2017: Page 357

2017: Page 357

Page 357 has been another quiet day as I am trying to not get or fight off — I’m not sure which — the latest winter bug that seems to be roaming about.  My day began early, for a Saturday, as I prepared some pork shoulders to go on the pellet grill.  Once they were prepped and the pellet grill was warmed up, I put them on to begin the slow cook/smoke process to get them ready for a couple Christmas dinners.

While the grill was working away doing its thing, I spent some more time going through photos from the year in between times of rest.  The photos are from all seasons but with snow in the forecast, I chose one that reminds me of summer for the photo on today’s page.  I suppose there are things about each season that I’m not particularly fond of, but there are also things that I truly enjoy about each.  If I focus on photos of roses and the beauty of summer I find that I think more highly of the season than if I would collect photos of mosquitoes to remember it by.  🙂  Much of life is like that — we have a choice as to what we hold onto in our mind and that choice plays a huge part in determining how we view things.

The afternoon was more of the morning activities with a longer nap thrown in for good measure.  Shortly after the 10 hour mark on the grill, the internal temperature of the smaller of the pork shoulders was showing it to be done so I took it off and began the process of filling a crockpot and kettle full of pulled pork.  The three shoulders I had on the grill were slightly different sizes, so the progression of them getting done and my taking them off and pulling them went rather smoothly.  The last one just came off, so while it is cooling enough to handle I decided to write today’s page.  I still have the cleaning and building prep to do before church tomorrow, but with the snow in the forecast I may just get up early and do it in the morning as it sounds likely I will have to go in early anyhow.

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

  • I am thankful for days of rest — especially when my mind and body make it clear that I need it.
  • Some things are much better if they are not rushed.
  • If you want something now, you probably should have started working toward it some time ago.
  • God tells us to take every thought captive because He knows that is how we can train our attitudes.
  • It is difficult, if not impossible, to only think about pleasant things because unpleasant things do happen.  
  • Even when we experience unpleasant things, we still have the choice about what we allow our mind to dwell on.
  • I prefer roses to mosquitoes. 🙂
  • Sometimes my planning works out and sometimes it doesn’t — God’s always does.

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2017: Page 356

2017: Page 356

Page 356 ended up being a quiet work from home day.  The preschool had their Christmas program today and MJ needed to be to work early to make sure everything was ready for that.  Susan continues to recover from last week’s big seizure and the weather patterns have not been conducive to her sleeping well, so I stayed home with her so she could catch up on some sleep.  Most of my morning was spent deep within the beauty of my accounting software as I worked on current and end of the year missions finances.  Eventually, as the morning slipped away, Susan decided it was time for her to get up for the day so I made sure she found some clothes for the day then decided to give myself a haircut while she got dressed.

By afternoon I decided to straighten up my work area at home and reduce some of the pile of papers on my desk.  As I worked my way down through the pile, I kept coming across different gift cards to various places.  After filling a trash bag with things from my desk that I didn’t need, I decided to go online and see if I could find balances for these gift cards.  Some of them had not been used at all and still had the full amount listed on the card, others had been used and had odd amounts remaining, and still others had been completely used and had no balance.  All together, my desk cleaning project netted me $211.26 in gift card value to places that I frequent — not a bad bonus for a couple hours of cleaning.  Speaking of cleaning, the rest of my workday will take place sometime between now and early Sunday morning as I will need to clean bathrooms, floors, and doors as part of getting the building ready for our Sunday morning worship gathering.

With no new photos taken today, I chose one for today’s page that I took a few days ago.  It is interesting because it was from the evening we found the snowy owl and was able to get some photographs of it.  Any other day and the sunset scenes that I was able to capture would have gotten greater attention, but even this sunset photo of the Michigan City lighthouse with the Chicago skyline in the background took a back seat to the excitement of being able to find the snowy owl.

