2017: Page 342

2017: Page 342

Page 342 ran overtime so I’m writing this the next morning.  The day was full of the usual Friday tasks, including the early morning cleaning and building prep as well as the late night version of the cleaning and prep to get the building ready for Sunday.  I started work at 6:00 AM and it was after 11:30 PM when I finally headed home, but in between those times I got  a lot of work done and even managed an extended break so the day never felt burdensome.  The amount of work I needed to get done wasn’t more than could be done in a typical day, it just needed done at both ends of the day.  So, by early afternoon I headed out for lunch then spent a few hours at Potato Creek State Park seeing what I could find to photograph.  Today’s page will primarily be some of those photos as they’ll speak a few thousand words more effectively than I can write. 🙂

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

  • Be vigilant.  Keep watch like a hawk.  The Bible says our enemy “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he my devour.”

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  • Watch what you post. 😉  Seriously though, people notice if what you are presenting to the world is a thing of beauty . . . or something else entirely.

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  • Find joy in life.  I don’t even know the words to the song beyond the upbeat “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!  My, oh my, what a wonderful day!  . . . Mr Bluebird on my shouler . . . “, but it is enough to make me smile every time I see a bluebird.

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  • Stand up tall and be proud of who you are.  You are not yet fully who you will become, but you are also not who you once were.

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  • Relax.  “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised!”

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2017: Page 341

2017: Page 341

Page 341 began early as the forecast had called for snow which would mean extra work in the morning routine.  There was no snow when I got up, but since I was up I headed into work anyhow.  I anticipated getting up early so I had gone to bed last night before writing yesterday’s page.  With no snow to take care of I began my day by writing.  However, as I was writing the snow began to fall.  I finished up my writing so I could take care of the normal morning prep tasks and by the time I took the trash out, the snow had covered everything.  This was a lake-effect snow event, which are usually my favorite as long as it isn’t dumping multiple feet of snow in a short amount of time.  This one wasn’t bad — maybe an inch and a half in about an hour — and it was the light, fluffy kind of snow which meant I could fire up the backpack leaf blower to clear the walks.  Even with the snow arriving late, I had the building ready for the day and the walks cleared by the time the students began to arrive. 

The morning was spent in a combination of research, study, and writing with an occasional break to photograph wildlife visitors.  One of those visitors was the deer that made today’s photo selection.  She was part of a group of 4 deer that wandered by out in the woods, but she was the only one who came out to the edge close enough to get some decent photos.  When they look right at me and keep on grazing on the underbrush, I have to believe they are aware of my presence and are okay with it, or they’re blind. 🙂  It made me think about how different things frighten different people, and about why certain things frighten me while others think the same things are no big deal.  Sometimes experience tells us certain things are safe while others are not, and other times we label things in certain ways with no idea why other than it’s what we’ve always done and what others around us have always done. 

My work continued until the middle of the afternoon when hunger got the best of me.  It was late enough that I skipped lunch and just went home and fixed a quick snack to get me through until dinner.  To celebrate surviving the first measurable snow of the season, I fired up the pellet grill and put some pork chops on to smoke for dinner.  While they cook, I’m writing today’s page so I can have everything finished early for the day.  After the early start, I’m hoping to have an early finish to the day as I look ahead to a long day tomorrow and more snow in the forecast for the weekend.

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

  • It is better to be prepared and have what you prepared for not happen, than to not be prepared and have it take place.
  • There is always something that can be done if what you have planned for doesn’t happen.
  • Even though it adds to the workload, I enjoy the clean look of fresh snow.
  • Sometimes we miss opportunities because we can’t see beyond what we’ve always known.
  • We often judge things, or people, based on that which we believe to be similar — that judgment may not always be accurate.
  • Relationship done right ought to overcome fear.
  • When fear exists, trust has to be earned — and it is often earned more slowly than we anticipate or desire.
  • It’s always grilling season.  Sometimes it just takes a little more effort to make it happen. 🙂

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2017: Page 340

2017: Page 340

The cold wind continued to blow throughout the day as page 340 prepared to usher in some winter weather.  God brought a number of people to mind as I went about my morning prayer, cleaning, and building prep tasks with the song lyrics, “For you I am praying, for you I am praying . . .”, being part of the soundtrack that accompanied my morning as I worked.  

