The Aroma Of Love

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            Many of the memories I have fixed in my mind from my childhood come directly from our home. It was a place of activity and laughter, but it was also a place that was clean, quiet, neat and orderly. We never had what the world would call wealth, but our life was still abundant. Many in our community had a great deal more than us, but we still felt like the richest people in town. No doubt this was a result of the tireless efforts of my mother. Her touch was upon everything, and our home was a reflection of the beautiful things God had placed within her. She, in turn, poured out that rich treasure upon us in many different ways.

            Our home became a sanctuary of security that was filled with the most delicious smells. My mother was continually trying out a new cookie recipe, pie filling, stew or delicate pastry. She took great delight in getting our opinion on each new creation, and we enjoyed tasting each and giving our expert advice. This was a normal part of life for me as I was growing up and I never considered that some day it might come to an end. For me, two things were absolutely certain, no matter what else happened in this uncertain world. I knew that my mom would wake long before the rest of the family and spend time in prayer for all of us. The other thing we knew, as sure as the sun came up each day, my mother would be in the kitchen making fresh Italian bread or soft roles for us to have with breakfast.

            I can still remember waking up in bed and smelling the delicate, moist aroma of yeast and flour as it baked in the oven. I knew something wonderful was waiting in the kitchen, and my mouth would begin to salivate before my feet ever hit the floor. I am sure mom knew exactly what she was doing, since she never had to call anyone down for breakfast more than once. Before the first loaf of fresh bread was out of the oven, we were sitting at the table waiting to get a soft, steaming slice of that mouth watering delight. The smell of hot bread, and the anticipation of what it signaled, was the best alarm clock anyone could have. It never failed to do it’s job on even the sleepiest members of our family.

            Another thing fixed in my mind is that we never knew what delectable things awaited us when we arrived home from school. Because of this, most of my friends got in line to go home with me when the school day was over.  Many had parents who worked two jobs and our home became an island of consistency, and a haven of family life the way it should be. Little did we know that very quickly this would be eaten away by the fast food lifestyle of a rapidly changing world. Had we realized just how fast those days would be gone, I am sure we would have cherished them all the more.

            When the school day was over we ran home from our three-room school house, by running up a winding dirt path, crossing our back lot and bounding through the back door of our house. Naturally this turned into a contest of speed and agility that was a daily ritual we knew so very well. We would line up at the end of the school yard and dash across the old bumpy macadam road. Once the race was on, we jockeyed for position on the narrow path. Soon one or more of us landed in the bushes with scratched arms and legs. Those who were behind tripped those ahead, and jump over them to take the lead. In a few minutes it was over and whoever reached my back step first was the winner. Even though there was no tangible prize, the knowledge of being first gave a sense of male prowess and personal worth that was unspoken but very real.

            Upon entering my home, the words “Mom, I’m home!” would echo through the rooms. My mother’s reply was always the same, “O.K. dear…I just made cookies, you and your friends can have some, but don’t spoil your appetite! Dinner will be ready at 5:30, when your father gets home from camp.” Smiles of anticipation would sweep across every face. There on the counter was a plate of fresh-baked cookies, covered by a milky sheet of wax paper. We often stood at the door and sniff the air, trying to guess what was waiting for us on that plate.

Each cookie had a distinct smell of its own, and most of the time we were able to identify what chewy delight awaited us. The few days we missed it were the result of a secret “healthy” ingredient my mother was always slipping into the mix. Ground pumpkin seeds, ground flax seed, raisins, coconut, walnuts or ground sun flower seeds were among her favorites. As the years went by, her list of secret ingredients grew, along  with her imagination. Almost to the day she died, at age 98, we never knew for sure what might be in moms “health bars”, “12 grain nut bread” or “sugarless date cookies”.

            Love in our home was made real by wondrous smells. Every holiday, anniversary, birthday and change of season had its own mouth-watering aromas. Venison stew in a wine sauce, roasted partridge, baked turkey, roasted butternut squash and baked sweet potatoes ushered in the fall. Fresh hot soups and stews, pots of beans with maple cured ham hocks, honey smoked bacon and the rich taste of Biscuit Tortoni topped with ground walnuts told us winter was here. Roasted chicken, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and baked apples with cinnamon called out at holiday time. Hot rice pudding with cream, or tapioca pudding, fresh baked trout, wild mushrooms and wild leeks announced spring. Apple Rhubarb and cherry pies, watermelon, hand made ice cream, sweet corn and the smell of camp fires told us summer was here.

