A Life Worth Living

Image may contain: motorcycle, tree and outdoorOn May 16th, my grandson and I were coming home from the Wheelerville School. I was the substitute teacher in his classroom that day, and the bonus for him was that he got to ride on the back of my Honda Shadow VT1100C. We left school and came down off of Clip Hill, heading for  home in Johnstown, NY. The rumble of my motorcycle on that beautiful spring day was accented by the warm, moist air rushing by us, and the brilliant sunshine that was pouring down from a deep blue sky. It was one of the most perfect Spring days I have experienced in my 48 years of riding motorcycles.

We were traveling at normal highway speed in a line of traffic, and at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of us. As we approached the Sir William Johnson Fire House, which was just outside of town, something happened. At that moment, I glanced down at my odometer to check the mileage, and make a quick mental calculation on when to stop and refill my gas tank. My eyes were off the road for about three seconds, but when I looked back up, terror gripped my heart. The driver in front of me had decided to suddenly break and make quick left-hand turn at the very moment I had looked down. It was a perfect storm of chance events, and the results were not going to be good.

When I looked up at the road ahead I realized there was not enough space to stop my bike, or manuever around the stopped vehicle. I downshifted, hit both breaks and leaned the bike over trying to protect my grandson, while getting as much stopping power as I could before we hit the vehicle. We impacted it’s rear right bumper at about 25mph and my bike went down on the road while my grandson and I were catapulted into the air. He ended up with a few abrasions on his knees, and a scraped up faceplate on his helmet, but I did not fare as well. My right side bounced off the road, I slid along the tar and finally flopped into a muddy ditch 35 feet away. I had a few crack ribs, four breaks in my lower right leg, an open fracture, cracked bones in my right foot, strained tendons and ligaments in my right leg, and numerous cuts and abrasions all over my body.

Ambulances came to take us to a local hospital where my grandson was checked over and released with a few scrapes. I was rushed to Albany Medical Center where I underwent emergency surgery on my leg. After setting the broken bones, and two and a half hours on the operating table, I was brought back to my hospital room in pain, but happy to be alive. My leg now has 4 titanium screws, 25 stitches and a long titanium rod running inside the full length of my right Tibia. I have weeks ahead of me with my leg elevate, and more weeks of physical therapy for me to return to full strength. And the bike? Well it has relatively minor damage that can be repaired, but I have no collision insurance so it’s all on me.

The obvious question I have been asked by numerous people who visited me since the accident is: “So are you ready to give up the motorcycle?” My answer has been pretty much the same each time,”Why? Did you stop driving when you wrecked your car? Did you give up fishing when you hooked yourself? Did you give up walking when you fell down?” Now let me clarify that I will drive with more care. I will stay back even further from other vehicles. I will stay even more alert to what is ahead. Yes! But, will I stop riding my motorcycle and no longer enjoy that sweet pleasure of life? The answer will always be an emphatic, No! Not until the Lord says it’s time to give it up. When I hear that from Him, it’s over!

A life worth living is the one you can enjoy without fear controlling your decisions. It is filled with risk, and blessed with reward. It is punctuated by mistakes and elevated by victories. It may be colored by pain at times, but it is also made real with unbounded joy. Most of all, it comes alive in moments of glory, or seasons of sorrow that happen as we live it to the fullest. Some may opt to live a safe, protected, bubble-wrapped life, but I submit to you that such a life is not worth living. It is simply existing in the safety net where risk is eliminated and so is passion. When victories are minimal, and the adventure of living has been sanitized away so that routine runs the show, and there are no unwanted surprises, this is no life at all. It is simply existing in a protected safety zone of comfort until you die.

How do you categorize your life? Is it neatly packaged, and clearly ordered so that you feel secure and safe, and the adventure is all but eliminated? Is it an air-conditioned, climate controlled, bug free, green zone of organized boredom? Life is short, and you must make the most of the time you have. Perhaps it is time to strap on a helmet, feel the wind in your face and see what it’s like to live a little on the edge. Break out for your deadly routines and try something different, even a bit dangerous. You can begin to live the adventure you always wanted. It only takes one decision, one step in a new direction.

