2017: Page 349

2017: Page 349

Page 349 was a full day with a combination of usual Friday tasks, some tasks that I would not want to become usual, and even a task that I never thought I would hear myself saying that I did. 🙂  The morning began early as I knew I had a lot to get done before I would be able to call it a day.  I was thankful that there was no new snow, so there was no outside work to be done to start the day.  After a morning shift of cleaning and building prep, I made my way to the hospital to be with my mom so that my dad could hopefully get some rest.  There was some testing they kept talking about doing that dad didn’t want to miss, so he didn’t end up going home until mom was released at the end of the day.  They ended up doing the test shortly before noon, so when they were done my dad, brother, and I went to the cafeteria to get some lunch.  My brother has been having some health issues as well and as we were eating lunch he got a call that the doctors wanted him to have a test done right away.  While we were at a hospital, it wasn’t the right hospital for his insurance, so I made a trip across town with him to wait while he had an ultrasound . . . never dreamed I would be waiting on my brother for that, but in this case they were looking for a blood clot in his leg — which they didn’t find.

After some time at that hospital with him and finding out there wasn’t anything further they would do at this time, I made my way back across town to be with my mom and dad.  They still hadn’t heard anything back from the test, so I waited with them until the doctor eventually came in with the results and the news that mom could go home — the news that mom and dad were both waiting to hear.  After the “hurry up and wait” part of the dismissal routine and my sister prepared to take them home, I stopped to get something to eat before returning to work to get the Friday night cleaning done so the building is ready for Sunday.

With the snow and ice melt combination that winter brings with it, there was a little extra work required to the weekend cleaning.  As I worked, I was filled with praise and thanksgiving that I had the freedom to spend the day with my family in their time of need.  While it added to the length of the day, it also added to the joy and fulfillment of the day to help carry some of their concern and perhaps even relieve some of it because of the experiences I have dealt with.  With the cleaning mostly done, I sat down to write today’s page around 10:30 PM while some of the floors dried.  Once I’ve written today’s page and the floors are dry, I can finish the last of what I need to get done and head home.

My wife and I selected some of our favorite lighthouse photos from what we had taken throughout the state of Michigan this year and put together a photo calendar for 2018.  Those calendars arrived today and since I had no opportunities to take photos, today’s photo is a collage of most of the pictures that made the cut for the calendar.  

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

  • When there is a lot that needs done, an early start can be a good idea but only if that early start includes a recognition of God’s presence.
  • When God says that we are to comfort others with the comfort that we ourselves have received, we need to be aware of how God might use the difficult times He has brought us through to prepare us to help others.
  • Sometimes we find ourselves doing things that we never thought we would simply because God had plans that were greater than ours.
  • Sometimes we so narrowly define what we think something is, that when we find ourselves in the midst of doing it we think it sounds strange.
  •  Photographs help me to remember some great family times as each picture I take and share has a story of its own it could tell.

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2017: Page 348

2017: Page 348

Page 348 began early as it was another day with fresh snow overnight that needed cleared from the walks.  The sky was clear as I walked out of the house and the sliver of moon hanging in the sky seemed to beg to be photographed — so I obliged.  After clearing the walks and getting the building ready for the day I got a phone call that my mom was in the emergency room after an episode of some kind.  My dad and brother was with her and said they would keep me up to date on what was going on, so I continued my morning tasks with a mind and heart filled with prayers for my mom and dad.  As I took the trash out, the moon and Jupiter were shining brightly in the sky so I grabbed my camera to see if I could capture them together.  I ended up with a couple photos that had them both in the picture but they were too far apart to get anything that I was real happy with, so today’s photo is the zoomed in look at the sliver of moon that was visible.

Today was probably the coldest the temperature had gotten so far this season and the building HVAC system was not being very cooperative in heating the building evenly.  So, a lot of my morning was spent tweaking and fine tuning the system trying to balance things out.  One thing I have learned is that small adjustments over a period of time works better than changing too much all at once.  There were some areas where I could see improvement starting to take place and other areas that I will continue to monitor and see if further adjustments are necessary.  

By early afternoon I found out my mom was scheduled for an MRI and would be admitted to a room following that.  After wrapping up my work for the day I headed up to the hospital to be with my family and see if the doctors had any answers yet.  The testing so far had indicated there was no evidence of a stroke but also no evidence of what had caused the episode she had.  As I sat with mom and dad through the evening, I couldn’t help but think there would be a day when they would not be here to sit with.  I continue to pray that they have a restful night and that God would reveal some answers as the doctors and medical personnel do their testing.

