It’s Getting Dusty In Here

Dusty Feet no regretsThe “Rich, Young Ruler” in Mark chapter Ten asked Jesus what to do to be saved. Jesus answer? As grace had not yet come down, he was told to follow the commandments (which he had done), but there was one thing he lacked; to give away his possessions and follow Jesus.

Obviously, this young man owned much, so the news hit him hard, and he walked away, saddened.

For much of my life, I figured, “Well, I’m not wealthy, so I’m not in trouble.” But wealth can refer to much, much more than material gain. Yet, our wealth is not what we own, but that which we cling to. It can be our obsessions, our house, our yards, our pets or our friends. Yes, I said our friends. Why? Because, we honor that which we cling to. And when I made decisions in my life that honored the precepts of Man over the precepts of Christ, I had overstepped the bounds of my confession of Faith.

Devotion to friends is great- until one finds themselves compromising that which they profess to believe in. Then, life becomes a trade-off,  all too often, we get that “pulled” feeling, of trying to balance what we learn on Sunday with what we do on Monday.  The closer the friend, the easier this becomes, and little by little, our rudder gets turned and we find ourselves way off course and out of the Will of God.  Yet, we press on, assured that ‘by our devotion’ to these personal relationships we are somehow ministering to these people.  Years and even decades go by, and little by little, you are so hard pressed to accomplish tasks for people that you’ve ignored the ‘Still, small Voice” that spoke to you in your times of devotion, meditation and prayer.  On heavenly terms, you’ve “wandered off the reservation” and Satan has used another person or group of people to tie up your faculties and nullify your ministry.

If your so-called “friends” are tying you up in such a way as to keep you from God’s will in your life, then it is time to “Shake the dust from your feet.” as Jesus warned His disciples in Mark 6:14.  You may be thinking, “But, they DO welcome me!” but do they actually?  Are they welcoming your sharing of the Gospel, or are they scorning of it?  Again, the closer the relationship, the harder this is to overcome;  they need your help. They want to go on a trip. They say their time off is precious to them.  And so, you give up the Calling of your faith, little by little.

There are people that I have recently had to “cut the cord” with.  Shake the dust, if you will.  Not only did it seem their goal in life was to distract me from those things, but at one point things had gotten to where I was feeling subservient to them.  Every day was a new drama, and yet, there was no consoling them;  it just gave rise to another drama.  Pulling away was hard, but the further I went, the more obvious it became that I had been blinded and deceived.  As time traveled on, any moves I would make to try to help out (from a distance) were met with scorn.  They resented that I wasn’t giving them 100%, anymore, and I regret letting things get to that point, but it was time to move on.

Moving on has been an amazing blessing;  while I still struggle with letting go of the past, every yield I make to the Calling bears fruit beyond compare.  I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able, to keep that which I have committed unto Him, against that day!

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing us of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.

Bumpy Road Ahead

Wisdom Bumps AheadEvery day, I make mistakes. Big ones, little ones, it doesn’t matter; the fact remains, there are some things I just can’t seem to continually ‘do right.’

Yesterday, I didn’t check the waste tank levels, and that meant this morning I was out there, first thing, emptying the black water tank. Not my favorite thing to do, in the rain, B.C. (before coffee). I finished up, saw the neighbor’s dog and waved to it, and immediately stepped into a hole that I KNEW was there (not a good thing with two bad knees, to begin with). I spent way too much time, mumbling and grumbling and being mad at myself for not tending to that sooner.

But, you know what? That experience put a mark in my brain to be more diligent. To pay attention to things, and is just another of what I call “wisdom bumps”.

We all have them; the cabinet you keep bumping into, the seat belt you keep closing the door on, the bodies you don’t bury deep enough (oops! did I say that?) We are finite creatures, but more often than not, when we goof up, we get up and start over.