            In each of these smells, I still find the endless aroma of my mother’s deep, rich, boundless love. Her faithfulness at making a simple meal, a plate of cookies or a loaf of bread demonstrated in a tangible way God’s continuous love for us. It comforted us when we were sick and calmed us when we were scared. It patiently believed the best of us even when we were obviously going the wrong way. It quieted our minds and brought consistency to us in an ever-changing world. No matter what the circumstance, pain or problem, the phrase “have a cookie”, touched us again and again. It transformed our hearts, broke down barriers, showed no favoritism and ultimately changed us in ways I am now just beginning to understand.

            When I am brokenhearted and crushed by grief, when I am feeling alone and betrayed, overwhelmed and misunderstood, do not be surprised if you find me baking a loaf of bread or standing in the door of a bakery. No doubt my eyes will be closed in respect for this private sanctuary as I am being drawn above this earthly realm. Even if a tear is finding its way down my cheek, you must understand what is happening. I am no longer as sad, or hurt, or broken as I was before I entered that place. I am smelling the odor of memories, and feeling my mothers love, that gave me this gift so many years ago. I am being touched and healed in the deepest part of my soul, and the pain of this world is being washed away by the rich, delicate smell of flour and yeast.

Just like the loaves of bread that are rise as they wait for the oven, I always rise in that warm, moist, sacred place. It is here that the aroma of love does its timeless work in me once again.  I find healing for my soul, a refuge in the Lord and peace of mind. Here I feel the heart and prayers of my mother reaching across time, and they are still holding me up before God. There is no doubt that Jennie Emmons knew exactly what she was doing when she showed me Gods perfect love through a loaf of bread and a plate of cookies. Thank you mom!  I am so grateful!

When the time comes for me to meet the Lord, I am sure that the rich, sweet odor of fresh baked bread is the very thing that will fill the portals of heaven. I think it will be the thing that ushers me into His glorious presence. In fact, I will not be surprised at all if His first words to me as I draw near His throne are “Welcome home Bill,… oh….and over there, Jennie is waiting with a fresh plate of cookies”.

Memory Maker

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Here in the Northeast, we are quickly moving into the fall season. The last day or so of August brings a change that says, “Get ready”, because there is a coolness in the air that is unmistakable. We have already seen a few leaves show a seasonal color change that will eventually rival the best imagination. Splashes of red, brown, orange and yellow have come out as the evenings have come more quickly and the morning dew has laid heavy and wet on the ground. Early morning fog now blankets river-valleys and fields in a wispy shroud of white, and the melancholy music of a string of geese overhead adds a hauntingly ancient sound as a backdrop for what is yet to come.

These things herald in a very nostalgic time of year for me, and for those who live in the Northeast. We look forward to it, and even though it means winter is moving in our direction, there are still plenty of clear, brilliantly colored days and brisk nights yet to be enjoyed. We are a hardy bunch, and this seasonal change stirs something in our blood and emotions that is hard to explain. It moves upon us quietly and brings an unspoken inward cry to come home, start the fire and gather the family around us. It causes us to remember life as it was, and as it should be, and we yearn to pass that on to the next generation.

I tend to be the first, of the first, to spot and announce those initial splashes of color that show up on the hills of the Adirondacks. In the later part of August I walk the banks of my trout streams and begin to look for those early “turners”. That’s the lone Maple, or the solitary Birch that seems to jump the gun and just has to change before the rest. I make my way around a bend in a stream and there it is, in all it’s glory. Overnight, an entire branch of brilliant red, orange or yellow leaves is waving in the chilled breeze saying, “Here  I am! Now you can tell everyone that Fall is officially on the way!”

From that point on, every new day brings more and more vibrant colors to the land. I see it move from tree to tree, and hillside to valley. I can smell it on the cooling wind. The aroma of moist earth or a yellow blanket of newly fallen tamarack needles floating  on a cold stream, are all part of it. The perfumed crunch of leaves under foot, and the hint of wood smoke in the air blend together into a rich mixture of smells, sounds and sights that permeates my clothes, my heart and my soul. Long forgotten memories of past autumns are stirred up, when family and friends gathered together and shared life. They bring to mind the laughter, the meals and the stories that were told over a mug of spiced cider or a slice of bread just pulled from the oven.

Fall is a time machine. It comes in on the breath of chilled Canadian air, and catches us up in brisk, clear, sunny days. It wraps us in the echoed gunshots on an autumn hillside and the earthy smells of an October forest. It is filled with change and visual images that enrich our lives down to the core. Winter is cold and barren. Spring is lush and muddy. Summer is hot and dry. But fall, …… fall is the memory maker. It is the Creator’s paintbrush, carried on the cooling breeze to the canvas of the earth. It is nature’s perfumer, experimenting with earth, leaves, water, soil and wood smoke. It is the primal symphony of winds that lift the song and the winged wonder of a string of geese as they “v” their way above.

