Our New Home

Our New Home
I love all the summer greenery around our home!

Friday, January 29, 2016

"Man Up!" - La, La Land or Optimism?


The American Heritage College Dictionary defines an optimist as “One who usually expects a favorable outcome,” while the WordNet 3.0 Thesaurus adds “A person disposed to take a favorable view of things.”  I think that this description would adequately describe my wife and I.  I would imagine that it was one of the things that brought us together back in High School.  It was and still is very enjoyable and rewarding to have a partner in life that always seems to have a positive and encouraging outlook on just about everything!  I also think that this is one characteristic that has set us apart from many within each of our individual families!  I know that it has been a point of contention over the years concerning directions that we have pursued.
But it is also one of personal ingredients that get me very excited when I read scriptures like Ephesians 3:10 where the Apostle Paul tells us that Papa God has tagged the Church to be His voice in the world today!  You know, I can’t help but think that Paul was also an optimist when it came to the things of God.  In Ephesians 3:8 he talks of the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” and then in verse ten speaks of His “manifold wisdom.” (KJV)  As you read through Paul’s letters it is easy to pick up his wonder at God’s amazing and limitless abilities as he repeatedly uses multiple descriptive words to define them, like at the end of the same chapter we are currently discussing when he wrote about how God is “able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that ask or think.” Ephesians 3:19 KJV)
In the scriptures mentioned above, Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines “unsearchable” as something “that cannot be searched out or comprehended.”  According to Strong’s, the intent of the original language for the word “manifold” speaks of that which has “great diversity or variety,” while Thayer’s definition of Paul’s use of the word “wisdom” makes it clear that it is a level of wisdom that goes far beyond any worldly understanding and will have answers and directions for every and all needs and situations as well as having answers for ALL of our questions.
Now, with all that in mind, when I look at today’s world situation in the light of God’s planned role for the church to play in bringing history to His intended goal, as stated in Ephesians 3:10-11 in the God’s Word © translation, I do not react in fear and disbelief, but just the opposite… I get VERY EXCITED and EXPECTANT of seeing God move through you and me! 
Now you might be thinking about how this is supposed to happen.  Well, take another look at those two scriptures.  Verse ten speaks of how “through the church, he could let the rulers and authorities in heaven know his infinite wisdom.”  Then the next verse says that it is “carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (God’s Word ©)  That makes it pretty clear that Jesus in cooperation with the church are to be working hand in hand through His wisdom and directions and our actions of faith in Him.  Multiple scriptures throughout the Word like 1 Corinthians 6:15, tell us that we are all part of the body of Christ with Him as the head, and to make it quite simple, the head is now seated in the place of ultimate authority at the right hand of Papa God and His body (ie; you and me) are on the earth doing what He is instructing us to do!
Now if that doesn’t make you optimistic about what is supposed to happen in our world… then I think you’d best go hide somewhere and study His Word until you get it!  When push comes to shove, for this to work as I believe God has it planned, you and I have to come to the point of belief that God’s Word is the strongest, most powerful and wisest force in the world… and that NOTHING can stand before it… or you and I as we walk in the dominion of His kingdom capabilities, as defined in Ephesians 6:10.
Now, let me go back and say that it is the force of faith in Him that has become the foundation of the optimistic attitude that my wife and I have.  That optimism has come under some serious scrutiny over the years… in fact I remember one member of the family once telling me that we lived in a “La, La Land and that this attitude had to stop!”  Well, our faith in Papa God and His Word has only grown since then and that so called “La, La Land” attitude that they described our stand of faith to be has also grown all the more!
What about you?  Are you going to live in the “La, La Land” of indecision, fear, doubt and unbelief that is being projected to us through the world events reported in the newspapers, TV and online… or step out in the optimistic reality of God’s Word and be a mighty part of His plan for history?  Oh, Oh, Oh!  Now I’m really getting excited! 
Think about all this over the weekend, make your decision, get excited and move out in the victorious directions He has for you to pursue… and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s plan am I expecting to be a part of today?”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Man Up!" Follow the Scent


I know that I have made mention on numerous occasions of the Lord’s directive to me about four years back, to saturate my wife with His Word of healing.  So it is one thing that I never miss, first thing in the morning, last thing before she goes to bed and many times inbetween!  In cooperation with this mandate I have also been reading to Piper after our morning and afternoon meals, from a wide variety of Christian teaching books concerning healing, of the power and authority that Christ delegated to Believers, as well as historical narratives of great revivals and revivalist throughout past generations, with whom the anointing of God flowed with great signs and wonders.
One morning quite a few months ago, I heard that small still voice inside of me telling me to re-read the book on the authority of the believer that we were just about to finish.  And since that day, I have heard that same suggestion numerous times as we have moved on to other books of the same nature.  Yesterday I realized as I was in the midst of my morning Bible study time that my wife and I had been reading the same five or six books over and over again for months!  Then as I continued meditating on the book of Ephesians, I realized that Lord has been having us follow a “scent” this whole time!
That got me to thinking about the Diagnosis Murder TV episode that we had watched the previous day.  As the show came to its climax the country Sheriff that the LAPD Police detective was working with called out the county’s Search and Rescue team complete with their blood hounds.  The Police officers had discovered a sweater owned by the deceased victim and gave it to the dogs in order to sniff and pick up the scent.  Then the dogs were off with their trademark bark and bawling as they ran through the forest chasing down the scent… and of course, in the end, they found what they were searching for!
The more I think about it, I’m getting the clear idea that this is exactly what the Lord is speaking about to me… and it is the scent of revival!  Over the last year I have gotten a lot more in tune to the upcoming presidential elections, the individual candidates and the very divergent views on which they stand.  I have also become increasingly aware of all the horrendous things that are happening across the globe.  Without my strong faith and trust in the Lord, I could easily succumb to fear and hopelessness.  And it is that knowledge of His Word, along with faith and trust in the Lord that gives me hope and an earnest expectation of once again seeing the power and anointing of God bringing about a positive conclusion.
But how is that going to happen?  What is going to slow and or stop the rampant flow of unrighteousness, terror and fear… You guessed it… REVIVAL!  But who is going to be revived… Well, the church of course!  That is where it all has to start.  Paul tells us in no uncertain terms when speaking about helping the world to understand the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ, “that NOW – through the church – he (God) could let the rulers and authorities in heaven know his infinite wisdom.” (God’s Word ©)
That’s talking about you and me folks!  As members of the church we have been given a responsibility on this earth… and before Jesus left this earth to assume the highest position in the universe at the right hand of the Father, He conferred on us the authority to complete that mission.  So will we hunker down in anxiety and fear at what we see and read about on almost a daily basis?  Do we just shake our heads in amazement and defeat when our leaders speak of things and then set laws into motion that stand opposite to God’s laws?  I think that answer is pretty evident.  We’ll spend a few more posts going into greater detail about this “scent” of revival that the Lord has been unfolding to me.  But until then, consider what the news is telling you and then consider what God in His unfailing Word says… and decide where you stand… and what you intend to do about it!
Have a great rest of the week and keep asking yourself… “What SCENT am I expecting to follow today?”