After the building was ready for the day, I turned my attention to some writing.  The first week of devotions in the new book I am working on will be about serving with compassion.  While there are a few people I know for whom this seems natural, I think most of us struggle with true compassion.  Oh, we may practice a form of it with people who are close to us; but for the casual acquaintance or stranger, compassion is often not the first response to their hurt and suffering.  It is far easier to point fingers, assign blame, or even try to fix the situation without ever joining them in their pain.  I’m not sure pointing fingers is ever helpful; but yes, there is a time to attempt to discover together the cause and come up with a solution but that comes after compassion sits with them and helps to carry their burden.

As I wrote, I received some follow-up from a prison chaplain regarding an offer I made to send some materials.  For some reason, I have received a number of requests for Bible reading calendars from inmates at a correctional facility in Florida the last couple of years.  The requests have been very specific, so I suspect someone must have picked up one of these calendars at a convention a few years ago and passed it along and then word has slowly spread as the calendar was seen by others or shared with them.  Anyhow, after receiving a handful of requests already this year, I sent an email to the prison to see if I could sent a packet of the calendars and perhaps the chaplain could get them to the individuals requesting one.  The response I got back was from the chaplain and said that I could send the calendars . . . and there were about 750 inmates who would love to have one!  Well, I didn’t even start with that many calendars printed and many of them have been given away, so I responded with a message of what I actually have available to see if that would be suitable without causing problems.

After my workday was over, I picked up some supplies for the next day and then made my way home.  The wind was still blowing so we decided to head to Lake Michigan for the evening to capture some sunset photos and see if the waves were worth photographing as well.  Today’s photo is one that I captured as a wind-driven wave crested the top of the lighthouse in St Joseph, Michigan.  As the temperature drops, waves such as this will eventually cover the lighthouse with ice.  While cold, it was a beautiful evening as the sunset lit up the sky as well as the waves that formed. 

One of the advantages of this season is that the sun sets so early in the day that it wasn’t all that late by the time we made it home.  I spent the rest of the evening going through the photos I had just taken.  With the potential of snow in the forecast, which would mean extra work in the morning, I decided I would write this page the next morning and I went to bed after I was finished with the photos.  As I finish up the writing, the snow has begun to fall . . . but that’s a part of the next page. 🙂

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

  • A person may come to mind for a variety of reasons — praying for them is always a good start regardless of whether there are other reasons they came to mind.
  • Many people around us each day are hurting for a variety of reasons.  Will we show them compassion or judgement . . . or something in between?
  • At the heart of the matter, compassion is a key element in obeying the command to “bear one another’s burdens.”
  • Helping people understand the cause, if there is one that can be known, of their problems is good — but only after you have shared in their hurt.
  • Helping people find solutions to their problems is good also, but not if its being done to avoid actually caring.
  • Sometimes we plant seeds and those seeds sprout and grow in the ground in which they were placed.
  • Sometimes instead of planting, we need to scatter the seeds we have and allow the winds of God’s Spirit to carry them to the ground He has prepared for them.
  • No matter the size of the waves in your life, Jesus can still them with His Word.

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2017: Page 339

Page 339 began with an annoying dream . . . well, I don’t know if the dream was actually annoying as I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember the annoying buzzing sound that I kept searching for the source of during the dream.  Eventually I found the source and turned off the alarm, got up, dressed, and headed to work. 🙂  It was another morning of prayer, cleaning, and building prep without a soundtrack in my mind.  While I enjoy the mornings that my mind is filled with songs, I also enjoy the mornings of quietness.  Today’s morning routine included some small maintenance issues before I turned my attention to working on some more details for the upcoming New Year’s Eve Watch & Pray vigil.  As I worked, the brush outside my window came alive with songbirds feasting on the bountiful crop of berries that are still present.  Today’s photo is of one of those birds as it sat for a moment contemplating its next move.

As I worked, some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head about another devotional book began to gel together.  After working on the prayer vigil for a while, I began to put together the cover file and outline for what I believe will be another collection of thirteen weeks of daily devotions.  Based on positive feedback from camp ministry leaders about my previous book with a similar format, my thoughts, plans, and prayers are to have this complete in time for the Christian Camp Leaders’ Conference in late January.  The working title comes from an aspect of my retreat and seminar teachings as I’m looking at “Growing Strong” for the title.  Each week will wrap around a specific topic of how we ought to serve with the strength God gives us.

As I worked at laying out the outline for the book, I remembered that I did not get around to the formatting and scheduling of next week’s prayer guide for publication.  One of the reasons I like to write the following week’s prayer guide early in the week is because it gives me time to finish all aspects of it if something comes up while I’m working on it.  So I finished up the initial layout of the book and then got the next prayer guide ready to send out early Sunday morning.