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

  • Even with only a sliver of moon reflecting the light of the sun, the snow cover helped reflect that light even further so that the darkness wasn’t all that dark.
  • Preparing for the things that can be prepared for helps me be ready for the things that can’t be prepared for.
  • Some scenes are just too big and grand for me to capture in a photograph.  Could be my limited photography skills, but I’m pretty sure it has more to do with the vastness of the God who designs such scenes.
  • In many areas of life, extremes are the are the areas where danger exists.  Finding balance is mostly about moving Christ to the center and drawing near to Him.
  • Big changes that are wrong are usually more difficult to recover from than small steps in the wrong direction.
  • Sometimes figuring out what hasn’t caused an unwelcome event is a start in determining what did.
  • Time spent with the people we love is never time wasted.

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2017: Page 347

2017: Page 347

Winter has arrived even though the calendar says it won’t start until next week.  With fresh snowfall overnight, page 347 began early as I was at work before 6 AM.  And with snow falling at various times throughout the day, it was after 6 PM when I cleared the walks for the final time and headed home.  In between those two sixes were a lot of things that made my day challenging and forced me to deal with an ever-rising frustration level.  In the midst of it all I struggled to keep my mind focused on things that were pure and noble and praise-worthy.  The feelings of discouragement have followed me home, so I’m going to pause the writing and head to bed — some time with God and sleep should give me a clearer mind to finish writing this page in the morning. 🙂

Well, the next morning has arrived and now I’m writing yesterday’s page following some prayer time out in the crisp night air as I cleared the walks.  Page 347 began in much the same way — prayer time out in the midst of nighttime calm and crisp snow underfoot.  Once the outside work was finished for the time being, my attention was turned toward getting the inside ready for the day.  As I look back, I think part of the problem was that I got so caught up in the things that needed done with the arrival of snow that I got the inside of the building ready for the day but didn’t use that time to get the inside of me ready for the day.  The day was busy but it didn’t seem like any of the things I worked on actually were accomplished.  On some of them, progress was made and on others it felt like the time spent on them didn’t accomplish anything.  That is the problem with only being able to see with a temporal vision rather than the eternal vision that God has.  I become too quick to decide something didn’t work or was ineffective or was a waste of time, simply because it didn’t bear fruit in the season I thought is should have — the season of “now”.  

With overcast skies all day and the snow coming and going, I didn’t have a lot of visitors outside my office window.  There were a couple of blue jays, however, that did stop by long enough for some photos.  While not often desired for their song — their call is usually rather harsh sounding — I always enjoy seeing the bright blue color hopping from tree to tree outside my window.  God’s gifting in each person’s life is designed to benefit not only them, but the entire body of Christ.  Just as people often think of the blue jay as a nuisance bird because it doesn’t act the way a cardinal does, we often fall into the trap of labeling people as a nuisance simply because they don’t fit our expectations and we aren’t willing to look at them for who they are created to be.

As I look back on the day, perhaps that same attitude crept into my mind about the “unaccomplished” tasks of the day.  If the tasks I am working on don’t take place in the way I think they should, or in the time frame I think they should, it is far too easy to think something went wrong.  Sometimes it is probably true that things went wrong, but often it has more to do with expectations (whether accurate or not) that went unfulfilled.  Hindsight helps me to see that there were things that were not only done, but even some of the “unaccomplished” things were actually steps that needed to be taken in the bigger picture realm.

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

  • What something actually looks and feels like is usually more truthful than an arbitrary label.
  • Not everything will go as planned.  In fact, some days may feel like nothing goes as planned.
  • Some days are easier than others to take every thought captive.  It is usually the more difficult days when doing so is more necessary.
  • Sometimes I need a “time-out” to reset my mind on things above.
  • Failing to begin my day with the correct mindset usually results in greater problems as the day goes along.
  • Even when I begin my day with God as I should, it is easy for me to get distracted when I have to change up my routine.
  • My definition of “not accomplished” is not always the same as God’s.
  • God’s desire is that you and I would be faithful in being who He created us to be.

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2017: Page 346

2017: Page 346

The living part of page 346 has been long but I will try to get the written part of the page done before I call it a day.  Fresh snow had fallen overnight, so I was up early to get the walks cleared in addition to the usual morning tasks.  The sky was clear and the moon shining brightly so I began by clearing the walks while I was still dressed for the outside cold.  When they were done, I turned my attention to the work inside until I got a phone call that I was needed at home.  It seems Susan had a major seizure after I left for work and the fight to come out of it and reconnect the brain wiring was indeed a fight.  By the time I got home she was fairly calm but it was another 45 minutes or so before things connected well enough in the brain again for her to be appropriately responsive.  Once she was cleaned up and resting peacefully, I headed back to work where a lake effect band of snow had set up and I needed to clear walks again before the school day began.  

