Tag Archives: Accountability

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…

Frozen

frozenA few weeks ago, the beautiful rolling hills of the North Carolina foothills were blessed with snow.  Not the two to four inches predicted by our spot on Meteorologists, but eight wonderfully fluffy fun filled inches of the white stuff.  And while some folks probably spit from utter frustration, the fact that it was a Saturday and we hadn’t seen the frozen crystals in a while made for some authentic excitement.

So what did we do in response to our icy gift?  I had always been taught work before play so we got out the snow shovels and went about carving paths through the driveway until we had the pavement cleared enough for the sun to take over.  Next was fun time!

Our daughter and son-in-law had taken our granddaughter to “reintroduce” her to the frozen fun. None of us had sleds so I pulled out a boogie board from the garage as a makeshift sled.  We proceeded to pull little Crystal up and down their driveway.  Meanwhile, Grandma got momentarily blessed with a spark of childhood and fell backwards into the snow, making inanimate snow angels in the yard.  During this flurry of activity, the cell phones were out in number, recording these events.  I had my phone camera at the ready as well and was capturing different snow scenes when I snapped the one reflected above.

The snow laden statue in its’ current state seemed too familiar.  Of course this WAS our statue, named after our daughter, Alison, in our own yard, but there was something else.  I’ve seen people throughout the years look exactly like this and I have experienced it myself.  But it wasn’t snow weighing heavy upon their shoulders; it was layers of burdens.  For just like that statue, sometimes we get so “snowed under” with the very burdens of life, we are frozen in place from fear, grief, pain, worry, doubt, addictions, sin and/or despair.  And just like that statue, sometimes we allow the burdens to become so great and we get buried under to the point of not being about to see clearly or hear distinctly.

Of course our mouth is still unhindered and we find ourselves uttering all kinds of cursing and exclamations as we furiously shake our fists at the sky and declare, “I didn’t deserve this!”  “Why me Lord?” “Why am I being tested like this?” “Why did God allow this to happen to such a nice person?”  I’m afraid I am short on answers but here’s a question for you…why not?  If you are human (and I bet every one of you reading this actually is), you WILL have a mixed nut variety of good times and bad times that stirred together, add up to…well…life.

God didn’t promise anyone an easy life or even another hour; He only promised that He would be there with us in the midst of the good times AND the bad times.  I think the following may sound familiar to most of you:  The 23rd Psalm (NIV) says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Somewhere along the lines, I think we may have forgotten that God truly is our heavenly Father and we need to lean on Him totally, giving all of our burdens to Him and trusting that He is ALWAYS looking out for our good, not for our wants necessarily but our needs.  Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) reflects, “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

When we truly give our burdens to God, you can practically feel the weight lifted from your shoulders.  Relief melts away the fear and dread of our burdens as we allow Him winter-sunto put life back into its’ proper perspective.  There’s an old hymn chorus that reads, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” (Trust and Obey by John H. Sammis, 1887) One of the verses says, “Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, but His smile quickly drives it away; not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear, can abide while we trust and obey.  Such truth in this refrain!  For even when the storm clouds of life seem to linger, we know the sun is still shining and burns away the doubt clouds of our hearts.

So the next time you get hit alongside of your head with a snowstorm of worries and you find your joints beginning to cease up from fear, just remember that God is as close as your next heartbeat and the whispered plea from a sincere soul.  He can melt your doubts and give you direction as long as you trust…and obey…

alison-no-snow

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Ephesians 3:16-18 (NLT)

“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 20:20 (NLT)

A Little Bummed in Bethlehem

nativity-retro

As Christmas once again approaches, you can almost feel the anticipation in the air along with perhaps panic, dread and impending doom on the part of those last minute procrastinators.  It is the time of year when the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the holiday beckon you once again to experience Christmases past.  For lying dormant in the souls of adults is their inner child anxious to burst forth and once more relive the Christmas magic of their childhood, even if some of the memories were less than memorable.

