Filthy Beauty

After an extended trip to the Boston and New York areas, I am astounded by the magnificent beauty of architecture that man can create while at the same time creating such an atmosphere of animosity and hostility when it comes to dealing with each other.

I feel sorry for those individuals that have chosen cities to dwell in based on history, beauty, architecture, etc, and then often finding themselves surrounded by noise, filth, distraction and enticement. The density of population in these areas immerses one in an environment that promotes self-centeredness, anger, lawlessness and materialism, at the very least.

Money and selfishness rule the streets, the sidewalks and the establishments. Common courtesy and respect are as rare and surprising as finding hundred dollar bills hanging from trees. The expected becomes unexpected and a welcome change from the grinding bustle of steel and flesh.

I, for one, am glad to be back in the wide open spaces where I can reflect on the importance of life. Spending some time in quiet contemplation, regaining some of the humanity that was being stripped away and reflecting on the meaning of Ephesians 4:17-31.

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Pains of Life

When the pain comes, it’s hard to focus on anything else. When the pain saps your strength it’s hard not to be angry. When the pain won’t relinquish it’s hold, it’s hard to remember that this life is only but a short dream. Each hour can feel like an eternity.

We each must find our own mechanism to cope, not hide. We must try to deal with our pain without checking out from the world, without attempting to drown it out with alcohol and drugs, no matter how tempting it may be to try and gain a little relief .

I know better than most where my focus should be, where my priorities should lie, but the flares of pain make me angry, anxious… helpless. It fills my thoughts and mind so that I feel manic, ready to ignore what else I know to be true. It makes it difficult not to lash out at others who don’t know what’s attempting to hold my mind hostage.

Since we must find a release for this aggression and helplessness, I pray and attempt to keep occupied while waiting for relief. When I keep my mind busy with other tasks, the pain moves into the background. It becomes more manageable simply by avoiding attempts to manage it. What we must not do is fail in our faith, fall down in defeat and focus on this temporal trial. We must remember our other blessings, the other things in life that need and deserve our attention…we must go on living. We must remember our hope in another life to come, one without pain, tears or strife.

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The Heart of the Matter

When something of beauty is deconstructed, it can become something other than what it was intended to be. Take a stately grandfather clock. The ornate beauty, the workmanship, the intricacies of the internal workings are things of wonder. Once seen, we may begin to contemplate why it was made, how it works, what goes on behind the glass. We intend to gain a deeper knowledge of these mysteries, so we may take this wondrous thing and begin to disassemble it until we are left with piles of springs, weights, dials and gears that are no longer things of beauty, nor objects of utility. The wondrous thing is no longer beautiful nor useful because of our zeal for understanding.

Are we sometimes guilty of deconstructing the gospel?

The gospel is the message of Christ and Him crucified. Period. (Col 1:15-24, 1 Cor 2:2) What this message does to each of us and how it changes our hearts are personal matters. Our faith is individual and must be worked out with fear and trembling within ourselves. We are told to grow in our understanding of Him and his word so that we can grow in that faith and live lives faithful to His purpose. This knowledge can be a wondrous thing, but it can also become the downfall of some and the stumbling block for many others.

Study and knowledge of the word is necessary and beneficial, but care must be given to keep focused. By delving so deeply into the perceived meaning of each scripture while our hearts strive to find meaning in our own lives and within the parameters of our own problems, we can easily lose sight of the bigger picture…the original intent of the gospel–God’s grace and love for us. His plan for our salvation was perfected by His son’s willing sacrifice on the cross, if we choose to accept it. He wants each of us, all of us, to join him in eternity. At some point, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess and we will all stand in his judgment. Unfortunately, during our journey to that time, we must muddle our way through this world and it’s judgments. Hindered by our misconceptions of scripture, our defenses of doctrine, our misuses of tradition and our legalistic interpretations. Splitting churches, creating factions, deterring onlookers.

Church is meant to be a safe haven for sinners to gather for the praise and glory of God, so that we may learn more about Him and his word, and yet many gatherings are impeded by over-zealous, legalistic watchdogs that do more harm than good. That have forgotten the gospel and its original intent, the message of love and grace. That pervert the message of Christ and twist it into something that satisfies only their own inner demons.

