Category Archives: Hope

Staged

Staged

Note From the Author:  Even though this piece was written over five years ago, I don’t think it’s relevance can be overlooked.  Life is full of change; some of which is fully embraced and other change, not so much.  If you are familiar with obedience under the Lordship of Christ, you are quite aware that life change is inevitable as God transitions us from where we are to where we need to be…enjoy the journey!

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word TRANSITION is: passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another: change. Transition is an important part of life and can be both exciting and scary simultaneously.  If we are fortunate enough to live for any length of time, we will go through many “transitions” through our lifetime; from childhood to adulthood, from student to teacher, and if we are truly blessed, from child to parent to grandparent.  As for my wife and me, we are soon transitioning into the grandparent mode.

What makes this transition even more “fun” is the fact we decided to make a physical move to another state which involves my finding other employment.  Since we both have felt a great sense of urgency for some time to make this move, the Saturday after Christmas was a complete tear down, inside and out, of anything that screamed Christmas and/or wasn’t necessary to keep around for the “staging” of the house to prepare it for market.  The word stage seems so innocent but packs a punch as anything that makes a house a home disappears as every room is “staged” to highlight the positive attributes and accentuate the room size as well as to minimize any negative or problem areas.  What was once our safe refuge, our haven of rest has quickly become a sterile model home.

At the same time, my resume has been updated and polished so as to gain the “WOW” factor.  I guess you could say I’ve also been “staged” as I look for employment.

We all try to stage ourselves from time to time, to mask the “real” us from the prying eyes of the public or the hearts of those we love, or even God.  Just ask how someone is doing and you’ll probably have a four letter “F” word flung at you so quick, you’d think a fast ball was thrown at your head.  “FINE!” they would say while deep inside, they were far from it; for inside their hearts the rooms weren’t swept, the beds weren’t made and there was half eaten pizza tossed on the counter top.  It is so easy for clutter to accumulate in the recesses of our soul; but instead of dirty floors it may be resentment, and instead of unmade beds it could be betrayal, and instead of that stone cold stiff piece of pizza it might just be unbridled anger eating away at the peace you so desperately need.

But fortunately for us, Jesus is in the renovation business and he loves fixer uppers.  Jesus doesn’t want us to wait until we are perfect (which we’ll never be in this world) to come to Him, He wants us just as we are; a broken down shack full of cracked walls, leaky pipes, uneven floors and drafty windows.  God wants to make our hearts His home but we have to give Him the permit to do a remodel on us.  And don’t think this will be a painless process; there will definitely be some pain involved as our “stuff” is thrown in the trash bin and walls are blown out to make room for perhaps more love and compassion.

While we allow God to change our hearts and minds, He knows we are a work in progress and it takes time.  Only God knows how much change we can actually take at one time but one thing is certain.  God isn’t “staging” us to impress anyone else.  He IS changing us into what we were meant to be in the first place…an object of His affection.

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ              Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

Thought of the Day

Thought of the Day–It’s February 29th: a good reminder that even time needs an adjustment every four years. Who are we, as simple humans to resist God’s desire to make adjustments in our lives? For He loves us enough to want to correct and discipline, so we might become more like Him.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

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…

Finding the Thanks in Thanksgiving

laughter

Every season seems to evoke its’ own set of memories which reflects perhaps that same time of year so many years ago or possibly a not so distant past. For many, the Thanksgiving holiday triggers the feeling of warmth, of family, of pumpkin spice and football games, of fun and food and thankfulness. Unfortunately, however, this holiday has often times been reduced to a well-worn speed bump, as folks rush toward the Christmas holiday; just a Black Friday Eve, a commercial high jump into the commercially charged holiday season.

As a kid, growing up in my parent’s house in SE Ohio, Thanksgiving was an unwritten commitment on the calendar, an assumption made that if mom was cooking, you had better be on your death bed rather than miss Thanksgiving dinner! I never really thought too much about being thankful during this time, unless you count being thankful when the event was finally over; when the last sheet of saran wrap was finally snapped off the roll and carefully wrapped over and around the last dish of left overs. It seemed to me to be a very stress filled time, consisting of a whirlwind of activities, all culminating into one feast laden smorgasbord laid out in the middle of a large table surrounded by elbow to elbow humans, passing around dishes of delicacies and plates of plenty with the intricacy and synchronicity of a well-choreographed dance. But I digress; let me take you with me to a time when life seemed simpler and mislaid worries of a young lad was unwarranted and unnecessary.

The Thanksgiving season in Ohio varies from year to year in regards to what type of moisture falls from the sky but there remains one constant; gray skies. Like dove gray colored cotton batting that hung over the surrounding countryside, possibly for the next several months to come, the gloomy gray heavens seemed to blend with the browns and tans of the bare trees and dead leaves dispersed throughout the landscape. Often times, the cool crisp breezes were accompanied by an occasional flake of snow, dancing and floating lazily downward. Inside the house looking out the front window, the desolate scene was made complete by the condensation hugging the single pane windows, giving an official nod to the chilling temperatures outside.