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Man Up!" - Keep the Light On


I am happy to report that we made it through the wild winter storm over the weekend!  As expected we did not get much snow, but quite a bit of freezing rain on Friday and Saturday which led to power outages.  The lights in our house clicked off and on during  Friday afternoon and evening and finally went out for good just before ten that night.  They did not to go back on again until Sunday at 1:00 PM.

Those 39 hours without lights and more importantly without heat (with the temperature out on our back deck hovering around 22 degrees the whole time) proved to be quite interesting!  Once again I am thankful that I obeyed that still small voice on the inside of me that prompted me to go back to our local Walmart on Friday morning and purchase a small inside-safe propane heater I had looked at on the previous day.  I am not sure what we would have done without it!

Many things go through your mind during extreme weather induced situations.  We actually had endured a similar but worse situation when we lived in Oklahoma when that ice storm was a lot worse and the power was off for almost three days.  At that time we were living in a home in a new development with very few old trees.  We didn’t notice any of the damage the radio was talking about until we finally braved the conditions to go to church for the midweek service (we knew the church had power and would be warm!).  When we drove out of our neighborhood into the rural surrounding, we were all spell bound as it looked like a bomb had been dropped!  Almost all the old growth trees lining the road had either fallen over or their branches hung at weird angles having cracked on the trees under the weight of the ice!

Needless to say that brought back some concerns as our new home sides and backs up to forested areas.  I could see the ice on the trees and was slightly comforted that it wasn’t anything like the storm of the century that hit us in Oklahoma!  Although I did hear some cracking and popping whenever I went out to check on things.  I am thankful for many things this weekend, one being that we only had a few branches come down and bend our wire fence in the backyard.  Some of our neighbors were not as lucky as there are some large trees and branches down in their front yards.  From what I have observed there is no property damage though.

Besides learning of some items that I will need to purchase since we are out in the country like a generator and a chain saw, I would say that the greatest lessons I learned through this experience were thankfulness and the faithfulness of God.  Sunday morning was probably the greatest test of all.  My cell phone was almost out of juice and we were down to three canisters of propane.  The propane concerned me the most as we weren’t slated to have our power on until late the next evening!

On the positive side, I awoke on Sunday with the sudden revelation that I could charge my cell phone through the battery on my laptop which still had a couple of hours of charge on it!  (Oh yea… the other item to purchase was a car charger for the phone!)  So the first thing I did was to plug it in and get it up from 10% power to 60% before the computer was down to 10%.  Another thought that popped into my head as I was getting ready for the day was from Philippians 4:6 where it states “Never worry about anything.  But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks.” (God’s Word ©)

That encouragement came back to me later while I was brewing up some coffee on one of our camp stoves.  I was praying at the time and was telling Papa God that I was very concerned for my wife and my ability to care for her with supplies looking like they were running out.  Once His encouraging words wafted up to me like the fragrance of the coffee percolating next to me (I think I finally learned how to make a good cup of camp coffee after ALL my years of camping experiences!), I felt an instant covering of His peace.  So without any further ado I got on my knees and prayed that the power would go back on that day… and I followed it throughout the next few hours with lots of heartfelt verbal thanksgiving.

Well, since I am also a proponent of doing all that we can in the natural while standing in faith, my wife and I hopped into the car after breakfast (Sunday ended up being clear and sunny – got all the way up to 37 degrees - and our driveway and the road were clear and dry!) and headed into town.  As I was expecting, there was no propane to be found but did pick up a car charger for the phone and a couple of candy bars.  It was also nice to walk in the sun and let it warm the cold I was beginning to feel down to my bones! 

Even though we couldn’t get the propane I still had an uncanny peace as we drove through the beautiful countryside on the way home.  Then when we pulled up to our driveway and began to turn in, I saw it and began to shout and rejoice!  Up on the front porch, the light was on!  I tell you, I felt like a little kid as I kept tapping Piper on her lap and saying… “The porch light is on!  The porch light is on!”  Two thoughts came immediately to mind.  The first was the faithfulness of God to His Word and our obedience and faith to it… and Tom Bodett’s, the spokesman for the Motel Six chain, famous closing line on their commercials: “We’ll leave the light on!”

You Know… with God, His light is always on!  We all go through times that stretch us, test us, maybe shake us a little, and build our faith all at the same time.  The key though is our looking to and depending on Him.  For when we come to God with our needs “in prayers and requests – WHILE GIVING THANKS…”  we will experience His peace and faithfulness to His Word – EVERYTIME!  And once again, I am living proof of this!  I bet you are as well!

Think on that as you face this new week.  Keep focused on Him and keep asking yourself… When, Why and What experiences am I expecting to bring to Him in prayers and requests – while giving thanks – today?”

