Wisdom From a Father

Those who know me know I’m a sucker for witty words. The words  that have been haunting me lately have come from Amelia Earhart — “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”

With that mantra in my head, I started working on a new inspirational book. Today, I am a keystroke away from publishing. All the pieces are in place and I await only some final editorial thoughts from my team to make Wisdom From a Father a reality.

I have scheduled a mid-November Facebook Live hard launch at West Fayette (NY) Presbyterian Church Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. and a repeat Dec. 6 at the Thompson Free Library, Dover-Foxcroft, ME, for my friends and followers from the Pine Tree State, also at 1 p.m. You can pre-order by contacting me at revblt@rochester.rr.com or by comment here and I will send you a signed copy when it becomes available. The books are expected to be at the launches as well.

I am in the process of revamping my author pages and will provide the links, hopefully next week.

Wisdom From a Father is a reflective look at life, segmented into chapters. The words are updates of posts made right here on my blog. I’ve chosen 52 so readers can use the book as a weekly devotional if they so choose.

The cover features a photo I took of the Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, ME. The long planks hopefully invite readers to the lighthouse and, in turn, to open the book and choose their own path and pace. The type — Edwardian Script — was chosen to be personal and intimate. The combination blends the illumination, resilience and comfort of the lighthouse with words that hopefully guide, build inner strength and give hope.

I don’t profess to be a teacher or leader — and never have. I’m just that ordinary Joe walking on the path of life … and sharing it with you. There are joys. There are tribulations. There are reflections. There is every day life. In each essay I try to convey a recognition of a greater Power who colors my perspective. My comments are always filtered through the lens of my Judeo-Christian values and largely based on 40 years of marriage raising five children.

This is my second venture into the world of book publishing. I released my first novella, Heaven Shining Through, last March. For a first time venture, the novella has been receiving mostly solid 4-5 stars and positive reviews. It remains available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and is listed at GoodReads.

For those of you who do not know me, I am  the retired owner/publisher of Reveille/Between the Lakes, a weekly newspaper in Seneca County, NY, right smack in the middle of the beautiful Finger Lakes. I’ve worked in the newspaper industry all my life including stops in New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Washington, DC, Maryland, New York and now Maine. My late wife — my inspiration in life — and I raised five children and currently have 18 grandchildren and three great-granddaughters.

I’m getting excited! I hope you are as well!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness. — Frank Tyger

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Five Minute Friday — Moment

I know it’s Friday. I’m on time for Five Minute Friday exercise. {shock, shock}.

As I’ve said many times, is it’s not the day, but the discipline. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Friday {the chosen date for most}, Saturday {my usual default}, Sunday or the middle of next week. The community responds to carve out five minutes of unscripted writing, post it, link up at Kate’s spot on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com and encourage our writing neighbors as we visit and see their take on our common prompt.

Lately, I’ve also been sharing some of those experiences as chronicled in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. This week, I’ll share words from Pamela. I hope her words inspire you to join our writing club.

“FMF has been a sweet, safe space to gather with a community of writers. In moments when I needed to exercise my writing muscle, but was hesitant for any number of reasons, it was the gentle push of encouragement saying, ‘Just write. Don’t worry about how it sounds or what others will think of it. You are a writer. Your thoughts are valid and valuable. Take five minutes of fearless abandon and write on.’ ”

There you go. The word this week is MOMENT. The timer is set for five minutes, so let’s GO…

Missed it.

Oops, too slow.

Missed it again.

Moments are fleeting, an instant in time. Don’t we all get caught up in the moment, only to find ourselves unsatisfied?

Hmmm. But what happens when you string those moments together. They become memories. They become events. They become a part of who we are.

I’m just as guilty as anyone, trying to capture just the right moment — for that photo, for that interaction. Often it’s a split-second too late and instead of seeing the whole picture of the scene, we become disillusioned.

