Category Archives: Christianity

Entering the New Year With Hope

Someone once stated, “Men plan, God laughs” and looking back at your previous year, perhaps you can relate!  My wife and I sure have had our share of trials at times these past few years; a couple of those trials even followed us into the following New Year.  And while some folks are busily jotting down their New Year’s resolutions and planning every week for the next year, others are facing the upcoming new year AND new decade with the “same stuff, different year” philosophy.  But just for an instant, a brief moment in time, if you look at your new calendar just right, you’ll see it; a blank slate, an empty page, a blossoming hope for better days ahead.

Sure, I’ve been one of those resolution driven individuals who would charge into the New Year touting remarks like, “I will strive to eat better” or “I will endeavor to exercise more consistently and get in better shape” or even “I will attempt to be the best version of myself”…whatever that means? Without some thought, planning and preparation, many jump into these resolutions and burn themselves out after only a couple of weeks.  I’ve touted the first two “resolutions” and reflected below is a sampling of my personal experiences.

A few years (or so) ago, my wife and I joined Weight Watchers to shed some weight and generally feel better.  I was doing pretty well, getting into the groove of eating certain foods that was considered healthy and, being a creature of habit, ate these same foods on a regular basis.  On one occasion at our WW group meeting, I had a particularly good weight loss week, and so I was encouraged to share what I had been doing.  Being rather proud of myself and that week’s accomplishments, I proceeded to share with the group what I routinely ate for breakfast.  There were audible gasps throughout the group and I thought the one lady in the third row was going to pass out right there; it seems what I thought was normal and healthy for me had exceeded 98% of the group member’s point total for half the day!  “You must have great metabolism” they said…whatever…

The other activity I would dabble in at times was exercise.  As those of you who know me can attest, I’m not exactly the poster child for Mr. Olympia.  However, exercise is the catalyst that helps me lose weight and keeps my health in check.  I remember one particular early morning, dragging my carcass into the local YMCA to work out before work.  I always began my morning routine warming up, most of the time on the Elliptical machine.  As luck would have it that morning, the only machine open was beside the most perfect specimen of a human being.  I’m pretty sure that he turned his machine on the “MEGA MACHO” setting for his sixty minutes of pure bliss, complete with a dumb bell in one hand, a power drink in the other, while pouring over a book in front of him.  If he did sweat, I’m sure the one drop that dribbled down the side of his head smelled like Irish Spring.  I, on the other hand, turned my machine on the desired setting of “NINJA TURTLE”.  After five minutes on the machine, I appeared to have just completed an ice bucket challenge, for sweat was pouring from every pore.  I swear I was getting stares like, “you ARE going to clean that area up, aren’t you?”…yeah, whatever…

Many times in our lives, we are railroaded into believing a misplaced opinion or criticism and it, well, gets us off track from meeting our goals, resolutions and/or dreams until they are never realized; they never come to fruition.  We have to be determined to focus on the prize before us, to block out all outside negative influences if we want to see our hopes and dreams become a certainty.  But here’s another train of thought; what if your goal/dream/hope was only a selfish want that should never have been realized anyway?  What if that goal you’re spending so much time and energy attempting to birth is out of line with your needs or the needs of your family; more importantly, what if it’s directly out of line with God’s will for your life?

The hymnist, William Mote, penned the first few lines of his beloved hymn, The Solid Rock, which reflects how we must align our hopes, dreams and goals. “My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”  Once our hopes are based on God’s will and not our own, the future becomes so much brighter and a lot less scary.  For if we truly believe everything we see, hear and read in the media, social media and print, from impeachment proceedings to rampant crime statistics, hope would scarcely be found.  It’s only when we completely rely on God’s will for our lives, does our future shine with the brilliant hope of tomorrow and eternity; for even death itself doesn’t have the fatal sting when we are one of His own.  Romans 8:23-25 states, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Yep, we can hold on to the hope of something greater one day; but for now, we have to be patient AND obedient to the will of our loving Heavenly Father.

Just one more thing to consider; we all go through different seasons in our lives.  Just as storms come and go, even though the storm may be severe at the time, they eventually blow over and the sun shines once more.  So it is with the situation you currently face; God may not remove the storm clouds from your life, but he’s definitely there beside you to walk with you through the storm.  What a comforting thought that reinforces our hope for tomorrow as we step into a new year AND a new decade!So, what does your new year look like?  Are you already frazzled from all the upcoming self-proclaimed goals, resolutions and deadlines you have laid out for yourself or are you going to listen and act based on God’s will for your life?  My goal for this next year is to strive to nestle closer to the One who knows me best and loves me most.  And perhaps my hope is to dismantle this annex I’ve built over time on to God’s temple; I know that is my physician’s hope as well…

Loyalty Binds Me

crown enhanced

This past fall and winter, an unfortunate series of circumstances occurred which resulted in a couple of necessary surgeries.  Without going into gruesome details, let’s just say the whole experience didn’t sit very well with me.

