A Place Called Honey Island

(This is a rerun of an article I originally published in 2012. I’ve got a new blog that will post tomorrow.)

Labor Day always brings back memories of family reunions at a place called Honey Island.  How that came about is the story I want to tell you.

My grandmother, Mazura Linscomb Garison, died in July, 1964 – less than a month after this picture was made. (The date of August, 1964, was the processing date.  Mom was a little slow in getting to the drug store sometimes.)  This picture shows me with my brothers and many of my cousins.  I’m the shirtless one, second from the left.

Anyway, as I understand the story, after Grandma’s funeral, all of the cousins, family members, in-laws, out-laws, Garisons, Garrisons (we do have some 2 R cousins), Linscombs, Cottons, and others decided that it was a shame that we needed a funeral to have a family get-together.  So, a few weeks later, our tradition of a family reunion came about.

In the heart of East Texas, in the middle of an area known as “The Big Thicket,” you will find the towns of Saratoga and Kountze.  And back in the day, at least, there was a little place called Honey Island, where there was a large park with open air pavilions, picnic tables – and two large swimming pools, fed by artesian springs.

I remember the water had this vague, sulphur-y smell – it smelled like the crude oil that was just under the surface in that part of Texas in those days.  We didn’t mind the smell.  It was a great place to swim, to play, and to see (or meet!) kinfolks we hardly ever saw.

Near the swimming pool was an open-air pool hall that had a jukebox.  CCR’s “Green River” and The Hollies, “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” seemed always to be playing.  (Saturday night I was downtown, workin’ for the FBI…)  Momma didn’t want us going near there, but you could hear the jukebox from the pool.  And I remember a sign in the pool house/concession stand that said, “We don’t swim in your toilet.  Please don’t pee in our pool.”

And the food that we shared at the potluck, of course, was great.  Lots of (homemade) fried chicken and potato salad, and plenty of other good things.  And watermelon.  It was a great time to be a kid.  And part of the family.  The tradition continued for many years.

Eventually, of course, we stopped going to Honey Island.  One by one, the older folks passed away.  The kids grew up, moved away, had kids and families of their own.  But I remember those good times of Labor Days past, and those cousins and family members I loved so much.  Each funeral makes thinking of heaven that much sweeter.

A few months after my mom passed, there was a family get-together, which I didn’t get to attend.  Maybe we’ll have another soon.  I hope so.

Meanwhile, here’s a shout-out to all those cousins and loved ones who remember with me our family reunions at Honey Island.  And to all of us, let me say, cherish your families.  And don’t wait for a funeral to see each other.

Happy Labor Day.

Remembering Ginny

Ginny KloogWhile others were enjoying a lingering Independence Day holiday on Sunday, I was thinking about Ginny. It would have been her 60th birthday.

Ginny and Mike were among the first friends my wife and I made after we moved to Brainerd, Minnesota, where I was a newly-installed pastor serving my first church. Later, we moved back to Texas, to Haskell, and about a year after that, they followed so Michael could go to work at the Paint Creek WTU power station.

Ginny was pretty and vivacious, and a smile that could absolutely light up a room. She had an amazing soprano voice and could play the guitar, and she and my wife would sing together for hours, their voices naturally harmonizing. They knew the entire John Denver catalog of songs, and covered lots of other artists as well – my personal favorite was always, “The Sweetest Gift,” as performed by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd they frequently sang together in church.

She had lots of other talents, as well. Ginny loved kids – ALL kids! Ethnicity, income, color, whatever, didn’t matter to her. For several years, she ran an in-home day care center, and helped raise a whole generation of kids in the Haskell area – our son Drew, included.

She loved Christmas, and enjoyed singing in community musicals. And she loved art – she taught art classes at the Paint Creek school, and left an indelible mark on dozens, if not hundreds, of students.

Over the years, our friendship grew, changed, matured. We had our kids, and she and Mike had theirs – first two daughters, then later, a son. She taught Sunday School at church, and also became the song leader, and I swear, I never grew tired of hearing her & Kathy sing together.

That all changed one year just before Christmas. Ginny had had a bad headache all that day, then that evening (at a Christmas party, of all things) she had a stroke – a bad one. She was just in her 40s. Ginny worked really hard, and managed to regain a lot of what she had lost. But then in 2005, she had another stroke, from which she could not recover. She passed away on December 16, 2005.