When the walks were clear and the building ready for the day, much of my morning was spent catching up on some correspondence and messages.  The band of lake effect snow had moved along and the sun was out most of the morning.  As I worked, the brush once again filled with songbirds feasting on the berries that still hang from the branches.  The cardinals were especially beautiful against the background of snow covered twigs.  Today’s photo is of one of those cardinals as he held a berry he had just plucked from the brush around him.

Part of the correspondence I was working with today included a follow-up email from the chaplain at a correctional institution in Florida.  It seems my most recent email had made it sound like I had leftover 2017 Bible reading calendars that I was willing to send, when in fact it was 2018 calendars that I was offering.  I called the number in the email and was able to talk with the chaplain.  It was a great conversation to have as we were able to discuss both what I had available and what she thought would be most useful.  The short of it is that she will use whatever I can send, but she would like to see these calendars be an annual thing that could be given to each inmate wanting one — which she estimates based on requests for other materials to be around 750 of them.  I told her I would send the 150 calendars that I currently have this year and would work at raising the funds to provide the full number she would need for next year.  I will also be sending her an assortment of the devotional books I’ve written to see if she would find them useful in the ministry there.  If so, that could represent another test of faith to see how God will provide the resources to get them what they would use.

By mid-afternoon the events of the day combined with the early start had caught up with me so I headed out for a late lunch on my way home.  Susan was resting when I got home but has had light seizure activity throughout the evening.  My hope and prayer is that a good night’s sleep will help all of us recover and that the seizures would not steal the joy that Susan brings.

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

  • Sometimes the length of a day has more to do with what is in it than with the hours it contains.
  • Some days the living part of the day is easier than writing about it and other days it is easier to write than to live it — and then some days both the living and writing are difficult.
  • Some days I question why I post these pages publicly but I suspect doing so helps keep me accountable to actually writing them — and the writing of them serves as a great reminder to me of the work God is doing each day.
  • Watching someone in a fight that you can’t really help with is not a pleasant thing.
  • God says our battle is not against flesh and blood and I think that it can be very easy for us to forget that and find ourselves fighting with people who themselves are fighting an enemy we can’t see.
  • Even with the extra work that winter often brings, I enjoy the beauty that comes with it.
  • I prefer written communication but sometimes a phone call that allows for immediate clarification can speed up the communication process.  I suppose the one without the other would be like spending time in God’s Word without praying or praying without spending any time in Scripture — either way, we would miss the fullness of what God wants to say.
  • Some requests that are made of me are easy to answer because I think I can handle them.  The fun requests are the God-sized ones that I know I can’t handle and must trust Him to take care of.
  • While I have no idea of how God would choose to make it happen, it excites me to think of 750 female inmates at a state correctional institution wanting prayer-based devotional material — and to have those in authority there thinking this is a good thing.
  • Rest is often undervalued in our society.

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2017: Page 345

2017: Page 345

Page 345 was the start of the work week, but with needing to take care of snow over the weekend it really felt like today was just a continuation of last week.  Winter presents some last-minute demands on my time on a fairly regular basis and I am thankful for the flexibility to take rest time when the weather forces too many workdays in a row. 

Today began with a haze covering the moon as the sky was still full of moisture even after yesterday’s snow.  As I went about the morning prayer, cleaning and building prep I had lines from several old hymns playing in my mind as I worked.  In fact, while they ministered to me as I went about my morning tasks, the lines were so assorted from different hymns that I don’t really remember any specific titles or lines now that the day is nearly over.  

After the building was ready for the day I took care of a few general maintenance issues before settling in for a morning of writing.  First up, since I was too tired last night, was the writing of yesterday’s page.  Once it was written, I turned my attention to my Monday morning routine of time with God working on the prayer guide for next week.  With the words in my mind that were spoken to the shepherds by an angel, “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people.”, the topic of living with joy seemed fitting as a prayer focus.  Much like this week’s topic of peace, joy from God’s perspective is obtained as a product of God’s Spirit in our life rather than through specific circumstances that go our way.  As I worked, the brush outside my office window was filled with birds.  Most of the morning visitors were cardinals, but there were a few small songbirds that were present even though they remained mostly hidden from sight.  Today’s photo is of one of those as she sat in the brush enjoying a few berries.  

