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Yesterday, I took the day off of work. Leanne and I had intended on going to the shore for the day, but the temperature was a little chilly for Jersey Shore weather. We stayed around our house for most of the day. I went to my men’s group (DIBs – Dudes In the Basement) at 6AM. Then Leanne and I went to The Energy Station in Vernfield, PA for a rare breakfast out together (that place is amazing). We drove down to King of Prussia, PA to pickup a new pair of running shoes at Road Runner Sports and to try out some donuts at the new Duck Donuts in the King of Prussia Town Center (the donuts didn’t disappoint and my new running shoes are a welcome change from my old shoes).
Friday late afternoon, we drove to Mt. Holly, NJ to attend the family gathering at First Presbyterian Church to honor and celebrate the life of Phil Olson. Phil was the Minister of Local Missions at the church for 13 of the 18 years my dad was there as one of the pastors. Phil passed away earlier this week after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer. The gathering gave family and friends a chance to greet Phil’s family and to say hello to old friends from the church and the community.
(I’ll always remember Phil as an important friend and co-worker for my father. I’ll remember his love for the New York Mets (I’ll never understand this one). I’ll remember that his family always eats ice cream on Christmas morning (I love that tradition). I’ll remember catching up with Phil a few times at the Plymouth Meeting Mall where he served as the Pastor at The Church on the Mall. And I’ll always remember his passion for practically ministering to the local community.)
First of all, being back at First Presbyterian Church felt like home. It felt like I was going back in time to a significant time in my childhood and teenage years. This was the church where I worshiped and grew in my faith from 8 years old (1980) until I married Leanne in 1996 (now you can figure out my age). The building itself is beautiful – stained glass windows, stone exterior, tall steeple, majestic pipe organ (but that’s a story for another time).
More than the building, the people made it feel like home for me. People remembered me (and my family), and I remembered most of them. Some people had changed (as have I), but many people seemed exactly the same. I’ll treasure the opportunity to talk with people like Ray and Joann Rivera, Mark Redlus, Dave and Nora Kennedy, Dan and Marla Kennedy, Thad Livingston, Larry and Linda Taylor, and so many others. They asked about my parents who were part of the congregation for 18 years. It’s hard to imagine it’s been over 20 years since my parents moved away from Mt. Holly. It seems like it was yesterday.
After our time at First Presbyterian Church, Leanne and I met up with some wonderful friends (the Grovers and the Becks) for dinner and time to connect. It turned into a later night for us, but it was so heart-warming to be at home with old friends.
Mt. Holly, NJ will always be home to me in some ways. I treasure the memories and the people there. They saw me grow up, and many of them helped me grow up.
Schwenksville, PA is my home now. In fact, I’ve lived here for longer than any other place in my life. I’m thankful for the community we live with here, and I look forward to the memories and friends we will create in the years to come in this area.
My physical home is my sanctuary away from the rest of the world. It’s where I find real encouragement. It’s where I often find rest. My home is a place where I can leave a mark on those who mean the absolute most to me.
Phil’s passing was a reminder that there is another home that is waiting for me. As we passed through the receiving line waiting to greet Phil’s wife, Holly, and the rest of the family, I noticed a verse that was posted near some of the flowers and other memories of Phil:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. Philippians 1:21-26
I don’t know what the future days hold. I strive to make the most of the opportunities (Colossians 4:5) here in my earthly home. And I yearn for the day when I’m in my eternal home. From what I can tell, Phil lived his life this way. He impacted the lives of so many people here on earth (I’m sure the funeral service today was packed with some of the many people who were impacted by Phil and his ministry), but this verse was a clear reminder that Phil also longed for the opportunity to be home with Christ in heaven.
This week, I’m not home. I’m out-of-town attending a leadership conference in Chicago and then visiting my brother’s family in Milwaukee.
I’m away from my home in Pennsylvania.
But I’m returning to my home in Illinois. I lived outside of Chicago until I was 8 years old.
At least that’s what they say.
Home is where I feel a sense of belonging. It’s where I feel a connection with my past, my present, and my future.
Home is where I feel safe. It protects me from the storms of life. It keeps me warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and dry in the rain.
Home is where I feel a sense of purpose. Sure I need to branch out – to stretch – into the uncomfortable. But my first purpose is fulfilled when I’m a home.
I feel at home when I’m in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. I feel at home when I’m in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. I feel at home when I’m at my job in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. I feel at home when I’m in Grove City, Pennsylvania (where I went to college). I feel at home when I’m in Xenacoj in Guatemala.
I feel at home when I connect with others through my writing and speaking. I feel at home when I mow the lawn. I feel at home when I run the trails near my home or the treadmill at my gym.
Despite these feelings, places, and experiences, I still have an ache – an empty spot – for home. When people pass away, others say “They went home.” This sometimes sounds cliché, but I think there’s something to it. We all have a longing for home that won’t truly be satisfied until we take up residence in our eternal home. Until then, I’m hanging onto the glimpses of home I experience in this life.
This post was inspired by a fantastic video about bringing humanity to the homeless. I hope you’ll check it out below.
