Walking In Your Wilderness

wilderness

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

20170717_103133_HDR

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.

A Stone On Your Head

The-40kg-Stone-On-Head-Weight-Loss-Plan-1

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

priorities 1

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!

“Finding Your Dana”

dana This Is  Dana!!

My wife and I have the great privilege of being the lead ministers of a wonderful, small church in a community in upstate New York. Our area is historically significant to the American Revolutionary War and it is located in the foothills of a vast wilderness area known as the Adirondack Mountains. The land is lush with vegetation, crisscrossed with rivers, covered with countless freshwater lakes and ponds. Most of all, the diversity of the people who live here, and specifically those we count as friends in our church, are the real stars in our universe. They are simply an amazing cross-cultural group that never ceases to put a smile on our face.

One of these is a “spiritual daughter” that God rescued from a life of welfare, poverty, sin and brokenness. By God’s grace she went from being an uneducated single mother, struggling to hold her head above water, to the store manager of a nationally known company who provides her with a good income, a retirement plan, health insurance, company benefits, job development on company time, company travel and recognition for her excellence as one of the youngest store managers at the ripe old age of 25. She is just a fireball of energy, encouragement and enthusiasm. In short, she is a walking miracle whom we love deeply.

Adding to her life of God-given blessing is her son, our “spiritual grandson” named Dana. Dana is a 6 year old whirlwind with a razor sharp mind that is all his own. He talks in an endless stream of insightful statements, makes keen observations and asks honest questions that are just infectious and arrest everyone’s attention. He moves at the speed of light, but never misses a thing. When Dana comes into a room, he looks around, his face lights up and very quickly his presence becomes known to all. He is an old soul in a child’s body that is filled to overflowing with the electricity of life and the endless curiosity of Leonardo Da Vinci. I just love this little boy to pieces because he is me 57 years ago!

The other day Dane saw me, ran up, gave me a big hug aground the legs, and looked at me with those big, wonder-filled eyes. His childlike expression told me the wheels were turning on the inside, and that could mean anything, good or bad. What I mean is, his words can be funny or filled with a painful honesty that can unnerve the bravest soldier. Once he hugged me on the neck and then, pulled back, looked right into my face and, with his cute little-boy nose all puckered up, said “Pastor, your breath smells”. I am sure those I prayed for that day were eternally grateful he had spoken that little revelation to me!

When our eyes met I knew something was bubbling up from his amazing little brain, and it would soon be flowing out of his mouth. So, I braced myself for his next insight on life, and sure enough, in a moment of paused silence, there it was in all it’s unrefined glory. He tipped his head to one side and I bent down near him. Then he put his hands on both sides of my face, looked deep into my eyes and said with an absolute childlike declaration: “Pastor, you are very thinkative”. The moment was soon over and he simply sped off to his next adventure.

Dana left me standing there holding back laughter, but still somewhat stunned and amazed. He had invented his own word that summed up my very essence in his mind. He had put all his keen observations of my adult life and ministry into that incredible child brain of his, and boiled them down to a single three syllable word. The funny thing is, he was absolutely right. Ask any of my friends, my colleagues or my wife and they will all tell you it’s true. There is no denying it. I am “thinkative”!

I believe we all need a Dana close at hand. We need that one person who has miraculously held onto their honesty and their sense of awe and wonder at just being alive. In these people, the invasion of this world, and it’s deadly lies, have not stolen the God-given innocence they were born with. They have not lost the joy of living and have refused to be warped by the pain inflicted upon them by this broken, selfish world. These people are like rare, perfect, flawless diamonds. They catch every ray of life-light that comes their way and have an ability to somehow reflect it back to us in a million beautiful colors. They grab our attention and take our thoughts away to grander things.

I have a number of such people in my life, and foremost among them are my beautiful wife Esther, Dana and Dana’s mother. These people bless and strengthen me when others have given up. They get my eyes off the hard times and move me past the broken promises. They walk with me beyond the disloyal people who pierce my heart, and they support me when others have left my side, and their assignment, for their own thoughtless purposes. They lift me up when I stumble, and they carry me when I can no longer walk. They are the real jewels in any crown I may acquire in this life.

