Friday, February 11, 2011

Until the World Ends...

In August of 2001 I informed the Union Church of Hinsdale that I had accepted a position with Wesley Memorial UMC in Tampa, effective October 1.  At my previous two stops along my journey, Springfield Friends Meeting and FUMC-Kissimmee, I had worked 60 day notices because I had so much I wanted to say and do with my students before leaving them.  At UC, I was pretty much ready to get out of Dodge.  I would miss many of the people.  I would miss my little bible study group terribly, and they were the ones who would really miss me.  I was leaving behind some disappointed adults, who felt like the church had invested too much in me to see me leave after only 18 months.  But the road was plowed.  David Knecht was quickly hired as their new youth pastor, and I thanked God that I had been able to play a positive role in the future of the ministry- by leaving!

I did my best to keep functioning and help David during the "lame duck" period before I left, and one Tuesday morning I was driving into Hinsdale from my home in Clarendon Hills for our weekly staff meeting.  On the short drive I was listening to a cassette tape in the car, one that I had made for myself.  One of the last songs I heard before going in was an old Three Dog Night tune- Until the World Ends.  Among the lyrics are the words, "Daylight always follows the night.  Looking at life as it's always been, it will be that way again...until the world ends."  Those words would come back to me over and over again in the coming weeks.  I entered the church to find everyone gathered in the conference room in front of a TV, watching the footage from New York.  It was September 11, 2001- and the 2nd place was just about to hit the Towers.

Marilyn had taken the train into Chicago as usual that morning, and she arrived at her office to find total chaos.  They were close enough to the Sears Tower that there was fear that they were in a target area for another attack.  Will was in first grade; they were not told anything, but they didn't get to go outside all day.  In those few minutes that morning, the world changed.  My last few weeks at UC would be spent dealing with fear, anger and bigotry.  There are a lot of Muslims in Chicagoland.  Being in crisis mode for most of the last month helped to say good-bye by actually being in ministry to the families of UC, something I had not really felt like I had done much of over the previous 17 months.  Meanwhile, we still had to prepare to move to Tampa.

On September 13, 2001, Marilyn was supposed to fly to Tampa to finally get to see inside the house we would be living in and to register Will for school.  We debated cancelling her trip, but decided it was important to keep going forward.  I felt then, and still feel today, that the most significant victory we could give the terrorists would be to significantly alter our way of life. Our faith was in God, and that didn't change.  So she was among the first to fly after the horror of 9-11.  She had a great weekend in Tampa and came back really excited about the move.  We were going to move.  We were going to begin a new ministry.  Life would go on.

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since those days.  The tragedy of the attacks was compounded by poor political and military decisions.  We have given up many freedoms in the name of preserving freedom.  USAmerica became an angrier, less trusting nation.  The world did indeed change that day.  But one thing did not.  God is still in control.  I was reminded of that during a WMUMC youth trip to NYC in 2003 and a visit to St. Paul's Chapel at Ground Zero (see picture at top).  The stories of God's grace and mercy in the face of such tragedy moved me to tears on several occasions.  Lots of people found a temporary refuge in Jesus during those scary days, and then walked away again when things felt "normal."  But Jesus never- NEVER!- walks away from us.  He is always faithful, and never more so than in the midst of the storm.  And that was what I walked away from UC with- the knowledge that following Jesus may take me places I never imagined and into circumstances I do not understand- but He will always be with me.  Until the world ends...and beyond!

Because of Jesus,

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