2017: Page 173

I’m tired.  It has felt like a long week and it is only Thursday.  And I suspect that this week is only practice for what next week will feel like.  I began my workday with the usual summer morning walk-through of the building to take note of anything that would need taken care of before Vacation Bible School in the evening.  After checking on the progress of my book as it works its way through the printing process, I went to see about having my truck serviced before my trip to the North American Christian Convention.  They said they could get to it early in the afternoon, so I went back to the office and put on my accounting hat as I worked on the missions account record-keeping.  

Shortly after noon, I took a break from my accounting work and dropped my truck off at the service center.  While it was being worked on, I spent some time on the Riverwalk through downtown South Bend.  There was a perfect mix of bright blue sky and white fluffy clouds that just longed to be captured in photos.  Not only did I get a lot of photos of the water and sky combination, I also captured today’s photo of a duck and turtle sharing a log.  It first made me think of our need to get along with people who are different than us, and together share this beautiful earth that God has created.  The center of the log was submerged, but the other end had even more turtles and ducks sharing the branches.  That part took me back in time to my first ministry working with youth.  I had a saying that was much more than a slogan, it was a core element of my philosophy of ministry — “Always room for 1 more!”  It seems that many times in ministry it becomes so easy to focus on attendance and numbers that we lose sight of the individual “one more” that makes up those numbers.  For me, that slogan was a way of saying not only is there room for you, but that you are important as an individual.

After my walk, I picked my truck up from the service center then stopped for a late lunch on my way back to work.  The rest of the afternoon was spent finishing up my accounting work.  As I finished that part of my workday, the children were beginning to arrive for Vacation Bible School so I saved my work and got my camera out to take photos of the evening’s activities.  

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

  • There seems to be a difference between a good tired and a bad tired, but right now I’m not sure which it is that I am.
  • Sometimes I’m not sure why people ask my opinion on things when it is obvious they don’t want to hear it.
  • Good things can be just as distracting as bad things.  My task is to stay focused on the things God has called me to do and let others stay focused on what He has called them to do.
  • Regular maintenance goes a long way in keeping a lot of things going smoothly.
  • This planet we’re on isn’t ours, so we ought to learn to share it with others who don’t own it either.
  • Perhaps church growth isn’t about programs, events, and crowds but rather all about keeping our eye out for the “one more”.  
  • I suspect that writing is my way of saying, “Here I am!  Listen up, I have something to say!”  I’m thankful that God uses it in spite of that.

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2017: Page 172

Page 172 was a day of good things accomplished even if I didn’t get to everything on my list of potential tasks for the day.  My morning walk-through of the building found several areas that would need my attention before the start of Vacation Bible School in the evening.  After making a note of those things so I wouldn’t forget, I checked messages and followed up with some social media responses from the previous day’s postings.  

The rest of my morning was a mix of working on the sermon for Sunday and getting my latest book, “Living Free”, set up to be published and distributed on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.  By late afternoon the Kindle edition was approved and went live on Amazon at the following address: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0731DD8DN.  The print edition takes a little longer to make it through all the approval processes, so it will probably be a few days until it is available.  

By early afternoon I had done what I could for my part in getting the book ready for Amazon, so I picked up the list I had made in the morning and took care of the building needs to get it read for the evening.  Once the building was ready it was time to get some lunch and take a short break before coming back to work to take photos during Vacation Bible School.  My break once again took me down to Potato Creek, but there was no visits by the eagles — surprise or not.  It was still a beautiful afternoon and once again I just sat on the pier taking photos and resting.  Today’s photo is one that has more to it than it first appeared to me that I was photographing.  From where I was, I could see a heron out in the sun with a close eye on the surrounding water.  As I zoomed in to capture the detail I wanted, I noticed a second heron in the shadows on the shore.  It made me think about how often we pay attention to a person who is in a place where they are more noticeable, and completely ignore the person who appears to simply be in the background.  God’s desire is that we are faithful in doing what He has called us to, whether that leads us into an up-front and obvious work or into a behind the scenes service that often goes unnoticed.  Both have purpose and value when given such by God regardless of how the world may judge them.