Sometimes, we have to bear the scars of our actions, depending on the severity of what we did. Possessions, professions, friends, loved ones, homes and even lives get lost. Some of these require that we close doors and move on, because those pitfalls, behind those doors, will never change. For myself, the one thing that I focus on is the Grace that I’ve been given, and embrace that I am forgiven. My hope, in life, is that this Grace radiates from me; that I can still move on, circumventing the holes I’ve stepped in and keeping my hands off the hotplates and keeping the fuel above the bottom half and all those other things that seem to cause me to lose my testimony, even when I’m all alone and no one else is watching- I know whose I am.

Proverbs 4:7 (NASB)

“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom;
            And with all your acquiring, get understanding.

Priorities Perfect Presentation

And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Mark, 1:14-20 NASB
14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,
15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

16 As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.
17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets.
20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary;
“Jesus began to preach in Galilee, after that John was put in prison. If some be laid aside, others shall be raised up, to carry on the same work.”

Return again to v15:
15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

And from Charles Spurgeon;
“The repentance that ejects sin as an evil tenant, and the faith which admits Christ to be the sole master of the heart; the repentance which purges the soul from dead works, and the faith that fills the soul with living works; the repentance which pulls down, and the faith which builds up; the repentance that scatters stones, and the faith which puts stones together; the repentance which ordains a time to weep, and the faith that gives a time to dance— these two things together make up the work of grace within, whereby men’s souls are saved. Be it, then laid down as a great truth, most plainly written in our text, that the repentance we ought to preach is one connected with faith, and thus we may preach repentance and faith together without any difficulty whatever.” – Charles Spurgeon, Sermon (No. 460)
Delivered on Sunday Morning, July 13th, 1862.

Healing the body of Christ is not accomplished by targeting the faulty teachers that lead others astray into their variations on the Gospel. In the end it only leads to further division, enmity and strife, and has no bearing on the essential problem, that being sin in the heart.
Just as trying to cure acne by picking at blackheads has no bearing on curing heart disease, so it is that trying to remove every blemish on the Body of believers does nothing to heal the root problem; that being one of SIN in the heart. Healing that comes through repentance and faith.

14 Ways To Know You Are Becoming Canadian

Crossover-Heart love God love Man love creation

  • 1. You know all the words to “Oh Canada”
  • 2. You refer to anyone who lives in warmer climes as “Those of you in the lower 48″
  • 3. You cry at Hockey games.
  • 4. You know what LaCrosse and Rugby are, and that they are not “only played overseas.”
  • 5. You crave beaver tails and poutine.
  • 6. You have an instant explanation for the difference in the currency exchange rate.
  • 7. You understand Celcius.
  • 8. You’ve never even seen an electric car, yet you’ve been plugging yours in, every winter, for years.
  • 9. You automatically assume everyone is as nice as you are, but you resent it when people refer to you as “Dudley Do-right”.
  • 10. You secretly wish you were “Dudley Do-Right”.
  • 11. Your refrigerator has a specific place for Mayonnaise, and nothing else ever sits in its place. Ever.
  • 12. Your “Stash” of smoked meats is right behind the mayonnaise.
  • 13. You have a “Moose Story.”
  • 14. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere someone ever complains about how cold it is, your immediate response begins with,”You think this is cold?”

 

Frozen Assets

Even when things are at their darkest and coldest God works all things for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose Romans 8 28About 1:30 am, I was awakened by the chill in the air, and more than that by the fact that my CPAP had stopped. First, I thought, “Power outage,” right? But soon I realized that the streetlights were still on. Looking a little further, I saw that the neighbors all still had their power, so I went to check the breakers.

All good. Great. That meant I had to go out in whatever-degree-cold it was and check the plug and disconnect breaker. Dressing for what I thought was going to be a quick trip out there, I headed over to the disconnect, and saw that my heat trace tapes were still alive. I pulled the plug and pushed it back in again, hoping for a fast fix. No go. I flipped the breakers off and on again, and came back in to find nothing had changed.

Back inside the RV, I fired up the furnace on battery and took some of the chill off the air. I shut it down to save battery and got the stove going for some radiant heat. Next, I took apart the power panel and checked for power at the main lug. Nothing. I figured at this point, it had to be the actual power plug at the end of the cord.

