Heaven IS Shining Through

Each journey begins with a single step. But at some point, you have to take a little bit of a jump.

That’s where I am. It jump time. And there is no turning back.

The novella, Heaven Shining Through, has made it to the printer. Next stop is real hard copies in my hands! That’s expected in about a week.

Now if you thought putting the manuscript together was tough on the mind and soul, you haven’t been faced with preparing for launch and marketing. For the past few days, I’ve been consumed with keeping in contact with my publisher (who will handle national exposure), setting up a local network, finding and confirming a book launch venue and scheduling a host of presentations in two states.

The official public book launch will be held April 29, noon-2 p.m. at The Mill Café, Dover-Foxcroft, ME. In addition, I will be presenting a copy of the book to the Thompson Free Library May 1, 2 p.m., holding a book signing and presentation at Edith B. Ford Library, Ovid, NY, May 3, 7 p.m. and presenting a copy of the book to the Interlaken (NY) Public Library board, May 8, 7 p.m. Other Seneca County (NY) presentations are planned {but not confirmed} at the Waterloo Library, Mynderse Library (Seneca Falls) and Elizabeth Garnsey Delavan Library (Lodi). I would also like to make some presentations to the libraries in Paterson and Totowa, NJ, probably later in May or June. Of course, I’m also open to meeting with individual reading groups and organizations. If anyone is interested, just let me know.

Heaven Shining Through will be available at the book signings and presentations and online through Xulon.com, Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. The online availability is expected by late April. You can also order a copy of Heaven Shining Through by contacting me by e-mail at revblt@rochester.rr.com. I will start processing books for those who have already requested copies.

Heaven Shining Through is a story within a story. The underlining theme is the restoration of a relationship between Sam and her mother. It is told through the prism of a flashback of Sam’s life — her early home experiences, her wilder side, meeting the love of her life, Chad, her growth as a wife and mother through sorrow and blessings, and the presence of God in an ordinary life.

I tried to keep it real with appropriate language and activities. I purposely stayed away from being “preachy” but rather told a story that showed the presence of God in everyday, sometimes messy lives. My hope is readers will be able to see that.

A lot of the activity takes place in the greater Paterson, NJ, area, which is where I called home as a youth. Some of the backdrops will be familiar to fellow Patersonians who grew up in the mid 60s.

It’s been quite a ride!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. — Confucius


Posted in book, celebration, communication, entertainment, Faith, family, Friends, invitation, Life, love, Memories, relationships, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Minute Friday — Routine

Welcome to Five Minute Friday … on Friday!

Our facilitator,Kate Motaung turned the prompt — this week ROUTINE — over to the FMF crew last night to expand and embellish. And, of course, we meet and greet at her place (in the Community section at www.fiveminutefriday.com) to share and network. It’s fun, fun, fun and keeps our neurons sharp.

I’ve been sharing reasons from our writing corps about the value of the exercise. They were taken from Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. This week, don’t listen to me, listen to Holly.

“The Five Minute Friday community helped me see what the online community was all about. When I first started going to the Twitter party and linking up with everyone, I was so new to all this. Everyone welcomed me right in and were so encouraging. Then a couple of years later, when we all got to meet at the the FMF Retreat, it was amazing! The online community in real life, putting names to faces and hearing everyone’s voices. It really made the community come alive. I’m grateful to be a part of such a wonderful group of friends.”

And that’s what we are … friends who support each other, laugh with each other, cry with each other, listen to each other, share with each other, pray for each other. I would really like to have you join us weekly or as you are able. We don’t have many “rules”, but “suggestions” which are available at http://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/

With that said, it’s time to let the mind wander as the fingers try to keep up. The timer has set so it’s time to GO …

We all have routines. Many are dependent on our work status, and by that I mean ALL work, not just paid work {like motherhood?}.