You don’t have to climb Mount Everest, jump out of an air plane, trek to the South Pole or walk the Great Wall of China. Others can do such extreme things. No, you only have to break out of the mold, the comfort you have surrounded yourself with, and try something different, simple and new. It could be eating at a very different kind of restaurant, reading a new book or learning to dance. Perhaps it is vacationing in a new spot you saw on a map, or learing to drive a motorcycle or paddle a kayak. The possibilities are endless. Once you get a breakthrough, nothing will ever be the same. The question you must ask yourself is this; “Is my life the unmarked trail of adventure I want it to be, or is it the predictable, sign covered road I will safely walk, till I die?”

What is a life worth living? That, my friends, is the million dollar question we each must answer for ourselves. Mine will be very different from yours, but such a life will leave you breathless with anticipation for what might come next. It will stir your imagination, require fresh courage and fill you with the joy of discovering something you never experienced before. It will have moments of danger and risk, but it will bring the satisfaction of doing something others look at and wish they had done. A life worth living really is there for the taking. It’s just one decision away, and you can have it today. The question is, do you want it, and will you take the first step to get it? If not, take a moment to discover what’s holding you back and then move beyond it. Your life, the one you always wanted is out there waiting for you.. now go get it!

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 Missing Truth

flag celebration

In 1831, Samuel Francis Smith was a student at Andover Theological Seminary. Moved by what he saw and read about of this beautiful, newly-formed country, he wrote a song called “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” which was later called “America”. This song was loved by all and was soon being sung across the land. It actually became something of a national anthem for the United States during the 1800’s. One person of that day wrote that this song spoke to the heart of the nation. It identified what made America great and so very different from every other nation under heaven.

What most people don’t know about this song is that it was written with 4 verses. Most of us are acquainted with verse 1, and many can even sing a good portion of those patriotic words; “My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing, land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from every mountain side, let freedom ring”. However few people, if any, know the remaining three verses. These paint a magnificent picture of the national sentiment Smith so eloquently captured in his heart-stirring song.

Verse 1 speaks of the sacrifices that were made by our Forefathers to secure this nation. The shedding of their blood and the surrendering of their comfortable lives was freely given so they could have a place that was free of tyrannical control and afforded them freedom to worship the God of the Bible. Verse 2 speaks of the beauty of the land and the gift of freedom it offers to all who come here. Verse 3 declares that the very breath of the land sings freedom’s song, and even the rocks cry out with that sweet truth. Yet the most powerful verse of all is the last one. In it Smith captures the very essence of what made America great. He identified the foundation that made the nation free and really anchored it to what would keep it strong and stable.

In this 4th and most powerful verse, Smith wrote the following words: “Our Fathers’ God to Thee, author of liberty, to Thee we sing, Long may our land be bright, with freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God, our King”. With a bold proclamation he openly identified the core of our strength and the source of where our liberty actually came from. Contrary to what modern historians are saying, and in direct opposition to what people are now being taught, the early songwriters and true American patriots all recognized a central truth. God and God alone is the source of our liberty and the author of all our freedom. They wrote about it, they sang about it and they were willing to die defending that truth. My question is, can we afford to do anything less?

As things change, and we prepare to move into the Fall season, perhaps another change is in order as well. Perhaps it is time to have a change of heart about America and what makes this country great. It’s certainly not our political system, because that is filled with differing opinions and party politics that is bankrupting the nation. It is definitely not our independent, self-sufficiency since those traits have done very little to slow our deadly, downward moral spiral. It certainly is not new legislation that now embraces alternate  lifestyles that the Bible has always called sin. What can make a difference? Every heart turning back to God! He is the source of all freedom and liberty, and until we acknowledge that historical and foundational truth, and sing the song that is after Him, we are headed in the wrong direction.

We have written God out of the textbooks. We have legislated Him out of the schools, out of public office and out of biblical marriage. We embrace every false religion that comes along and promote the multicultural quicksand that drags national identity into national obscurity. People and governments can do whatever they want, but it will not change the truth. More than that, it will never erase the historical fact that God alone is what produces honest American character, and He alone made us the greatest nation on earth. Apart from Him we are nothing, and without Him we have embraced our own demise Let me encourage you to read again the 4th verse of “America”. Even sing it with the proud realization that it is the missing truth that can make us great once again.