When I was very young, my family lived in an old clapboard house, the back of which faced the massive black railroad trestle that spanned the Hocking River which we lovingly called the “Black Bridge”.  The house was small for a family of seven and had no running water.  One coal stove sat in the middle of the living room and served as the heating source for the entire structure, even though it more than fell short to heat the “boy’s room”.  Every year a few weeks before Christmas, our mom would ask her kids to write a letter to Santa and list what we would like for Christmas.  Being the youngest of six children, I would need assistance in drafting this “special” letter.  After our letters were complete, we would put the “messages of hope” into the coal stove so that the smoke and sparks would lift the special delivery upwards and straight to the North Pole…at least that’s what our Mom and older siblings would tell us.  We knew the true meaning of Christmas was the birth of the Christ child but Santa had to be real too…right?

One year, my sister Jennifer and I had finished making our lists and had just tossed them in our version of Santa’s mailbox when Jennifer exclaimed, “They’re just burning up!!  They aren’t going to Santa!  There’s no such thing as Santa Claus!!”  I sheepishly looked around the room as the others tried to assure my bratty bigger sister that there really WAS a Santa Claus; meanwhile, a sinking feeling hit the pit of my stomach as the possible realization set in…bummer.  I found out later that Santa indeed had a distribution center in town at Maurer’s Five and Dime; Mom would go there every week to give them a little money to secure our gifts and make sure Santa still brought our toys…sounded like extortion but I played along…

Fast forward just a few years and we had really moved up in the world.  When I was around eight, my parents bought a house that actually had running water and flushable toilets!  There were three of us kids left at home and our Christmas traditions continued.  Glitter dusted pine cones suspended by red satin ribbons adorned the front door.  The pungent aroma of pine filled the air as pine sprigs decorated the mantle of our oversized fireplace.  The Christmas tree was decked out in fine garland, multicolored lights and ornaments before being embellished with thin strands of silvery icicles which clung to everything but the tree.

It was during this time that I got a little savvier about the gifts under the tree.  I knew surprises would eventually show up on Christmas Eve but I just KNEW what some of those presents already nestled under the tree were.  The dreaded socks and underwear…bummer!  Our family had Christmas on Christmas Eve each year and we would gather in the living room and turn the overhead lights on which were only to be used for special occasions.  When it came my turn to open gifts, I would try my best to find and open the lowliest of gifts; socks, underwear and a fresh pair of flannel pajamas first to get them out of the way.  The pajamas would last until early spring when there would be holes worn in the knees and the legs would then be cut off to make “spring” pajamas.  Don’t get me wrong, I did appreciate my parents’ efforts but I wanted the FUN stuff and besides, I could pull the end of my socks out and tuck them under my feet to avoid the toe holes and to make them last a little longer, right?

Let’s go back a couple thousand years to a little town called Bethlehem where the Christ child was born.  Sure, there were shepherds wowed by angels and later, wise men mesmerized by a star, and of course Mary experiencing not only the miracle of birth but bringing forth the savior of the world?!  That would surely be something to celebrate but yet there were others milling around that just didn’t have the same mind set and enthusiasm.  You see the Jews were awaiting their promised Messiah, the one that would bring an army of angels and completely annihilate their enemies.  They wanted a super action figure that would raise his mighty sword and smite their opponents but instead, what they received was a tiny little swaddler that couldn’t raise his own head, let alone an impressive rapier.  They wanted the latest and greatest toy and ended up with their version of…well…socks and underwear…bummer.  And so they systematically tossed their hope and salvation aside like some unwanted gift and walked away.  They rejected the perfect gift of God, what they really needed and had prayed for; instead of embracing this priceless gift of Love, they nailed it to a rough hewn wooden cross…