My routine, for example, consists of getting up too early to puppy eyes and stares, taking care of the dog, brewing coffee, taking a “good morning” photo to share with my kids,  taking my meds, spending time with the Lord, getting breakfast, reading Ron Hutchcraft’s Word With You {Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat on weekends} and sharing a nugget with family and friends on Facebook, sharing a personal inspirational thought on Facebook, sharing a visual thought for the day and daily reminder on Facebook, catching up on my Facebook feed, catching up my news feeds and going through my e-mails.

On Mondays, I take a moment … STOP

to pray individually for my family and friends with an e-mail “words for the week” message and try to get the Facebook week off with a smile. On Wednesdays I share some midweek mirth with family and friends. On Fridays {okay, usually Saturday} I sit down for some serious Five Minute Friday free range thoughts.

That’s my routine … a couple of hours a day committed to sharing my life with those most important to me — from God to family to friends to sometimes anonymous Facebook followers. And if truth be known, if any of those steps are skipped, when I lay my head on the pillow at night, I don’t feel like it was a successful day.

We all have routines. My prayer is those routines have meaning.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: The best angle from which to approach any problem is the try-angle. You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short-range failures. — Charles C. Noble


Posted in attitude, communication, encouragement, Faith, family, Five Minute Friday, Friends, giving, God, Life, love, prayer, relationships, support, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heaven IS Shining Through

“Congratulations! … Now that you have approved all three files (front cover, back cover, and interior text), your files will be finalized for the printer.”

Those were the words in my inbox this morning … which means — my novella, Heaven Shining Through, is another step closer to reality. I thought this would be a good time to reveal the final front and back cover.

It appears my real work is about to begin — marketing the book. Xulon Press is handling some of the marketing, like contacting national outlets and online distribution. I expect the book will be available through me (by mail or at book signings), the Xulon website and Amazon. I know they will also be pitching the book to other national and Christian retailers. More to come on that as we finalize the plan.

My job is to market the book locally, making contact with interested venues. I am meeting tomorrow with a Chamber representative to set up a book launch here in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. In addition, I have been spending the past few weeks finding other potential outlets here and in New York and New Jersey. So it becomes a scheduling matter as I attempt to maximize exposure for the book outside my comfort zone of friends and family.I can truly see myself saying at some point, “What day is it? Where am I?”

So I have to come up with a local venue, a promotional plan, promote it, find someone to introduce me … and breathe, breathe, breathe.

In addition to the launch, I would like to make a number of book presentations to the libraries in Dover-Foxcroft, Seneca County, NY, and Paterson and Totowa, NJ. That’s going to take coordination!

I’m happy with the way it has all come together, and I hope the reading public enjoys the book. I did float the galley proofs to a few people for their initial reactions. Here are some of the excerpts…

I like it … This is definitely looking for a Christian audience who likes to read a story with the highlights of a life more or less “well lived”. I thought it was refreshing, especially because the main character was mainly focused on her life at a time when women were less encouraged in that respect. And then, she appreciated the relationship she had enjoyed with her husband, and ultimately her mother. And I like the title. — Cathy

So many tears! … You have a way with words and telling a story. — Jennifer

It’s a good story.  I found the characters engrossing and was eager to keep reading to see what happened next through each chapter. — Matt

Enjoyed the read. Great novella. — Erin

Full reviews will be shared as they become available.

As a take a deep inhaling breath, let’s see where this chapter leads us.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo daVinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein. — H. Jackson Brown

Posted in blessings, book, celebration, courage, entertainment, Faith, family, Friends, Life, love, Maine, Memories, New Jersey, plan, relationships, Seneca County, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Minute Friday — Provide

Happy Fri… I mean, Saturday. It may be a day late, but it’s time for my weekly Five Minute Friday contribution.

It’s somewhat appropriate. The prompt this week is PROVIDE. While I recognize all the Lord has provided, one thing was missing yesterday … time. The shades in the mind were drawn well before the lids closed.

But today is a new day with the sunshine warming the brain for random thoughts on the subject.

