Saturday, August 27, 2016

Small town

            You know you’re in a small town when the lady at the Secretary of State’s office who sent you off to get a driver’s test interrupts her conversation with another client to ask, with arms spread wide, “Did we pass?!” But that wasn’t the fun part. The fun part was the driver’s test itself. The third party with whom I happened to have scheduled my test, taken “at random”¨* from a list of twelve testing companies provided by the Secretary of State, turned out to be a Christian. My car overheated during the test, which might have brought my chances of getting a driver’s license to an end for the day, but she loaned me hers. Before we parted there had been crying and praying and rejoicing over what God has done and what He is going to do. Will you please pray, too, for the Physicists’ mom, that God would tune her heart to be in perfect concert with His own? Thanks.
Drex and me Gangnam style
            In another heart-stopping meeting this week, a pastor in northern Flint, where things are most difficult, with whom we were discussing Under One rooF (UFO), said UFO “is where God has brought me.” He said we’ll have to use houses, of which there is an abundance, rather than one big building, but that we’ll “ring the dinner bell” whenever it’s time to get together. Glory! What we need now is an existing American nonprofit to take Under One rooF under its wing, the way the Fundação Bomfim took Serve the City Lisbon under its wing back in 2010. Would you please ask God to find us one? 
            Finally, for this week, my son, Drex, turns 21 August 30, and is due to arrive at Detroit Metropolitan Airport the following day for a long week here in Michigan with his family. It will be the first time I’ve seen him since 2013. He’ll see other relatives he hasn’t seen since long, long before that. Please pray his trip is a great blessing to everyone involved and that he flies back to Seattle September 9th with his emotional tank overflowing. Thanks again.

*The quotation marks are a reference to Proverbs 16:33: “We toss the coin, but it is the Lord who controls its decision." In other words, there's no such thing as "at random.”  

Monday, August 22, 2016

You're hired

     Carriage Town Ministries offered me a job today, pending a background and drug check. I'm excited about it. Thanks for praying!
Honey bees used to be part of the CTM community, and people miss them.
     I'll be working as a shift supervisor from 4pm to midnight. Most shifts are likely to include a couple of quiet hours that may be devoted to developing other ministries, which might include beekeeping, adult literacy and of course, the much needed Portuguese bakery.

Job description

If a tree stands in the forest, and there's no one there to appreciate it, is it still beautiful?

Clearly not, if indeed, as everyone says, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Appreciation is what we bring to the table.

"One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple." Psalm 27:4

Sunday, August 21, 2016


I confessed to the teacher of our Sunday school class that’s studying Beauty, the invisible embrace, by John O’Donohue, that I would be helped by a definition. What is beauty? What are we talking about? One thing John O’Donohue says is that beauty is ennobling. I think that’s an important part of it. When I recognize beauty it seems to give me greater value. As if the simple fact of my coexistence with beauty increases my own worth. It’s enough to put a person constantly on the look out.
Not far away

           I celebrated my one month anniversary in Flint yesterday. One of the nice things about being here has been the opportunities to see people I haven’t seen for a long time. Today I drove south after church and intercepted my Goddaughter and her family in Toledo, on their way home to Virginia after visiting colleges around Chicago. Last time we got together she was learning to read. Now she reads Latin. Being together is good medicine. It’s life-giving.

On the way home from Toledo I thought about the tender words of Jesus to those who are tempted to worry, the way I am, now that bills are coming due and I’m still not working. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” My Heavenly Father hasn’t forgotten me. He knows what I need. It was nice to rest in His assurance as I drove. Shortly after I arrived home I received an email from Carriage Town Ministries asking me to come in tomorrow morning to discuss a possible role for me there. It was very kind of God to arrange it. Would you please pray that meeting goes well?

Friday, August 12, 2016


     I spent a couple of evenings this week training at Carriage Town Ministries for the position of Shift Supervisor, the person who makes sure residents and guests get where they need to be when they need to be there, and attends to various other details. It has not led to a job offer yet, but I’m hopeful it will. Carriage Town is a hub of Christian Ministry and activity and would be an ideal base for integration into the community here, I think. Would you please continue to ask God to direct me with respect to my employment?
     When one is trying to integrate into the Christian community in a new town, Sunday can be a challenge. There are about half a dozen places I’d like to be Sunday morning. I had a plan, until I found out the Sunday school class my landlord teaches and a housemate attends was starting a study on Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, a book by John O’Donohue. Beauty has been a prominent theme in my conversations with God over the last several years, so I knew immediately I had to attend the class. What is beauty and how does it factor into God’s economy? Is it reasonable to assume it’s pretty important to Him, since He has made so much of it? What does it do for us, what part does it play in our well-being? Whatever else it is or does, it gives me pleasure, so I’m motivated to understand it as well as possible, in hopes of getting more of it into my life.
     John O’Donohue says, “When we say from our heart to someone: ‘You are beautiful,’ it is more than a statement or platitude, it is a recognition and invocation of the dignity, grandeur and grace of their spirit.” (p.15)

     Have a beautiful week. Thank you for your prayers.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Bread and distance