By the time my workday was over I got a late lunch on the way home and did some checking on possible lodging for future conferences before finally giving in and taking a nap.  When I woke up it was time for dinner before I sat down to write today’s page.  With the writing nearly done, I hope the nap doesn’t make it difficult for me to fall asleep when I finish with this.

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

  • Sometimes dreams seem very real because there are real elements that sneak into them.
  • When the buzzing won’t stop, it is usually a good idea to figure out why. 🙂
  • A morning routine is useful; not only for getting things done, but also for noticing when things need attention.
  • Since true worship is done in “spirit and in truth”, the setting is not nearly as important as the heart.
  • Very few things happen just because we, or someone else, thinks they should — normally they happen because somebody did the work required to move an idea from dream to reality.
  • It is fun to watch the joyful activity of the birds as they discover a bountiful food supply.
  • Sometimes ideas remain ideas because it is not their time and sometimes they remain ideas because we don’t want to do the work to make them actually happen.
  • Once I am convinced it is God behind the ideas rolling around in my mind, it is fun to watch how quickly He can turn them into reality when I begin to work on them.
  • Encouragement from others regarding past work goes a long way in motivating progress on current work.
  • It is good to leave room in your life, and in your schedule, for the unexpected.

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2017: Page 338

Page 338 was back to the weekday routine after a restful weekend with my family.  It was a quiet start to the morning in my mind as there was no mental soundtrack playing today.  The first part of my morning was spent finishing the writing of yesterday’s page and taking care of the cleaning and building prep to start the week.  Once the building was ready and the trash taken out, I settled in for a morning with God as I worked on the prayer guide for next week.  It didn’t take long to settle on the topic of peace as it fits into the second week of Advent for those of my readers who follow a traditional advent focus and it is a great topic to pray about even for those that don’t follow an advent tradition.

As I prayed and wrote the introduction to the prayer guide, I thought about the vast difference between the peace that is pursued by those in the world and the peace that is found in a relationship with Jesus.  The world tends to define peace as the absence of conflict while Jesus offers to give us His peace in the midst of our troubles.  The rest of the morning had a few breaks to take care of some small things as the came up, but overall it was spent writing the daily points of the prayer guide.  As I write today’s page I realize that the workday got away from me and I haven’t yet formatted and scheduled the prayer guide to go out next week — I’ll have to remember to do that tomorrow.

The distraction that kept me from doing the scheduling of the prayer guide for my website and email was work on plans for a New Year’s Eve prayer vigil that I’ll call “Watch and Pray”.  I was able to confirm this morning that I’ll be preaching at Deer Run for their morning service on New Year’s Eve so I’ll develop that sermon as a lead-in to a time of prayer to close out the year.  Participants will be encouraged to come to the building sometime between 1 PM and 11 PM on December 31 and spend at least an hour praying at various prayer stations that will be set up.  The prayer vigil will conclude with a group gathering at 11:30 PM where we will pray out the old year and pray in the new one.

With an early start to the day, my workday was done by mid-afternoon and I stopped for lunch on the way home.  Once home I spent a little time relaxing and unwinding before we decided to head to Lake Michigan to see what we could photograph.  There were gale warnings out and a fairly strong wind, so we were hoping for some big waves to be crashing over the lighthouse and perhaps a break in the cloud cover in time for a sunset.  When we arrived in St Joseph, Michigan, the lake was fairly calm and the clouds were as thick as they had been most of the day.  The wind was still strong but it was coming from a direction that wasn’t adding to the wave height.  One of the goals, since there were no significant waves, was to work on extended exposure night shots.  So we each set up our camera and tripod and began photographing the lighthouses as darkness fell for the night.  About half an hour after the time the sun would have set, a break appeared in the clouds above the horizon and some faint sunset color began to appear.  Today’s photo is a capture of that scene as I set the shutter speed to remain open for 30 seconds.  That long of an exposure made sure all the lights were lit in the lighthouses and smoothed out what waves there were so the reflections of the lights could be seen across the water.  Even though the scenes weren’t what we were expecting, I learned a lot that will hopefully improve future photos even beyond what was taken tonight.

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

  • Mental soundtracks that draw me near to God are good; but so are the times of quietness that I spend with Him.
  • Preparing for the arrival of Christ is a good thing no matter what we may call the plan of doing so.
  • While it is good to resolve conflict as far as it depends on you; if peace depends on there being no conflict, you will never fully find it.
  • Sometimes we forget that Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”  Or if we don’t forget, we at least pretend He didn’t say it.
  • The peace that God wants to fill us with is part of the fruit of His Spirit and it can be present within us even in the midst of trouble.
  • “Watch and Pray” is the instruction Jesus gave to His disciples the night He was arrested . . . it is also a good set of instructions for us to put into practice.
  • Long-exposure photos require that the camera remains still for the entire time as it takes in whatever light is present.  
  • Watching and praying is a lot like the long-exposure shots as we become still before God in order to take in whatever light is present.

