I Am Become Disney World!

     There are many interesting changes which come with mid-life and the empty nest.

     Some of the changes have been rather jarring. For instance: the inability to get back to 200 hundred pounds without amputation of limbs, or this new thing about not being able to drink coffee after 9 without getting heartburn (truly terrifying).

    Certain changes, on the other hand, have been very gratifying: The idea that I am no longer “the rookie”. The respect that comes with that perception is truly wonderful. Then there’s this whole thing about becoming Disney World….

     When the kids were growing up Tina and I tried to give the kids a wide variety of exposures to the world. We took them all over and showed them as much of our country as we could. The kids have been to Maine and Maryland. They have travelled as far away as Texas and Florida. We have pictures of them bathing in the Gulf waters in Galveston and walking the humid pathways of Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania.

     All those years vacation to our family meant going to a destination. Now suddenly two years into the empty nest I have become the destination! I am Disney World! Go me! Granted, I am not exactly Space Mountain or the Tower of Terror. I am more like It’s A Small World but the kids don’t seem to mind. Then there’s the added bonus that vacations no longer cost an arm and a leg. Hey! Maybe that’s why I can no longer lose the weight…hmm.

What changes has life brought you recently?

Two Roads To Beavers

A hundred years ago Morton Converse ran a toy factory in our town that supplied most of the country with wooden rocking horses. The toy business  gave Winchendon its nickname, “Toy Town”, and made Converse a wealthy man.

     He built a mansion in the center of town on a steep hill that overlooked the Miller’s River. His home and garden terraces ran all the way to the river’s edge and spread across to several islands on the waterway. 

    The factory burned down when I was a kid. All that is left of the mansion is a few stray concrete walls which have withstood the encroaching forest and the tides of the River.

     A few well-meaning souls have tried to push back the undergrowth and plant a garden along the edge of the road where part of the foundation still remains.  I cannot say they have met with success. But where men have failed to tame the hillside beavers have commanded the water’s edge to bow to their will.

     I have known about the beavers for a few years and have wanted to spend some time watching them. But the opportunity never presented itself , that is until my daughter Melanie’s last  visit home. She suggested that we should take some time and visit the Converse beavers. So last Thursday we did just that.

     The rain let up for a few hours in the morning. So we put on long pants to guard against the tics and the cold and set out.  We hopped the fence and headed down through the foundation garden. The grass had grown in along the side walls all but obscuring the foundation stones as we set out down the steep hill. We quickly lost the rock pathway  in the foot deep grass. Grasping onto limbs to guide us down the steep hill Melanie and I quickly realized we were not dressed for the task. The hill was  nothing but mud and grass, wet with three day’s rain.

     By the time we reached the chapel wall we had slipped several times and our jeans were soaked up to the knees.  But we had a good view of the little critters who maintained the river. We watched for quite a while despite our chilly discomfort, mostly because we dreaded the thought of climbing  back up the way we had come. That’s about when we realized we were actually standing on a muddy trail that seemed to lead further up towards town. We decided we had little to lose; So when we were finished watching the beavers build a new island we took the pathway to its end which by golly was a set of stairs that led directly to the street.  Apparently someone a hundred years ago had been bright enough to figure out that people would want to go down to the river and that perhaps there should be a better method of getting there than to repel from the back-end of the mansion.

     Of course I, being a modern guy and all, never thought once to look for a set of stairs. Oh no… if it had been my mansion I would have strung a rope from the bathroom window and said to my guests “don’t forget to flush before you climb down to the gardens!”

     Makes me wonder how many other things in life I am doing the hard way.  I hope one day I will learn the lesson” work smarter not harder.”

What lesson is life teaching you these days?

The Twisted Thornbirds

My family is a little like the thornbirds minus the lecherous old woman, the fornicating priest, or his femme fatale…. OK, so we are nothing like the thornbirds except for the fact that my sister decided to become an actress and I became a minister. It did seem for a while we were following in the foot steps of Meggy’s children, Justine and Dane. For that reason alone I never go swimming in the ocean.

      Anyway our life imitates art scenario was going along very well until my sister got saved and then received a call to the mission field. Soon she will be Rev. Brenda Lillie and will be headed to the Netherlands to work with missionary Judy Mensch, who runs a children’s evangelism program called KIDZARK. Hallelujah! Praise God for great changes!