I didn’t get to spend much time at the park today until it was time to head back to the church building for Vacation Bible School.  Not only is it fun to see children excited to be at church learning about God’s love for them, it is a joy to be able to capture some of that excitement in photographs.  

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

  • Progress is measured by what gets accomplished, not by what you don’t get to.
  • Notes and to-do lists are useful.  The mind has a way of forgetting things that we tell ourselves we won’t forget.
  • Tasks that I don’t get finished one day are usually still waiting for me the next.  If not, it likely wasn’t that important after all.
  • My schedule for when things should happen can be a useful guideline, but God’s schedule is the one that matters.
  • Sometimes God uses us according to our preferences and sometimes He uses us in spite of our preferences.
  • The person serving in the shadows is just as important as the one in the spotlight — as long as each of them are where God wants them.
  • Joy and excitement in learning about and knowing God’s love for us shouldn’t be limited to children.

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2017: Page 171

Page 171 was another full day filled with a variety of good things.  I made it to work around 7 AM and took care of some correspondence to start my workday.  After catching up on messages, I spent some time doing some touch-up cleaning and restocking of the bathrooms to have the building ready for another evening of Vacation Bible School.  Once the maintenance tasks were taken care of, I spent the rest of the morning proofreading the next book I will publish.  Because of the speed in which the writing of this book came together, I really expected to find a lot of typos and other word issues that I would need to correct.  I don’t know if it says something about my writing, or about my proofreading, but I only found three minor corrections I needed to make.  After making my way through the book and correcting my manuscript file as needed, I began the process of formatting it for Kindle publication.  The files I need to submit for the print edition is very different than what is needed for Kindle publishing, so it takes time even with copy and paste to create a new document.

By mid-afternoon I needed a break before Vacation Bible School, so I left the building to get some lunch and make a quick trip to Potato Creek.  I guess I have been in need of rest as today made two days in a row that I just sat at the boat ramp taking pictures without hiking any of the trails.  When I got to the lake, the eagles were no where in sight so I sat on the pier to take in the view in front of me as the cloud formations were beautiful.  As I was taking photos, a number of different people used the boat ramp for its other purpose — getting boats on and off the water. 🙂  Eventually one of the people heading out in a boat asked me what kind of bird I was photographing.  I told her I was just photographing the clouds and lake scenes as there wasn’t much else out today.  Her response was that she had thought I was photographing the bird at the top of the tree next to the boat ramp.  I looked behind me and up then said, “Oh, that’s a bald eagle.”  Evidently it had flown in behind me and perched in the top of the tree while my attention was focused in a different direction.  Today’s photo is the one I shot right after turning around and realizing that what I had hoped to photograph, and thought I wouldn’t be able to, was right there above me.  Sometimes we give up on things simply because they don’t happen when we think they should, or how we think they should, or where we think they should.  God wants us to persevere as we trust Him to accomplish the right thing at the right time in the right way at the right place.

After taking a few photos of the eagle, it began to rain so I packed up my cameras and made my way back to the church building in time to sit for just a moment before the start of another evening of  Vacation Bible School.  The next few hours were spent roaming the building taking photos of the children having a great time playing and learning of God’s love for them.  I also took individual photos of the children to be used for a craft project later in the week.  When my work was done, I finally made it home where I warmed up some leftover ribs for dinner before sitting down to write today’s page.

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

  • Finishing well requires that you start.
  • Most clean-up only gets worse the longer you wait to do it.
  • Noticing and correcting mistakes is usually more difficult than making them.
  • An uncorrected life eventually makes even less sense than an uncorrected book manuscript.
  • To have my writings published, I must submit them in the proper format as required by the publisher.  While it may take extra work and effort, the only other option is to not publish my work.
  • Because Jesus says that no one comes to the Father except through Him, we would be wise to follow His instructions in order to obtain eternal life through a relationship with Him.
  • Since we’re not in charge, we don’t get to make the rules.
  • It can be very easy to go through life without noticing how near to us God has brought what we need.

