2017: Page 365

2017: Page 365

While each day ahead can be seen as an unwritten page that I write with my life, that is only from our perspective here on earth.  The Psalmist says that “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Even though God has already seen each story, chapter, page, and word, it has been fun to write out each page these past two years and share them here on my blog.  I haven’t really given much thought about whether I will continue these daily pages or not, and if I do whether I will keep a similar format.  That’s a decision for tomorrow. 🙂

Today began early as I had a lot to get done.  When I arrived at church, the lot had been plowed and we had only received a dusting of snow after I had cleared the walks last night, so my outside work didn’t take long.  I did fire up the snowblower to make easy work of clearing the walkways that had been filled in by the snowplow and then ran it down the walks to remove the little bit of snow that was there.  Once the outside work was done, I headed inside to do a little more prep in the prayer station areas and spend time with God going over the sermon.  The sermon I shared during our morning worship gathering was titled, “Praying for OPEN Eyes”.  As has become my custom, I used a word from the title as my outline and today that word was OPEN.  Here are the main points we considered:

  • Praying for Observant eyes:  Perhaps the most obvious point of praying for open eyes is to use them for the purpose they were designed — observing things.  Sometimes we are so sure of ourselves that we don’t pay attention to the way things really are.  In John 4, Jesus states that the disciples are saying it is four months until harvest yet He tells them to open their eyes and look, the field is ripe for harvest.  How often do we miss our part in the spiritual harvest because we do not have eyes that are open to seeing it?  God wants us to lift our eyes up to observe the people around us and see them as He sees them, not writing any of them off as unreachable.
  • Praying for Purposeful eyes:  In the midst of a world filled with trouble, it is important that we pray for eyes that seek God’s purpose in all things.  In John 9, Jesus encounters a blind man and His disciples ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  The response of Jesus was neither sinned, the purpose of this was so that the work of God could be displayed in his life.  We often need God to open our eyes to see His purpose — both when things are going well and when they are not.  Our apparent victories really aren’t about us becoming successful in the world’s eyes any more than our heartaches are about us becoming failures.  When are eyes are opened to seeing His purpose in our own life, then we are more likely to see His purpose working in the lives of others even when our first reaction may be that somehow they are responsible for their own “bad luck”.
  • Praying for Expectant eyes:  I’m afraid that there are times when our prayer life is pretty shallow because we don’t really expect God to answer.  We’ve prayed so many selfish and demanding prayers that haven’t turned out the way we wanted so we either quit praying or we pray very generically.  In the first chapter or Acts, we read of Jesus ascending into heaven with the disciples left looking into the sky — I’m sure wondering what they would do now.  An angel appears and asks why they are sitting there looking into the sky.  At first glance that may seem like a silly question, but not if you pay attention to the instructions that Jesus had given just before ascending.  The instructions were that they were to be His witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world — hard to do that sitting on a mountain top.  They were to live with eyes expecting the return of Christ, but that expectation was one that compelled them to share the good news of Jesus everywhere they went.  Our eyes also ought to be filled with the expectation that Jesus is returning and we would do well to be found faithful in doing the work He has given to us.
  • Praying for Needy eyes:  When I put this sermon outline together, this was a strange sermon point to me.  God promises to supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory, why would I pray to be needy?  But as I spent time with God in His Word, it became clear that this was about recognizing our great need to have our eyes opened and healed.  In Revelation, the church of Laodicea was given the message that they were lukewarm yet they thought they had it all.  In a lot of ways it sounds like the American church as they are told they think they are rich and have acquired great wealth and don’t need a thing.  But God says they need to have their eyes opened to see how poor they are and how naked and wretched they are so they would seek Him for true wealth and pure garments and salve to bring healing to their needy eyes.  When we pray for a recognition of our own neediness, we find ourselves on equal footing with everyone else who is also in need of the healing salve that only Jesus can provide.

After the church service, I finished up the rest of the details for the New Year’s Eve Watch & Pray vigil that began at 1:00 PM.  The rest of the day has been spent greeting people as they come in to pray and making sure they have the resources and instruction they need and desire to have.  I did get a break early in the evening to get some dinner, and while others are praying I sat down to eat my meal and write today’s page.  Today’s photo is one I took a little while ago of what is probably my favorite “station” in the prayer room setup.  It is an area to spend time with God in examining ourselves as we sit at the foot of the cross.  In a short while, I will lead a concert of prayer to close out the current year and bring in the new one and with that I say goodbye 2017 as I write the final words of today’s page.

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2017: Page 364

2017: Page 364

Page 364 has been a day filled with a combination of tasks, but also a day that I was able to sleep in and get some extra rest.  My morning task was running the snowblower at home to clear the driveway in preparation for whenever the next round of snow may come.  There wasn’t all that much accumulated but it is easier to remove 3 or 4 inches a couple different times than to try to do 8 or more all at once.  The wind was blowing with some pretty good force, so I had to be careful how I aimed the snowblower discharge chute if I wanted to avoid a face full of snow.