I hastily grabbed a few tools that I figured would handle the job of taking the plug apart and putting it back together and headed back out into the dark. Once I opened the casing of the plug, in the beam of my flashlight I could immediately see my problem; the neutral wire had given up the ghost and resigned its position.

I took everything apart and hurried back inside with the bare naked plug. In the glow of my LED lamp I cleaned the connections and removed all the leftovers of the wire, and headed right back out.

Trying to re-wire the plug head had all the comforts of Alaskan ice-fishing, without the rewards of the fish. But instead of baiting a frosty hookset, I was threading cold, hard, stranded and non-compliant wire by the light of an aluminum flashlight in my teeth and an LED lamp at the picnic table. To that end, at least I had a place to sit!

The first wire secured rather quickly, so I thought I was going to have it easy, here. Wrong. The second wire wasn’t wanting to feed into the anchoring screw and was ‘splaying’ (spreading or fanning out, as stranded wire tends to do) no matter how many times I tried to re-twist it.

My feet began to hurt; I was only wearing tennies. My fingers were quite stiff, as well, so at the urging of my better judgment, I came back inside to try and warm up. That didn’t fare so well.

There wasn’t enough warmth to really take my chill off, and I finally gave in to wait until morning to finish the job. I buried myself in all the covers I could and kept a watchful eye on the stove for what seemed to be hours. Truthfully, I did doze for a moment here and there, but couldn’t get my mind off the burner being on til morning.

After daybreak, I rushed to dress in a couple more layers of sturdier clothes. Donning my jacket and grabbing a couple more tools, I went back outside to finish the job.

I was really thankful that I had waited, as the daylight made it so much easier; yet, as I initially and finally got that second wire to secure, I noticed the first wire had also splayed some, something I hadn’t seen in the night. I reworked that one as well, and as I tightened IT down, the 20-year-old Bakelight Plug snapped into two pieces, with the 3 prongs on one and the cord clamp left on the other.

This turn of events might have dulled a lesser man, but I pressed on, knowing that the two pieces will just have to coexist within the confines of the housing shell, until such time as I can secure another replacement plug, and on a warmer day. I secured the third wire and lined up the cable clamp, holding the two pieces together in such a way so to keep them aligned for the shell to go back on and tightened the cable clamp.

Now, the screws that hold the plate into the shell are slightly smaller than the bit that I had on the screwdriver, so I pulled out the bit I would need from the tray on the table and promptly stuck in my mouth, so that I could pull the existing bit out of the driver. Remember the lesson we ALL learned, in “A Christmas Story,” about kids that stick their tongues on frozen poles? Lips on a frozen bit aren’t much better! ‘Nuff said; that skin will grow back soon enough. After ripping said skin from my lips and getting the PROPER BIT in place, the shell went back together smoothly.

Pushing the plug back in to the receptacle probably never felt so good, as I could immediately tell that things were coming back to life, inside the RV. Which, by the way, is where I went. Immediately. All available heat sources joined in unison to elevate the RV temperature to something slightly above meat locker levels, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

You know, I could have lost my temper over this, and honestly I almost did. But even out in the cold and dark of night, I realized that I had a surgery coming up in two days that would have made a job like this IMPOSSIBLE for me to do; God spared me from that predicament, or at the very least proved His promises true. “All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord and are called, according to His purpose.” That is Romans 8:28, but I prefer to call it Trials 101. Humbly, I try to be His servant and follow His lead. It is not my works nor my status that cause things to work together for good, but His purpose. It doesn’t mean my life will be easy; it means my life matters to Him. It doesn’t mean things will fix themselves, but that as I tend to fixing those things, He is fixing me for life in Eternity with Him. And what if these trials are attacks of Satan? Well, I imagine the Lord gets a giggle out of foiling those plans, as well. To me, it’s a win-win situation.

Cousins

Cousins-Like A RockI’m at that point in my life, where I do believe “I have more behind me than I have ahead of me.”  This means that the number of years I have behind me, or my history, is longer than the number of years I have ahead of me, or my future.  That being said, it’s only natural to look upon the past, much in the way that it is always preferable to look back on a freshly-mowed lawn than to stare ahead at the unwieldy brambles that lie ahead.

