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!

When You Have To Make A Choice

It-is-not-hard-to-make-decisions-once-you-know-what-your-values-are.Over more than 40 years of counseling and personal ministry, I have noticed that sometimes there are no easy answers to the thorny problems of life. We can do our best, try our hardest, and give it all we have, but in the end we may still come up with the “short end of the stick”. There just may not be enough time, wisdome, knowledge, finances or personal skills. Like it or not, when that happens, we are put in a position where a decision must be made. That hard choice is always based upon the reality of what is, even if we don’t like where “it” is going.

This is especially true when that place of hard, naked reality is caused by someone you know, love and trust. If that happens, it can feel like such a punch in the gut that we can become stuck in the quicksand of life. Unfortunately, every action we take from that point forward, seems to make it harder to think clearly. It becomes more difficult to have good judgement so we can move forward in the right direction. When life, or someone in it, gives us a raw deal, it can hold us captive and produce what I have come to call “SP”, or  “Situational Paralysis”.

The inability to make a decision, or move in a defined direction in traumatic situations, causes “SP” to set in. This can be a painful and frustrating thing for everyone involved. It makes some feel trapped in an invisible prison, where there is no key to unlock the door. For others, it becomes a reality where life is frozen in place, and emotions are locked to an event that is re-experianced almost daily. The twilight-zone of existance this creates is nearly impossible to break out of, and many have succumbed to it, literally putting the rest of  their productive lives on hold.

I have seen the hardiest of souls crumble, and watched them flounder in life like a wounded bird, wasting precious time by wondering what to do next. It could have happened because of personal ignorance, lack of information or unmet expectations. It may have been the result of thoughtlessness, the uncaring actions of someone who is focused elsewhere, or through perceived or genuine trauma. However it happens, it is a painful reality, and until it is dismanteled and overcome, those suffering under it are virtually held captive for life.

The key that unlocks this demonic trap is quite simple, once you know it. I have discsovered that what sets people free to begin making good decisions again, is knowing what their values are, and holding to the convictions that are anchored to them. Values and convictions don’t just define who  we  are as people, they actually define the life we live. These are the foundation stones of everyone’s character, and the reality is, character is what makes us who we are. More than that, it is what makes our life what it is.

We all have character within us, in one form or another. It is there from the earliest stages of our life. Every mother will tell you, even in the womb, their children all behaved differently. Every mother also knows their newborn children were all distinctly different at birth. The Bibile says that difference is the inborn character God gave them.  Psalms 149:13 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb” The Hebrew words, “formed” and “inward” mean, to gather and bring together the mind, heart and feelings of an umborn child. It is a very intimate, first-hand knowledge of that child’s nature and personality.

In case you missed it, this is the bedrock of who we are, and how we make decisions, and it is fused into the reality of how God made us. What people don’t realize is when we ignore our Creator, we also defy the design for wholeness and unity He placed within us. This produces a break from reality, and it disconnects us from the truth of who we are in any crisis. When crisis happens, especially in important relationships, it strikes at the root of our innermost need for unity and security, and this is the reason why we become paralized in such situations.

When people begin to refine their character, values and convictions according to God’s design, and His eternal word, nothing shakes them. The faithful, unchanging love, and absolute truth of God, becomes an anchor for the soul, and the calm in every storm. The mighty wind that destroy others, is simply a powerful force that is harnessed to propel us forward into our destiny. For those who are securely embraced by the truth of who God made them to be, it is impossible to stop them from moving forward. It is impossible to take away their vision, or hold them captive by anything in this world. Why? Because they may be in this broken, beautiful world, but they are not of it. That, my friends, brings the untimate freedom, and it releases everyone from every captivity.

Are you suffering under the bondage to “SP”? Are you paralized by some past situation, feeling emotionally stuck to it, and lacking clear vision for the future? Prehaps it is time to go back to the roots of who you are, what your real values are, and who God made you to be. Psalm 139:14 says; “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well”.  It’s time to hand your life back over to the One who made it. He is the only One who can lift you up, pull you out of the mirey clay and set your feet upon a rock. He has already broken the power of everything that wants to hold you back.

How do you do this? Just invite Jesus into your life. Surrender every situation, every hurt, every place you are stuck, to Him. Give Him your weakness and failures, and he will give you His love and strength. In that wonderful exchange, you can start to move forward through His never-ending strength, and begin to step into all that God has prepared for you, from the foundation of the world. He has been waiting a long time to pour His love out on you. Go ahead and receve that love and forgiveness right now……

If you invited Jesus to take over your life, shoot me an email with your address. My email is wemmons@gmail.com.  I have some great, free materials to send you that will help you as you walk forward with God in this new life.