Prophetic Signs To America

washingtom monument damage

The photo shows a small portion of the damage done to the Washington Monument when a 5.9 earthquake hit Washington DC on August 23, 2011. It took 3 years to fully restore the structure and repair the damage so that it could be reopened to the public in 2014 on May 10th at 10am. Why do I mention this? I mention it because this particular monument is of special interest to America and to our way of life. It is what the Bible calls an “Ebenezer”, a stone of memorial for something God did not want the people to ever forget.

The concept finds its roots in the Bible where in Joshua, chapter 4, twelve men are commanded to pick up 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan River. Here God parted the waters and the nation walked across on dry ground. The men were to carry the stones into the Promised Land and stack them in the place they lodged. This stack was to be an “Ebenezer”, or stones of remembrance, that would be there as a sign for the generations that followed. When succeeding generations asked what these stone were they would be told about the amazing things God did in that very spot. They would be an undeniable reminder of where Israel came from, what God did for them and how they were to live out that godly heritage.

Interestingly enough, on the exact same day as the Washington Earthquake, the following things also happened in history as prophetic signs to the nations.  1903 – during the 6th Zionist Congress, Theodor Herzl declared Israel as a Jewish state, 1929 – Arabs make one of the first bloody attacks against Jews living in Israel, 1939Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is signed where Eastern Europe is divided between Hitler & Stalin, 1953 USSR performs a nuclear test in defiance to international law, 1958 Chinese Civil War breaks out with the People’s Liberation Army’s bombardment of Quemoy, 1963  US performs a major nuclear test at its Nevada Test Site, 1975  USSR performs another massive nuclear test in defiance to international law at Novaya Zemlya USSR, 1976 – Heavy earthquake hits China and thousands die, 1982 USSR performs yet another nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk USSR, 1987 Violent rainfall and floods hit in Bangladesh where multitudes are killed, 1996 – Osama bin Laden issues message entitled “A declaration of war against the Americans occupying the land of the two holy places”, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina first forms over the Bahamas to become a category 5 hurricane that would cause historic damage to America, 2013 – 50 people are killed in mosque bombings in Tripoli, Lebanon 2013  26 people are killed and 55 are injured by a suicide bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, 2013  UN inspectors are stopped by Syrian government from investigating and inspecting a chemical massacre.

All of the above and much more happened on the date of August 23. Each of these stand out as prophetic warnings of things that were yet to come. Thus the events that hit washington on that date in 2011 were very significant from a prophetic point of view. What people don’t know is that strangely enough, the Washington Monument, God’s Ebenezer,  was the only structure in Washington DC that sustained any sizeable damage in that 2011 earthquake. What most people also don’t know is what is upon and in the Washington Monument. That is what makes the damage to it such a prophetic sign to our nation.

To being with, engraved on the monuments aluminum capstone are the words “Laus Deo”, which means “Praise To God!”. The city’s founding fathers in Washington insisted that “Praise To God” must to be the first thing highlighted by the sun in the morning and the last thing highlighted by it as it set over Washington at night. Thus having “Praise To God” as the high place in the city was very important. Next,  lining the walls of the monuments stairwell are massive blocks of stone carved with many Bible passages. The phrases “Holiness To The Lord”, “Search The Scriptures” and “Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go”, are just a few of those eternal bits of wisdom that greet and guide every person as they ascend that stairway.

In other words, when the Washington Monument was built, it was specifically designed to make common the knowledge that our nation’s capital and the nation itself was solidly grounded in God, and His unchangeable Word. As long as that foundation was remembered and clung to, America would stay strong and it would elect righteous leaders to serve the people. If we ever forgot this “Ebenezer” we would be in deep trouble. Thus, the fact that only this monument, this “Ebenezer” to America, was damaged in the 2011 earthquake is a significant prophetic fact we cannot and must not ignore.

