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Monday, August 13, 2018

Why?


I found myself sitting on the floor next to the front door one day last week going through a stack of photos.  I was hoping to find a suitable picture to add to the blog post I had written earlier in the day.  The photos were from a box that our daughter had complied from various family snapshots from the middle to late 1990’s.  As I glanced at the prints I began to recollect the many vacations, family outings, holidays, school events and extended family gatherings that the pictures documented.

With a sudden tearing up and an emotional jolt, I also thought about how that time seemed to be when my wife Piper was in the midst of her prime years!  That thought brought with it a wide range of emotions in me.  I went from sadness to anger and everywhere in-between within a very short period of time. 

I’ve been able to keep pretty good control over my physical emotions during this extremely difficult period of time that began with her initial brain scans in Oklahoma back in 2007, but on that day, it was like everything hit the fan at once… and the only thing I could utter was “WHY?”

But before condemnation could overtake me with concerns over the few negative things that were said about our family as we struggled to get a handle on Piper’s health needs, I suddenly had the revelation of how out of touch those comments really were as the Lord showed all the positive things that my lovely wife has accomplished in her life.  And I saw in an instant what the Lord was trying to get me to understand.  He was leading me into the place of peace so that I could dwell on the dreams, plans and desires that were accomplished instead of what might not be.  I realized that our relationship with God and with each other enabled Piper to pursue and realize the majority of her deepest desires and dreams.

Piper always wanted a big family that could grow up in a Christian home filled with love and encouragement.  One where the siblings could grow up with strong loving relationships with minimal squabbling and maximum care for each other.  She was diligently aware of the atmosphere in our home throughout the years.  She was quick to encourage and even quicker to lift up unified praise. 

One of her greatest dreams was to homeschool our kids and she was undaunted in pursuing this desire, even when society and extended family looked at her like she was from outer space when she gleamingly talked about it.  She went out of her way to research the process and then seek and find the best resources for our kids… even when finances where tight. 

She was relentless in staying up to date on the best curriculums available (which were rather limited when we first began in the early 1980’s) and in preparing and developing her own particular style of hands-on teaching in bringing the best experience to our kids that she could develop.  She turned just about EVERY activity at home, at church, at the store and on vacation into a fun-filled, practical learning experience.

I’ve written on many occasions how Piper was adamantly committed to her personal walk with the Lord.  It wasn’t just something she did… it was who she was!  There was no way you could separate the two.  When you squeezed her (which I’ve done a lot...), the love of Jesus always came out!  I remember her praying and confessing one day years ago, that we would always live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood… and we always have!

She liked cars and enjoyed driving ones with wide tires and chrome rims… and you know… except for an old Mazda that a fellow student gave to us while attending Bible School in Oklahoma… every car that she called hers over the 48 years of our relationship has met that heart desire.

She enjoyed being in ministry leadership and has done so in every church we’ve attended and/or served and in doing so has touched the hearts and lives of multiple generations of children and youth.  We’ve got to travel around the country attending various ministry training seminars and conventions and have attended the meetings of many well-known evangelists and Bible teachers.

We’ve also been able to take our kids out to the mountains and seaside in order to experience the pleasures of God’s handiwork first hand through camping and later RV vacations that the kids still talk about today.

I think one of the biggest things that my wife can write on her life’s resume, is that the word “CAN’T” was NOT a part of our regularly used vocabulary!  As we learned to take our place in life in relationship to the ever-increasing knowledge of who the Word of God says we are in Christ, we learned to “plunge into the promises” of God and “come up strong, ready for God.” (Romans 4:20 MSG)

Our relationship with each other in communion with our ever-increasing and growing personal relationship with Papa God has always allowed Piper to be all that she has desired to be.  I can remember watching conversations between her and other Mom’s at meetings for our Homeschool group when they were discussing the possibilities of some new project or event for the students and see the incredulous look on the other Mom’s faces when Piper would simply, with a big smile on her face, reply to their words of impossibility with a hearty… “Why not?  We can do that!”

I can honestly say that I have never tried to hold her back… Okay… maybe one time when she wanted to get a bright, fire-engine red Suburban, and I thought that all that red was too much!  You have to understand that she had been praying for a Suburban for years and I felt it was too big! 

