Fall River

When Jean and I moved from London to Oregon in October of 1999 we lived for twenty months in a small house south of Bend on the Fall River. It’s in a fairly remote area of forest west of La Pine State Park, mostly lodge pole and jack pine with some majestic old growth Ponderosas standing above the other trees. That little cabin is about thirty-two miles and one universe away.

It had been over a year since we had been down there and because Friday was one of the warmest days so far this year, Jean and Buddy and I drove down. We thought most of the snow would be gone and we might be able to get in without much trouble. It’s a little over two miles of pretty bad forest road after turning off the paved highway. We only met one other vehicle in the few hours and more miles we drove and walked back there in the woods.

We parked the Explorer in a clearing beside the dirt road. There were no tire tracks but ours since the winter snows. Our footprints in the dirt were the only human prints, the only ones besides deer, coyote, and bobcat. Buddy eagerly sniffed the air for deer scent and the ground for chipmunks and squirrels. Still a few patches of snow on the shaded north side of trees and rocks.

I’d forgotten how alive the forest sounds and feels with the wind blowing through the tops of the Ponderosa pines. I kept wanting to look up and over my shoulder to see who was just behind us. The sense of “presence” is so strong in the woods!

As we walked and talked Jean began to remind us of how God had provided in such surprising and appropriate ways when we moved from inner-city London to this remote place in the Central Oregon woods. He provided a place to live, a vehicle to drive, and an increase in financial support that was exactly enough to meet the needs.

God gave us a season of solitude to restore our weary souls and enough ministry opportunities and interaction with people that we didn’t lose complete contact with the real world.

We had the house in the woods for as long as we needed it. He provided a friend with a snow plow to keep the more than two miles of forest road open through the winter so we could get in and out. When the road got so bad for a month that our four-wheel-drive Ford Explorer couldn’t negotiate it, God provided the loan of a larger, taller truck that handled the mud without any problem.

As we walked along the forest paths yesterday, we thanked God for his provision during that wonderful season of solitude. We spoke blessing on the friends God used to provide for us during the time we lived on the Fall River. We talked about other seasons and experiences of God’s faithfulness to us. Our faith grew stronger. My eyes grew brighter.

In our present season of change and transition, our faith is strengthening. God is working deeply (and a little painfully!) in us to clear away accumulated layers of grime and rust from our souls. We’re looking forward to the surprising and appropriate ways God will direct and provide once again! It’s who he is. It’s what he does.

I can still feel that strong sense of “presence” I felt yesterday as the wind blew through the tops of the pines. I keep wanting to look up and see who’s there!

For Joy – Psalm 47:1


Come, everyone, and clap your hands for joy! Shout to God with joyful praise! (Psalm 47:1 NLT)

The word “joy” shows up a lot in the Bible…

  • Shout with joy!
  • Clap your hands for joy!
  • The joy of the Lord is your strength!
  • In God’s presence is fullness of joy.
  • For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.

Last time Philip and Stephanie and my grandson Jesse were here for a weekend, I was in the backyard with almost two-years-old Jesse and we were walking up and down the little hill (actually I was walking and Jesse was running).  Jesse was holding my hand really tight (that’s a good feeling!) and with that grip on my hand he was running with abandon.

As we went down the little hill for the second time, I realized that Jesse was saying, “Wheee!”  I didn’t realize anyone actually said “Wheee!”  I thought it was just from cartoons I used to see.  Jesse was, in that moment, filled with pure joy and the most naturally honest thing he could do was shout, “Wheee!”

I asked myself, “How long has it been since simple joy made me shout, “Wheee!”?”

In this season of preparation for the next chapter of my story, God has dug pretty deep through the onion-layers of the stuff of my life.  As we get closer to the core of simple faith and relationship, I am beginning to get glimpses of joy.  When I look straight ahead I feel little bursts of joy inside – dreams rekindling, possibilities popping up.  If I get distracted and look to either side the other stuff rushes in.

I’m going for the joy!  I won’t give up and I won’t give in!  Somewhere not too far around the next bend, or the next, I’m going to be so full of the joy of being who God made me to be and holding his hand so tight, that I’ll shout, “Wheee!”


Father, for the joy you let me taste and the hope you place before me, I will continue.  I will not give up.  I will not give in.  I will, at some soon occasion, shout “Wheee!”

Orphans in Kigali – November 1997

In November 1997 I traveled from London to Uganda and Rwanda with a friend. We conducted a pastors’ conference, taught in a Bible College, and did church ministry in Uganda and then went to Kigali, Rwanda for a week to teach in a Bible College.

The Bible College was Kinya-Rwanda and French-speaking and it really gave us an opportunity to hone our skills at speaking with an interpreter. A French-speaking Rwandan pastor named James was my interpreter for the week and we had a lot of fun with our same names.

Each morning we taught for three hours at the Bible College, then rushed off to a large covered area in the town center to take turns speaking to a gathering of 700 or so people who came each midday for worship and teaching. The people were so hungry for God’s Word and desperately in need of hope and encouragement. We gave it everything we had!

At night we spoke in several of the churches in the capital city. The infrastructure was just getting back to Africa normal and power outages were frequent and of un-predicable duration. Ray and I pretty much burned out our voices that week, speaking to groups of from 35 (Bible College) to 1500 (Restoration Church) without benefit of a PA system.

Each day as we drove from the Bible College to the city center meeting, we passed through the town square. At any hour of the day, there were scores of boys and girls in the town square, some sleeping under a couple of huge trees, some begging from motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, some just hanging out.

It was common to see a ten-year-old boy carrying a three-year-old girl or an eight-year-old girl walking along with a two-year-old and a five-year-old kid holding on to her hands.

These were orphans and the big tree in Kigali town square was their home. Their parents had died in the genocide or of AIDS and they were completely on their own. Children caring for children. Kids raising toddlers.

I was so moved at the sight, it was hard to look. Then I flew back to London and my friend Ray flew back to Texas.