It’s like writers. Individually, the keystrokes are just letters forming words, but when strung together they form a sentence. And the sentence forms a paragraph. And the paragraphs form a scene. And the scenes form a chapter. And the chapters form  a story — our story that traces its ancestry back to a single moment.

Our life … STOP

is a series of stories, too. We weave the moments. We set the scenes. We establish the interactions. We connect the connections. We validate the goals.

Seize this moment … and the next … and the next. Form your sentences. Live your scenes. Write your story.

From this moment  on…

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Do what makes you happy but consider how it will affect those you love.

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Worship, Faith and Food

I was invited by my neighbor, Rev. Jim Colley, to attend a special service at his church, Family Worship Center, today. Okay. One of the hooks was a pulled pork dinner following the service and special worship music by vocalist David Gopee. Rarely do I not take advantage of a day/night out of the kitchen, especially when prefaced by good, Christian worship music.

That being said, I knew I was exactly where the Lord wanted me to be this Sunday, as Gopee so aptly phrased it. The welcoming community  warmed me … the music lifted me … Jim’s message hit me … the fellowship and food filled me.

The short and sweet of Pastor Jim’s sermon was highlighting the differences between religion and faith — a message I have preached through the years right here on the blog and from pulpits in the Reformed, Presbyterian and Methodist traditions. Organized denominations are fellowships of believers under a common doctrine. Unfortunately, sometimes that doctrine gets in the way of the mandate of Christianity — to be the salt and light of Christ. That’s not LIKE salt and light but BE salt and light. We’re called to reflect the light of Jesus and season the hearts of others. It’s not I’m right, you’re wrong. It’s not shunning those who disagree with us. It’s all about relationship.

To be sure, although non-denominational, Family Worship Center does have a biblically-based statement of faith featuring the Godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — salvation and eternal life. The bulletin proclaims, “You have chosen to be part of a service that is not ‘religious’ but one that’s filled with love and acceptance of all. Our goal at FWC is not to try to ‘change’ people to believe the way we believe or to behave the way way we behave. It’s simply to say, ‘Hey, there is Jesus! Look to Him! Follow Him!'”

I often wonder what Jesus would do in today’s world. Initially I thought He would reach out across denominational lines and or to the unchurched. But the more I thought about it, my thinking changed. It’s not what would Jesus do in today’s world. It’s what am I doing in Jesus’ Name in today’s world. And when I look in the mirror I must admit, not nearly enough.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Do what makes you happy but consider how it will affect those you love.

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Five Minute Friday — Who

I know I’m not usually here on Friday,  but — surprise! — here I am … a Five Minute Friday on Friday. Don’t get used to it, though, Next week it will probably be a Saturday post.

Most of you know what Five Minute Friday is, but as a quick review, it’s a chance for a group of dedicated writers to get together weekly to write on a one word prompt for five minutes. Nothing fancy. Nothing too deep [unless that’s the direction we writers are convicted to do]. Technically, no edits — including spelling and grammar — although I’m sure we all fudge on that one. I know I do. When I just let my fingers wander, they often can’t keep up with my free range mind and the gibberish on the screen needs deciphering. And we do it all in five minutes! [Well, that’s the goal, although I’ve been known to go a tad beyond at times.]

It all starts with a Twitter party Thursday night where the prompts come to life. I actually “chaperoned” that party last night. Then it’s work time.

The exciting part is after we post, we share. We visit Kate’s spot on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com and link our words before settling in to read the remarkable takes on the prompt word from other writers in the group. I encourage you to visit as well, even if you’re not inclined to join in. It is painless … and so rewarding.

As an extra inducement, I’ve been including testimonials on Five Minute Friday from other contributors as collected in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Flat. This week’s it’s by Ashley. May her words sway you to give us a look.

“FMF is a writing home. I love the writers there because they care more about people than platform, more about encouraging than success.”

So, there you have it, I guess it’s time to get to work. The prompt this week is WHO. The timer is set for five minutes. GO …

Who … am I?