Our facilitator,Kate Motaung turned the prompt over to the FMF crew to expand and embellish. And, of course, we meet and greet at her place (in the Community section at www.fiveminutefriday.com) to share and network. It’s fun, fun, fun and keeps our neurons sharp.

Ready to join in yet?

Okay, here’s another take from Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. Don’t listen to me. Listen to Laura.

“When Sara “Gitz” Frankl began blogging in 2008, she was searching for her life purpose. The disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis stripped Sara of the ability to work to make a living. As a young, vibrant girl in her late 20s and early 30s, she so desperately wanted to be a productive member of society. The goals Sara had for her life … a career, family, travel, were no longer something that could be achieved. Sara’s blog, Gitzengirl, provided her not only a purpose, but a community of people that proved to be her lifeline as she became theirs. Sara may not have been able to work to make a living, but this blog brought her a life! When Lisa Jo [Baker, the original hostess] began challenging her bloggers with Five Minute Friday, it provided Sara’s week with something to look forward to … something that brought her joy. Being confined to her home 24/7 and restricted from visitors because her immune system was compromised, those special things she could look forward to became priceless to her. Sara never missed an opportunity to provide her readers with some of her most profound and deep thoughts through her five minute Friday posts. I believe you can hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit in many of Sara’s Five Minute Friday writings. Those writings provided us with an opportunity to hear our Heavenly Father working through one of His earthly disciples … my sister … Sara!

“For that, I am eternally grateful.”


Sara passed away Sept. 24 2011, but one of the last things she said was, “I want people to continue learning, believing and trusting in God, as I have tried to be His disciple, BUT,” she said, “it’s not about me, it’s about Him, that is the message I want people to hear.” Sara did not want us to put a period on her Choose Joy discipleship. The journey Sara walked had a purpose and that purpose did not have to end because she wasn’t physically with us.

In January 2016 with the assistance of Mary Carver and Hachette publishing, the book Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts was launched. Sara’s discipleship and spirit-led words have continued to change lives! God is still speaking using Sara’s journey as an example to us. Her family also set up the Choose Joy Sara Gitz Frankl Memorial Foundation to provide grants from the proceeds received, and on Sara’s heavenly birthday, Sept. 24, 2017, the Choose Joy Foundation with the assistance of Positive Note Publishing, launched a Study Guide and DVD series to accompany the book . If you are interested in the book or study guide and DVD series, send me an e-mail to choosejoyfoundation@gmail.com.

There you go. Now to this week’s task. The timer is set. Let’s GO…

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? Matthew 6:25-30

That’s the Scripture verse that popped into my head. God will provide … just as He does for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. As Jesus Himself states, Are you not more valuable than they?

Of course, that was know-it-all Jesus speaking. We have-to-see-it mortals don’t often take the time to stop and listen — just listen — to that admonition. We want the earthy conveniences like food, water, clothing and shelter … and we want the best …  and we want them now. When we don’t see those tangibles, we start worrying and fretting. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

As we look back on our lives, we can see God HAS provided. We may have been hungry or thirsty at times, our clothes may have been tattered or our shelter might have been a blanket under the stars. But we’re here. We made it through our determination and ingenuity {ha, ha, ha}, spurred by God’s providence.

God provides our material needs and our spiritual needs. It’s called grace. He wants just one thing from us … to bring us home. Obviously, He can do it any way He wants, but we have to want to participate. And sometimes we need to be dropped a peg or two to make that connection.

When He seeks us, are we willing to accept His … STOP

invitation? Do we thank Him for His providence or do we want more, more, more? Are we grateful for what the Lord provides?

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. — Arnold H. Glasow

Posted in attitude, birds, blessings, Blogs, book, celebration, clothes, communication, encouragement, Faith, family, Five Minute Friday, Friends, God, grace, inspiration, joy, Life, love, relationships, stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lenten Reflections 2018

I usually try to share my words  from the pulpit. Here’s what I shared Sunday at Dover-Foxcroft United Methodist Church.