Why am I telling you all this? I don’t know. For one thing, I guess, just to share Ginny’s story: she was a remarkable woman, a dear friend, and I wish you could have known her. Beyond that, her story is a reminder that life is short, so cherish every moment, and make it count. Tell the people that you love how you feel. Smile. Sing. Laugh.

Ginny would tell you, that really IS “The Sweetest Gift.”

 

 

How Good and Pleasant

I grew up in a family of four brothers. Three of us, and our wives, just finished spending the weekend together.

Our family has always been close – thankfully, no major drama or fights. I’m very grateful for that, and I think my brothers would say the same. And in spite of the fact that we used to squabble and fuss as kids, since we became adults, we all pretty much like each other, and enjoy each other’s company.

But still, it’s easier to stay apart than get together. That’s no one’s fault – it’s just the way it is. We grew up in Southeast Texas, between Beaumont and Orange, and our dad still lives in the home we grew up in. But I live in Abilene now. One of us lives in Lewisville, north of Dallas. The other two live north of Houston, in the Spring/Tomball area. We all have jobs, kids, in-laws; some have kids that are married now, and some have grand-babies starting to come along.

So, all of that to say, we are all very busy, as just about everyone is these days.

But this past January, when we were all together and doing some work at our dad’s house, we talked about finding a way to try and gather for a weekend. After a lot of emails and text messages, we found there wasn’t a perfect time to make it happen, but we settled on a date that seemed like the best compromise with the fewest conflicts and said, “Y’all come.”

BuffaloUnfortunately, one of our brothers and his wife couldn’t join us this time, and we missed them, but the rest of us had a great time. We talked and laughed and grilled hamburgers. And talked. And laughed. And we reminisced about our childhood and shared memories and swapped lies, and played ping-pong and dominoes, and made chicken and dumplings with a recipe that was pretty close to our grandmother’s version. And we went to church together and had communion together. And talked. And laughed.

And – we began making plans to do it all again, next year.

Families matter. So let me respectfully suggest that you get together with yours. Pick a date, pick a location, send the word. Those who can be there, please don’t have any anger against those who can’t, and those who can’t shouldn’t harbor any resentment against those who can. Keep it simple, and have fun.

How many times have we all stood around at funerals and said, “Gee, it’s a shame someone has to die for everyone to drop what they’re doing and come together. We should plan a family reunion sometime.” Unfortunately, that’s as far as it gets sometimes.

As for me, I’m looking forward to the next time our bunch can do this. We’re busy trying to pick a location and set a date for 2016. We’re going to plan it far enough out so that everyone can come this time, including kids, grandkids, in-laws, out-laws, and the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle.

It will be here before we know it.

 

 

Always the Right Time

I’m just back from taking a few days off to go visit my dad, Buddy Garison. He still lives in the same house where I was raised in Southeast Texas, near Orange. Mom passed away in 2010, and ever since then, Dad has lived by himself, with his faithful canine companion, a German Shepherd named “Chica.”

To call my Dad “stubborn” would be an understatement. He is feisty and independent, and even though confined to a wheelchair, he still mows his own grass, keeps a garden, and gets around pretty well. He is 86.

My brothers and I met together to do some work on the house and spend some time with dad and with each other. Our family has always been close, but since Mom passed, we have become even more aware of the need to tell people that you love how you feel. We know what it’s like to get that terrible phone call and for someone you love dearly just to be gone. One of the things that makes that a little less painful is knowing that we said “I love you” while we still could.

Is there someone you need to call? Who needs to hear you say, “I love you”? NOW would be a good time!

 

Grayburg Memories

(Dear Readers – I’m taking a few days off, so with your kind permission, I’m re-running a blog post from 2013. Thanks and God bless.)

Grayburg.  That was the little community where his grandparents lived, and he loved going to visit.

His grandparents lived in a small white house on two lots, with two gigantic sycamore trees in the front yard.  He loved everything about the place, and he especially loved that during the summer, he could come and stay for a week, and have his grandparents all to himself.

His grandmother’s name was Sallie, and when the boy was little, he had a hard time knowing what to call her.  His other grandmother was “Grandma,” so he tried calling her by the name he heard other people calling her.  But she wouldn’t allow him to call her “Sallie.”  So somehow, “Sallie” became “Sa Sa.”

