“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!

“Carpe Diem”

f0e677a1333c77e9eb89ef6d0720d084

The phrase “carpe diem” is a Latin phrase that is literally translated as, “pluck the day”. However in English it is better translate as “seize the day”. Used in a variety of ways, “carpe diem” has both a positive and a negative application. On the negative side it describes an attitude or philosophy of life that says, “live for today, do what you want and don’t be concerned about the consequences in the future.” Carpe diem in it’s highest form means, “grab hold of the day you have been given and make the most of it”. I really like that!

The positive application of this phrase is the one I have been inspired by throughout my life. The word “carpe” means to grab hold of, or to grab something by the neck and hold it up. Don’t you just love the word picture that conjures up in your mind? It’s not some wimpy, limp wristed, fear filled thing that is overpowered by hesitancy. No! It’s a bold declaration that says, “ Everything needs to take notice that I am here, I am on this thing and I am giving it my full attention.” It’s a way of living that declares, “I am grabbing this thing by the neck and holding it up for all to see, and I am going to come out of this way better than when I went in.”

Man I love that kind of an attitude when it comes to every part of life, and I mean real, authentic life. It reminds me of a billboard I saw not long ago. There was a muscular military guy in boot camp and he straining to pull himself over an impossibly high wall. The caption underneath it said, “Pain… it’s just weakness leaving your body!” This is the mindset that says, “I will NOT let this situation overcome me, but I will use this situation to my advantage. This difficulty will not define me, it will refine me.” In case you missed it, those who tend to succeed in life understand this aspect of “carpe diem” and walk it out on a daily basis.

So, my question today is going to be right up in your face. I want to know something and your honest answer could be the thing that changes everything. Are you a wimpy whiner who feels life is tough and you are it’s constant victim? You may very well be in a hard situation, or be discouraged. I am not downplaying the pain you might be feeling right now. What I am saying is that you don’t have to let it define you and rule your life. Choose to face it, own it and then grab hold of it by the neck. Look for how you can use this “thing” to become stronger, more aware and more equipped as a person. Once you do that you can move out of your self-imposed, self-centered prison and start to help others.

“Seize The Day”! It’s the only way to really live your life in this fallen, broken, disconnected world. Stand up, look up, get shook up but refuse to give up. Defy the tendency to be ruled by mistakes, or what others have done or not done, said or not said. Begin to captain your own ship and learn how to take things where you want them to go. I was told by a wise old man some time ago, “Bill, if you let others drive, you have no right to complain about where they take you.” I say it’s your time to seize the day, take a risk, grab every issue by the throat and hold them up into the light!

Go live gloriously in the mistakes you will make and learn to enjoy the experience of failure so you can delight in the joy of victory when it finally comes. Refuse the meaningless, undeserved trophies of mediocrity life hands out to everyone. Embrace your magnificent failures, and in the process you will find the pleasure of living the life you always wanted. “Carpe Diem” my friends… anything less is not life at all. Now get out there and go seize the day!

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. 

What Makes A Nation Great?

​Arnold Friberg was an American painter noted for his religious and patriotic works. He is best known for his 1975 painting which was his depiction of George Washington’s  prayer, during the Revolutionary War and the difficult winter at Valley Forge. Though many today have tried to erase our national Christian heritage, and the influence christianity had on our Founding Fathers, that undeniable truth still stands in their own words.

As we begin a new year, and a new chapter for all Americans with a new President, may their honest words be burned upon our hearts, and alive within our souls.

“This nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Patrick Henry)

“We recognize no Sovereign but God, no king but Jesus” (John Adams & John Hancock)

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their basis?” (Thomas Jefferson)

“To the distinguished character of patriot it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian” (George Washington)

President Ronald Reagan echoed these same sentiments when describing Friberg’s painting during his radio address to the nation in December, 1983. He said this painting “personified a people who knew it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness; they must also seek help from God, their Father and their preserver.” 

My prayer for this nation as we begin a new year, with a new president, reflects the same heart-felt cry as those whose words are quoted above.  May we as a nation wake up, walk in the light and  love of God, and return with repentant hearts to Him who made us great. Without God’s blessing, and our humble hearts, no nation will ever become truly great. May the grace of God fill us with hope and point us in the right direction.  May the sacrificial love of Jesus become a living reality and produce a fire of revival in our nation, to bring about another great awakening!