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

There is no biblical mandate for the observance of Lent, although we learned a few weeks back the model is in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning His public ministry, during which He endured temptation by Satan.

It reminded me of a story – I have many – about this Lenten observance. And coming from a Catholic background, I can relate. Fridays and fish just sort of go together.

John Smith was the only Protestant to move into a large Catholic neighborhood. On the first Friday of Lent, John was outside grilling a big juicy steak on his grill. Meanwhile, all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna fish for supper. This went on each Friday of Lent.

On the last Friday of Lent, the neighborhood men got together and decided something had to be done about John. He was tempting them to eat meat each Friday of Lent, and they couldn’t take it anymore. They decided to try and convert John to Catholicism. They went over and talked to him. John decided to join all of his neighbors and become a Catholic, which made them all very happy.

They took him to church, and the priest sprinkled some water over him, and said , “You were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist, and now you are a Catholic.”

The men were so relieved. Now their biggest Lenten temptation was resolved.

The next year’s Lenten season rolled around. The first Friday of Lent came, and, just at supper time when the neighborhood was settling down to their cold tuna fish dinner, the smell of steak cooking on a grill came wafting into their homes. The neighborhood men could not believe their noses! WHAT WAS GOING ON?

They called each other up and decided to meet over in John’s yard to see if he had forgotten it was the first Friday of Lent. They arrived just in time to see John standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water. He was sprinkling some water over his steak on the grill, saying, “You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, and now you are a fish.”


Seriously, this whole Lenten observance was first established in the church in the 800s  as a way to persuade Christians of the day to set aside some time for reflection on the upcoming tridiuum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday —  reflection, repentance, self denial and prayer. I’m going to try and touch on those four thoughts — reflection, repentance, self denial and prayer.

We all have a purpose. Often, we don’t know what that purpose is or at least, recognize it. But we all have a purpose … something that makes us us, creations of God.

You see, it’s not really our purpose. It’s God’s purpose for us. That’s what we don’t quite understand. He has put us in our circumstances for a reason … perhaps to witness to someone or receive witnessing from someone … perhaps to slow us down or speed us up … perhaps to let us grow or help someone else grow. He has a purpose for us, right here, right now.

I’ll be honest, when I was younger — much younger — I didn’t realize what my purpose — His purpose — was. I generally went through the motions plying my trade and connecting with my little circle of family and friends.

But I’ve learned to recognize there is a greater purpose in play. All the good times, all the bad times, all the laughter, all the tears were designed to hone my spirit into recognizing His purpose for my life.

I still don’t always get it right. I sometimes get the “my” and “His” mixed up, but as I’ve aged, I have come to realize everything I do impacts someone else. Everything I say impacts others. Everything I write touches others — often unknown to me.

It’s our responsibility to use the talents we are given — the talents. There is no job too small done right that doesn’t honor our God.

It’s not just our jobs. It’s our purpose. It’s His purpose. And it isn’t just our work or career. It’s our relationships. It’s how we deal with other people … those we love and those we aren’t quite as fond of.

It’s taken me a while to realize that. We’re all interconnected. Everyone we meet — in person or through the virtual media — is a fellow journeyman (or woman) on this walk through life. We touch each other in ways we can’t imagine. They touch us the same way. We share ideas (or reject ideas) and our personalities shine through. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s not our personality. It’s the personality forged by the strengths and the weaknesses and the smiles and the tears God has given us.

Be unique. Shine. But also reflect on the thought our mission, our purpose, after all, is to reflect the work of our Creator. It’s not to forge our own path for our glory. It’s to forge a path for His glory.


That, of course, is step one. Step two is change or repentance. As we’re pondering what we do — or don’t do — in our spiritual/communal lives, we must take action. As we become more in tune with God’s plan in us, we have to take the steps to assure we’re marching to the same beat as our Lord.