I spoke on the topic of leadership, delegation, and legacy to student leaders on campus at Grove City College. Overall, it went very well. I’ll try to post a video of my presentation when it becomes available.
I interviewed engineering students in the morning campus, and it reminded me how well Grove City does at selecting and educating students to contribute in a major way to this world after college.
I enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Rachel’s Roadhouse Grille with my wife. This was a favorite spot of ours while we were students at Grove City College.
Today, we’ll enjoy breakfast in MAP Cafeteria before we head home.
As I was thinking about our journey home and about all the things that await us when we get there, I was reminded of this post from a few months ago. I think it applies today just as much as it did five months ago.
We have a chain in our backyard. We use it to keep our dog from running away when he is outside. One end of the chain is attached to a stake in the ground, and the other end is attached to a metal loop on his collar.
The other night, I put Iso (our forever dog) on the chain. He likes to go out in the backyard to take care of his business and to sniff around for a while. I came back in the house for a few minutes while Iso was doing his thing.
When I went outside to bring Iso back in the house, he was gone. The chain broke, and Iso was wandering in the dark of the night.
My heart sunk as I feared I would struggle finding him in the dark. I quickly ran inside the house view the back patio door, and I quickly ran to the garage to get my shoes, a flashlight, and the box of Milk-bones. These are the tools necessary to go on a hunt for your runaway dog. Before I opened the garage door, I quickly looked out the mud room door. As I turned on the light, I was relieved to see our black dog standing at the side door steps with the other half of the chain following behind him.
I can remember panicking as a child whenever our family dog, Snickers ran away. She was a beagle, and her instinct to chase rabbits made it challenging for my parents to contain her even when she was tied to a stake in the middle of a fenced in backyard.
It’s amazing how dogs can capture our hearts.
I’m thankful Iso knew to come to the side door. He knew where is home was. He could have run around the neighborhood or even run away, but he desired the safety and comfort of home.
We all have a yearning for home.
Sometimes we don’t realize it. We run away. We chase after things that lead us temporarily away from home. But after our running and chasing, our instincts call us home. And when we get there, our loving Father is standing at the door waiting to welcome us home.
Are you wandering? Are you running away? Are you chasing after things that lead us away from home?
Turn back now. Your Father can’t wait to welcome you home!
This week, I’m going on vacation with my family. I thought I’d take this opportunity to republish some old posts from the archives. Feel free to leave comments here or on the original post. Enjoy, I’ll be back next week!
Today’s post was originally posted in October 2009. The post was simple thoughts following a visit to Grove City College. The thoughts still apply. I’m glad to be home!
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Grove City College for my 15th Year Reunion and for Homecoming. It was so great to be back on campus. It brought back memories of fun times with friends, times of personal growth, challenging times of learning, and especially of meeting the love of my life. It was amazing to see how the campus continues to get even better with new building and added features. I was also inspired by how the focus of the campus and it’s leadership seems to be in the right place.
As I spoke with a good friend, Dave Johnson, it was fun to recount specific stories of the good times and rivalries that existed between our housing groups. We really had a blast while we were at “The Grove.” As our conversation moved towards our families, jobs, and church involvement, we both commented that we wouldn’t trade our present circumstances to go back in time to our Grove City days. God has truly blessed us.
On the ride home last night, I was listening to Switchfoot. I was struck by their song “This Is Home.” I’m so thankful for the memories. But I don’t want to go back. I’m finally where I belong. I’m so thankful for my wife, my family, my church, my job, and exactly where I’m at right now.
Here’s the first verse and chorus from the song:
I’ve got my memories
Always inside of me
But I can’t go back
Back to how it was
I believe you now
I’ve come too far
No I can’t go back
Back to how it was
Created for a place
I’ve never known
This is home
Now I’m finally
Where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I’ve been searching
For a place of my own
Now I’ve found it
Maybe this is home
Yeah, this is home
How about you? Are you home? Do you realize that your where you’re supposed to be for right now?
Stretched Ice Breaker Friday has arrived! For those of you who are new around here, each Friday, I ask an “ice breaker” question. These questions are designed to help us get to know each other. Typically, I answer the question first in the post (below), and you answer the question by leaving a comment with your answer. So here goes….
Question: When people say the name of your hometown or area, what comes to mind? In other words, what’s the big deal about your town, city, community?
My answer: I live in a small suburb on the north-west side of Philadelphia, PA. My town hosts the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival. The “Folk Fest” has played host to many famous folk “stars” like Arlo Guthrie. The festival takes place at the Old Poole Farm which is located right off the Perkiomen Trail. I’ve run and biked by the festival several times, but I’ve never attended myself. The festival runs for a few days every August. You can stop by for the day, or you can camp out for the entire weekend. Apparently, it’s kind of like Woodstock on a smaller level. One of these years, I’ll have to check it out!
There you have it. That was pretty simple. Now, it’s your turn. Leave your answer to this week’s Stretched Ice Breaker question in the comments. I’m looking forward to hearing about your hometown.