A Constant Reminder…

Wherever I travel, especially in nature, I love the way God accompanies me.  He reminds me, in so many ways, that He is always with me.  No matter where I am.  I am a visual person and when something catches my eye, whether above me, below me or peripherally, my mind immediately thinks, “Thank You for that…it is absolutely beautiful!”.

There have been so many various situations where this has happened, whether I’m alone or with friends, that are too numerous to count. And, I love when they catch me off guard and just happen to appear.

These are just a few…

A strong windswept tree on a remote west coast beach…

A rugged stonecrop plant nestled along the top of a stone wall…

Distant and remote Colorado mountains…just beckoning to be climbed.

A beautiful Hibiscus flower in the morning dew…

A small, singular Maple tree sapling growing in the snow from the wood and moss of a long since downed tree…I love this photo.

A good friend ice climbing…and, me anxiously waiting for my turn.

A wooden fence buried in the sand along a lonely stretch of beach…

Standing below the majestic Mt. Rainier in Washington State…

A heart-shaped piece of driftwood along a Delaware River, NJ nature preserve…this is one of my favorites.

I’ve realized that our lives fly by so quickly, and there is SO much more that I want to see!

And, I hope in your own travels you get to see the beauty and wonderment of all that has been given to us!

Is It Necessary…

Is what you’re about to say kind, caring and compassionate? Yeah, me too…I’m not quite sure I always use this barometer. Marcus Aurelius had it right when he said, “Is this necessary?”. When we’re wronged, we immediately want to lash out, get our pound of flesh and make things right. The Bible speaks of holding the tongue throughout scripture, and rightly so. Our words can have lasting effects and once out of the mouth, they can’t be pulled back in. Simply put, it robs us of our joy. Next time you’re tempted to exact your measure of verbal vengeance, ask yourself first…”Is what I’m about to say REALLY necessary?”.

Warm thoughts…

I took these photos a few years ago during warmer weather. It’s just a reminder of the cycle of the seasons and what they each bring. Each season has its own purpose and everyone has their favorite. Mine happens to be the Fall…all the colors, the lack of oppressive humidity and the morning chill in the air. Anyway, here are a few reminders of things to come…enjoy!

Holding On…

Over the past fifteen years, I have physically moved to new places no less than ten times.  I moved to and from several locations in south Jersey, then New Jersey to Colorado and back, then again to and from several other locales in south Jersey. The reasons why are too involved to explain here, but needless to say I moved a lot and have become somewhat of a pro at it.  Moving had gotten to the point where I made the joke that I would rather have a root canal procedure sans novocaine than move again. Moving is just awful, and those of you who have done it know exactly what I am talking about.  In making all these moves however, I found out that I had become somewhat of a pack rat.  Not the serious hoarding type, it was just that I had a lot of stuff I realized no longer held any real value or meaning in my life.  So, I began purging and became very adept at ridding myself of things that no longer served any purpose.  Some things were more difficult to get rid of than others, but when I came across something I wasn’t sure about throwing away, I asked myself when it was last used? Would I use it again? Or, did it have any real value or purpose for me? So, I ultimately threw out a lot of stuff, gave some away, donated things and had several yards sales that believe it or not yielded several thousand dollars.  I sold bikes, exercise equipment, kayaks, lawn equipment, a car and various other odds and ends.  Craigslist and I were on a first name basis.  Each time I moved, I purged.  It was beautifully, wonderfully cathartic and I began to love this mass personal cleansing.

During this period of purifying (I guess it kind of felt like a purification), I began to like being a bit of a minimalist.  I let go of things that had no real meaning or purpose for me and it felt great.  Other than basic furniture and such, my total worldly possessions now easily fit into a small room and I’m about to go through them again to purge some more!

So, what does this have to do with the title of this blog piece? It is as simple as an old metal roller skate key.  For those of you too young to remember, a roller skate key was used to tighten the grips on the metal skates that would attach or “grip” the bottom of your shoes.  Dependent on the type of shoes you were wearing, they sometimes held really well and sometimes they didn’t.  If the skate grips weren’t tight enough or they just couldn’t hold onto your shoes, you would very often end up either on your face or on your butt…with one or both skates dangling from your ankles by the attached straps.  The skates sometimes just wouldn’t “hold on” to your shoes.