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2017: Page 170

Page 170 began a little later than my weekday mornings so far this summer, but it also ended later than most of my summer workdays so I guess it balanced out  After a full Sunday yesterday, today began with the writing of yesterday’s page.  After I finished writing page 169, I spent a little time moving a few tables to help get things set up for the Vacation Bible School which began this evening.  With the building things taken care of, I turned my attention to drawing into God’s presence in His Word to work on next week’s prayer guide.  I eventually settled on the topic of leadership and spent the rest of the morning developing a prayer guide that considers how God would have us lead in whatever area of leadership He has given us.  Leadership done God’s way is generally quite different than leadership done the world’s way.  Many times Christians have tried to adopt the world’s methods and means of leadership within the church and then wonder why they are not experiencing the “success” that they expect.  We are quick to plug people into roles of leadership and decision-making based on their degrees and an appearance of success in the world, but rarely look at how successful they are in being faithful to the Word of God.  Most, if not all, of my failures have come as a result of my insisting I know what I am doing and God allowing me to do it my way until I realize the need to do it His way.

After the prayer guide was written, I took the time to format it and get it scheduled to post online and go out via email to start next week.  Then my attention turned to a sermon I’ll be sharing with the Pleasant View Church of Christ congregation in Cassopolis, Michigan on Sunday morning.  I’m sure God will be refining that over the next few days as I listen to Him for the heart of the message He would have me share.  By mid-afternoon, it was time to take a break and get some lunch.  I stopped and picked up a sandwich on my way to Potato Creek State Park.  As I drove toward the park, the clouds were beginning to stack up upon each other and the sky was turning very dark in front of me.  Behind me, the sky was still a fairly even mix of blue sky and white, puffy clouds.  At the park, I took quite a few photos of the clouds and sky in an attempt to capture some of its beauty.  Today’s photo was also taken at the park as I found a butterfly pausing for a moment on a lily blossom.  While both the lily and the butterfly are beautiful to see and photograph, the work being done here is often unnoticed and taken for granted.  As do bees, butterflies help to pollinate plants as they pick up pollen from one blossom and spread it to others.  It made me think about our role as Christians in helping the gospel message to be reproduced in the lives of others.  We pick up the “pollen” of truth as we spend time in God’s Word and then gradually spread it into the lives of others as we go about our life — dropping life-giving elements of God’s Word into the receptive blossoms of those we interact with.

The dark clouds finally gathered more moisture than they could hold and the rain began to fall.  It was time to go anyway, so I quickly packed up my cameras and headed back to the church building to spend the evening taking photos during Vacation Bible School.  I’m wrapping up the day writing today’s page and then it is time to get some sleep to get ready for a similar day tomorrow.  

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

  • Looking ahead to see the possibilities of a day helps me set an appropriate pace to accomplish what needs done.
  • Leaders don’t always carry a title of leader.
  • Whether you notice or not, someone is probably watching your actions and following your example — that would make you a leader to them.
  • How you lead people will say a lot about how you follow Christ.
  • Man’s ways are not God’s ways and many time we must choose which way we will follow.
  • While dark clouds will generally produce rain, there is often much that can be done before the impending darkness turns to rain.
  • If you expect the seeds of the gospel to germinate in the lives of others, you must have regular contact with both the Word of God and those who need its life-giving “pollen”.

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2017: Page 169

Page 169 began early as I went in to work to clean bathrooms, glass doors, and touch up other areas of the building so it was ready for our Sunday worship gathering.  As I went through the building in the quietness of the early morning  hours, I began my time of worship praying for the message that would be spoken and for the people who would gather to lift up the name of Jesus while being encouraged, challenged, and even convicted by God’s Word as we shared in it together.  Once the building was ready for the morning, I went home and got myself cleaned up and ready for the morning.

Our Sunday School class is doing a study of 1 Timothy, and this morning we prepared to look at chapter three by sharing a variety of verses which speak to the responsibilities of leadership within the church body.  Paul will address the character of leaders when he writes to Timothy, and we’ll eventually get to that within our class, but the reason the character is so important is because of the responsibilities they have to shepherd and serve the flock of God which is among them.  

