Remembering September 11th – 20 Years Later

Personal Growth

While what seems like yesterday, this week we are remembering the 20th year since the September 11th attacks. Alan Jackson released a song shortly after the tragedy of September 11th. It is titled “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” I’m not sure about you, but I remember clearly the moments of that day. I was in my office at the church meeting with one of our lead Pastors. During the meeting, one of our team stopped by the door and said, “You better go down to the Conference Room, something is happening in New York City.”

And so it began…

What began was a change in all of our lives. An innocence gone. Confusion, despair and grief impacted us all in the short term. Today, life is still far different than before 9/11. Mind you, there is no way my life has been impacted in any way like those who lost loved ones in any of the tragic events of that day. And many serve today in the continued hunt for terror in our armed forces and other agencies.

Where’s the Hope?

Perhaps at that time you remember the feelings of what could be next, mixed with what could we possibly do to help? It was certainly hard in the heartland to process what we could do to help, especially when everything absolutely shut down. It is amazing to think that this major event in our lives is now 20 years past. How will you remember that day this week?

I found a special and very encouraging way as we are remembering September 11th. My wife recommended a book recently. The Day the World Came to Town chronicles the incredible accomplishment of a tiny little community in Newfoundland named Gander.

Land the planes.

You see, Gander is on the flight path of Trans-Atlantic flights. On 9/11, all flights got grounded. When this happened, Gander, a tiny, quaint community transformed into a major city when close to 40 commercial airliners had to land at their emergency/military runway. Thousands of people had to be housed, fed, processed and cared for – out of the blue and literally in the middle of nowhere!

This book shares in-depth, personal, meaningful and heartwarming stories. Stories of how the townspeople, and the people from these flights cared for one another. The book truly made me want to visit Gander someday, as one reporter called the place and people an “oasis of kindness.”

God is good.

God has a powerful way of taking the worst and transforming it. I am reminded that clearly Romans 8:28 does not say all things are good. But it does say:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

In the Ancient Text, we remember Joseph and his mistreatment by his own brothers. Joseph spiraled down through no act of his own in slavery, accusation and judgement, and prison. Yet then he moves up the ranks to be the most prominent leader in Egypt under Pharaoh. So wise as to provide a plan for food during a multi-year famine for that entire region.

When his brothers arrived in his country desperately needing food and resources, Joseph could have responded many ways. He could have retaliated to the max. But instead, his perspective was to respond understanding how God’s hand works over and above evil.

Do. Good.

As we are remembering September 11th, the evil acts of that day, and there are evil acts and evil doers, can be transformed. God wins. Hope wins. Grace wins. Faith wins. Mercy wins. Over and over in the book I was challenged by the graciousness and sacrifice of the people in Gander to do their part to meet the people’s need. They gave everything they could of their time, talent and resources to meet the needs right in front of them. And through that, I see all kinds of good at the worst time for us all.

I am so thankful my wife recommended this book to me. There are the deep dive books, documentaries and movies into the nitty gritty details. I have done my fair share of documentaries and the like that look into every detail of the plot, plan and activities of those with evil intent. We must be aware and remember. We must be vigilant. I thank the Lord for those who have sacrificed their lives since that dreadful day to provide for our freedoms and safety.

Yet, this book is an incredible bright spot into the resolve of simply doing good things with all of your heart. It is a glimpse at truly being a good neighbor. How will you remember September 11, 2001? I recommend spending time with this read about the caring community of Gander.

Exploring Crested Butte, CO

Marriage and Family, Personal Growth

Last week my bride and I took a quick trip to the beautiful mountains of Colorado. We hit the road on our first “empty-nester” trip to rest, reflect and celebrate our kids and their transition to college. Empty nesting brings changes, but as a dear older and wiser friend reminded me, no matter their age, our kids will always be our kids. I wanted to share some cool areas we explored and give some tips for travel to Crested Butte, CO.

Mt. Crested Butte Resort

We stayed in the resort area just at the base of the ski lifts. Mt. Crested Butte sat prominently from any vantage point. My wife found a great and inexpensive condo with a great kitchen, deck and hot tub with spectacular views of the mountains and valley. The only drawback was some sound from the car traffic nearby climbing the steep roads to the lodges. We had easy access to simple trails on the ski slopes, and the great lodges and shops in this hip spot.

Downtown Crested Butte

Just a short drive down the mountain is the main town of Crested Butte. What a beautiful place! Not only is this a picturesque tourist spot, but it is also a quaint town with schools, sports and rec fields, and more. The main street for shopping and restaurants is Elk Avenue. It is lined with neat museums and historical buildings, fly-fishing shops, t-shirt and other gift shops. There are plenty of delicious spots for a meal, coffee and dessert.

Almont

One of the days, Jennifer and I drove south toward Gunnison which is just about 30 minutes away. While not sharing about Gunnison (which has neat shops and restaurants), just north of town is a fisherman’s paradise along the Taylor River and Spring Creek. The staff at the Almont fly shop were incredibly helpful with a fishing license, and recommended flies.