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

  • I always find it interesting when people think that it’s special when I arrange my day to care for the needs of my daughter.  It is special that I have the flexibility to do that, but I’m pretty sure the actual doing it is what I’m supposed to do. 🙂
  • I suppose it’s partly because I’m so detail oriented, but few things raise red flags in my mind about organizations as quickly as a lack of financial integrity.
  • Numbers and I get along well . . . no middle ground, we are what we are. 
  • I suppose it’s a self-conscious  thing, but I get embarrassed easily — even about things that shouldn’t be that big of a deal . . . like trying to use a gift card that may or may not have a balance on it.
  • Little things add up.  That can be good or bad depending on the nature of the little things.
  • Sometimes things captivate us so much that we miss all of the other things we ought to be noticing also.

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2017: Page 355

2017: Page 355

Being the first official day of winter, the cold weather decided to move back in under a mostly overcast sky.  Page 355 began with the usual early morning prayer, cleaning, and building prep as well as some extra work to clean up between school programs.  With the building ready for the activities of the day, I finished up the writing of yesterday’s page before turning my attention doing some inventory of supplies.  The inventory revealed some supplies I would soon be out of, so I spent the morning shopping so I could get it done before the Christmas shopping traffic picked up for the day.  

While it wasn’t too bad compared to what afternoons and evenings tend to be this time of year, there were very few stoplights that I could make it through in one cycle of the light.  Fortunately, the supplies I needed were not at popular Christmas shopping stores so actually getting the supplies wasn’t too bad.  Susan and I made our way back through the traffic and had lunch while we were out.  By mid-afternoon we made our way to Potato Creek to see what I could find to photograph.  It was still a rather cold and dreary looking day but I did find a hawk and several heron, including the one that made today’s photo.  The evening has been spent resting and writing as I look forward to the Christmas break and no alarm clock.

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

  • Even on the quiet days with very little to write, there are probably still lessons that  I ought to be learning.
  • A periodic inventory can be a good thing — both at work and in life.
  • It is usually better to refill what you’re low on before you actually run out.
  • When you know things are always a certain way, you probably shouldn’t act surprised when they are.
  • Most people seem to live life in too much of a hurry.
  • It seems yellow lights really have come to mean “hurry up, you can probably make it.”
  • Sometimes you need to do things in a way that you know will take longer, but you also know it will be better for everybody involved.
  • If I go out to photograph something very specific, I am often disappointed.  If I’m looking to discover whatever can be seen, I always find something.

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2017: Page 354

2017: Page 354

Page 354 was another early day with another set of tasks worked on as well as another set of lessons — some new and some repeats in both the tasks and the lessons.  My morning soundtrack that flowed through my mind as I went about the usual routine included the words, “What a friend we have in Jesus.  All our sins and griefs to bear.  What a privilege to carry, everything to Him in prayer.”  It was a good theme, both to start my morning with and to carry with me as I spent time throughout the day working on plans and preparation for a New Year’s Eve prayer vigil here at Deer Run.

It was also good because it was a reminder that I let things bother me.  Sometimes it is easier to just say that things bother me, but at least most of the time the statement that I let them bother me is closer to the truth.  Sometimes my “letting it” is amplified by a mind that thinks very literally.  For example, there is a commercial on TV that boasts some high percentage of people “have achieved completely clear skin” after taking this drug — my mind immediately thinks of transparent, like glass, and it conjures up a mental image that is difficult to remove. 🙂  It seems many times that a heightened sense of right and wrong, of fairness and impartiality, lead to things happening that I let bother me when in reality I have no part of the issues cause and am in no position to be a part of its solution.  Therefore the line in my mental soundtrack, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit.  Oh, what needless pain we bear.  All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”, was a good reminder about things that I let bother me.  Not that I’m in any way cured of the “letting”, but the reminders teach me about things I need to work on.