As I have gotten older, hopefully I’ve gotten a little wiser.  Sure, I’m still like a kid at Christmas time.  And we all want something cool, exciting, different and stimulating in life as well.  We want to ignore the mundane and go straight for the latest and greatest, the flashiest and finest.  But life isn’t as much about the flash as it is about the gift of the everyday and ordinary moments, the trials and the learning times that God puts in our lives to make us stronger and better for Him.  Here’s an example of what I am talking about.  Earlier in the year, I somehow injured my lower back which really compromised my day to day activities.  I finally sought out and found a good chiropractor who began my treatments back to eventual health.  I had been deaf in my right ear for approximately fifteen years prior to this treatment from Meniere’s disease.  Through the neck manipulations as part of his treatment protocols, the nerves going to my ears were stimulated to the point of causing a sixty-seven percent restoration of my hearing in my right ear.  With the use of a hearing aid, I now have complete use of my “deaf” ear once again.  Some may call this a “happy accident” but I call it God working in our everyday to bring good from a bad situation; my “socks and underwear” moment became a gift of restoration and thanksgiving.

Just something to think about as we head into Christmas week.  So what do you say?  Isn’t it time we appreciate the gift of life, love, family and memories this Christmas?  How about giving the gift of time to spend with a loved one, you know the gift of your presence?  Oh, and by the way…I’m sure we have kept the tradition alive and well in our family for I know for a fact that our granddaughter has some pretty pairs of Paw Patrol panties and sport socks in her stocking…

James 1:17–Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Oldies But Goodies

Hour glassSometimes it’s good to just take a look back at your life and what you have gone through and/or what you have accomplished so you can properly appreciate where you are now or perhaps make life adjustments as you continue on down life’s road.  That’s probably why Throw Back Thursdays are so popular; you get to see snippets of your own or someone else’s past in pictures.  Sometimes those snapshots take you right back to where you were, what song might have been playing, or who you were with.  At times, however, it could just be one big old embarrassing blast from the past that you would just as soon forget about.

I have been going through some of the older blog posts I had posted over the past couple of years.  Reflected below are ten that may make you smile, grimace or even ponder…enjoy!

Getting High and Loving It
Heads Up!
Illuminate Us O Lord
Living The Trashy Life
Lookie What I Did!
Perfect Imperfections
Squirrel!!
Sshhh…Listen
Trapped in an Antique Mall
Well, That’s Not Fair!!

Awakening

Sunrise

Have you ever had something bad happen to you but in the end, became a blessing in disguise?  We may all have had such occurrences that we just chock up to a “happy accident” or perhaps a strange coincidence.  Such was the case in a rather recent adventure I’ve been on.

Somehow, sometime around two months ago, I injured my lower back.  Who knows how I did it but my lower back suddenly screamed for attention and was relentless in getting its’ own way.  I made an appointment with the doctor and he said basically to “take it easy” and if it got worse, he would prescribe something for the pain.  I went home wishing I could put the doctor in a little pain.  Finding my medical professional to be less than helpful, I thought I would try a different approach and asked my daughter if she knew a good chiropractor in the area.  After polling her friends, she gave me a couple of suggestions and I landed on one that seemed to be pretty reputable.  Having no prior experience with a chiropractor, I knew this would be a memorable experience.

I went for my first appointment where they poked, prodded, measured and x-rayed this not so perfect specimen of a body and announced they could help me with the pain along with my out of alignment situation and a few other “since you are getter older” scenarios.  The next appointment, the chiropractor began the vertebrae manipulations along with electrical stimulation for the back.  After about a week, the lower back started to feel better; after two weeks, something else started going on.

One of the areas he was working on was the C2 vertebra that was a little kinked.  During every visit as a course of treatment, he would have me lie on my back while he maneuvered my neck followed by a quick pause and a subsequent cracking sound as he jerked my neck this way or that.  (I still subconsciously check my extremities for paralysis after that manipulation).

I have been totally deaf on my right side for the past fifteen years due to Meniere’s disease which I mentioned in my blog post, “Sshhh…Listen”.  A couple of weeks after the neck manipulations began, I noticed when I used a cotton swab in my right ear there was a slight sensory response.  I didn’t think anything about it until it became more pronounced the next time and I also thought I could hear a little something from time to time.  It got to the point where I was convinced I could actually start hearing a little from my right ear and made an appointment for a hearing test.  Sure enough, I was at fifty-two percent or better and eligible for a hearing aid to make up the difference.  You see, my auditory nerves were in a dormant state until the vertebrae manipulations began to stimulate the nerves and made them active once again!  WOW, talk about a two-fer!  I had a sound back AND my hearing restored?!  All it took was the right stimulation to awaken what I thought was permanently dead!