Friday, January 22, 2016

"Man Up!" - How Others See Us


As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my wife and I had been actively involved in church leadership for over thirty years.  All the churches that I served in as Assistant or Associate Pastor over the areas of Student Ministries and Music were small pioneering churches and thereby I was always on a part-time pay basis, with the understanding that as the church grew, so would my remuneration.   Therefore in order to provide for my family I had to have a full time secular job… and sometimes another part-time one on the side!
I spent twenty years, mostly in management, at Hewlett Packard and then their spin off company Agilent Technologies.  While in Bible School and a few years after I graduated, I worked for The Home Depot, with the last two in management positions.  With every team I supervised in both companies, I had both those who appreciated my Christian faith and a few that didn’t, who seemed to enjoy poking me with jokes about my beliefs.  And while I didn’t force my faith, I definitely strived to live my relationship with Jesus brightly, letting my team “breathe in the exquisite fragrance.” (2 Corinthians 2:15 The Message)  Through the years I was able to help many members of my teams through tough personal situations when they felt comfortable and safe enough to come to me with their questions and needs.
At times though, it really amazed me how people who saw me every day in the workplace, went to the same meetings and observed the way I carried myself and how I answered the questions tossed at me concerning my faith by my few distractors, could come away with completely polar opposite renditions about me! 
We have experienced this same dichotomy as we’ve interacted with different individuals as we’ve progressed in our journey with the battle for my wife’s health.  And I have been very perplexed at how people can hear and see the same results with the majority of them agreeing with and supporting us while a small few have not…(while being very vocal about it, and avoiding personal contact with us.)  The solution finally seemed to come as I studied 2 Corinthians 2:14-17.  As you will recall in our last couple of posts, I described how I was understanding verse fourteen as showing us “How we should see ourselves,” verse fifteen as “How God see us” and now verse sixteen as “How others see us.”
The God’s Word © translation declares: “To some people we are a deadly fragrance, WHILE to others we are a life-giving fragrance.”  That clearly states the dichotomy that I spoke of above.  I really like the no nonsense way that The Message Bible puts it stating:  “Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is RECOGNIZED by those on the way of salvation --- (as) an aroma redolent with life.  Those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.” 
Both of those versions answered many of my questions.  The Apostle Paul makes the difference in the reception to the presence or aroma of God between believers and non-believers very evident.  But I also see some things concerning the way individual Christians can respond to certain things of God.  In my many years of Christian leadership, I have come to realize how even strong, mature Christians can still have areas within their lives that they are needing to fully commit to the Lord.
All kinds of things can account for this from personal life experiences, the way they were raised, where they live, the Christian teaching they receive, their personality types and especially the amount of or lack of time they spend alone in 2-way conversation with Papa God in His Word and prayer.
The word “redolent” as used in the Message Bible paraphrase is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “full of fragrance or odor, causing thoughts or memories of something.”  Our recent experience has demonstrated that the remembrances it evokes in some might not always be pleasant, as it reminds them of areas in themselves that need to be faced and or dealt with.  So therefore it may cause them to respond to us in a negative way, or want to avoid us and the fragrance we carry about us.
I’ve personally experienced the anger and avoidance tendencies years ago about the time we were going through the trials and tribulations of the potential foreclosure on our home that I mentioned a few blogs ago.  Along with the bank, it seemed like every bill collector in the world was calling us.  It got to the point that the sound of the phone ringing or the distinctive tone of the mail truck going down our street made me fearful and angry.  I made every excuse I could think of to not answer the phone or go out to the mailbox! 
My false theory at the time was that if I ignored it and didn’t think about it, it would simply go away… But you know… it didn’t!  Thankfully my wife saw what was going on, did some research, sat me down and made me address the situation with her.   Once I finally faced my fears, we sought help and were able to get some relief through a bill consolidation plan, a new budget and a new job!   I’m sure that I was not the nicest individual to deal with when I was still closed off to accepting the things I needed to change… and doing something about it.  The interesting thing I came to learn through it all, was that I wasn’t really upset with those who were calling our delivering the “final notice” letters, I was upset with myself… and most likely a little bit with God because I thought He wasn’t helping us out like He should… even though He was trying to talk to me the whole time and I WOULD’NT STOP AND LISTEN!
So again, I have learned these last few years, that those who have contested many of the things we have and are doing in our fight for Piper’s good health, are most likely not really as upset with us as they are with God concerning the needy areas that the aroma of Christ that we carry reminds them of in their own lives.  That realization has freed me up tremendously and enabled me to continue in my attempts to reach out to them with a new found supply of grace.  In some respects I think that is what the process of love and forgiveness is all about as we seek to open doors of understanding and common roads of communication.
I would encourage you to meditate on these revelations this weekend.  It just might help you to have a better understanding of how different folks you know and love can have polar opposite views on what they hear and see of you.  It could be as whole new opportunity for God’s grace to flow!  Have a great weekend and as you do keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to love and reach out to those who may not understand me today?”

