Which is more surprising? How wonderfully the new I-40 traffic flow, or how smoothly the transition went?
When I arrived in Knoxville, I thought our state flower was the orange barrel. I-40 was a parking lot from Papermill to Cedar Bluff Road, and rumors were floating around that "they" were going to close the interstate downtown. No sooner had TDOT expanded the interstate from 4 to 8 lanes in West Knoxville than traffic downtown came to a halt. They re-routed all through traffic in a plan called "Smart Fix I-40" to straighten a road through the heart of downtown. We planned and fretted over what impact the closure of downtown would have on traffic Sunday morning and programs Wednesday night for 19 months.
Our worst fears were never realized. In fact, traffic improved during and after construction. So many people detoured around the center city that we downtowners had smooth sailing all the way to 1B. The only time decrease in traffic came from gas prices higher than $3/gallon. There's nothing like paying more for fuel than for milk to make a person flip on the television and catch it live.
What's the lesson?
1.) We could certainly hope for fuel prices to stay under $3 forever (not likely)
2.) We could learn the lesson that most of our fears are never as bad as we imagine. Anticipation of change is much worse than the change.
3.) We should be grateful for people in public service who make our lives easier.
Isaiah prophesied about the road through the wilderness. This Smart-Fix made our paths straight and set our minds at ease.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Which is more surprising? How wonderfully the new I-40 traffic flow, or how smoothly the transition went?
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The final play of Pee-Wee baseball ended on a double play. Parker's Red Team beat the Gold Team 10-9 in the bottom of the 6th. On this hot sticky day on the banks of the river in Sequoia Hills, however, another little boy was playing for the first time without his mother.
This space was supposed to be a season-ending column to thank Vance Link for another year of throwing pitches to 6/7 year old boys. Vance puts together a little two-day triple dip for the 7 year olds who will move up to Little League next year. We play on his field--Link-House field-- where he first played as a Knoxville boy. It would be enough to thank Vance for another great season. But he and his helpers go over the top with All-Star uniforms, public address announcements, and music in between innings. It's a Major-League-Style moment for the Pee-Wees-- and their parents.
Gratitude took a deeper and more sobering turn Saturday morning. Nancy Feist passed away suddenly early Saturday, and 5 children were left on this earth without their mother. I didn't know Nancy, but many of our folks did. She was a devoted Catholic. She and her family were Little League lifers. And one of the members of the gold team was her 4th child, Craig.
Vance Link broke the news to us Saturday morning. We were midway through the 2nd game of Parker's tournament. The first game was the night before. The 2nd and 3rd games were on Saturday. Craig Feist was on the field Friday night. He wasn't on the field at 9:00 a.m. for the sad announcement. Vance led us through the shocking news and coached us through what to do, how to feel, and how to respond as best we could. After a period of prayer and silence, we did the thing we knew to do. We played ball. By 1:00 p.m., for the 3rd and final game, some friends brought Craig so he could join his team for the last game. He batted first and played catcher. Vance introduced each member of each team as if they were future Hall-of-Famers moving up to the big leagues. For Craig Feist, the only thing a heavy-hearted crowd could do was cheer, and pray, and hope.
God's gift of living one day at a time is also a risk of tragic endings and great beginnings. We don't know when they are coming from either direction. But there was something about a beautiful spot and a great sport that made this the best place to be in such heartache. And we were all taught Saturday how to face grief with class and tears by one man who's been throwing and catching balls for 38 years. Thanks, Coach.
Posted by Bill Shiell at 4:04 PM
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
At the airport to see the team off. Please pray for safe travels and that all our supplies arrive with them.
Posted by Bill Shiell at 12:14 PM
Live from Croatia Sunday @ 8:42. See a report from Michael McEntyre on Skype during worship @ First Baptist
Posted by Bill Shiell at 8:57 AM
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Spiritual Formation in Nehemiah
1.) Confess sin.
2.) Organize relationships where God has placed you around serving those in authority over you.
3.) Scout the project and reflect.
4.) Rebuild infrastructure first, study later. Get people moving in a project so that they can see the work, have success, and learn where their strengths and weaknesses are.
5.) Confront the powers. Use the project to expose the powers, and name the issues. There is as much danger in doing good as doing nothing.
6.) Bring justice by taking care of little old ladies and orphans. Follow the iron rule: "Never do for others what they can do for themselves."
7.) Let the Bible read you. Commit with new vows of time (Sabbath), generosity (money), and relationships (marriage). Scripture comes after the hands get dirty. Use the lessons learned from the project to guide thinking as you listen to scripture.
