You Are with Us

As we build this community prayer platform, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

Let’s remember to approach the throne room and respond with faith and not fear, knowing the promises of God and His mighty hand will hold us through any situation! Sometimes, all it takes is just one prayer to change everything. Something extraordinary happens when two or more agree together in prayer.

What is one of the most important things we should do as Christians? Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).

I will lead this week’s charge. Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight  as I take the pulpit tomorrow at Howland (ME) United Methodist Church.

Joe and Anthony ask prayers for successful transitions. Moving can be unsettling.

Madi was transported to Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX. She had a bad headache and went numb on her right side. She apparently had a mini stroke and she’s only 17. Keep her in your prayers.

Both of Cindy’s sisters are having health issues, one facing open heart surgery and the other a biopsy to check for cancer.

Mike is having surgery right now for a possible bowel blockage.

James is in the hospital in Greenville, NC.

Andrew continues to fight the fight. Latest development is a tumor in his neck making things like breathing and swallowing a bit of a chore.

There were a host of unspoken prayer requests and we heard of a number of deaths this week. Prayers for their families as they go through this earthly trial. We grieve … heaven rejoices.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week — some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We also know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up Joe, Anthony, Madi, Cindy’s sisters, Mike, James, Andrew and all those needing Your healing touch. We pray for the families of all those You have called home. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The Alphabet — Always  Be Cool. Don’t have Ego with Friends and family. Give up Hurting Individuals. Just Keep Loving Mankind. Never Omit Prayers. Quietly Remember God. Speak Truth. Use Valid Words. Xpress Your Zeal.

 

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Five Minute Friday — Challenge

Happy Friday! Time for my Five Minute Friday contribution. Check out the amazing five minutes takes at Kate’s place on Facebook at fiveminutefriday.com by our special community of writers.

I’ve been sharing snippets taken from Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. They are a testament to the value of the exercise. This week, I’ll share some perspective from Angela who I hope inspires you to check us out or, better yet, try your hand at focused, unscripted writing for just five minutes. And share it on Kate’s website.

“When I felt stuck as a writer, Five Minute Fridays showed me that was only in my mind. Sometimes I wrote my FMF piece only in my journal, because the prompt brought out raw feelings I wasn’t ready yet to share. Still, it helped me find my words again when I wasn’t sure I had anything to say.”

The timer has been set for this week’s prompt, CHALLENGE, so I guess it’s time to GO…

Challenge. Hmmm.

We all have challenges. Some are lifelong; other specific to the day or situation. They could be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

But the biggest challenge is how we react to those challenges. The biggest challenge is to keep moving forward and not get mired down in the past. Easy said. Not easy to do.

We have guidelines to follow, natural law, spiritual law, man-made law. But in the end we are challenged to live our lives the best way we can, each and every day. Again, easier said than done. So the challenge becomes shrugging off the dust of yesterday and facing today head on with an eye on tomorrow and our eternity.

I think we were placed here in this time and space to make our sphere of influence in the world a little bit better than we found it … to touch people positively … to bring Good News to a world full of darkness. That’s the challenge we face each and every day.

So, here’s my challenge. … STOP

Take time each day to reflect on the joys and challenges of the day {morning prayer}. Take some  time every day for yourself. Take time each day to reach out to others positively. Take time every day to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Take time every day to count your blessings and acknowledge where they came from {nighttime prayer}.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly — Langston Huges

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Memories

It’s always tough emotionally packing up and moving. What follows? What stays? What gets donated? What gets trashed? What goes who?

I’ve been going through that process over the past couple of weeks and I was reminded, not once, but twice by my children I was approaching this latest move the wrong way.

Last week, for example, I spent the better part of a day taking down my wife’s Precious Moments collection, carefully packing each piece from its spot in the curio. Of course, I gave most of the collection to my wife over the years, so each piece reignited a memory … a time when she was still with me. It was the same rush in reverse from when I transplanted the collection from New York to Maine. The memories were the same, but while rebuilding the collection was a joy, dismantling it had a touch of sadness to it. I realized during the process this could be the last time I will ever see the collection shimmering in the sunlight.

I mentioned it in a message to my kids and Joe reminded me very pointedly, “It’s a blessing you have the memories.” Of course, he is right. I treasure those memories … but it still stings a bit.

Part of the process has also been packing up pictures, wall decor and other personal things. I had already decided I was making a minimal move — donating and giving most furniture and day-to-day items away. My personal items — except for clothes — fit in three large boxes. Personal memories of my time in Maine. Some books (I donated a bunch to the  library). Photos and wall hangings. As I unloaded them for storage at my son’s house in Massachusetts, I blithely remarked over coffee how discouraging it is to your life reduced to a few boxes. Scott quickly reprimanded me. “That’s not your life!” He’s was right. I amended my comment to add “tangible”.

