Tag Archives: inspiration

Faith dominos

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I heard a sermon over the summer about faith dominos.  The speaker described these as people or situations in someone’s life that led them over the course of time to encounter God.  She went on to say God uses the elements of the world he created with perfect timing, falling one against the other like a string of dominos.  Each domino moves a person closer and closer to their encounter with God.  We were challenged to be a single domino in the string of many in the life of someone who may be struggling.

“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” 1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT

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The tree in me

Walking to work the other day, I spotted an old tree that captured my attention standing against the backdrop of the breaking dawn.  I couldn’t resist snapping a picture.  Later, I felt compelled to garnish the image with a few inspiring words.

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The tree in Me

I stretch out my arms,
lifting them to the sky.
Even as events happen
I don’t understand why.

Aging boughs creak, groan,
swaying in an angry wind.
Hope arises in the morning
when the sun warms my limbs.

Guarding your thoughts: Philippians 4:6-7

After an exhausting day at work, I peeled off my sweaty clothes and tossed them on a pile of laundry.  But before I could take up residence on the couch, there were a few household items I needed to take care of.  Feeding “big boy” (our parrot fish) and walking Jake and Brody (our two dachshunds) topped the list.

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After finishing a relaxing walk with my pups, I grabbed the stack of dirty clothes and tossed it in the washing machine. A couple hours later I transferred the load to the dryer.

I grabbed a fresh towel and a wash cloth from the dryer the next morning as I prepared to start my day.  While taking several gulps of coffee, I noticed wads of paper scattered across the floor.  I recognized the fragments immediately.  They were “scraps,” thoughts I collected for chapter 8 of my upcoming book, which interestingly enough dealt with the issue of distraction.

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Accusing thoughts surfaced–Brody!  It’s a proven fact he loves to shred anything made of paper.  But how did he get ahold of my precious thoughts?  Yet, he didn’t look guilty as he rested quietly head in paws.  I didn’t know what to think.

Moments later, I visited the dryer again.  This time rummaging for a pair of socks. More wads of paper appeared among the clothes.  As it turns out, this was my doing!

If I had taken the time to capture these thoughts in my manuscript instead of carrying them around for weeks in my shirt pocket, this calamity could have been averted.  In my moment of anxiousness I was reminded of this verse of scripture:

“In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 ASV

You may be wondering what losing scraps of paper has to do with this passage of scripture.  I had the same thought and considered putting this story on ice.  I decided to ponder the matter for further and pray about it.  A thought came to me this morning.  The source of most of my scraps used in this blog find their origin in bathing myself in the peace God provides.

I have to chuckle.  From now on, whenever I see, “guarding your thoughts,” (as in folded scraps of paper in my pocket) it will remind me of my washed and dried scraps of paper.

Your coffee mug verse: Philippians 1:6

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Philippians is one of those inspiring reads prompting some to plaster its verses on tee shirts, wall plaques and coffee mugs.  It’s been called by some the epistle of joy.   With that thought in mind, I’ll be including “scraps” from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi in my blog over the next several weeks.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Philippians 1:6

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The good work being referred to is the work of grace in the heart of a believer in Jesus Christ.  Consider Charles Spurgeon’s comment on God’s desire to complete the good work He began in the lives of his children:

“Where is there an instance of God’s beginning any work and leaving it incomplete? Show me for once a world abandoned and thrown aside half formed; show me a universe cast off from the Great Potter’s wheel, with the design in outline, the clay half hardened, and the form unshapely from incompleteness.”

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,” Philippians 1:9

Believe with all your heart that God has a purpose and a plan for your life!

Fish, part 5 (revised)

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I found myself in a proverbial small boat on a large, familiar body of water. Off in the distance threatening clouds approached. From experience, I knew I needed to break from my everyday routine and head for the safety of shore. Just as I arrived there the storm hit.

The unexpected storm in the fifth decade of my life could not be avoided. Bill Sr., my friend and father, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It proved to be the aggressive sort. After a two-year battle, doctors conceded his cancer was not responding to treatment. As a result my courageous father opted for palliative treatment and hospice care. Prayer, originally our first option, was now our only option.

How do you stand and fight when bad news rains down on you with the force a hurricane, trapping you in the wind and rain and denying you shelter from its fury? Raw human emotion like the tidal wave of a storm surge washed over our family, ravaging our souls and leaving us utterly defenseless. The force of these elements drove downward with such intensity that strongholds, including the place where the essence of hope itself dwells, was in danger of being lost.

An overwhelming and relentless attack bore down on our world. It was beyond our human strength to resist it. The teaming and pooling of water created rivers of destruction; flooding the very paths we once trod in safety and comfort. It changed our familiar landscapes forever. Was there a rock mighty enough to withstand such an onslaught, a refuge impervious to anything and everything in its path? Where does hope exist at such a time?

Our family knows first hand of such a rock because Dad guided us to it.   He helped us navigate through the maze of life’s distractions that might keep us from clinging to this rock of hope. Eventually we all found it and embraced it. We saw the value and the necessity of doing so because of Dad’s living example. I am of course speaking of Jesus Christ being our Hope, our Savior and a Rock without equal.  From the book, Junior’s Hope.

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Dad’s cancer affected his mind as his final days unfolded. The salmon hanging on the wall across from his bed became a single point of clarity for him. No matter how bad the confusion, if he could train his eyes on the fish, he could figure out who and where he was.

