Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Dreams

I've always been fascinated by my dreams. My brain seems to go into overdrive at times when I'm asleep, creating fantasticly unbelievable worlds of surrealism that are, at times, so real that I lose sight of it being a dream. On rare occasion, I remember enough of the dream to record the details in writing the next morning. Following is a dream as it was rcalled in the early morning hours of October 9, 2008. This account is unedited, and appears exactly as it was originally written:

Death Be a Hotel

I saw a car pull up, like an old VW rabbit, Nathan Eller and his father were in it, possibly Craven. Nathan looked young. Nathan invited me to come with him to a lake.

Nathan tied a rope to his car, and drove it into the lake and plunged to depth of 600 feet to get a rush – he comes up telling me how he never went that deep before.

A girl on the shore tried to seduce me, and as I was about to give in, I pushed her away – she had a friend come up behind me to shoot me, then she pulled out a gun to shoot me, but instead she got shot. I threw her body into the pool/lake and scrambled to get away before anyone saw what happened (Trying to escape from the consequences of sin?) and got into my car (parrallel parked, but easy to get out), drove away.

Took a right turn, and began driving somewhere unfamiliar, like across a bridge or something. Once I began down that road, there was nowhere to turn around. Before long, I found myself driving down a circular hallway in a hotel. Eventually I found myself in a hotel lobby filled with people wandering around lost. I stepped out of the hotel lobby and saw that I was on a beautiful beach. Somehow, the location was still Raleigh, or at least NC, but I seemed to be in some removed land that was no longer physically connected to the rest of the world. I think it was at this point that I realized I had died.

I began to worry about what to tell Cheryl or how I could even get in touch with her to let her know where I was. Later, a man comes up to me and, with a smile of assurance, tells me I’m going to the room of the saints. As the door of elevator opens to carry me to the room, there is no elevator – nothing but an empty shaft that looks like nothingness. Almost like glass with nothing behind it – not dark, not light, just NOTHING. I am told it’s Satan. The man tells me I have the power to rebuke Satan, so I try. He keeps coming back, eventually coming out of the elevator in the form of the people at the lake, I begin to worry that someone will know what happened there, but then realize he’s playing on my fears. I rebuke him anyway and he’s cast into the shaft and disappears. There is celebrating as the elevator opens to reveal an elevator car, but small, only enough for me and my companion (whoever she was).

Later, as we’re waiting to check out of the hotel, I go out on a balcony and there is a group of large black gangsta-wannabe’s on a balcony above me yelling at others on another level and throwing beef jerky to them. I remember feeling a real sense of lost-ness in this scene. Like the people are just there and unaware of the dire situation they’re in.

When we go to check out, the girl I am with puts it on her credit card, her bill was $58. The desk clerk gives me a bill, but I have no money, so the girl puts it on her card (I think it was a Citibank card) but the desk clerk cannot read her signature, I look at the receipt, and it (the signature) is gone. We realize it’s time to leave, look outside and instead of nothing there are lots and lots of people – we’ve returned to life. And for some reason, I think the two of us are going back to New York city.

Before we leave, we’re sitting at a table near the exit of the hotel, Doug Currin (pastor at Lake Waccamaw UMC) walks in, looking very confused. I ask him if he saw people out front and tell him that’s how he can tell whether or not he’s dead or alive: no people in front of the hotel, you’re dead; streets filled with people, you’re still alive.

The dream is fantastic enough in scope and message that someone decides to make a movie of it in order to serve as a warning to people regarding the devil and eternity.

In the movie, there’s a scene where we’re involved in tug of war with the evil one’s army. The ropes are tied in the middle around a red pickup truck which is being pulled primarily between our side and the devil’s side. But there are also two ropes pulling perpendicularly towards the right and the left (like a N/S and E/W configuration), but these are basically insignificant – it’s like they represent anything that pulls at our hearts or desires that we might think is irrelevant to the battle between God and Satan over our souls, and in fact they ARE irrelevant, because you’re ultimately going to end up with either God or Satan winning the tug of war. We get pulled across the lake, climb into the bed of the pickup truck with some large ugly man; the truck gets pulled over the edge of a bottomless shaft, but instead of falling we instantly find ourselves where we’re going to end up. The process of dying (in the film) is very frightening, but the death itself is instantaneous and peaceful.

Something about phone number of the hotel as being all 6’s – like 666-6606.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Waiting for Hannah

Thirteen minutes past midnight and all is calm. The National Hurricane Center is estimating Hannah to pass directly through here around 2:00 am or so. I've never figured out why these things tend to come though in the middle of the night. Fran in 1996 was the longest night I've ever experienced (outside of food poisoning on a camping trip in 1981). Hopefully, we'll not have too bad a time of it tonight, and come tomorrow morning we'll just have to clean up a bunch of branches and stuff. When I was given this appointment (to serve the Bethel-Lebanon charge in Columbus County) I was NOT happy about moving to hurricane alley. But... since this was where God sent me, this was I gladly agreed to go. And this is where I gladly serve.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Class Reunion

When I recently attended my 30th high school reunion, I ran into a guy I knew from 5th grade on. He and I probably had a few classes together, but we never really connected that much during our school days. We both hung with different crowds. But at the reunion when I told him I had become a preacher, he smiled and said, "Praise God! Let me tell you how Jesus turned my life around!" When I saw the excitement in his eyes over what Jesus has done for him, it was like God opened my eyes to a whole new level of understanding about "community" among believers. This casual acquaintence and I had both at one time traveled down a dark road of self-indulgence and worldly ways and yet God loved us enough to pull us back to Him, and He gave us new lives and a chance to start over. And that connects us in a way that is stronger than any social bond of love of friendship could ever do.

