2017: Page 56

I was doing some updates on my GPS that ended up taking longer than I anticipated, so page 55 soon merged into page 56 before I headed to bed.  The late, or very early morning, bedtime made the idea of sleeping in even more desirable than normal.  When I finally woke up, winter had returned overnight and there was a dusting of snow on the ground with light flurries still falling.  After relaxing much of the morning, we finally decided to head out for a trip to Portage and Michigan City, Indiana for some shopping with stops along the Lake Michigan shoreline to shoot some photos.

Today’s photo is of the lighthouse scene at Washington Park in Michigan City as the sun attempted to break through the clouds.  While the wind coming off the lake made it feel even colder than the twenty-seven degree air temperature would make it seem, it was still a great afternoon to take photos.   The occasional break in the clouds allowed for the sunbeams to stream from the sky onto the waters of the lake.  When viewed from the dunes and hills along the lake shore, the water was an amazing variety of blues and greens as the waves rolled onto the shore.  In fact, if you could ignore the gray sky and cold temperature, it almost had a tropical look to it.  Yet appearance isn’t always an accurate reflection of what something is.

It is kind of that way with people too.  God says that we have a tendency to look at the outward appearance of people, while He looks at the heart.  While we need to apply that principle to the way we view others, we really need to begin by examining whether we spend more time working on our own outward appearance or more time with who we are at our very core.  Do we want people just to think well of us, or do we want to treat people well?  Do we let people see who we really are, or do we spent most of our time hiding our true self.  Do we even take the time to be honest with our self about what God already knows about us?

Overall it’s been a quiet day and after the shopping and photo excursion, the evening was spent at home going through the photos taken in the afternoon before writing today’s page.  I will need to do some cleaning at work before church tomorrow, so it’s probably time to wrap up today’s writing and call it a day.

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • Sometimes I start projects later than I should and find myself working on them long after I should have taken a break.  This character trait is probably positive at times and negative at other times.
  • How persistent am I when it comes to doing what it takes to grow in my walk with God?  Do I pursue Him naturally according to His leading or do I force the relationship to fit my plans and ideas.
  • Not everything is what it appears to be.  Sometimes it is, but other times it is either better or worse that what it appears, or perhaps just different from its appearance.
  • Our integrity is the quality that helps us be the same person whether anyone is looking or not.

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2017: Page 55

Page 55 began with surprisingly warm weather on a day that saw the season change from spring back to winter again.  As I took the trash out after the morning cleaning and building prep, the day’s first line of storms began moving through the area.  It began as light rain and the trees were filled with birds singing their springtime songs in the early morning.  As the rainfall became heavier, the sounds of the birds disappeared as they headed deeper into the woods for cover.  But the music of nature continued as the rain danced on the metal roof of the building while I took care of my morning tasks.  By late morning the first round of rain came to an end and clear skies appeared for a brief time before the clouds began to build for round two.  

With a memorial service and dinner scheduled for late afternoon and evening, I did some writing as I waited for the cafeteria to clear out so I could clean the floors and help with the setup for the dinner.  Today’s writing was my first blog post other than my daily pages in a very long time.  The idea for the writing came from a photo I took of my daughter this past weekend.  The photo caught her in a great expression of joy which flows not from what she can accomplish, but from who she is.  If you’ve not already seen it, you can find that blog post at “Finding Joy In Who You Are“.

After the writing, it was time to clean floors and do some setup for the evening before heading out to lunch.  With the building in use, the rest of my weekend cleaning will end up waiting until sometime Saturday or early Sunday morning.  So, after a late lunch I headed home where I relaxed and took a nap before dinner.  After dinner, it has been a combination of Words With Friends games and writing today’s page.  With no new photos taken today, I chose one from yesterday for today’s page.  It reminds me a lot of the overcast and stormy weather of today.  Even with a day that the weather would probably not be considered ideal, God continues to share His creativity and beauty.  Once I finish up the writing, it will be time to get some sleep.

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • We don’t always get the weather, or other life circumstances, that we want but that shouldn’t keep us from noticing God’s goodness in what He gives us.
  • Just because the birds stop singing in a storm, it doesn’t mean the music has to stop.
  • We must be careful to not let a good routine cause us to miss the incredible surprises God wants to bring into our life.
  • If we count on what we do, or what others think about what we do, to bring us joy, we will eventually end up disappointed.
  • True joy in Christ comes from being who God created us to be and being content to simply be that.
  • Serving people may well cause us to have to change our plans and schedules — serve anyway.
  • With no rain, there is no growth.  With no growth, we die.  Appreciate the cloudy and rainy days of life for the life they bring.