There was lots to love about going to Grayburg.  The boy loved walking down to see Sa Sa’s sister, Aunt Bib.  Her name was Vivian, but everyone called her Bib.  Aunt Bib was cool.  She taught him how to play dominoes, and how to do leathercraft.  And she had a BB gun he could shoot!  She also had bee hives, and always had lots of fresh honey, whipped into a creamy spread for morning toast.  And when he spent the night, she would let him get up in her bed, and they would put the covers up over their heads, and hold flashlights, and she would tell great stories.  Her version of “Three Little Pigs” was the best.

There was another sister, too – Aunt Hazel.  So Grayburg had lots of family connections.

Walking from Sa-Sa’s to Aunt Bib’s house was an adventure.  The streets were paved with old-timey blacktop, and in the summer, the sun’s heat would soften them to the point that the boy could push down into the pavement and made little dents with his feet.  He thought that was really cool.

Sa-Sa was a great cook, and his favorite was her chicken and dumplings.  The dumplings weren’t the lumps of dough that most people made – hers were more like thick, wide strips of chewy deliciousness.  She would take a hen, and put it in a pressure cooker for hours to tenderize the meat.  And she had another secret – when she was making the dough for the dumplings, instead of adding water to the flour, she would add chicken stock.  The flavor was amazing.  As was the smell going through the entire house.  And the hissing and clattering of the pressure cooker as the steam vented and did its thing.

There was a lady who came and helped Sa-Sa with her cooking and cleaning, an old black lady somewhere between the ages of 60 and 200.  Her name was Daisy, and she was wrinkled and thin with wiry gray hair, but she had a smile that could light up a room.  Daisy had been Sa-Sa’s friend and helper as far back as the boy could remember.  Farther than that – his mother said that Daisy had been a fixture in their home for almost as long as SHE could remember.

One of the boy’s earliest memories was going with his mother Sa-Sa and driving WAY back in the Piney Woods of East Texas, to an old shack where Daisy’s mother lived.  It was important to the boy’s mother, for reasons he didn’t understand.

Of course, one of his favorite parts about Grayburg was the trains.  Sa-Sa’s house was only a block or so away from the Missouri Pacific mainline between Houston and Beaumont, and on to New Orleans.  So there were lots of trains.  There was a long siding there, where trains would stop and pass each other, and a small yard where pulpwood was loaded onto flat cars, to be taken to sawmills.  And there was a small station there.  It was a sort of creamy yellow-beige color, with dark brown trim.  There was a freight deck on one side, and the station had a bay window where the agent could look down and see trains without having to leave his desk.

Inside, the station was painted in a tired ivory color, that might have been pretty at some point, but now was just dull and sad.  There was a potbellied stove for the occasional cold days, and a ticket window with an iron grill where you could buy passage to all points.  And there was a single small restroom in the corner.  Over the restroom door was a small metal sign.

Whites Only.

One time, the boy asked his dad about it.  “But, if Daisy were here and needed to go, where would she go?” he asked in all childhood innocence.

As it turns out, there was an outhouse out in the weeds and mud at the edge of the railyard.  His dad pointed out to the old privy and said, “I guess she would have to go there.”

The boy just looked at his dad.  He didn’t say anything else.  But all he could think about was how unfair that was.

EPILOGUE: This story takes place in about 1961 or 62.  And it’s a true story, because I was that little boy.  And what I remember was how many people seemed content with things as they were, and seemed not to notice unfairness.

And I guess my point is this – Jim Crow segregation laws are long since a thing of the past, thank God.  But unfairness and prejudice are still with us.  In society.  In our churches.  And in our hearts.  Jesus told us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come.  Surely the first place it must come is to our own hearts and our own lives.  And that means being willing to notice unfairness wherever it is.  And to work to change it.

No matter how uncomfortable it might make us.

The Most Important Words

Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” In other words, just as the right accessory can beautifully frame a piece of jewelry, so the right word at just the right time can make a big difference to someone who needs to hear it.

Additionally, James 3:9-10 reminds us, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” All of us can think of people in our lives who have had a big influence over us, who always seemed to be able to say just the right thing at the right time. We can also remember times when we have been wounded by the careless words of someone whose opinion mattered to us.

The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is very mistaken. As we enter the new year, let’s remember that the words we use make a big difference to those who hear them — sometimes with the power to build up, but other times with a terrible power to hurt or tear down.