After the Sunday School hour, we gathered for a time of worship in song, in giving, around the Lord’s Table, and in the Word.  David continued a series he is doing through the first half of the book of Acts with a message from Acts 5 that he titled, “Living Dangerously”.  The chapter opens with the account of Ananias and Sapphira making a claim about their generosity toward God that wasn’t true.  When questioned by the apostles, they continue their lie and God strikes them dead on the spot.  While most Christians are probably familiar with that story, I’m guessing we tend to gloss over it because the truth behind their actions, and God’s actions, might hit just a little too close to home.  We know the Bible teaches that sin brings death, but we often live according to the lie of satan that says, “you surely won’t die.”  The story makes it clear that they were actually free to do what they did, the problem was misrepresenting their actions — they did one thing but said something else.  In today’s culture many, even many within church leaderships, would say that’s no big deal — things change, accomplishing what we want is more important than how we get there.  God’s Word still tells a different story — live with integrity, let your yes be yes and your no be no.

While that story set the background, much of the sermon was focused on the rest of chapter 5 as God used the apostles to speak boldly in the name of Jesus even after “great fear” had spread among all the people because of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.  Here are the main points we considered:

  • The enemy is relentless — Stay Engaged:  Temptation comes in many forms and the enemy is good at knowing just what we’ll listen to when it comes to distracting us and moving us away from God.  Through God’s Spirit we have been given a complete complement of armor to help us be protected during the battle for our soul.  Satan is relentless when it comes to stalking and waiting for a “more opportune” time with the hope he can catch us off guard.  The early church was under attack and it seemed like the attacks were coming from all sides — including inside.  The integrity of the body was being attacked by a lack of integrity of individuals.  Dealing with the sin in the body caused great fear among all the people.  The proclamation of the good news of Jesus brought about the arrest of all of the apostles.  Yet in the midst of all these attacks, and more, those who believed in Jesus stayed connected to one another, and to God, and continued to be engaged in sharing the good news of Jesus no matter what.
  • God can use anything — Stay Strong:  It is often easier to look around us and see what can’t be done rather than noticing what God can do.  The actions of one couple in bringing deceit into the body of believers, and God’s dealing with it, brought about an atmosphere of fear that would appear to make growth of the church nearly impossible.  Add to that the arrest of all of the leaders, with the command to quit speaking of Jesus, and it would appear that the early church was finished before it could really take root.  Yet, to believe any of that discounts the power of God to use anything to accomplish His purposes and will.  I think of Joseph’s words to his brothers, who sold him into slavery, when they finally meet after years of separation, “What you meant for harm, God has used for good to accomplish the saving of many people.”  While God can, and does, use anything, it seems there are many times He delights in using our failures to show Himself strong and accomplish His purpose.
  • The situation is never hopeless — Stay the Course:  Sometimes the greatest temptation for a Christian isn’t to commit some sin that would bring shame to us and to the name of Christ, but it is to get us to simply give up.  It would have been easy for the early church to look around and question their decision to follow Jesus.  With the apostles in jail and being threatened by those in authority, hopelessness would have likely been a very human reaction.  Yet when it comes to our life in Christ, God makes it clear that this race is not necessarily won by those who are the fastest but by those who finish.  When I think of staying the course, I think of the three Hebrew men who were being threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace because they would not bow before the image of the king.  While the situation looked hopeless, their response is the ultimate “staying the course” — “We know that our God can save us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not bow to you or any other god.”

After the church service, we had lunch and eventually made our way to the farm to visit with my mom and dad on Father’s Day.  With the long day, I didn’t get the writing part of the page done and I didn’t end up taking any photos.  So, today’s photo is one from our Saturday trip to Potato Creek.  As I thought about the sermon title of “Living Dangerously”, the look of this osprey seemed to be similar to the reaction we may have at the thought of living dangerously for Christ. 🙂

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

  • If each day is seen as a day of worship, it would likely change the way we go about our daily tasks — or at least it should.
  • Biblical leadership isn’t the same as leadership in the world so we shouldn’t use the same criteria for church leaders as the world does for its leaders.
  • There is often a big difference between one who wants to lead and one who wants to serve.
  • God takes integrity more seriously than people often do.
  • God not only wants us to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, He has equipped us with everything we need to do so.
  • You don’t have to be like anyone else to be used by God — you just have to be the person God created and called you to be.
  • The things, and people, that we often discard are often the ones that God chooses to use greatly.
  • God’s reward of eternal life is given to those who are faithful to the end.  
  • Today’s situation — good or bad — isn’t permanent.  The end of the journey — eternal life in Christ — is.
  • Fear can destroy us or motivate us to action.

