The Trout Stream Of Life

20160715_114851_HDR

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

The above Scripture is a reminder of the keeping power and blessing that God pours on those who seek Him. It also brings to mind the days of my youth, when I spent so much time in the deep woods of the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York. It was a wonderful place to grow up. Dad was an Adirondack guide, and the caretaker for “Forest Lodge”, one of the great old Adirondacks camps that is located on the canoe carry between Upper St. Regis Lake and Bear Pond. I spent many days with my father in that place, and it was there that I learned to love the woods just like him.

The hills, valleys and lakes that surrounded Forest Lodge, were my boyhood haven for exploration and adventure. My single-shot .22 rifle was a constant companion, and more often than not, my trout rod was also in hand as I wandered about looking for another place to fish. Many small rivers were hidden away in the moist hemlock forests. They trickled down the hills and filled dozens of kettle hole ponds that dotted the property where the “camp was located. Every chance I had, I took the time to walk through thick brush and around cat tail swamps, in hopes of finding another river valley that held the next trout stream of my dreams.

Time has slipped by, and finding the best streams today is not easy. I still have to get off the beaten path, where most people will not go, and look with a keen eye, or listen for the sound a bubbling water. I explore old dirt roads on my 1980 Honda CX500 and find hidden, or overlooked streams that others have missed or passed by. Often I hike a mile or more off-road to a promising river valley and am handsomely rewarded with a nice mess of speckled trout. It takes time to walk into those secret places, where valleys come together, and ice-cold water tumbles down over untouched glacial boulders. Here is where hemlock trees hang darkly over deep, clear pools and hungry native “brookies” are waiting to strike anything that hits the water.

My most memorable days have been spent on secret streams with my trout rod in hand, nightcrawlers I picked off my lawn, and a small thermos of hot coffee tucked into my ancient wicker creel. The smell of cool, morning mist rising off the water, and the sun streaming it’s golden way through scented pine branches, just thrills my soul. I feel the peace of God, and His pleasure, in these peaceful, quiet places. Why? Because I alone have taken the time to seek them out, discover and enjoy such beautiful places, which God created. This is my forest sanctuary where I carefully walk the stream bank and catch trout, meditate on His Word, delight myself in Him and feel the joy of life that this stream brings to everything it touches.

Especially in the grip of a brutal August heat wave, these wonderfully-cool places, deep in the forest, remind me of God and His ways. He is always there, ready to refresh all who come. When I find such a stream, I cherish it and keep it’s secrets all to myself. Each time I go there, I am amazed that everything near it is still green and flourishing, regardless of the dry conditions that may be all around. Berry bushes on it’s banks are lush and full of fruit, and trout are still swimming in it’s cool, dark pools. The tracks along it’s banks testify to the fact that birds and raccoons, foxes, deer and an occasional bear have all come to this holy place to drink, and they have satisfied their thirst.

This is a stream of living water, and just like being in God’s amazing presence, I have the endless pleasure of being here in the magnificent solitude, and enjoying it any time I so choose. There is nothing to hear but the stream itself or the call of birds and the wind in the trees. All of these calm my hurried thoughts. Best of all, there is no other human for miles, and that is just fine with me. I came here to fish, hear the whispers of God, and thank Him for this sacred place. It restores me in ways I cannot describe, and with a depth that only God can accomplish. I am humbled by all of it, right down to the very core of my being.

When I am rushed, when I am feeling pressured or worn out, all I need is the Lord and time alone on a trout stream. No matter what life has thrown at me, or how people have disappointed me, here is where I find rest for my soul and peace of mind. Worries fall away, the pull others have on me gets left for another day, and I find real peace. All I need is to sit on the bank of a trout stream and enjoy the sun filtering through the trees. Let me feel a pine-scented breeze gently caress my face, and I am happy. I hear the sound of water bubbling over rocks, and in that moment God is near, and I know that life is more than good, it is wonerful!

Let me encourage you to take the time to find your place of rest. It may be on a trout stream, a park bench, a favorite spot by the lake or alone in your own bedroom. Wherever it is, you need to go there by yourself on a regular basis and meet with God. Let Him come to you, direct your path and bring you to the place of living water. There, you can be like that bush on the bank of my trout stream. No matter what’s happening all around you, you can still be full of life, and give that life away to others.

 This is what life in Jesus is all about. He is the stream, the answer you have been looking for! My question today is, “why not let Him help you find all you have been hungry and thirsty for”? Sit down by this stream of life, and trust me when I say, you will not be disappointed. In fact,  He is more than you could ever imagine!

All you who are thirsty, come to the waters of life 💦 and drink your fill.. His love for you is more than enough to quench your deepest thirst and calm your greatest fear. He is with you always and He will give you rest!