My life is more than things. I know that. I’ve preached that through the years. But it still stings … and in all honesty, I never figured I would be the one going through my possessions.

It’s tough making these decisions that affect no one but yourself. Keep the aluminum plate of my final edition of the Reveille/Between the LakesKeep the assortment of ticket stubs and playbills collected through the years? Keep my early notes on the publishing process? Keep …? Those things have no worth to anyone but me.

Of course, the clean out hasn’t all been melancholic. I made some amazing discoveries — like appliance cords for appliances I no longer have … an AARP magazine from 2012 I never got around to reading {along with other newspapers and newspapers} … a serving plate I was looking for just a few weeks ago buried amid stuff in the closet … tax records from 2004. When I first moved to Maine, I still owned the Reveille/Between the Lakes. So I had files — mostly invoices, paid invoices and correspondence — dating back to 2016. I sold the paper in 2017. Obviously, they are not following me.

So, another chapter is closing. There ain’t much in the material department — but there is a treasure trove in the memory department. And its onward and upward to the next chapter. It will be fun watching where this all leads.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Peace begins when expectations end. — Ranji  Varughis

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Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

So, let’s smile a little!

Things to Learn from a Dog

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Take naps and stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout. Run right back and make friends.

Bond with your pack.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

And now for the bonus …

Return to Sender

A locksmith in a resort town once he saw a group of beach-goers park near his shop and dump trash from their car on his property. As soon as they were out of sight, the locksmith picked the lock on their car door, put the garbage back inside and re-locked the car.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Faith makes all things possible … love makes all things easy. — Dwight Moody

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So, You Want To Write a Book

So, you want to write a book. You have an idea, but the nagging question is what to do next.

Congratulations. You took the first step. I do have to issue some cautions, though.

There are many writers who make a living as a writer. But the majority are just squeaking by or writing to an audience of one. Those in the latter categories are who I would like to help with this overview.

I do believe everybody has a story to tell. We don’t share because we don’t know how to tell the story … then we get frustrated … then we give up.

You do have to realize most writers sell very few books – despite the pitches out there to the contrary. Your story has to be somewhat unique or told in a unique way for it to gain traction. Even traditionally published books have to get by an editor first.

Of course, it’s pretty rare to jump into a novel without honing your skills with short stories and publishing in small newspapers and magazines. And be prepared to invest hard work – mental work – and hours of rewrites.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This space is used to address the mechanics of writing. The basic recipe for any story – be it a letter, a press release, a short story or novel – is the same. What. When, Where, Why. How.

Over the next few weeks I’ll tackle the What, When, Where, Why and. Realize they are interconnected. And I’ll address writing issues you want addressed. Just let me know.

In the 50-plus years I spent as a writer and editor I have written and edited some real stinkers. I have also polished words to bring them to life, both my own and those of others.

Are you ready?

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Sometimes we have to let go of what is killing us, even if it’s killing us to let go.

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Blinded by the Fog

Words for the Week …

It was a fog-shrouded morning, July 4, 1952, when a young woman named Florence Chadwick waded into the water off Catalina Island. She intended to swim the channel from the island to the California coast. Long-distance swimming was not new to her; she had been the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.

The water was numbing cold that day. The fog was so thick she could hardly see the boats in her party. Several times sharks had to be driven away with rifle fire. She swam more than 15 hours before she asked to be taken out of the water. Her trainer tried to encourage her to swim on since they were so close to land, but when Florence looked, all she saw was fog. So she quit. … only one mile from her goal.

Later she said, “I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen the land I might have made it.” It wasn’t the cold or fear or exhaustion that caused Florence Chadwick to fail. It was the fog.

Thought: Many times we too fail, not because we’re afraid or because of the peer pressure or because of anything other than the fact we lose sight of the goal. By the way, two months after her failure, Florence Chadwick walked off the same beach into the same channel and swam the distance, setting a new speed record, because she could see the land!

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Sharing my reflections this morning at Howland (ME) United Methodist Church.

Take a moment to listen to the still small voice of God within the bustle of the day which has begun. In this quiet place as we gather in God’s presence, enjoy precious moments of peace in God’s presence. Sit quietly, breathe slowly and rest in God’s presence …

From our rising in the morning to our lying down again, You are with us every hour of the day, our reassurance when storms assail and strength when courage fails.

From our rising in the morning to our lying down again, Your light illumines every step of the way, our comfort when darkness falls
and peace that calms our souls.

From our rising in the morning to our lying down again, You are with us.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

When my kids were younger and in school, I honestly never knew who was joining us for dinner. Often, one of their friends – sometimes more than one – joined us at the table. I brought visitors home with me. Karen would invite friends or those she knew just needed a meal and some fellowship. My saintly wife made sure we were all fed although she generally didn’t know in advance whether she was cooking for the seven of us or more.