But as usual, her prayers won over and the Lord broke through my thick head and showed me that with four kids, a trailer and Piper’s desire to take all the kids in the neighborhood to church with us… that the Suburban was the only vehicle that would work for us!   So, when the Lord made a financial way for us to get one we did… with the one compromise… a green truck over the red!

So… like I said early on… The successes of Piper’s life up to now have FAR exceeded the “What could be” in the future.  Piper and I have always strived to focus on God’s abilities and not our own.  She has lived her life to please the Lord and in doing so been a fantastic blessing to me, our kids and just about everyone else that her life has touched.

So… looking back to the other day… I really have NOTHING to feel sad or angry about.  My sweet wife has lived a good life.  She has had the pleasure of accomplishing almost everything that is dear to her heart… and who knows what the future has to offer.  She may continue on to accomplish many more activities that originate in her heart’s desire and are fulfilled through prayer, praise and determination… or move on to her greatest heart’s desire and go home to be with the One she has faithfully served every single moment of her life since walking that church aisle at eight years of age… to accept Him as her personal Savior and Lord.

Therefore… Instead of getting angry or sad… I choose to REJOICE for I've had a part in that wonderful life!  Isn’t God good!

Have a great week ahead, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to do for Papa God with my life today?”

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Honor and Respect!


I have always sought to honor my wife.  From the seemingly little things like opening car doors for her, making sure her needs are met before others, seeking her advice, and keeping an open line of communication with her, to the importance of making sure that she never feels left out of conversations when we are with other people.  I’ve also attempted to never talk negatively about her… even in jest… in private to others or when in public like at work, church, in the neighborhood or at extended family gatherings.  As far as I am concerned, my wife and our family’s private business is just that… private!  If I have a problem with my wife or family I will gently go to them with my concerns.

I have been around too many people that I have worked with, church member’s or extended family members who will joke about and belittle their spouses when gathered with others and to be honest, it actually hurts me to witness this, for I would consider it to be very disrespectful. 

Now that my wife can no-longer care for herself and verbally communicate with others, I have found myself putting aside my own desires and humbling myself in the face of some distasteful things… simply because I have chosen to continually respect and honor her in the knowledge of how she would have lovingly handled the negative situations.  In the long run… it is worth it because she is worth it to me!

Romans 4:20-21 as translated in the God’s Word translation, also got me to thinking about honor and respect when it comes to following the directions that Papa God gives to us as we seek Him in the affairs of our daily lives.  I was kind of thinking about this out loud a few hours ago as my wife and I were on our weekly pilgrimage to our local Super Walmart for groceries.  This scripture says that “He (Abraham) didn't doubt God's promise out of a lack of faith. Instead, giving honor to God for the promise, he became strong because of faith and was absolutely confident that God would do what he promised.” 

Most Bible versions like the King James say “giving glory to God” but a quick reference to the original Greek will explain that the term “In the New Testament always (speaks of) a good opinion concerning someone resulting in praise, honor and glory.” (Thayer’s)  So, from what I can deduce, the thought of giving honor to God” is very apropos in its usage here. 

When I first read this yesterday, I was struck with the revelation that by taking the time to seek out God’s will in His Word for any particular situation in your life and then taking the corresponding actions in faith to release the power of God into your need, you are in effect… according to this scriptureHONORING God!  But the more I thought about it on the winding road through the deep green tobacco fields on the way to town today, I realized that this is only the first step!

The real test of one’s commitment, respect and honor to God comes when you hit the bumps in the road along the way to the manifestation of your answered prayer, that want to shake your stand of faith!  For us it was a few good meaning (I hope) folks who did their best to dissuade us from obeying God.  For others it might be what you are physically seeing before you that is contrary to the end effect you’re believing for or a lack of finances, or ill health or… anything that tries to get your eyes off the prize that God has promised you in His Word.

What I began to see today was that the commitment to seek and then follow God’s plan in order to trust in Him for His provision was like when Piper and I said “I Do” some 43 years ago!  We made a commitment or contract with each other back then that we have always taken most seriously and aim to NEVER break!  In my way of thinking, it is the same as when I step out in faith that is founded on a living Word based agreement with God.