     Recently Brenda went for an exploratory of the area in which she will be ministering and building the KIDZARK & Co family theater program.

      Her trip went well. She visited Lisse and saw the tulip fields.

     She also walked the canals of Zaanse Schans.

     She walked past this  famous hotel in Zaandam.

     Most exciting though, she got to help Judy put together an outreach in which three people gave their hearts to Jesus!

     So my sister is becoming a pastor! Wouldn’t it be an odd twist of thornbird fate if I suddenly got approached to go to Hollywood?! Oyve!

     If you are interested in finding out more about Brenda’s adventures or how you can help her, go to : http://www.gonetherlandsag.com/

Who Were They?

I journeyed to Vermont this weekend for a time of refreshing with several friends from my church. We sanctuaried at the home of James Hartness, former governor of Vermont and a well-known inventor during the Industrial Revolution.

     I am grateful for the time away and for the words which Jesus spoke to my heart. It was not the weekend I planned. Yet somewhere around Saturday lunchtime I realized, that was as it should be.

     While my room was very comfortable I had a  hard time sleeping. Nightmares have become a normal part of my evening activities these last weeks. I expect they will probably end this week. But my refreshing weekend was not exempt from them.

     I was also hoping to find some quiet spaces in which to meditate.

I looked upstairs.

Then I looked downstairs. I found lots of bedrooms and nooks and crannies but no great prayer chairs. 

I did find an awesome built-in by the fireplace in the main room. So did everyone else. We practically had to sign up for its use. So we shared. I managed to sneak out of breakfast early on Sunday to get  a few minutes of meditation in it…. It was so peaceful!

     But the weekend wasn’t about quiet reflection. It was about active self-discovery within a group of people. I realized this as I was laying on a lumpy sofa in a chilly hallway complaining to the Lord about how hard it was to get away and be by myself.

    I heard the Lord say, “That’s not why I sent you here. Get up and take a walk.”

    So I did. As I wandered the neighborhood God focused me in on the buildings I was passing by. Built into the steep hills of the Green Mountains these turn-of-the-century homes were immense feats architecture.

It was obvious to me that the men and women who conceived these places were both artists and engineers. To take the side of a mountain and make it into a home fit for a king, now that takes a gifted mind!

“Who were they?” The Lord asked me as I walked.

“I don’t know Lord. They certainly had some talent.” I replied.

“They also had help.” God came back.

“Do not think for one minute the men and women who lived in these homes accomplished all they did without help. They had ideas that were beyond them. They faced challenges that were beyond them. But they gathered about themselves communities they could trust and they overcame.” The Lord finished.

    I thought about that as I came in out of the snowy spring air. I thought about it as I sat with my brothers and sisters. This was a weekend of sharing challenges and dreams. It was a time of immersing our selves in the Lord in a place which had known greatness before our time.

    Who were the people who had inhabited this place before us? They were folks not so different from us, people of dreams and challenges. They chose to face them together. In that they accomplished something great.

     Someday people will ask of my circle “Who were they?” the answer to the question will largely depend on how we work together to accomplish the dreams God has put within our hearts. I wonder what legacy we shall leave.

The Speed Hump

Have you noticed time seems to be speeding up? There is never less to do today than there was yesterday. As soon as one pile is out of the hopper another one has already replaced it. And I don’t know about you,  but that whole getting ahead thing…well  I’ve never actually gotten there.

In the midst of this speed ‘till you drop dead world God has graciously laid down speed humps. Yes I do mean speed humps not speed bumps.

For most of us a speed bump doesn’t do much. We slow down just enough  not to rip out the bottom of the car. Then as soon as we have crossed it,  we are back up to sixty and blazing our trail back towards oblivion.

A speed hump ,well,  that’s another matter. Four inches high and three feet across these things will pop the wheels off your car if you don’t ride over them at less than two miles an hour. Once you decelerate that much it is hard to get yourself quickly  back to sixty again. Speed humps help you slow down and smell the roses for more than just a minute.

I am crossing a speed hump this weekend. After my last post I jumped in the car and drove from Gardner to Haverhill MA. From there my daughter Melanie and I travelled eight hours down to Valley Forge PA where we are spending the long weekend with my children, Joe and Amanda.