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Finding Joy In Who You Are

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Do you remember that question?  Perhaps you’re still waiting to grow up and figure out the answer to that question.  Or maybe you’ve grown up and you’re living your dream.  But more likely, if you’re like me and many others, when you evaluate who you are today, reality hasn’t fully matched your dreams.  Our answers at six, twelve, eighteen, and even twenty-five and beyond rarely take into account all that life will bring our way.

Unfortunately, most of our answers to the “what do you want to be” question rarely answer the question that ought to be asked.  We hear the question and our answers invariably sound like we heard, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”  I don’t know what your answers have been over the years, but perhaps some of these sound familiar:  I want to be a policeman, a fireman, a nurse, a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a builder, an astronaut, a mechanic, a business owner, or a whatever else we hope to do.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone answer the question of what they want to be by saying they want to be kind, loving, compassionate, honest, forgiving, joyful, content, fair, generous, peaceful, patient, gentle, or any other attribute that expresses the presence of God’s Spirit dwelling within us.

Yes, what we do can be a gift from God, who has in advance created good works for us to do.  But if our identity is fully formed around what we do, what happens when we can no longer do?  What happens if we can never do what we’ve dreamed of?  To find joy with who we are, we must move beyond what we can do and develop the deeper traits of who we can be.  One of the most difficult things in life, at least for me, is to find joy in being when the world says my doing doesn’t measure up.  Sometimes I think we, as a society, have worked so hard for equality that we’ve failed to see the dark side that often lingers with it.  Treating people without partiality is a good thing — and a God-commanded thing.  But that is not the same as believing everyone should fit into the same mold in order to be equal.  Yes, we should constantly strive to do all the good that we can do and work toward giving everyone the opportunity to do all the good that they can do.  But we should work harder at being content with who we are and helping others find joy in who they are regardless of what any of us are able to do.

So, how do you and I find joy in who we are?  We begin by believing what God says about who we are.  When we wrap our identity around being God’s child and allow our sense of value to come from His love for us, what we can and cannot do becomes less important compared to who we are and and who we can be in Christ.  Remember that list from paragraph two of what many people want to be (do) when they grow up?  My daughter, who is now twenty-seven years old, will never be any of those things — at least not in an official way, short of a miraculous intervention from God.  Yes, she teaches me more than just about anyone else, so you could say she’s a teacher — but not in the sense it is used when answering the question about growing up.  Yet she has great joy in who she is, and I have great joy in who she is, because her life is wrapped around her identity in Christ and is focused on being the things that we all ought to strive for — the things I mentioned earlier that I said I never hear in response to the question of what we want to be.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be like Susan.  I want to be one that finds joy in who I am — a joy that the world can’t take away, a joy that is not dependent on my abilities measuring up to the expectations of others but is solely dependent on being who God created me to be.  I pray that God fills you with His Spirit so that you overflow with joy simply because you are His.

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Joy In Being!

2017: Page 54

Page 53 ended later than I had anticipated so page 54 began with me heading to bed to get some sleep.  When I eventually woke up to start page 54 for real, I sat down at my computer to check on messages and social media postings.  It didn’t take long this morning for me to realize that although I walk a lot and consider myself to be in good enough physical condition, apparently running a chainsaw for several hours straight yesterday used a different variety of muscles that what I’m used to using. 🙂  I was thankful that Thursday’s are typically my day off so I could recuperate from yesterday’s work.

We’re having spring, summer, fall, and winter all within days of each other this week, so Susan’s neurological system seems to be experiencing a lot of difficulties with a variety of seizure types.  My day of rest helps her to rest so it becomes a win-win for all of us.  She was eventually ready to get up so I helped her get her clothes out and breakfast around so she could get herself ready for the day.  Once she had what she needed, I fired up the pellet grill so I cook some bacon cheeseburgers for lunch.  After lunch, Susan and I headed down to Potato Creek where she walked a mile and then rode her wheelchair while we did an additional four miles of trails.  When we first got to the park, a bald eagle was perched in a tree near where we parked.  I was able to get a few photos before he decided to go somewhere else to do his fishing.  In the photo on today’s page he seems to be looking at me and wondering, “What is he doing here?”  In the very next photo I was able to take, he has begun to spread his wings just before taking off.  While I love seeing the eagles when I’m there, the park itself is filled with beauty and photo opportunities throughout.  