This experience made me think about our spiritual lives.  So many people today are walking around either spiritually dead or sleep walking while wasting the time God has given them to be the best for Him.  And instead of Meniere’s disease causing their deafness, it is sin in their lives that deadens the sound of His “still small voice”.  We get so caught up in our own wants that we block out anything or anyone else that goes against our wishes.  So what do we do?  What kind of stimulus do we need to wake us up from this ungodly slumber we seem to be in?  I have an idea; open your eyes and look all around you!  We are living in the last days folks and all you have to do is turn on the news to see what’s going on.  This world and our country are in a complete political and social upheaval. Recently, there was even news of an after school program called “Satan Club” aimed at elementary aged children and teaches freedom and fun as an alternative to Christian superstition and paranoia.  Does this sound any alarms to you?

Isn’t it time we stop playing church and be the church, set apart to be God’s people not entertainers?  Shouldn’t we be used by God as tools to proclaim the gospel as it actually is reflected in the bible instead of dictating to what people think they want to hear?  Yep, I’m sounding kind of preachy but I think we will be held accountable for taking the non-offensive approach to the gospel instead of doing what is right. By the way, on August 17th I get my hearing aid so I can once again hear life in the full and in stereo!  Isn’t it time to awaken from your slumber so YOU can fully hear what God has in store for you?

Mark 4:9 (NASB) — And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Revelation 3:1-3 (NIV) — To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Mirror, Mirror

mirrorSometimes when I’m driving around our neighborhood, it seems like everyone has disappeared even though I know someone has to be home because their cars are in the driveway and the lights are on.  We seem to be an antisocial society anymore; “won’t you be my neighbor” appears to have been replaced by “I’m busy, what do you want?”  We truly seem to be living in a “ME” driven world and have equipped our cocoons with everything to entertain and tantalize.  We have everything from cable to the internet to our very precious cell phones to keep us occupied.  It even seems like we have replaced the window glass in our homes with mirrors so we can concentrate on all of “OUR” wants and needs; forget anyone else including, at times, other family members.

What’s reflected below was primarily written for all of us as a wake up call, to heed the warning and change the priorities of our lives; God first, others second, and finally ourselves on the tail end.  Who knows; we may just get a different perspective on life standing in the back of the line looking forward…

2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NLT)  You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times.  For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.  They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.  They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.

Mirror, Mirror

By Stephen R. Wilson

One more selfie, one last tweet

A glance at Facebook before I leave,

I’m dressed to impress with a killer smile

It’s all about me and my impeccable style.

I’m off to my career, I’m highly degreed

They are lucky to have me and my pedigree,

Even though I’m just starting, I demand a high pay

Entitlement is my game and I know how to play.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Who’s the fairest of them all,

I would think it must be me

For my face is the only one I see.

My parents call but have no time for such stuff

I may call them next week if they have any luck,

They said they were concerned and would pray for me

I would rather they leave me alone and let me be.

I don’t have time for Jesus or make believe

I’m doing just fine, just being me,

What would my friends think if I changed my view?

They love me the way I am and I do too.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Who’s the smartest of them all,

I used to be backward and so naïve

I proved them all wrong just look at me!

My new apartment is something to see

It has every amenity, fits me to a T,

All of this room and it’s only just me

Until I find that someone and give them a key.

Suddenly a shout and a trumpet sounds

My whole world shakes and comes crashing down,

I cry Lord, Lord save me please

“I never knew you” was the response I received.

Mirror, mirror smashed on the ground

Fragments of myself just lying around,

 I feel so lost and so very afraid

I traded my soul for a selfish charade.