I am a widow, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I am a happily retired newspaper publisher. I am a writer and published author. I am currently in the process of publishing a second book. I sometimes fill in at the pulpit, but readily know I am flawed and only saved through the grace of God.

I am not … a hero. I am not extraordinary. I am not a preacher or teacher. I am not fettered to this life.

Who am I?

I’m just an ordinary Joe walking through this life and sharing it with you. I generally have a half-full attitude. I enjoy storytelling and a good, clean joke. And I walk along side my best fried, Jesus, who often has the task of holding me up and keeps me moving forward. I know … STOP

anything I may have achieved is only by using the talent God gave me, just as I know my shortcomings are through the talents God withheld from me.

I was reminded how much I am defined by my faith when reading a commentary on the Beatitudes. Christian faith is a way of living based on the firm and sure hope that meekness is the way of God, that righteousness and peace will finally prevail, and that God’s future will be a time of mercy and not cruelty. So, blessed are those who live this life now, even when such a life seems foolish, for they will, in the end, be vindicated by God.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you get a promise from God and hear 100 no’s, hold on until you get that one yes.

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Cover Reveal: Wisdom From a Father

Wisdom From a Father.

Wow, that’s a high bar. But the project — my second published work — is moving along quite nicely, albeit it with some curves and challenges. Still, I am anticipating a mid-November hard launch at West Fayette (NY) Presbyterian Church Nov. 18 and a repeat Dec. 6 at the Thompson Free Library, Dover-Foxcroft, ME, for my friends and followers from the Pine Tree State.

Wisdom From a Father is a reflective look at life, segmented into chapters. The words are updates of posts made right here on my blog. I’ve chosen 52 so readers can use the book as a weekly devotional if they so choose.

The cover features a photo I took of the Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, ME. The long planks hopefully invite readers to the lighthouse and, in turn, to open the book and choose their own path and pace. The type — Edwardian Script — was chosen to be personal and intimate. The combination blends the illumination, resilience and comfort of the lighthouse with words that hopefully guide, build inner strength and give hope.

I don’t profess to be a teacher or leader — and never have. I’m just that ordinary Joe walking on the path of life … and sharing it with you. There are joys. There are tribulations. There are reflections. There is every day life. In each essay I try to convey a recognition of a greater Power who colors my perspective. My comments are always filtered through the lens of my Judeo-Christian values and largely based on 40 years of marriage raising five children.

This is my second venture into the world of book publishing. I released my first novella, Heaven Shining Through, last March. For a first time venture, the novella has been receiving mostly solid 4-5 stars and positive reviews. It remains available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and is listed at GoodReads.

For those of you who do not know me, I am  the retired owner/publisher of Reveille/Between the Lakes, a weekly newspaper in Seneca County, NY, right smack in the middle of the beautiful Finger Lakes. I’ve worked in the newspaper industry all my life including stops in New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Washington, DC, Maryland, New York and now Maine. My late wife — my inspiration in life — and I raised five children and currently have 18 grandchildren and three great-granddaughters.

I’m getting excited! I hope you are as well!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Cockiness is the worst thing you could wear.

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The eye of a needle

I try to share my words from the other side of the pulpit. Here are today’s nuggets.

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

An old mountaineer was on his deathbed. He was far from a perfect man, crotchety, bad-tempered, grouchy, grumpy, ornery. He called his wife to him. “Elvira,” he said, “go to the fireplace and take out that loose stone under the mantle.”

She did as instructed, and behind that loose stone she found a shoe box crammed full of cash. “That’s all the money I’ve saved through the years,” said the mountaineer. “When I go, I’m goin’ to take it with me. I want you to take that there box up to the attic and set it by the window. I’ll get it as I go by on my way to heaven.”

That night, the old mountaineer died. His wife followed his instructions.

Several days after the funeral, his wife remembered the shoe box. She climbed up to the attic. There it was, still full of money, sitting by the window. “Oh,” she thought, “I knew it. I knew I should have put it in the basement instead of the attic.”