Circles Of Life

concentric-circles-in-powerpointIn this season, God has really been dealing with me about my life’s work and my calling to develop others.  I have begun to realize how precious the time is that I have left, so what I do with that time, and who I invest it in, is extremely important. We are placed here by God for a reason, and that reason has a two-fold purpose. Number one, to accomplish our own destiny, and number two, to impact and influence the destiny of others. When those two purposes intersect, it is invigorating and life-changing for everyone. However, when relationships exist where the dots just don’t connect, these become a distraction that short circuits the purposes of God for everyone.

The truth is, we must know where people are in our circles of life, and then devote our time, and invest our lives, according to the circle in which they fall. If you have set your life up correctly from the beginning, you are already in good shape. You, and those in your circles, are reaping the rewards of being correctly aligned. Your time and energies have been invested in the right amounts, and in the right people, which set you both on a collision course with destiny.  I have seen this working seamlessly in some mighty men and women of God, and it is amazing to behold. I have also seen the opposite happen in my own life, and it was heart breaking. Time and energy was poured into individuals who were living in my outer circles.  They were far removed from the purposes of God in my life, either by choice or by chance, but I missed it. This was not only a distraction for both of us, even more tragic, it robbed others in my inner circles, of the time and personal care I should have been investing in them.

God showed me that the circles of my life are concentric rings of influence that surround me. The closer they are to the core of who I am, the more important they are to my destiny and well-being, and the destiny and well-being of others. Those circles closest to me must always be my personal priority.  My time, attention and care must always be devoted to them first, and these people must know they will always be in my line of sight. As I move outward from those primary circles, things change. How much time I devote, how available I am on a regular basis, and how much they may influence me, all becomes relative. Basically, the further someone is from the purposes of God for my life, the less vital that relationship is. I will always care, but the outer circles should never get my time, or availability, designed for those in the inner circles.

Circle 1 for me is my personal relationship with God. This is always the top priority if I am to stay healthy and balanced in life. Circle 2 is my wife and family. No matter what, I am ready to help, serve and be available for them any time of the day or night. In circle 3 are those who are the real doers in our church, and fellow ministers I work with. They are with me, have my back, help carry the vision and help carry the load. They joined up and hook up all the way and they serve with good hearts. I am always ready to hear them and serve them. When they call I pick up the phone. When they need me I am there. When they want to get coffee or spend time with me, I am available. The point is, our destinies, vision and service are all interconnected on a very personal level. These are my ministry companions and others are my sons and daughters in the faith who will get an inheritance, and be part of my legacy, when I am gone. As it has been said, “they will carry on when I am carried out”!

Those in circle 4 all are part of my church. They help as they can and are more-or-less faithful in giving and serving in any assigned responsibility. They do what they can, when they can, and for the most part I can depend on them. Some may not show up at the last minute, and others may have to cover for them. In circle 5 are those who come to church but never become a part of it. They may or may not give. They may come for work days or men’s and women’s meetings, but they are basically long term visitors. It is nice to see them, but I don’t depend on them to be on time or carry any of the load. There will be no training for these people, they will have little growth and I don’t expect them to do much more than show up when it works for them. They like the blessing and benefit of our church, but don’t like responsibility and don’t want to submit under authority. These people will never really find their place or do much in the Kingdom.

Finally, we have those in circle 6. This is the outer ring and the resting place of everyone else. They are basically just out there doing what they do. These may be friends or acquaintances, or those who simply intersect my path periodically as I am living the life God gave me. They come and they go, but they really are more like shadow figures who are not going where I am going and have no clear direction in life. Some are there to be evangelized, while others are those behind the counter I am kind to and want to bring to Christ. Those in circle 6 don’t ask deep spiritual questions and they don’t really want to know what is going on with me. They contribute nothing to the real purposes of God for my life and I an able to put very little into theirs.

What are your circles of life? Are they clearly defined for you and for those who surround you? If not, then you are probably doing what I did for way too many years. You are wasting the treasure of invested time, personal care and spiritual commitment on those who are not intimately connected to the purposes of God for your life. They may invade your space from time to time, and when they leave nothing has really changed. Love everyone, serve all those you can with a good and honest heart and be kind. However, when you give the right stuff to the wrong people, you are selling your greatest treasure to the lowest bidder, and that hurts everyone. If it continues, you will not fulfill the purpose of God for your life, and neither will they.

Let me encourage you to get your circles of life in order. They are like a “bulls eye” that every thing will be focused on. if you make them clear it’s easy to hit the mark and move forward with life. If you don’t everyone will suffer. Why not begin to day to clarify your circles of life? You will feel the pleasure of God in all you do. Trust me when I tell you that there is no better way to live life, and no better way to help others do the same!