Let me give you an example. In my wildest imagination, I never would have thought I would be on this side of the pulpit. My faith was a private faith — a one-on-one with the Lord. Sure, I would join in communal events like church, but my solace was knowing I could come to the Lord as a friend any time any where. Faith was incredibly personal.

My wife Karen and I came to “faith” from different paths. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t trust in the Lord with all my heart. I made that commitment formally when I received confirmation way back in grade school. At that time, I pledged my heart and soul to the Lord.

Karen’s journey was a little different. While she, too, was raised in the church as a youngster, it wasn’t until March of 1977 when she fully understood and accepted the Lord as her personal Savior.

I traveled the traditional path. Karen enjoyed a rebirth. I focused on the Old Testament as a foundation for the New Testament. Karen reveled in the New Testament as a fulfillment of the Old Testament. I was more comfortable with orthodoxy and hymns. Karen enjoyed good worship music and energized services. I had an exclusive personal relationship with the Lord. Karen was more inclusive. I wasn’t comfortable sharing my faith. Karen was quite comfortable sharing her faith. I was reluctant to lead prayer. Karen was open and willing to lead prayer.

From these two divergent views, we came together with a common purpose. Karen introduced me to contemporary Christian music. I taught her how to discern matters of faith. Karen opened my world to diversity and evangelism. I drew her into a deeper personal relationship with the Lord. Karen showed me how to share my faith. I showed her how to live her faith.

She was supportive as I embarked in my ministry in the Catholic press and behind me all the way when I was became an elder at Tyre Reformed Church in New York, jokingly referring to me as “Pastor Joe” when I delivered my first sermon. I encouraged her to start Manna, a Christian-based publication in Illinois, and pushed her — without too much resistance — into being active in the church. We were Eucharistic ministers at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Ohio and prayer partners for each other throughout the years.

I do remember a “discussion” we had shortly after Karen was “reborn.” We were at a crossroads … she was attending a more Pentecostal church while I was going to the Catholic chapel at the local hospital. Our finances were unraveling. Our 8% ARM was adjusted up the maximum 2%. We got into a terrible argument about something I don’t even remember. I flew out of the house and peeled out, spending the next few hours at the park in Belvidere, IL, just reflecting.

When I got back home, ready and willing to apologize, I was greeted with “Do you feel like a man, now?” referring to my rubber-burning departure. The apology went out the window as I simple said, “No,” and went to bed.

The next couple of days were strained to say the least. That weekend she went off to her church and I went off to mine. When we got back I said, “We have to talk about this.” She said, “Yes, we do.”

So we set aside the time to just talk. Neither one of us could remember what sparked the original argument. Instead, the conversation quickly turned to our faith journeys.

I told her I was uncomfortable with her church which, to me, was too Pentecostal and had some questionable doctrines. I liked the pastor and the people, but its doctrine seemed too divisive. The church seemed too willing to separate the sheep and to cast non-members as non-believers who should be avoided … even if they were spouses. Karen wanted to be baptized again at that church. I told her I wouldn’t stand in her way, but before she made that decision, she should pray on it and check out its doctrines, especially concerning speaking in tongues as a prerequisite for believers. Just because the pastor says something doesn’t make it true.

She told me she wasn’t comfortable in a Catholic church. “All you do is stand up, sit down, kneel down, stand up,” she noted. “There’s no worship, no songs of praise. Even during the sermons, rarely do you hear a priest talk about Scripture or the plan of salvation. It’s the same thing, over and over. And when was the last time you saw a Catholic with a Bible? They don’t even bring them to church.”

The debate lingered … and it was a debate, not an argument. My defense was simply my faith was in Jesus Christ; I believed Jesus Christ was the promised Savior; He became man and died to free my personal sins; through Jesus Christ I was assured salvation. My religion was an extension of that faith.

But she pressed me further and asked if I was a Christian (remember, she had been “reborn” just a few months back). I answered a resounding “Yes!” but I was actually taken aback. How could this baby in faith question me … who had walked the walk for years? In retrospect, I acted like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

“I thought so,” she replied. “But I never was sure.”

