Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Will Walk on Irish Soil Again

One year, seven months, twenty-three days, and twelve hours ago, Juli, Ashlyn, and I left Dublin, Ireland to resume our lives in the USA.  Throughout the nearly twenty months since, I've been flooded with fond memories of the people there who touched our lives, and of the place that left an indelible mark on my mind.  Because of our Irish sojourn, we will never be the same. 

We love Burleson, TX, but we miss Dublin too.  I miss hillwalks on Howth, and pretty much, hillwalks everywhere in Ireland.  In fact, I miss walking all around Dublin's Fair City.  I miss those rich conversations with friends over coffee (or other black beverages).  I miss the trad (and other kinds of) music and the sense of community that forms at gigs, sessions, and concerts.  I miss the passion experienced while watching a big football (soccer) match in a pub with other fanatics.  I miss train trips across the country and even DART trips across Dublin.  I miss the buses and the Luas, as well as driving on the winding country lanes and roads.  I miss the energy of Dublin City Centre. 

I miss the faith conversations at Dublin Coffee Shop Bible Study and Theology on Tap.  I miss worshiping with brothers and sisters at Ranelagh Christian Church.  And most of all, I miss the organic worship and Bible study with North Dublin Christian Community. 

Though I miss all of these things and all of these people, in a little less than 33 hours, Lord willing, I will walk on Irish soil again.  This trip will be short, but I pray that it will simply be the first trip of many over the next few months and years.  May the road rise to meet me... - Shay       

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

David Worley

I first met David Worley in September of 2002.  My wife Juli and I had just moved to Austin so that I could attend Austin Graduate School of Theology.  After placing membership at Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ, Juli and I attended a welcome meeting for new members in the chapel on a Wednesday evening.  David Worley was the “shepherd of the month”, so he sat down with us and another new member to share Brentwood’s story and to answer any questions that we might have.  I don’t remember much of what he said that evening, but I do remember coming away aware that David had a strong Christian faith and that he was passionate about the church.

A year later, after Brentwood’s youth minister left, Juli and I were approached by the BOCC elders about the possibility of filling in on an interim basis.  David was the first elder to speak with us about this possibility, and after we initially turned it down, David and Rayford Walker met with us again and convinced us to give it a shot.  In truth, I didn’t feel prepared to take on the responsibility, but David and Rayford reassured us that God often calls those who least expect it.  He even quoted Robbie Burns, “And would some power give us the gift, to see ourselves as others see us!  It would from many a blunder free us.” 

My part-time interim position with Brentwood eventually evolved into a full-time role and I was blessed to serve as youth minister for seven years.  Throughout that time, I met with David and Rayford numerous times, often at David’s office, otherwise known as Texspresso.  I sometimes would receive one line, or even one word emails from David while he was traveling in such far-flung places as Asia and Russia.  I had to work to decipher the exact meaning of these enigmatic messages, but I usually figured it out before too long.  In our elder’s/minister’s meetings, David was always a calming presence.  He was quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.  So, whenever he did speak, it was always worth a listen.  Over a decade ago, when our youth center was badly in need of a remodel, David was instrumental in making sure that it got done. 

David was in fact instrumental in numerous good works around the world – too many to count – too many to mention.  In 2011, while Juli, Ashlyn, and I were living in Dublin, Ireland, I received an email from him with one simple question.  “What’s your address?”.  I figured, if he’s not in Ireland already, he will be soon.  Sure enough, a few days later, a taxi dropped David to our door.  He didn’t stay long, only a couple of hours, but those two hours were an encouragement to me and my family.  David had taken time out of a business trip to London to pop over to Dublin to encourage and exhort us to remain faithful in our work.  I was always confident that David was faithful in supporting us and our work through prayer to the Father. 

When we returned home from Dublin in the summer of 2015, it was disappointing to discover that David was battling cancer.  We only saw him a couple of times after that, but he remained in our prayers until the end.  Just a few weeks ago, I learned that one of my cousins has cancer.  I emailed David and he graciously emailed me back with some helpful information.  To the very end, he showed care and concern for others.  David will be missed, but his legacy lives on.  And we can all look forward to seeing him again in the age to come. – Shay

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Center of it All...

I'm so thankful for the hope and optimism that children bring to this world!  Even when they realize that the world is not a perfect place, they still seem to exude a positive attitude in the face of strife and difficulty.  The future is overflowing with possibilities in the mind of a child.  And their innocence brings joy in the midst of cynicism.

I've learned a lot from my daughter Ashlyn the past 7 & 1/2 years.  And I was reminded of a truth last Sunday evening.  Before kissing her goodnight, we typically read a couple of stories (one being a Bible story) and pray.  On this night, instead of reading a Bible story, I thought I would talk to her about what she learned in Sunday school.  I've done this sort of thing on many occasions, and normally Ashlyn can tell me exactly what the story was about.  However, on this evening, her mind could not recall the exact details of the story.  To try to prompt her, I asked, "Was the story about Jesus, or was it from the Old Testament?"  Her response was, "Of course it was about Jesus, it was a Bible story."  Duh!  I should not have needed to be reminded of that.  The whole Bible, Old and New Testament, is ultimately about Jesus!

The apostle Paul believed this to be true.  He writes in Colossians "He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers - all things have been created through him and for him.  He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." (1:15-20, NRSV).

The Son was there in the beginning, he entered into space and time in the man Jesus in the middle, and he'll be there when heaven and earth are reconciled in the new creation.  So as Ashlyn reminded me, "God's mystery, that is, Christ himself" (Col 2:2), is splattered across the pages of the entire Biblical narrative.  As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "In him (Jesus) every one of God's promises is a 'Yes'"!

This is good news for me right now (and always).  I've been stressed out the past several weeks for a number of reasons.  I've felt the kind of stress that disturbs your sleep, gnaws at your gut, and gets into your bones.  I know that this too will pass, but in the meantime, I need to see the world through the eyes of a child and I need to be reminded of Paul's words in Romans 8:31 and ff, "What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?...Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us .  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Thank you Lord. - Shay