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2017: Page 168

Page 168 was a restful day as I continue to do my best to guard at least one day a week that I don’t go in to work at all — although, while I didn’t go to work I still had some work that I did first thing this morning.  It seems that while I had written the next prayer guide on Monday morning as I usually try to do, I ended up sidetracked with other tasks and had never made it as far as getting it formatted and scheduled to be posted on my web site and emailed out to start the new week.  So while Susan slept in, I took care of that piece of work so it is ready to go out first thing tomorrow.

Last night, before Susan went to sleep, I had planted in her mind the idea that we would go to the zoo if she woke up early enough.  She has been thinking she needs a new stuffed animal for her upcoming birthday, so after I had finished the work I needed to get done, she was more than eager to get up and go look at animals — and to her their really isn’t much difference between the live one and the plush toy ones.  She enjoyed the trip and was able to see many of the animals up close as they were fairly active this morning.  We finished our trip with a stop in the gift shop where she found the “cat” she was looking for.  I suspect she would have preferred one of the ones roaming around behind the glass panels, but she happily settled for the “big one” she found.  

After the zoo trip, we headed home and I fired up the pellet grill to get lunch started.  By late afternoon we packed up our cameras and took a drive down to Potato Creek State Park to shoot some photos.  One of the bald eagles was out and perched in a tree along the shoreline, so we began by taking quite a few photos of it.  Today’s photo is one of those as the eagle was seeming to stare me down.  After taking his photo, we drove to the other side of the lake where a pair of osprey were at home in their nest.  Each of these birds of prey are incredible to watch as they are designed with everything they need to see, catch, and devour the unfortunate creature that they choose to be their next meal.  

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

  • Plans and routines can be good, but sometimes things get overlooked even with the best plans and routines in place.
  • Plans and routines without flexibility will generally lead to a from of legalism — and that’s not good.
  • Forgetting to do a task at the time you normally would, is generally not the end of the world.
  • “Seeding” a thought ahead of time can help build anticipation and avoid surprises.
  • I tend to “wear a lot of hats” with a wide variety of responsibilities and each tends to come with its own title, but the work and title of “Dad” is one of the greatest.
  • My logical mind often wants to restrict the definition of real to things that I can experience with my senses.  God wants me to have a child-like faith that accepts that the unseen things of the Spirit are just as real, and perhaps more so, than the physically real things.
  • If God has equipped the birds of the air with all they need to survive, how much more has He equipped you and I to not only survive, but to thrive as His children?  

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Raindrops (Cry Out to God)

They say that into every life
a little rain must fall.
Without its big, wet, frequent drops
you wouldn’t grow at all.
While I would guess that this is true,
what can a person do?
When all those drops cause you to drown
within a sea of blue.
Well, I suppose you have a choice
when all those raindrops fall.
Do nothing as you sink and drown,
or turn to God and call.

There is a story of a man
who walked upon a wave.
When he began to sink and drown,
he asked the Lord to save.
And Jesus reached right down to him,
and pulled him from the sea.
And set him in a steady boat
where he would be quite free.

So when you are about to drown,
and sinking in despair.
Cry out to God to lift you up,
and save you by His care.
Then He will come and rescue you,
to lift you from your sea.
And take you to the boat with Him
saying, “Child, sit with Me.”

© 2017 by Tom Lemler

Sometimes life feels like a roller coaster with its ups and downs, twists and turns, and being tossed back and forth throughout the ride.  I don’t think I’m alone when it comes to experiencing times of discouragement — even to the point of feeling like I’m going to drown in the waves of life.  I was at an event last night and was asked if I had quit writing poems.  I think my first thought was that I had never started writing poems, I just typed out rhyming lines that would fill my mind.  While those rhyming lines have not gathered in my mind lately in a way that consisted of anything I felt needed shared, this morning this poem showed up so I share it to be used by God to accomplish His purposes.

In prayer,
Tom