It was sobering moment for me. I guess I may have walked the walk, but I certainly didn’t share that walk, especially with Karen.

But the discussion became an opportunity for us to get on the same faith page. We both learned — sometimes to our regret — congregations can become so wrapped up in the form of faith, they forget the substance of faith. Going to church becomes an obligation rather than the celebration it was intended to be … a celebration of praise and thanksgiving to our Father for the gift of His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives … a celebration of repentance for our transgressions against God and our fellow man … a celebration of prayer and fellowship with others and ourselves … a celebration of our faith as told through Scripture … a celebration of our victory in Jesus Christ through the actuality of Eucharist.

Karen taught me those truths.


Next is self-denial. During this time, it’s traditional to “give up” something — like chocolate, candy or ice cream as a kid (or as an adult). As we matured, it may have been “doing” something like extra devotional reading.

But it brings to mind an incident in my freshman year in high school. After the obligatory Ash Wednesday service, we returned to our classes. In Religion, Father Francis asked us what we were giving up for Lent. We went around the room — there were only about 15 of us — and dutifully shared our Lenten sacrifices. “Hmm,” he said as he walked back to the chalkboard. Then, completely unexpected, he flicked his pointer with full force on the chalkboard, the sound reverberating through the old mill turned schoolhouse. He pivoted around and said simply, “Why?”

Well we were moronic freshmen. We didn’t have a clue. We sort of looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.

“If you don’t know why,” he continued, “why do it at all?”

I supposed there were some in the classroom — I’m not pointing out who (pointing to myself) — who took that as a Lenten ritual pass.

But, seriously, he was right on. Often we do things or don’t do things only because that is what is expected. It becomes rote. It becomes routine. And the intent becomes blurred and eventually disappears.

That’s the danger we face. We don’t look at the whys anymore. We don’t challenge ourselves. Take the time this season to look for those answers. We’re not getting into heaven because we gave up chocolate for Lent. We’re giving up chocolate for Lent to recognize what Jesus gave up just by coming here to save us and allowing a portal back into heaven. Ponder that over the next few weeks.


Of course, our Lord was always in prayer. He was always cognizant of His Father and His Father’s will. And, yes, He didn’t particularly welcome the trials and tribulations He would have to endure during His ministry, but He turned it over to the Father. Thy will be done.

One television program my Karen and I generally tried to watch was Touched By An Angel. It’s nice to think we’re touched by angels and in the span of 47 minutes lives can be turned around. But angels are another topic. What I’m going for here is the transformation process found for our saved soul.

More often than not, at some point in the show that soul she is trying to save tells Monica to tell God to butt out. “Where has God been?” might be the question. Whenever that point in the show arrives, I’m always reminded of George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life when he gets popped in the mouth after praying.

You know, I think sometimes God must get bored up there in heaven. I know I would, listening to the same old rhetoric over and over … words spilling from the lips, rote-style. “Heavenly Father this …” or “gracious God that …”

I think prayer is something else. It’s communication. It’s simply talking with God … from the heart, not the mind, from the soul, not the lips. Sometimes it’s just being in His presence without any words.

I’ve always had an open line to God. I’m not a “formal” pray-er. In the middle of a traffic jam or when in the solitude of my distress I might internally or externally scream out at God. “What the heck is going on?” I might cry, perhaps not that sedately. I can talk with God one-on-one like a friend … and I know God speaks to me as a friend. And we all know how caustic and sometimes blunt a true friend can be, cutting through all the garbage in our lives and touching our very souls.

I said it before and I’ll say it again. This week, stop praying.

Well, that got some attention. In fact, after preaching here before, I was speaking with a woman about the sermon. She said she enjoyed it. I asked her what was her take on it. With a big smile on her face and an arm on my shoulder, she said, “You told me to stop praying.”

And I was invited back!