The next night, my best friend called to ask me about the reunion. I told him it was good, but that what had really impacted me was the conversation I had with the guy at the end of the evening. I told him that it had become clear to me that the whole purpose of me going to Raleigh that night was because God wanted me to connect with him and hear his testimony and see the fire this guy has for Him. Pastors are the ones doing the feeding of the flocks, and pastors don't get to be fed that much ourselves. Well, I got fed on Saturday night by my conversation with this guy. God spoke to me through someone I knew casually from long ago and He spoke very loudly about the joy people need to show others about Him. Yes, as a pastor I do see people excited about Christ, but mostly I see people who are comfortable about Christ (some of them are so comfortable they can even sleep in church!) It made me wonder, what do people see when they look at me? Do they see someone grateful for what Jesus has done? Someone overflowing with joy? Someone on fire for the Lord? Someone excited about Jesus Christ? Or just someone content with his faith? I mean, if I wear a label that says "saved," is that label sewn inside my collar, or is it emblazened in bold letters across my chest? For any true believer, what Jesus Chrst has done for them is the greatest thing that can ever happen to them, and they need to tell the world about it at every chance they get.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Oh yeah... we had a baby!

It's pretty sad when you're so delinquent in keeping up with your blog that since your last entry you (a) had a kid, and (b) she's now 14 months old! But I guess that's what comes with being in the ministry: too many demands on your time too much of the time.

Amber Marie came into the world on May 30, 2007. The blessed event was not without its moments. Due to a problem with the spinal block we almost lost the baby and I almost lost my wife, but the folks at the hospital jumped right into action and did just what they needed to do. If it weren't 2 in the morning right now, I'd go into more detail about what happened that day, but the fact is I'm up with an ear infection and need to get back to bed so I can preach in the morning.

Monday, May 7, 2007


Someone asked me if it's more difficult to do a funeral for a stranger or for someone you know. I think it's actually easier to write a memorial service for someone you don't know very well (or not at all), but it's harder to deliver the message for someone you know well.

I performed a memoral serve yesterday for a man I really did not know. I had met him once about a month or so ago - he was dying and his family called and asked if I would do his service when the time came, and if so would I come see the family so I could meet him. I drove out to a nearby rest home and met this gentleman who, through the rapid onset of some physical problems, literally watched his life slip away over a period of four and a half months. When we met, his family told me some things about him (a stroke had left him with diffficulty in communicating, so they did most of the talking that day). I knew there were all sorts of things I could ask about this man - what he had done for a living, his likes and dislikes and what not - but I really wanted to know just one thing, so I asked him. "Do you know Jesus?" He nodded yes, and I said, "Thats all I really need to know about you - becasue now I know you're going to heaven when this life is over. When you walk those strets of gold, you'll have no more tears, no more pain, no more sickness..." And as I talked about all of that, he began to weep. THese were not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy.

We had a nice service for him yesterday. It was a beautiful sunlit Sunday afternoon, filled with the hope and assurance that he was now singing for the Lord in heaven. I'd been told he loved to sing, and it made me wonder if all his singing here on earth was just his way of practicing for all the singing he'd do in eternity.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Church Mice in the News

It seems the upcoming Church Mice episode of "American Bible Society Presents" has brought my name across the desk of more than one newspaper reporter. In the past week I have been interviewed by three different news organizations, and as of today have been featured in two of them, with the third running an article next week. Following are the articles from this week:

Wilmington Star-News
Whiteville News Reporter

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The New Preacher

The Methodist Church practices itinerancy - that is, pastors are not hired or fired by individual churches, they are appointed to a particular church for a particular season by the Bishop and a council of elders. Each June, throughout the NC Conference, some pastors will pack their belongings, bid farewell to their congregations, and head off in a moving van to become part of a new church family. As the van disappears around the corner, the old congregation waits and wonders, "Wonder what our new preacher will be like?"

I am happy to say that this year, my family and I are not moving. At least not as of today - this is the week we receive appointment phone calls, and it's now late Thursday afternoon so I think we can leave our packing boxes stored in the attic of the parsonage for at least twelve more months.

I did receive a letter today from the pastor of my home church, announcing that he is leaving for a new appointment. I mention him here today because he is the one who helped get me started in the ministry. It was under his pastoral care that I was confirmed at charge conference to enter the ministry of the Methodist Church, and it was under his leadership that I received my first appointment. The last Sunday I was in my home church was a beautiful service, and felt like a sending off or commissioning... I'll never forget that morning as long as I live.

Oh yeah, he also married Cheryl and I, and baptized Aspen. He's been an important part of my lfe. I wish him well in his new appointment, and I pray that those in his new flock realize what a good man they're getting to shepherd them.