Fall is the time we slow down and enjoy the last, lingering daylight hours of sun and warmth. These remind us that the beauty all around is a fleeting and wondrous thing, and it needs to be savored in the moment. It is the amazing sight of a huge orange moon rising above a harvested field. It is the scurry of squirrels collecting the last of the bounty they will need to carry them through the winter. It is the sight of wood stacked, the drumming a partridge and the smell of stoves and fireplaces set ablaze to drive out the dampness of frost kissed air. It is the smell of apple pies, sweet cider, roasted potatoes, corn, squash and meat cooking in an oven-warmed kitchen. Most of all, it is sharing the food of life with family and friends, and making memories, one slice of pie and cup of hot tea at a time.

This fall, slow down and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Make a few memories of your own. Connect with friends, neighbors, family, food and drink in a deliberate way. Choose to set aside some time to share a meal, or a cup of hot coffee, with those you love. Begin to enjoy the glory of making memories in the colored blaze of an Autumn world. All too soon your time on earth will be over, and then you will wish you had done more. Why? Because, then it will hit you that soon you will be the memory of others. I have learned that many things which seem so important, can actually wait, but making memories is not one one of them!

So in this wonderful season of colored change, put down the cell phone, turn off the TV, shut down the internet and close down your computer. Go meet with loved ones face to face. Share a meal, enjoy the view, tell stories of life well lived, breathe in the aromas of fall and become woven into the fabric of all that is to come. Let the sound, sight, smell, food and feel of autumn get inside you. Let it soak into your clothes, your thoughts, your bones and heart. Once it’s there, it will change everything, because  you will become the stuff of fall memories for those who will follow after. Become the memory maker of others, and you will leave a great legacy behind. Fail to do so, and life will simply move on and fade into the future. Now, go make some memories and enjoy the beauty of this amazing time of year!

 

Walking In Your Wilderness

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Deuteronomy 32:10 says “He found him in a desert, and in a howling waste of a wilderness, He encircled him, He cared for him as the apple of His eye”. What a powerful picture is painted here of God’s concern and care for those who a wandering in a wilderness of life. It matters not if they chose it for themselves, it happened unexpectedly or God Himself actually took them there. The point is, they were in it alone, and in His own time God came to them and cared for them, whether they deserved it or not.

I say the above because there is a time in everyone’s life when they find ourselves totally alone. This is not so much a physical thing, but it’s more of an emotional and spiritual season of isolation. When it finds us, we cannot avoid the impact it has on everything we hold dear. This wandering might last a few weeks, a few months or even longer, but once it arrives, it does not depart until it’s work is done. This isolated plateau of the soul is identified in the Bible as a place called “the wilderness”. We arrive in this place by ourselves, distracted and in an unrefined condition, but rest assured, we will not leave it the same way.

In this empty season no one is there to carry us, guide us or give us the companionship we think we need. Not one person is there at our side, providing step by step instructions to bring us into the new place we need to be. The fact is, every man or woman of God who is destined to fulfill their life calling, has to make this journey. Even those who do not know God, but are hungry to do better, will be taken to this place. The truth is, I believe this trip into the wasteland of our soul, is a necessary part of healthy personal and spiritual growth. As a result, it is my conviction that these times of barrenness should not be avoided, but they should be looked at with clarity, embraced with sincerity and fully walked out.

It is only during our wilderness experience that we are fundamentally changed. Our metal is tested, our character is developed and our flaws are painfully exposed. It can be a powerful time of personal evaluation and transformation. The excess baggage and wrong thinking we have picked up in life are finally thrown off. What is really important and genuinely necessary comes into clear focus, perhaps for the first time. For some, this brings a shocking revelation of how shallow and self-absorbed they really are. For others, it is a grand adventure as they rediscover who they are, and begin to build upon that good foundation to become even better. These are powerful times we enter into alone and unsettled, but emerge focused and quite comfortable in our own skin.

I was just in such a season not long ago. I got back from a powerful ministry trip to the Philippines. Myself and an Apostle did two conferences and ministered at numerous church meetings. When I returned home, my wife then flew off to California to be with our daughter, who was having our 10th grandchild. I was alone in our house, after all that personal attention and activity, surrounded by the “stuff” of our lives. I was totally alone for two weeks, and the impact this had on me was quite deep. It became a time of introspection, where I was able to seek God, ponder my life and consider how I got “here”. I reflected on the family I grew up in, the wilderness seasons I had been through, and the lessons I learned that made me the man I am.

