Another Iowa Day

August 13, 2008

By: Dennis Bates

It’s another beautiful day in Iowa today, the kind of day you wish you could record and play back over and over again. For August it is cool and the humidity is low. We have been sleeping with the windows open and haven’t run the air conditioning for a week now.


For some reason days like this remind me how short our stay here is and how thankful we should be for all he blessings God has given us. It’s almost funny. When we were kids days like this would remind us that school is about to start, and we couldn’t wait to get back. We had football games to go to, school dances, and all the other things that made up our lives when we were young, and time couldn’t move fast enough.


When we got older we couldn’t get through the work week fast enough so that we could get to the weekend and have fun, whatever that was to us. If we had children, we looked forward to their birthday parties, their soccer games, and their graduations. Then we shared their careers or enjoyed the grandchildren, and looked forward to holidays with family.


Before we knew it, retirement loomed and we counted off the days until we could be free to do what we wanted to do, and that day came and past. Suddenly, one morning just like this one, we woke up and realized that life whizzed by, and much of it was behind us now. We wondered where it had gone. How had we missed it? How did it go by so fast?


Now instead of looking forward to what comes next, we look backward at things called memories and wonder why we didn’t take more notice of the things that created them when they happened. Instead of wanting things to speed up, we try everything we can think of to get them to slow down so we can enjoy them, and we do so with mixed success.


That’s one of the reasons mornings like this morning are so important, no matter where you live. Although similar days may come in the future, this one only comes today; it only comes once, and as soon as the sun sets, it’s gone forever, so we had better catch it while we can, enjoy it and makes the absolute most of it.


See, with God one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. If  He is pleased with today, He can create another one just like it tomorrow, and the day after. We can’t do that. It’s the real difference between being the Creator and the created. We are not in control, God is, and we are at His mercy. But come to think about it, that’s not a bad place to be, no matter how fast time goes.


This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. I can’t seem to say that enough anymore.


It’s another beautiful day in Iowa today, even if it rains.


Is This Heaven?

June 5, 2008

By:  Staci Stallings

I think the line goes something like this.  The man (played by James Earl Jones) steps out of the cornfield, come to play baseball.  He looks around and says to Kevin Costner, “Is this Heaven?” To which Costner replies, “No, it’s Iowa.”  The scene is from “Field of Dreams” (which is always a good theme for a movie), but I never really understood how true that statement was until I got here.

I’ve said several times since landing here, “If we ever run out of water in Texas, I’m moving to Iowa!”  It is beautiful up here. I even made it across the massive-to-me bridge that took us from Illinois to Iowa over the dreaded Mississippi.  (Dennis laughed at me the whole time as I was freaking out about crossing a bridge with steel support trusses above us.  Trust me, we don’t have that kind of thing where I’m from, and it is more than a bit intimidating.)

The journey north yesterday along the Mississippi was another study in just how far does the Holy Spirit think I’m capable of going and just how much do I really trust Him.  Let’s start here:  I do NOT like water.  However, I have to say that after you’ve been pretty much right next to a half mile span of it for 3 hours, you start to get just a little less afraid of dying because of the water, and a little more afraid of dying because of Dennis’s driving… just sayin’.

But truthfully, it is beautiful up here.  For one thing, they have trees–real trees, BIG trees, lots of trees and many different kinds.  Secondly, they have water.  Lots of water.  Standing in the fields kind of water (that’s really unheard of where I’m from).  Lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, streams (and they have a specific name for each kind!)  Plus, it’s cool and calm here–as opposed to 98 degrees with winds up to 55 miles an hour back home.

So when James Earl Jones says in the movie, “Is this heaven?”  I’m thinking he was pretty spot on.

What fascinates me about this whole thing is how sneaky the Holy Spirit was to get me to even COME to this amazing state.  First, He ever so quietly orchestrated an uncommon, completely out-of-the-blue friendship that I never saw coming.  Then He drew two people together–my cousin and his soon to be bride–and put it on their hearts to get married here.  He threw it all in a pot with timing that would snarl the best planners in the world, and said, “See, Staci, here’s why you should do something completely crazy like get on a plane by yourself, travel halfway across the country to a place you’ve never been before, stay with these people you’ve never met face-to-face…  Now, you’re going to do it, right?”

Seems to me, that’s kind of what He does all the time in life (and mine more and more).  “Peter, get out of the boat.”  “Jonah, go to Ninevah.”  “Paul, go… write…. live…. for Me.”  What separates Peter, Jonah, and Paul from us is not some big, impressive thing they did.  What too often separates us is they listened and did (eventually) what God was calling them to do although they had no map for how this would go or what would happen, or where they would end up.  God said, “Go.”  And they went.

So what is God telling you right now to “Go” about?  Maybe it’s something simple like taking a class you’ve always wanted to take, or to try something you’ve always wanted to try.  Or maybe it’s talking to someone or doing something or even leaving work early just to have a little time to live again.  Whatever it is, do it.  Stop questioning how it can work out or what will happen.  Stop making excuses and saying, “Well, when ‘this’ happens, then…”

Do it.  Roll your sleeves up, make that call, pack that suitcase, put in that application.  Whatever it is, do it, and you will step out of your cornfield and ask like James and I now have, “Is this Heaven?”

And I guarantee, it will be as close as you can get here on earth!


One personal note to Dennis & Jane:  Y’all are GREAT!  I’ve loved the visit, the company, THE FOOD, the conversations, the hospitality, and everything else about my visit.  God really does still make genuinely nice people, and now I know two more!  Thanks for everything!