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2017: Page 337

Page 337 was a Sunday and I was up early to spend time with God letting the sermon I had prepared continue to soak in and simmer.  I always consider it a sacred privilege to be able to preach and never want to take those opportunities for granted.  The church I preached at this morning is following a traditional Advent approach to the Christmas season, so this morning’s sermon was focused on hope.  The hope of the Bible is nothing like my childhood hope every winter morning that it would snow and there would be no school.  That hope was just wishful thinking with no real reason to expect it would happen.  The hope represented by the Christmas season is a confident expectation that God will keep His promises — an expectation fortified by a history of God always keeping His promises.  The sermon I shared this morning was titled “The Advent of HOPE” as we looked at four characteristics of hope that arrived with Jesus and can be fulfilled in our life through Jesus, they are as follows:

  • The advent of Healing:  Preparing for the arrival of Christmas is wrapped around an arrival of healing.  When John was in prison he sent some of his followers to ask Jesus if He was the one who was to come or if they should expect someone else.  This is what Jesus told them to tell John, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”  The response of Jesus may seem cryptic, but John understood that Jesus was making it clear that He was the one.  But the healing Jesus came to bring was much greater than any physical improvement — He came to bring a complete healing of all the hurt and destruction brought on ourselves by our sin.  The physical healing was done out of compassion but much of the time, according to His words, it was done to “show that the Son of  Man has authority to forgive sin” — a much greater healing needed by mankind.  Jesus said that it is not the healthy that needs a physician but the sick and there is no one sicker than any of us who remain in our sin.
  • The advent of Opportunity:  The arrival of Christmas also brought with it an opportunity that many previous generations had longed for.  The Bible teaches about the “great mystery” that has been revealed through Jesus — Christ in us, the hope of glory.  The arrival of Jesus on earth brought with it an opportunity to worship God in a way that was more personal — a way of Spirit and truth.  The shepherds took advantage of that opportunity, as did a group of Magi from the east.  Yet many who should have known better — the scribes, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, and so many who had been taught about God all their lives — chose not to take advantage of the opportunity to get to know God up close and personal.  Christmas is a reminder that we still have that opportunity to draw near to God because He first drew near to us.
  • The advent of Purpose:  Christmas brings with it a message of purpose.  We must never forget that the birth of Jesus here on earth was not really about us having an endearing story of a baby in a manger to tell our children and grandchildren on Christmas Eve.  Jesus came with a purpose, and that purpose was to save people from their sins.  As we celebrate Christmas, we are reminded not only of His purpose but of the purpose to which we are called.  The Bibles says that we “should set apart Christ as Lord in our life, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.”  Our purpose is to use the gifts, abilities, and talents that God has given us, and use them to share the hope of Jesus with the people around us.  God’s desire that “none should perish, but all would come to repentance” ought to become our purpose as we share the good news with gentleness and respect.
  • The advent of Eternity:  As Jesus arrived on earth, he revealed and began to usher in the kingdom of God.  By definition, eternity has no beginning and no end — so in that sense, eternal life is not something that we look forward to but something that we already have in Christ.  Much of the teaching of Jesus centered around the kingdom of heaven.  And while we will not understand its fullness until Jesus returns, the purpose of Jesus teaching about His kingdom was so we would know how to live like kingdom citizens now.  When Jesus taught, “All who are weary, come to me and I will give you rest.”, the words were meant to welcome people to live under His authority and be citizens of an eternal kingdom.  Yes, we are on a journey to a place that Jesus has gone to “to prepare a place” for us, but we are part of that kingdom even now as God has placed His eternal Spirit within us.  Since eternal life has arrived in us through Christ, we ought to practice and grow in the things of eternity — the things of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.

After the church service we had lunch on the way home and then spent a quiet afternoon going through the photos from Saturday.  When evening came we went to dinner with some friends and then I began the writing of today’s page before getting drawn into some Christmas movies on TV.  The movies won, so I’m finishing up the writing the next morning. 🙂  Today’s photo is of the “supermoon” that rose in the night sky.  Its nearness brings with it an appearance of larger size and brighter light.  Because it “came near”, many people were out last night looking at it and taking photos — they didn’t want to miss it.  Through the arrival of Christ that we celebrate at Christmas time, God came near to us and we would do well not to miss it.