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"Man Up!" - How God Sees Us


From the earliest days of our relationship, my wife has repeatedly demonstrated that she is not afraid of talking to anyone.  This which I consider to be a strength of her personality and personal fortitude, is especially evident when it comes to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ!  And to be perfectly honest, there were times during our dating days as well as into the first few years of our marriage when I was a little embarrassed by her actions.  You see, I was new to the faith and was not yet real comfortable with my knowledge of the Word especially when it came to personal evangelism.
In speaking of Piper’s fearlessness, I must add the caveat that she has always possessed an acute sensitivity to the leading and caution of the Holy Spirit.  She can quickly ascertain when it is right or wrong to approach someone and always followed the direction coming from her “inner man.”  I must also say that I have seen her grow and mature in her sensitivity as well as the manner in which she ministers to others over the many years we’ve been together. 
She enjoyed talking to the boys dressed in white shirts with black ties when different pairs of them would canvas the neighborhoods we lived in.  I remember one time in particular when she and I were doing some yard work at my Grandmother’s home that we were renting from my folks when two of the “missionaries” came up and began talking with her.  I became a bit irritated when she put down her rake and began to speak in earnest with them… and especially so when she called me over to join in on the conversation.  At one point she even excused herself and ran into the house to retrieve her bible in order to give visible evidence to her statements.  She also had the knack to turn just about any situation into a teaching event!  That why she was so good as a homeschool teacher!
Well, much to my consternation, we spent the next hour with the two young fellows as she patently listened to them, shared her differing points of view, and had them read the scriptures she was referring to from the compact New American Standard Bible I had given her the previous Christmas… the whole time retaining a sweet smile on her face.  The one thing I will have to admit is that even though I was complaining on the inside because I wanted to finish our yard work, I actually learned a lot from that and similar experiences as I took note of Piper’s methods, boldness and knowledge of the Word!
I think Piper’s approach to life and especially with those she interacts with is a perfect example of today’s second part of the three points that the Apostle Paul is teaching his readers in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17.  Yesterday we looked at what I perceive to be the way that we are to look at ourselves.  Today we look at how God sees us.
2 Corinthians 2:15 declares: To God we are the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are being lost.” (God’s Word © & The Good News Bible)  I think the meaning of this scripture is pretty evident.  Simply stated, God sees us as carriers of the aroma of Jesus Christ Himself, no matter where we go, no matter who we are speaking to.  Just as it never mattered to Piper whether the person she was talking to was a well-known public personality, like the time she went right up to Charles Shultz who was the well-known creator of the Peanuts comic strip when he walked into the take and bake pizza store we were in, or the homeless lady whose appearance was actually quite scary as she approached us outside the Mall in our hometown. 
As Jesus said in Matthew 4:16 concerning our being the light of the world, Piper always let that light radiate from her as her sparkling personality and the very evident concern that she had for people emitted the “exquisite fragrance” of Christ (See 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 in The Message Bible) wherever she went.  She was never too busy to take a moment to minister to someone in need.
I’ve personally discovered that the more I keep His picture of me in my mind, the more confidence I have in my ability and willingness to reach out to those around me.  What do you think about that?  Have a great day as you dwell on God’s view of you… and in the process keep asking yourself… “How and why am I expecting to reach out to others today?”

Monday, January 18, 2016

"Man Up!" - How we are to see ourselves


When I opened the drapes to the back deck this morning it was like looking out on a winter wonderland!  It wasn’t because of snow, even though we did have a few snow showers yesterday morning, but due to the thick white frost that covered everything!  The real arresting scene was in the front yard though!  Everything just seemed to glitter as the sun was breaking out over the distant trees.  From the warmth of our home as I peeked out the window into the 18 degree weather outside, I couldn’t help but praise and thank God for the beauty He created… and for the heater in our home!
The picture of that gorgeous view and the corresponding cold temperatures seemed to go right along with the Word of God that I continued to study from 2 Corinthians 2:14.  Even though one might complain about the cool temperatures, in the very midst of it the glory of God stood out and gave His victory to the situation!
I mentioned in our last post how 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 seems to show three points of view concerning an important aspect of our Christian walk.  Verse fourteen should be familiar to us now as we have been talking about it for a while.  In his letter to the Corinthian church the Apostle Paul makes what could be considered a questionable claim as he boldly declared, “But I thank God, who always leads us in victory because of Christ, and makes clear through us in every place the value of the knowledge of Christ.  It is like a fragrance that fills the air.” (God’s Word © & the 1965 Bible in Basic English)
After meditating on this particular verse for many days, I came to realize that the Apostle Paul was telling us that this is how we should see ourselves in our daily lives.  John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes states that “To triumph, implies not only victory, but an open manifestation of it.”  His definition reminded me of one of the roughest times my wife and I encountered around the twentieth year of our marriage.  A business proposition that I had wrongly entered into did not go as planned and we ended up losing our home.  But even though it felt like my insides were being torn inside out during the time, it ended up being one of the greatest lessons we ever learned and in the end we came out as winners. 
When we moved out of that home after many years of tumult, we left totally free from the overwhelming burden of debt.  We had an opportunity to make a brand new start without any baggage and we took advantage of it!  The lessons we learned back then helped me to follow the course of action we took and make the right decisions concerning the purchase of our new home that we are in today!
The second part of 2 Corinthians 2:14 declares that the Lord uses us “to make clear… in every place the value of the knowledge of Christ.”  Then it caps the thought by saying we carry a sweet fragrance or pleasant aroma about us.  I believe that this is something that we should acknowledge every time we walk into a room, a store, out in our neighborhoods, at our jobs and even in our churches!  We should enter into every part of our daily activities with the humble confidence that God is using our lives, our words, our thoughts, our smiles, our friendly dispositions and our corresponding actions to let others know what it means to know Christ.
But we also need to realize that we are not doing this of our own accord but by and through Him and His grace, His love, His patience, and His joy.  According to this verse God is using us whether we realize it or not.  So why not go in with your head held up with the understanding of and on the lookout for any specific actions He may want for you to take.  Knowing that I carry about me the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ makes me want to put out my best effort whether I feel like it or not!  When I leave a room I want there to be a pleasant aroma that lingers behind me.  Just like the wonderful fragrance of freshly brewed coffee that always met us when we walked into and out of the Target store in our old neighborhood due to the Strabucks that was in their lobby!
That brings up another memory of my wife’s and my early dating days.  When we first met her folks had a Mustang and a Camaro SS 396.  You might remember my joking story of how I knew Piper was the right one for me when she looked at me with that  infamous glint in her eyes and tossed me the keys to her Mom’s new Camaro when a group of us went out for ice cream in High School… It was love at first drive!  But back to my point… I was driving our 1951 Chevy which had become the car that the kids drove in my family, so whenever we could Piper and I would take one of her parent’s cars on our dates.
From the moment you opened the door on her Dad’s 1964 ½ Mustang your senses were overwhelmed with the fragrance of Old Spice Cologne.  You definitely knew who had been driving the car previous to our usage of it.  As I think about it today, he probably did that on purpose as every time I would lean over to smooth with my girl, I would catch that scent and think of him and proceed to be the perfect gentleman with Piper!
So dwell on that thought today… that you carry about with you the very fragrance of the knowledge of God wherever you go.  The word translated “knowledge” carries the intent of a very personal or intimate relationship with Jesus.  So the closer you get to Him, the stronger will be the fragrance you carry with you that lingers in the atmosphere of the places you visit.  I am coming to see that God wants us to understand this truth so as to walk in the knowledge that we are important to Him and therefore should want to have His presence about us be important to those we interact with in our daily lives.
Think on that today and smile as you walk through the many doorways you’ll pass through, knowing that the very scent of Jesus goes with you!  Have a great week and keep asking yourself… How strong is the fragrance am I expecting to leave behind today?”