When the pressures come, I have a decision to make.  Will I honor my commitment or contract with God or… honor the person or thing that is putting pressure on me to give up and let go of God’s promise?  I also had the thought that once I make that contract with God, the rest is in His hands.  Therefore, when I choose Him over someone or something else, the outside party has to deal directly with Him! 

You see at that point, I am taken out of the equation and whatever the person(s) or things that come against me may say or do in retaliation to my not agreeing with them is, in actuality, between them and God!  And that frees me from any negative emotions that I might have otherwise felt and have to deal with!

Hummm… what do you think?  The more I investigate the scriptures, the more I see in the “fine print” at the bottom of the commitments or contracts I make with God when it comes to acting on His Word!  He always has my back… and yours as well!

Praise God!  Have a terrific weekend, and as you do, keep telling yourself… “That I am expecting Papa God to always have my back when I step out in faith that is firmly based on the truth of His Word!”

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Taking the Plunge!


While I was out-front mowing the front lawn on the riding mower yesterday, in the 100+ degree weather, I found myself thinking about… JOY!  But it is not what you’re probably thinking… I was actually enjoying myself, even with the perspiration draining down my forehead into my eyes!  Call me crazy, but I have always enjoyed working outside in the heat.  That’s probably one reason I have had a side business mowing lawns and tending to yards on and off again since I was in Jr High.

Yesterday, I was just happy to be outside as it had been raining for almost two weeks and the sunshine was a happy place to be!  And speaking of happy places… as I rumbled up and down our large expanse of lawn… with a smile on my face… I couldn’t help but continually glance up to our covered porch where my wife was sitting comfortably in the shade overseeing my progress.  Looking at her reminded me of how she has always had the uncanny ability to turn almost any task into a joy-filled experience.

It seemed that our house was always a beehive of activity and noise when our kids were growing up.  And being as Piper homeschooled them through high school, they were around a lot and with it followed the serendipity of laughter, music, praise, singing, running and lots of loud talking!  Wow!  Do I miss a that!

Back on the lawn mower I thought about the typical scene in our kitchen.  The four children helping with the meal prep with one cutting up veggies, another stirring something in a pot on the stove, a third setting the table and the forth diligently following the instructions from the cookbook set before them on the kitchen counter and in the middle of all this… was my happy wife directing it all with the finesse of an orchestra conductor! 

Then of course, skirting in and out of the crowd would be me as I gave a hand, checked on the BBQ on the patio right outside the family room door or grabbed Piper or one of the girls and danced them in-between all the bodies crammed in the kitchen space!  Through it all I can’t hardly think of ONE time when Piper would get upset about anything in the midst of all the organized chaos!  She just has an infectious joy about her.

I really think that Piper LOOKED for reasons and opportunities to be joyful throughout each and every day… and it all started with her personal devotion to the Word, prayer and the many faith projects that we pursued on almost a continual basis during our dating and then on into our marriage.

I caught a whiff of the fragrance of that same idea as I read Romans 4:19-20 from the Message Bible earlier this morning.  Speaking of Abraham’s phenomenal faith, Paul writes… as translated in this very modern paraphrase of the Bible… that “Abraham didn't focus on his own impotence and say, ‘It's hopeless’… He didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said.” 


The thought of PLUNGING into the promise” and coming back “up strong and ‘READY’ for God” really reached out and grabbed ahold of my imagination!  All I could say was “BINGO!” and stomp my foot as I sat at the table this morning… I think I even shook up the dog who was sleeping comfortably under my feet when I had that reaction!

I had the almost immediate revelation that the various steps of faith that we’ve taken along the road of life… and especially lately… have filled us with expectation and given us something of JOY to look at and depend on… instead of at the situation we were believing by faith to change.

 I think that this was one of the big take-aways from our three-year experience in Oklahoma with Bible College and being totally saturated in God’s Word!  When we came back to California we were READY!  We knew that we had a battle on our hands with the preliminary findings on Piper’s health needs and were excited to PLUNGE into God’s promises and then stand READY and expectant for God’s moving in our behalf!

It's exactly like one of my favorite stories of Piper unexpectantly PLUNGING into the frigid snow melt waters of Little Jamison Creek at Plumas Eureka State Park to the complete amazement and awe of all the kids and myself and then splashing up READY for any other challenge that we might send her way! 