Many people are familiar with a document called “A Short Course in Human Relations.” It was a list of what the writer considered the most important words and phrases that we can use in dealing with other people.  After reflecting on this, and with an eye towards beginning the new year by being more mindful of the power of “a word fitly spoken,” here are my suggestions for the most important words we can say to each other:

 

  • Please.
  • I’m sorry.
  • I love you.
  • Thank you.
  • Let me help.
  • You can do it!
  • I made a mistake.
  • What do you think?
  • You did a good job.
  • We (As opposed to I, me, my or mine)

 

May we all be known as people who build up others with words of encouragement! God’s richest blessings on you and yours for a prosperous, safe and happy 2015.

 

Training for Christmas Fun

When someone finds out that I’m a model railroad aficionado, most of the time, it brings a sort of tolerant half-smile. That changes at Christmas. Tell someone you’re into model trains at this time of year, and their eyes will invariably light up, and they’ll say, “Oh, that’s so cool!” And you’ll hear a great story about a parent or some other loved one, a long-gone Lionel or other train set, and some wonderful memories. Even people who have no interest in trains the rest of the year, become nostalgic and even wistful thinking about trains around a Christmas tree.

asmr_logoSo I am happy to tell you about our model train club, the Abilene Society of Model Railroaders, and our annual Open House, coming up this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 13 & 14. Our layout is at 2043 N. 2nd, behind Global Samaritan Ministries, here in Abilene, and the times will be Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM, and on Sunday from 1 – 5 PM. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted, and all ages are welcome. (For more about the hobby, see my previous post “The World’s Greatest Hobby.”)

The club layout is in HO scale (pronounced “aitch-oh”), which is based on a proportion of 1:87 – in other words, 1 foot on the layout represents 87 feet in real life. (Yes, that’s an odd number, and there’s a story behind how it developed that I won’t bore you with right now.) The club is seeking to represent the old Texas & Pacific Railway (now Union Pacific) from Ft. Worth through Abilene and on to Big Spring – although club members are allowed to “freelance” sections to reflect their personal interests.

CutI have been adding to the scenery on a 20 ft. section of track, representing a rural area somewhere in Callahan County; other club members are doing sections that represent Abilene, Baird, and elsewhere. The scenery is finished in some areas, partially done in other areas, and not even started in some portions.

There are many different techniques for creating realistic scenery. In my case, I used blue Styrofoam insulation board, stacked up and carved to represent ridges and hills, then covered with a thin layer of lightweight plaster. I painted it and sprinkled a product that represents grass, then placed lichen in various shades of green to represent trees. I am pleased with the final results.FW&D_depot

Other scenes: A Burlington engine passes in front of the old Ft. Worth & Denver depot on Locust Street in Abilene –>

theater_corner<– A downtown city scene. Do you suppose patrons at the movie theater complain about the noise when a train goes by?

oil_field1A tank farm, complete with pump jack. –>

T&P_station<– The T&P station in downtown Abilene.

underpassNear the Swift Meat Packing Plant. –>

Mel<– Member Mel Herwick adds details to a section of scenery.

engine_facilityLocomotive shop facility, still under construction –>

Club members are happy to share our layout and our passion for the hobby, and we invite everyone to come out this weekend and see the trains, and also see our progress on the layout. Besides the main club layout, we will also have smaller displays of model trains in other scales, as well as an operating Thomas the Tank Engine that little ones can run themselves. (Why should the big kids have all the fun?)

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

1. When did the Abilene club begin? Our club started in 1991, partly in connection with the Abilene Railroad Festival which also began that year. The railroad festival is no longer being held, but our club continues to go well.

2. How long did it take to build the layout? The current layout was started a little over two years ago, and is a little over half completed. At some future point we plan to expand our area. Once that’s done, it will be a matter of adding more scenery, and improving what has already been done – there’s a sense in which a model railroad is never finished.

3. Isn’t model railroading expensive? Well, it can be – you can spend hundreds of dollars on one engine if you want – but it doesn’t have to be. Speaking for myself, I certainly don’t have the funds to build a large layout, or the time, space or expertise, for that matter. But by being a member of the ASMR, I can have access to a great layout that I would never be able to afford to duplicate at home. I have also made some great friendships and my fellow members are happy to share their time and experience with me. As with any hobby – fishing, quilting, golfing – how much you spend is up to you.