Family is a frequent topic of thought, for me;  All the Grams, Gramps, Aunties and Uncles are all gone except for their memories, for the most part, and those that remain haven’t been seen nor together for decades.  Even my nuclear family has spread out to various parts of the country, so this time of year makes for reminiscing of years gone by and get-togethers of the past, enjoying the company of all of the above, and of course, cousins.

I have had cousins that I spent a lot of time with, and I have cousins that I used to never see.  One common thread that seemed to happen to me, however, was that any time you put cousins together for any length of time, someone was bound to get in trouble!  Still, nobody stayed too mad at anybody for very long, because (after all) we’re related!  Besides, when it’s all said and done, a cousin is who you call when you’re down, or with glad tidings of great joy, or when you just want a familiar voice.  More often than not, a cousin is that understanding, non-judgmental ear and casual observer for life who can relate to you from outside your everyday life looking in, and offer a perspective that none other can provide.

College, Career, Marriage, Divorce, Economics, and Social Migration may have caused us to drift apart, but cousins are forever playing in the playground of your mind, digging up fond memories and swinging on your heartstrings, all the while singing those crazy songs that just seem to pop into your head.  And, through all  of those life events, it’s the cousins who are there to cheer you on, pray with you and pray for you, standing beside you at the altar, the grave and every crisis in-between.  Indeed, one of the hardest memories in my life was standing at the graveside of a cousin who’d been one of my closest friends.

Sometimes, the “cousin” relationship may be remote and hard to distinguish, and yet there seems to flow a natural friendship when you take the time to share yourselves with each other.  To the outside world, they may only appear as “family friends,” but to me they are both family AND friend.

Even Jesus had cousins.  There’s some speculation over “first vs second” and such, but they were there.  John the Baptist was a second-cousin to Jesus, as the son of Elizabeth.  The apostles James, James the lesser and John were also said to be His cousins, and given their up-close and personal relationship to Jesus, it strengthened their bond and devotion.  His cousin proclaimed His coming, and His cousins were with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Of all the cousins in my life, I love those that I am in contact with, and it seems to me that my relationship to them is growing stronger as the years pass, even with the distances. This is what has made me appreciate some aspects of social media that have brought us back together.  Phone numbers and addresses get lost, and finding the numbers of those who might have the numbers can be maddening!  That, with the typical time-crunch that life seems to place us in, causes us to let too much time pass between reaching out.  Now, for those who are online and registered, reconnecting and communicating has been a blessing for me.

Why do I say all this?  It’s simple.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen some of my Cousins do some amazing things.  One of those, Lynnette, was reaching out to my family and I, encouraging us and giving us words of hope, while she herself was in the Hospital!  As I thought of that I realized all the love she and her family have poured out to others;  wherever there was a hurt or a need, she has been in the middle of patching things up.  I’ve known her to give her last dollar to help someone else, to the point of taking them in at times, and yet I also know her financial struggles are as tough as anyone’s.  She is truly an amazing woman, but she is not the only star;  Clear across the country is another quiet hero, Butch.  He has had a massive heart attack, but that didn’t shrink it any. Butch has been in overdrive being supportive to other family members in need, and being a friend to anyone who will listen.  Holly is another one that I hold dear, as are Mary, Laura, Cat, and so many others that if I even tried to make a complete list, I’d still miss one and feel horrible for it.  If you all are reading this, I want to assure you, I truly appreciate you!

So, Cousin, wherever you are, I just wanted to you to know just how much you all mean to me!

Blessings,

Tom

Your Focus Is Your Future

while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.I just got home from the Dr., and I set down here, wondering,”How many times have I started out a post, that way?” Quite a few, I’m sure.

That being said, this time it was a neurosurgeon. As he and his staff reviewed my results and findings from other doctors and such, they ran me through their own screening, of sorts. As I described symptoms and gait issues and quasi-tunnel issues, I began to feel like my personality and soul were trapped beneath many layers, like an onion. Each layer by itself is merely translucent, but when all are stacked together, seeing a clear way out seems almost impossible.