If we continue down the path we are now headed, more than just the Washington monument will suffer damage. The cracks to it’s structure are a prophetic symbol of the brokenness that has hit our nation. Lifestyles of same-sex sin are now legal, children in the womb are cut up and their body parts sold to the highest bidder, fornication is embraced and promoted in every movie while commercials are now sexualized in every way. There are websites that promote pornography of every kind and others that encourage infidelity in marriage as a way to be happy. Even our children in public schools are being indoctrinated at the earliest possible age to embrace and accept things that would have sent people to jail 50 years ago. We are truly a nation in spiritual, moral and ethical decline and there seems to be no one willing to put on the breaks to stop it.

God is trying to get our attention with what happened to the Washington Monument. My question is, “ Can we see it and are we listening?” Can we see the brokenness of that monument and let this “Ebenezer” remind us what we once were, and what we can yet be? Will we lift our eyes to its capstone and once again give “Praise To God” as our founding fathers intended? Will we ascend its stairway and read the wisdom, the biblical truths that are carved into its foundational walls? More than that, will we apply what we read and return to that which once made us great?

Of note is the fact that it took three years to repair the structure. With that three years of repair it was deemed safe once again and reopened to the public. I don’t believe that was by chance. God is a triune God. He is three and yet one. Could it be that the three years represent His very nature and existence. I believe this is just one more prophetic statement to us about our national need to turn back to God so that we also can be deemed safe and sound once again.
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If we will not return to God who gave us and blessed us in this nation, and repent as a nation, there will come another great shaking that will rock us to the core. These events will either bring us to our knees or to our grave. How it turns out is completely up to us. May God grant us the insight to do what is really pleasing in His sight! May we elect righteous people who love God, who love this nation, and will restore it as a world leader that is genuinely seeking “The Truth” as one nation under God.

Milestones Of Life

milestone

milestone / mīlˌstōn / noun

  1. a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance from or to a particular place.
  2. an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.

It’s interesting to note that the word “milestone” was first used to identify a stone marker that indicated just how far one had traveled. It was positioned prominently on a roadside to let travelers know how far along they were on their journey, or how far they had yet to go. Interestingly enough, that stone did not just mark off the distance; eventually it also became a marker of time. That’s because the average person walked at only 2 miles per hour, a runner traveled four to six miles an hour, those on horseback traveled 10 miles per hour and a stagecoach, pulled by a team of horses, could cover 15 miles in an hour. Thus, the faster people traveled the less distance really mattered. What took an hour to walk, took only 12 minutes on a stagecoach or 6 minutes on a train. Distance actually became irrelevant as the time it took to cover it continued to shrink.

Consider the 3200 mile trip from the east to the west coast of America. It once took four months by wagon train. When the railroads came, that time shrank to about fourteen days. In a car, I covered that same distance in 72 hours. The average flight in a modern jet takes about 6 1/2 hours, and the “Blackbird” spy plane flew it a number of years back in just under 3 hours. Finally, the space shuttle astronauts traversed that same distance in six minutes. The miles have remained the same, but the time it takes to cover them has changed dramatically. That change has been so great that we rarely think about measuring distance in anything but time.

When you think about it, this radical shift in how we view our travel through life is really quite appropriate. At this point in mans history, time really has great significance. This is because of the fact that all of us are locked into it, and there is no escape. Every moment of every day that passes by, brings us that much closer to when our time on this earth is over. There is no avoiding it, and it matters not how hard we work, or how fast we live, the clock just keeps ticking away. Ultimately, birth and death are the two real milestones that mark off every life. It begins, it ends and there are a multitude of choices and details that happen in between which impact the lives of others.

Tomorrow I will celebrate my 61st birthday. I am pondering the significance of that big day. I am also pondering my mother, who gave birth to me on that day, because she is also preparing for her big day as well. On my day I’ll be one year older, and one year away from collecting social security. I guess that’s another milestone in American culture we look forward to. We have paid into the system for years, and now it’s time for payback. However, on mom’s day, her social security will end. This is because she will be going home to be with the Lord, and that… well, that’s the final milestone in every culture.