4. What about other sizes of model trains? One of the first things that newcomers to the hobby must decide is what SCALE they want to model. As mentioned, the club models HO scale, which is the most common, and has the widest selection of engines, cars and model buildings available. A good beginner’s layout fits well on a 4×8 sheet of plywood, which is another reason it’s so popular. Other popular scales include N scale, which is smaller – a 3×5 size beginner’s layout works great – and also O scale, which is derived from the traditional Lionel trains that so many older folks grew up with. And there are others.

5. How can I get started? Many people begin by buying a train set at Christmas; that may or may NOT be the best thing, depending on the age and interests of the person you’re buying it for. For younger children, a wooden “Brio” style may be a better choice; for older children (or grown-ups), a set that includes an engine, some cars, track and a transformer, often for around $100, might be a good choice. Most sets will be either HO or N scale; it’s your choice which one you get. HO sets take up more room but are easier to put together and often easier to operate; N scale sets are more compact, but are less forgiving of bumps in the track and other beginner mistakes.

If you decide to buy a set from a “big box” retailer or craft stores, don’t expect much help. Traditional model train stores can be more helpful for beginners, but also more expensive and sometimes hard to find. But there are PLENTY of online resources, and several good hobby magazines that can be very helpful. There are also lots of “how to” videos you can access for free on YouTube.

We hope to see you this weekend!

Christmas Priorities

Several years ago, the Christian band “Truth” did a parody of “Silent Night” that included the line, “Christmas is the time I hate the best!” For many people, that sentiment is too true to be funny.

You know what I mean. As I write this, it’s only the first week of December, but already our household calendar is covered with commitments for the month. We are battered and buried with ads for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. And every year when we get to about the middle of the month, we’re saying to our spouses, “This is crazy! Holidays shouldn’t be this stressful, and nobody should be this busy. Next year, let’s do things differently!”

Well, THIS year is the NEXT year you talked about LAST year. So what are you going to do about it? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but please allow me to offer a few thoughts that I intend to keep focused on this Christmas season.

Simplify. Seriously. Christmas to me seems to be a time when less is more – that is, don’t over-schedule yourself, and don’t feel like you have to put in an appearance at every event. My hunch is we will enjoy the events that we do go to more, if we’re not constantly worrying about having to get to the next thing. That goes for decorating, too. The world will not come to an end if your neighbor has more lights on his house than you do.

Don’t stress over stuff. How often we fret and fuss over getting the “perfect” gift for everyone on our list. Hey – it’s just stuff. Most of us have too much of it as it is. Maybe rather than having a meltdown trying to be the gift genie, you could make a donation in that person’s name to one of their favorite charities. If you like being in the kitchen, think about making a batch of cookies and giving everyone 2 or 3. That’s enough to go along with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk, and nearly everyone likes homemade cookies!

Another idea would be, instead of getting someone another coffee mug or pair of socks, consider instead just giving them a card with a nice, handwritten note inside. It will mean a whole lot more, and is certainly not likely to be “re-gifted” to someone else.

Share. Yourself. Your time. Be open to others and let them be open with you.

And finally, to quote my pastor, David McQueen,

The main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing. What is the main thing for Christmas? Isn’t it to rejoice in the great gift that God has given us when He sent His Son Jesus? So maybe we could spend more time worshiping and celebrating, and less time stressing over what to wear to the ugly sweater party. More time enjoying loved ones, and less going from store to store to save $1.98.

Maybe at the start of this Christmas season, we can determine to make this year one that we can look back at and say, “I love Christmas,” and really mean it. “And God bless, every one.”

Merry Christmas.

Reflections On A Birthday

From time to time, all of us have significant days – days when we realize that things have changed, that our lives are going to be different. Days when we pause to take stock of our lives, and perhaps think about some things that we are too busy to consider at other times. I’m talking about times such as, the birth of a baby. The death of a loved one. A wedding. A graduation. A child leaving home.

I had a birthday the other day.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, birthdays don’t necessarily rank up there with some of the other life events listed above, but I can’t seem to stop thinking about this one. Partly because of the age I have now reached: 58.

(Insert your favorite joke about getting old here. I’ll wait.)

It’s not that I’m feeling older, because I really don’t. But my grandpa Archie died of a heart attack when he was 56. His father had died at 56, and apparently, several other men in the McMillan family also died at about the same age, mostly from heart disease. I grew up very aware that men on that side of the family didn’t get out of their 50s.