We all mourned when Dad went to be with his Savior in 2005. Following his death, I came to realize two things. First, I was deeply committed to the existence of the unseen and my ability to interact with it. God alone is able to receive into his presence those who have a genuine relationship with Him.  Because I have such a relationship with God I know I will see my father again. Second, the relationships I still have need to be cherished.

I saw you fishing the other day as I was cleaning up the yard and stopped to sit beside you. You shared your fishing pole with me and we took turns baiting a hook with worms and dropping the line in the water. You caught a sunfish, I caught one too.

As we sat together near the water’s edge watching a school of minnows congregate on the surface of the water, my mind drifted back to my senior year in college.  I had almost given up hope of finding that one person who could bring me joy, not just for a season, but perpetually. This person needed to be special, a girl who could captivate my heart so completely that I would be compelled to love her…always…forever. That person needed to believe in God and love Him like I do.

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It was your beauty that first caught my eye but I resisted its appeal. Beauty, they say, is only skin deep. Then, your eyes connected with mine and opened a window of kindness that my heart wanted to gaze into. A quiet smile complemented your eyes. I caught glimpse of the love you possessed in the well of your soul and I stood before you breathless, trying to hide my feeling of awe. I was not prepared to encounter real beauty, which existed previously only in my dreams.

We strode together into the movie theatre on our first date. I beamed with pride because I had the privilege of sitting alone with you for the next several hours. I wanted desperately to say something that would make a meaningful connection. A pang of fear pierced my thoughts, what if I was not the type of guy you are looking for.

Time passed too quickly as we watched the double feature.  Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase found love in the first film; Warren Beatty and Julie Christie found it in the second. I wondered if Patty would remember me tomorrow, and the day after that?  Bravely, I reached out and touched your hand and you cradled it in yours.  My heart beat faster. I did not want our time together to end. When it came time to say goodnight, I brushed my lips across yours. In that moment, with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, I tried to convey my willingness to be a part of your life, your dreams and your future…

The song “Downstream” was popular when we dated.  I still think of Patty every time I hear it.

“Downstream” by Supertramp © 1977

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Took a boat Sunday, down by the sea

It just felt so nice, you and me
We didn’t have a problem or a care on us
And all around was silence, everywhere

You are the reason I was born
Be with you through all seasons
I’ll always hear you
When you call

We’ll keep the love light shining
Through each night and day
A lonely life behind me
Oh, what a change you’ve made

So down here on the ocean
We will stay, we will stay, we will stay
Went through a lot of changes
Turned a lot of pages
When I took a boat on Sunday

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I count each day I spend with Patty a blessing. Sometimes when we sit together in our Adirondack chairs overlooking the pond behind our house, fishing of all things, enters my mind.  What began as a childhood experience (interacting with the unseen) has turned into a lifelong commitment.

Today I see fish as a symbol of hope.  One day all things will be revealed and on that day things we cannot see will become visible.  My prayer is that I will be remembered as someone who fished with patience and faithfulness.

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT

 

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Psalm 119:81-96 Trust in the God of Hope

What do you do when a trial or threat you are facing wakes you up in the middle of the night?  Your mental, physical or emotional stability is hanging by a thread.  Do you get up out of bed and go to your safe, pull out a stack of bills and start counting your money?  Does that give you comfort? Do you pull out a prized collection and handle the objects of your desire for relief? Or, do you close your weary eyes and sing with all your heart, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  What, or who, do you place your hope in?

questions-1922477_960_720This stanza appears to describe one of the psalmist’s seasons in the life; he is in a place so dark and desperate, a place where none of us wants to go, let alone think about.  My soul faints (v81); my eyes fail (v82). Whatever it is we put our hope in better be big enough, sure enough, true enough, strong enough, to bring us back from the brink.  (Remember: God is my portion in Psalm 119:57)

(v83) Wineskin in the smoke – Empty wine skins were strung up in tents.  The fire in the tent turned the skins black and sooty and caused them to wrinkle and shrivel, rendering them useless.  Are there times when you feel useless?

(v84) How long must I wait – We need to remind ourselves that God never tires of us asking him (Isaiah 40:28-31).

(v86) Your commandments are faithful – unlike the society in which we function, we don’t have to learn some new software or worry about something we learned being obsolete.  God’s truth is able to meet any present or future need.

(v88) The word of God is a life preserver – the living word of God speaks to us when we need it.  Jesus has saved us by the power of the cross (John 1:14 the word [of God] became flesh and lived among us).

If the previous stanza portrays the psalmist as being at the brink of ruin, this stanza is filled with great certainties. Derek Kidner reminds us that God and his commandments extend beyond the limits found in the world in which we live.

(v89) God’s word is eternal; (v90) he is faithful; (v92) your word saved me (don’t forget to stand on the promises found in scripture).

(v96) There is a limit to perfection we see in our world – a confusing verse but consider that in any situation we deem “perfect” such as witnessing a perfect sunset or a picturesque fall day, there will always be a limit to how long it will endure. Contrast this thought with:  But your commands are boundless – There is a spiritual (eternal) side to everything we experience that can only be truly be satisfied by God’s word (a.k.a Jesus Christ)

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Matt Chandler in his video series on Psalm 119 stresses that there is hope found in God’s word.  It is a deep hope based on God being enough regardless of life’s circumstances.  Hope is not crossing our fingers, it is placing our trust in the God of the universe.  Finally, rejuvenation can be found for those who place their trust in God.