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.

The “EDAT” Harvest Is Here !

trump-winviolence-riot-clinton-trump-pic

A number of years ago I was teaching a 12th grade health class and I had a rude, and very unexpected, awakening. I had given incoming students a basic survey to test their ability to sequentially and logically think. I was walking them through an exercise called “Logic And Critical Thinking”, and this was their introduction to the material. The survey was quite simple. Students were given a piece of paper with a specific task written on it. They were to write out a set of instructions explaining exactly how to do that task. The paper was then given to another classmate who read the title aloud and actually followed the instructions exactly as written, before the entire class.

The tasks ranged from very simple things to those that were more complex. They included; take off a shoe, put on and zip up a coat, walk to the front of the room and face the class, lock the classroom door, open a window, get a glass of water, turn on the classroom lights, water a plant, draw a stick figure of a woman on the chalkboard, stand side-by-side with someone in the classroom, turn on a water faucet or unplug an electric cord from a wall outlet. All of these seem simple enough when we think from a holistic point of view. We mentally see the whole process and then just automatically flow through it to make it happen. However, when we start to think sequentially, and have to organize a logical set of steps to get the task done, this involves a very different kind of skill and a much higher level of thought process.

To my shock 14 out of the 15 students in my class got frustrated, and some wanted to quit as they tried to follow the instructions. Others felt embarrassed and uncomfortable when they were unable to follow the instruction as written, in order to successfully complete the task. A few laughed it off, but the vast majority were left unsettled and unable to cope with the “stress”. These wanted an alternative exercise of their own choosing, or they wanted to just end the task right in the middle of the assignment. In that moment I realized I had uncovered something about the generation sitting before me, and it was shocking.

The facts were clear and quite disturbing. These students were more tech savvy and social media oriented than any previous generation. However, they clearly lacked the basic emotional skills, the clear thought patterns, the sequential communication skills and the emotional fortitude to cope with situations that made them uncomfortable. In other words, the “Everyone-Deserves-A-Trophy”(EDAT) generation was about to come into it’s own, and the results were not very pretty.

Fast forward to the election of November 8th, 2016. In case you missed it, this is exactly what we all have endured since the night President Donald Trump was elected. The “EDAT’ generation erupted in shock, anger, depression and unbelief when their candidate, the liberal media’s choice, was soundly defeated. That night in Hillary’s camp, the news cameras caught grown woman curled up on the floor in the fetal position, writhing in pain. There were groups of men and women holding each other, tears streaming down their faces, sobbing as if their only child had just been killed by a drunken drive. The entire room was acting like an emotionally unstable teenage girl who just got dumped by her first boyfriend. The agony, anger, grief and shock festered in depression and the sound of weeping that filled the room.

Even more shocking was the editorializing that was happening out on the street. All honest reporting was abandoned as left leaning reporters somberly announced the decision. Andrea Mitchell stated history was once again stopped from moving forward. Huh??? Talk about a vile miscarriage of media reporting. History had just been made and she missed it! For the first time in American history a successful businessman, who reveled in his lack of any political ties, did what the liberal media declared was impossible. He became president of the United States in a landslide of electoral votes that currently stands at 306 votes! One of the largest margins in our history.

Since that night riots have broken out in some liberal strongholds, flags burned, people have been dragged from their cars and attacked. Some communities have been set on fire by agitators and paid protesters. They have blocked traffic, broken windows, smashed cars and even the presidential losers have demanded an expensive and pointless recount the public will pay for. Those in the electoral colleges of Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania had their addresses and emails publically posted on the Internet. The news has reported they and their families have been threatened, harassed and deluged with emails by the liberal left in an attempted intimidation to make them change their vote to Hillary.