My workday was filled with the prayer vigil prep, writing and sending a prayer ministry newsletter, and cleaning in preparation for a school program tomorrow.  I will still need to do some touch-up in the morning, but some of the larger prep is done.  By late afternoon it was time for lunch so I headed out to pick up a few things and get some lunch.  After lunch I called to see how my mom was doing and made plans to meet my mom and dad for dinner.  With time to spare before dinner, we decided to head to Potato Creek on our way and look for the eagles.  We didn’t see the eagles, but the sunset was well worth the stop.  Between the clouds, the area of clear sky on the horizon, and the thin layer of ice on the lake, today’s photo was an attempt to capture the stunning scene that was stretched out before us.  Once the sun dropped, we continued on to dinner and had a nice evening with my mom and dad before heading home and calling it a day.

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

  • Sometimes I have so many routine tasks and lessons that it is easy to miss the new ones if I’m not paying close enough attention.
  • The Bible is full of names, titles, and descriptions of Jesus — each carrying with it an attribute of God.  Friend is one that is good to experience.
  • Some things are easy and almost natural to take to God in prayer while other things take deliberate effort on our part.  God wants us to take it all to Him.
  • Things happen that you and I don’t like.  Some may be wrong things and some may just be things that are different from what we expect or want — but it is usually our choice how long we let those things bother us.
  • Thinking literally can be a good trait . . . unless the person you’re listening to isn’t speaking literally. 🙂
  • Even a cloud-filled sky can be a thing of beauty when the sun shines on and through it . . . I suspect the same is true of my cloud-filled life when I let the Son shine on and through it.

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2017: Page 353

2017: Page 353

Page 353 was a pleasant, productive day.  I left the house for work early in the crisp night air under a beautiful blanket of stars.  The forecast was for warmer weather and it didn’t disappoint.  I had a full day of work to get done before I could more fully enjoy the sunshine, so I started right in with my morning prayer, cleaning, and building prep routine.  Today my mental soundtrack began as soon as I walked out the door of my house.  It is one of many favorite hymns and words such as these filled my mind all day — “O, Lord, my God!  When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made.  I see the stars . . . Then sings my soul!  My savior, God, to thee!  How great thou art! How great thou art! “.  Prayer and worship working together can do wonders when it comes to attitude and approach to a day.

Once the building was ready for the day and the trash was taken out, I took care of a few minor maintenance issues before turning my attention to some correspondence and messages from the day before.  One of my morning tasks was the boxing up of the remaining 2018 Bible reading calendars that I had on hand, along with some copies of the 31-day devotional books I have written, so I could get them sent out to a correctional facility that wants to use them.  I know I’ve written about this before, but I doubt that the person that passed along one of these Bible reading calendars to an inmate for the first time several years ago had any idea that it would lead to the opportunity for me to send even more prayer-based material into that setting.  Being faithful in doing what God sets before us really is about doing our part in what often appears to be a puzzle that we rarely see the whole picture of.

The warmer weather of today isn’t supposed to last, so after getting the box shipped off I turned my attention to making sure I had fuel on hand and the snowblower was ready for whenever the next snow would come.  The tasks of the day ate away the morning and crept into the afternoon as I tried to complete a few things in process before taking a friend to lunch for a time of encouragement . . . and food, of course. 🙂  Often times the best thing, and most difficult thing, we can do in a friendship is to just be available to sit and listen.  Yes, guidance and direction are important, but those often fall woefully short if we’ve not spent any time listening.

After I made it home, we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and beautiful day by heading to Lake Michigan to shoot some nature scene photos.  It was so nice out, that while I threw a coat in the truck “just in case”, I survived the entire evening with a sweatshirt to ward off the cool breeze coming off the lake.  There has been a snowy owl seen around the Michigan City lighthouse area at different times over the past few weeks, so I was really hoping to see one and be able to photograph it.  As we made our way out to the lighthouse pier, there were a few places with “white spots” that I zoomed in on with my camera only to have them just be white rocks or concrete chunks instead of an owl.  When we reached the end of the pier at the lighthouse, one of the spots on the outer break wall looked promising so I zoomed in and found that there was indeed a snowy owl out there . . . way out there!  Today’s photo is a picture of her that I took using the full 2000 mm zoom equivalent of my camera and then cropping the photo in even further.  She was fun to watch as she kept slowly turning her head back and forth, keeping an eye on all of her surroundings — and on us.  As we photographed the owl, the sun began to set and we even ended up with sunset photos that we liked so all in all, the evening photo outing was a success.  After we got home I spent the rest of the day going through the photos from the evening and doing some minor adjusting and cropping of them before finally heading to bed with today’s page lived but unwritten.  So, after a pleasant and productive day I am writing today’s page the next morning. 🙂