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Man Up!" - Discovering the "Why's" of Life


Over the last few years I have had countless healthcare workers and other concerned individuals ask me if I have help to stay with my wife when I have to out.  My normal reply is yes, my daughter helps me when needed, but I usually take Piper with me everywhere I go.  I made up my mind at the beginning of this journey that I was going to do everything I could to keep our life as normal as possible and that I wanted to be able to take Piper out and about around other people so as to keep her in the midst of outside stimuli and therefore as sharp and alert as possible.
Throughout the process I have had to learn a few things (usually by trial and error) concerning the ability and functionality of transporting her in different locations, around folks who are not comfortable with people with special needs, and in various weather conditions.  Certain tasks like taking her grocery shopping with me have become almost second nature… well almost…
Yesterday as we navigated the aisles in the pharmacy section of the Super Walmart in our new hometown, I was pushing Piper in her chair in front of me with one hand and pulling a cart behind us with the other, when I veered to the right in order make room for an elderly lady to pass by us.  I smiled to the lady, who ignored us, and then continued to move forward only to have the front right wheel of the cart catch the corner of a side cap display of finger nail polish.  Well… you guessed it!  It came crashing down with a very loud boom and the sound of glass bottles hitting the floor and rolling all over the place!
Then to make matters even more embarrassing, a female voice comes projecting from a few aisles away yelling out… “Are you okay?”  So with a crowd congregating to check out the damage, I cleared my throat and muttered… “Yeah, we’re okay… just embarrassed!”  I am thankful that the female employee who came over to take charge laughed when she saw the mess and caught my red-faced complexion and told me not to worry that she would take care of it!  I even got to crack a smile at the sight of the little old lady we were trying to avoid suddenly became animate and very conversational as she got down on her knees to help pick up little bottles with glee!
Now that experience doesn’t really have much to do with the subject of today’s post except for the fact that I am sure that the Lord’s hand was in the midst of that embarrassing situation helping me to get through it with a little bit of dignity!  I hate to say it… but I think having my wife in a wheelchair elicited some quick forgiveness and understanding in the eyes of the crowd that encircled us!
But my point for today’s post is the knowledge that Papa God always has an answer for us when we come to Him in His Word and prayer.  I’ve always been kind of a “Why?” individual, but nothing like I have become over the last six or seven years.  From the moment we finally got a firm diagnosis of Piper’s situation, I became sort of a fanatic in seeking the “Why’s” and “How’s” of everything about the disease as well as with everything we needed to do medically, financially, physically and most of all… spiritually!
Some of the hardest questions that I have been painstakingly praying about and poring over in His Word have been in the arena of social interactions with others in the face of Piper’s very visible needs.  It is something that I have to deal with almost every time we go out in public and privately with loved ones.  “But I thank God, who always leads us in victory because of Christ…!” (2 Corinthians 2:14 God’s Word ©) Over the years since we left Oklahoma in 2009 the Lord has given me bits and pieces to the puzzle through a variety of scriptures during my daily study times in the still quiet of the mornings when I am alone with and totally focused on Him.
Recently He folded back another layer of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 to me and showed me what I have now come to realize as the three different outlooks that normally come up when we step out in faith in obedience to His individual directions for us.  It is so simple, I am surprised that I never saw it before!  Those three outlooks are described in this portion of scripture as “Ours,” “His” and “Others!”  This revelation gave me instant understanding, peace, a jig of joy and better equipment to successfully walk in my growing attitude of forgiveness.
I will spend next week discussing my newfound freedom descriptor’s, but for now, just let me encourage you in your seeking of Godly wisdom for the needs and various situations that arise in your life!  Whether it be an embarrassing situation right in the middle of a crowed Walmart, something that unexpectantly comes up at work or a seeming impossible situation within your family, always KNOW that Papa God is on your side, has your back and has the answers that you need!  It may take some effort of diligence on your behalf as you set time apart to seek Him in prayer and through the pages of your Bible, but the answer, the peace, the dance of joy and the better equipping of you to do what needs to be done is always there for the taking!
Have a great weekend.  Keep a joyful countenance and keep asking yourself… “What ANSWERS am I expecting from Him today?”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"Man Up!" - Always Victorious