This morning we got up at 10:30. I am sleeping in Joe’s dorm and Melanie is sleeping in Amanda’s.

We met at the picnic grounds and  I made brunch on my little Coleman stove (I borrowed it from the Royal  Rangers this is a low-budget trip).

Then I washed the dishes in Joe’s bathroom sink. We didn’t  have any face cloths or dish soap. A clean t-shirt and Old Spice body wash fit the bill so we would have dishes for supper. Now don’t you tell anyone. I said this was a low-budget trip.

We spent some time in the library studying.









Then we went to Valley Forge National park. This is us hiking the trails.


Joe had to go to work this evening so the girls and I went to Main Street Exton for some shopping. Tina and I really should have let them go trick-or-treating when they were young. Ahh well, live and learn.

Life gets scary fast sometimes. It’s at those times that God always provides a way to slow down. My wife and kids are granting me a blessed speed hump this weekend. It will be wonderful to get back to the posts about the prophets in a few days, but for now dear reader why don’t you slow down and enjoy life on the speed hump with me?


How do you slow down?




     Many things need to change in our lives in order for us to get closer to God. Contrary to what some people think we are not born close to the Divine but away from Him.

    Now I can’t tell you what you have to do to get closer to Jesus. My guess is though you already know. You have to get rid of…. You have to start…. You fill in the blanks. Really, you already know what they are.

     One need that is almost universal among us though is for more prayer. For me God told me long ago that if I wanted to be closer to Him I needed to set aside three times a day to pray and to study His word. Now maybe that’s not what God would require of you, but it is what I have to do.

    I confess I have not made it yet. Eight years ago I struggled just to be consistent daily (and yes I was a pastor at that point). My prayer life came in fits and starts. Some days I was all day in prayer and study. Then there were those weeks where the calendar would schedule prayer right out of my life.

    I’m a lot better now and most days I do get in three times of prayer.

    Our recent vacation, though, was a great blessing to me. It was a time of really being able to come away and seek the Lord. It was a pray-cation if you will. I hope all of you get a chance sometime this year to just rest in the presence of the Lord. Sabbatical after all is a biblical idea.

Enjoy the pics:

    I spent most mornings at the indoor pool. In the heat, most favored the pool outside. I usually had the place to myself for a good hour, just me, my God, and His word.

Not all prayer is to be done in private. We spent about eight hours waiting at the pier in Old Orchard for the fireworks. It got pretty crowded. I found myself interceding for a lot of people I didn’t know. What a great exercise with the word of knowledge and discernment of spirits!

Another day we went to the beach just before sunset. Tina has picked up a new hobby hunting for sea glass. Did you know that red and blue sea glass is worth money?

While we hunted the heavens began to declare the glory of God. I spent a lot of time this vacation just focusing on the immensity of God’s creation.

Just so you know prayer like this always results in fire!

Into the Undergrowth


    On Joe’s final day with us we planned a walk into the Gardner State Forest. If you’ve read my other staycation posts you know this was our twickering adventure.

     Originally we were going to walk from our house to the forest. But Joe had to leave for the airport for 2 P.M. and we weren’t able to leave until 8:30 A.M. So I decided to drive to the forest entrance out by our municipal golf course. It saved us a couple of miles and probably a good half hour both ways.

    Joe , Doug (my father-in-law), and I headed out while the ladies of the house all went shopping.

      When we got to the forest entrance, we headed down the path to where it split. We of course chose the “road less traveled”. This was an adventure after all. We came to the edge of Pearly Brook Pond where we found a foot bridge somebody had left behind. I sent Dad in ahead to test the waters.

“This may be an adventure” I told myself. “But if someone’s going to get wet I hope it’s not me!”

  Well the good news is Doug got to the other side. We all did! The bad news is we ran into a literal wall of horseflies on the other side of the bridge. Just a note, tansy is a pretty good mosquito repellent but it does nothing against horseflies!

    But we were determined. A few biting bugs (O.K. so it was three hundred flesh eating monsters. I felt like I was in a Steven King novel) weren’t going to stop us. We walked on along the revolutionary war era farm roads. We didn’t see any neat birds but we saw some great sights. All along the path huge “widow-makers” loomed threateningly.