 

 

Walking In Your Wilderness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unicorn Religion

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Since the late 1800’s, the scientific community has been aware of the mysterious “Siberian unicorn” (Elasmotherium sibiricum) pictured above. This enormous beast freely roamed Eurasia, and new fossil evidence reveals that it was apparently alive when early Europeans roamed those same fertile hills many thousands of years ago. Andrei Shpansky and others from Russia’s Tomsk State University just published these results in the American Journal of Applied Sciences after studying a newly unearthed “Siberian unicorn” skull found in Kazakhstan.

What the skull did not reveal is the question that has long been on researchers’ minds: Just how big was the horn in the middle of it’s forehead? Given the creature’s huge size, at 15 feet long, six and a half feet tall at the shoulder, 4.5 tons of strong musculature, and the fact that the base of it’s horn had a circumference of three feet, researchers are confident that the horn was highly visible form of protection and quite enormous. Fortunately for those early people, it’s teeth indicate that the animal was one of many large herbivores that did not eat meat.

After many years, researchers finally came to the conclusion that the animal co-existed with humans. Scientific studies and numerous ancient documents all seem to allude to the idea that the creature lived alongside the human population. In fact, scientists now feel very strongly that there is a good case to be made for something that has eluded people since the dawn of verbal and written records. They now believe the “Siberian unicorn” is actually the true source that is behind the mythical unicorn that is written about to this very day. Imagine that! This is very likely the historical animal behind the myth that has been spoken of by humans in Europe for thousands and thousands of years.

This idea is astounding when you think about it. The stuff of myths can actually be traced back to an actual truth. The truth may be long gone while it’s reality is still remembered and passed long in a different form over two or three hundred generations. The fact is still there but it is quite hidden and all but lost over time, through the impact of human imagination and lack of actual first-hand experience. The reality of a massive, truck-sized, shaggy beast with a huge single horn rumbling over the meadows and terrifying local inhabitants is eventually replaced by a slender white horse with a slender horn that lightly gallops into the mist. In other words, what people talk about but don’t experience for themselves is going to change into something it never was.

As I considered this amazing discovery, how truth not experienced is converted into myth, I also realized that this is exactly why so many people today are confused when it comes to religion. Ask a dozen people on the street what they believe about God, and specifically Jesus Christ, and they will give you a dozen different answers. Their ignorance and imagination is absolutely astounding. What you will find is that they simply make things up as they go along and soon a “unicorn” religion emerges out of the spiritual fog. What they believe is not based on facts, reality or spiritual truth. They use half-truths and misinformation they’ve been told to create a religion and belief system all their own. What they don’t realize is how deadly and dangerous this is for their spiritual and emotional life.

As the high priest of their own religion, their beliefs or lack thereof, become the center piece of an empty life. They do not know truth, they have no knowledge of life after death and no real meaning for living  in the here and now. All of this self-made religion is based on a shadow of some distant truth they may have heard about or talked about with friends. However, like the unicorn, their beliefs are now more the stuff of myth and mystery than absolute, stabilizing faith. Like those who speak about unicorns, the self-made religious crowd does not realize that the truth is hidden from them by their lack of first-hand experience. Only an encounter, an experience with the truth, the true and living God, can change self-made religious myth into a life-changing reality.

Perhaps you, like so many others, are the creator of your own mystery, “unicorn” religion. My guess is that you also have never given any thought to why or how it happened. Why is God such a mystery to you? Why does He seem so distant and shrouded in impenetrable fog? The answer is quite simple. You have never experienced the love of God or the evidence He left behind. However, once you encounter Him, His love for you and His handiwork, all that will change. Myth will become mercy, fairy tales will become faith and religion will become relationship with the One who loves you more than you can possibly imagine. Everything moves from death to life, from what you made up about God, to what He made for you and freely gives to you.

If you are tired of being the high priest of your own dead religion, then it is time to give life and  truth a chance. Simply put, Jesus is the truth and life you are looking for. He died for you so that you can live with Him. When you recognize your need for a savior He will be there to pick you up and give you the vision and meaning you were intended to have. It’s an amazing exchange. You repent and give Him your sins and He gives you God’s righteousness and transforming love. Your “Unicorn” religion is laid aside and real relationship with God beings. Millions do it daily and you can join them in the ultimate victory where “death is swallowed up in life…”. Why not ask Him to come into your life today? Got questions about all this? Send me an email and we can set things straight:  wemmons@gmail.com.