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

  • When you are accustomed to fall temps in the sixties and it drops into the thirties, it feels cold.  However when you got through several days in a row that are overcast and the temperature never reaches twenty, sunshine and temps near forty makes it feel really warm. 🙂
  • Prayer and worship may not make everything “better” in the sense that it changes our circumstances, but it can make everything “better” in the sense that it changes our attitude about our circumstances.
  • I cannot see a star-filled sky without considering and acknowledging the One who hung them in place.
  • The seeds of opportunity never bear fruit until after we plant them.
  • In God’s kingdom, many times the one who plants is not the one who will see the harvest.
  • My part in the kingdom is made possible by others doing their part and my doing my part makes it possible for still others to do theirs.
  • Listening may be more natural for some than others, but it ought to be a part of who we are even if we must work at it.
  • Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be, but you will often never know for sure unless you take a closer look.
  • While I enjoy zoos for what they can offer, seeing and photographing wildlife in the wild is much more satisfying to me.  I suspect God feels much the same way about seeing us living in freedom rather than being caged by sin.

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2017: Page 352

2017: Page 352

Page 352 was pest control service day, so it had an even earlier start than normal.  As I headed out into the early morning darkness I could see that the pavement was wet so I anticipated a rather icy morning.  Instead of a slippery morning commute, I was surprised by an air temperature of forty-one degrees which kept the steady drizzle at a nuisance status rather than a danger.  It also meant that I didn’t need to put down any ice melt and I could keep my morning tasks focused on inside work.  

After the pest control service was done, I turned my attention to the regular prayer, cleaning, and building prep tasks of the morning.  This morning’s soundtrack in my mind drew from way back as I’m not sure when the last time would have been that I had heard the lyrics, “He is able!  Oh, He’s able!  He is able to make you want He wants you to be.”  The song was both reassuring and challenging.  It is reassuring to be reminded of God’s ability to accomplish His will and His way in my life.  It is challenging, however, to consider how deliberately and diligently I seek to be willing to be what He wants me to be.  And if I’m daily submitting to Him, do I accept that while a work in progress I am what He currently wants me to be?  If I’m not, what am I doing about it — or more importantly, what am I allowing Him to do about it?

As I did some of the cleaning tasks, a poem started to show up in my mind as I thought about the increased generosity of many at Christmas time.  I also thought about the events that we celebrate at Christmas and began to wonder what would happen if we celebrated the gift of God’s Son every day.  Once the building was ready for the day, I sat down and quickly typed out the words that had collected in my mind and thus the poem, “Every Day Christmas” came to be.  After publishing the poem on this blog, I turned my attention to the “Monday morning with God prayer guide writing routine”.  I suppose the poem had given me a head start as the topic of love as the greatest gift flowed from the poem and into the subject line of the prayer guide.  The famous passage from 1 Corinthians 13 about love lists sixteen different attributes that love either is or isn’t.  I ended up grouping those attributes into similar categories as I came up with the six daily prayer points regarding this greatest gift of love.

By early afternoon I had the prayer guide finished and remembered to format and schedule it for publication — last week I wrote the prayer guide but got sidetracked before I finished getting it ready to send out, so I found myself working on it on Saturday so it was able to go out Sunday morning.  With grays skies and drizzle, the view out my window was pretty empty all morning.  By mid-afternoon I had a couple blue jays stop by but they weren’t too willing to stick around long enough for photos.  After they left, a few cardinals stopped to check out the remaining berry supply and, judging by today’s photo, take a quick nap. 🙂  That wasn’t sounding like a bad plan, so I finished up the work I needed to get done then stopped for a late lunch on the way home.

