Barry 40sIn my seventh year in Bristol. 18 years of marriage. 15 year old daughter. And two cats. My hope that something more would come from “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey” was fading, and I was settling back into ‘just being a pastor’. But not peacefully.

July 16, 2002. We’re now in the heart of summer and finally I feel I have a chance to enjoy some of it. Our trip to Iowa a couple weeks back was memorable. Dad’s retirement party went off splendidly. But what was odd was that the entire week we were there was geared up toward the party and it was only Sunday morning when I awoke able to relax and ready to truly dig in to being with family. And it was then we had to leave to return to Connecticut. So we rolled into Bristol at midnight last Monday and had to hit the ground running. Jan had a summer horse job to begin and I had preparations for our next outdoor service – and all the while there was a sensation of hollowness to it all, like we weren’t ready to be here yet. I was tired and grumpy most of last week, not a good week to have one of my most important sermons to write, on why we need to be “one nation under God”.

But somehow we got through it, and God sent a balm to us to heal our spirits, as our friends the Rodriguez’s from Minnesota paid us a surprise visit Sunday at the outdoor service. They came over Sunday night for a barbecue and swim, then we spent yesterday enjoying a beautiful summer day at Mystic Seaport, then Misquamicut, and finally Newport for supper at the Read Parrot. The Rodriguez’s then went on to Cape Cod and we turned home, and getting back almost exactly at the same time as we did a week ago, only this time I felt better about it all. Thank you Lord for friends and family, and time to enjoy them, and time to now enjoy the summer.

July 18, 2002.  I’m prepping for North Carolina by enjoying my coffee and quiet time on the back deck. My buddy Tigger is enjoying the moment with me and entertainment is being provided by the village idiot – a mockingbird that has been especially annoying of late. A moment worth preserving. The beach is calling soon.

July 20, 2002.  I woke in a bit of a funk this morning. I have a good chunk of the sermon to write, which for a Saturday always irritates me. But it’s deeper than that. An attitude of “Why bother?” permeates my spirit.

On one hand, life is never been better. Yesterday was a gem. Good fellowship with B. this morning, three sets of tennis with J. in the afternoon. Jan and I relaxed as a thunderstorm blew overhead this afternoon, then picked up Hannah who was at a pool party, and grabbed a chili dog and malt before seeing “Men In Black II”. It was what summer is all about. How dare I be ungrateful for such a day by now copping an attitude?

In my devotion this morning, God seem to assure me of his sovereignty, and of his mercy, so already I feel my attitude mellowing some. But – as I have turned 40 – I think I must begin to make peace with who I am or I will be forever melancholy. We all lay down track records. And the ‘great’ ones, whether they’re writers or preachers – reveal their effectiveness very early in life. This is who I am. And likely this is who I will be. I will try to improve and sharpen my skills. I am quite excited about this Writers Workshop coming in a couple weeks. But it is best that I make peace with being a 20-fold man.

Look on the bright side – it guarantees that I will have the time to enjoy my chili dogs and malts. Greater fruitfulness brings greater responsibilities. My life as it is, isn’t so bad.

July 22, 2002. I have experienced the reality of God opening my eyes to see things that would not be visible otherwise. Now I have experienced the reality of God closing my eyes to things I should have seen. On Saturday I was the victim of a surprise 40th birthday party orchestrated my by dear wife. I overheard a curious exchange Janis had with her sister Sharon a week or so ago which caused me to suspect that perhaps an event was being planned for the beach.

But in adjusting my radar to detect the long-range bombers, I failed to see the ambush that was right in front of me.

So come Saturday, while I was consumed with preparing VBS songs in the morning, and playing softball in the afternoon, Jan was baking cakes, and decorating the church, and monitoring my every move through spies and cell phones. At any point, the conspiracy may have collapsed if I had only followed my normal routine, but as I said – a supernatural hand must have been aiding and abetting this operation.

I had thought over the years that I would never be the recipient of such an affair, and in my foolish pride I have thought I could never be duped by one anyway. Wrong on both counts – and thankfully so.

July 24, 2002 – George Barna says the church is failing in America because of the lack of leadership. Most leaders in the church are not ‘leaders’ but teachers – and they do that well, but leadership is what will take the church forward. I’ve long suspected my deficiencies in this area, and would say I fairly well bear out the truth of these words. Teaching may inspire a church, leadership mobilizes them. Teaching causes people to say, “Boy I wish so and so heard this.” Leadership causes people to go get them. How though to mobilize a church?

One thing this little journal experiment is showing me vividly is how the twenties are about preparation and idealism. Thirties are about mobility and action. Forties are about evaluation and adjustments. 

August 3, 2002 This past week, I attended a Writers Workshop up at Gordon-Conwell, Beyond the nuts and bolts teaching I received (much of which confirmed that my knowledge of the writing industry is pretty much on target), I found a core of pastors and church leaders who are adamant that revival is coming to New England, and hardship is coming to America. And perhaps the greatest value of the conference will prove to be this new network of like-minded thinking friends.

As far as writing goes, the greatest value of this conference was not the access to publishing professionals (to be honest, that ‘access’ was not what I thought it would be) but the rediscovery of God in my writing. He has not turned his back on me, nor is he being silent to me – it is I who have folded my arms and turned my back. ‘Yield’ to me, the Lord says. “Do I not fill heaven and earth? Why won’t you let me fill you?” So, I am ready to pick up my pen and allow writing to be what it always was meant to be – a ministry.