As we began to PLUNGE into the different steps of faith that we believed Papa God was instructing us to take, not everyone around us had that same focus and commitment.  But you know, that didn’t matter!  We were desperate enough to PLUNGE into God’s promises with every morsel of expectation that we could muster!  We dove into the river of faith and came up READY for God.  We focused our attention on God’s promises and I might add JOYFULLY, looked for God, anticipated Him, and expected His move in whatever usual or unusual manner He Might choose!

With our focus on Him and His Word we found the way to have JOY even in the midst of some of the hardest moments in our lives.  And as an added benefit, His JOY has given us the strength to keep going during all the ups and downs of this adventure in faith! (See: Nehemiah 8:10)

So, what would YOU rather have?  Joy or impotence?  Joy comes when you focus your attention and actions on the Word… Impotence comes when you focus your attention on all the things that seem impossible within the scope of your own resources or abilities or even with the limited means and ways of the world in which we live.  According to our scripture, Abraham choose to NOT focus on His own impotence but instead to PLUNGE head first into God’s promises and come up READY for whatever action God provided! 

I like the God kind of action… how about you?

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “In what or in whom am I expecting to PLUNGE my faith into today?”

Friday, August 3, 2018

Take it Easy… on yourself!


With Piper turning sixty-five (can you believe that!) in a couple of weeks, I’ve been busy working on getting her set up for her senior medical care insurance.  I was familiar with the process as I had studied out the various options available about six months ago when I prepared for my own admission into the coveted Medicare Card Club!  Piper’s though, was to be a little different since she is on Hospice care.  Medicare covers the Hospice expenses in entirety so we didn’t need a supplemental care policy like I have, but would most likely need a prescription drug plan.

Since she has one particular prescription that she takes twice a day which cost over $1700.00 for a thirty-day supply, I figured a Rx plan would be a good addition!  So, with that all acquired and ready to go at the beginning of this month, we met with Piper’s Hospice Social Worker and her case nurse on Tuesday to take her off Hospice care under the old insurance policy and then sign her back up with Medicare.

We’ve worked quite closely with both of these two individuals over the last year and they are like family to us!  They’ve always given Piper the best of care with great compassion, love and dignity and have listened to me on many occasions as I’ve opened up my heart strings to them.  As the nurse was giving Piper a thorough exam and the Social Worker and I were going over all the new paperwork, I shared with them that at times I feel so helpless when Piper is having a rough day like she had that morning.

Those feelings of helplessness and the uncertainty of my doing my utmost best for her also at times, enters into my faith life when it comes to our stand of faith for Piper’s healing.  There are times that I question my own faith as well as my own spiritual, physical and emotional strength when it comes to my commitment to what we mutually agreed upon back in 2007 as our stand on God’s Word… no matter what the physical circumstances may be exhibiting at the moment. 

I get angry when doubt and unbelief knock at my door and I tend to be my own worse critic!  I tell myself that “I can do better!” and that “I will not entertain thoughts different than what we are believing for.” That “the strong man of faith that I desire to be would not give in but always be strong like the great men and women of our faith were in Bible times!”

But you know?  That’s a hard standard to set for oneself… especially when you begin to see in the Word that the “strong” men and women of faith chronicled in the Bible went through many of the exact same things that you and I face!  I’ve been looking at one of the references to Abraham’s faith as captured in the book of Romans chapter 4, verses 18-22 just before turning out the lights at night the last two days and when I studied it out this morning, I was amazed to see some common threads between Abraham and me… REALLY!  Abraham and Jim… Abraham and YOU!

I won’t copy all the verses here, but it would be good if you read the story in your own Bibles!  I’ve always remembered this verse as translated in the King James Version but I caught a different look from quite a few other translations that state:

“And without being weakened in faith he (Abraham) considered his own body now as good as dead (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, looking unto the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” (Romans 4:19-21 ASV)

Some translations including the King James place a “not” following the word “considered” but when you read the context of all the different versions, they are all actually making the same point.  The American Standard and many of the newer versions just seemed to make the point exceptionally clear to me!  As I read that the other night I had to stop and sit up in bed as I spoke aloud my thoughts saying, “He considered the physical facts of his situation… he acknowledged them… he most likely had to fight negative thoughts of helplessness and doubt… and yet kept focused on the promise of God and did not waiver!”