We all have those demons, have all sinned and fallen short, and we will answer for our words and actions. We will answer to one God and stand in His judgment, not that of other sinners based on their limited understanding and misinterpreted doctrine. Let’s not forget the foundation of the world, folks. Let’s not forget the love that led our savior to the cross. Let’s not forget the grace that is showered upon us all, that erases every sin but one. Let’s not impede or be impeded by others because of our own simplified comprehension of a much larger ideal.

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New Year, New Vision

There are ever increasing multitudes in this world dealing with Alzheimer’s, cancers, long, painful, drawn out illnesses, some while still in the prime of their lives.  Others are trying to cope with the untimely deaths of those they love, senseless violence, the gruesome realities of war, genocide, loss of country, family and home.  There is so much physical, emotional and spiritual heartache and pain, death and disease, manmade and natural disasters that we often lose sight of our purpose, our focus.

Why are we here? What are we supposed to do when we become lost in our despair? When we feel all hope is gone?  How are we supposed to cope with the overwhelming burdens that would emotionally, and possibly physically, crumple others into quivering heaps of flesh?  What guidance do we receive in order to deal with the enormous burdens we bear?  Hope and faith.

Hope in a better future–knowing that this sometimes painful life is fleeting and momentary in the overall scheme of things and that an indescribable eternity awaits.  Faith in a loving savior–believing that He holds that spot in heaven for those persevering through their painful trials all while believing in his power and his sacrifice.  Hope and faith.  There may not be a stronger combination of thoughts, words, or values in the English language.

With my latest book, Encompassed in Hopelessness, I invite you to join me in finding a way to see the world with fresh, unjaded eyes. Uncover the keys to forgiveness and grace while contemplating our place in this world. Find a way to see past our pain, our sorrow, our despair to a higher purpose. Learn how to make new and better choices instead of continuing the same circle of indifference and lukewarm existence.

I hope you’ll reach out and join me, gaining strength and obtaining hope in a universe that surely needs both.

Encompassed_in_Hopel_Cover_for_Kindle

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Keeping up with the Joneses

Especially during this time of year, articles like the one here really push my buttons.

“I don’t feel wealthy.” What does wealthy feel like? The sundeck of a yacht, the echo in a mansion, the roar of a private jet? Really? How about equating it with something as simple as being able to walk into a grocery store and buy whatever you want, not just what you need…not caring about sales and coupons. What about having a roof over our heads and a floor under our feet? Rich isn’t a magic number derived from an income or savings account statement, it’s a frame of mind.

Enough never seems to be enough. People have difficulty living within their means, whatever means they have, because they always want for more. They want bigger and better and shinier. They want what others have, what they feel they deserve. They complain about not being able to afford a boat, but they don’t want the canoe, they want the Bayliner. They want to live in the best neighborhoods, drive the best cars, put kids into the best private schools, and flash the newest technology. While those things would be nice, they are by no means necessary and definitely not determining factors of being “rich”. Often when we try to live up to such standards, we come away with a sense of entitlement, maybe even failure, but surely not satisfaction.

There will always be someone smarter, faster, stronger, better looking, richer. Why not, instead, pick a bar we can measure up against…morality, kindness, happiness, generosity? Instead of equating richness with being able to buy a boat or a second house, why not equate it with comfort, heat, food, water or dare I say it, personal fulfillment, personal values…love and being loved.

We are some of the richest people in the world and yet we whine the most. We need to stop measuring richness and wealth by monetary and physical standards. We need to stop complaining about contributing our fair share. Let’s get real people.  Instead of squandering our money this holiday season on yet another useless trinket that will be forgotten in a week, let’s try to focus on what we’ve been blessed with and bless others in return. Share your wealth, there is always someone who could use it more than you.

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” Mark 12:44

“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” James 2:5

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Thank You, Veterans

At this time of year I like to thank my father and those like him who served their country. To these people we owe so much more than a single day to mutter a passing “Happy veterans day” while we go shopping for sales. I prefer to take the time to remember what we as family members missed in our lives and what they gave up to serve their country.