 

Pastor Jim chose a good week to get away. He is known for uplifting, positive, God-is-with-us sermons and, well, this week’s texts are more suited for Debbie Downers.

It’s not all gloom and doom, but Job isn’t exactly the poster child for sunshine. Paul – or whoever wrote the Book of Hebrews – admonishes us the word of God is …  sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow … And Mark details a somewhat sorrowful conversation our Lord had with a young rich man.

Let’s start there.

Jesus had many conversations during his three and a half year ministry. We know that. We also know not all of them have been written down, so when one of these dialogs appear in the gospels, they must be important. This encounter with the rich young ruler is one of them. Not only Mark, but Matthew and Luke also included the interaction in their accounts.

As for the back story, by combining pieces of information from our three sources, we know the man was ruler. The Greek word used in Luke refers to someone with administrative authority. It is the same word used of various Jewish leaders, including those in charge of a synagogue and members of the Sanhedrin. Matthew’ adds he was neaniskos, a relatively young man. Luke also tells us he was a man of great wealth. The Greek adjective used — sphodra – means very.

So, he was a very wealthy man and a young man. His eyes were set on religious matters — on teachers, eternal life, good deeds. He had the look of a seeker. He seemed willing to listen and eager to learn. In short, he seemed like a perfect disciple-in-the-making.

There is so much to admire about this young man. He’s a great example of a person who did almost everything right — but as you know, “almost” only counts in horseshoes and grenade throwing. He came to the right source — Jesus. He came at the right time –when he was young. He came with the right attitude — Mark tells us he came running to Jesus and knelt before Him. He came with the right question – how to achieve eternal life.

And so we find this young man in his fine robes, immaculately groomed,  running to Jesus. He is found kneeling in the dirt of the roadside at the edge of town with a burning question on his heart — “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

We know the answer, right? There is nothing WE can do. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will have eternal life.” It’s right there throughout Scripture.

But as He often does, Jesus doesn’t follow script. Jesus’ first words are “Why do you call Me good?” He then adds, “No one is good but One, that is, God.”

That gives us a second clue into the personality of the rich, young servant. He recognized Jesus as a moral man, a man of insight and depth, but he did not recognize His divine authority. To the young man, Jesus was another teacher.

Jesus goes on to tell the young man to keep the commandments, but the young man questions Jesus, Which commandments?

Jesus ticks off the last six of the Ten Commandments, the ones dealing with human-to-human relationships. He did not mention the first four because the Jews of the time were well-versed in the mechanics of the first four commandments, in terms of the letter of the law, so Christ lists the ones in which they were weakest … You shall not murder … You shall not commit adultery … You shall not steal … You shall not bear false witness … Honor your father and your mother. Matthew adds, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The young man is taken aback. He tells Christ he has kept the commandments since he was a child. What else should he do?

It’s here Jesus’ intuition is shown in full display. Jesus looked at the young man and loved him. Possibly, this man was adept at keeping the letter of the law, but he was coming up short in abiding by the spirit of the law.

And now for the kicker. Remember Matthew’s addition? You shall love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus was now going to put this to the test. Did the young man really love his neighbor? Would he be willing to give his riches to his poor neighbors?

Go your way, he tells the young man. Sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.

That was too much for our young man. As our evangelists share, He was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. His face stricken with grief. The man’s face fell, says Mark. He gets up and makes no further eye contact with the disciples or Jesus because he cannot go with them. He cannot go with Jesus, as much as he would love to. Why? Because he loves one thing more, and he cannot leave that to serve God. Not all stories end, “and they lived happily ever after.” This is a tragic story of a young man who committed spiritual suicide.

That led to a teaching moment for our Lord. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

How many of you have ever read or heard the “eye of a needle” was a small doorway into the city wall that was so small only a man could enter? It was really hard for a camel to stoop down and enter, but not totally impossible. That sounds good, but there’s only one thing wrong with that — it’s wrong. There’s no linguistic or historical evidence there was ever a doorway in the wall called the eye of a needle.