     Those who came by here last week will recall that after God provided me with communication and transportation, He and I had turned our collective Attention to accommodation, and that I had what looked like a promising possible place to live (though I also had a backup). The promising possibility was South House,
a home on the southwest edge of downtown Flint, maintained by a Christian couple for people God brings to them, and it is from South House that I write. The main problem at South House is deciding where to perch for reading or writing or lunch, whether in the sun-soaked dining room, as I did today, or in one of the living room’s ample seats, or on the enclosed patio, or the sunny terrace surrounded by sumptuous flower pots, or in the swinging love seat beneath the trees in the shady backyard, or in the privacy of my own room, where I must choose between desk, sofa, lazy-boy and bed. When you throw in the company of my three housemates (though they may go unseen for days) the contrast with my monkish dwelling in Lisbon is stark. I’ll adjust.
     The last item on my Flint Arrival To-do List is to find employment, and towards that end I’ve been networking aggressively, meeting lots of helpful, prayerful people who have been very encouraging. The big question for me at this point is whether UnderOne rooF (UFO), the project we are hoping to launch in Lisbon, will be my full-time job here, or just something I work on in my spare time. Would you please ask God to make it clear to me what He’d like me to do?
     Speaking of prayer, I’ve spent time this week with a little healing prayer group from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Flint. Along with praying for lots of other people, they anointed me with oil, laid hands on me, and prayed for me, too (twice). I think God loves to demonstrate His power and love in response to the prayers of His kids, and I don’t think we ask Him nearly enough. I hope to continue to be involved with this little group. Please let me know how we can pray for you, and you see if it doesn’t make a difference in your life!
     One of the most striking things about Flint is the vast distances. In Lisbon I walk to the corner grocer for bread and greet a handful of neighbors on the way. To get anywhere here I get in my car, my private bubble, and drive for miles and miles. The car is just the thing to keep those pesky neighbors from bothering me. This has profound effects. It has often been observed that we’re different in our cars, but have you noticed the resemblance between who you are in your car and Donald Trump? Is your SUV a rolling wall along your border with Mexico?
     Speaking of bread, we knew about the Flint Water Crisis, we knew it’s a food desert, where fresh produce is scarce and expensive, but what we didn’t know is there’s no bread! What is sold as bread is a spongy bread-like product baked during the Bush administration. Nobody’s baking fresh bread. I emailed A Padaria Portuguesa (The Portuguese Bakery) a company that’s putting cute little coffee shop bakeries on every block in Lisbon, each with the signature bicycle with basket, but they said they’re not ready to expand to Flint. Would it be cheaper to fly Flintstones to Lisbon for bakery training, or to fly Alfacinhos (Little Lettuces, natives of Lisbon) who bake, here?


Friday, July 29, 2016

God's Provision

From the beginning of my movement towards Michigan I’ve felt a powerful commonality with the apostle Peter, who said to Jesus, when he saw Him walking on the water, “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water.” (Matthew 14:28) I believe Jesus said to me, as He said to Peter, “Come.” If that’s true, one might reasonably expect Him to make provision for me to stay above water, as He did for Peter, and as He did for our family when we moved to Portugal in 2001. (It’s interesting, I think, that when Peter failed to avail himself of Jesus’ provision and began to sink, Jesus chastened him neither for his audacity nor his impetuosity, but for his doubt (v. 31)).

I left Lisbon at 7am on Wednesday, July 20, and arrived at Flint Bishop Airport at 7pm that evening. As I examined my map in front of the airport, preparing to hop into my rental car and begin exploring, a Christian named Ana offered assistance. I gave her a ride to her downtown home as she provided a running commentary on everything Flint. Flint is not a very big town—just 100,000 people now, half as many as in the ‘60s when it was an auto manufacturing powerhouse—so I wasn’t surprised to bump into Ana again yesterday at the library.

As I formulated my strategy for integration into the community, my priorities were communication, transportation, accommodation and vocation, in that order. Communication: My Portuguese phone is no good here, so the teenage tech-savvy son of Lisbon friends went online, chose a new one and had it expressed to the apartment where I’m staying. Transportation: On Friday, day 2, I found a 2002 Chevy Cavalier in excellent condition for exactly what I’d hoped to pay, got it insured and licensed, and drove to the baseball stadium of the minor league Great Lakes Loons, where I arrived in time for the first pitch, met my parents for the first time in five years and my nephew Louis for the first time ever. Accommodation & vocation: At lunchtime yesterday, day 8, I may have found the ideal job, and at dinnertime I may have found the ideal place to stay. I'm waiting for news on both. God mixed up the order a bit, but He has been lavish.

The most effective way to disguise yourself as an ordinary American is to always carry, not a gun, as many Europeans assume, but an enormous insulated vessel full of your preferred hot or cold beverage. After spending a fortune on coffee at places like Starbuck’s and McDonald’s during my first few days in America, I took my first step towards setting up house and bought a little coffee maker for $12. I spent the same amount on my enormous insulated vessel, which is a lot, but in addition to helping me blend into the crowd, it reminds me of one of my favorite Bible verses, Psalm 73:23, “No entanto, tenho estado sempre contigo,” “Yet I have been always with You [God].” 

The crime rate in Flint is seven times the national average. A huge proportion of homes that
were once occupied by employees of General Motors are now abandoned. Scrappers break in and remove everything of value, including everything metal, like pipes and wire. Kids burn them down for fun. The few residents who remain are under siege. They stay awake through the watches of the night defending their homes, which are now worth virtually nothing, from attack. Where will they find hope? How will God provide for them?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Daily Lectionary: The Word of God in Berea

Morning: Psalm 67, 150
Numbers 21:4-9, 21-35
Acts 17:(11-21) 23-24
Luke 13:10-17
Evening 46. 93

They examined the Scriptures every day. As a result, many became believers.

Acts 17:11, 12

The Word of God transforms lives.

Blessed day.

"Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:14