Sunrise over Princeton, WV
Sunrise over Princeton, WV

He sat at the kitchen table sipping on the hot Chock-Full-Of-Nuts™ coffee that had just been brewed through the Kuerig™ and read the headlines from the morning paper as he did most mornings.  This pastor noted the arrest of someone for a Meth Lab and a story or two about local businesses.  Then for no real reason he looked up and out the window across the kitchen.

Drinking from his Duke Divinity mug, one purchased from the Baptist Student Union while he was still in seminary, this Methodist pastor took the three short steps over to window and looked out upon the mountains that made up the horizon.  Purple and orange light burst over the edges of the mountains with a dim shade of blue highest in the sky.  He blew across the surface of the steaming cup of coffee and smiled.  “I can’t count the number of beautiful sunrises I have seen from this place,” he said to himself or the coffee because no one else was around.

He continued to stand at the window and watch the changing sunrise as he thought back over the last year or so in his life and ministry.  He remembered the first beautiful sunrise that he witnessed there in the Southern mountains of West Virginia, the excitement he had in seeing it and rushing to take a photograph of it for his family to see.

His mind wandered back to a photo of a sunset that his oldest at-home daughter had taken while she had ridden on top of a bus, a quarter of the world away in Nicaragua several months before.  He remembered the tears she shed as she shared about the photo and the people and the whole experience of being that far way and yet feeling right at home.  She came home filled with tears that flooded our home for several days and when they did stop she had a peace about her that father, the pastor, had not seen in a long time – at least not in himself.  Sometime during those days, he remembered her saying, “Daddy, it doesn’t matter where we are but I would like to see your smile again.”

Watching as the blue of the daylight took over more and more of the orange and purple of the sunrise, the pastor’s mind wandered back to a tennis court and his youngest daughter.  It was a hot day in June and quite possibly the last time they would hit any balls on this court.  They had a great time laughing and chasing each other’s badly hit shots and celebrating the good points that she made.  He even remembered one very lucky shot of his own that left his daughter’s jaw dropping as she tried to figure out how her “old Dad” had hit the ball so soundly. The look on her face brought a laugh to him then and now.

Yet thinking back, he recalled that he had chosen the side of the court facing the sun.  He wanted to see it set – again.  He looked forward to it setting each and every day because it meant the day was over and there would be no more trouble. It may have been a hot summer day, but the sunset signaled something different, something almost wintry.  Night meant rest and he looked for rest like he would look for a lost child – desperately and deliberately.

The coffee cup was on the counter now and he was leaning into the sink, the sunrise almost over and the day well on its way to beginning but he thought back to all those sunsets he watched for the last year or so of serving before he moved.  He knew his fascination with them was more than just the beauty that they might bring.  He knew he watched because he was willing something to end – if not the turmoil he had inside, then at least the day.  So he watched the sunset time and time again.

He rinsed out his cup and put it in the top rack of the dishwasher before he walked back over to the table to straighten the paper.  He took one last look out the window and smiled thinking about the sunrise he had just witnessed.  Was it number 18? 19? 20?  He just wasn’t sure.  He just knew it was strange for a January morning.  He was surprised by them in the summer, used to them by Fall, but now they held a special place for him as he witnessed them in the midst of Winter.  He thought of the coffee, the smile, the rush to get to the window to see as much of the sunrise as possible.  The pastor smiled the smile his daughter had been missing.  He laughed the laugh that he himself had thought lost in a sunset somewhere.  The day had begun and the journey towards home continued.

There’s No Place Like…

A Whirlwind

And so it happened. They were walking along and talking. Suddenly a chariot and horses of fire came between them and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven.
2 Kings 2:11 The Message

The past seven days have been something of a whirlwind for me.  I haven’t really had much time to take a breath and seriously think about it but I know that in the midst of this latest busy trek on the path to home, I have experienced the very presence of God.

I knew that presence as I sat next to a colleague who just six months ago gave me some of the greatest words of support and encouragement that I have ever received.  I still carry that note with me and it will always bring me joy!

I knew that presence as I sat at lunch with a colleague who has prayed for me and my family during a time of transition…One who calls me “Scottie” and gets away with it…Who insists on hugs every time we meet and I don’t mind a bit.

I knew that presence as I sat in continuing education sessions with a colleague who has supported me in a Covenant Group for several years with prayer, encouragement and accountability.  He is one who knows my sense of humor and appreciates it always.

I knew that presence when I ate dinner with a colleague who helped my daughter through a very special time in her life and we shared with each other about our “other” homes.  I know that I will be praying for him and his girls even as he prays for me and mine.

I knew that presence as I worshiped with clergy from all over the West Virginia Annual Conference at Cedar Lakes and felt their affirmation as I stepped into a new role and a new place I will call one of my homes.

I knew that presence as I met with my Clergy Covenant Group at the best place in West Virginia to enjoy crab cakes – Crabby Patti’s in Ripley – and we shared our joys, our worries, our hopes, our struggles and our dreams in the midst of much change in our Conference “home.”  I know I am praying for them, but probably not as much as they are praying for me. And yet I know they still love me.

I knew that presence as I ate dinner with my Mom and Dad, and Mom’s Aunt and Uncle and then visited with them even more that evening and the next morning.  I heard stories I had not heard before and heard others that triggered memories long ago set aside as we shared about family.  I felt connected to generation after generation of my family and I felt the presence of God.

I knew that presence as I shared a lunch with a friend who I not only still trust with my health care but is one that anyone can trust.  It was great to spend time with one of God’s healers who is still humble enough to live into their humanity.

I felt that presence as I was reunited with my family after a few days away – laughter, stories and great donuts made for good times!  “Friday Night Lights” with the Princeton Tigers and their wonderful band and a fifth quarter at the church that went on till Saturday.  (A soft bed made for a good night’s sleep as well.)

I felt that presence in the moments – that came quite often – when I thanked God for the great staff members who were caring for everything at First Princeton UMC.

I felt that presence as I worshiped with my newest church family and felt their grace, prayers and support after a long week.

I felt that presence as I watched the churches of the Princeton Parish (UMC) unite with community members of Princeton to serve those around us by cleaning up two local parks and a fountain area downtown.

Ah…the whirlwind…I felt it.  And even though I know these recollections don’t come close to naming every moment I felt it, I know that it is carrying me closer and closer to home.

photo credit: *nacnud* via photopin cc