2017: Page 230

Page 230 was one of those days that went well, but seemed like it would never end.  As I began my workday, I was greeted by a deer grazing just outside my office window.  In the early morning twilight, it was difficult to get some clear photos unless she stood very still while I was taking them.  Most of the photos have a sharp focus of the body and a blur of the head, tail, or legs as she slowly went about her grazing.  Even when the conditions don’t make for great photos, I still love seeing the deer outside my office.  

Next up was the morning prayer, cleaning, and building prep.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe the daily cleaning and prep are important; but the most important part of the routine is the prayer that takes place during all of it.  Once the building was ready for the day, I did some follow-up to some of yesterday’s tasks before beginning my primary project for the morning — working on the baptistery heater and pump.  Getting to the pump and heater can be a chore all of its own.  Crawling, and working, under the stage in the auditorium made me think about perspective.  When I’ve preached from the stage during a church service, I’ve always wished it wasn’t quite so high.  I don’t like the feeling of being so far removed from an audience when I’m speaking and the stage definitely gives a feeling of separation.  It’s a big part of why we’ve gone to a smaller, shorter platform in front of the stage.  On the other hand, as I worked under the stage, I sure wished it was quite a bit taller!  There is not quite enough room to sit up fully and working crouched over most of the morning seems to become more difficult with each passing year.  Oh, and I don’t know if you caught it or not, but I’m in this limited space area working on both water and electricity — two things that ought to be kept separate as much as possible.  After crawling in and out of the work area a few times to get the right tools, I eventually managed to replace the heating element and clean out the pump to get everything operation again.  I ran it for a while and crawled back under periodically to check for leaks before closing up the area and heading out to lunch.  

During my lunch break I headed down to Potato Creek and enjoyed some time resting on the pier.  The water was a little choppy with not an osprey or eagle in sight.  I could hear the calls of the osprey echoing across the waters, but they didn’t seem to be very active where I was.  At one point I sat up from soaking in the sun and noticed a bird clinging to the side of a dead tree in the middle of a nearby cove.  It was far enough away that I thought it must be one of the larger woodpeckers so I grabbed my long-zoom camera to take a few photos.  When I zoomed in on it, I discovered the subject of today’s photo.  There was a small branch protruding from this dead tree and one of the young osprey was out surrounded by water where he had a perfect vantage point for an afternoon of fishing.  Once again, I thought about my lesson from earlier in the day about perspective.  There was my perspective, created by distance, that made me think this osprey was something other than what he really was.  There was also its perspective — the one that saw the value in being able to take view your entire surroundings and take note of what is useful and what is potentially dangerous.  How often is our opinion created from a distance and rather than “zoom in” and actually talk to those involved in a situation on a day to day basis, we conclude our perspective is accurate because it is the perspective we want to believe?  But more important even than “zooming in”, is to step back and seek God’s perspective — the one that has the view from above and can see all of our surroundings to know what is good for us and what is dangerous.

I did manage to catch one photo of a bald eagle soaring high overhead before I packed up my cameras and headed back to work.  My evening was spent going through the building to get it cleaned and ready for Sunday.  As I was nearing what I thought would be the end of my workday, I came across a puddle of water where it didn’t belong.  There was nothing obvious that would have caused the puddle of water to be on the floor, so I began tracking down where it might have come from.  It was along a wall, so my first check was the room on the other side of the wall.  Sure enough, I could hear it before I even got to the room — a water heater had sprung a leak.  It was already late, so I didn’t bother to investigate why it was leaking or where it was leaking from; I just shut the water off to it and began the process of mopping and cleaning up the mess.  I had just been in that room about a half hour earlier with no rushing water other than the filling of my mop bucket, so fortunately the water hadn’t spread too far.  As I worked on the mess and set out fans to aid the drying process; I thought not about the mess, but about how good it was that I was in the building when the water heater decided its time was up.  While I had a small mess to take care of, and will have some work to do with the water heater next week, it was nothing compared to the mess that would have existed had the leak begun an hour later after I would have left the building for the weekend.  While I got home later than I had hoped, the thought of what was avoided made me appreciate how small the amount of extra work needed actually was.