I pondered how my father was a strong presence of security in our home. He made us feel wanted, valued and safe. He was an intelligent, slender, quiet, thoughtful man who spoke very few words, but meant every word he said. He was kind and gentle, filled with internal strength yet tender. He had a will of iron and a backbone that could support it. He was an outdoors-men to the bone and loved the woods, but could still carry his own with any city dweller. His word was his bond. He had a peaceful stability about him that filled our lives, and had the power to make everything alright, even when it wasn’t. On his death bed, his bright blue eyes looked at me with a calm resolve and they were able to reassured me that even this would be fine.

His example, both the good and the bad, served to shape me in ways I am just now discovering. Among other things, he taught me the wholesome value of a strong cup of hot, black tea and a slow cooked venison stew. He taught me the blessing of honest work and the need for personal sacrifice when it came to family. He showed me that failing to plan for retirement meant you could never retire. He showed me how to love the wife God gave me, and how to care for my family, no matter what the personal cost might be. He demonstrated the value of living debt free, and within our financial means. He also showed me why it was important to pay cash for the things we needed or wanted. The truth is, my father taught me how to be a real man.

Because of that, I became the kind of man my children could look up to. I showed them it’s OK to not always be right, but it is good to always be willing to make things right. They learned how to be a leader in their own homes, and the voice of reason to their children, when it is needed. They were shown how to love their wives and children in ways that are meaningful to them, and to do what must be done to provide for their families. Most of all, I taught them not to see the government as their source of income. Welfare is NOT a lifestyle, it is an emergency crutch until someone who needs it can get back on your feet. They were taught to seek God, plan with care and work hard. They learned from me that these things are more than enough to bring them all the provision they will ever need.

How did I learn these things, you might ask? These truth’s became life lessons during my wilderness wanderings. They became real when there was no one to prop me up or carry me, but Jesus. It was the time I found myself needing a teaching job. I prayed and sought God, and the perfect job opened up where there had been none the week before. It was the time I quit my teaching job, at age 35, and my a wife and three boys followed me back to college. We needed a place to live in Plattsburgh NY, and out of nowhere an apartment opened up near the college that we could afford. It was the time our cupboards were totally empty and I gave my sons the last of the powdered milk and instant mashed potatoes for breakfast. I went to class hungry that morning, but when I returned home that evening, food filled our shelves, our hallway and every counter top in our kitchen. I told no one but God about our need, and He showed me His faithfulness.

Without those wilderness journey’s my knowledge of God, and experiences with Him, would be sorely lacking. Unless I had been willing to walk through those barren wastelands, I would have never seen God’s ability to bring such abundant provision in my desperate lack. My faith was built up, my trust was properly anchored and my life story was enriched, all because of a desert trip. How grateful I am that many times God has led me into a waste-howling wilderness, to be tempted, tried and tested. At times I failed, but even in my failure I still learned valuable lessons that changed my life forever. The truth is, I would not trade those experiences for any amount of money or fame, because they made me, and my family, what we are today.

Right now, are you looking at a dry, sandy landscape, where there is no water and everything looks dead? Are you feeling alone in a barren landscape, with no clear answers, and you wonder where God is in all of it? If so, let me suggest to you that your current condition is actually designed by God to change you in ways you don’t yet understand. He is simply doing with you the very same thing He did with Jesus. What a privilege that is!

You need to walk it out, one step at a time, and pray with an honest and pure heart. You need to get real about your weaknesses until you find the place of rest in God. Once you are open to change and ready embrace your own weakness, you can then exchange your whole, weak mess for the strength God offers. Until then, you will find yourself a desert dweller. Perhaps this is your time to finally change and fully embrace the truth about who you really are. Once that’s been done, you can move on. Never forget that today’s wilderness is the perfect foundation for the God-ordained life you will walk in tomorrow !

The Power Of Restoration

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Over the years, I have fished streams, lakes and the ocean around NY State, Canada and in Alaska. Every trip has been a blessing and a privilege I genuinely enjoyed. Although I appreciate every kind of fishing, my favorite will always be a small trout stream like the one in this photographed which I took yesterday. I am sure this is because I spent many hours as a boy, with a trout rod in my hand, standing beside my father. He took me into the little-known trout ponds and hidden streams that he had fished since the early 1900’s. These places, in the heart of the Adirondacks, were untouched natural gems, where we went to get away from people, be together in the woods, and bring home dinner. Dad was one of the last old-time guides in Northern New York, and his love for trout fishing was no secret. Fortunately, he instill that same love within my heart and soul as well.

A pristine trout stream, like the one above, is a thing of beauty and mystery. Each rock in the water, overhanging bank and deep bend in the river presents a new challenge, and a new possibility for catching Speckled Trout. Once you learn to “read” a particular stream, it begins to feel like an old friend that will give up it’s secrets and bounty, every time you go. That friendship can last a lifetime, but it has to be maintained, nurtured, and cared for from year to year. You steward that stream, which means you never abuse it, over use it, or neglect the signs that it may be in need of rest. I have a number of these in the Adirondack Mountains, and I cherish each one.