Life As It Should Be Is One Good Decision Away

In 2010, Princeton University geomicrobiologist, Tullis Onstott, made an amazing discovery that turned the scientific community on it’s head. He was doing research one mile below the earth’s surface in a South African gold mine. There he discovered pockets of water in absolute blackness that were under millions of tons of rock. They were at temperatures of 118ºF  and had been there for up to 12,000 years, according to isotope measurements.

To his shock, in this scalding, ancient water he found small worms, specifically, “nematodes”. They were living and thriving under those conditions, and they had been there thousands and thousands of years. Tullis immediatrly called Gaetan Borgonie, a Belgian nematode specialist, to confirm his findings. In 2011 they published their observations in a paper after naming the worm “Mephisto”, from a Greek word that means “he who loves not the light”. What did they nick name it? The devil worm!

The devil worm lives by eating layers of organic goo,  called bio film, through a star shaped mouth. This only grows in that specific environment and provides the organism with exactly what it needs to grow and multiply. Strangest of all, the worm requires only minute traces of oxygen to survive and it’s metabolic waste is virtually non existant. Thus, it had found the perfect balance, and was the only organism of its kind on earth that could live in that specific environment. No one believed life could be found in such a hostile place, yet there it was, confounding the most brilliant scientific minds. An enigma that defied the imagination and living in conditions that escaped any explination.

My point? Like this worm, anyone can learn to adapt and live in situations that are unthinkable. Anyone can give in to the negative things in life. It is much easier to just let a difficult, unexpected situation rule the decisions we make. When this happens, we choose to emotionally navigate through things, and this becomes the driving force that rules our life. In other words, the “facts”, “faith” and “focus” we have get lost in the “feelings”. When these four “F’s” go out of balance, we are trapped in the darkness, like those nematodes. We learn to live in the hostile environment created by our own bad, emotionally based decisions, and this changes everything.

I have also met people, like my wife Esther, who grew up in the most deadly environments imaginable. Unthinkable acts of brutality, anger, abuse, divorce and neglect have been part of life, yet somehow, they not only survived, they thrived and rose above it. She, and those like her, are the champions I have loved to come up along side. They are the unsung heroes of life that make my heart rejoice, and transform the way I think. That’s because they refused to adapt and survive, but they chose to rise and live the life God intended them to have.

What about you? Are you letting feelings direct the decisions you make, or are you allowing your faith and focus to view the facts from God’s eternal perspective?  The life you have is like a gift that is built upon the choices you make every day. The greatest gift you can give yourselve is the gift of a good life that comes by making one good decision at a time. If you feel like a nematode trappped in the darkness of an emotionally driven life, there is hope.  The life you want begins with one good decision, and then another, and another.

So let me ask one simple question in closing this blog; what are you waiting for? Life as it should be is only one good decision away! Perhaps today is the day to start the life you really want .. Just make that first good decision and you are on your way!

Being In The Right Place

I often have an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time. Strange things just seem to happen that don’t often manifest in the lives of others. Some may call it a divine coincidence while the skeptics just fluff it off as pure chance. I however, see something much greater in all these situations. I have always been fascinated by all that God has made. His creativity and diversity is absolutely amazing, and I deeply appreciate every nuance of it. I believe God enjoys showing me just a few of the amazing things He can do. I am an “audience of one” and He continually says, “Hey Bill, take a look at this! What do you think?” Let me give you just a few examples and you can judge for yourself.

I once was less than 10 feet away from a 3-foot diameter ball-lightening that came sizzling down the river. It hit the metal bridge I was standing on and boiled the water where it went into the ground. Fish floated to the surface completely dead yet I was fine. On a clear day a small tornado about 50 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter came roaring down with the sound of a jet engine and cleared the treetops. It dropped down on the water and passed within a few feet of the canoe my wife and I were in. The thing threw up a spray of water, weeds and cattail fuzz, but we were untouched.

Want a few more? A massive bolt of lightning hit a large rock fireplace 15 feet from where I was sitting. Every hair on my body stood straight up and stones the size of my head were blasted into the air. I was momentarily deaf and blind from the flash and concussion. When I came to my senses I saw that fragments of rock and large stones had been driven a foot or more into the hillside right behind me, but not one thing had hit me. How about this one?  My wife and I were in our canoe one day and a wild duck flew right in alongside us. It stuck with us for the better part of an hour. When I started up our electric trolling motor and we glided off, it continued to fly right next to us just above the water, refusing to leave.

