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Apr. 18, 2022

THE OLD BOOTS

 

“Be content with such things as you have. For He

Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

 

 For almost a decade, my three-quarter-of-a-century-old grandmother lived with my family, as I was growing up. One of her daily routines was to take an early morning walk outside in the yard, or along the road. She would open the side kitchen door and step onto our enclosed porch.

 There waiting for her were an old pair of black rubber boots. They were those shin high - black rubber - four buckled - with a zipper inside - galoshes type - with red cleats on the bottoms. To my grandmother, those old black boots were special.

 They were always there, ready willing and able for usage. They were easy to get into. They were so big that you could have placed an 18-wheel truck inside along with her feet. They went wherever she went and protected her feet from the harmful elements found outside her home.

 Those boots insulated her from the mud of the garden, the stain of the freshly mowed lawn, the dust of the road and the pebbles along the walk. And yes, she told me many times that those old boots were extremely comfortable to wear.

 A relationship with God through Jesus Christ is in some ways similar to the one my grandmother enjoyed with those old boots. For, He is always there. He is never far from us. When the journey of life takes us to places outside the security of our comfort zone - there He is - offering to go with us. Like those old walking boots, an association with God is easy for us to "get into".

 It is not difficult to "put on" the love of Christ. It is practical. His grace is inclusive enough to embrace all of our idiosyncrasies. Like those old boots, Christ is our protector. He guards our soul from becoming polluted with the filth of transgressions that can so easily beset us.

 When we place our faith in Him, we are outfitted to walk "wherever” - to share God's love with "whomever" - "whenever" He beckons us to. And just like those old boots, Jesus wants to be our best friend.

 The good news is that the comfort of His grace is easy to live with and partnership in His work is never overwhelming.

Mar. 21, 2022

WHAT ARE YOU PRACTICING?

 “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me,these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:9

   Do you realize that as human beings we practice something every day? The more we practice these things, the better, more proficient we get at them. The term “practice makes perfect” is rooted in a 1500’s old English phrase “use makes mastery”. In today’s modern language it would be “if you don’t use it; you lose it.”

 In the original language, the word “do” used in the above text means to habitually perform, or practice. God is calling us to be more than complacent Sunday morning Christians. We have a noble destiny to be His Kingdom representatives to turn our fallen world upside down.

 So, let me ask, “What do you practice every day?” What you practice, you are going to get good at – you will become expert at! The Apostle Paul teaches that we are to practice living a praiseworthy life that is in partnership with the Living God – Jesus Christ, and that is living in harmony with His Biblical commands and promises.

 Do you practice joy in your life? Do you practice peace in your life? Do you practice kindness, faith, hope, or self-control in your life?  Or do you practice complaining? If you complain you are going to get really good at it. You will get so good at it that you with find fault with everything. Even when there is no fault that others see, you being an expert will see it!

 What do you practice? Do you practice gentleness? Or thankfulness? Or trust in God? What do you practice? Do you practice anger? Because as you practice anger you are going to get very good at it. In fact you are going to get so good at it, that the most trivial thing will make you angry and you will only see unfairness in it. What do you practice?  Worry, stubbornness, procrastination, judgmentalism, lying, overeating?  Because if you do, you will become very good at it.

 The Bible teaches that by the grace of God, we are to daily practice:

   1. Kindness and mercy.  We need to be considerate of God                                                   in everything we do and say.

          2. Integrity.  Be honest and fair in your dealings.

               3. Discipleship. What gets your attention gets you! 

 A preacher was greeting people at the door after service, a not very committed churchgoer approached. Shaking the man’s hand, the preacher said to him, “Good to see you John. When are you going to get  serious serving Christ?”  The man replied, “I’m already serious.”  The preacher asked, “Then why don’t I see you any time except for Christmas and Easter?” The man whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.” 

 The good news is that God wants your heart - not your excuses. There is no secret service with Him. He has a mission for you to accomplish and needs you to be involved.

  So, what are you practicing? 

Feb. 23, 2022

A PLACE CALLED HOPE

 

“…looking forward to the joys of heaven...”