While recuperating in the weeks that followed, I started reading the Kingfountain series, which is a set of nine books written by Jeff Wheeler and which came highly recommended by a friend of mine.  The fictional series reflected a medieval time, complete with lords and ladies, good and evil, heroes and villains, and of course, kings and queens.  Well written and full of twists and turns, it was an easy task to devour one book after another.  But there was one common thread that bound the series; one united mindset that set the hero aside from all the others.  It was a profound thought, a vow turned lifestyle, an utterance and motto in which the hero and others like him wholeheartedly lived and yes, ultimately died declaring…”Loyalty Binds Me”.

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word “loyalty” as: implying a faithfulness that is steadfast in the face of any temptation to renounce, desert, or betray.  One definition of the dictionary also describes the word “binds” as: to make a firm commitment for.  Together, these two words combine to form an impenetrable covenant.  Owen, the consummate hero in the series, takes this oath so seriously that he risks his own life to overthrow the evil king he serves under in order to ensure the rightful heir is secured as king of Ceredigion.

Back in the present day, the here and now, commonly called reality, we don’t hear so much about loyalty any more.  In fact, we seem to see a lot of just the opposite; a mindset of disloyalty or unfaithfulness has unfortunately become commonplace.  Whether one is disloyal to one’s job, spouse, church, friends, country or even God,  the attitude of being disloyal or unfaithful can turn a life, marriage, business and/or community completely up…side…down.  You could argue that your workplace does not support you, that your spouse doesn’t attempt to communicate or understand you, that if God really loved us, He wouldn’t allow bad things to happen to good people or any of the other situations just mentioned.  Once the seed of unfaithfulness and doubt is planted, it can and often times does yield a harvest full of heartache and regret.  For once you are familiar with unfaithfulness in one area of your life, it becomes easier to allow it to seep into ALL areas of your life.

We all, at times, question the validity of the difficult situations we face.  It is in those times, we want to rush forward and take matters into our own hands, making rash decisions as opposed to just hunkering down to pray and wait; wait for the solution to present itself, for the door of opportunity to open, for the green light to proceed to the next season in our life, to hear His still small voice inside saying, “trust in Me, believe in Me, I have this…let go, trust and obey”.

The poem reflected below describes the cement that loyalty creates, binding together the areas of your life that show the cracks and wear of the everyday life.  Simply stated, regardless of the challenging areas of your life—never give up!

 

 

Loyalty Binds Me

Always working behind the eight ball, wading through this day of stress

The stack of work never seems to lessen, my calendar’s a mess,

But I have to pause and thank the Lord that He gave this job to me

So I can use my God given abilities, to provide for my family.

You see loyalty binds me to the place I work with all its’ ups and downs

They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, I must be muscle bound,

But I’ll be faithful to my place of work until the time to move on has come

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, tempting as it is for some.

∞∞

Harsh words were used, doors were slammed, hurt feelings lying on the floor

Our relationship’s in shambles, I don’t know if I can take it anymore,

What has happened, where was the breakdown, how did we end up in such a mess?

My love for you has been waning but it’s both our faults I guess.

But loyalty binds me, my hope realigns me to know our love is true

Though difficulties come, I’m pressing on to faithfully see us through,

So let’s keep striving, not just surviving to build a solid marital core

I can’t wait, till we again embrace and say those words, I love you more.

∞∞

Here I am Lord, once again Lord, pleading deep inside

I haven’t heard your voice for so long it seems and my doubts begin to rise,

I know you are the great I AM, and I am one of the least of these

So forgive me for my impatience but please listen to my pleas.

I know I’ve caused a lot of pain in life by my own cursed hands

By not trusting in You and not waiting on you, building on sinking sands,

But I believe in You still and always will, I’m asking for a second chance

Please don’t give up on me, love and forgive me please, restore our great romance.

For loyalty binds me, your Love realigns me to the place where you want me to be

By faith I know, You are there even though at times I cannot hear you or see,

My hope is in you, my very salvation too, you are my provider of comfort and peace

Yeshua I pray, be my champion always, my Redeemer, my Savior, my Priest.

Yes, Your grace is what binds me, your mercy positions me to a place of perfect peace

Only Your love alone will lead me on until one day my last breath will cease,

Until that day comes, I must tarry on and be obedient to do my Father’s will

To push towards that prize, until I open my eyes and see your radiant face, oh what a thrill!