I have always been sort of a history buff.  I enjoy reading about the history of the places we’ve visited, about United States history and especially the story of the area in which we live.  Our recent move to North Carolina has opened up an entirely new wealth of information to devour!  Yesterday I happened across a couple of books written about the history of the county we now live in.  So I immediately purchased a Kindle version of one and ordered a used copy of the other.  Later in the afternoon my wife and I, along with the pooch snuggled next to me on the couch, found ourselves in our study being regaled with descriptions of the county’s geographic treasures, abundance of waterways, and tales of early discovery.  It is evident that our small county was large in its contributions to our budding country!
Over the years, I have also become a history buff when it comes to the history of the Lord’s works in my wife, my family and in me.  As we continue to move forward in discovery of the new things that He desires for us to accomplish in our lives, I can’t help but to go back in our personal history to be regaled by His wondrous interventions in our past.  Many times this historical perspective is the final incentive to boost my faith for the next, sometimes seemingly impossible step He is encouraging us to take.  
As I look back over the last month or so that I have been walking through my morning study times with the Lord with the directive to “Man Up!” as my guide, I realize that one particular set of verses keeps popping up in my daily notes, with the major emphasis centering around the words of the Apostle Paul boldly declaring: “Now thanks be to God which always causes us to triumph in Christ…” (2 Corinthians 2:14 KJV)  Then when I take that declaration as a filter while reviewing my own life’s history, I can’t help but notice all the “victories” that overwhelmingly highlight my story!  Those victories are the keys that help to enable my future.
I kind of like some of the words that the more modern God’s Word © version uses in this verse.  Here the editorial team translated: “But, I thank God, who always leads us in victory…”  Two words stand out to me as I study this statement.  The first is that which underscores my ability to “Man Up!” in this New Year.  It is the definitive declaration of “ALWAYS!  I believe that the Apostle who wrote over half of the New Testament was telling us of the importance of always having an attitude of victory in every situation we face in our lives.
Previous to this statement he is telling his readers that although he had an open door of ministry in a certain region, that he did not have peace and was concerned because he couldn’t find his close friend and ministry associate Titus.  But that didn’t deter him.  He simply said good bye to the people there and moved on into Macedonia.  The next verse tells us that he thanked God in the midst of his difficulties and knew that he would eventually have the victory and find Titus.
In my striving to follow the Lord’s directions to “Man Up!”, I realized that I have to have the expectation of victory in Christ in everything He calls me to do.  I don’t go into a situation with the thought of failure or second best… I continually look to Him for His victorious conclusion.
The other word that stands out to me in 2 Corinthians 2:14 is “leads.”  Therefore the key to always expecting a victory is that we always follow His leading!  So… when we go into a situation our eyes are not dependent upon what we see, hear or feel in the natural or on our own abilities to gain a victory or successful conclusion to what’s before us, but that we are so intent looking for, listening to and obeying His leadings that we can’t help but attain His victory.  As I sit here this morning with my wife at my side at the dining room table with a view of our beautiful ¾ of an acre piece of property that the Lord has blessed us with, I can’t help but be amazed and somewhat astounded as I recall all of the victories that He had gained for us as we have kept our eyes on His leadings over the last six plus years.
And sure, it always hasn’t been easy or at times looked anything like a victory, but our faithful stand in, by and through Him has seen His vision come to fruition as we stuck to and obeyed the path He set out for us to follow… many times within the sounds and negative actions of naysayers.  I have also come to notice that I have a lot more self-confidence, peace, joy and the corresponding strength that comes from His infillings of joy when I am expectant of His victory!
I think that is the truth that motivated Paul to encourage and enable the church at Philippi to “Always be joyful in the Lord, I’ll say it again: Be joyful!” (Philippians 4:4 God’s Word ©)  So… what will history record about you?  When you look back through the years of your life are you encourage and enabled by all the victories you see?  In case that’s not what populates the pages of your past… the cool thing is that you can still write your future by taking 2 Corinthians 2:14 to heart and make it a reality in your life… STARTING TODAY!
So therefore have a great and encouraging day as you continue to ask yourself… “What VICTORYS in Christ am I expecting today?”

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Man Up!" - Forgiveness


I am beginning to realize the appropriateness of the Lord’s 2016 mandate to “Man Up!” for with the purchase of our new home we are finally settling in to a period of permanence in our lives.  This is something that we haven’t experienced for almost ten years.  Since we moved to Oklahoma in the summer of 2006 so that I could fulfill an almost life-long goal to complete my Biblical training for the ministry that we had been involved in for over 30 years, we have lived in temporary housing in cities that we knew we wouldn’t be staying in for long!
Now with a new home on a beautiful piece of property in the northeast central region of North Carolina, we have a solid base of operations for our lives and the ministries the Lord has for us to accomplish.  As I look back upon the last nine years with special focus on the last six, I understand that much of this has been a time of preparation for what lies ahead.  The journey and ensuing battle that we have been waging for my wife’s good health has been an experience filled with a great multitude of lessons to be learned.
One of the most intense of those lessons has been the act of forgiveness.  Besides all the things I have had to deal with surrounding the attack of Alzheimer’s in Piper, I never thought that I would also have to deal with the negative ways in which some others have handled our situation.  At first I was shell shocked and then I got angry… at them and then at the strange feelings, thoughts and words that it aroused in me!
But I must admit that through it all, Papa God has been at my side for He has continually reminded me that even though people may, be assured that “I will never neglect you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1:5 God’s Word ©)  And over the recent years He has taken my hands in the roughest stretches and walked me through the path of forgiveness.
It seems though, that just when I think I have learned this lesson and am ready to move on to the next, something stirs me up and I find myself rehashing the past and those familiar feelings of hurt, anger, confusion and unforgiveness raise their ugly heads again.  This experience happened at the beginning of the Holidays about a month ago and haunted me for weeks.  In frustration I finally got alone before the Lord and asked why this keeps happening.  I think I’ve gotten people forgiven and their insensitive actions forgotten and up they pop again!
After a while in prayer I finally came to the revelation that it is not just the old incidents that come to my remembrance, but that new, different… and yet similar situations continue to present themselves.  With that information I leaned back in my chair in our study where I had been praying and realized that He was right! (like dah!)  So as I thought about it and pressed into the Lord with more diligence, I heard that still small voice inside of me say that I had to develop an attitude of forgiveness. That in my case it wasn’t just a one-time act to forgive and forget, but a mindset I needed to build up in me that continually looked to walk in forgiveness toward what might be the personal weaknesses and/or failures of others that Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:14.
Then as I continued to study out this attitude change I needed to make, I came across Jesus and Peter’s interaction documented in Matthew 18:21-22.  Here we find Peter asking what I’m sure he thought was a very intuitive and humble question when he inquired of Jesus, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me?  Seven times?” And “Jesus answered him, ‘I’ll tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven.’” (God’s Word ©)  As with many I’ve heard discuss this verse, the first thing I did when I read it was to multiply 70 X 70 and come up with the sum of 490.  But you know, I don’t think that was the specific point that Jesus was trying to convey.  I believe that He was trying to tell Peter and those of us who have studied this teaching through the following decades that as a successful believer we need to develop an attitude of forgiveness.  To enter in and out of the situations and events, the ups and downs of life with a forgiving heart.  With an attitude that doesn’t look for or receive offenses but looks to forgive and emit the love of God to all involved.
On a hunch I looked up the word “forgiveness” in a modern dictionary and discovered that like the word love, “forgiveness” is a verb or action word.  The really interesting part is that “forgiveness” is considered to be a “transitive verb.”  Which, as I studied deeper, learned that it has two characteristics.  The 1st being that “it is an action verb expressing a doable activity,” and 2nd that “it must have a direct object, something or someone who receives the action of the verb.” (See: Grammar Bytes at http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/transitiveverb.htm - a grammar teaching website)
So with an attitude of forgiveness one would continually be alert and sensitive to the need to forgive those who might offend and/or hurt them.  Taking an offense and stewing on it would just not be who we are!  Instead of getting upset and judging the offender we instantly release forgiveness and thereby allow the Lord to enter in and have His way with the need at hand.
Hummm… seems like I barely touched on this subject, but alas this post is getting too long so I’d better sign off and continue on another day!  But I would encourage you to think about it.  What would it take for you to develop and walk in an attitude of forgiveness?  It definitely has set me free from some things that have been hanging on to me for six or so years now… and I bet it would do the same for you!  Have a wonderful week and keep asking yourself… “What can I expect from an attitude of forgiveness working in me?”