Respected New Testament scholar Hugh Nibley wrote, “The needle in Matthew and Mark is a raphis, while in Luke it is a belone. Both refer to needles used for sewing. There is absolutely no evidence that there was a gate called the eye of a needle. The ‘gate idea’ was probably invented by some unknown 19th-century minister for the comfort of his well-heeled congregation.”

To try to explain it away as a doorway completely ruins the point. It’s not hard for a camel to go through the eye of a needle — it’s impossible. A camel was the largest creature indigenous to Israel and the eye of a needle was the smallest opening possible. To answer the question posed by the title of this message, How can a camel pass through the eye of a needle? It can’t. It’s totally and completely impossible.

They [the disciples] were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” 

At this point Jesus has the golden opportunity to answer with something like “The poor can be saved.” Or “Believers can be saved.” Or “Those who follow Me can be saved.” But He doesn’t say any of those. He follows through with the meaning of what He had just said about the camel and the needle’s eye. He says in verse 26, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

God specializes in the impossible. When Moses had an ocean in front of him and an army chasing him, he faced an impossible situation, but God specializes in the impossible — and He made a 12-lane express highway in the middle of the ocean. When Joshua faced an impregnable walled city, God directed him to just march around it a few times. Impossible! But the God of the impossible made the walls crumble. When little David faced a nine-foot monster with only a slingshot, victory was impossible by human standards. But the God of the impossible directed the stone to strike Goliath right between the eyes, then David used Goliath’s own sword to decapitate his fallen foe — he showed everyone there he was someone who knew how to get ahead! When Gabriel visited a teenager named Mary, he announced she would give birth to a son who would be the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Mary said, “How can this be, since I’m a virgin?” Gabriel said, “Nothing is impossible for God.”

So, what chance do I have of getting into heaven on my own?

Zilch. It’s the same for a rich man, poor man, beggar, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. It would be easier to get a camel through the eye of needle than for me to enter the kingdom of heaven based on my own righteousness.

Our Lord’s main purpose was to show the rich young ruler his lost condition, not to reveal to him God’s plan of salvation. You need to get lost before you can get saved. No one is ready for salvation until he realizes his guilt before a holy God. The Lord Jesus skillfully demonstrated to this man he was a guilty lawbreaker. He did not love his neighbor more than his wealth.

Too many are like the rich young ruler. We long for the privilege of everlasting life, but are unwilling to put Jesus first in this life. Not every person is required to give up all wealth, but this young man had made riches his god, and was in fact breaking the first and second commandments. Riches were his idol.

The truth is money itself has a way of polluting us, tempting us to compromise our values in order to gain it and retain it.

What about us? Do we love our neighbor? Do we love our bank account? Do we love our careers? Do we push the Lord to the side? Do we “squeeze in” our time with the Lord … a few minutes each day … an hour on Sunday?

Selling one’s possession and giving to the poor is not a condition for receiving eternal life. Over and over again in the gospels we find the one condition necessary to have eternal life is to believe in Jesus Christ. Repeatedly Paul teaches faith in Christ, and faith alone, is the sole condition for salvation.

Some people spell salvation “D-O.” They believe salvation can be earned by doing things such as taking communion, being baptized, attending church, praying or some other religious act. They believe you will go to heaven if you do enough good deeds. The other way to spell salvation is “D-O-N-E.” In other words, God has already done everything necessary for us to be saved — and we can only accept or reject His free offer.

With us … impossible. With God … made possible.

There is no doubt. Eternal things have top priority. There are many things in this life we must do that are not spiritual — our work, household chores etc., and these we should do to the best of our ability. The way we go about our mundane tasks can be a good Christian witness to the community. But when these things crowd out spiritual things and become all absorbing to the exclusion of the spiritual, they are wrong. As long as the spiritual is top of the list, we have nothing to fear.