Over the past 30 years, I discovered these old friends through many different avenues. Some were found by driving back roads on my old 1980 Honda CX500, while others were located by searching topographic maps. Some I found during hunting season, and others I just stumbled upon as a blessing from God. One in particular, is very special to me, because I found it on a day when I was ready to give up. I stopped my motorcycle on a back road, just to rest, clear my thoughts, talk to God and settle my heart after going through a very painful divorce. The moment I shut the engine off, I heard the unmistakable sound of running water, yet there was nothing in sight to indicate it was there. When I pressed through the heavy brush, a small, healthy trout stream caught my eye, yet I had never seen it on any topo map. For a fisherman, this is the equivalent of hitting the lottery, and it changed my life.

Regardless of how a stream came to my attention, each is a treasure to me, and I guard their location with everything in me. Once a kid in our neighborhood tried to follow me to a stream, but I knew his car. After seeing the same vehicle behind me for several miles, and several turns,  I took him on a trip through the mountains.  Eventually I stopped at a diner for a very long breakfast, while he sat in his car on the road side. Upon leaving the diner, I walked up to him and handed him a cup of coffee, saying, “Hope you enjoyed this scenic Saturday morning drive”, then I drove home.  My friends have seen pictures of the trout I catch on a regular basis, and many ask me to take them fishing. My response is always the same , “sure, where would you like to go?” If they want me to reveal one of my streams, my response is something like, “If I did, I’d have to kill you”.

My reason for being so secretive about these streams is rooted in a harsh reality that showed up a few years ago. I broke the “Emmons family rule” and took a friend with me to one of my local streams. The time together was fun, but it brought out an unhealthy competition in me which destroyed the solitude, and sense of unrushed peace I  long for in those places. Worse than that, I didn’t realize by bringing another person there, I doubled the fishing pressure on that stream, which upset the management I had established for it over the years

Within two years, the size and number of trout caught in those waters dropped way off. For all practical purposes, I knew I would probably have to write that stream off my list. Then, to add even more problems into the mix, he took others to my stream. Soon I saw that several people had found this stream. There were other sets of boot tracks on the bank when I arrived to fish, and a bit of trash left behind which I picked up when I left. I realized this was the death knell to a stream I loved, and had fished successfully for more than a decade. It also sealed in me the absolute rule that I never reveal a productive trout stream to anyone.

Yesterday I decided to try one of my other dead streams again, as I traveled north on my cx500 for a morning of fishing. I stopped at my favorite diner for breakfast, and while eating my eggs and rye toast, a thought crossed my mind. I wondered if one of my old “friends” had come back to life. You see, I have not driven on this specific dirt road, past that stream for the last 4 years. I knew it had basically been fished to death. Since it was empty for so long, I wondered if everyone else had abandoned it as a lost cause. If that was the case, there might be a chance it had come back to life, and was restored to it’s former productive state.

I drove down the old familiar dirt road and parked out of sight. Then I hiked the half mile back into the woods where I knew the stream took a sharp bend. At that spot there is a deep, clean pool of water that undercuts a glacial boulder which sits right in the middle of the stream. I pulled the ultra-light rod from my creel and baited the snelled hook. The moment my nightcrawler hit the water, there was a splash, and the line was rapidly pulled under that rock.  My heart pounded as I set the hook, and sure enough, out of the water came a beautiful 9-inch speckled trout. That was the first of many I caught on that stream. I kept four, and the rest I threw back. I am pleased to say that my stream has been restored, and the power of that restoration has revitalized something in me as well.

You may be in a place where something you once loved and cherished has been lost. Perhaps it happened through a mistake you made, or through something someone else did in ignorance. Whatever caused the problem, let me suggest that the best thing you can do is relax, give it time to rest, and let things heal.  Stop second guessing why things happened as they did. Does it really matter at this point?  Embrace your situation and accept the fact that they are what they are. Just let it go!  Like my trout stream, if given enough time, everything in your life will work itself out as it should be. Restoration, in one form or another, will surely come to you. Be encouraged! If God can restore a trout stream to better than it was before, then he can surely bring restoration to you!

Now go have a great day and enjoy every moment of the life you have.

Catalytic Moments

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On the night of Thursday, December 16, 1773 the crisis with England came to a head in Boston. Members of a group called “The Sons Of Liberty” disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians. Armed with an assortment of axes, they boarded three ships moored at Griffin’s Wharf, that were carrying tons of British East India Company tea. In a span of three hours, 340 chests of British tea were chopped up and dumped into Boston Harbor. Over 92,000 pounds of tea was destroyed that night. The financial cost to the company was enormous. However, the implications of that single act were far greater. It was a catalytic moment, and few realized it would send a shock wave around the world.

