throwback Thursday." 

This year at Annual Conference I had a friend being ordained so I attended the Ordination Service on Saturday night. And my heart was strangely warmed as my thoughts turned to my own ordination, twenty-two years ago in 1992:

The handsome fellow on the right, who I'm starting to look more and more like as I get older, is my dad, the Rev. Jack Kayler, who's still alive and kicking at 87 years old! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top Five Tuesday--Top Five Things I Loved about Annual Conference

Stealing a page from my dear friend Talbot Davis, I'm beginning a new feature today called "Top Five Tuesday."

If you're a United Methodist, you know about Annual Conference. It's a yearly meeting of all the UM pastors in a given region, plus one lay representative for each pastor. I'm a member of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, and we always meet sometime in June, at beautiful Lake Junaluska, for our annual meeting. 

Usually I hate it. 

The long days, the boring reports, the same old perfunctory business that could be done some other way ... the time away from my church and the work I need to get done ... usually I drag myself to Annual Conference with a sour attitude. 

But this year was different. I had a much better attitude. Probably because I'm between churches and right now, Annual Conference is my church family. Or maybe because I'm officially on vacation and I didn't feel the pressure to get back to the office and get work done. Or maybe because I was so happy to get away from the boxes

And this year I loved it. Here are the top five reasons why: 

1. Lake Junaluska -- I've been coming here since I was a child. And so have my kids. I was ordained here. My son was married here. We have a house here. 

This place is so full of memories and meaning for me. Yeah, the auditorium's too small, and the facilities are antiquated, and parking's a problem--but I still love the place. 

2. Better reporting (of great things happening) -- Gone are the days when people would stand up and read long reports. Now the reports are short, snappy--and with effective use of video, very exciting! 

And you know what? There are great things happening in our annual conference. New churches. New life for old churches. Missional outreach to the poor and homeless. Lives changed in Africa. Great stuff. My writing is not doing it justice. So watch some of the videos here. 

3. Social Media -- Mike Rich, our conference webmaster, did a great job of keeping the AC2014 website up to date. Summaries of the day, transcripts of sermons ... and live streaming of every session. 

4. Great Worship -- This may have had to do with my attitude, but I was really moved and refreshed by this year's worship services. The opening communion service skillfully blended traditional hymns played on a huge organ with contemporary choruses led by a praise team. The Lake Junaluska Singers blew us away at the closing service. And Bishop Goodpaster was on fire as he preached on Extravagant Generosity!

5. Connecting with Friends -- It means more and more to me as I get older. So many great people--some of whom I just met--some of whom I've known since I was a kid. 

And one of those, of course, was my dear friend Sam, who reached a major milestone in his life at this year's Annual Conference. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Dream Come True

I met Sam Om (real name Om Sam-El) in 1991. We were both starting new churches in Charlotte and we decided to partner together. Every so often our churches would get together and share a meal. His folks would bring delicious home-cooked Cambodian dishes, and we would bring our store-bought American stuff, and we would eat together and share the joy of cross-cultural Christian fellowship. 

If you've seen the movie "The Killing Fields," you've seen Sam's story. He escaped the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and spent several months living in a squalid refugee camp on the Thai border. He was filled with anger and hate towards his people and his home country. One day he heard that if you become a Christian you stand a better chance of becoming a UN refugee and being relocated to the United States. So he told his mother and sister to go to the missionaries and become Christians. He wanted nothing to do with it, but he did want to get out of Southeast Asia. 

Sam's mother and sister came back to their hut with a Bible. Sam took the Bible and used the pages to roll cigarettes. He smoked about half the Bible until one day he read a verse that stopped him cold. Sam would say later that when the hate in his heart met the love in this verse it was like an explosion. 

The verse? "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but receive everlasting life." 

One thing led to another and Sam became a Christian (for real, not by convenience), and he made it to the US. But he still wanted nothing to do with Cambodia. And yet he kept hearing a voice that said, "But what about your people?" Eventually his heart was changed and he became a pastor to reach Cambodians with the gospel of Christ. 

Sam was ordained in the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA). When I met him in '91 he was "on loan" to First UMC in Charlotte where he started the Cambodian Mission Church. We became fast friends. And by the end of the decade, he had taken me on a mission trip to Cambodia. That's where I got the teaching-pastors-overseas bug. 

Sam's ultimate goal from the day I met him was to return to his home country as a missionary. He became convinced that the best way to do that was through the General Board of Missions (GBGM) of the Untied Methodist Church. Thus began an arduous journey--earning a Masters degree, passing the UM Board of Ministry exams, becoming an ordained elder ... and then the long candidacy process of the GBGM. In the midst of all that, Sam had serious heart surgery that might have derailed his dream. 

But earlier this year I got an email with the good news: Sam, his wife Syvanny, and their daughter Caroline, are going to Cambodia! 

Sam's official title is Director of Educational Resource Development for the Methodist Mission in Cambodia. That's a fancy title, and I'm not sure what all it means, but the bottom line is this: Yesterday at Annual Conference, Sam was officially commissioned. 

A 23-year dream is coming true. 

Sam is going to Cambodia! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Boxes, Boxes, Everywhere

Ah, moving. 

I grew up in the home of a United Methodist Pastor, and then I became one. So I've got this moving thing down pat. 