Colossians 1:5a

 

  On the authority of God’s Holy Scripture, I want to declare to you today that heaven is a very real place. It is not a fairy tale, nor a figment of our human imagination. All those who have died in the faith, are there - are in the presence of the Lord.

   Heaven – this place called “hope” - is described as being  beautiful,  peaceful, and awesome. Its inhabitants walk and talk with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and myriads of angels. The spirits of the saints of God of ages past are in heaven – Adam , Eve, Noah, Abraham, David, Mary, Peter, Paul, and all who have died in the Lord are in the great gathering of the clan in heaven. We will know each other in heaven and remember all the good we shared together. All are free from sickness, pain, death, and sorrow. And all are awaiting the new bodies that will be given them when Christ returns again. It is a place of eternal celebration and joy, where goodness, truth and splendor prevail. 

   As a young boy, I used to enjoy building and flying kites. I would walk down the block to the neighborhood hobby shop and buy two thin pieces of balsa wood for the crosspieces, along with about 1000 feet of lightweight and strong kite string wound around a cardboard spool. I would tie the crosspieces securely together and then string a frame around the perimeter.

   For the kite “skin” or sail, I would use newspaper or cut plastic garbage bags. Then, I would place a knotted tail on the bottom end of the kite to steady it and keep it upright in the air. More or less knots would trim the sail. Lastly, I would tie my 1000 foot string roll to the crosspiece. My marvelous homemade flying machine was ready to fly!

  In a field across the street from where I lived, I would run a few yards with kite in extended hand, until it became airborne. Then as the wind got caught the sail and lifted it high up into the sky, I would let out more and more string as needed. Hundreds of feet high in the air would go my kite.  The string roll was hollow, in which I put a stick, so that the string could unroll freely and quickly.  My thumb was the brake.

  One day as my kite was flying majestically high in the atmosphere, a friend came over to me. He asked what I was doing. "Flying a kite." was my reply.  He looked up at the sky and inquired, "Where is it?"  I pointed and replied, "Up there".  "But I  can't see your kite," my friend said. The wind had blown it out of sight behind the view of some tall trees far away. I handed to kite string to my friend as I remarked, "Maybe you can't see it, but you sure can feel its pull!"

 Now I said all that to say this: as a believer in Jesus Christ, I am assured of a place called hope. A place of perfect peace for every heart and soul. It is called Heaven. How about you? Can you feel its tug upon your life, drawing you to think about your eternal home?  If so, praise God.  If not, how come?

Jan. 17, 2022

THE GIFT OF YOUR PRESENCE

 

“For (Jesus) has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

Hebrews 13:5

 One of the greatest gifts one human being can give to another is the gift of their presence. It is the gift of being there, of hanging out together, of sharing ordinary moments of life with another today that make up the precious memories of tomorrow.

 When I was a seven year old boy, my dad would often drop me off at my grandmother’s house for a visit on a Friday night. It was a special time where we sat together on her old worn couch and nibbled on fresh made popcorn while watching her 19 inch black and white Stromberg-Carlson television set, that was  part of a tube type console that also held a stereo phonograph and two speakers.  You would have to wait a few minutes to get a picture, until the tubes inside warmed up. At around 9 o’clock in the evening, we would turn off the TV and we would head to bed – she in her room and me on the couch.

 The best part of my visit would be our early Saturday morning walks to the Public Market. We would be up a 5:30am and she would make me fine ham and egg breakfast. Then she would ask with a grin on her face who wanted to go with her to the market. For over seventy-five years my Grandma would make this same weekly trip to the market for her groceries. I would eagerly answer, “Me. Me. Please take me.” 

 While she cleaned the dishes, it was my job to bring up the folding wheeled grocery cart from its basement storage spot. Down the nine steps I would go, into the damp basement and find the cart leaning against an old painted concrete wall. Up the stairs I would climb, trying not to clatter the cart against the steps or walls, into the presence of my appreciative grandma.

 With a smile on her face and she would always say in broken English, “Attsa-gooda-boya Carlo! Andare’” (That’s a good boy Carl. Let’s go!) It was her thing. It was an act of love that she did for her family.