Now to the crux…God sometimes gets my attention using correlations.  It is very often how He communicates with me, as He knows I’ll ultimately understand exactly what He is trying to say or teach me when He brings something to my mind.  This time it was the skate key.  It popped into my mind a few days ago as I was looking out the window from my desk at work and I had no idea why I thought of it.  But after a few moments of contemplation, I knew God was trying to get my attention.  Then, a few minutes later came the Words to my spirit, “you need to let go of some other things that you’re holding onto”.  I knew what He meant and as He knows I like to purge, this was His way of getting me to understand and keep the purging going.  There were some unhealthy attachments I needed to remove from my life.

As humans, we love to hold onto things.  Whether they are physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, I believe we hold very close those things (whatever they may be) mostly for a sense of security.  And, sometimes we don’t even know why we hold on, it just “feels” right or has some intrinsic, unknown value.  Unfortunately, we very often hold onto things that are detrimental or harmful without even knowing it.  Ever pick up a hot frying pan, then immediately drop it and quickly recoil in pain? Of course you have, and that recoil happens very quickly. But, sometimes we hold onto things that are doing unseen and unfelt damage for extended periods of time and these are the attachments that are very often the most dangerous.  I have a few things on my list of things to get rid of and I’ve been going through them meticulously as they are revealed to me.  Some are more difficult than others, but with His help, I will succeed.  

I have grabbed the skate key, turned it, and loosened my grip on several things so far and am looking forward letting go of more.

So, what are some of the unhealthy things the skate key in your life can help you get rid of?  If you’re not sure, just ask…He will tell you.

Grateful…

This was actually a quote from Seneca…

  1. Accept every life’s situation as a learning opportunity
  2. Forgive others
  3. Forgive yourself
  4. Be forever grateful

Do not be concerned with yesterday for it is gone and tomorrow has not yet come. On this Thanksgiving day, live in the moment and be happy, content and grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone…!

Fear…

Folks are trying to hold it together, but the fear is visibly palpable. It’s March 2020 and we’re at the beginning of the COVID19 (coronavirus) pandemic and life as we know it, at least for the present time, is rapidly changing.  And, things are going to be different.  Mandatory school and non life-essential business closings, bare supermarket shelves and people walking around in hospital masks are now the norm.  “Social Distancing”, the physical act of keeping about 6’ of distance between each other to prevent the transmission of the virus, is an everyday practice.  For the most part, the majority of us are just trying to lead normal lives, but the overwhelming sense of “what’s next” is on everyone’s mind.  People are afraid for their jobs, their kids, their loved ones, their money, their future and just about everything else that on a normal day may have been a passing thought and dealt with on a topical level.  Not now though.  It’s become a pervasive worry and the uncertainty of it all is causing stress on a monumental scale.  Fear is the new norm.

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For believers, it’s no different.  We feel the fear, the trepidation, the uncertainty and we worry about the same things everyone else does.  The difference is we know that in a world “out of control”, there is one constant…one thing that is “in” control.  The one entity that will not “leave us or forsake us”.  One unchanging being that knows how we feel, loves us in spite of it and provides the comfort only a Father can provide.  God is that entity.

I recently read an Instagram posting where a woman wrote that the only thing we should be doing about the coronavirus is panicking.  Her elderly mother was going through chemotherapy and with her compromised immune system and the coronavirus at our doorstep, she believed that panicking would be the only thing we could do that would get the attention of “those in charge” to do something to flatten out the rising curve of the epidemic.  I felt so very sorry for her.  To feel so out of control that her first response was to panic in an effort to make others take note of the gravity of the situation made me grieve for her life and her spirit. How very sad…