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

  • I am thankful when God gives me opportunities to preach — I ought to be thankful for all opportunities to share His Word and His love.
  • Hope that can transform a life has to be more than just wishful thinking.
  • My hope in Christ is made sure by a God who always keeps His promises.
  • There is no healing more necessary that to be made right with God.
  • God has given a great opportunity to all mankind — that we may draw near to Him because He first drew near to us.
  • As God’s children, you and I have great purpose.  Part of that purpose is to live and talk in such a way that He is made known in our life.
  • In Christ, eternity with God is already taking place in our life.  We would do well to live with an awareness of His presence.
  • God drew near to mankind by sending His Son, Jesus, to live and walk among us.  Today He draws near to mankind by sending His Spirit to live and walk among people through us.

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2017: Page 336

After a long, productive work day on Friday, Page 336 began with the soundtrack of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in my mind.  I suspect I’m strange, but not so strange that my thoughts are unique to me.  It is easy to start feeling like I don’t belong, or if I belong anywhere it is on the “Island of Misfit Toys”.  Comparisons have a way of doing that.  Sometimes we start wishing we had the gift, ability, talent, or whatever of someone else and other times we just with the gift, ability, talent, or whatever that we actually have would be noticed or appreciated like those of others.  One of the sad parts of this type of thinking is that those whom we wish we were like often have others that they wish they could be like.  Today wrapped up a week’s prayer focus on contentment and it seems to be at the heart of being satisfied with doing our best at being the unique person that God created me to be.  You do remember the end of Rudolph, right?  When given the opportunity to use his unique gift, he became a hero and went “down in history!”  A good follow-up to my initial morning soundtrack was the song with these words, “A child of the King, a child of the King, with Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King!”

It was a beautiful early December day, so we headed out for a Saturday family adventure.  We made our way up the Lake Michigan shoreline, to photograph lighthouses and whatever else we could find.  My GPS took us across the channel from the lighthouses that were going to be our first stop, so we took a few photos from where we were and continued our way north with the plan to stop back by on the proper side on our way home.  One of my favorite lighthouses on the west Michigan shoreline is the Big Sable Point Lighthouse near Ludington.  Surrounded by a state park, it is a 1.8 mile walk from the parking lot to the lighthouse.  The walk itself is a beautiful stroll among the sand dunes and some wooded areas.  Part of the beauty is its remote location that is surrounded with rolling sand dunes and water, giving a variety of perspectives and angles to photograph it from.  While there, we crossed paths with a couple of guys who were on a prayer retreat — I’m not sure if that’s what they called it, but they had rented a cabin in order to get away and spend time with God as they reflected on “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”  They originally came over to where I was because they noticed Susan in her wheelchair and were impressed that we had brought her out to enjoy such vast beauty.  They even offered to help in our return trip back to the truck, so I thanked them and assured them that we were doing okay.  It is fun to watch how Susan’s unique abilities are used to encourage others and brighten their day.

After taking a bunch of photos at the lighthouse, we began our 1.8 mile walk back to the truck.  We did stop at Grand Haven on the way home and was able to find the side of the channel that the lighthouses were actually on.  By then the sun was getting low in the sky, so we stretched out our time in order to photograph the sunset — which really wasn’t much of a stretch as the sun sets shortly after 5 PM.  It had gotten rather cloudy, but the clouds helped to light up the sky with color after the sun had officially set.  It was beautiful and we kept shooting photos as each moment seemed somehow unique and captivating.  Eventually the color disappeared from the sky and the full moon rose behind us, shining brightly even in the midst of a night-time haze.  We made our way back home, with a stop to eat on the way, and wrapped up the day going through the photos we had taken.  Today’s photo was taken as I was playing with camera settings trying to capture the sun shining through the top of the lighthouse.  It made me think of the line of the hymn that says, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

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

  • If all reindeer had red noses, we would probably never sing about Rudolph.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to figure out where our unique giftings can make a positive difference in the lives of others, but if we’re not out using them we will probably never find out why we have them.
  • Since this world is not my home, I will probably always have a certain level of not belonging.
  • As a child of the King, I have a better home that I look forward to as I journey here on earth.
  • Even the best technology can lead you to the wrong location if it doesn’t have accurate information.
  • There are a lot of people who think they know the way to heaven . . . I will stick with Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
  • Sometimes the journey is longer than we would like or more difficult than we would like, but we keep going because we know the destination is worth it.
  • Knowing our intended destination is key to figuring out how to get there.
  • Sunsets are a good reminder of God’s creativity.  Each moment seems to be another unique masterpiece.

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