In whatever phase of life you are going through right now, let me encourage you to look for your Dana’s. They are the one’s who hold onto childlike faith for you. They have an innocence of vision that can see right through your adult veneer. They are the ones who are excited to tell you what they see in you, and are honest enough to tell you both the good and the bad. The truth is, they don’t’ care if you are busy, rushed, hurt, pressured or distracted. They always look for you, and you know that when they see you, they light up and so do you.

Find your Dana’s and cherish them. These are the people who keep your heart tender, your life honest and your vision of yourself clean. It matters not that they are 57 years your junior or 50 years your senior. They are God’s gift of love and authentic life to you, and you must hear their words, and hold them close. Open your arms, your ear, your heart and your life to these treasured people, and you will never be the same. Push them away, and you have pushed away the hand of God that came to refine you. So my question is, will you push your Dana’s away and miss the wonders God is holding in reserve for your life? Hold your Dana’s close, and you will find the truth you need. More than that, you may also find your destiny as well!

When Planes Fall

On Apr 30, 2013 a huge civilian cargo plane had a deadly crashed at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. The incident was actually caught on a dash camera. In the footage the aircraft can be seen climbing at a steep angle, then it appears to slow down, slide back and to the left, begins to drop straight down and then goes nose first into the ground. It explodes in a ball of fire killing all on board. This incident, though horrific to watch, is by no means an isolated event. Over the years numerous planes of every size and shape have experienced the same thing. The question is, why?

While studying to fly several years ago, I learned there is something called “angle-to-lift” ratio and also “speed-to-curvature” ratio. That is, the angle at which an aircraft can be tilted upward can only be so steep, and that is based upon it’s speed and the amount of curvature the wing has. Once it exceeds specific ratios, the air flow over the wing curvature is not sufficient to give the aircraft a thing called “lift”. At an angle that is too steep, no amount of engine thrust, (at that point called “false thrust”), can overcome this lack of airflow over the surface of the wings. This causes the plane to “stall”, and it simply begins to fall downward in mid flight.

A large stalled aircraft at high altitude can drop thousands of feet per minute, and an inexperienced pilot might never recognize what is happening. With no reference point to help, a pilot can quickly get disoriented. When seeing the altimeter drop while believing they are still moving forward on course, confusion will set in. One deadly crash showed the copilot increase the angle of ascent and crank up the engines producing nothing but “false thrust” without lift. Unfortunately both of these are the wrong thing to do in that situation. Thinking the problem was solved, and the altimeter was malfunctioning, the aircraft continue it’s deadly drop and slammed on it’s belly into the ocean. All on board were instantly killed.

A situation like this can end with disastrous results or it can be corrected within a few seconds. It all depends on what the pilot does once the plane has gone into a stall. When an aircraft stalls, no matter how much thrust the engines put out, or how much the angle of ascent is increased, the aircraft will never stop it’s downward drop. The solution is really quite simple. All the pilot has to is point the nose of the plane in the direction of fall and the laws of physics and aerodynamics immediately take over. Air will begin to flow over the curve of the wings, and as it does air pressure above the wings goes down while air pressure under the wings goes up. This literally pushes up on the wings which produces the necessary “lift” for the aircraft to fly.

Think about the life implications of that for just a moment. The solution is found by pointing a stalled aircraft into the direction of fall. In other words, once the plane faces into the problem, it gets what it needs to be lifted out of the situation. A don’t know about you but that little revelation just makes me want to shout. Facing the problems at hand, not pointing yourself away from them, is what brings the solution you need. What a great truth to uncover as you being a new year!

Is your life stalled out right now? Do you feel disoriented and left wondering why in the world you are not making any real progress? Are you losing altitude, and no amount of effort on your part seems to be making a difference? Let me suggest that it’s time to face the things you may have been trying to avoid. If your life has stalled out then you need to go nose down ane fly right into the thick of it. Begin to work through the turbulence at the lower altitudes until you will feel the lift under your wings.