    We noted the many fieldstone fences that once marked the boundaries of farms. In several places we found the fence breaks that indicated driveways down into the homesteads of days gone by. I have to bring my friend Lane back to this place to see if we can find the ancient dumps that would have been part of the homesteads. Who knows what neat things we might find?

     We walked well past the Winchendon border. About an hour in we came to a beautiful glade that we decided would be our turning point. The light here filtered through the old growth forest and seemed to push the flies away. But as soon as we turned back the horseflies were back on us. I think they knew we weren’t sticking around because they started to bite.

     Interestingly as soon as we crossed back over that rickety little bridge all the flies disappeared. Weird!

   Before we left the forest,  we stopped by the edge of Pearly Brook Pond for a light lunch. We finished the morning watching for any activity around the numerous Beaver den’s along the edge of the pond. Let me just say even without the birds and with the flies this day was a blast! Definitely a staycation keeper.

Things to Bring With On a Hike:

1. Someone else

2. water

3. non-perishable food

4. a rain poncho

5. small first aid kit

6. pocket knife

7. matches

6. cell phone and whistle

The Sea and My Son

     I love to watch the ocean surf pound the beach. It is relentless, tenacious, unfettered.    

     Nothing stops my son. It’s one of the things I really admire about him. Early on in Joe’s life I recognized a tenacity in him that I did not have. Something in me always rankled at his strong will. I am a reed always bending in the currents. He stands, the cliff, unmoving against the crashing surf.

    More often than not Joe is also standing outside the circle of the tide’s favor. When he was little I thought I should help him learn to be a little more politically correct, maybe a little more willing to compromise. God told me to leave him alone.

     The exact words I heard in prayer were ” These traits will serve him in life. He will need them. Do not take them from him because they are not YOUR giftings.”

     One of the things we planned for this vacation was a barbeque at our home where all Joe’s friends from the area could come and see him. We invited about thirty people.

      Time changes all things doesn’t it? I remember when Tina and I went away for college and then moved back. It was so hard to get back into our old circle of friends. College had sort of frozen us in time. It’s a no-man’s land. It’s not your home but your home is no longer your home either. People move on with their lives, grow, change. You come back and home is not the same place you left. Maybe you’re not the same you who went away. I don’t know but it is different.

     Joe experienced that this week. Thirty were invited seven showed up (five were family). It was the weekend of the fourth to be fair. What happened made me so proud of my son, though. There was no questioning, no blaming. He sat down with his sister and the two peers who did come and he enjoyed some great games of baseball. He was like the ocean tide he just kept going. When the box we fashioned for him didn’t work he moved on and flowed with what life was, (not  with what we planned it to be).

    How many of my vacations have been negatively impacted because things did not go the way I wanted. I saw none of that in him. Friends didn’t come so Joe called them. Before the day was out he had decided who he could still see and had made plans to meet with them.

     My son and the sea: relentless, tenacious, and unfettered. May God birth some of that in me

Seven Staycation Improvisations

     This first vacation of the summer has found us like so many a little short of cash all the way around.  Without money to go away this month and with three college students home for a visit we have had to come up with some budget beauties to keep ourselves occupied.  Here are seven ideas for the poor in wallet but rich in heart.

1. Have a campfire: You don’t have to be at a campground to have a campfire. We have a fire table on our back deck. A few pieces of wood and some marshmallows can take you deep into the woods even in the heart of the city. It also makes for some good family convo time.

2. Go to a matinée:  Remember your schedule is yours for the week. You aren’t forced into the  more expensive evening cinema. By going to movies early in the day I saved $15.oo this week!

3. Have a house party: Make a great menu and a  great guest list. There is something really relaxing about cooking for your friends and having great conversation around a meal.

4.  Don’t go to the beach! Fill a kiddee pool with water and float in the sunshine. This was my wife’s idea but I think I like it more than she does. We picked up the pool for about $10.00 at the end of last season.

5. Go twickering, not just a walk in the woods! Take your binoculars. Make your bird list (twickering is birdwatching after all). Go and find them where they hide.

6. Go yard-saling. Make a wish list and go see what you can find.

7. Go berry picking and make  jelly.

Hey these are some things we tried and kept ourselves occupied. Have fun and send me your ideas for a staycation!