The list could go on and on but I am sure you get the point. I seem to continually experience the most bizarre and unusual things, and I love it. It keeps my life exciting, it keeps me alert and I am in awe of all that surrounds me in the natural and spiritual world. In fact, three days ago I had another interesting encounter that showed me just how good God is. I am certain that only He could have set this one in motion and I am so glad I actually got to participate in this one as it unfolded.

My phone rang, and that’s not unusual, but the area code was not one I have ever called. In my mind I was thinking “Oh great a telemarketer has gotten my cell number”. I was about to hit the reject button when I had a “knowing” I was supposed to take this particular call. Against my normal actions I picked up the line and said, “hello?” The moment I did there was a noise at the other end that sounded like someone had just had the breath sucked right out of them.

The tone of the voice I heard next was part fear and part unexplained expectation that had a hint of pure terror in it. A young woman said, “Hello? Hello? Who is this?” I was caught off guard by the urgency of the request so I also hesitated for a moment to respond. Finally I said, “Did you intend to call (and I stated my number)? “Yes, yes” she replied, “that’s the exact number I dialed. Who is this? Are you…..”. and then her sentence trailed off with no ending. Once again I responded, “Well who were you calling?” Then what she told me brought the entire conversation into focus.

This had always been her grandpa’s phone number and when I answered, for just a split second she thought I was him. I actually sounded like him in so many ways and even the tone of my voice made her think that she may have somehow made a divine connection to this man she so dearly loved. You see, her grandpa had died back in March and his phone had never been turned off. She would call his number once in a while, when she really missed him, just so she could hear his voice on the answering machine and be comforted. When I pickup up the line, and my voice sounded like his, well… you can imagine it was quite a shock.

We talked for quite a while. During our conversation I told her that I was a pastor and she actually choked up a bit when she heard this. Apparently she had been looking for some sign that her grandpa might be in heaven. I discovered that in her mind I was that sign, and now she was at peace. When we said our final “good-by” she said, “I’m so glad a pastor has my grandpa’s number. He was such a wonderful man. It makes me feel good to know this little part of him is still here even though he is gone. God bless you pastor, and thank you.” And I said “Your are welcome my dear, call this number any time.”

Could God use a phone number and a stranger on the other end to bring comfort to a young woman in a time of distress? Absolutely! If you understand His creativity and boundless love for His creation, you also know that nothing is impossible for Him. He can reach across the miles, restore the missing years, heal a broken heart and bridge the gap between the living and the dead. He is just amazing and that’s why I get so excited when I can see and even participate in the little miracles He does.

How about you? Are you amazed and delighted by the creativity found in His creation? Are you still touched by the beauty before you and moved by the wonder of the life that is all around you? If you have lost that amazing sense of expectancy then let me encourage you to begin looking for it again. Take a moment to pause and see all the incredible things that are happening all around you. Slow down and participate in life, don’t just move through it. Take a chance, start a conversation with a stranger, become present to the moment and enjoy the journey. Who knows, today you might become someone’s answer to prayer!

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Boot Tracks Of Life

Every now and then we all need time to ourselves. It has to be a day, or at least the better part of one where it’s just you and a quiet place where no other human soul is near by. For me, this time and place of solitude happened Saturday where I spent the afternoon on one of my favorite trout streams. It was a perfect early summer day and I took my motorcycle a few hours north into the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. The water was crisp and cold, the sky was a deep blue as a few clouds floated by and the trout were biting. Other than being with my wife, this is my favorite place to be in all the world.

For nearly 30 years I have fished this particular stream and I have never, ever seen another living soul on it. What I have seen year after year, is one set of boot tracks other than my own. They would show up, just like me, about four or five times during the trout season. I would drive to my stream and there they were, a size 8 or 9 Vibram-soled boot tracks moving from one deep hole to the next. This interloper went to exactly the same hidden spots I had found and it really irritated me. Honestly it felt like the stream had somehow been defied by another, and on more than one occasion I almost abandoned it.

Why, you might ask? To begin with every old-school trout fishermen like myself, is a purist. That is, they know a secret trout stream really is a sacred thing and they keep it that way. It’s a place where your soul is refreshed and your mind renewed. Here you breathe in the deep, earthy smells of the forest and appreciate the beauty of what God has made. You can still sip the ice-cold water that has been purified as it tumbles over a thousand rocks. I can’t explain why, but when you bow your head and drink this holy water, it satisfies more than just your thirst. It reconnects you with the basics of life and says, “welcome home son”. Every time I kneel in this place of solitude to drink, I meet with God, and I feel His pleasure because I have come once again to enjoy His creation.