We set out for the Taylor Reservoir, enjoyed its views and then drove back down along the scenic Taylor River. Finding a perfect day camp spot, we did just that. The sounds and view of the river made for a refreshing spot for lunch, fishing, and strolling. At the end of the day, we made it back down to the fly shop, which also has a great little restaurant. We enjoyed the sunset on the mountains around us while eating a melt in your mouth brisket dinner! I thoroughly enjoyed this day trip and would highly recommend this area.

Hike to Judd Falls

There was an amazing hike just a short drive north from our condo. On a half paved and half gravel drive north on Gothic you will find the trailhead to Judd Falls. This fairly easy hike is filled with spectacular views even from the parking lot! We viewed amazing meadows that moved on toward Copper Creek. We heard the falls before we saw them over what was an inspiring and almost frightening cliff. Take care as you snap photos near the edge of this incredible vista! This hike is easily doable in a half day.

More than a trip…

But this was more than a trip to the mountains. We have done that before. For me, this was a pivot point. Launching our kids is no small thing. We wanted to do something special to signify that. My heart tugged as we enjoyed such an idyllic location while being aware of the pain in Afghanistan and the continued struggle, disruption and heartbreak with COVID19. Knowing the depths of these difficulties helped me to focus even more on the preciousness of why we took the journey: to celebrate this milestone in our lives, to reflect, and to regroup for the next journey ahead.

A friend had recommended the book Halftime. I completed it and did some serious soul searching. The time in that book and the Word were a true gift to guide my thoughts and process. I will share more about Halftime and its impact on me soon! I thank God for a moment to slow down, thank Him for my wife, our kids, and the journey to this point in my 50 years.

As I stood outside our room one night, I looked up at the crystal clear night sky in awe. Above me I could see the Milky Way and in a sky filled with beautifully colored twinkling stars. And then as clear and close as I have ever seen, there was the Big Dipper. As you know the end stars of the cup point to the North Star. This trip reinforced and and is keeping me oriented on my true north, Jesus Christ. Stay focused and blessed!

Devotional Life

Discipleship, Personal Growth

At the church where I serve we are currently focusing on growing as disciples of Jesus. We learned many lessons during the pressures and strain of the pandemic. One was a recognition of the resilience in our isolation of those who had already established patterns of personal growth and discipleship. That knowledge led us to a theme for the church called A Time to Grow. With that in mind, I want to share some keys for me that I have picked up from mentors in my own personal time with the Master.

Just do it.

So this first encouragement on personal growth and discipleship is not fancy. Simply put, just do it. One of my favorite passages about Jesus is His simple commitment to spending time with the Father.

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Luke 5:16 ESV

However and wherever you can, spend time with the Father. I am reminded if Jesus needed time alone with the Father, I for sure do! Before Jesus made His selection of the disciples, he spent time alone in prayer. Before Jesus made His way to the cross in the Garden He spent time alone in prayer.

Withdraw

It’s okay, check that, it is healthy to wall off time for yourself to be absolutely alone with the Father. To be poured out like Paul as an offering means you have to be filled up! True empowerment and full-fillment can only come through time ALONE with God. I love the images shared of Jesus going alone to “desolate places” the “mountain” or the “hillside” to be alone with the Father.

And pray

Spending, or rather I like to say investing time with God is key. What I mean is this is not simply a nature stroll, or time in the study contemplating life. This is not about emptying your mind. It is a time to talk with God. It is a time for God to speak to you. This may sound overly simplistic, but this simple step, this simple action can transform your life. God wants to spend time with you.

I love my wife. One of the ways you know I love my wife is, I want to spend time with her. A lot of time with her. I don’t care if I have to drive her to every fabric store and home decor outlet in the western hemisphere. I love my son. We like to chill and watch stupid shows, talk about jets and trains, fish and shoot. I love my daughter, we grab coffee. She is an athlete and it is a ball to get beat by her in any sport or simply watch her do her thing. You would know if I did not love them because I would be doing something else with my time.

I love God. I want to spend time with Him.

Don’t quit

This is all so simple, yet so deadly. Here’s the enemy’s plan. If he can convince you that spending time with God is not important he will, period. He does not want you to talk with your Father, read what your Father has to say, or listen to Him speak to you by His Spirit.

Here’s one of satan’s main tricks. You kick off having a time with the Lord daily. If you start, you are going to miss time with God here and there. But the enemy will say, “See, you know you couldn’t keep this up. You’re such a disappointment. Plus, this really doesn’t matter, God knows you love him.” And, you’ll quit. Listen, if you miss time with God for one day, two days, ten days, start right back where you left off.

Over time, and the enemy knows this, you will cherish this time. You will miss this time when disrupted. It will become one of the most important parts of who you are as a disciple.

Have you talked with the Father today?

With you and for you – Ray