The turkey made its’ appearance a couple days in advance as it hung around in the refrigerator until the lifeless carcass was deemed thoroughly thawed. The night before Thanksgiving, mom would lay out several pieces of bread so they could grow stale (dry out), to be used in the dressing the next day. Mom made two types of dressing: regular sage dressing with celery, egg and other ingredients and the other, the same sage dressing enhanced with oysters. I always interrogated mom regarding which was the “enhanced” dressing, lest I get hold of a slimy surprise within my portion of goodness. Very early on Thanksgiving morning, mom would get up, prepare the dressings and proceed to have her way with the celebrated bird, cleaning it and giving it a little dance before filling the cavity with dressing, providing a deep tissue Oleo massage, seasoning the ample fowl and throwing it in the oven. It always struck me with a sense of wonderment how mom could actually create such a feast with a regular four burner electric stove with a two rack oven. All I knew was that it smelled really good, while I was content to lie on the living room floor, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

The time for the feast finally arrived with the presentation of turkey, dressings, mashed potatoes, candied yams, rolls, cranberry sauce (canned of course, shaken out of the silver vessel into a crystal bowl and sliced evenly with a butter knife no less), green beans, corn, sweet gherkins and deviled eggs. After a request was made on who wanted what to drink, everyone filed in around the wood grain laminate table, capable of extending out with not one but two leaves, depending on the crowd for that year. There was an unofficial seating chart or more like pecking order that ensued; Dad at the head of the table, mom on one side of him so she could get up and down to meet the needs of guests, older siblings and their spouses or friends filled in from eldest to youngest until all of the high backed, vinyl green floral print chairs were filled. The overflow landed at the “kid’s table”. Being the youngest of six, I was very familiar with the kid’s table. In fact, after I got married and we had a child of our own, we would at times, find ourselves back at the kid’s table, with knees touching the bottom of the table top! Before we ate, we always said a corporate prayer that we had adopted as our family prayer; “God is great, God is good and we thank Him for our food. By His goodness all are fed, give us Lord our daily bread. Amen”.

After the meal was finished and the desserts were handed out, (pumpkin pie was the staple dessert followed by some kind of cake) folks would start migrating to other rooms. The men would naturally gravitate to the living room to watch the game but would ultimately end up snoring like bears in a den. That left the daughters and daughter-in-laws to perform a visual game of rock-paper-scissors to see who would wash and dry the large stack of dirty dishes. Mom was exempt of course, since she prepared the feast. After that, it was an afternoon of playing table games (five hundred rummy, dominoes and Aggravation being the favorites), talking and perhaps taking a walk if the weather permitted until finally, the leftovers were divvied out and the families left, one by one.

You may be asking yourself why I would go into such details to describe an event that took place so long ago and the answer is quite simple. It’s to remind you of what’s important, to trigger similar memories and experiences of your very own and to think once again upon the many blessings God has bestowed on you these past however many years. We take so much for granted, that those we love so much and hold so dear to our hearts will always be with us, but that isn’t necessarily true. We need to learn to appreciate each moment more, whether it be just a regular day or something pretty spectacular with those around us, to cherish the sound of a giggling child or the wisdom wrapped up and presented to you by a dear old friend or loved one. Thanksgiving is not all about the food, football games or how clean your house is; rather it’s about counting your blessings and allowing these present times to become the blessings you will count tomorrow.

Many changes have occurred since we once sat around that old table. Beloved faces no longer grace us with their presence; so many family members have scattered across this great land of ours. But one thing still remains; Love. The love we have for one another binds us through both the times of celebration and those moments of grief. God’s greatest blessings are all around us if we only take the time to look. And the act of being thankful is to be exercised every day, not just on one holiday. This year, take the time to find the “thanks” in Thanksgiving. Try looking around your own table of family and friends; breathe a prayer of thanksgiving to God for your own many blessings, both big and small.

Family Thanksgiving

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!

Jennifer’s Ashes

Today marks the end of the Thought of the Day.  One year ago today, I started to post these on my blog post. These “Thought of the Day” statements were created for my sister, Jennifer, to attempt to temporarily get her mind off of her daily struggle with stage four melanoma; I would call and leave them on her answering machine or text them to her.  I hope you have enjoyed reading these thoughts as I have felt these were God inspired and it was my privilege to be the presenter of God’s “thought provokers”.  Reflected below is a final tribute I wrote for my sister, Jennifer…may God richly bless your lives and may you truly appreciate every heartbeat of life…

 

Jennifers headstone 2

 

Jennifer’s Ashes

Gone are the happy go lucky days

Where days went on forever and forever we played,

When I had your back and you had mine

We were just siblings, but how our lives intertwined.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Wishing I could somehow turn back time,

Back to when you were healthy and happy

Back to the days when laughter chimed.

 

You taught me to drive and I pulled you through hell

From the torture of Algebra, we worked through it well,

I must confess, I teased you too much

But you got me back with your screams and your pouts.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Wishing I could be anywhere else,

My head knows you’re gone but my heart’s in denial

Time heals all wounds but I still have an aching pulse.

 

We both grew up and became adults

We both had families and bills and the lot,

And even though we didn’t see each other very often

We made up for it, on the phone or in person.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Hating myself for the guilt I feel,

For I’m still alive being healthy and happy

And your life is over, a life gone too soon.

 

Standing here on your birthday, May 23rd

Barely listening to the Pastor, his words scarcely heard,

For my mind continues to wander and I kind of worry

That this date will be forever stamped with a bittersweet memory.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

I’d rather be celebrating with you still alive,

You often stated that your birthdate meant time for spring planting

But none of us knew just how your words would now be implied.

 

I know your soul rejoices for where you reside now

Among the angels and the Son of God,

Please be patient with me big little sister

As I try to cope with placing your remains beneath the sod.

 

And now I’m leaving behind Jennifer’s ashes

Moving ahead with the rest of my life,

Yearning for the day when I once again get to see her

Where the heavenly realms is flooded by God’s Holy light.

Jennifer 1958 2

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–5/13/18

Thought of the Day—If you want to attempt to fathom God’s great love for us, first study the great unselfish love of a mother for her children…