Friday, January 8, 2016

"Man Up!" - What Filters are in Your Bag?


I have mentioned many times in past blog posts of my infatuation with the art of photography.  From the earliest days with my Kodak Instamatic 100 camera through the years with a fully accessorized professional Canon F1 outfit and onward to my current DSLR model, I have always loved observing and capturing images of my world through the lens of a camera!  With the help of all kinds of photo related classes from High School through College as well as multiple mail order and later online classes with literally tons of experience as both an amateur and at the professional level, I actually became pretty proficient at the art.

Over the years I have also taught many seminars and one high school level course offered through our children’s large Independent Study Program.  I also had the experience of teaching a good sized room of participants at a weekly variety of classes offered to Mormon women at their local ward.  It was actually quite fun and entertaining… It also pushed my expertise as many of the questions asked were quite technical concerning specific camera equipment and photo composition.

Remember now, that the majority of my training and experience began in the mid-nineteen sixties and went through the early 2000’s.  Which means that my background is mainly in film and not digital photography.  I developed a lifelong fascination with the use of filters after being introduced to their usage in high school.  Throughout my school years and into my adult and married life, I built up quite a collection of special purpose filters used mainly for black and white photography.  I even went through a period where I experimented on the effects of these black and white filters with color film and came away with some interesting prints.

I think the most unique photo was taken one day while I was at the coast with my young wife and shot a picture of the clearing sky with a red filter just as a seagull flew through my frame.  What turned out was a spectacular print where the red somehow separated throughout the blue sky while the clouds and bird maintained their natural color!  I still have a large print of that picture although most of the red has faded out over the years.  Every time I see that picture I think about Jesus’ triumphant return in the skies!

The interesting advantage of using filters is that they can change the original look of whatever you a photographing.  They can enhance colors or tones, brighten or dull the lighting exposure, change the mood of the scene or give the print a completely different sense of purpose than what your physical eyes and mind comprehend. 

The purpose of filters goes hand in hand with the next tenet that the Lord has been showing me concerning my need to “Man Up!” in 2016.  Ephesians 5:2 instructs us to “Live in love as Christ also loved us.  He gave his life for us as an offering and sacrifice, a soothing aroma to God.” (God’s Word © Translation)  Remember the last part of this scripture talking about “a soothing aroma to God” as well touch base on that thought in another upcoming blog.  But for now let’s concentrate on our ability to “live in love as Christ also loved us.”

To me the idea of living in love is comparable to seeing the photo you desire to capture through the eyes of the particular filter you have attached to your lens.  Most times when I would take a black and white photo I would imagine the finished print before I ever raised the camera to my eye.  Then I would select the filter in my collection that would give me the results I desired.  I think that the writer of Ephesians, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is telling us the same thing when it comes to the effect or result that we wish to see or have in our interactions with other people.
According to our scripture, our desired result should always be love… just like the results that Jesus attained after His death, burial, resurrection and assumption to the right hand of God.  His finished work has given us the ability to love all whom we come into contact with… whether they deserve it or not!  But I believe the key is how we see and/or enter into each interaction with those we come into contact with in our daily lives.  Do we see and enter into each new day with the filter of Jesus’ love attached to the lens of our hearts, thoughts, body language, mouth and subsequent actions?  Contrary to the vast array of filters that I packed around in my camera bag for the various pics I would be taking, Jesus’ filter of His type of demonstrated love is a one size fits all!  His love can change the visible outlook of any situation you enter into… no matter what the composition of the natural scene or need you may be looking at!
Another interesting discovery that I made concerning this verse is that when it says to act “as Christ also loved us,” it is instructing us “to love in a social and moral sense.” (Strong’s)  Thayer’s Greek Definitions says it means “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, and to love dearly.”   My explanation of that directive would simply be “to do the right thing for whatever the situation or need required.”  In other words, to physically reach out and physically help the individual in any way you can.
As I have stated on more than one occasion, love is considered to be a verb… an action word!  An English grammar dictionary will tell you that without the verb the subject of the sentence cannot express its meaning.  Without seeing the situation or individual you are with through the filter of the kind of love that Jesus showed us and then putting physical action to it, we will never see the results that Papa God desires us to exceed in!
The new age of digital photography has done away with the need to carry a variety of filters in your camera bag anymore as you can now change anything about your photo later on through the technology of photo editor software.  But when it comes to the photographs of your daily life, it is still of utmost importance to always carry with you and to use the specific filter of Jesus’ love… wouldn’t you agree?  See, you are quite the photographer and maybe never knew it until now!
Have a great weekend.  Keep your filter handy and see the results of His love in your daily interactions with others… Oh yeah… and keep asking yourself: “What results am I expecting my love–infused actions to make today?”

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"Man Up!" - the Comic Opera or...