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

  • Experiencing the beauty of creation up close may not mean the same thing to everyone, but for me it is part of God’s way of saying, “I see you and I love you!”
  • God knows your “love language” and even if it is not through the wildlife, if you listen, He has a way of telling you, “I see you and I love you!”
  • If you want to increase the value of what you perceive as mundane and routine tasks, incorporate prayer into the midst of them.
  • What seems large when you are on top of it may not seem so large when you’re under it and what seems overwhelming when you are under it may not seem so impossible when God places you above it.
  • Some situations in life require extra effort and caution because you are working with things that can be dangerous when combined or used incorrectly.  People can be that way too.
  • Not everything is what it may appear to be from a distance.
  • Making judgments from a distance can be dangerous because they are often wrong.
  • God’s perspective is always worth looking for and finding.
  • Some blessings don’t look a lot like blessings until you consider the alternatives would have been much worse.

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2017: Page 229

The deer were out to greet me again this morning as I began page 229.  After saying hello to them, I went about my morning prayer and cleaning routine.  As I finished getting the building ready for the day I took the trash out and found another deer grazing along the back of the building near my office.  As I was talking to the deer (yes, I may have lost my mind but I talk to them), I was thinking about how God tells us in His Word that a gentle answer turns away wrath.  He also says we should let our gentleness be known to all.  I have seen deer perk up their ears and lift their tails, which are often precursors that happen just before they take off running, and at the sound of my calm, quiet voice which I believe the recognize, they relax and go back to grazing.  There are many things in this life that scare us, and should scare us, but we ought to know our Shepherd’s voice so well that it is able to calm us and make us feel safe.  But it goes further than that.  As the children, and representatives, of God here on earth, we ought to we ought to speak with that same calm and gentle voice to a world that is filled with fear.  Accusation and condemnation are tools of the enemy, not the tools God has given His children to use through His Spirit.  God has given us truth and love to be used together in order to share a message of safety and hope.  

A lot of today was spent researching prayer retreat location options.  Sometimes we need to take a break from the noise of the world so we can become more familiar with the still small voice of God which is present through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  I read in the Bible that Jesus would withdraw to “lonely places” in order to spend time with His Father and I can’t help but think if He needed to do that, how much more do I need to make time to visit the “lonely places” in order to hear more clearly?  Jesus prayed that the world would know His followers by the love we have for one another.  As you think about your interactions with people, and specifically with other believers, do you think love is what the world notices?  Is love even what your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ notice?  Do people relax when they realize you are the one nearby, or see your number show up on their phone, or get a message from you; or do they tense up and prepare to escape to safety?

I spent some time on the porch this evening watching for the hummingbirds and shot today’s photo while I was waiting.  The loose petals around the edge of this rose made me think of the rose under glass in the Beauty and the Beast.  The glass was to protect the rose as much as possible because it served as a timer.  True love must be found before the last rose petal falls or the young man who had acted like a beast, and therefore given the form of a beast, would remain trapped forever as this beastly creature.  Anyhow, the loose petals made me think of the brevity of life and the uncertainty of when that last petal will fall.  I want to live in such a way that if all the petals fell off tonight, my life would have been lived to the full.

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

  • If I’m ever too busy to notice the beauty of God’s creation, I’m too busy.
  • A kind word is good for the soul . . . it also seems to be good for the wildlife. 🙂
  • We ought to recognize safety in the still, small voice of God.
  • Those seeking God ought to recognize safety in the way we represent Him.
  • “Lonely places” are not necessarily lonely when you intentionally go to them in order to spend time with God.
  • The good Shepherd calls His sheep and His sheep know His voice.
  • How people respond to my voice, words, or presence ought to indicate to some degree what kind of voice I am using.
  • Only God knows the amount of time each of us have on this earth.  Live in such a way that you’re ready if that “last petal of life” were to fall today.