And Go!

     Vacations come in many shapes and sizes.

     Some come wrapped in the shiny foil of tourism. I’ve been on those before. I remember the year my dad took us on an 1100 mile trek of state parks in the mid-west. More vaguely in my mind’s eye I can still see the trip to Southern California when I was seven. Rex Trailer was still alive. Sgt. Billy signed my hat.

        Then there are those vacations we take to do some good. Many people in my church take vacation time to invest in kids lives during our annual VBS. One year I took vacation to counsel summer camp. One of the kids in my group ate his deodorant on a dare from another kid and I ended up with a blinding migraine. All such foibles aside sacrifices of personal time usually create the most powerful life memories.

       Of course there is also the vacation which is about seeing friends and loved ones. My son Joe has now embarked on such a vacation. If you have ever taken a tour around the family and friends amusement park you know how hard it is to decide which ride to get in line for. It does seem that there is never enough time to visit them all doesn’t it?

     Joe is here for five days. In that time he has a “to see” list longer than Michael Phelp’s arms: Parents, sisters, two grandmothers, a grandfather, a great-grandmother,  and about forty-five friends.

     It turned out to be a good weekend to come home. Sunday was the fourth of July. Our church hosted a family picnic we called FAMJAM. This was my last day of work and it proved to be a good opportunity for Joe to see a lot of people he never would have made it to otherwise. It’s always nice to get three hundred of your closest friends and family together in one place to see a visiting loved one (It’s even better when you don’t have to foot the bill). I never thought of it in quite this way before but church is a great way to keep a family connected with its greater community. Our job of getting Joe to see his friends would have been much harder without the church. It really does take a village sometimes. 

     Since FAMJAM Joe has been in and out. Sleep-overs and late night card games have consumed his time (don’t worry he doesn’t play for money). We’ve gotten some good time in with him too. Yesterday Tina and I took Joe, our daughter Amanda, and my in-laws Doug and Dale out mini-golfing. Of course it was the hottest day of the year. So we got the added benefit of losing about fifty pounds of collective water weight!

        But the request Joe made that touched my heart the most was that he wanted to go to a movie with me alone. I have never considered myself the greatest father. I read yesterday that there is a saying among PK’s (preachers kids).

     “You haven’t truly entered the ministry until you have neglected your family.”

      That is a sad commentary on the state of ministry in our world. But it is one that has fit me at different times in my life. I have always feared that my failings in this area would cause my children to reject me when they were older. Yet somehow God has seen fit to make my children like me as adults. I’m just glad to have made Joe’s list never mind have a prominent place on it.

      Now that I am thinking of it I don’t think my fear is one relegated to father’s in ministry. I remember my own dad (who was most decidedly not a cleric) telling me he felt the song which best fit him as a father was “Cat’s In the Cradle”.

                                 “When you comin’ home dad?

                                    I don’t know when, but we’ll have

                                    a good time then son. You know we’ll

                                    have a good time then!”

     I think there is something to the thing about us being our own worst critics. This vacation of Joe’s has taught me that. Maybe I didn’t do the best I could have in hindsight but I did the best I could running forward from the starting line not knowing exactly where I was going.

      We all start life thinking we know everything and realizing only later that we know nothing. When the starting gun is fired and the race flag waves we just start running not really knowing even how far away the finish line is.

     Like my son on  this vacation we make our “to do” lists and hope against hope that we will get to do it all. I wonder how many have actually finished everything on their lists. Like my son waiting for vacation to start many of us are waiting to get through some little phase or other so that life can “start” and we can really begin doing the things we dream of. Maybe the problem isn’t always our failure as human beings (though I won’t discount that it this does weigh into our issues). Maybe the problem is our list is set with too many expectations which only God can see are unrealistic. After all we don’t really know what life holds for us. We can’t see what’s around the corner, that thing that lies in wait which we will have to give up something on our list in order to contend with.

     I know I need to do some blogging on the other end of the spectrum here to balance out my view, but maybe just maybe there is something to be said about not planning out every detail of life. Maybe there is something to be said for just setting our caps to the wind and listening for the voice of God that  says, “And Go!”  even though we don’t know just where.

     This is a lesson I am learning on vacation.