After lunch I headed into work where a variety of tasks awaited me.  A majority of the afternoon was spent doing the initial setup of prayer stations for tomorrow’s “Watch & Pray” vigil.  Even though I have done similar setups before, my process remains the same — I empty the primary areas that I plan to use and then sit with God to determine the layout and flow.  The finished product this year is similar to past years, but there are some differences that I at least know even if it seems the same to everyone else.  As part of the setup, I turned on the light behind the stained glass panel in the auditorium and then spent time with God out there refining the sermon I’ll share tomorrow morning before the prayer vigil kicks off.  There is still some fine tuning I will do to the prayer stations, and I anticipate God will continue to fine tune the sermon, but the majority of the work is done.

My next project was to fire up the snowblower and clear the walks at work.  The sky had cleared and the moon was shining brightly, so my hope is that it stays that way overnight so the walks also stay clear.  But, just like the driveway at home, even if it does snow overnight this is a layer removed that should make the task easier in the morning.  I’ve come in from the outside work and made a cup of coffee to warm myself up.  While I’m warming up, I decided to write today’s page before tackling my next task for the day of cleaning bathrooms, floors, and doors to get the building ready for tomorrow.  But even in the midst of the cleaning that will be taking place, I will be going through tomorrow’s sermon points in my mind and continuing the simmering and refining process.  Eventually I’ll head home and get some sleep for what will be a great day in the Lord tomorrow.

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

  • As I typed today’s heading, it is hard to believe there is only one more page yet to live in this year’s story.
  • It can be a little overwhelming when I have a lot of projects in process.  It seems the best approach is to simply start one and do what I can before the next one needs my attention.
  • Taking care of tasks while they are small helps keep them from getting larger than they need to.
  • Paying attention to where the winds of the world are coming from can help you avoid being covered by the things those winds carry.
  • It is always a good idea to seek God and listen to Him, even if the direction He gives you is similar to what He’s given before.
  • Prayer can, and should, take place anywhere and everywhere.  But for me, there is still something special about creating an atmosphere that removes distractions from my time with God.
  • While the pages of this year will soon be history, there is still work that needs done as long as God gives me breath on this earth.

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2017: Page 363

2017: Page 363

Page 363 has centered around sermon work for Sunday with some maintenance and janitorial tasks thrown in throughout the day for variety’s sake.  A light snow had fallen overnight, so I began by clearing the entryway while I was still bundled up for cold weather.  There was a heating issue in the building that would normally be minor but with high temperatures next week forecast to be in the negative numbers, the importance of resolving even minor problems greatly increased.  

By mid-afternoon the heating issue had been taken care of and my mind was swimming with scripture texts from my study, so I switched my focus to the “Watch & Pray” stations I will be setting up for the New Year’s Eve prayer vigil.  By late afternoon I was hungry so I headed out for a late lunch and then took a two mile walk along the Mishawaka Riverwalk to spend some time with God and allow my head to clear so I could listen more intently as I seek His refining for the sermon and prayer vigil preparations.

As I walked, the snow intensity picked up to the point where it went from almost nothing to causing greatly reduced visibility.  There were a variety of ducks, waterfowl, and geese on the river so I found plenty of photo opportunities as I walked.  I would keep tucking my camera inside my jacket between pictures as it would keep getting covered with snow in the brief amount of time I would have it out to snap a photo or two.  Today’s photo is of a group of geese standing in the water’s edge.  Most of them have their beak tucked under a wing and have stood long enough that they are covered in snow.  Sometimes when stuff is flying all around us, our best option is to tuck our nose out of the way so we’re both protected and not tempted to stick it into someone else’s business.

After my walk I made my way back to the building to just spend time with God and consider how He would lead me through the rest of the preparation for the weekend.  I thought maybe I would begin either the weekend cleaning or the prayer vigil setup when I came back from the walk, but so far it is just a time of listening and internal preparation.  As I’m spending time with God, I thought I would write out today’s page and see how the lessons from the day fit in with how He would have me finish out the weekend.

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

  • I work best when I am not constantly jumping back and forth between tasks, but it is also good to have something productive to do when I need a break.
  • If I don’t clear the small amounts of snow after its fallen, there will soon be large amount accumulated where I don’t want it.
  • Minor problems rarely stay minor.  Either they are resolved and are no longer problems or they grow and become big problems.  Resolving them while they are small is usually the better approach.
  • The pool of knowledge and instruction found in God’s Word is deep.  While I greatly enjoy being in it, I usually reach a point when I need to come up for air.
  • While there are times I convince myself that the weather is too bad to go out, I am never disappointed when I reject that excuse and go out anyhow.
  • Sometimes when I’m in the midst of situations where stuff is flying all around me, the best thing I can do is tuck my nose out of the way and mind my own business.
  • A combination of walking and cold wind and snow hitting the face does wonders for getting the blood and oxygen circulating to the brain after hours of little physical activity.
  • Being still may be the most valuable, and the most overlooked, part of preparation for anything that we want God to lead us in.