So I came home, made lunch and got to my studies for today that I’d had to postpone for such an early appointment. There were a couple of FB notifications I saw, and one of them from a friend whose wife is having some mystery pains and complications from testings that are interfering with previous attempts to alleviate the pain. My heart began to ache for them, as I don’t have to look far to know what it is like, not having the answer (much less a remedy) for the pain. I see my brother, suffering for years with pain that only gets worse. I see my sister, having trouble with her pain to the point of not being able to move at times. I see my Mother and my Father, both going through the trials of pains and aches and bodily malfunctions that have altered their lifestyle dramatically. And then I look at my study, and I am moved from thoughts of gloom to thoughts of Glory:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.

13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, 14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sake, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

My pain, your pain, our pain, our afflictions and struggles here on earth stand as a “Black Velvet” background for the brilliant creation God is painting with your life. Singing in the battle stands out above the gunfire; Praising out of pain perplexes. This open worship of God yields a peace that truly passes all understanding and causes the unbeliever to want to know what you’ve got that they haven’t got, because “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot comprehend it.”

So, Paul, I am praying for you. I hope you got a chance to read this to the end.

In Christ,

Tom

Why ME?

Why do you need ME to improve your site's SEO?  Read on and find out how I can help!E-Commerce. Web Store. Internet Marketing Site. E-Shop. Online Market. Whatever you want to call it, businesses both small and large have taken to the ‘Web,’ with more arriving daily. In these economic times, a web site not only makes sense, it is coming close to being as much a necessity as your sales pad and telephone. Certainly, if you sell anything from home-made crafts to custom shoes, clothes, and accessories, all the way to luxury motor carriages, you have probably heard the question, “Have you got a website I can look at?”

People love to shop; they just hate being SOLD. With a web page, a person can shop in privacy, and take as much time to look and research as they like, without the inconvenience of waiting for returned calls or spending time on hold. Your website is fast becoming your most important salesperson, who simply shows your customers what they want to see and allows them to scroll past that which they don’t. What is your “top salesperson” telling your customers? Is it drawing the right clientele, folks who are interested in what you have to offer?

If you do, in fact, have a website, how does it look to your visitors? Just like a brick-and-mortar store, your facade and your entry door speak volumes to your customers. Yet, the prettiest of entries won’t yield much in sales if the customers cannot find what they are looking for. Worse than that, a “Pretty” flash-based web site may look fresh, slick, and exciting, but not draw many customers, since (for many such sites) many of the internet search engines cannot easily “see” what you’re offering through all the code that makes your site so cool.

You may be a brilliant maverick, blazing new trails and adapting to every circumstance; the consummate professional, polished at your craft and master of your own world. You may have even put together your own site- there’s nothing wrong with that. But, if you are not satisfied with the results your internet salesperson is getting you, if you’ve felt that you lack the time to give it the information input it needs, if you want or need that extra hand in adding content and tackling that ever-elusive goal known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that increases traffic and interest in your site, then I can help.

I know; there are many different “SEO specialists” out there, most of them spamming people for their business. You’ll see their postings in blog comments, in forums, and virtually everywhere they can sneak in, usually claiming to have “looked over your site and found many ways they can increase your traffic.” The problem is, their pitch is exactly the same, repeated as a copy/paste ad nauseum around the web. I cannot rate your site, your traffic, or your effectiveness, without an in-depth analysis. And the remedy is not a cookie-cutter approach, either; it takes a committed mindset, a puzzle-solving ability, and creativity that goes beyond the “standard tricks.”

Furthermore, there are no instant results, although you can see a marked improvement within a very short period of time. There are no set schedules as to when or how the internet search engines will scan your site. If there were, then companies such as Google wouldn’t have the ‘edge’ that they do. And, while many internet marketers and web designers may be leery that they will somehow be “handing over creative control” of their site to someone else, nothing is farther from the truth. You are not releasing control, but rather increasing control and optimizing performance!