The bottom line in that event is that we either greet it with overflowing joy, and glorious expectation, or we face it with terrifying resistance, and a fear of the unknown. The choice is totally up to each of us, and it all hangs on what we have done with the roadmap God gave us. If we followed and believe the truth, Jesus is our guide, and the destination is certain. If we refused to follow His perfect guidance, the outcome is still just as certain, but the final destination is VERY different. I am blessed in that my mother has lived a full, happy life, and has been looking forward to seeing both her husband, and her Savior, for quite sometime.

The milestones placed on those old dusty roads reminded all who saw them of where they were, and more importantly, where they were going. These were transition points that were reached, and once crossed, there was no going back. They called out to every passenger about where they had just been, and pointed them forward to where they were finally going to end up. It was a stark reality that gripped them along the journey in different ways as they bumped along the dust filled roads. In many ways life, and death, both unfold exactly the same way.

At this very moment my mother, who is just a few days shy of 98, is on that last leg her life road. She has been a wonderful woman of peace, prayer and encouragement, and she is about to cross her final milestone. She is in “transition” right now, getting ready to slip over and greet her husband, and her Lord, who saved them both. I have to be honest, this is something I am thrilled about, and dreading at the same time. Thrilled because her tired, old body is about to be laid aside, and her spiritual body will soon fly out of it to reveal all it’s glory. However, I dread that event as well because the one who has prayed, encouraged and always been there for me will be there no more. That is a very hard, and emotional pill that will soon have to be swallowed.

As mom moves from this world to the next I am forced to take the time to consider my own milestones. These marked off significant things in my journey. A few really stand out because they made major changes in my personal vision and life direction. Which ones arrested my attention? Well, there was my salvation, my marriage to my beautiful wife Esther, the birth of my sons and my call to ministry. Others, sadly, I flew right by with thoughtless impatience. In my headlong rush to accomplish some vision, I failed to pause when I should have to really enjoy the life I was living with those who loved me. I was so busy, trying to do things, that I lost the real reason for why I was doing them in the first place!

What about you? Are you so rushed in living that you have missed the joy of life? Are things, goals and your current vision so important that you have failed to nurture and treasure the people around you? Have you actually missed the beauty of the places that surround you? Time is slipping by at an ever-increasing rate, and it’s up to you how each day is spent. Let me encourage you to slow down, smell the roses and invest yourself in what’s really important. First comes your relationship with God, then comes family, then friends and finally business.

Not many hours from now my mother will close her eyes, breathe her last breath, slip from her earthly body and fly into heaven. When she does, it will be with no regrets and the blessing of all who ever knew her. She invested her life wisely and we are all the beneficiaries of that great treasure. Will you be able to say the same? Will you leave this earthly realm with a legacy of blessing and joy? Perhaps those who know you will simply be glad you are finally gone. Let me say that now is the time to re-evaluate your life. Even if it’s been less than exemplary, there is still time to change. Remember, as long as you have breath it’s never too late!

Do what Jennie Emmons did for so many, as she cooked them a meal or handed them a cookie. She invested her time and her love of cooking in others so she could speak to them about her love of Jesus. Take a moment right now to talk to God. Give Him your life, surrender your plans and open your heart. Let Him in, so He can open heaven when it’s your time, and do the same for you! I know Jennie will be there… will you?

For Jennie Maria Emmons, who did more than just share the Gospel, she lived it!

(10 minutes after I posted this mom peacefully slipped away in her asleep and woke up in the arms of Jesus!)

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Repurposed In A Season Of Life

church bell

On April 1st. 1863 the Richmond Dispatch wrote the following article:

“The congregation of the Second Baptist Church in this city have set an example that may challenge emulation, but for self-sacrificing patriotism cannot be excelled. They met not long since and by unanimous vote gave their church bell to be cast into cannon to be used in the public defense. To show that this was not an empty promise made for effect; they immediately had it taken down to be put to the use indicated. At the same meeting, at which the resolution above stated was passed, it was determined to subscribe a sum sufficient to purchase enough metal to add to that in the bell, to form into a “battery” to be called the Second Baptist Church battery. (note: a “battery” is a group of four cannons that work together as a unit.)