As a direct result of the above action, things continue to escalate, until it erupted into what became the American Revolutionary War. It began on April 19, 1775 in Lexington Massachusetts. Shots rang out across a bridge, as American Patriots stood there ground against the aggression of British troops. The entire conflict, which was sparked in Boston Harbor, happened because of a new tax that amounted to a few pennies. The English had imposed that tax on certain goods imported into this country, and this angered the colonists who lived here. They believed it was unjust to be taxed by a government that did not give them a voice of representation in the making of those laws.

Most people at that time thought the American resistance would be crushed by England within a few weeks. However, after two years of fighting, something amazing happened. From September 19 to October 7 of 1777, the U.S. militia beat the British at the Battle of Saratoga. It was the first great American victory of the war and it surprised everyone. The tenacity of the Americans shocked the world, and this turning point led a few Colonies to triumph over the sprawling empire of Great Britain. The war concluded with the Treaty of Paris, which was signed by both sides in 1783. In that treaty, Great Britain acknowledged American independence, the U.S. northern boundary with Canada was established, and the Mississippi River was set as the U.S. western boundary.

By the time the conflict ended, more than 200,000 U.S. troops had fought the British. It is estimated that over 5,000 American troops died, and over 24,000 British troops had been killed. By the war’s end, a new nation had been birthed through the bloody conflict. In all, a congressional government had formed, the Declaration of Independence had been written, and in 1789, the Bill of rights had been written and ratified. Thus, 13 independent colonies in America had formed into the United States of America. Consider this fact; all this came about simply because of a penny tax, and tea had been thrown into Boston Harbor.

Why do I give this lesson in American history? It’s because this was a catalytic moment, a prophetic spark from world history, that must honestly be considered. A little thing like a one-cent tax, started an eight-year war that ultimately birthed an entire nation! It’s absolutely astounding, when you really think about it. Now consider this; is it possible that the little things, those things that seem so insignificant in your life right now, are actually the seeds of a revolution God is preparing to birth? Are you dealing with a catalytic moment and don’t know it? Who would have believed the Boston Tea Party would be the catalyst that birthed a nation. So the question begs to be asked; do you still believe the annoyances of daily living are so insignificant that you can continue ignoring them?

Perhaps it is time to reconsider the little events, the seemingly unimportant people or irrelevant issues that are now an irritation in your life. You know, those things you have failed to deal with, and those people you don’t have time for, but they keep showing up. You have been too busy, or too distracted, and these seem so inconsequential to the big picture you are going for. You will get to them in time…..but now is just not the right time. Oh really? Let me suggest to you that now IS the moment to begin to make time, because one of these insignificant things might very well be your Boston Tea Party.

Just like the British, you also don’t know how important one thing can be to your future, because you are so enmeshed in the present. Like them, you will know in time, but by then your ability to shape it and benefit from it, will be long gone, and out of your control. Your destiny will be, for all practical purposes, in the hands of others. Why? Because you did not recognize a catalytic moment, and you let the tyranny of today’s demands dictate your actions, and rob you of your future.

Perhaps it is time to step back, relax and look things over. Why not calmly consider what the future holds for you if you continue on your present path. Then think about what it might look like, if you begin to recognize your catalytic moments, and more importantly, you recognize the people who are part of it. Only you can make this a life priority, so don’t put it off any longer. Consider this important fact, the truth is your future is what hangs in the balance!

A Stone On Your Head

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In 1834 the following story was written by English historians who were compiling a review of County Crayke. It is the true account of a gentlemen named Simeon Ellerton.

“Simeon Ellerton died here, Crayke, North Yorkshire, England, January 3, 1799, at the advanced age of 104. He was a noted pedestrian, and was often employed by gentlemen in the neighborhood on commissions to London and other places, which he always executed on foot, with fidelity and diligence. He lived in a neat stone cottage of his own building; and what was remarkable, he had literally carried it upon his head!

It being his practice to bring home from every journey the proper stone he could pick up on the road, and place it on his head, until he had accumulated a sufficient quantity to erect his habitation, by which time, although the motive had ceased, this practice had grown so much into a habit, that he imagined he could travel the better for having a weight upon his head and he seldom came home without some loading. If any person inquired his reason, he used facetiously to answer, ‘’Tis to keep on my hat’.”

The article went on to say that local residents all thought he was a “curious fellow”, a bit touched in the head, or at the very least, a bit eccentric. Because of his practice, the term “rocks on your head” began to be used to describe anyone who acted out of the norm, or had behavior considered a bit strange. What is fascinating, is that the term is still in use today. It has come down to us in the form of “rocks in your head”. Yet the fact is, the man it was intended to mock,  actually lived an honorable life. He was trusted and respected by all who hired him, and lived to the ripe old age of 104, during a time when the average person died before the age of 50. Hardly the life of one who should be mocked!