We have a strikingly bright, red colored Cardinal that graces the far reaches of our backyard almost every day.  This morning I stood by the window and was memorized  as the little bird poked along the grass searching for delectable morsels to devour.  When I grabbed the binoculars that I keep on the buffet in the dining room for just such viewing occasions, I noticed that his little guy had a brownish-red partner on the other side of the fence mimicking his actions.  I later learned that the bright red bird is the male and the brown one with reddish highlights is the female of the species.  It seems that these birds do not migrate during the winter and are commonly found throughout the southeast in backyards, parks, woodlots and shrubby forest edges.  Since most of that description fits our backyard, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of these fellas!
My interactions with those pretty birds got me to thinking about some of the similarities between them and my wife and I.  (Huh…  seriously?  Well, just hang in there with me and you’ll get my point!)  We are commonly seen together, love the great outdoors and especially forested areas and are not scared off from the call and blessings of God by the harsh winter elements that have come against us in life!
In teaching me about my need to “Man Up!” the Lord set three or four foundational tenets before me.  Back on December 2nd, He specifically told me that the very first thing that I would need to do is to continue developing the ability to recognize and close the door to the wiles of the enemy of our faith… ie; the devil.  Ephesians 6:11 in the King James Version tells us in no uncertain terms to “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  The word “wiles” isn’t used too much in modern language but it means “a stratagem or trick intended to deceive.  A disarming or seductive manner, device or procedure.” (The freedictionary.com)
Many times the wiles or strategies of the enemy are hidden, secretive or disguised in such a way that the unsuspecting victim doesn’t realize the lie until they’ve fallen into his trap.  I’ve also come to learn by personal experiences that the methods of deceit could be so implicitly visible and inconceivable that they just can’t seem to be real… but they really are.  I read somewhere that in many cases the wiles of the devil can be likened to a comic opera where the falsity of the premise of the plot is so blatantly obvious and opposite to the truth that it makes you laugh in unbelief… but yet it captures your attention and pulls you in to the drama!
The point of this first foundational tenet is to keep your eyes and your faith solidly fixed on Papa God and the unshakeable truth of His Word… no matter what you are seeing, hearing or physically experiencing that is contrary to that Word.  I like the way that the Message Bible puts this verse: “And that about wraps it up.  God is strong and he wants you strong.  So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials.  And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.”  It makes logical sense that in order to succeed at this, you also need to be a consistent student of His Word!
As my wife laid on that hospital bed in the Emergency Room a few weeks ago looking drawn, pale, weak and but a mere shadow of the effervescent, uplifting and active person who she used to be, I had an immediate decision to make.  I could give in to my very real feelings of loss and yield to the sense of the need of the moment or choose to continue to put my faith in the Word of healing that we have been standing on for many years.  Well, I am sure you know which direction I went.  In reality, I had no choice as I was not about to give up and give in to the trickery or wiles of the Devil!  And you know… of course you do… that Papa God’s Word worked for my wife’s good back then just as it is at this very moment, as I recently reminded her of my vision of her bounding up the multiple front steps of our new home!
He is offering you the same benefit and blessings today as He gave us in that room on the fifth and sixth of December of last year.  Remember that “He wants you to be strong."  So in time of need, reach out and "take EVERYTHING the Master HAS SET OUT FOR YOU… so you will be able to stand up against EVERYTHING the Devil throws your way.”  According to what I’ve been learning lately, this is a basic ingredient for growth in your faith and in your life as well!  He’s given me all the tools I need, and I plan to learn about and use each and every one of them… How ‘bout you?
Have a great day today, keep your eyes fixed on Him and keep asking yourself throughout the day… What or Whose Word am I expecting to depend on today?”

Monday, January 4, 2016

To 2016... and beyond!


When I opened the curtains on the slider leading out to our deck in the backyard this morning, I was greeted by clear, crisp blue skies, a slight breeze and temperatures hovering around 28 degrees.  Needless to say, it was a glorious morning and a glorious start to the first full week of 2016!  I would like to go on record declaring that I am excited about all the positive possibilities before us in the New Year.  Even though our 2015 ended in a whirlwind with the move, a cold and cough for me and Bronchitis along with two related trips to the Emergency Room for my wife, I am full of expectations of God’s best for our future in the Township of Hector’s Creek near the small town of Fuquay-Varina in Harnett County, North Carolina.
About a month ago, the Lord dropped a few words into my heart concerning 2016.  As I was studying His Word in our dining room, I heard Him say: “2016, the year to Man Up!”  That caught my attention as we were going through some difficult emotions at the time concerning the recent loss of a loved one.  In the days that followed I began to realize that His words for us for 2016 was not specifically related to all the hoopla involved in that family situation, but in the need to make some changes in myself in order to successfully meet the exciting future challenges that are to be set before us in the New Year.
I am also beginning to understand that the command to “Man Up!” is not necessarily meant to face the days ahead as a strong, confident individual, but as a humble, loving, grace-giving, faith-filled, forgiving man of God as defined in His Word.  The Lord has been giving me many new explanations of past and current experiences to learn from through various scriptures over the last month.  It is beginning to unfold as a daily teaching from Him.  In fact, I awoke this morning quite excited to see what today’s lesson would be!
I would like to share those lessons over the following weeks in this fresh new year of 2016.  I believe that the current plan is to continue posting a new blog three days a week.  The specific days may vary according to our weekly schedule, but I will do my best to meet the three day a week plan!  I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you and am expecting to receive some meaty feedback as we grow together in Him and learn what He means when He encourages each of us to “Man Up!”
I will leave you today with a poem Piper and I read this morning by an anonymous author as part of the preface to a book written by John A. MacMillan who was a Christian Missionary Alliance missionary sent to China and then the Philippines in the 1920’s.  The book is entitled “The Authority of the Believer” and it came from a series articles first published in The Alliance Weekly (now Alliance Life) and later published as two separate pamphlets. Our pray is that the poem will stimulate you to develop a greater hunger for and become a more vibrant example of the things of God in 2016 to your world.
Authority

When mountain walls confront the way.

Why sit and weep?  Arise and say

“Be thou removed!  And they shall be

By the power of God cast in the sea.

 

All power on earth, all power in heaven,

To Christ, the Son of God, is given;

And from the throne He will endue,

And hindrances will flee from you.

 

O’er all the power of fiend and man

Say through the Lord, “I surely can”;

Take from Him power on earth to tread

On serpent’s sting, on dragon’s head.

 

Whate’er thou art, O mountain high,

Where’er thou art, in earth or sky,

Whene’er thou art, truth is the same,

“Be thou removed, in Jesus name.”

 

“Be thou removed!”  Faith bids thee start

For yonder see – Arise!  Depart!

I may, I can, I must, I will,

The purpose of my God fulfill.”

 

--- Anonymous