So my first reflection after this birthday is, I’m thankful for good doctors and better medical care. I say this knowing that there are still far too many men in our culture who die of heart attacks in their 50s, or even younger. But I’m thankful for effective medicines to manage diabetes, and better understanding of diet, and all of those blessings. And I’ll tell you, it sometimes feels pretty sad to me to think about all that I still want to do with my life, and to think about my Pa-Pa dying at 56, and how young that seems now, and that I’ve already lived longer than he did, and how much he missed.

And not that this has anything to do with that, but here’s another thing: I’m blessed to be part of a church fellowship that is outward-focused. I have seen too many churches whose primary emphasis is nothing but member-care, and all the programs and activities are designed to pamper and tend to the folks on the inside. Beltway may not be perfect, but I appreciate their focus on missions and growing the Kingdom and reaching out to others. They prove it by the high percentage of their budget that they spend on missions, by their emphasis of projects in service to others – even by hanging on the walls the flags of the nations where we have partners at work.

At a time in my life where it’s easy to settle in, to pull back and become more inwardly-focused, I’m glad to be part of a group that is still going out.

By the same token, I’m honored to work for an organization that has a vision for community. I get to meet neighbors, to build relationships with them, and to help host events in our home that facilitate those things. Jesus said nothing was more important than loving God and loving neighbors, and I am so blessed to get to focus on those things 24/7.

One of the things I like best about my birthday is that it comes in my favorite month. I don’t love October only because of my birthday – that’s just one of many reasons. From cooler weather to changing leaves and so much more, autumn is my favorite time of year.

October means that the holidays are approaching. I’m not trying to rush the season – it still annoys me that Walmart is already playing “Jingle Bells” – but there’s no denying that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming. Another year will soon be over. And in my head, somehow to me, at least, my birthday is kind of like the start of the holiday season.

The year is not over, but if there are things you need to get done before the end of the year, you need to be doing them. Which brings me to my final reflection –

I’m reminded of the need to make every day count. I’m 58. I hope to have a long time yet, but there is one undeniable fact: I’m one day closer to dying than I was yesterday. And so are you. Paul said we should “Redeem the time, for the days are evil.” In “Dead Poet’s Society,” Robin Williams reminded us of the old Roman adage – “Carpe Diem.” Seize the day. Make every moment count.

God bless us all for a good year.

Changes

You may have noticed that I skipped a week in my blog posts. I have a perfectly good reason: I was moving.

Moving is one of those things that most people have to do from time to time, and almost nobody really enjoys it. Of course, there are some good things associated with moving. Change can be good. Moving gives you the chance to throw away old stuff you don’t need, discover treasures you forgot you had, and make a fresh start on some things.

And in our case, this was a happy move. We were given the opportunity to relocate from the College Heights Friendship House, about a mile north, to the North Park Friendship House. It’s a newer house, and a much bigger one. It has plenty of storage space, and even a special community room for hosting neighborhood events. We are excited about the opportunities it will bring, and the blessings that it offers.

But in reflection, perhaps I should say that this move is bittersweet, because while we are happy and excited about North Park, we are sad to leave behind our neighbors and friends in College Heights. The house we were in was old, but it had the charm of classic Craftsman architecture, and the floors were beautiful, well-worn hardwood – even if they did sag a bit!

CCC is bringing in a new coordinator for College Heights, and I’m looking forward to introducing him to our friends there. I know he will do a great job, bringing fresh enthusiasm and some new ideas to the work there.

Meanwhile, we’re getting settled into our new place, finding the best routes to get to work, school, and the store. The new house is nice, but it doesn’t feel like home yet. That will come with time.

So, as I’m looking back at the last six years, thinking about this move, reflecting on what to keep and what to throw away, here’s some of what I’ve learned:

People are more important than programs. It’s easy to mistake activity for progress. But our goal is not just to stay busy – we are called to love our neighbors, which means building relationships with them. And speaking of that,

Relationship-building takes time. Yes, we are moving to a different neighborhood, but the relationships we have built in our old neighborhood won’t be lost. And I’m looking forward to building on the friendships we already have with folks in the new neighborhood, and working with them to continue growing a stronger community.

There is no substitute for caring. As has often been stated, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. We are called to love others as Jesus did, learning as we go.

So, this is my last entry for College Heights, and my first for North Park. Thanks to our College Heights friends, for your patience with me and for being good neighbors. And on to North Park, where we hope to build on the wonderful work established by my predecessors, Danyel and Laura.

Here we go.