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2017: Page 228

Page 228 found me continuing to settle into a school year routine — or at least the fall version of one.  Some mornings I am rewarded for starting my workday early, some mornings I am doubly rewarded, and today I was at least triply rewarded!  As I began my day, the moon was hanging brightly in the sky and I was able to get some good photographs of it as I left home this morning.  When I arrived at work, there were two deer grazing in the morning twilight and they continued their early breakfast as I got a camera out and walked up the hill to photograph them.  Today’s photo is one of them as she looked up from her eating to bid me a good morning.  As I shot a few photos of the deer, the sun began to light up the eastern sky with a variety of morning colors that made the entire scene look bright and cheerful.  There were some light, fluffy clouds scattered about the sky so I anticipated that the sunrise would be a beauty.  I went inside and gathered up the trash, and was able to get some sunrise photos when I took the trash out.

Once the building was ready for the day, I made a cup of coffee and checked on messages and my  to-do list.  As I worked on my morning projects, a lot of my prayer focus was about the lack of peace in our nation.  It’s as if we’ve thrown out all hope for peace and have turned to using hatred and violence as our only response to the hatred and violence of others.  As I worked and prayed, pieces of the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, began to float through my mind.  As I paused between work projects, I looked up the song lyrics with a focus on the line that says, “And in despair I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth, I said.”  What I discovered was that the song was missing two verses of the poem as originally written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The missing verses make it clear that the feeling of despair was brought about by the hatred and violence of the Civil War.  While hatred and violence continues to do its best to drown out the message of “peace on earth, good-will to men”, the final verse of Longfellow’s poem is still true — “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”  Peace on earth and good-will to men will never be accomplished through returning hatred for hate or evil for evil; rather it will come about by turning to God for a complete transformation of heart, mind, and soul.

I did manage to get the floor scrubber put back together today and get the batteries all charged up so it is ready to use.  I followed that project up with some phone calls regarding parts that had not yet been shipped, which I no longer need, and then headed home for a late lunch.  After lunch I went through the final groupings of the Upper Peninsula trip photos and shared the highlights from those.  I rested a little bit, then went out on the porch before supper to look for hummingbirds, but it seemed they didn’t care for the warmer temperatures of today.  As I finish writing today’s page, I look back in wonder and thanksgiving for the things God allowed me to see today.

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

  • I hope I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I view the opportunity to see the beauty of creation as blessings from the hand of God.
  • When I consider how far away it is, I am always amazed at the detail of the moon which can be seen when there are no obstacles to get in the way.
  • My demeanor and gentleness often appear to be the greatest factors in whether the deer view me as a friendly visitor or as a threat.  The same is likely true for people.
  • I never get tired of seeing a sunrise.
  • Responding to hatred and violence with our own version of hatred and violence will generally make things worse.
  • It is always good to be reminded that God is still God and He is not asleep on the job.
  • God’s mercies are new every morning.  It is up to us whether we will see and accept them.

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2017: Page 227

God consistently fills my life with reminders of His presence, but some days those reminders feel like they are more needed in order to get through the day.  Today was one of those days when the need was great and God was even greater.  The external activities of the day seemed to go well, it is the turmoil in my mind that was in the greatest need of God’s calming presence which brings peace.

The morning cleaning and building walk-through went well as I began my day in prayer taking care of the usual needs of the building.  Once the building was ready for the day, I checked messages and followed up on some maintenance needs and parts I’m trying to track down.  I was expecting parts for the floor scrubber, so I spent a good part of the morning getting it cleaned up and ready for when the parts arrived.  New batteries for the scrubber arrived with the delivery of some maintenance and janitorial supplies, so I put away the supplies before trying to get the work finished on the scrubber.  Unfortunately, in trying to finish up the work, I broke off the end of one of the battery cables so a trip to the store would be required before I could finish.