While I didn’t end up with the nap, the rest of the day has been restful as I played some video games and spent some more time with the photos from this year.  As evening arrived, I sat down to write today’s page with a plan of finishing the day early and catching up on some sleep.

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

  • I’ve learned that I have to set up calendar reminders or I tend to forget things that happen on a somewhat occasional, yet recurring, basis.
  • Appearances can be deceiving.  Sometimes things are what they appear to be, sometimes they are better than they appear, and sometimes they are worse — but you really never know until you look beyond the appearances to see what actually is.
  • Most Christians I know will agree that God is able, but do we live like He is?
  • God’s ability isn’t defined by our timetables or desires.
  • The love that we celebrate on Christmas day was given to us by God and ought to be celebrated every day.
  • To celebrate the real meaning of Christmas every day, we will probably have to rethink what that celebration ought to look like.
  • Love really is the greatest gift we can give or receive because true love comes first from God.
  • I need to learn from the birds of the air so that I can rest contently in the presence of God.

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2017: Page 351

2017: Page 351

Page 351 was a Sunday so I was able to sleep in compared to my usual wake-up time.  I did get up early and looked outside to see if it had snowed overnight, but with no fresh snow on the ground I went back to sleep.  When we were all up and ready for the day we headed to Sunday School where our group is beginning a study in Titus.  Today we began a journey through some background scriptures where we could see not only Paul’s influence on Titus, but the help and encouragement Titus was to Paul and to the believers he served.  God’s desire is that each one of us would learn from those who are faithfully walking with Him and that our learning would equip us to teach others to grow in their faith.  But none of these relationships are meant to be one-way.  Those we learn from, we are also to encourage and strengthen when they are in need.  Those we teach also have the responsibility to encourage and strengthen us when we are weak.  

After Sunday School, our worship gathering included a message by David about “The Story behind ‘The Story'”.  Much of the sermon was a look at the person of Joseph and his role in the Christmas Story.  The point, however, wasn’t simply so we would know more about this man but that we would ask of ourselves the same questions we might ask about him.  The questions we considered this morning were:

  • Who was Joseph (Or, who am I)?:  The scarcity of information in the Bible about Joseph would lead me to believe that he was a rather ordinary man.  Yes, he could trace his lineage back to King David but for a nation living under the rule of Rome, a royal bloodline really didn’t mean a whole lot.  Instead of living as royalty, Joseph worked as a carpenter.  But what we do know about him is the description given by God that “Joseph was a righteous (or just) man.”  In fact, it was this desire to do what was right according to God that led to the dilemma he faced about what to do when he found out Mary was pregnant.  He wanted to do right by God above all else, but also wanted to treat Mary with as much dignity and compassion as he could.  When we ask ourselves who we are, I’m not sure we could do better than to be known as a righteous and just person.  An ordinary person who lives with God’s righteousness can accomplish more than we can think or imagine.
  • What changed Joseph (Or, what changes me)?:  Joseph’s initial plan was to quietly break off the marriage to Mary so that he could maintain his righteousness while protecting her as much as possible.  It had to be a confusing time in the life of Joseph and we really don’t know who initially told him or how he found out about Mary’s pregnancy.  He wanted to do the right thing, but in his mind there was only one right thing that could be done and that was to call off the marriage with a certificate of divorce.  But if you know the Christmas story, you know that is not what happened.  It was an angel delivering God’s word that changed Joseph’s mind and actions.  The message from the angel actually makes it appear that Joseph’s initial decision was being driven by fear — “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife . . . “.  When we ask ourselves, “What changes me?”, the answer ought to be the same as what changed Joseph — God’s Word.  We’re not really that different from Joseph and often we need God’s Word to be present in our life to drive out the fear that keeps us from changing.
  • Why did God do what He did in the way/time that He did (Or, why does God do what He does in my life in the way/time that He does)?:  Probably even more common than the first two questions, is our constant desire to ask, “Why?”.  The funny thing to me is that once Joseph accepts the word of God from the angel, he doesn’t seem to do a lot of questioning — he simply does what God commanded.  Yet I would imagine that there were times from that point on that he had to wonder why him, why now, why this way, why, why, why.  At least that’s what would have happened if I had been Joseph because that is what happens even now with my being a servant of God.  The short answer, I suppose, is that we simply don’t know the things that God knows.  The Bible says that Jesus came into the world at just the right time — or in the fullness of time.  It doesn’t matter whether Joseph thought it was a good time, or Mary thought it was a good time, or the religious leaders thought it was a good time, or if anyone else agreed — God knew it was the best time!  When we submit to God with who we are and with how He has changed us, we can be certain that His plans for our life are always the right ones.  Each of us has work to do that God “created in advance for us to do”.  God not only could see what needs done and when it needs to be done, He could see us as being the ones to do it.  