Mr. John F. Tanner, an influential member of the church, and largely engaged in the foundry business, promised on behalf of himself and associates that the “battery” should be ready at an early day, and without cost to those who furnished the materials. The churches in New Orleans, a large proportion of them being Catholic, have with the sanction of their Bishop, adopted the same course.”

When I read the above article something just rang inside me. Please pardon the pun! However, the power of what this historical fact signified for the church in America is remarkable. It is to be noted that the same practice was also found in states above the Mason-Dixon line as well. Think for just one moment, about how important this is. The fact that churches gladly gave up their most prized and unique possession, their bell, is remarkable. They did it so each bell could be melted down into a cannon for the defense of their country, the affirmation of their patriotism and the securing of their beliefs.

This is a practice you never, ever hear mentioned in any of our history books, yet it is so very significant. It was a major influence of religion upon our military, and in our society. More than that it actually impacted the outcome of the war. With this action, the direct involvement of the church in every aspect of American life was forever etched in American history and nothing can change it. The Church no longer saw itself restrained to quietly meet in a building on Sunday morning, or to do weddings, baptisms and funerals. The church actually took on a new vision, the real vision of Jesus. It would be actively involved in shaping the morals, the beliefs and the direction of the entire nation. That, my friends, is the shocking reality we all need to re-embrace if America is to flourish once again!

What’s interesting to note is that because many of the cannons were forged from church bells some were made with the Cross of Christ mounted on the barrel. This was to remind the soldiers of where that piece of artillery came from and Who their faith was to be in. History records that the men soon realized they could actually sight down these barrels using the Cross and it actually improved the accuracy of their shot. This was called getting a target in the “cross hairs”, and the term stuck. Every weapon today uses some variation of the “Cross” to hit it’s target. How ironic that the One who died for our sins on a cross finds the tool of His execution on weapons that can both kill and protect. It still depends on which side of the Cross you are on!  So …. which side are you on????

Here is what hit me as I considered all of the above. The bell that was found in every church in America was placed there for a specific reason. To begin with, every community in America had a Christian church of some denomination, and a town square, at the very center of the community. This signified that Christ, and His teachings were to be at the center of American life. Secondly when the church bell rang out, it was a united call for all the people to gather together. The moment they heard that bell, they would come, knowing they would hear either preaching, the news of the day or be informed of a need to help in an emergency. The sounding of the bell grabbed the attention of all and it drew them together as one.

History also records that after the war, those same cannons were then melted down and re-forged back into church bells. Churches across America were then given a notice to come pick up a bell of their choosing, and have it reinstalled in their church steeple. From that point on, the sounding of every church bell in America held a very different meaning. It’s clarion voice still called the community together, but it now remind everyone of the bloody conflict that had been fought, and the victory that had been won, both on the battlefield and on the Cross of Christ. All this happened because a church bell was re-forged to become a cannon, which was re-forged to become a church bell.

What caught my attention is that the bells and cannons both had a voice, a specific sound that identified them exactly. A bell ringer could tell you what the bell was made of, and what note was being sounded the moment the clapper hit the side. A gunner could also hear distant cannon fire and know exactly what caliber it was, and how far it could shoot. What’s fascinating to me is that both were made from the same material, but the form of each determined it’s purpose. More importantly, when each voice sounded, the final outcome was very different! All of it depended on the season of life, and the needs that were present at that time.

The point being that our lives are exactly the same. There are seasons when all we need is a sweet sounding bell to get our attention and keep things going in the right direction. At other times the deafening roar of cannon fire is required to blast through resistance and destroy that which threatens to overrun our life. You don’t ring a bell on the battlefield, and you don’t fire a cannon from a church steeple. When God repurposes the things of your life NEVER try to just fit it into what has always been. Could it be that the metal in you is being melted down right now so that your voice will be the right one for the season you are about to enter into?