The writing took longer than usual, but by early afternoon I had the prayer guide written and ready to be formatted and scheduled for publication.  It was late enough though, that I set that aside and took care of some tasks in the building before heading out for a late lunch.  After lunch I made a quick trip to Potato Creek to shoot a few photos and take a short walk.  I didn’t find any of the eagles, but it was a refreshing walk as I looked for them.  When I got home, I spent some time relaxing and going through the photos from the day before writing today’s page.  The forecast calls for more snow overnight and throughout tomorrow, so I’ll wrap up this page and try to get some sleep in preparation for what tomorrow will bring.  

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

  • Rest is important, but so is taking care of responsibilities.
  • Some things need to be very structured and schedule-oriented to be successful, other things require the flexibility to address needs as they arise.
  • One size fits all rarely works in clothing and it doesn’t often work in the way we approach life — God made us as unique people to do the things that He created in advance for us to do.
  • Sometimes my mind is filled with things that stay with me as an encouragement all day long and other times they do their work in my mind and spirit and then they leave.
  • Joy done God’s way is vastly different, and better, than any happiness we may pursue on our own.
  • When God says to “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds”, we must conclude that the joy He offers isn’t based on us getting what we want all the time.
  • The joy that we should seek after, as it is an unquenchable joy, is a result of God’s Spirit dwelling within us.
  • It is easy to feel unnoticed when we compare ourselves to those who seem to get all the attention — the good news, however, is that none of us go unnoticed by God.
  • While I enjoy finding majestic wildlife and beautiful nature scenes to photograph, there is also great joy to be had in just enjoying the everyday beauty of creation.

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2017: Page 344

2017: Page 344

Page 344 began early as more snow had fallen overnight and the walks needed cleared before Sunday School and Church.  As long as I’m dressed appropriately, I enjoy the snow and even clearing sidewalks — for a while.  The freshness that is brought by the snow and the clear lines of contrast between the snow-covered ground and the clean sidewalks is a thing of beauty to me.  As I worked early, the soundtrack in my mind was the words from the old hymn, “Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.  Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow!  Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”  I am thankful for Jesus who doesn’t just provide a layer of beauty to cover the ugliness of sin, but He cleanses me from all unrighteousness and makes me clean from the inside out.

Once the walks were clean and the building ready for the day, I headed home to change clothes and pick up my family for church.  During our worship gathering, David brought a message from the first 17 verses of Matthew (yes, the genealogy section!) that he titled, “The Truth About God”.  Here are some of the highlights and/or main points from my perspective. 🙂

  • God Always Keeps His Word:  It is difficult for most people to think long term and even when we do, our idea of long term is usually much shorter than God’s.  Through the genealogy of Jesus we see that though mankind may have given up on God, God never gave up on mankind and never gave up on His promises.  God made a promise to Abraham that had to sound absolutely ridiculous considering the age of he and his wife, Sarah, but scripture says that “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  The promise to a childless Abraham was that through him a nation of innumerable people would be born and that all the nations of the world would be blessed.  The list of names recorded for us by Matthew shows a direct line from God’s promise to Abraham to the fulfillment of it in the birth of Jesus who came as a blessing to all people from every nation that would put their trust in Him.  Many times we know things that God has promised through His Word yet we find ourselves living in the slavery of Egypt or the captivity of Babylon and we start to wonder, or even question, if God meant what He said.  Though His timing is often vastly different than ours, something not happening when we think it should have doesn’t mean that God has forgotten — no, His perspective is eternal rather than temporal and completely right rather than “close enough”.
  • God Empowers His People in Unexpected Ways:  Even a casual glance at this list of names by a person with some familiarity of Old Testament history should confirm the conclusion that Peter came to when he said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.”  Not only does God empower His people in unexpected ways, He often chooses unexpected people to do the unexpected things!  From prostitutes to royalty, from young to old, and from the nation’s favorite sons to foreigners; the list in Matthew is full of names that have one thing in common — God doing His work through them.  The moment in which you think you are ready to give up because you just can’t do it is often the moment that God decides you are ready for Him to step in and do the unexpected.  It is a good lesson to keep in mind not only for yourself when you are ready to give up, but also when you start looking at others and mentally write them off — God doesn’t look at you, or them, in the same way that people do. 
  • God Always Finishes What He Starts:  While they likely didn’t understand it, the plan to send Jesus was announced to Adam and Eve in the garden long before God called Abram and chose to feature him in the role of “father of many nations” — a name given while a 99 year old Abram was only the father of a child of the flesh (Ishmael) and the child of promise (Isaac) had not yet been born.  This promise continued throughout generations, including the promise to King David that his descendants would be enthroned over Israel forever.  Because our perspective of time is very limited, we often think God has given up when in fact He is working according to His own timing which is both good and perfect.  The Bible says that Jesus came “in the fullness of time” or “when the time was just right”.  While many who knew of the promised Messiah had given up their expectation that they would ever see such a thing, God completed that task at just the right time.  While the work Jesus came to do on earth was completed by His death, burial, and resurrection, God still has work for Jesus to do both in preparing a place for us and in returning for those who are His.  Even in the first century there were people questioning whether God would finish what was begun and send Jesus back for those who are His.  God’s response is that He is not slack in keeping His promises as some count slow, but rather He is patient (or long-suffering) not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