Your best destination is still out there and your ability to reach it is still within your grasp. All you need to do is learn the lesson provided by every plane that soars overhead. The right thrust, the right angel with enough airflow and you are good to go. Let 2017 be your year to reach the high place, fly through the low place and obtain the prize that awaits you. It is time to start you engine, because you have just been cleared for take off. Now go fly into that high place and begin to see the world from a more heavenly perspective. 

Avoiding The “Drama Dump”

dump

It is 6am on Christmas Eve morning, and I am enjoying a hot cup of Bengal Spice tea in the light of my Christmas tree. I am settled back into a large, well-padded, comfortable chair and soaking in all the solitude that surrounds me. The house is peaceful and warm, the road outside has no traffic and dawn is just showing over the ridge that is east of my house. I can see a flock of Chickadees flitting back and forth, grabbing a breakfast of sunflower seeds from the bird feeder I made and placed outside the window. This is a moment of morning seclusion, a sanctuary of quietness that I frequently enjoy, and always need. Why?  Because of the drama that often tries to surround our lives.

We live in a world that is overrun by pressures and the tyranny of the urgent needs of others that seem to hijack our life. Those we love and those we just know, have lives that are  often filled with drama, and this spills over onto us. We become collateral damage, so to speak, from the life issues, pain or stupid decisions others have made. For some, holiday time brings this into high gear and this can be rather emotionally draining. For others, it is simply an annoying frustration that they know will soon pass.

I am happy to say that I have finally learned how to move beyond the emotional baggage others want to unpack on my doorstep. I have discovered how not to be “dramatized” by the endless needs of others, and this revelation has changed my life. Let me take a moment to share my secret with you this Christmas season. It may just rescue you from yet another difficult time of year.

After a particularly demanding and emotionally draining time, I felt as if the life had been sucked out of me by the drama others were going through. Without knowing it, I had became the “host” animal, and emotional lamprey’s had attached themselves to me, hitched a ride and had been sucking the life juices out of me for months. In my attempt to help everyone, I was killing my own joy of living. My wife was impacted by it and my family and friends were getting the leftovers that remained. Needless to say this was the wrong order for things and I knew it had to stop.

Then one day I was talking with my wife about yet another emotional dump that had happened with those we loved. Perhaps I should say she was talking to me, and that conversation lit something within. Not long after this, an idea hit me during my quiet time in the early morning hours. I began to categorize the people, the drama and the outcomes that had been used to hijack my life. What I realized was that every situation fell into one of four categories, and that was a revelation. Once I discovered which category things fit into, every emotional bloodsucker fell off me. It was amazing!

The categories are actually simple filters that bring into focus what my role should be when someone wants to unpack their baggage and have a “drama dumped” at my front door. As you read these over, think of situations you may have been drawn into and see if this might help. They have worked well in my life, and my wife will tell you that we are all much better off since I put these into practice. The four “drama dump filters” are;

  1. ICA – I Can Advise (but you must do what I say).
  2. ICL – I Can Listen (but I don’t drag your drama with me).
  3. ICC – I Can Comfort (but you must be willing to change).
  4. ICH – I Can’t Help (because this is your issue. It’s not my monkey to carry).

When a drama dump comes your way, take a moment to pass it through the “drama dump filter” and watch what happens. Very quickly things will come into focus and the emotional bloodsuckers of life will fall away. When you don’t unpack the emotional baggage others want to drop on your doorstep, it is rather liberating.  Don’t allow others to leave their emotional junk mail in your mailbox, where you will be stuck opening it. It’s time to get your life back. Help where you can, listen when you are able, and leave others to the life they have made for themselves! Do yourself a favor and let the best come out of you this Holiday season. With a little practice, you can begin to live your life  with joy once again.

May God bless you, and may you have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.