 Off we would go out the side door onto the driveway and onto the narrow paved sidewalk. It was a couple of mile walk to the market, but I being filled with anticipation didn’t mind the trek at all. I got to pull the empty cart to the market.

 I was never allowed to wander off the sidewalk into the busy street. We would walk together and she would tell me stories of the old days, or we would wonder what would be at the market. She hoped the vegetables and eggs would be fresh. I hoped there was a calf, a lamb, or a goat, or a chicken to pet or feed. Everyone at the market knew her and welcomed her. They would greet her with, “Buon giorno Salavtrina! Come stai?” (Good Morning Salvatrina! How are you?). 

 It was a great time of being together. It was a special “Me and my Grandma”  sacred  bonding time together. It was a time of being together and in the sharing precious ordinary moments with one another. It was a time when the invisible knitting needles of family life weaved new patterns of experience for us to enjoy for years to come. She would pull the full cart home while I was busy eating a fresh piece of fruit.

 I am over 70 years old now. Grandma has been gone to glory for decades now. But to this day, every once in a while, I recall and appreciate those sacred times of weaving together that have made me who I am today. All it took was to take a little time to share.

Dec. 19, 2021

THE MOST WONDERFUL GOD

 

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given...

AndHis name will be called Wonderful...”

Isaiah 9:6

  For the Christian, Christmas is primarily about the birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. That is why the holiday is called “Christmas”. At the birth of our Savior, God in heaven gave awesome gifts to humankind. He gave His Son as our Hope, our Peace, our Joy, and the Way of Love. Not only was the miracle of Jesus birth in Bethlehem 2000 years ago a reality, but that same miracle can live within our hearts today. The Christmas spirit is not merely and emotion, but it can be a very real experience of faith today.

  Once upon a time there was a kind man named Saffron who lived in a small village just   east of somewhere and south of anywhere, with his two children - a boy named Johnny and a girl named Joy. Their mother had passed away from a sickness last year. They missed her very much. He was a master toy maker whose creations pleased children for miles around. One Christmas he decided to make his two young children very special presents - each was given a peg game. When completed, one showed a picture of a jolly snowman, and the other a beautiful Christmas tree. These were two of their mother’s favorite things.

  Johnny was a kid who was always upset about something. He was a whiner, who tended to magnify the negatives of life. When things didn't go his way he would hold his breath, turn red, and throw things. He was not a happy kid who looked at the proverbial glass of water as always being half empty.   Joy on the other hand was the exact opposite. She was a happy camper, full of love, patience, and graciousness. She was an optimist who saw the glass as being half full.

  When Christmas morning arrived they sat by the Christmas tree, and drank hot chocolate while munching on gingerbread treats. Father gave each their own gift which they eagerly received. Each was delighted with their present and started to play with them. Dad explained that there were square pegs and round pegs that had to fit into square or round holes. Some were big and others smaller. If they would take their time and complete the puzzle, he promised them a surprise at the end.

  Johnny attacked his gift selfishly and feverishly. Grabbing pegs and trying to jam them in any hole. Of course it didn't work and after a short while with a red angry face, and muttering how he hated the toy, he through the peg board and all of the pieces across the room. In a fit of frustration his happiness was gone as he sat pouting in self pity the rest of the day. And he was mad at his father for giving such a stupid gift.

  Joy, however,  listened to her father’s instructions and with a grateful heart began putting the puzzle together. She laughed and talked with her father as she patiently placed the appropriate pegs in the appropriate holes. If she needed help, father was there to help. After a short while, the puzzle was completed and she shouted with glee at the surprise picture of a beautiful Christmas tree before her.

  Joy was able to enjoy the moment, not because of the PRESENT itself, but the PRESENCE of her father and brother with her. She saw beyond the gift and into the heart of her father. In his selfish eyes, Johnny saw only the gift, and missed the heart of his dad. He lost his joy and thus was miserable.

  Moral: Don't allow the sadness or madness of the moment steal the blessings that our most Wonderful God gives. He loves to surprise us with blessings from above as we lovingly place our trust in Him and      His promises.

  As always, see you next time and have a great day...