A great search engine optimizer will only enhance your creation. I cannot speak for others, but my belief is that your site is your brainchild, your desired ‘look’. And, far be it from me to try and change that. Rather, just as there are things that you know about your business that are particular and essential to your success, just as a programmer knows his code, just as the graphic artist knows his craft down to the megapixel, so I have grasped the concept of writing with purpose, to inform, sell, and to be relevant. I have written hundreds of articles and web pages from learning about the client’s product, gleaning information from multiple sources and images, distilling all that information down into words with flavor and zest.

This is how I can help you. I take a multifaceted approach to enhancing a site’s web presence; both within and outside your site. I look at your site the way a search engine would, and fill in the informational gaps to make your site more relevant, more comprehensive, more searchable than ever before. If you would like to discuss this further, feel free to email me or use the “contact” page!

Condiments

 

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.Not too long ago, I replaced our refrigerator.

 

I’m not going to bore you with the details of deconstruction and reconstruction while just trying to make the exchange. Instead, I thought I would test the limits of your patience discussing condiments.

 

Over the years, it seems we’d amassed quite a collection; everything from mustard and mayo to the various packets of buffalo sauce and dipping sauces and taco bell’s 3 levels of hot sauce- There was dijon, horseradish, garlic sauce, honey-mustard, chinese yellow mustard, and well, you get the picture.

 

I probably threw away a week’s grocery bill worth of sauces and packets, mostly because I’d not a clue as to how old they were anymore. Have you ever noticed there is no expiration date on those little pouches we squeeze out over our food? For all we know, these were hand-me-downs from some long-lost parallel universe to the Mayans. Which would explain why there are no expiration dates, as we wouldn’t be able to read it, anyway. Fortunately, with this being 2012, it’s probably a good thing to toss them, as that will leave less to explode come December.

 

Things like this are not a conscious effort; the accumulation happens over a long period of time. Our old fridge was probably close to 30 years old, and I’m fairly certain some of those packets were left in there by the manufacturer during someone’s lunch break. At least, now, they are gone.

 

After dedicating a half a garbage bag full to removing old and orphaned bottles and packets from the condiment condominium, I made a silent vow to myself to never again amass such a condiment-al congregation.

 

Fast forward to this afternoon; We’d had DiGiorno’s Pizza, and it came with a few boneless hot wings and a packet of buffalo sauce. When we were finished, there were a few left over, so I packaged them up in a baggie for my wife to snack on at another time. This evening, I wanted something quick, so I fixed a bowl of my old college stand-by, Top Ramen.

 

I like my ramen my own way, and don’t care much for the 4 gazillion milligrams of sodium they throw in there and call seasoning. So, I got mine to cooking, threw away the outer packaging, grabbed up the little seasoning packets and turned towards the cupboard, to put them away… and stopped myself, cold.

 

Why am I doing this? What earthly reason is there to save these pouches of seasoning that I will never, ever use? It hit me, that THIS was the behavior that led us to have all those packets of condiments in the refrigerator; A reluctance to throw away that which we will never use, and unfortunately would probably serve no purpose to the hungriest of people. So why hang onto them?

 

This is the way our lives become cluttered with our emotional and theological baggage. The little things that hurt us or affect our lives in a negative way do not generally land on us all at once. They are introduced by the enemy, a little at a time, until one day they have become so populous that we run out of capacity for so many other things that really matter. The resultant clutter begins to cover some of the more nutritious options for us to feed our souls, and when we try to look inside ourselves, we are unhappy with the way it looks and don’t find what we are looking for, so we close the door and grab the nearest junk food we can find.

 

As these things come upon us, we need to make the conscious decisions necessary to deflect or remove them from our lives, keeping our souls uncluttered. In Jesus, we are forgiven our sins and have been cleansed from all unrighteousness. And we can continue to go to Him for continual cleansing in our prayer lives- but we do still have an accountability issue. To be faithful. Jesus said:

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (luke 16:10)

So, when the sins, the challenges, the “Packets,” if you will, come into our lives, being faithful to remove them will help to keep our hearts and our minds uncluttered and our prayer times more effectual and a sweet time of communion.

 

Matthew 12:43“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44“Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45“Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

 

When we rid ourselves of the clutter, it’s important to refill ourselves with the Word. Digging into the Word will provide us with countless nuggets of spiritual nutrition and priceless treasures to store in our hearts. My prayer for you, is that you accept the challenge to ditch the clutter and bring on the Word, for it is our sustenance.