My questions are simple. Why are we seeing this shocking disregard for our laws and our political process? Why have we never seen such a display of unbalance and inappropriate behavior in any past election? After 40 years as an educator, 44 years as a voter and 62 years of life experience, I can only come up with one answer. It’s because this is the first time we have actually seen the “EDAT” generation come into action. This is the outcome to be expected from those who have not been educated but have been fully indoctrinated. This is the generation that says “I-must-feel-good-about-myself,” “I-must-have-my-own-way”, “I-must-be-kept-from-feeling-bad-about-anything”, “I-must-have-dog-therapy-for-every-little-life-drama-I am- going-through”, “I-must-be-emotionally-coddled”, “I-must-be-carried-and-provided-for”, “I-deserve-a-trophy-for-every-mediocre-half-hearted-crappy-thing-I-ever-do”.

When those in the “EDAT” generation have a reality check, and realize they are no longer shielded from real life, it is temper tantrum city. As the truth comes to those who have always lived in an emotional greenhouse of protection and special treatment, it is quite a shock, quite a sideshow and tragically entertaining to behold. Honestly, I must admit I enjoy the show that the “news” outlets provide every night. It’s better than a reality TV because there are different actors daily, and few are cashing in on the endless drama that is available. But, just like the spoiled children of “occupy wall street”, they can only throw a tantrum for so long, and people eventually get tired of it. Once the weather gets cold, ….that’s not very fun. Once the media moves on,…. the free publicity will be over. And of course, once the free meals are gone, …so are they.

So where do we go from here? We press on in support of President Trump and the breath of fresh air he is bringing to Washington and to the nation. We hold him accountable for campaign promises he made. Namelt,  to rebuild our military, create new jobs, start national energy exploration and revitalization, build the AMX  Wall (American/Mexican Wall) to secure our borders, deal with so called “sanctuary cities” and with illegal aliens, create tax cuts for business growth, repeal and replace the disastrous unaffordable health care, encourage US businesses to return to the US and return education back to the state level. We need to encourage him to drain the political swamp that has stagnated Washington. Most of all we need to pray for Him. May he really be the kind of strong, honest and exemplary leader our nation can follow into a new area of prosperity and strength.

God Bless America Which Is And Always Has Been One Nation Under God, And May God Bless Our New President Donald J Trump.

The Real Thanksgiving

harvest 2In 1620 the Pilgrims sailed from Europe on the Mayflower and landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. They came to escape the persecution that was brought against them by the religious institutions in Europe. It took months to cross the Atlantic Ocean in their tiny ship, but they finally arrived. They had prepared as best they could and hoped they had brought with them all they needed to survive in this new land. This included tools to build shelters and plows to turn up the land. There were seeds to plant new crops and personal skills to do all that had to be done. Most of all they brought the very thing that sent them on this journey, and that was their Christian faith.

Even before setting foot on the soil of this new land, they drew up the first document that would establish not just the foundation of their colony, but it would establish the spiritual tone for the entire nation. This simple, handwritten statement, came to be known as the Mayflower Compact. It was a clear statement of their faith and their agreement to live by one guiding principle; they would all live in harmony and in a way that helped each other, honored all men and most of all honored God. Had they, and succeeding generations, been able to live up to this lofty goal, what a different nation we would be today.

Fast forward 169 years and our first President, General George Washington, made a Thanksgiving Proclamation. He declared November 26, 1789 to be a national day of Thanksgiving. It would be held to commemorate the Pilgrims landing, the spiritual truth behind their success, and most of all to thank God for His guidance in establishing and preserving this new nation. Fast forward 74 more years, to October 3, 1863, and we encounter another of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. On this date he also set forth a specific day, the last Thursday of November, to be “a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise”. In his proclimation, given in the middle of the bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War, Lincoln stated the following:

“…No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gift of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless, remembered mercy. It seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as, with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…. fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony tranquility and Union”.

On this Thanksgiving Day may we also remember Who made this nation great, why we have survived and what must happen if we are to once again flourish. Our strength has not been established by own our skills, our imperfect laws, our flawed form of government or our national vision. While these things are beneficial, they have never been what made America a beacon of light, strength and vibrancy. The Pilgrims, our founding Fathers and past presidents all knew and agree that the source was not of our own making. It was and always will be based upon humility, hard, honest work, and most of all, the help, grace and mercy of Almighty God.

As our nation and families gather around the Thanksgiving table today, may we return to that Source Who gave us so much to be thankful for. May God continue to bless this nation as we repent and return to Him! God Bless America!   Happy Thanksgiving and remember…  in God we still trust!

Bill & Esther Emmons