As I worked on the machine, my mind continued to think about the subject of compassion and the suffering that exists almost everywhere.  It was in this work, that a poem began to show up in my mind.  By the time I had broken the cable end, which brought the repair project to a temporary pause, the poem appeared to be complete in my mind.  After typing out the poem and posting it on my blog, I finished out the workday with some further research and work on the “Growing Strong” prayer retreat plans.  By mid-afternoon it was time for a late lunch followed by a stop at the store to get the parts to finish up the work on the scrubber tomorrow.

At home, I spent the early part of the evening going through a couple more rounds of photos from our recent Upper Peninsula trip.  Eventually I took a break from the computer screen and took my camera out to the porch to enjoy the evening light.  While I was out the sun danced on the nearby roses and sunflowers, asking to be photographed.  Today’s photo is of one of the rose blossoms that is nearly done.  Most of the petals have fallen off, and on its own it has very little left to draw a person’s attention.  However, the light of the sun shining upon it, and through it, changes it from something unnoticeable to something remarkable.  The scene served as one of those reminders sent throughout the day of how God’s light can turn ordinary, unnoticeable people into something of remarkable beauty.

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

  • God knows me better than I know myself and He always knows just what I need and just how to provide it.
  • God doesn’t lack the ability to make His presence known — He just asks that I seek it with all my heart.
  • A routine of cleaning, whether a building or a life, helps to keep the messiness of either from taking over.
  • Times of waiting are often meant to be times of preparation.
  • I find that when I pray and work at the same time, God often fills my mind with direction and words that are reminders of His presence.
  • Sometimes things don’t go as planned and all you can do is evaluate what is still needed and set out to obtain what is missing or repair/replace what is broken.
  • If you don’t know someone who is suffering that needs to receive compassion from you, you’re probably not paying attention.
  • It doesn’t matter how dull and drab and worn down you think you are; when the light of God shines upon you and through you, you become something of great beauty and value.

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2017: Page 226

Page 226 was a Monday and for the most part I was able to spend it in a rather routine way.  For some people, that first sentence may sound discouraging; but for me, routine is usually a good thing.  I began the day taking care of bathrooms and trash to have the building ready for the start of school.  Once the building was ready and I had done my walk-through, I settled into a Monday writing mode.  I began with the writing of yesterday’s page as it just wasn’t coming together last night.  I still prefer writing them at the end of the day, but sometimes the thoughts of the day just need more time to process in my mind before they would be suitable to share.

Once the page was written, it was time to settle in with God to put together the prayer guide for next week.  There was a lot on my mind and I considered a variety of topics before feeling comfortable that living with compassion was the direction God would have me write.  God calls each of us to who compassion to one another just as He has shown compassion to us through His Son, Jesus.  Yet as I spent time in prayer and writing, I began to realize compassion is something that mankind is not all that good at.  The problem with compassion is that its very heart we are required to not only recognize the suffering of others, we must voluntarily suffer with them as we work together to resolve the cause of the suffering.  Many times we will reach the point of recognizing the suffering of others but our response usually looks more like trying to fix the problem from a distance rather than joining them and working on it from within.  Suffering tends to make us uncomfortable whether it is our suffering or the sufferings of others.  Sometimes we even try to silence the suffering of others so that we don’t feel guilty about not joining them in it . . . or even about being a part of the cause of it.  God’s desire is that we have compassion — suffer together with someone — not for the purpose of having a pity party, but so that we can stand on common ground and lift each other up.