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2017: Page 362

2017: Page 362

Page 362 has been filled with writing, study, and prep for the weekend.  After a late day out photographing in the cold, today began with the writing of yesterday’s page before turning my attention to the prayer guide for next week.  With my “usual” prayer guide writing time falling on Christmas Day, writing the next prayer guide on a Thursday makes it feel like a Monday.  As I spent time with God, my mind kept thinking about the “Watch & Pray” New Year’s Eve vigil I am working on for Sunday afternoon and evening.  Out of that came the topic for the next prayer guide — “Open Your Eyes”.  It is so easy to let life, even our prayer life, become so routine that we completely miss the important things around us.

Two passages came to mind as I worked on the topic of open your eyes.  The first was the account of Jesus and the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane.  The request of Jesus to His disciples was more than just for them to pray — they were asked to “watch and pray”.  Jesus wanted His followers to pay attention as they prayed.  The other passage was from 2 Kings where the prophet Elisha prayed that God would open the eyes of his servant to see the help God had sent.  When circumstances looked impossible, God was at work in the heavenly realms to provide help that could not be seen with eyes that had not been opened.  While most of us probably began our prayer life with hands folded, heads bowed, and eyes closed, I believe it is more important now than ever that God’s people turn to Him in prayer with eyes wide open.

Once the prayer guide was written and then formatted and scheduled to be sent out, I spent the rest of the day focused on the sermon I’ll share Sunday focused on the same subject of praying that God would open our eyes.  The temperature outside today was so cold that it was good to keep busy in the office but it also meant that the birds outside my window stayed out of sight and I didn’t go out in search of other photo opportunities.  So, today’s photo is one that I took yesterday as we arrived at Holland State Park as the sun broke through the clouds.  Our entire drive from the highway out to the lakefront was through snow falling so heavily that it was difficult to see.  It was looking like the entire trip would result in no photos as nothing could be seen.  But as soon as we reached the park property and was in view of the “Big Red” lighthouse, the snow stopped and the sun began to peek through the cloud cover.

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

  • It is fun to celebrate important events, such as Christmas and birthdays, with family but eventually life returns to some semblance of “normal”.
  • I am thankful for the variety of work God allows me to do and I pray that it is always done for His glory.
  • When we pray for God to open our eyes, it ought to change how we pray as God removes our “tunnel vision”.
  • We will usually miss most of what we aren’t looking for . . . and not even know we missed it.
  • Our battle is not against flesh and blood and when we pray with open eyes we begin to see glimpses into the realm where the battle is taking place.
  • It is far easier, but far less effective, to pray that God would “bless the sick” than it is to open our eyes and visit the sick and pray with them.
  • The sun is always behind the clouds even when it requires perseverance in order to see it.
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2017: Page 361

2017: Page 361

Page 361 continued with the heart of winter as the air temperature made it all the way up to 1 degree by the time I headed out the door to clear snow from the sidewalks at work.  Bundled up with enough layers, it wasn’t too bad being outside and I always enjoy watching the arcs of snow flying from the snow blower.  There is something calming to my spirit when I see the crisp lines of a cleared walk in the  midst of a blanket of snow.  

After getting the building ready for use, I headed home to spend some time with my family as the next few days will be very busy getting ready for the weekend with the opportunity to preach and lead a New Year’s Eve prayer vigil.  After lunch we decided to head north to see what we could find to photograph.  Our hope was to cross paths with a snowy owl or two, but knew that would be a bonus if we did.  We had not driven more than a couple miles before we were diverted off the highway due to an accident ahead.  We kept going, though, and drove through times of clear weather with an occasional near white-out due to heavy snowfall.  Our first stop was at Holland State Park in Holland, Michigan where a snowy owl had been reported last week.  We didn’t see an owl, but as soon as I got out of the truck something flew overhead.  I zoomed in with my camera and discovered it was a bald eagle.  Sometimes you don’t see what you expect or hope for, but there are still plenty of beautiful sights if you look.

After photographing the lakefront scenes and the “Big Red” lighthouse at Holland State Park, we headed back toward home with our next stop in South Haven, Michigan to photograph the lighthouse there.  It was cold, but the photo opportunities were worth being out and the truck heater was very functional and welcome relief between stops.  By the time we stopped at Silver Beach in St Joseph, Michigan it was completely dark but I wanted to try a shot or two from the tripod.  Today’s photo is one that I took on manual settings with about a 30 second exposure setting.  From my location, all that could be clearly seen were the occasional flashes of light from the three beacons.  By collecting each of those flashes over a 30 second time period, there was enough light to make the lighthouses and pier visible.  Sometimes we may think our light isn’t much, but if we continue to let it shine we may be surprised at how much God will illuminate with it.