Today’s gospel reading [Luke 15:1-10] reminded me of those days gone by. Jesus, if He was around, might very well have been invited into our home to share a meal.

I can almost hear the Pharisees and scribes grumbling and saying, “This fellow [Jesus] welcomes sinners and eats with them.” You see, it would have been appropriate since we were sinners.

I’ve talked about visits with Jesus a couple of times over the years on my blog, specifically “Beer with Jesus” and “Breakfast with Jesus”. My experiences 30-40 years ago framed those words.

But first, a story. Two men were fishing in separate boats on the lake. One was watching the other with this growing curiosity because he’d catch a fish, he’d keep it, then he’d catch another fish and he’d throw that one away. He just kept doing this, catch after catch. The really strange part was it was always the big ones he threw away. What kind of fisherman is this?

Finally, the man watching couldn’t contain his curiosity any more so he called out the obvious question, “How come you’re throwing away the big ones?”

The man answered, “Oh, because I only have an eight-inch frying pan!”

Okay, I have to credit Ron Hutchcraft for that smile, who in turn credited Ravi Zacharias. Where Ravi got it from is a mystery, but there’s a rumor circulating he was seen on Sebec Lake.

When I read the joke, I was reminded about today’s gospel. The back story is was our fishermen having breakfast with Jesus.

How awesome is that!

For them, probably not so much since they spent a lot of time with Jesus – breakfast, lunch, dinner. But for us, how awesome would that be?

There’s a country song by Thomas Rhett called Beer with Jesus that caught my attention when it was released a couple of years ago, but before I get into that, I have to make a couple of disclosures. I haven’t always been a country music fan. In fact, having been city born and bred, country was “hillbilly” … you know, Rednecks with beer bellies and rusty old dirty pick-up trucks with gun racks. In truth, I always preached country music shouldn’t be played in anything but a rusty old dirty pick-up truck. And, of course, when I bought one I became a convert.

To be sure, there is some hillbilly twang on the country circuit and the lyrics … well, let’s just say there are a lot of double entendres there. But, they are honest, honest to goodness honest. Brad Paisley sums it up,

You’re not supposed to say
The word cancer in a song
And tellin’ folks Jesus is the answer
Can rub ’em wrong
It ain’t hip to sing about tractors, trucks,
Little towns and mama
Yeah that might be true
But this is country music and we do
Well, you like to drink a cold one
On the weekend and get a little loud
Do you wanna say I’m sorry or I love ya
But you don’t know how?
Do you wish somebody had the nerve
To tell that stupid boss of yours
To shove it next time he yells at you?
Well, this is country music, and we do
So turn it on, turn it up and sing along
This is real, this is your life in a song
Yeah this is country music …

But I digress. When I heard Beer with Jesus and actually listened to the words, they touched me deeply. Here they are …

If I could have a beer with Jesus
Heaven knows I’d sip it nice and slow
I’d try to pick a place that ain’t too crowded
Or gladly go wherever He wants to go

You can bet I’d order up a couple tall ones
Tell the waitress put ’em on my tab
I’d be sure to let Him do the talkin’
Careful when I got the chance to ask

How’d You turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
Do You hear the prayers I send
What happens when life ends
And when You think You’re comin’ back again
I’d tell everyone, but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus

If I could have a beer with Jesus
I’d put my whole paycheck in that jukebox
Fill it up with nothing but the good stuff
Sit somewhere we couldn’t see a clock

Ask Him how’d you turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
Have You been there from the start
How’d You change a sinner’s heart
And is heaven really just beyond the stars
I’d tell everyone, but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus

He can probably only stay, for just a couple rounds
But I hope and pray He’s stayin’ till we shut the whole place down

Ask Him how’d You turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
What’s on the other side?
Is mom and daddy alright?
And if it ain’t no trouble tell them I said hi
I’d tell everyone but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus
I’d tell everyone but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus

Well, that got me to thinking what I would ask Jesus if we just hung out over a beer … or wine or dinner or whatever. Certainly all Thomas’ questions would be on the list, but I would probably add a few more. Like …

If this salvation thing is so simple, why is it so hard for us numskulls to understand it?

Why are there so many distortions to the truth?

Why did You pick that time and place to enter our world? Why not sooner? Or later?

But, more important, I would borrow a line from Thomas Rhett. I’d be sure to let Him do the talkin’ … Careful when I got the chance to ask.

Okay, but how does that relate to today’s gospel?