But I was serious. Stop praying … and start talking to God from your heart. The heart is our emotional fountain. Let God know your emotions. He knows them anyway. He knows our heart. He knows our motives. He knows the truth … better than we do. Don’t masquerade your emotions with platitudes. If you’re angry with God, let Him know. But if you’re happy with God, share that joy as well with words of praise, not because that’s what should be done, but because that’s the way you feel.

A contemporary favorite song of mine is Trust in You by Lauren Daigle. The chorus says it all …
When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

Let’s be honest. THAT is extremely difficult. Our faith does get shaken. Our focus does get diverted. We retreat into ourselves or we lash out at others. We get hurt. We get disappointed. We get disillusioned. We can’t make sense of the violence or abuse or illness or even the death of someone close.

Truth is we don’t have to. There is a greater Power who has all the answers. My job — your job — isn’t to figure out the answers. My job — your job — is to trust in the God who has been there through the good and bad times. Isn’t it exciting to know we have an anchor in the storms of life?

And finally, we are told in the Gospel how Jesus was tempted after His fasting, reflection and prayer.

So, don’t get discouraged when you become tempted after moving closer in step with Jesus. Satan, the great deceiver, doesn’t care about you or me. It’s his goal to derail any efforts by anyone who tries to have a deeper relationship with the Lord or spread the good news of the gospel.

I have learned through the years, the more obstacles we face when attempting to walk closer to the Lord or presenting issues of faith generally means the devil is working overtime to block the message. That was evident when I had my mini-stroke a week before a three-week date on this side of the pulpit in New York. Something in those words must of had Satan shaking.

I saw Satan’s gnarled hands at work the last time I preached in New York. Despite a short notice, my confirmation to Pastor Steve somehow got lost in the clouds, so I wasn’t even sure it was delivered ot a Sunday service. I got in late Saturday night and left my “church” clothes in the car, meaning I had to trek to the car in single digits to retrieve them.  I did some final revisions around 5 in the morning only to have the program stop working not once, not twice, but three times (my bad, didn’t always save as often as I should have). And I forgot my reading glasses! Sometimes, it feels the closer you try to walk with and share Jesus, you feel like you just got punched in the mouth. Remember George Bailey?

But the amazing thing is, we’re not alone. Jesus was tempted too. He was promised the lies of Satan. And we are as well, especially as we come closer to God’s will in our lives. That’s how Satan rolls.

Jesus didn’t need those promises. Neither do we. We have the Light in Jesus. He is the S-O-N shine — that’s S-O-N.

So, whenever you are tempted or discouraged or disillusioned because of delayed prayer or sudden challenges, wear the circumstance as a badge. It means you’re on the right track and caught Satan’s attention.

God’s will. God’s purpose reflected through us. May it be so this Lenten season and throughout our lives.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. — Henry Ford, Lent

Posted in celebration, communication, Dover-Foxcroft UMC, encouragement, Faith, family, Friends, God, Karen, Lent, Life, love, Memories, motivation, prayer, reflect, relationships, repentance, self denial, sermon, Thoughts, West Fayette Presbyterian, worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebration of Life

I attended a Celebration of Life for Arlene Richardson this morning. I didn’t know Mrs. Richardson; I attended in deference to a close church friend. Mrs. Richardson was her mother. It was my first in Maine, but certainly not the first in my lifetime. Call it a wake, services, funeral, celebration of life or whatever, the day always marks the closing of a chapter … in Mrs. Richardson’s case, a 94 year chapter. At all these services, you hear of the grit of the journey and you get a chance to walk with them — sometimes just a few steps, sometimes more depending on how well you knew them.

Her son, Alton Richardson, officiated bringing her life to, well, life, especially for those who did not know her. It was a moving celebration with tears, laughter, song and Scripture — attributes well know to Mrs. Richardson, her five children and their spouses, 11 grandchildren, many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, several nieces and nephews and many friends.

