Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: October 2018

Thursday, October 25, 2018

And It Wasn't Even In A Church Building

But .....

It was still the most memorable worship service of my long life. And, nearly 20 years later, it still is.

The backstory: In 1997 ... and again in 1999 ... I was part of a singing group from Living Word Church and FBC Pelham, which went to Russia and Latvia on a mission trip. We worshiped and sang, on the earlier trip, at Church Emmanuel in Pskov, Russia, and then New Life Christian Church in Bauska, Latvia. And I made friends in both, that are still online friends, to this day!

I learned much from friends in both places, and some have said to me that they learned a lot from us, too.

In any event, on the second trip, limited to the church in Pskov .. for a music conference ... I flew to Riga a week ahead of time, and spent most of the week visiting friends there in Bauska. Then, on the weekend, I rode with Aivars Berlinski (one of my yet-today friends) over to Pskov for the conference.

I stayed with my friends the Stepanov brothers ... also friends today ... in Pskov, while Aivars stayed with friends of his there.

On the last night in Pskov, we sang in the Pskov Community Center. It was an incredible time, one I will never forget. But that was not the highlight of the evening. That came at the end of the evening in the Community Center.

The worship was led by a young man by the name of Alexander "Sasha" Medvedev, one of my still-friends, and an incredible worship leader. He led from the keyboard and the service went on for several hours with him seamlessly leading worship. I was, and am still, quite impressed.

At the end of the service, Aivars came over to me and asked what I was doing after the service. I told him that my hosts had mentioned dinner at their apartment, at which Aivars seemed disappointed. I suggested he could come with me and the Stepanovs, and he said no, he didn't want to intrude. I said nonsense ... I am your elder so do as I say, and pointed out Mrs. Stepanov ... the brothers' mom ... and said go check with her. Of course it was OK, so he went with us.

I came to learn shortly that the Stepanovs had a surprise ... they'd invited Sasha Medvedev to dinner!

So, in the Stepanov apartment for dinner was The Stepanov brothers & their mom, Sasha & his musical partner Dima, Aivars Berlinski, Jeff Hairrell ... my roomie for the week (also a skilled keyboard man and classically trained singer), and me.

Who happened to have a video camera (remember .. this was 1999).

After dinner, Sasha went to his car and got his keyboard. Dima also noticed a stringless guitar hanging on the wall ... as decoration only ... took it down, rounded up some strings, and tuned it up.

We had church in the wee hours of the morning, there in that Russian apartment! And it ended up between 1:00 and 2:00 am, with 6 of us guys singing  Andre Crouch's "My Tribute".

In THREE languages!

It's in the video below. I still get chills whenever I hear that song, particularly when we do it at FBC Pelham.

At least that's where everyone else is. Me? I'm back in a Russian apartment....

Monday, October 22, 2018

My Best Trade Ever

Trading Christmas once a year for Christmas every day! Follow along ...

This afternoon I was sorting through a mountain of miscellaneous papers, brochures, pictures etc, and I happened upon a booklet of Christmas devotionals that our church ... FBC of Pelham (AL) published late in 1996. I recalled I'd contributed a devotional to it, so I found it and read it.

I thought enough of it to post it here, despite the length. With thanks to a memory that allows us to read our old writings and enjoy them, it follows, with apologies to my ghost of carpal tunnel past:


"I still remember Christmastime when I was young .After the tree was put up and decorated in mid-December, brightly-wrapped boxes began to appear underneath. The thrill of looking at those unopened boxes, I can still feel …..

"From Jeremiah 29: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for your welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope ....." 

The exiles from Israel had been in Babylon for a long time. More than anything, they desired to return to Israel, their land of promise. In God’s appointed time, the Prophet of God told them that He’d not forgotten them, that He still had plans for them, and that they would indeed be returned to their beloved land.

Their thrill of anticipation must have been similar to what I felt in the Decembers of my youth.

For many years, I’ve wondered why Christmas no longer holds that thrill during those youthful Decembers After all, I AM a believer, and Christmas IS a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, so … why?

Well, I think I know, now. I’ve opened the box!

The thrill of anticipating the “return to Jerusalem” has been replaced by the thrill of the actual return! I have happily exchanged the annual thrill of celebrating a birthday, for the daily thrill of opening the box of plans God has for me. Just as He had those promises for the exiles in Babylon.

I’ve traded Christmas every year, for Christmas every day!

I love praising Jesus and I love serving Him, and I’d never, ever want to relegate that to some regular and planned schedule.

I wonder what unopened box God has for me today. Whatever it may be, I’m thrilled!"


I'm still opening boxes every day ... and still thrilled to do so!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Good And Precious.

The guy over there is Jason Dill, a long-time friend; also a member of the First Baptist Church of Pelham's Faith Family. And, nearly 20 years ago, a member of a Young-Married Sunday School Class I was privileged to teach.

Jason died this past Tuesday ... die is the word God used to describe it ... so that's the one I prefer.

See Psalm 116:15 and Hebrews 9:27 for details.

His funeral was held today at FBC Pelham. And a celebration it was! Two things about it were outstanding to me. One was that, after our former Pastor, Mike Shaw, spoke his own tribute to Jason, Natalie ... Jason's widow ... gave a captivating eulogy of her own. And the joy of the Lord was all over it.

Then, our Pastor Daven Watkins gave what is best described s a sermon. And it revolved around Romans 8:28 ... "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And I think that those Followers of Jesus who were in attendance could really feel the truth of that statement.

We would all do well to view everything with an eye on Psalm 116:15 ... which tells us that the death of His saints is precious to Him. And my personal goal is to view everything through as much of God's eyes as I as I can appropriate .... namely: "What does God think of this?"

I think God smiled at what's happened over the last 6 days. As in: From Jason's first attack early last week, through the celebration at  2867 Pelham Parkway early this afternoon. It may take a lot of years to see all the good that will come of all this. But you cannot get any more certain than this:

God said it.