After our walks, we headed home where I spent some time going through the photos I had taken.  Once the photos had been gone through and I had shared a few of them, I fired the pellet grill back up and put some chicken on for supper.  After eating, it was time to begin writing today’s page so I can call it a day and get some sleep before the early start to Friday.

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • Life is filled with a lot of ebb and flow, a variety of hills and valleys, and we would do well to understand the balance that can be had in the midst of that.
  • Doing something we’re not used to doing will generally be uncomfortable for a time but that shouldn’t keep us from doing what we ought.
  • The mind is a wonderful and complex creation.  As with most things, the more complex they are, the more difficult it is to understand all the ways it works — especially when it functions differently than others.
  • The things we call disabilities often help those who have them to do things the rest of us can’t.
  • While there are many things that Susan can’t do, it is more productive to focus on the things she does better than most — like her ability to relate to God.
  • Most people seem to be focused almost exclusively on the visually spectacular even when they are surrounded by other things, or people, that ought to be noticed.
  • What are you missing today because it doesn’t fully match what you’re looking for?

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2017: Page 53

Page 53 should end up being a long, but good, workday.  The work part of the day began at 6 AM and will probably go at least until 10 PM.  As is typical on Wednesdays, I am writing today’s page while I wait for the building to clear out so I can get the cleaning done for tomorrow.  The forecast for today called for dense fog to start the day but there was nothing but some light ground haze as I made my way to work.  As I took the trash out after cleaning and taking care of some inside tasks, the sliver of moon in sky caught my attention so I grabbed my camera and took a few photos of it before the sun made its way up over the horizon.  As I zoomed in on the moon, which was not far above the eastern horizon, I could see the brightness of the sun shining upon it and knew it wouldn’t be long before the sunrise began to light up the horizon.  

Sure enough, the scattered clouds soon began to glow as the sun began to crawl up over the horizon and into view.  As I shot photos of the rising sun, I “played around” with the setting that was available to me — the playground. 🙂  Today’s photo was taken looking through some playground equipment as the sun was beaming down onto the haze-covered ground of the lawn.  In my mind, I could picture God’s love being poured out into a hopper which directs it into the lives of His children.  We can be the light of the world that Jesus calls us to be because we have the true Light living in us.  It is my prayer that God’s people, including myself, would reject the temptations of this world to participate in darkness through the way we treat one another.  The light that is in us, and the light that we ought to be, has the power to overcome the darkness if we would let it shine as purely as possible.

After taking some photos, I came inside to work on some projects in the office most of the morning.  By noon I was ready for a break, so I did a little research and booked our favorite vacation spot for our annual late spring/early summer trip.  After the trip was booked, I finished up my morning projects and headed out for a mid-afternoon lunch before returning to work.  Instead of heading out for a walk as I often do when I take a break on these long workdays, I fired up the chainsaw and spent time on one of the outside projects I didn’t get to yesterday because of the rain.  It had been a while since I had cut wood and it felt good to have the chain saw in my hand and enjoy the smell of fresh sawdust.  When I had used all the mixed fuel I had brought with me, I headed inside to make sure the building was ready for Bible classes tonight and then began writing this page.  The people have pretty much cleared out of the building, so I’ll finish up the page so I can get my work done and head home.

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • When I worked on a roofing crew my boss always said we wouldn’t call off a job because of a forecast.  We would go and let the actual weather decide if we could work.
  • It is far too easy for the “what ifs” to keep us from doing what we ought.
  • God teaches me in so many ways each day.  Sometimes I actually pay attention to the lessons.
  • It is a lot easier to think of Jesus being the light of the world than for us to live as the light of the world.
  • God rarely calls us to take the easy path but He does promise to make the difficult path easier if we walk it with Him.
  • Physical labor is easier on the body if we make it a regular practice so that our body is used to it.
  • Spiritual labor is easier on the mind if we make it a regular practice so that our mind is used to it.
  • When I do both my physical and spiritual labor well, I find that I can rest more peacefully and securely.

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2017: Page 52

With the Presidents Day weekend over, page 52 was the delayed start of my work week.  I had not paid any attention to the weather forecast beyond the information that it is supposed to be warm all week, so I was surprised to find it raining when I took the trash out after I did the morning cleaning.  While it was still dark and before I found out it was raining, I noticed movement outside through one of the windows.  As I looked closer to what was outside, I saw eight deer walk past the window before disappearing into the woods.  I had planned on working on some outside projects, but the weather decided a change in plans was in order.  