Saturday, as I got near “my stream”, a very old green truck was parked on the dirt road where I usually park. And… there they were, those boot tracks going from it right to the bank of my stream. I was upset as I fished and I followed the tracks down stream to where a massive glacial boulder sits in the middle of the stream. The tracks had stopped for a moment, turned upstream, and then moved on. I pulled some huge, native brook trout from this deep hole and my heart sank when I realized that my mystery man had been there. I was glad that for some unknown reason he had not fished it, but non the less he had been there, and that was enough to upset the balance of nature. This was just wrong and I was the man to set it right.

I quickly baited my hook and had just flipped my night-crawler into the water when something caught my eye. Down stream about 300 yards was the owner of the boots. I could hardly believe my eyes. After all the years we were finally about to meet face to face.  I wanted to let him know I was not happy about the unmitigated gall of him fishing “my stream”. I finally pulled a nice trout out of the water and then I sat down on a rock to study the one who had eluded me for so long. I was on a mission to uncover who this man was and why he had invaded my private world.

I could see by his use of a walking stick that he was very old and needed it to keep from stumbling into the stream. He had a fishing poll in the other hand and a handmade wicker creel, just like mine, slung over his right shoulder. He moved with a painful ease from rock to rock that really surprised me. I watched in amazement as he stopped mid-stream to balance himself so he could send his line into a hole that was right below him. I had fished this stream hundreds times and never noticed that particular spot. How could that be? The fluid dexterity of his cast, and the precision of where his worm landed, told me this was no ordinary “old man”. I felt like I was watching a secret symphony and he was the master conductor. His pole was the baton and it was clear that he alone knew how to pull the very best music out of what the stream had to offer

I finally approached the man and he glanced up, quietly nodded and smiled at me. I sat there stunned as he pulled a beautiful 14 inch, native speckled trout out of a place I had walked by for years and never noticed. The shock of white hair that protruded out from under his water-stained Fedora caught the breeze has he slid the beautiful, flopping fish down through the opening in his creel. Then to my surprise his weathered hand reach out and shook mine and he said “My name’s Jim, … so you’re that other set of tracks that have been on my stream all these years”. Huh???? On His Stream???

We sat there on this beautiful day and enjoy each others company. He told me he had seen my tracks for the first time nearly 30 years ago and always wondered who I was. He never tried to “catch” me because he saw how I respected his stream. I never left trash, never brought anyone with me and only came a few times during the season so as not to over-fish things. He liked that so much, he had left me alone. Then he honored me with something I did not expect. He said, “I could tell you were just like me, You love this place, so I decided to let you share “my stream”. Now that I’ve met you I’m glad I did”.

I discovered Jim was 92 years old and had fished this steam for nearly 80 years. It had been a very good run for him but this was to be his last fishing trip. He was in the end stages of cancer and had very little time left. When he awoke that morning and realized it was probably his last good day on earth, he decided to spend it on “his stream”, and …….. I am so glad he did.

The afternoon sun moved across the sky and finally Jim and I prepared to part company. We shook hands once again and as we did, Jim said, “well I guess this is going to be your steam now Bill. Take good care of her and she will take care of you.” With that, Jim leaned on his walking stick and painfully headed back upstream to his truck. I watched him as he went. He stopped every so often and looked around, knowing it was his last adventure. I am sure he was remembering that past 80 years and the hours he had spent in this unchanging sanctuary as all the world had changed around it.

As he rounded the bend and was just about to disappear from sight he turned to watch me make my next cast into a deep, clear pool. Then he waved a final good by and was gone. At that moment a thought crossed my mind, “The baton has been passed and I am now the conductor on “our” stream in this river symphony.”… And as that thought surfaced in my mind a nice speckled trout hit my line. Somehow I knew I had caught that one for Jim ….and I was now the conductor,… and the stream was now playing its symphony of life for me.

My question for you today is this; “what boot tracks have you left in the lives of others”? If you happen to encounter any of them on the river of your life, will that meeting leave a lasting impression that is good or bad? If you develop your character and your compassion, then you will be like Jim who passed the baton on to me with honor and sincerity. If you don’t, then you will defile every life stream you walk in and leave no life song but pain and empty regret. Now is the time to make those changes so your boot tracks will be a blessing even to strangers you may encounter in your last moments of life. Live your life well, and let your river symphony, your life song pass that blessing along . Life is way too short to live it any other way!