This was a tough prayer guide to write as I thought about the suffering within our nation and even my own suffering.  Each prayer guide I write is bathed in prayer and comes out of my prayer time, but this one seemed to require more effort in prayer than many of the others.  It was early afternoon by the time it was written and then I took the time to format it and schedule it to be published Sunday on my website and to my email list.  Once it was completed and scheduled, the afternoon was almost gone and it had become a longer workday than I had planned.  It was way too late for lunch, so I headed home and worked on another round of my Upper Peninsula trip photos before firing up the pellet grill to make supper.  As supper cooked, I wandered around the front yard taking photos.  Today’s photo is of a scene that caught my eye as a bee crawled across the surface of a sunflower head.  It made me think of how important it is for each of us to do our part in a way that benefits not only us, but also benefits the body of Christ as a whole.  As the bees travel from flower to flower collecting nectar as a food source, they also collect pollen that the carry with them so that the pollination of plants take place.  The work that the bees do for their own benefit is also an important benefit to the entire plant world and all that depend on it for survival, including you and I.  In a similar way, God designed us to not only be dependent on Him, but to also have a need for one another in order to grow into complete maturity with Christ as our head.

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

  • Routines can help keep me focused when my mind seems to be drowning in a swirling tide-pool of thoughts.
  • Some days it takes longer to collect my thoughts into somewhat useful writings than it does on other days.
  • When I’m not sure what to write, I remind myself that my daily writings have a purpose greater than just filling another page — they serve as a journal which reminds me of lessons God is teaching.
  • Some weeks I have a topic before me that is easy and fun to write about.  Other weeks the topic challenges me not only in my writing, but also in my living.
  • Having someone willing to suffer with you seems to be a rare thing.  
  • Being willing to suffer with someone else also seems to be quite rare.
  • Real compassion ought to change the way we interact with those who are suffering.
  • When we offer solutions to those who are suffering without genuinely listening to them, we probably haven’t really offered a solution at all.
  • When I suffer with someone, I am more likely to seek out real solutions to the suffering than simply offering quick-fix schemes that have little chance of helping.
  • In the body of Christ, we all have a part that is important not only to us, but to the entire body.
  • When we do our part in a way that benefits others, we too are helped.

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2017: Page 225

Page 225 began early as Susan had a seizure during the early morning hours.  After we all made it back to sleep, we were able to sleep in a little bit before getting up and around for Sunday School.  The Sunday School class is trying to finish up a study in First Timothy, and today we were in chapter six with a focus on contentment.  The Bible teaches that “the eye is never content with seeing.”  That truth is exhibited in at least two ways in our life.  One, the more we take in something visually, the more accustomed we become to it and the sight will often no longer have the same influence in our mind so we look for something new to stimulate our visual sense.  Two, the more we dwell on looking at something, the less satisfied we become with simply seeing it — we simply must have it.  Advertisers bet a lot of money on that fact.  If they can get the image of their product in front of people often enough, a good number of those people will conclude they “need” that product.  Contentment is the result of taking every thought captive and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith.”

After Sunday School we had our morning worship gathering where David brought a message on “What We Believe About the Bible”.  Here are some highlights of my take on it:

  • The Bible is God’s Word — the “God-breathed” truth that never changes.
  • The Bible contains the “power of God unto salvation” for those who would accept not only its truth, but its author.
  • The Bible is a spiritual tool, or weapon, that has great power when used by a person living with the Spirit of God within them.
  • The Bible can be a defense against temptation if we hide its words in our heart and mind.
  • The Bible can demolish strongholds of the enemy when we use its truth by the power of the Spirit.

After the church service, it was time for lunch and then a restful afternoon spent continuing to go through the trip photos from earlier in the week.  After an afternoon of staring at the computer screen deciding what photos to share, we headed to the Riverwalk to get some fresh air and exercise . . . and perhaps a few more photos.  As we headed out for our walk, I grabbed my camera with the wide-angle lens and decided the “big picture” scenes would be the focus of my photographs during this walk.  During the walk I saw a beautiful butterfly fluttering about the various blossoms of a butterfly bush plant.  I really thought there was no way I could get close enough to it to take a decent photo with the lens I had on the camera, but there was no real way of knowing that without trying.  In the first few photos I took, the butterfly was just a growing speck in the center of the picture.  As I kept moving closer, it kept crawling over the blossom until I was able to get right up to it.  Today’s photo was taken with the camera about six inches away from the butterfly.  It reminded me of a phrase that I would hear on what seemed like a regular basis growing up — “Can’t never could until he tried.”  How often do we fail to accomplish a desire that perhaps God Himself has put within us, only because we chose not to try?