In the bible, Mark, chapter 4, Jesus and his disciples were in a boat during a violent wind and rainstorm, the waves crashing over the bow.  His disciples were, in a word, freaking out. Jesus however, was asleep in the front of the boat and they were incredulous.  They woke Him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus calmly got up, rebuked the wind, rain and waves and said “Quiet! Be still!”  The foul weather immediately died down and it became completely calm.  He then turned to his disciples and said “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Our faith should reflect that even in the midst of utter calamity, of what on the surface appears to be a possible disastrous and catastrophic future, we hold steadfast to that one calm constant.  We look to the one thing that remains peaceful and still and provides love and comfort, even in the face of possible death to those who love Him. You’ll notice I said, “Should”. Is it sometimes difficult? Yes. Can it produce doubt? Yes.  But, those who sincerely love Him come back to Him. We come back to the Father because that is where those still waters are found.  Remember the boat?

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The future is uncertain.  That is for sure.  All we can do is pray that while God’s will is done, He continues to protect and provide for His sons.  And, we are all His sons.  Our walk on this earth is temporary and as we go about our daily lives, we must be a reflection to others, who may not believe, of the very thing in which we find solace.  Allow the fear to be your strength, allow it to motivate you to now do better.  Look to help others in any way possible so people can ask themselves, “What does this person have that makes them behave this way, to walk without fear?”  The words “Do Not Be Afraid” are repeated in the bible approximately 365 times…an everyday reminder of where we should place our faith.  It is not about us now; it is about all of us.  And, it starts with you.  Crush the fear.

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Keep Rolling…

I work in Center City Philadelphia and walk the two blocks to and from the train every day.  Most days are routine, except for the occasional, errant person yelling or screaming about things like the world coming to an end or telling me my cell phone is on their brain frequency or sometimes even about the conversations they’ve had with the mounted police horses.  Normal stuff.

One afternoon last week however, as I crossed the street and stepped onto the sidewalk, I saw something out of the corner of eye.  It was on the pavement, moving fast but immediately caught my attention.  At first, I wasn’t sure what it was, as it was moving at an angle toward me and I actually stopped to watch it.  It was extremely thin, flat, perfectly round (about the size of a half-dollar), and all rusty with a few small holes in it.  The wind must’ve caught it just right as it was rolling upright on its edge similar to what a Frisbee might do when it hits the ground after being thrown, then rolls vertically.  It slowed as it got close to me, then veered away when it got about six inches from my shoes.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of it because it kept rolling and doing little jumps and just wouldn’t fall over.  I lost sight of it when it rolled out into the street, under a moving car and was gone by the time the car passed by.  It was then that I realized it was an old, flattened bottle cap.

I know…you were expecting something a bit more exotic.  Nope, it was just a flat, rusty old bottle cap, with too many years of age for me to even imagine.  It had probably laid in the street over those years in the heat and in the cold, in the wind and the rain and had been ridden over and crushed by countless vehicle tires. I couldn’t get that bottle cap out of my mind and thought about it on the rest of my walk to the train and even during my ride home.

I thought to myself, “OK Lord, what are you trying to teach me here?”…His response was awesome.

That bottle cap has obviously lost its original intent and purpose and can no longer keep a beverage stored fresh and safely in its container.  But, it hasn’t lost its eternal purpose.  I know it’s an inanimate object, but it got your attention, didn’t it?  How things (or, people) start out in life is not necessarily how they’re going to end it. And, for the most part, that difference can be as vast as the ocean.  Maybe that bottle cap’s final purpose was to get you to write this story so others can read it and learn from it.  But, then again, maybe not…you lost sight of it and for all you know, it could certainly still be doing its little old bottle cap dance for someone else. You won’t know until you stand before me!

The real issue is that My purposes are all that really matter.  Things…and people too, will lose their original size and shape, get old and a tad rusty and over time even get some extra holes in them.  But, it’s MY purposes in life that count.  Age and size and shape and condition and mindset and attitude don’t matter one iota. Whether you’re twenty-six or ninety-six, My purposes for you in this life don’t end until I bring you home.  Don’t let your present age or condition or situation allow you to get comfortable, or worse, lethargic.  You already know from your own life’s experiences, that present circumstances can be fleeting and temporary.  And, even though some transitions may have been unpleasant and uncomfortable at the moment, it always worked out, didn’t it?  Continue to always look to Me for your direction and know that no matter what, I will always have something new for you. Exciting isn’t it?