After the church service, we went to lunch then decided to make use of the beautiful, sunny day to go out looking for snowy owls to photograph.  By the time we all got bundled up for the cold weather, the clouds had overtaken the blue sky but we went out looking anyhow.  While it felt every bit like winter, the sky and water had a tropical look to them as the sun gave a faint rose-colored glow to the clouds and the water sparkled in various shades of blue.  We never did see any owls, but had a great time as a family out driving around looking for them.  Our final stop was around sunset time at the lighthouses of St Joseph, Michigan.  Today’s photo from atop one of the dunes and ended up with a “wave” of grass blowing in front of the lens as I took the photo. 

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

  • A fresh-fallen snow can cover up the ugliness of decay but the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus removes the death and decay of sin and replaces it with life.
  • When we know what to expect, it is our choice to prepare or not — that is true with the weather and with eternity.
  • God says all scripture is God-breathed and is profitable or useful, including the parts that we may be tempted to overlook.
  • God always keeps His word . . . all the time.
  • God’s work is often done in unexpected ways through the people we would least expect.
  • He who began a good work in you (and me), is faithful to complete it.
  • There can be joy in the search for something even if you don’t find what you’re looking for.  The secret is in who you are searching with.

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2017: Page 343

2017: Page 343

After a Friday that leaked into Saturday, it was good to sleep in and have a restful day for page 343.  The snow that had been predicted arrived overnight and with it continuing to fall through the morning, I wasn’t too eager to go out and take a chance with all of the “first snow of the season” drivers that seem to forget how to drive on snow each year.  

The morning was spent writing yesterday’s page and then spending some time going through photos.  I received an offer to have photo calendars printed at half-price, so I decided to put together a lighthouse themed 2018 calendar.  There were far too many lighthouse photos to go through and most of them I liked — that’s why I took them — but by the time I chose some favorites and added some of Mary Jane’s favorites, I had about 50 photos for 13 spaces in the calendar format.  We eventually narrowed it down to 13 photos and one extra.

The selection process was barely done when I got a phone call from the security monitoring company that the alarm system at the building had been set off.  So I bundled up and headed out into the snow to see what was up.  The alarm ended up not being a big deal, but you never know until you check it out.  While I was there I started up the snowblower and cleared the walks.  They will probably need done again in the morning, but at least the first few inches will have already been cleared off.

After clearing the snow I came home and returned to work on the calendar project.  After seeing the photos laid out on the template, we ended up using the “extra” to replace one of the “chosen ones” — sometimes you just have to see things in their final settings to realize what works and what doesn’t.  Today’s photo is the one that made the initial selection but was then replaced by the “extra”.  It is definitely not a bad photo, but when laid out on the page beside the others, it was too similar to another chosen photo and wasn’t the right fit for this project.

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

  • Changing conditions often require us to adjust how we do things.  
  • If we fail to make proper adjustments, we often find ourselves involved in chaos.
  • Even when we prepare for things the way they are, the actions of others can be unpredictable.
  • It can be difficult to change the ways we do things even when we know we need to.
  • Days of rest are best spent with family.
  • I take photos to capture the scenes that get my attention.  
  • I share photos with the hope and prayer that others will see the beauty and creativity that God surrounds us with.
  • When tasks are expected to increase, such as accumulating snow, it can be helpful to tackle it in stages while it is more manageable rather than have to do it all at once.
  • Thoughts and ideas can sound good, but sometimes they need to be seen in their in the context of their natural settings to know if they are right.
  • Just because something doesn’t fit where you think it should have doesn’t mean it is bad — it might just need to be in a different setting to find where it belongs.

10 - October