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

  • Needing to spend an hour or so working outside in the cold winter weather makes me more appreciative of those who have to work out in it each and every day.
  • Preparation can make the difference between enjoying the winter weather or not.
  • While we often prepare for expected conditions in life, do we spend more time preparing for eternity?
  • Different weather conditions require different driving speeds.  Do we adjust our speed through life each day based on that day’s conditions?
  • When we pursue God, we don’t always find what we think we want but He always reveals Himself in the way we need.
  • As a Christian, the light you have is the light of Jesus within you — it is enough.

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2017: Page 360

2017: Page 360

Page 360 began sometime in the middle of the night or early morning hours as I woke up to the sounds of Susan having a seizure.  After sitting with her and making sure she came through it and could go back to sleep, I also went back to sleep and managed to sleep in longer than I have for quite some time.  Once I woke up I took care of some of my usual morning postings and then began to get things ready for the Lemler family Christmas gathering.  

Once the truck was packed, we made a quick stop at Meijer to pick up the remaining supplies I needed to make home-made ice cream.  Home-made ice cream has been a Lemler Christmas tradition for a lot of years now and I suspect there would be some rather disappointed family members if the ice cream freezer didn’t show up.  🙂  After we ate lunch, it was time to bring out the ice cream maker and this year we went back to the hand crank.  The last few years the electric motor didn’t seem to turn both the bucket and dasher correctly and we ended up finishing it by hand, so this year I decided to skip the electric motor completely.  It was fun as a new generation joined in on the cranking process and was able to enjoy the result of their work.

After the Christmas gathering we made a trip through Potato Creek State Park to wrap up the day and see what we could find to photograph.  The geese had gathered on the remaining open water of the lake and a number of swans were setting on the ice.  There were a lot of songbirds keeping active in the tall grass and weeds along the roadway as it protected them from the harsh wind.  The eagles and heron were staying out of sight, but we did see a hawk or two as we were ready to leave the park.  The thing that drew most of our photographic effort was the setting sun that began to light up the sky as we drove through the park.  Today’s photo was taken across one of the meadows as the sun’s ball of fire set beyond the treeline.

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

  • Our lives are not lived alone.
  • The sufferings of the ones we love become our sufferings . . . and their joys become our joys.
  • How we suffer alongside the suffering says more about us than it does about them.
  • My wrist-worn activity tracker says that my sleep is not nearly as deep after it is interrupted as before, but it still feels good to sleep in after the disruption.
  • It seems most people have a love/hate relationship with tradition — they love the traditions that they like and hate the ones that they don’t like . . . kind of sounds like a personal problem rather than a tradition problem.
  • Traditions done right can give existing and new generations something to look forward to and value together.
  • Having a hand in making something can help us enjoy it even more than if we weren’t involved.
  • The things we pass on to the generations following us have the power to connect people of all ages.
  • It is nearly impossible to go wrong if ice cream is a part of a tradition.
  • Even when the bitter cold drives much of the wildlife out of sight, there is incredible beauty all around us to be seen and photographed.

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2017: Page 359

2017: Page 359

Page 359 was Christmas Day and with family gatherings the day before Christmas and the day after Christmas, it was a quiet day of reflection.  I began the day by writing yesterday’s page then headed outside to run the snowblower and clear the drive.  When I came in a poem showed up in my mind, so it will become part of today’s page.  In fact, I think the poem will take the place of the “thoughts and lessons” bullet points that I usually conclude a page with.

After lunch we drove up to Lake Michigan to see what we could find to photograph.  The wind was cold and fierce which made it difficult to stay outside very long but also made for some lighthouse-tall waves to photograph.  As evening arrived, we made our way home and I spent time going through the photos I took throughout the afternoon.  One of my favorite photos made today’s page as I captured the outer St Joseph lighthouse engulfed by a wave while its light is on.

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

Christmas day is here at last,
it’s time to have some fun!
So I fired up the snowblower,
to see if it would run.
I pulled it once, I pulled it twice;
it started with a roar!
And now that it was running,
I pushed it out the door.

Down the drive it slowly crawled,
snow flying in the air.
The wind would blow it back at me,
the snow was everywhere!
But with each pass the drive was cleared,
and pavement began to show.
When I was done, it looked so nice,
until the next big snow!

But that’s a lesson we should learn,
not just about the snow.
When “stuff” begins to pile up,
it really ought to go!
But just because we clear it once,
we’re never really done.
Until our life’s been fully cleaned,
by the blood of God’s own Son!
© 2017 by Tom Lemler

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