 


To All A Good Knight

outta gasIt’s a cold evening, outside.  Late December usually is, in these parts.  But, something about tonight-  maybe the fact that it’s Christmas Eve- just makes it seem so much colder.

He has a good heater, warm clothes and overcoats, not to mention a healthy layer of adipose tissue that helps to insulate him.  He had spent his afternoon hanging Christmas lights, of all things;  They should have been up weeks ago, and he almost skipped it entirely, but it was one of those tasks that just begs to happen.  Sentiment played a large part in that, as these particular lights had been given to him by his own father, just a year ago;  A silent declaration that Dad was no longer going to hang those lights.

Jay couldn’t stand to see the box of lights just sitting there;  they weren’t just any lights.  Those were Dad’s lights.  And, while Jay himself may not have actually handled those lights yet, his childhood memories of Christmas were full of times helping Dad put up his lights.  He stopped, early this morning on his way out the door and saw the box, still sitting where he had left it.

Immediately the images returned in his mind, of stretching out the strings of lights, checking for bad bulbs and replacing them with good ones.  Of being very careful not to tangle them, and of being able to remember where almost every hook and nail were, under the eaves, and how Dad was the only one allowed to string the lights along the second story…

The images of his father handling those lights was too much to bear.  Jay dropped what he was doing, grabbed the box and took it outside to start the process of stringing them out and checking them.  At one point, Jay’s wife came out and asked what he was doing.  When Jay replied, “I’m hanging the Christmas Lights,” she was beside herself.  “Today, of all days?” She asked, “Christmas has almost come and gone, already!  It’s a waste of time!”

But for Jay, it wasn’t a waste of time.  Even though he worked out there alone, and even though there were a dozen other projects he could be working on, Jay felt that by hanging those lights, he was working alongside his father, in spirit, even though the two were thousands of miles apart.

As the day and the work progressed, Jay found himself longing for the camaraderie and fellowship of his own children; that they be there, busy alongside him, helping with the lights.  Indeed, there were many other tasks that he not only wanted help with, but needed help with, badly.  Jay had asked, a time or two, but it was obvious that the kids had moved on with their own lives, own families, own friends and own projects or traditions.

Sitting down  on the steps of the porch for a moment, Jay thought of his own boys, and how hard it seemed to be getting to build memories with them.  Money had gotten tight due to his limitations and medical bills, and Jay had begun to feel that maybe he had offended them, with his not being able to spend much money on them anymore.  He felt a cold chill as he tried to shake that thought away.  Yes, there had been a fairly steady stream of financial struggles and hardships, but Jay and his Wife had always tried to raise the boys right and to show them the value of not wasting money of frivolous things, but as the boys moved on to their own lives, new and exciting experiences came their way in the form of their newfound social circles.  Mom and Dad’s words begin to lose potency, in such a light.

Some people would tell him it’s just the age, that this younger generation doesn’t hold the values that he did towards family and commitments, but what troubled Jay was that he almost never heard from them nor saw them unless there was an offer of dinner, a movie, or they needed something he had.

Yes, it was true, and Jay knew it;  He was feeling sorry for himself.  And he had to brace himself, as he knew in times like this was when his Lord was about to preach him a mighty sermon.

It happened, and even faster than Jay had ever expected.  Almost immediately, Jay heard the scripture from Isaiah 53:6 in his mind:

All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

Sometimes, when these verses and ‘sermons’ would come upon Jay, they were so clear and concise, he would be nearly blown away by how profound the word was, and this was one of those times.

This day that we celebrate, year after year; This day we call “Christmas,” was brought about by the Heavenly Father seeing the world becoming what Jay saw, and God KNEW that the only way for us to be drawn to Him would be for a portal to be opened.  A “Jacob’s Ladder” in the form of a man, come to earth a baby boy;  that, being Jesus!  Almost instantly, Jay’s heart melted from the frost the enemy was trying to put upon it, and Jay began to pray for his family and his community. He asked for God to forgive the anger he had felt, and to use him to bless someone through this “celebration in lights” he was proclaiming to the world.