They choose to serve for many individual reasons so that we may use our freedoms for entirely different ones. They bleed so that we don’t have to. They leave family and friends to serve a greater cause than many will ever know. Those who decry the military and their tactics can only do so because of the protection that military provides. Those who protest may never understand the sacrifices involved for their freedom of speech. How I wish they could fathom the toll upon families missing their fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. Men and woman willing to miss out on raising their children, missing holidays and milestones. Missing the smiles, giggles and tears, returning as strangers–trying to start again, scared and scarred inside and out.

Their service costs more than most will know for a freedom that most will take for granted. For that I say thank you to my dad and all the others, for your service and sacrifice, here and abroad.

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Is Our Best Good Enough?

If you can’t be the best at something, does that mean you shouldn’t try? 

I have written three books now (the third soon to be released) and while I am happy with their reception, audience, message and purpose, I just read something by Lee Strobel and was astounded by how well and how fluently he got his point across. Since his topic included some of the points I’ve endeavoured to make in some of my writing and I enjoyed his style and explanation, does that mean I should give up writing? Should I just let the “pros” do the job? Maybe. But maybe, someday, for some reason, someone may come across something I’ve written while passing his over. Maybe my history, background, and wording will spur a commonality within someone’s heart. Maybe in my less verbose, less successful attempts to harness the English language I can still reach someone that needs to hear the message. Maybe.

I’ve read many books in my time– history, fantasy, mystery, research, educational. Many have covered the same subject over and over…trying to put their particular spin on the given subject. None may have originated the concept at hand, but each presented a unique viewpoint or at least a different way of looking at the material. Maybe we do need to hear different voices from varied backgrounds and abilities in order to wrap our heads around the enormity of certain things with which we struggle. 

With that said, I want to thank all those who spend their time and effort to add their voices to the world, hopefully in a positive manner. Those who try to make a change by letting others of us know we aren’t alone in our struggles. The authors, the blogs, the podcasts, books and devotionals, the guides and pamphlets, all trying to add another voice in order to clarify what someone else may have already said in a better and clearer way. And I thank all of my readers for giving me the same opportunity.

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Coming Soon!

As I draw nearer to the completion of my third book, I find myself wondering who’s life it might touch. I may never be a best selling author, but I’ve been blessed with wonderful feedback and compliments on my other books from people who needed to hear what they read. My friend reminds me to focus on the thought that if I can help only one person…is that enough to make the process worth it?  It is.

Our purpose in life is too serve others, so in that vein I’m excited to finish my current book and help whomever finds wisdom within it’s pages.

Sometimes even when we think we’re doing “everything right,” everything seems to go wrong. It’s far too easy to lose our faith and hope in this world and with those in it. We must remember that our faith needs a stronger foundation than our ability to understand the evils within our day to day lives. It should be based on the stable rock that is our Lord. He must be the shelter in our stormy lives.

We need to contemplate our faith, bolster our hope, and believe that we have a purpose so that we may enjoy the life we’ve been given.

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Drawing a Line

At what price morality? What limits do we have when it comes to doing or saying the right thing? Will we go so far as to risk life or limb? How about our careers, wives, family, or friends?

There is a show out called “What would you do?” that poses some of these questions and prompts my question. In an ideal, safe, anonymous world, we may stand up for others as we would ourselves, say and do the right thing because we want to champion morality and decency. But does that ring true when we live in a world wrought with repercussions?

Would you give up your job to stop someone from committing a crime? Would you risk a beating to save someone else from one? Would you lose your business to stand up for your religious beliefs? Would you alienate your family or friends by pointing out immoral and indecent behavior?

These seem like rhetorical questions/situations, but they are all pulled from headline news. Normal, decent, everyday people who have been unwillingly thrust into untenable, often unthinkable situations.

Where do you draw your line? I think it’s worth a thought.

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Lofty Thoughts

The following is a wonderful poem by Maltbie D. Babcock that I thought I might share.  The first few stanzas ring with truth about how I view my surroundings, what about you?

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came – a pledge of deathless love.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The Lord is King – let the heavens ring. God reigns – let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.

A wonderful reflection verse for me is Psalm 89:11, “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.”

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