Wow!  That is the exact same reactions that I’ve had to face over the last ten years!  Wow!  Abraham the great father of our faith had to fight the same things I do!  Romans 4:20 in the English Standard Version relates that when faced with the difficult thoughts that attacked him, “he grew strong in his faith…”  This tells me that it was very personal to him!  The previous verse in the God’s Word translation tells us that “Through faith he regarded the facts…”

Abraham looked at the facts every day – just like you and I do.  He probably had people around him telling him to give up and let go or that what he was doing wasn’t going to work, or that he needed to follow their advice in order for what he was believing for to happen… but he did what he believed God was telling him to do!  Abraham depended on his own faith and as one of my favorite versions of this story in The Message Bible says: “didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. (but) He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God…”

Well, I want you to know that seeing how our Christian forefathers operated within the scope of their faith has made me to see that my personal struggles are not something unique or even a sign of weakness or defeat… but a normal process that every sincere and God-seeking Christian has and most likely will go through as they walk in this world with Jesus at their side!

How about you?  Where do you fit in with this story?  I think that at times my worse enemy is myself… but then I take a look at Romans 8:1-2 and I feel a whole lot better about me!  Take a look at those verses when you need some relief from personally induced condemnation!

Have a great weekend as you walk victoriously through the trials and tribulations that attempt to block the pathways you take in your daily life.  And as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to live my life like the great men and women of our faith did?” (and if so… then… What’s the problem?  Go easy on yourselves!!!)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

It Ain't Easy!


I have to admit that when Piper and I embarked upon this commitment of faith for her good health back in late 2007, I NEVER expected it to be as hard and long an ordeal as it has grown into today!  Talk about a roller coaster ride!  This adventure in faith has taken more twists, turns and wild downward spirals than that first old wooden rollercoaster that I rode as a kid that scared the bejeebers out of me and kept me off rollercoasters until I was well into my mid-twenties!

On the upward side though, this rollercoaster ride has taken many more positive turns than negative!  And even though doom and gloom was predicted for us as we began to take steps of faith, we’ve learned to stay the path, to look beyond those in disagreement with our steps and keep our eyes on the prize of what we continue to believe that Papa God and His Word has promised to Piper and I.

But let me be perfectly honest here… It ain’t easy!  There are times (like today…) when I suddenly gave into the pressure building up inside and tossed the syringe I was using to help Piper partake of her breakfast across the room!  And let me tell you… right afterwards I felt like a complete fool, as the dog jumped up and looked at me like I was crazy… and I was left with chocolate over-spray across the floor and nearby wall!  A real man of faith… right? 

Well, thank God that I have also come to experience Him over these last ten plus years to be full of mercy and grace.  We have a little wooden plaque that one of Piper’s pre-school students gave to her back when she was a teacher at the First Presbyterian Pre-School when we were first married, that hangs in a prominent place in the living room and continually reminds us that “Faith makes things possible… not easy!”

Later today, after the helping-my-wife-eat-breakfast episode, I was reviewing my Bible Study notes from yesterday and was reminded that I had been studying a portion of scripture in Proverbs 3:3-4.  Through the King James Version, the writer encourages us to, “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.” 

This is a promise that I have depended on throughout this whole ordeal that we find ourselves in the midst of.  It seems like there are always new doctors (which I just found out that our Hospice team is seeking, even as I sit at my laptop right now!), new procedures, insurance questions and changes, new caregivers and on and on… but through it all, we have continued to remind the Lord of His promise of favor and at almost every turn the doors have been opened wide!

As I looked up some of the original Hebrew meanings to many of the major words in these verses, I took special note that the word translated “truth” in most Bible versions actually means “Stability, firmness, sureness and continuance.” (Strong’s and Brown-Driver-Briggs)  In the Greek it symbolizes a “conviction of truth – which in the New Testament is defined as a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things.” (Thayer’s)

Those definitions got me to thinking!  I realized that the writer was not just referring to God’s Word as being the truth, but was also pointing to our need to stay firm, sure and convicted to that truth while it works its way in whatever stand of faith we purposely find ourselves pursuing!