In this world of sin it is easy to get our values distorted . Property, money, material possessions or a large bank account seem to give us security, but it is all a dream. We came into this world with nothing and it is certain we will go out with no material possessions. But Jesus in essence says, “The point I am making about the rich is true for everybody. This is not a problem with money. It’s a problem with the human heart.”

To me, this is one of the saddest stories in the Bible. Jesus invited the rich young man to follow Him and he refused. Who knows, he might have become the 13th disciple. There was only one thing he lacked, but it was a big obstacle. The saddest words of tongue or pen are these four words, What might have been?

What is the one thing in your life that may be preventing you from following Jesus? Is there any thing, any hindrance you are unwilling to give up to follow Jesus? You may not be wealthy, but if there is something you possess, or that possesses you, laying it down is a vital part of following the Master.

He must have your all, as He calls gently to you: Come, follow me.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Confidence is the best thing you could wear.

 

 

 

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Five Minute Friday — Praise

Saturday confession time. I’m a Five Minute Friday backslider, often falling out of my Friday writing routine and into a Saturday session. But, through the grace of God and the indulgence of my fellow Five Minute Friday contributors, I know I’m forgiven! Heck, they sort of get used to finding me here in this time slot.

Under Kate Motaung’s direction, hundreds of bloggers rally around a themed word and, well, write for five minutes. No rules. No backtracks. Nothing profound. Not perfect. Just five minutes of writing, letting the Spirit move you … on Friday … Saturday … or sometimes beyond. Then we link at on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com, read the remarkable stories from other writers in the group and encourage them.

I’ve been using testimonials about the group and the exercise from other members as collected in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Flat. This week’s it’s by Melinda. I hope she inspires you to give this writing activity a shot. I hope at least her words inspire you to at least give this writing workout a look.

“Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Friends you haven’t met yet?’ That’s what FMF is. A group of friends who get together all over the Internet to write and encourag2e each other. We pray for each other, we talk and laugh, all through social media, a platform that wassn’t so readily available 15 years ago. FMF means friends who write and who are faithful.”

Our word this week is PRAISE. Let’s start the timer and GO…

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Each night, I join my family {most of them, most of the time} by sharing blessings of the day on Facebook. The point is to stop at some point during the day for just a second and take in the greatness of God … an ah-ha moment or just routine events that put thing in perspective. That’s how I approached today’s prompt. Here are my most recent “blessings”.

Praise the Lord

An evening out with friends at the Dover-Foxcroft United Methodist Church Bean Supper. Old fashioned camaraderie and a good meal. What a blessing.

Praise the Lord

On the way to our walk we saw a couple of deer on the side of the road. While on our walk we came across a gopher (?) hole along the riverbank. Angelina stuck head down the hole. It got me thinking about the intricacies of nature. Deer in the woods … gophers underground … all comfortably co-habitating. Wouldn’t it be nice if we did the same?

Praise the Lord

I taught my first writing class, Take the Fear Out of Writing. Met some great folks. We’re going to have some fun over the next five weeks.

Praise the Lord

Spotted full blooms on the Christmas cactus this morning. Right on time [okay, maybe a few weeks early, but enjoyable nonetheless.]

Praise the Lord

The rising sun glistening off the western trees was s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r! I didn’t see it but there was a morning rainbow viewable from the apartments as well. God has blessed Maine.

Praise the Lord

Blessed to have a good groomer for Angelina. She almost looks like a — dog again!

Praise the Lord

I was tuned into animals and birds today. It started with a mini-herd of deer this morning — I counted seven heading toward the river. On our walk, … STOP

I noticed ducks in the river. Throughout the day squirrels darted here and there. While visiting with a friend and neighbor I spotted an eagle over the river and I was riveted to the roof of the Masonic hall where a cadre of pigeons surveyed the landscape. Our furry and feathered friends brought some entertainment, majesty and beauty to a gray day in Maine. Thank you Lord.

Praise the Lord

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Don’t depend on other people to validate you.

 

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