8.) Neighbor the city. Use principles you've practiced before to neighbor (as a verb) the city. The Golden Rule with the Iron Rule. Ministry centers on the assets of the community, not the perceived needs.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tonight @ 6- Salvation in the Shack: Relationships need more than people. They need institutions and belief.
Posted by Bill Shiell at 8:55 AM
Monday, June 15, 2009
Can you imagine a world where 99% of the people are unemployed in any
official work; 50% of people work in some kind of black market
occupation, 90% of families have an alcoholic living at home, 75% of
wives are physically abused, 80% of children start school, less than
1% graduate from high school, less that 20% finish elementary school.
This is the world of the Roma people. We call them "gypsies" for short
because their tribe has lived a nomadic lifestyle from India to
Western Europe. They stretch across the globe and repesent one of the
many unreached people groups in the world. They are maligned,
mistreated, and exactly the kind of people that Mary sang about in the
Gospel of Luke. She imagined a world that one day people like gypsies
would be on top, and that could only happen when the kingdom of God
That kingdom is colliding in northern Croatia. This is certainly not
the only place gypsy ministry is bearing fruit, but this is the place
where First Baptist has been a small part of God's work there. When we
began our ministry in Cakovec over 7 years ago, we helped Croatians
sustain and build a center to reach Croatians. That vision has grown
to help the Croatians deal with their version of poverty, race, and
justice issues. Through our work with other Croatian nationals who
serve as missionaries, Elaine Childs has developed a relationship with
more Roma people.
Our team of 27 students and adults will be working in two separate
villages next week. In both they will present the gospel with Bible
pictures and stories that cross cultures and worlds. In one village,
they will share the gospel through manual labor. They will build
out-houses for a village of 10 families.
All of this is possible through your gifts, support, through the cars
that park during ball games, and this year, a unique partnership with
the East Tennessee Foundation. Michael received a grant from a
generous family who supports local youth group projects through the
churches in East Tennessee. The foundation made it possible for these
outhouses to be built, and I am especially grateful for the
Follow and track their progress on our website, and join me in prayer
as we minister to people whom we believe one day will be so much more
than a statistic.
More info about the Team
First Baptist's Ongoing Partnership
Elaine Childs' Work in Croatia
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Sunday, June 07, 2009
I attended my first swim meet last Monday ever. I missed out on the joy of this kind of controlled chaos as a child. Now we have an ocean full of meets and mania lined up for the summer for our 8-year-old fish named Parker. For many of these second graders, Monday was obviously their first attempt at diving into a pool from a platform. They stood above the troubled waters at their post and chose whether (or not) to take te leap like the rest of their peers. The platform gave them a place from which to jump. But the swimmer had to take the leap.
Like the summer swimmer taking his first leap from the safety of a poolside platform, we are building a platform this summer to prepare ourselves for the next leap. Our platform and complementary media equipment, organ, and expanded choir loft positions us with all the evidence we need to back up the next test of faith. The question asked of our project is, "What kind of leap will we take as a church family?"
In our Reaching Beyond moment, we are expanding our capacity and vision to minister in the center city. We'll always be located downtown; the question for us now is how involved will we be in the assets of our center city community.
Throughout our region we can find all kinds of spiritual pain. Most people (over 30%) who have no faith involvement or significantly decreased their faith involvement in the last year live within a 1 mile radius of our church. Knoxville rates 15% higher than the national average for households touched by divorce or death of a spouse. Most children in our community live in either single-parent households or live in multiple homes. The Knox County school system has 350 homeless children registered for school each day.
Is this the kind of pain we are positioned to respond to? God doesn't ask us to fix every problem or even to address every problem. But could this moment give us the chance to minister to people who are going through these kinds of transitions? The waters indeed are stirring.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
When Hanani reports to Nehemiah about ancient Jerusalem, Nehemiah does not pray for a wall. He confesses his and his family's sins to God.
How does confession position you to discern your call and responsibility?
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device from U.S. Cellular
Posted by Bill Shiell at 7:36 AM
Monday, June 01, 2009
William Paul Young's The Shack is a provocative novel about the one man's recovery from the pain and tragedy of the worst kind-- abuse and murder of a daughter. The location of the Shack forms not only the center piece of violence but also is the headquarters of healing. He not only recounts the pain encountered by his daughter in the Shack, but the speaker/author goes to the place of pain to begin and continue the healing process.
Going to your place of pain is not for everyone. In fact, only people healthy enough should really go to that place if they are able...and only until they are able.
This Wednesday night, I'll be discussing this topic and raising these questions. I welcome your feedback now....
When is it right to go to that place? How does this work for you in the book? How does the location affect the outcome? Does it?