So… as I stood splashing cold water on my face at the bathroom sink after trying to help Piper eat more of her breakfast without much success, it was of utmost importance that I NOT give in to all the discouragement that was raging within my head and NOT say anything EXCEPT what the Word of God says about what Piper and I are standing for!  And once again… Let me say… It ain’t easy… but at times like this, all I can AFFORD to do is to set aside what I might be thinking, or feeling, or desperately wanting, and focus in on Papa God and His promises to me and Piper!

After all, my fresh look at Hebrews 11:1 this morning pointed out the fact that “Faith is the substance of things hoped (or expected) for…”  To which Thayer’s Greek Definitions declared the meaning of “substance” to be “that which has actual existence!”

Do you get it?  This verse is telling us that the thing that Piper and I are believing for… her healing which is promised to us in the Wordactually exists!  It is out there… RIGHT NOW… in heavenly places and is just getting ready to be manifested in the natural realm!  So, even though we can’t see it right now… IT DOES EXIST through our faith!  Whoa!

What do you think about that?  With that kind of promise I have everything I need to put aside the desires to give in and give up and stand true and strong with our commitment to Papa God and His Word!  It may not always be easy… but it is well worth the effort! 

What would you do?

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What stand of faith is actually existing for me right now!?”

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Fertile Imagination!


I have always had a fertile imagination!  I would think that this is probably why I love to write.  When we took our placement tests for Junior College, I was immediately placed in English 1A and did not have to take any prerequisites to the class that was required for graduation.  And as you’d most likely guess, I enrolled in the one class that was mainly designed for people who loved to write… and write we did, all semester long!  It was a great class! 

After a six-year hiatus from college, I returned to school and attended what is considered to be a very liberal school at Sonoma State University (hey… it was close to home and we had a baby on the way!).  Once enrolled I was able to hone and expand my literary skills by writing numerous research papers for my adolescent and family psychology classes that centered around my (not very popular… I might add) beliefs on the Christian family as an alternative lifestyle!  After two years at that school with many written and oral discussions (some times a bit heated…) I graduated from college with a 4.0 and a firmer commitment to my faith than I had ever had up to that point in my life! 

I think the greatest perk of being an Assistant to six different Pastors over the thirty plus years of ministry, is that I was able to employ my writing skills and allow my IMAGINATION to soar through the countless youth and children’s programs I wrote for weekly classes, retreats, special programs, puppet skits, all church events and outreaches in the city.

Piper and I always enjoyed going to youth and childrens leader’s conferences, curriculum fairs and special events where we would pick up reams of books, papers, tapes, CD’s and DVD’s of programs from which we could pull information and then customize it or re-create it to fit the specific and unique needs of the individuals and/or community to whom we ministered to.

But in order to make it work, I discovered early on that I had to develop and gain a good working knowledge, along with a personal understanding and the trust of the group that I was unleashing my IMAGINATION on!  Without that personal understanding and knowledge of and trust from the group, my imaginative programs might have actually ended up doing more harm to the group than good.

Philippians 4:7 tells us of the results of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who refuse to give into the temptation of worry and wholly yield themselves to Papa God and the truth of His Word in the midst of all the various situations in their lives.  Here Paul writes, “Then God's peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.” (God’s Word ©) 

Thayer’s Greek Definitions describes the word “imagine” or “understanding” as used in the King James Version, as “the mind, comprising alike the faculties of perceiving and understanding and those of feeling, judging, determining.”  Our IMAGINATIONS can be a very wonderful and enriching part of the experience of our lives… but it can also be a very destructive force as well! 

Over the years, and especially the last ten or so, I’ve come to learn that the positive or negative influences of our IMAGINATIONS in and over our lives, all depends upon the source from which one allows their imagination to flow from.

For me it has become very simple.  It is either one way or another… I really don’t think that there is any gray area in this decision.  I can choose to hook up my imagination to falsity and fear or to the truth of God and His Word.  Piper and I have personally experienced the results of fear-based accusations that arose from a trust in false information and it was like nothing that I’ve had to endure in the past.  I now find myself having to make daily decisions that force me to differentiate between what I see before my eyes verses what I believe to be the contrary truth that I find in the Word of God. 

Where do I hook up that fertile imagination of mine?  Do I let it run wild with the fear of death that is facing me on an ever-increasing measure each day or allow it to flow unfettered as it explores the peaceful, expectant and joy-filled love of the promises of God that I don’t YET see before me?