Mrs. Richardson was a member of Ripley United Methodist Church and was Sunday school superintendent for many years. She was active in local affairs including being a 4-H leader for eight years, member and officer of the Ripley Grange, member of the Busy Fingers in Harmony (ME) and the American Legion Auxiliary. She was well known for her cooking skills. She was a long time cook at the Ripley and Dexter schools and other facilities and helped organize and cook for many benefit suppers.

Those are the “facts.” But as I looked around a packed community church, I could sense her life touched even more people than she ever realized. Her legacy spanned generations. I felt it. They came to say good-bye. However, her family knew — as did the rest of us believers — this wasn’t good-bye. We’ll get to meet her again.

Her son put it best. Paraphrasing, he said she inhaled her last breath the morning of Feb. 27, but exhaled in heaven, tossed her cumbersome walker aside, clicked her heels and walked down the golden streets with her Savior. What a picture!

My mind raced back almost 10 years ago when my wife took her last breath with grace and dignity. There was no apprehension. There was no tension in her hands. It may not be scientifically nor theologically true, but I believe she, too, opened her eyes to the glory of eternity as she saw her Lord and Savior come with open arms to embrace her and bring her to the Father.

Alton said he had one regret. He didn’t sing to her just days before the trip across the Jordan. He made up for it during the service, but chided everyone in the church to not put off saying I love you … or visiting even by phone … or singing. Don’t bring regrets to the casket.

Our sadness … their joy!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. — Carl Bard

Posted in celebration, comfort, death, Faith, family, Friends, funeral, God, grief, heaven, joy, Life, love, Memories, peace, relationships, support | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Minute Friday — Tired

It’s Friday and Five Minute Friday time!

You know the drill. We get our weekly prompt, let the spirit flow for five minutes, post, link up in the Community section at www.fiveminutefriday.com and — best part — visit other writers to support and encourage them.

For the past few months, I have also been sharing testimonials from fellow writers as outlined in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. This week, I’ll share some words from Ruthie’s heart.

“Five Minute Friday taught me the importance of blogger community. The suspense of the ‘word’ from Kate, receiving the word and hammering away for five precious minutes (I never knew five minutes could be so short), sharing and reading the creativity of other bloggers, affirming and receiving affirmation, all comprise this wonderful family of five minute Friday-ers. These dear souls accept, love, support and pray for one another in true fellowship and community. I don’t always get to participate but when I do, it’s like walking into a room full of old friends.”


With that, the timer has been set so it’s time to tackle this week’s prompt — TIRED. GO …

Let’s face it. We all get tired. Life wears us down. We don’t get enough seep. We’re constantly on the go.

But, how do you act when you’re tired?

For me, I tend to get silly. I’ll find something humorous in  an everyday statement or situation. My kids could always tell when I pulled an all-nighter. And they often remind me I have been known to do some outrageously funny things when sleep deprived {like playing ping pong with a ball at the dinner table that ultimately ended up in the coffee … but that’s another story.} My ears are generally the first to shut down, followed not too soon thereafter by my eyes.

The same is true with my spiritual life. I have been known to “put off” time with the Lord because I was sleepy. My reasoning was I couldn’t give the Lord my full attention, but let’s face it, that’s an excuse. True time with the Lord is always refreshing.

But I do it … and probably you do it as well. It’s all to easy to shut down when we’re tired. It’s too easy to slink into a restful position … STOP

… rather than push through.

Now, I’m not advocating push, push, push. But I am advocating taking the time for yourself to minimize those times of tiredness.

Well, those are my pearls of wisdom {sow’s ears} for the week. Don’t tire yourself out to the point of exhaustion. Live life with your eyes wide open.

As an aside, I will be preaching Sunday at Dover-Foxcroft United Methodist Church. Please pray the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Your work isn’t your life. Your life is your life. — Rick Warren

Posted in balance, children, communication, excuse, Faith, family, Five Minute Friday, health, Humor, Life, love, relationships, sermon, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments