The Porch at Spring Hill

Contemplative Conversations

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Changing Of Seasons

A changing of seasons is underway both on the other side of my window and inside my soul. With this change of seasons comes the end of this blog and the beginning of another. You're invited to join me on:

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Friday, December 30, 2005

Backyard Symphony

A few weeks ago Lynn and I were in the process of readying our new home for move-in. We were cleaning, painting, etc. At one point I went out on the back porch for a few minutes to enjoy the quiet and stillness of the unusually warm evening.

After living in a very noisy apartment complex for the past couple of months I eagerly closed my eyes and just listened...wrapping myself in a whole new set of sounds. The first thing I noticed was the rustling of the few leaves that remained on the trees in the late evening breeze. I think wind is a beautiful sound. It is gently relaxing, yet powerful. I then noticed the sounds of tree frogs; an unusual sound for December...but it was nice to hear the sounds of life all around me. A couple of kids playing off in the distance made me think of the care-free days of my own childhood - playing flashlight tag just after sundown. And then there was another sound.

Off in the distance I heard a sound similar to the one that caused me such distress in our apartment. Interstate 20. I could still here it...about a mile away. For just a moment I was frustrated. The unceasing roar of traffic is an incredibly annoying sound to me...violently invading my need for stillness. But very quickly God reminded me how important this sound is in the symphony of my backyard.

Here I was alone on the back porch, thinking of nobody but myself. But just a mile away was a constant stream of hundreds of people scurrying back and forth between Augusta, GA and Columbia, SC. Who was in those cars? Had one of them just lost their job and was driving home wondering how he would tell his family? Maybe one of the drivers was a woman frantically trying to get away from an abusive home. I'm sure there was a very successful businessman or two in his luxury sports car feeling like he had all he needed in life; yet was in the process of losing his soul. Thousands of stories in thousands of cars a mile away from my quiet backyard.

Why is this an important sound in my backyard symphony? Because I need both solitude and connection. I need solitude to hear the voice of God and nurture intimacy with him. But I also need to remember that though I am not OF this world, I am in it and I am in it for the purpose of bringing light into darkness and offering water where there is drought. It's easy for Christians to disconnect ourselves from the world around us and hide ourselves away from the pain found therein. But to do so is to abandon the very heart of Christ who left his own home, dressed in rags, and surrounded himself with the cacophonous brutality of an evil world...for the purpose of bringing light, hope, refreshing, and redemption.

As I spend time on the porch - and in the distance hear the roar of traffic - I'll be reminded of my role as a disciple of Christ in the midst of thirsty people scurrying around in darkness.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Fresh Perspective

I just finished reading a book I got for Christmas called "Velvet Elvis." Pastor Rob Bell has a fresh perspective on what it means to be the church in this culture. Here's an excerpt that I particularly enjoyed and resonated with.

"Among Christians, the powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer on nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the "un" and "non", they work against Jesus' teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, "God shows no favoritism." So we don't either.

Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them to the Christian faith. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn't really love, is it? It's something else. We have to rediscover love, period. Love that loves because it is what Jesus teaches us to do. We have to surrender our agendas. Because some people aren't going to become Christians like us no matter how hard we push. They just aren't. And at some point we have to commit them to God, trusing that God loves them more than we ever could. I obviously love to talk to people about Jesus and my faith. i'll take every opportunity I can get. But I have learned that when I toss out my agenda and simply love as Jesus teaches me to, I often end up learning more about God than I could have imagined."

~Rob Bell; Velvet Elvis

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Be First

To steal a line from Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."Such is Christmas for many of us. It is the best of times for those of us who celebrate the coming of our Lord to live among us. But it is often the worst of times for many who find that this season magnifies the needs in their own lives.

Some can't buy gifts for their children because of financial needs. Some experience great emotional need as they find themselves alone for the holidays.If this season is magnifying profound need in your life, I want to encourage you with the words of Christ. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing in your lap."

If you find yourself alone and in need of love, be first in offering love to another. If you find yourself in need of compassion and understanding, be the first to offer understanding and compassion to another. If you find yourself in need of forgiveness, be first in extending forgiveness to someone who's wronged you. If you find yourself in financial need, be first in meeting the need of another.

In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "It is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love."

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

December Storm

I had an unusual treat this evening. Lynn and I had spent most of the day hauling boxes from the apartment to the house, cleaning, scrubbing, vacuuming, etc.

We took a break for dinner and decided to eat out on the picnic table on the porch since it was so warm. Something caught my eye. A flash in the distance. And then another. Here it was, a December afternoon, and off in the distance was a lightening storm rolling in from the horizon. How delightfully unexpected.

There are certain things that you expect in December, especially if you're from anywhere but the south. While listening to Christmas music and admiring the lighting decorations around the neighborhood you expect cold. You expect snow. You expect fires in the fireplace and cocoa. You expect to expect frost on the windows and the thick silence of a winter night. What you DON'T expect is a thunderstorm.

As Lynn and I ate our spaghetti and watched the lightening grow closer I thought to myself how this illustrates life at times. Every so often the routine, the normal, the expected is strangely interrupted by an event that had never been anticipated. Sometimes these events leave us shaken. Sometimes they leave us in awe. But if we are a follower of Christ, whether the event shakes us or awes us, one thing is for certain: Both the presence and power of God is to be found in that event.

Sometimes storms are destructive and forever alter our future. Sometimes they seem to roll around the horizon and never really invade our space, except with the beauty of a light show. Sometimes God allows these unexpected events to shake and forever alter our future. Sometimes He brings us through them unscathed. But this one thing remains for certain. Even if God allows you to be shaken to your core by a totally out-of-place, unexpected event...both His presence and His power is there in that event and through that power He will hold us close through the storm.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Welcome To The Porch


The older I get, the more contemplative I discover myself becoming. I am most at spiritual peace when I am still, quiet and surrounded by the sights and sounds of God's creation. It's in these settings that I have my most intimate conversations with God.

Welcome to my new project. With the purchase of our new home in rural North Augusta, SC I am looking forward to many moments on our back porch listening to the birds sing songs of worship, watching butterflies drift on the breeze, squirrels run the fence, and enjoying the voice of God. I want to share many of these moments with you.

Unlike my other blog,, this project will contain no rants or criticisms of what is or is not happening in the Body of Christ (I can be cranky at times in My Odyssey). You'll find no theological debates or arguments. This project will simply chronicle the voice of God in my life as my wife Lynn and I pursue deeper places of intimacy with Him. If you would like, I hope you'll take a moment to comment from time to time. Though solitude is wonderful, there is much to be gained through conversation as well.

My hope is that in sharing these moments with you, you will find a cool drink of water to quench your own thirst.

Welcome to The Porch at Spring Hill!