Well, context is everything here. The passage includes a setting (15:1-2) followed by the parables of the Lost Sheep (15:3-7) and the Lost Coin (15:8-10). It sets the table for the grand third parable concerning things lost, the parable of the Lost Son (15:11-32).

Luke makes Jesus’ companionship with sinners a special point of emphasis. Luke provides a mixed message: Jesus seeks to bring sinners to repentance , but not once does Jesus actually scold or correct a sinner. Instead, he eats with them. Four times Luke reports meals in which Jesus receives criticism for his relationship with sinners, but Jesus never once comments on the sinners’ behavior.  The cutting edge of the passage: Jesus embraces the very people the rest of religious society rejects.

Eating with sinners means taking sides. Which one among you? invites us into the story. The two parables share a basic structure. One is lost from a much larger group, the protagonist goes to great lengths to seek out the lost item, the finder invites friends for a celebration, and Jesus offers the moral of the story.

As with most of Jesus’ parables, there is a “hook,” something that seems out of place. That hook lies in the lavishness in the celebrations. Would a shepherd really throw a party over the finding of a lost sheep? If the lost coin so concerns the woman, are we to expect her to endure the expense of a party? Those point to a deeper reflection. It invites us to recognize the extravagant joy with which God, present in Christ, welcomes sinners. There is the matter of setting a table — literally, not figuratively. Table fellowship reveals the boundaries of human relationships.

The shepherd and the woman in these stories evoke images of a God who not only actively seeks out individuals who are lost — note the emphasis on the “one” out of the ninety-nine and the ten — but also rejoices when they are found. This God is not a tyrant who demands subservience to impossible demands, but rather a God who actively seeks restoration: a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6).

To me, Jesus is pointing out the two different types of responses to Jesus and God’s reign. Sinners repent because they know they are lost and thus can avail themselves of the transformation that comes with God’s finding them. By contrast, the righteous feel they do not need to repent (or change their ways) presumably because they don’t think they are lost. They don’t need God to find them; they are justified either in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our first reading from Jeremiah. I included it because the lectionary emphasizes Jeremiah as part of its current series focused on the aspects of humanity’s unfaithfulness that’s being “called out” by the prophet Jeremiah. It is important to mention there is a more negative and/or dreary focus in these first few weeks of the series (at least in terms of the focus Scriptures. This is the final week of that first movement, and it will lead to next week’s focus on repentance and the final week’s focus on God’s renewal.

If last week’s focus was about a “warning,” then this week’s passage is a colorful example of how that warning could play out. Through Jeremiah as God’s mouthpiece, God communicates images of devastation and desolation, which have ecological implications. The prophet describes this devastation through language that connects God’s judgment with the natural order.

Walter Brueggemann suggests prophetic discourse “is not a blueprint for the future. It is not a prediction. It is not an act of theology that seeks to scare into repentance. It is, rather, a rhetorical attempt to engage this numbed, unaware community in an imaginative embrace of what is happening … because … evil finally must be answered for.”

The message of the consequences of evil and the possibility of healing and wholeness is as germane today as it was in Jeremiah’s time. When we look at this Scripture passage ecologically, it is clear our human waywardness/sinfulness has negative implications for the future of the natural world.

When things are not right among humans, the whole earth groans. We are answerable not just to ourselves as individuals, but we are accountable to all our fellow human beings and to the earth from which we came. When we inflict violence on each other, we hurt the earth. When we abuse God’s good creation, we damage ourselves. Knowing God, by the prophetic definition, means we act justly with each other and live responsibly in relationship to all of God’s creation.

This is a great time – as we enter harvest season — to examine our practices (and growth areas) related to the stewardship of the earth’s resources. Work toward incremental change.

Through the New Testament, we know Jesus is on a search-and-rescue mission. He tells us what the Kingdom of God is really like. That was Jesus’ mission. And He not only tells it in the temples or to the “enlightened”. He shares the message of faith, hope, love, salvation to any and every one willing to listen. He tells the story on the mountains, from the boat … and over a meal at a table.

Jesus made the invitation. Follow Me.

The call was made to the prophets. The call was made to the disciples. The call was made to Saul. The call was made to Ananias. The call has been made throughout the ages of Christendom. The call has been made to each of us. Sometimes we are so preoccupied, we miss the movement of Jesus right in front of us.

One man, Saul/Paul, was transformed from a persecutor to one of the leading figures in the spread of early Christianity. All because he chose to “Follow Him” … Jesus the Lord.

What about you? What about me? Are we willing to follow Him … Jesus the Lord? What questions would you have if you had a chance to have a beer or breakfast or dinner with Jesus?

How will we respond?

I pray all who hear these words choose to follow.

May it be so.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: When you prepare yourself in the morning, both mentally and physically, you control the rudder of your life. When you start your day consciously, your results are intentional.

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