That was okay because my first order of business after the building was ready for the day was to work on the prayer guide for next week.  As I spent time with God, a song that has taken up residence in my mind on a regular basis recently, reappeared to get my attention.  The song is “Thank You” by Ray Boltz and at various times in the last few weeks different lines from the song have become lodged in my mind.  Today the line that has stuck in my mind came from near the end of the song, “My child, look around you.  Great is your reward.”   We tend to be a reward driven society — at least I tend to be drawn in that direction — but the good news is that God says the reward for those who pursue and remain in relationship with Him is great!  We often miss that fact because our idea of reward can be very different, and very inferior, to the reward God wants us to receive.  The message of the song is that the people we have served in the name of Jesus that are in heaven in part because of our willingness to share, are part of our great reward.

As I let the words of the song simmer in my mind while I prayed, the idea of great rewards began to form as the basis for the next prayer guide.  God says that there is great reward to be found in the keeping of His commands and ordinances.  Fortunately, He has given us all of the tools and resources necessary for us to be equipped to obey His word and receive the benefits that come to those who remain in a faithful relationship with Him.  As I worked on prayerfully writing out the prayer guide, a number of birds filled the brush looking for food.  The light rain didn’t stop them from enjoying a meal and singing some beautiful songs of praise.  Today’s photo is of one of those birds perched atop a sumac seed head, almost appearing to pose for the photo opportunity.  The birds of the air are taken care of by God and experience a great reward as they trust Him to supply what they need.  Will you and I experience a greater reward as we trust God to not only supply our daily needs, but more importantly, to supply our eternal need?

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • While the weather, and many other things, may surprise me, none of it surprises God.
  • “Listening” to our senses will help us see many things that would otherwise go unnoticed.
  • It is easy to feel unappreciated, unnoticed, or unimportant when we measure success by the world’s standards.
  • When we pursue, and attain, success by God’s standards, being in relationship with Him is our great reward.
  • What we do matters.  Why we do what we do matters even more.
  • Many people have difficulty trusting God because they’ve not been able to trust people.  I guess I’m odd, I find myself trusting God more when I encounter situations where the trust of people has failed.
  • We all struggle with understanding the true difference between need and wants.  God’s  eternal perspective knows exactly what we need and when we want whatever He offers, we find that we receive the desires of our heart.

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2017: Page 51

Page 51 wrapped up a three day weekend adventure with my family as the school and preschool had today off for Presidents Day.  We began the day at Turkey Run State Park and then made our way via a covered bridge stop to Cataract Falls at the Lieber State Recreation Area.  This was a beautiful stop as it contains the largest waterfall by volume in Indiana, as well as a covered bridge close enough to the falls to get them both in a photo.  After time spent shooting photos there, we headed down to McCormick’s Creek State Park for lunch and some photos of the waterfall in the park.  Eventually it was time to head home but not without a few more covered bridge stops on our way.  As the sun began to set on the day, and on our weekend adventure, we arrived at Adams Mill where we took some photos of the mill, the mill grounds, and a covered bridge crossing the creek the mill is powered by.  Today’s photo seemed fitting for the Presidents Day page as the mill’s founder, John Adams, shared a name with an early US president.

With three stops at state recreational properties today, it should be clear that we enjoy the state park and recreational system throughout Indiana.  I know people who believe that no public funding should be used for “non-essential” services such as parks and recreation property.  I would guess that such people have never made use of these properties in a way that shows them to be essential to them as they are to so many.  For me to visit so many different parks and find unique beauty within each of them, I am thankful that each element of natural beauty has been preserved so they are not destroyed by commercialization or simple “progress”.  Yes, there needs to be a balance and wasteful spending is never appropriate whether it is done by a government entity, or by you and I.  How we choose to use our resources, and what we support the use of public funds to be used for, says a lot about how we view ourselves, others, and even God.

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • The urgent will always want done and often clamors for your attention while the important always needs done but rarely demands that you give it the priority it deserves — you must make that choice.
  • Because life is but a series of moments strung together with little or no warning as to which moment is the last, it would do us well to make the most of the moment we currently live in.
  • While patience is a part of the fruit of God’s Spirit, it seems to be a lost part . . . or God’s Spirit isn’t as active in the lives of people as it ought to be.
  • I lost track of  how many people pulled out in front of me today causing me to slow down, sometimes drastically, to avoid hitting them.  While it is easy to say they need to learn patience, I found that I quickly lost patience with them for inconveniencing me — perhaps patience needs worked on all around.
  • God has always called His people to look out for the good of our fellow man even if doing so doesn’t directly benefit us.
  • Wisdom and generosity are important characteristics that need to work together as we serve others.

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