For me this is such a great story. It demonstrates the value of quiet resolve, personal diligence and clear vision, which are so important if you are going to accomplish anything in life. Let’s face it, few people today would stop to ask why a man was walking the roadside with a rock on his head. Most would assume he was mentally unhinged, or an emotional prisoner to some trauma in life. He would most likely be reported to the authorities and locked in some psychiatric ward. Fewer still would have the diligence, fortitude and patience to carry out a practice everyone questioned. The mockery of others, and the sheer magnitude of the task at hand, would simply wear them out.

There is a powerful lesson to be learned from the humble determination of the man who carried a rock on his head. He is the model for all of us who think outside the box. We all live in a world that tries to conform us to it’s way of doing things. Dress like this, talk like that, think like this and act like so. Drive this car, use this makeup, live in this kind of house and dress in these clothes. Conform, or you are an outcast and will have no work! The point is, most people are nothing more than rats running in a social maze and they are too blind, or too scared, to see things for what they really are.

And so, those of us with a rock on our head, who carry this load along life’s road, are doing so because it secures our future.  We are carrying the stones of a place not yet built, where we will live free, think free and enjoy independence from that which influences and manipulates the rest of the world. Run like mindless lemmings, if you so desire, into the sea that this world offers. But, as for me, I will go against that flow every time, and much prefer to be the odd ball. An outcast in some circles, perhaps, but who cares! While they are running like gerbils on their caged-in treadmills, I am having amazing failures and wonderful adventures in the real world that take my breath away!

I, and those like me, are the curious ones that others wonder about, as we serve God, pray and live biblically principled lives. We gladly walk our road with a rock on our head, knowing that in time we will have a “neat stone cottage” approved by God. It may not be tomorrow, but one stone at a time it will be built. As this world goes it’s merry way, deeper into conformity and sin, laughing, mocking and looking at us with curiosity, we will be building a future that will not be shaken, one stone on our head at a time. My question is, what’s on your head my friend, and what future are you building?  If you don’t like what you see, let me invite you to join us on our journey into the presence of God. You won’t regret it! Now go find a nice stone….. and have a great day!

 

Life As A Priority

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In the early 1900’s, life in rural America was so much simpler than it is today. Many, like myself, think this was life as it should be. The steam locomotive, wagon and horse were the main forms of transportation. Every community had a hardware store and blacksmith shop. The general store, post office and barbershop were gathering places for local news. The sawmill and gristmill were centers of community commerce, and farmers brought their crops into town to sell locally. People were happy to depend on each other in times of crises, or to meet basic, daily needs.

Life was slower, less distracted and more deliberate in those days, and each season had its own necessary preparations. There were family gardens and crops to be planted in spring, structures to be built in summer, wood to be cut, a harvest to be brought in and animals to be hunted in the Fall, and winter was used to mend, fix and prep everything for the next year. Front porches on every house were lined with comfortable wooden rockers that adults sat in during the evening and they shared a cup of coffee and good conversation. Best of all, neighbors looked out after each other on a daily basis and there was a sense of belonging that cemented things into that specific time and place.

The cars, bicycles and motorcycles were novelties, for the most part, and the average person viewed them as toys for the rich. People heated their homes with wood and lighted the night with kerosene lamps or home made candles. Hand made bi-planes crawled into the air under the guidance of inexperience daredevils, who landed them in empty fields that served as airports. Doctors made house calls and left the necessary medicine for their patients, all for a whopping price of $5. Milk and heavy cream were delivered in glass bottles to the front door by local dairy’s along with eggs, cheese and butter.

A “tab” was run up at local stores by most everyone, and this was paid off without interest, at the end of the month. Loans were made, and finances exchanged with nothing more than a handshake and a verbal agreement. No signed contracts were needed, and in many cases, no one wrote down how much was borrowed. People were basically honest, but beyond that, they knew their family name was on the line if they failed to honor their agreement. There was genuine trust and respect that people gave to one another, and nothing less was to be expected.

There was one school in each community and it had locally hired teachers who taught two elementary grade levels in a single room. Each high school grade had it’s own room and teachers specialized in two or three subjects. Elementary teachers stayed with the same class all day while those in high school rotated between classrooms and grade levels to be taught different subjects. Students all walked to school, there were no busses, and they either carried their lunch in a brown paper bag or ran home to eat at lunchtime. The average class size in these community schools was 8 to 12 students per grade level, and that was also the size of each graduating class.