Actually, I've been quite fortunate when it comes to United Methodist moving. When I was a kid we lived in the small town of Norwood, NC. I could walk to school, walk to town, hang out at the soda shop, ride bikes to my friends' houses. It was a great place to be a young boy. 

Then in my teenage years we lived in Greensboro. Lots to do there. Concerts--I saw Elton John, Chicago, ELO, Ted Nugent, and Queen at the Greensboro Coliseum. I went to a big high school and took courses you couldn't get in a small town. I acted in plays. I sang Handel's Messiah in War Memorial Auditorium with 200 voices and a full orchestra. I took my dates to restaurants and movie theaters--we had plenty to choose from. It was a great place to be a young man. 

When I became a pastor myself, my first appointment was in Charlotte. We ended up living there for eleven years. 

Then I went to the tiny town of Tyro in Davidson County. A great place to raise two kids in elementary and middle school. And we stayed there for six years. 

And then to my current appointment in beautiful Asheville, where my son met his wife, and my kids graduated from one of the best high schools in the state. It was here that Lorie and I became empty nesters, and found that we had more time to enjoy all the cool things to do in this awesome place! 

It was here that I got to serve one of the best churches in the Western NC Conference. A truly unique and unusual church. 

And we got to stay in Asheville for eight years!

So I'm blessed. In 25 years of pastoral ministry, this is only the third time I've had to move.

I'm also blessed that I'm married to the most organized person on the face of the planet. Do you see the color coded stickers in the upper right-hand side of the boxes? Each color represents a room in the new house. Lorie's got it all mapped out.

Every morning Lorie gives me a detailed to-do list of what I need to sort/pack/give away. Some husbands might balk at that, but I like the fact that I don't have to think about it. 

I love to read, but man those books are heavy!
I have to admit that I'm starting to get worried, though. Will we get it all done? Will we be ready when the moving truck arrives on July 1? Lorie has 32 grant applications due that day. Thirty-two! And my office is still a total wreck. Books, files, CDs and DVDs scattered everywhere disorganized, and still a fair amount of paperwork and expense reports and stuff I have to take care of before I leave. 

So I better get back to work...

NOTE: The liquor boxes in these pictures are NOT MINE! A very nice church member, protecting my pastoral identity, went to the ABC store and got them for me :)

So Close...

Roan Mountain. I've always wanted to see it. To hike the famous Cloudland Trail. To look out at the awesome view from Roan High Bluff. To see the rhododendrons in bloom. 

On Saturday Lorie and I decided to take a break from packing and head up to Roan Mountain. We drove east to Marion and then north towards the Tennessee border. It was a perfect day--not a cloud in the sky. 

Finally we were driving up Highway 261 -- the twisty mountain road that would put us on Roan Mountain. Lorie noticed that the car started to slow down. No problem, she thought. It's just the steep mountain grade. 

Finally we were looking at Roan Mountain. It was right in front of us. One, maybe two miles away. 

And then the car stopped completely. 

And so the rest of our day looked something like this...

So, I still haven't been to Roan Mountain! Although I've seen it from below. From where the car broke down we could actually see people hiking the Cloudland Trail. 

But you know, we still had an awful lot to be thankful for...

1- A safe place to stop: It just so happened that when the car lost power we were right beside one of the few turnoffs on that narrow mountain road. 

2- A picnic lunch: We had plenty of food, and we even had a picnic blanket to spread out on the ground in the shade. 

3- AAA: We've been members for 28 years, and we've used them often. Despite the remote location, they found us and sent help. 

4- Friends to share the adventure: We were with our friends Josh and Nicole Ray and their small children Shelby and Jackson. These kinds of mishaps are easier to deal with when you're hanging out with people whose company you enjoy. 

5- A flat bed tow truck (and a really nice driver): The driver got there in record time. He shared our picnic while waiting for the battery to recharge. Then  he followed us into Spruce Pine to see if we could make it to the garage. As it turned out, the car died again at the bottom of the twisty mountain road, so he loaded it up on the truck and four of us (including the two kids) were able to ride in the car on the truck. Had it been a traditional pull-behind tow truck, we four would have been stranded. 

6- Spruce Pine: Once the car was unloaded at the garage, we walked into the charming little town of Spruce Pine. And since Nicole used to work there, she had insider's knowledge of where things are--a coffee shop, an outdoor adventure store, furniture stores, and best of all, a park where the kids could play. We entertained ourselves for hours. 

7- Friends to rescue us: Keith and Cynthia Kohatsu, and their children Aaron, Hannah, and Eli, are some of the best neighbors we've ever had. They put their Saturday afternoon plans on hold so that Keith could drive up to Spruce Pine in their mini-van and bring the six of us home. (And then, as if that wasn't enough neighborliness, they had Lorie and me over for dinner the next night!)

8- Cell phones: How did we ever live without them? What would we have done if we'd had no way to call AAA, call Keith, etc.? Or if there were no way for them to call us back?

9- A gorgeous day: Thunderstorms appear suddenly in the mountains. Imagine if we'd had to do all that standing around and walking in a torrential downpour. 

10- A sense of humor: Rather than go negative, we all found things to laugh about. And we kept reminding each other: "Some day this is going to make a great story!" 

All things considered, it turned out to be a pretty great day!