Well, like Joshua in the Old Testament, I choose the truth of His life… for Piper and I made the decision a long time ago to serve the Lord and the ultimate truth in His Word. And on the other hand, not to trust the falsity of the world that does its best in attempting to feed our thoughts with worry, anxiety and any other lies that we’ll agree to!  (See Joshua 24:14-16)  The Voice translation of the Bible puts this thought into modern vernacular by simply encouraging us to Entertain no worry…” (Philippians 4:6)

What do you think?  To What or to Whom is your IMAGINATION hooked up to?

Have a great week!  And as you do, keep asking yourself… What am I expecting to IMAGINE today??

Friday, July 27, 2018

Adventures in Faith!


I was looking at a couple of pictures of my wife earlier today and I realized that they were taken exactly ten years apart!  Both portraits were taken at her parent’s house, one outside on their old deck, the other in front of their book shelf/desk area in the living room.  In the first picture Piper was nineteen and in the second, twenty-nine.  As a teen she was sitting on the edge of the deck on a cold winter day wearing a heavy long sleeve wool sweater… over her bathing suit!  Ten years later she is holding our second child in her arms and is sporting her soon-to-become signature long sleeve cotton shirt and green dress slacks.

In the younger picture, we had been dating for almost three years and she is wearing my high school ring on her left hand and has a locket that I had given to her hanging from her neck that contained pictures of the two of us.  In her older version she is wearing a diamond with a white gold set on that same left hand and I’m not sure if she is wearing the locket under her shirt or not… but as of today… she is still wearing the same wedding set and the locket is safe and secure in one of her two jewelry boxes on her dresser!

Looking at the two pictures* taken some ten years apart caused me to go down memory lane thinking about many of the varied experiences we had together during that ten-year span, as well as those over the thirty-five years since the later picture was taken.  Many of our experiences were just plain fun times, while some were, as we’ve come to call them, “Adventures in Faith.” 

There were some financial struggles along the way, the ups and down of family life with four kids being homeschooled, ministry highlights and challenges, a great multiplicity of wonderful experiences with the kids in the Redwood Forests of northern California or the mountain tops in the eastern Sierras near the Nevada border, and the super-special two-night holidays with my sweetie at lodges along the California coast.

I was telling two of our kids who are both on vacation at this time, that I have so many fond memories of our family vacations together… and that I was a little bit jealous of their being on camping adventures with their families!  I also mentioned that one of my favorite times while camping was quietly sneaking out of the tent… without tripping over someone’s sleeping bag… firing up the camp stove and perking coffee, while sitting alone in the campground with my Bible before most people in the campground had begun to stir for the day!

I wonder if that is what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote about the people in chapter six verse five that had “experienced the goodness of God's word and the powers of the world to come?” (God's Word ©)  Who knows… the writer himself might have been sitting in front of a campfire somewhere in Israel with pen… or quill… in hand when this book was written!

The word “goodness” in the original Greek gives the image of something that is “heartfelt, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable and admirable.”  It describes something that is “excellent in its nature and characteristics and therefore well adapted to its ends.” (Thayer’s)  That’s a lot of good qualities isn’t it! 

Think about that for a moment.  Every time you study the Word of God and take the time for it to speak to your heart in a special and personal way… and then take steps of faith based on that scripture, you are putting all those wonderful characteristics to work on and into the midst of your particular situation.  You are letting go and letting God take control!  And that is exactly when “God's peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 God's Word ©)

As I looked at those two pictures of my lovely wife earlier today, I also began to consider the chronology of our walk of faith from one of our first faith projects with the purchase of a 1977 Datsun 280Z, to quitting Sears to go full-time with my photography business, apartment managing and Youth Ministry, to having kids, to buying our first home… and the list goes on and on! 

It's fun to see how our faith has grown over the years from those early days taking portraits of my girlfriend for school projects in the early seventies, to pictures with our kids and lately, with moves all over the country!  I find that as my knowledge of God and His Word increases, so do the “faith adventures” that Piper and I embark on!  I like having Him in the middle of my world!  How about you?

Have a wonderful weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting my ‘faith adventures’ to grow in quantity and quality… in pace with my personal interactions with God and His Word?”

*Both of the pictures are posted with a bunch of others on our blog page.  Take a peek!  pjberruto.blogspot.com/