If you fail to understand the plan of God to repurpose you in a new season of life, you will walk in what I have seen so many others do in the past. I have witnessed those who were clearly in a battlefield ringing a bell, when they should have been silent. The bell only drew heavy fire to their position and it resulted in hurt and destruction that was just not necessary.  I have also seen those in a season that was relatively peaceful, level a canon against that which only needed the clear voice of reason, like a bell, to provide guidance. When the air finally cleared, the destruction was much worse than anyone had imagined, and there was no one left to put the pieces back together.

My suggestion? Why not just relax and let the blast furnace you are in do its work? Perhaps your bell is being repurpose as a cannon,  because warfare you don’t yet see is just over the horizon. Maybe your cannon is beginning hammered into what looks more like a bell, and the clear voice of reason will be needed in what is about to come. I guarantee you that you will absolutely love the sound of that new voice when it is finally released. Best of all, it will be exactly what you need sounding out of your life in that new season of repurposing. Now get out there and let your voice be heard!

(If you like this post be sure to click on “follow William Emmons” to the right. Thanks!)

Facing The Issues

bamboo  The picture above is of a Moso Bamboo grove. The Oscar winning movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was filmed in a giant Moso grove just like this one, in Anji, Zhejian Provence, China. What you are looking at is a 65 foot tall cane that emerged just 6 months earlier and grew at a rate of 2.5 feet per week. This plant can grow to over 75 feet tall, and be more than 7 inches in diameter at full maturity, which takes only about a year. Moso is the largest and fastest growing Bamboo on earth. It grows so fast that a grove of it actually makes a hissing/popping noise as it pushes heavenward, and for those who are patient, it’s growth can actually be seen with the naked eye.

This Bamboo is a wonderful building material and it is used in all kinds of construction throughout China and around the world. For this reason scientists are studying it’s amazing growth properties. They want to unlock how it does what it does without major flaws in the integrity of the wood. Moso also had a more sinister use in days gone by. Enemies of the Emperor who may be withholding vital information, would be strapped down above the growing plants. The results were not good if the individual refused to divulge what they knew, as the bamboo will push right through any obstacle in the way.

As I read the above information a question crossed my mind. How is it that one plant can have such potential for good, but also have an equally destructive potential for evil? Then I considered my experience with people as a minister over the years. I have watched some do the most benevolent things one day, only to turn around and do what is selfish, self-serving and in some cases, downright evil, the next. I have heard people praising someone to the sky and then was shocked as acrid, poisonous comments were leveled at someone else out of the very same mouth.

As I pondered this, I realized that the “Jeckle and Hyde” nature, which so often manifests in people, is only a reflection of what lies hidden within the heart. We are all made the same and we have no choice but to speak from what is living within us. If we are at peace then we know who we are, and we know what we are called to do. This allows us to rejoice in the victories of some, and forgive the thoughtlessness and brutality of others. However, if we are wounded, confused, fearful or uncertain about what the future holds, the picture we see will be a bit darker, and that reality will impact everything we say and do.

This brings us to an important life key that many people miss. That is, the willingness to recognize and embrace the truth of what is going on within us starts a process that can set us free. In that place of freedom we are able to love others for who they are, no matter what they do. Here we can walk with confidence into our life’s mission without being in competition, or unsettled by what others may have done. That’s because we have come to the place of knowing who we are. This is what psychologists call having a life of “congruency”, and it’s a very healthy place to be.

Is your life congruent? Do you know who you are, and are you good with that? If you are wounded, if you are confused or if you are secretly in competition with others, then you have not yet found the place of congruent peace. As we get ready to wrap up another year, why not do so by evaluating where you have been, and where you may be going. If you don’t like what you see, let me encourage you to look within and face those unfaced issues. Bring them into the light and get hold of that which has gotten hold of you.

This will be a process, but in the end, it will be well worth the time and effort invested. Who you really are is waiting to come out. Let 2015 be the year that unlocks your Moso Bamboo potential. The question you must ask  right now is quite simple; “What potential do I want to unlock?”  Will you benefit from the amazing growth that is possible, or will you find the skeletons of those who were tied down and pierced through by the unresolved issues in your life?The decision is totally up to you, and my desire is that you will take the time as this year draws to an end to choose well. 2015 has the potential to be your best year ever. My hope is that you will do as Jean Luc Picard would say … “Make It So”!