Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

“What Hath God Wrought?”

This question my friend, Dan McFarland, asked in prayer as he prayed for us at the CornerStone dinner last Friday evening.  The question comes from the Bible (Numbers), but we Methodists also associate it with John Wesley, who used this question to reflect on various circumstances relative to Methodism in the 18th century.  For one, he asked it when the new City Road Chapel was opened.

Dan asked it in regard to the transition in my life and in the CornerStone’s.  I have departed from my usual blog topics and have shared more personal stuff of late.  This past weekend was another doozy.  After being associated with the CornerStone since 1981 (Joni and I went to Italy under their auspices) and having served as board Chair since 1991 (hence 18 years), I resigned.  This past weekend was my final board meeting.  What a weekend.

As I wrapped up our meeting yesterday, I told the board members once again something I’ve said many times: “CornerStone is nothing like anything else I’ve ever experienced.”  From the first time Joni and I met with the board as they considered us for service in Italy to Saturday’s final meeting, that sentiment holds rock solid.  I told them that I don’t have adequate words to describe my sense about this group, but let me try.

I think that it comes as close to pure Christian community as anything I’ve ever experienced.  The CornerStone is a mission organization.  We receive candidates, screen them and send them to various fields of ministry.  CornerStone is tiny by comparison to the better-known mission organizations, but we have staff on five continents and in some of the most “on the ground” places in the world.  Many of the ministries combine acts of mercy (medical work, orphanages, working with AIDS children) with sharing the Gospel.  Every board meeting we receive reports from our missionaries and the stories are always touching and convicting.  (See www.cornerstoneinternational.org.)

This description sounds pretty much like any mission organization any of us knows.  It’s the community.  In large part because we’re small (our board numbers less than 15), everything is personal.  We share our hearts with one another.  We pray with and for one another.  We look each other straight in the face and speak hard truth sometimes.  And underneath it all there is a fundamental conviction that each person is a trusted and valued member of the group, a brother/sister in Christ.

A couple of the members of the board talked about how I had helped them and the organization grow up.  (We’ve gone through a couple of major changes in the past fifteen or so years.)  At least, that is what I understood them to be saying.  But when I look at the years and how I changed because of associating with them, it’s really the other way around.  That community of expatriate Christians in Italy helped me to become a pastor.  I was just a kid trying to follow Jesus and they – in part because of circumstance – took me in.  When the organization was floundering, I became the board Chair.  In so many respects, CornerStone helped to draw out and develop my leadership gifts.

I will forever be in their debt.

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July 13, 2009 Posted by | Religion | 3 Comments

Getting Used to the New Place

Well, I’m now in my second day of work at my new place of employment.  What a week it has been.

First, I miss my family, I miss my wife (and now, let’s all sing, “Rocket man, rocket man”) and I miss my friends in Winfield.  Second, I’m already starting to feel at home among my new colleagues and in the new work environment.  Third, moving into a new residence after living fourteen years in the old one is just plain weird.

For several reasons, I’m here in Texas weeks in advance of Joni and virtually all our furniture.  The sellers of our new place graciously agreed to be my landlords for two or three months while we get our place sold and our daughter married.  So, Monday morning, June 29, I climbed into my little red Chevy Colorado, loaded with books, files, clothes, toiletries and a mattress and box spring across the top of the truck bed, all covered with a gray plastic Wal Mart tarp and bristling with ropes and bungy cords holding everything in place.  Oh yes, I had my guitar behind the seat and two more boxes of files.  I have to admit, when I drove into my new neighborhood and pulled up in front of the new “home,” I was imagining the Beverly Hillbillies.

By the way, my new “house” is on the fourth floor of a twenty-two story (I think) high rise.  I park in the parking garage and take the elevator to my “house.”  We have a gorgeous view of downtown Dallas, which is about 6 miles to the south.  I can drive to work in about 7-8 minutes.  If traffic is really heavy and I hit the lights wrong, it can take 10 or 11.  I love it.

I’ve learned a couple of things about our new place already.  First, the chandelier in the dining room is really, really low.  The first night, I came out of the kitchen with my head down (stupid) and clunked right into the chandelier.  I really made the thing swing. The second night in the new place, I came out of the kitchen with my head down and…well, I shouldn’t repeat myself.  When I go in the bathroom, I’m still feeling around to find the light switch.  When I go into any room, I’m still feeling around to find the light switch.

First day on the job, I get a parking ticket.  I thought I parked where the Park ‘N Pony desk clerk instructed.  I even had a campus map!  I now know where to park.  Went to my first meeting of the Student Affairs division.  Good people, I can tell.  Yesterday was the first of several orientation sessions for new students, acronym AARO.  I sat at lunch table with new kids and parents and told them I’m a new kid, too.  The student leaders taught us some of the SMU spirit routines – the fight song, etc.  Pony up!

Ah, my references!  At dinner yesterday evening, I kept referring to Southwestern College in the present tense, as if I still worked there.  Awkward.

In spite of the intensity of concentration the simplest of acts takes right now, I’m amazed and thankful for how smooth the transition has been so far: from the sellers of our new home who are willing to be landlords for a few months while we sell our Kansas house (ergo we only have to move once), to my new staff on the SMU campus welcoming me with open arms, to my new boss and colleagues who are helping me feel like I belong.  As the logistics of the move begin ever so slightly to recede, I find myself thinking about beginning to put my hands on the plow, about next Monday’s meeting with my staff, about ministry.  The juices are starting to flow!

July 2, 2009 Posted by | Religion | 2 Comments