After the church service, I had lunch with my family and then it has been a quiet afternoon as our daughter is not feeling well and continues to have varied seizure activity.  As she has been resting, I spent some time on the computer sharing some photos and continuing through the ones I have taken this year.  Today’s photo is one from earlier this year as we visited Bonneyville Mills County Park.  When I shared the photo, I called it “Back to the Future” as windmills have made quite a comeback in some areas.  Granted, they don’t often look much like this but there has been a resurgence in harnessing the power of the wind.  I grew up with a windmill outside our front door.  While the well was powered by electricity by the time I was born, the windmill set over the well pit because it used to be the power source.  This picture reminds me that just because we quit doing things in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that the concept behind it has lost all value.  Sometimes ideas and methods need updated in ways that maintain the original purpose rather than simply throwing out the entire thing because the “old way” isn’t working like it used to.

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

  • Even when there is no snow in the forecast, this time of year I still have to get up and check — you just never know.
  • All of us have someone that we ought to be teaching, training, and equipping in some way or another.
  • All of us ought to have someone that is teaching, training, and equipping us in some way or another.
  • Sometimes that “someone” is the same person.
  • We classify people in a lot of different ways, but in reality all God has available to work with are ordinary people — at least until He gets a hold of them and works through them.  
  • We are best changed by God’s Word but we are not really changed until we choose to obey His Word.
  • We can’t see the fullness of tomorrow — God can.
  • Just because something isn’t working in a productive way today, doesn’t mean that it never can again.
  • God’s the ultimate “recycle-er”.  Even when we make a mess of our life, He can take all of the brokenness and worn out pieces that we give Him and make something brand new. 

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2017: Page 350

2017: Page 350

Page 350 has been a quiet and restful day.  So quiet and restful that I never made it out of the house.  I thought about going out to look for snowy owls to photograph, but my wife had other plans so I decided to start going through the photos I’ve take this year in an attempt to select some of my favorites to have prints made.  With thousands of photos from the year, this will be a long project — but a project that won’t ever get done unless I start.  

One of the sections of photos that I made it through were the ones from the 2017 Christian Camp Leaders Conference last January.  It seems only fitting that a conference for camp leaders would include free times in the schedule to go out and explore the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.  Today’s photo is one from a hike I took of Abram’s Falls while I was at the conference.  I am scheduled to have a prayer ministry display at the conference again this coming January and am looking forward to both the connections that take place through the material I provide and to some time to spend in the mountains with God.

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

  • Sometimes your plans don’t coordinate well with the plans of others and you have to come up with an alternate course of action.
  • When the year began, I was going to create a folder to put my favorite photos of each session into so I would have easy access to the highlights — but I didn’t.
  • Putting things off is sometimes easier at the moment, but usually leads to a greater amount of work later.
  • For me, photos provide a great reminder of the many opportunities God has given me throughout the year.
  • Wherever I go, God provides opportunities for me to bask in His presence if I look for them.  Sometimes it takes more effort to miss those opportunities than to find them.
  • I pray that others benefit through my being able to share the things I find during my times of pursuing God in the midst of His creative beauty.
  • The times I spend alone with God are always a help to my being effective in the times I spend with people when I’m representing the prayer ministry at conferences and conventions.

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