Continue to roll, dance, jump, take chances and enjoy yourself while keeping Me always present and the Holy Spirit’s counsel always active.  Be like that rusty, old windswept bottle cap…keep moving, have fun and live your life to its fullest.

I plan to do just that…

And, I’ll never, ever look at a bottle cap in the same way again!

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Those Who Walk in Foreign Lands…

There are those who walk in foreign lands
Many, many miles away…
We think of them and they think of us
In more ways than we can say…

Keep them forever in your hearts
So they may always know…
You love them more than words convey
That soon, they may be home to stay.

During the holidays, please keep those members of our military who are not home this year in your thoughts and prayers.  And, that they may come home safe very soon.  We owe them such an incredible debt of gratitude and thanks!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you who are serving…

Never Forgotten…

Please take a moment today to remember those in our military who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.  And, as today’s world climate grows ever more violent, remember too those who are on the front lines giving all they have, often with their lives.  For THEY are the TRUE heroes of our time…

The following is taken from http://www.BLACKFIVE.net

The Washington Post brings us the story of the Dutch who continue to honor the fallen Americans who fought the Nazis.

On Sunday, they came again, bearing Memorial Day bouquets for men and women they never knew, but whose 8,300 headstones the people of the Netherlands have adopted as their own.

For the American relatives of the fallen, it was an outpouring of gratitude almost as stunning as the rows of white marble crosses and Jewish Stars of David at the Netherlands American Cemetery. Each grave has been adopted by a Dutch or, in some cases, Belgian or German family, as well as local schools, companies and military organizations. More than 100 people are on a waiting list to become caretakers.

Story here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/americans-gave-their-lives-to-defeat-the-nazis-the-dutch-have-never-forgotten/2015/05/24/92dddab4-fa79-11e4-9ef4-1bb7ce3b3fb7_story.html

Back in New Jersey…

Well, my family and I are back in the good old Garden State.  The year we spent in Colorado was one of growth (and, hopefully) spiritual maturity.  But, it was a rough and difficult process.  Because, when you’re going through a baptism of fire, it’s not pleasant.  Not one iota.  Being stripped down in almost every facet of your life takes a toll.  However, as I said, we knew it was for a reason, but that didn’t make it any easier.  The refinement of something is very often only successful through that very thing being put through intense heat.  And, believe me…we felt the heat.   However, we knew it was for a purpose.  His purpose.  And, we’ll rest and find peace and joy in that.  A spiritual walk, at times, will always have in it struggles and challenges.  It’s what God does to bring us to the place where He wants us to be.  Without it, we just won’t have the foundational and spiritual anchor(s) to succeed in what He has for us.  A father disciplines his children and it’s no different with our heavenly Father.  No matter if you’re 18 or 80…you can expect it to happen.

I may have mentioned this scripture in another blog essay, but I think it bears repeating again.  James 1:2-4 (NIV) says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  All the apostles experienced it.  Open the bible to just about any page and you won’t be able to read very much until you see it for yourself.  And, believe me…our experiences come nowhere near the pain and suffering they went through.

Consider it pure joy.  Well, that was the most difficult part for us, but with His help, that’s just what we found.  We realized that we didn’t want to lack anything and that this process was essential to bring to fruition just such an outcome in our lives.

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So, right now, we’re looking forward to seeing what He has for us.  The excitement we feel can barely be contained.  We know that what lies ahead will be for a greater good.  Not only for my family, but for those we love and cherish too.  My wife and I were blessed to have secured employment here in NJ weeks before we left Colorado.  And, we know there is purpose in that too.  There’s purpose in everything.  In a spiritual walk, nothing occurs by accident.  The orchestration is incredible and it’s amazing to watch the Lord do the work.  To be able to see the thread of Christ in our lives as we go through it is reason enough for us just to have a relationship with Him.  But, He wants more for us.  And, THAT is pure joy.

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