And then it happened.

Jay was just stepping off the ladder on the final “leg” of his project, when a voice startled him.   “Excuse me, Sir?”

At first, Jay thought he was just hearing something in his mind-  but then the voice came again; “Sir?  Pardon me…”   It was enough to spin him around on his heels, and as he did, he came face to face with a young man, clean-cut and apparently, very polite.

The young man started to tell his story, but before Jay could actually absorb all that he was saying, he had to mentally sort out why he hadn’t heard anything- no car coming in the driveway, no crunching of heels on the gravel, nothing.  Then the man’s words started to settle in.

“I’m so sorry to bother you,” the young man started in,” but I need to see if you could help me out with a jump start?” and he pointed out to the road, where a car was sitting off to the side in the drainage ditch.  “Not a bother at all,” Jay replied, “There’s not much other way of even GETTING help, way out here!” and the two started towards Jay’s pickup, sitting in the driveway.

As they pulled out, the young man introduced himself as Dakota, and said he was headed to see his girlfreind’s family when his car unexplainedly died.  By Dakota’s description, it sounded more like he ran out of gas, but he had enough tools and supplies to handle whatever it might be.

The car was a 1985 Chevrolet Impala, and was in unusually good condition for a car of its age, and Jay did a quick walkaround as he talked to Dakota, noticing the car’s lack of rust, and that even the tires were well-maintained.  “How much gas does the guage say you have in it?” He asked Dakota.

“It was low, but I thought I had enough to get to my girlfriend’s and get some gas money.” Dakota replied.  To Jay, this seemed almost surreal;  A clean cut kid, nice car, well-mannered and apparently somewhat intelligent, would come out this far with so little gas?  In Jay’s truck-driving days, he would have thought the whole thing a scam setup.

A quick hook-up of the jumper cables and a shot of ether made it clear that the car wasn’t getting the fuel it needed.  Jay had a couple gallons in his can, and gave it to the young man.  “I don’t have any cash to give you,” interrupted Dakota, but Jay knew he wasn’t going anywhere without it.  “Take it-  My God has supplied my needs, and I have no cash to share, but I do have this,” Jay told him, “And you can help someone else when you find them.”

Unfortunately, two gallons wasn’t enough to fix the problem, as the car was now parked in the ditch.  This meant that the gasoline wouldn’t be simply level in the tank, but would be listing off to one side, away from the pickup tube that “sucks up” the gas.  Jay and Dakota headed down to a fuel station together for more gas.

Again, Dakota was saying how he didn’t have money, but would be happy to bring some by later.  Jay told him that what he did from here forward was up to Him to do as God leads, and for now, God is telling Jay to buy the boy some gas.

5 gallons in the jug, and by the look on Dakota’s face, Jay could have just have handed him his week’s paycheck.  On their trip back to Dakota’s car, Jay explained that when you live this far out, where there isn’t a gas station on every corner, you learn to bite the bullet and keep the tank topped off, especially when the  guage doesn’t quite work so well.  “Dad always told me, ‘It runs just as good on the upper half’” and then Winked at Dakota, who replied, “Sounds like he was a wise man who loved you.”   Jay replied, “Still does.”

It only took a couple moments to get the 5 gallons into the big chevy’s tank, and just a squirt more ether to get it running again.   Jay was still amazed at how nice and clean this car was, to have such a silly problem come up, but stranger things have happened.

As the two shook hands, Dakota again told Jay he’d bring some money by soon.  Jay told him, “I’m not worried about it;  You’ll never know when I’ll be needing help!”  Dakota looked Jay square in the eye and said, “Your God knows!” and swung into his car and closed the door.  with that, he pulled out of the ditch and was gone.

Jay stood, looking off at his house in the distance, with the lettering “Merry Christmas” lit up over his entry door.  “Yes, Dakota, he does” he said aloud, as he got into his own truck and headed back up his driveway.  As he reached the house, yet another scripture was playing in his head:

Matthew 8:19 And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”

Merry Christmas, Jay, and to all (be) a good knight.