It’s hard to believe, but this is very close to the world I grew up in. Our small village in the northern Adirondacks seemed to have a “Brigadoon” quality about it that resisted modernization. It disliked change of any kind, and each new decade took it further and further out of step with the world that was changing all around it. Quite honestly, we were proud of that fact, and in many ways I still am. Why? Because, I got to live in a world that was quickly vanishing away. I got to know some of the life my father had lived, in the early 1900’s, and it connected me to him and to our family history. I not only heard his stories of years gone by, but I was able to experience some of them for myself, which made them real.

Dad road in an open wagon, and I got to ride in the back of his 1954 Willies truck on summer nights. He swam in Sumner Brook on hot summer days, and 55 years later so did I. I attended the same schoolhouse he did, sat in the same desks and wrote on the same chalkboards. Our family ate breakfast and dinner together as a family every day, and life rotated around when those meals were ready. We adjusted our activities to our family mealtime, not our mealtime to our activities. Eating at my mother’s table was a constant that established our family life and time together.

Now imagine this; when I was 9 years old my father called Cohen’s Hardware Store, just down the hill from our house, and told the clerk to give me two “farmers helpers”. Dad was clearing stumps and rocks from our backfield and these made the job much easier. With $2 in hand I arrived at the store, handed the clerk the money, and he gave me two paper bags. One had sawdust in it and the other did not. He then gave me stern instructions to keep them separate and take them directly to my father.

What was in the two bags? One held two blasting caps with 10 inch fuses, and the other held sawdust that encased and two half sticks of dynamite, called “blanks”. Once a blasting cap was inserted into the “blank”, and the fuse was lit, you were in business to remove any stump or rock that might be in the way. Today people would be arrested for such a thing, but back them it was just everyday life. I had a respect for the power of what I held and I also respected my father. In addition I trusted the store clerk and they both trusted me to do exactly as I was told. Needless to say I did not let them down and the whole system worked fine. There were no permits, no laws broken and no harm was done. It was regulation free and worked for everyone.

We learned respect for authority, obedience to our parents and we accepted the wisdom of common sense. We listened to what would be dangerous, or wrong, and we kept that knowledge close at hand. We took responsibility for our actions and discovered the value of honoring the old ways that served past generations so well. The deep-rooted connection to the life that had always been, was embraced as truth, and it kept us safe, brought focus and connected us together as a community.

This was the life for me during the 1950’s, and when it began to disappear, something in me disappeared with it. The sense of permanence, historical family foundations and the knowledge of knowing where you belonged, began to fade away. Then my mother moved from our hometown at the age of 90, and a few years later Normans General Store closed, after being there for 120 years. With these two events, all connection to who we had always been was gone. Every tie to family history, and the reality that I could no longer go “home” was a shock. It set me adrift, and I felt like I was floating in a sea of uncertainty in a rapidly changing world that clearly would never be the same.

I was eventually able to get my bearings because the core values of that solid, grounded, generational life, served me well. However, many today live their lives with a directionless, rootless apathy. The need for job security often moves families across the country multiple times. Statistics show that people move, on average, every 5 years. Today, huge schools bus children in from miles around, and class sizes average in the hundreds. Millions of dollars are spent on sports programs, free breakfast and lunches and special clubs. Yet with all of this, more children are overweight, the quality of education continues to fall and students are less prepared for the workforce than ever before.

Where is the answer in all of this? Are we to go back to the horse and buggy, the kerosene lamp and the hand pump of 100 years ago? No, but we might do well to go back and revisit the values, the priorities and the heart of those earlier times. Imagine what it would be like to rediscover the art of human connection. Think of how wonderful conversation could be without the constant interruption of television, computer screens or cell phones buzzing and chirping invasively into every moment of the day. How grand would it be to sit around the dinner table and eat a well-prepared meal rather than rushing off to yet another event.

How in the world do you do this? One word: PRIORITIES! The priority you place on things always determines how they fit into the life you live. There is no exception to the rule, and no way to avoid the consequences either. You will always, and I mean always, find time for what’s really important. Tell me your kids are important, yet you are always working and never have time for them; YOU LIE! Say that family is important, yet you never take a vacation together, never do fun things as a family and rarely share your thoughts or feelings: YOU LIE! Say that saving for retirement is important but you constantly go into debt and buy things that you can’t afford; YOU LIE!

Let me challenge you to live a life of priorities. Set a standard that others will be blessed by. Set the wrong priorities and it will become a curse. Living a life of priorities is the only way to live happy and fulfilled. We may not be able to go back to what was, but we can get our priorities straight and capture a better way to live. If you want to recover some of what has been lost, let me encourage you to consider the above. If you will, you can change what is, and those who follow after you will be able enjoy the history you have created. Let me ask you, in the end, what’s that worth!