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

  • Life has its difficult times but doing life as a family can help carry you through the difficulties.
  • “Godliness with contentment is great gain” . . . not just my thought, but God’s Word.
  • Contentment isn’t easy but God says the secret to having it is found in Him.
  • The Bible is “living and active” . . . if it doesn’t seem that way to you, perhaps you need to spend more time with the Author.
  • The breath of God — God’s Word — brings life.
  • Many things seem impossible until we try them.
  • The impossible never seems so impossible after we’ve accomplished it.
  • Our greatest accomplishments can only take place when we step out in faith and allow God to work in and through us.

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2017: Page 224

Page 224 was a Saturday but I found myself awake early to write yesterday’s page before the day got away from me.  Once the page was written, I went through the next group of photos from last weeks Upper Peninsula trip so I could share another round of them on Facebook.  We packed so much into the few days we had, that it is going to take multiple posts of the photos to give just a glimpse of the incredible beauty of creation we were surrounded with.  At times I begin to think I’m posting too many photos, but then people encourage me to keep sharing them so I try to keep sharing from the gift God has given me.  While I worked on the photos, I heard a noise from upstairs and found that Susan had somehow fallen into the empty bathtub and pulled the shower curtain and rod down on top of herself.  She didn’t act like she had a seizure, but also didn’t know how she fell into the tub or what had happened.  She said she wasn’t ready to get up, so after making sure she was okay she went back to bed to rest the morning away.

After sharing a group of photos, I took my mug of coffee out on the front porch and enjoyed some quiet time — with my camera close by, of course.  Several hummingbirds eventually stopped by the feeder, but before they did I noticed one of them sitting in an opening of the branches of the nearby pine tree, enjoying the morning sun as it streamed in.  He sat there for at least ten minutes, which is the longest I think I’ve ever seen a  hummingbird sit in one place.  Today’s photo is one of several I took as he seemed to pose for me so I could photograph different views of it.  I don’t know about his day, but I know that mine always seems to go better if I can start the day with time soaking in the sun and the Son.

After spending some time photographing the flowers and hummingbirds, and resting in the sun and the Son, I went to work on another round of photos in what I’ve called the “Way UP North” trip.  Last Sunday I preached in Dowagiac, Michigan then drove the 7+ hours north to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area of the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior.  Monday we spent the entire day sightseeing and Tuesday we headed back home with numerous stops along the way.  It was our first trip to the Upper Peninsula and I was captivated by its beauty and incredible variety of natural scenes to photograph.  I’ve already posted four groups of photos from the trip and those postings only take me through mid-day on Monday — I’m not sure yet how many groupings I will end up with by the time I’m done going through them, but it was not only fun to see the sights and take the photos, it is fun to share them.

I had no frozen hamburger patties and no hamburger thawed out, so lunch ended up being smoked pork chops and fresh sweet corn.  The afternoon was spent working on some of the photos from the morning and resting before sitting down to write today’s page.

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

  • Rest is important, but so is taking time to reflect and remember.
  • Sometimes we slip and fall and need others to help us up.  God’s Word says, “Pity the one who falls and has no one to help him up.”
  • Sometimes we know why we fall and other times we find ourselves down on the ground with no idea how we got there.
  • The how and why a person fell can be useful information, but it often isn’t nearly as important as being someone who helps them up and makes sure they are okay.
  • It feels good to sit in the warmth of the morning sun.  It is even better to sit with the Son warming me from the inside out.
  • It is possible to see a lot in a short amount of time when you focus on what you can get to rather than on what you can’t.
  • Traditions can be good but that doesn’t mean something different can’t be good as well.
  • There ought to be room in life to do new things without completely abandoning the old.

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