The Christmas Box

Christmas box

The holidays are once again upon us and all of the old memories come flooding back as we place precious moments, cleverly disguised as Christmas ornaments, so very carefully on the twinkling light laden evergreen.  Some memories bring a smile to the face as you reflect back on a different time, perhaps a long forgotten place; the memory, once lying dormant, nestled deep in the recesses of the mind until a sight, smell or event once again revives the remembrance in vivid details.  Thus is the case when I see a candy orange slice or old fashioned hard candy.

I grew up in the sleepy town of Nelsonville Ohio, tucked in the Hocking Hills of Zaleski State forest.  My family went to the Church of the Nazarene on Adams Street where my spiritual foundation was birthed.  The church itself was a blonde block split level building with stairs both leading up to the sanctuary and downward to the Sunday school classrooms.  The windows in the sanctuary were all made of stained glass with names of those who donated to the building of the church, etched in the bottom of each window.  Back behind the pulpit and the choir loft was a very large, round stained glass window with what appeared to be curious and perhaps mischievous cherubim peeking out from and around puffy white and gray clouds. Those same angelic faces also gave many a child an impressive fright as they seemed to stare and follow your gaze if you dared to look too long.

Our family mostly went to Sunday school and seldom attended church unless there was a special speaker or possibly a visiting missionary.  The exception came during the Christmas season.  Every year, I would be involved in the children’s Christmas program in some way, whether it be a small bible verse to say or, as I got a little older, a speaking part in the Christmas pageant.  And every year I would fuss and fret over my insignificant part, not wanting to go up in front of “those people”; the congregation which looked to me as scary as the angels in the windows.

There was only one thing that kept my eye on getting through this hideous, inescapable ordeal; the Christmas box.  You see, on the Sunday before Christmas after the pageant was over and everyone was dismissed from the service, everyone received a treat box.  I know Mary and Joseph had the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh presented to them by the Magi but we had the treat box and piece of fruit, which seemed of equal value, given to us by the big guys, men from the church that seemed to tower over us kids and would many times have to stoop down to hand us our treasures.

Unable to curb our enthusiasm and curiosity, as soon as we clambered into the back of the car, my siblings and I removed the scotch tape that bound the box and carefully opened the lid, like a treasure hunter investigating his discovery.  Aside from the choice of a Red Delicious apple or navel orange, the box contained an assortment of incredible edibles that would sure to satisfy the taste buds for days to come. Coconut bonbons, peanut clusters, chocolate drops, walnuts, sugar coated orange slices would greet you as you opened the box as well as an assortment of old fashioned hard candies which made up the majority of the candied treasure chest.  My favorite was the raspberry hard candy that was filled with a juicy center and would burst in your mouth as you clamped down.

I would always choose the Red Delicious apple which I could quickly devour and toss the core.  My sister, Jennifer however, always chose the navel orange as we headed down the church steps and to the awaiting car.  Jennifer didn’t just eat the orange; it seemed she held a ceremony for it as she celebrated the citrus in her hands.  Jennifer would carefully lay out a paper towel and peel the orange rind, piece by piece until her orb resembled a raggedy softball.  Then she would separate the orange segments and isolate just one, where she would slowly and painstakingly remove all of the membrane until the orange nectar was exposed.  She would then stick half of the orange segment into her mouth, close her eyes and bite down, orange juice running out of her mouth and down her chin.  At times, there would be a soft moan of gratification and the process would repeat itself until the fruit was completely gone; it was as exciting to watch as watching paint dry…

As I look back on those times and reminisce, I have to smile and shake my head, for something as small and insignificant as a treat box in an adult’s mind, was so special and anticipated in a child’s.  But I also have to shake my head at us adults, who constantly need to be reminded of what the true meaning of Christmas actually is; that Hope was born on Christmas Day and the possibility now exists for us to live eternally with and for the One who gave His life so we may never truly die.  Like the child of my past, anxiously waiting for that treat box, we need to daily wait with great excitement and anticipation what blessings our Lord has for us as well as what service, task and/or ministry He needs for us to carry out.

As I entered adulthood with all the different responsibilities it entails, I was able to take part in ordering the contents and filling the treat boxes for that same local church.  I learned that we had far fewer chocolates in the box as opposed to hard candies because of cost and that it really was a financial struggle for the church to continue providing the fruit for the congregation.  But I also knew that everyone involved felt it was well worth sacrificing from another line item area to ensure everyone had a special treat in their hand.  And nothing else felt more rewarding at the time than bending down and handing a special treasure, the Christmas box, to a child who had just performed their heart out for a very gracious loving congregation…

Thought of the Day–5/20/18

Thought of the Day—    Gift of God, freely given

Receiving mercy

Accepting Christ as savior

Christ centered life

Experiencing unmerited favor

Thought of the Day–5/4/18

Thought of the Day—God wants to clear away all the unnecessary clutter in our lives so we can concentrate on what is really important in life; serving Him.  Just resist the temptation to start dumpster diving after what was just slam dunked into the old dumpster…