That Still Small Voice

“That still, small voice” typically refers to the voice of the Holy Spirit in most Christian circles.  Why am I telling you this?  Well, I had a close call this week that illustrates the importance of hearing His voice.

I have had to pull some heavy overtime hours lately with my job.  This has meant that I’ve needed to be to work at 3:30 in the morning for the past couple of weeks.  We live about five miles from my workplace.  Out of that distance, the last two miles or so of the trip take me down a state route.  Within the last half-mile, there is a fifty-yard section of woods on both sides of the road.

(If you aren’t a follower of Jesus, you may not be aware that He promised us the Holy Spirit as a constant companion.  So, as I have walked my life out with Him, I have gotten to know the Holy Spirit’s voice pretty good.   This all may sound strange to you, but it is an amazingly true and exciting part of belonging to Jesus Christ.)

On Monday morning, it was raining as I drove to work.  As I turned onto the state route and accelerated, I instantly felt an impression–that still, small voice–saying, “Watch for deer.”  That impression by Him continued to get stronger the closer I got to that wooded area. By the time I was driving through there, it was just about ringing in my spiritual ears!  I was keenly aware of my surroundings as I drove through the wooded area and had slowed down considerably.

That wooded area has guard-rails on both sides of the road.  No less than twenty-five yards ahead of my truck was where the guard-rails ended.  It was at that place that I thought I saw movement in the road on the very edge of my headlight beams.  It was a large deer crossing the road!  And because it had been raining, its coat was darker than normal, making it even more hard to see.  Had I not heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit and responded to it like I did, I would have hit that deer square on.

It was later that night when I told my family what had happened that I learned of something that made this even more amazing.  My wife chooses to get up with me on those early mornings to make me breakfast, pack my lunch and see me off.  (I am an extremely blessed man to have the wife that I have!)  That morning, she got back in bed and brought the warm covers up over herself.  As she did so, however, she suddenly felt the Holy Spirit urging her to pray for my safety.  It didn’t take her long–just a quick, heartfelt prayer–and she soon felt at peace to go back to sleep.

I realize that some would chalk all of this up to coincidence.  But I have said it before and I’ll say it again:  A person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with a theory.

Food for thought!  Talk to you next time, my friend.

Holiday Seasons

Holiday seasons for most of us are busy.  If you think about it, that includes July 4th, Easter and the like.  But none carry the stigma of busyness like the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year season.

As you are well aware, the next big holiday season is almost upon us.  Already, many are doing their Christmas shopping to get it out of the way and making preparations for who’s going where for Thanksgiving this year.  Also for many, to say that this particular holiday season is stressful is an understatement.  The busyness that often comes with this one can be overwhelming and intimidating.  So how does one get through that and still enjoy the season?  It often takes some work to come up with an answer, but it is possible.

A co-worker and I were recently talking about birthdays and anniversaries.  I found out that as a result, the Christmas season is particularly busy for her.  Why?  Well, she has six grown children a fact which has produced umpteen grandchildren for her.  Take a look at her December every year:

On the 5th:  Granddaughter’s birthday

On the 7th:  Son’s Anniversary

On the 9th:  Twin grandsons’ birthdays (unfortunately, born and died within this same day)

On the 12th:  Her own Anniversary

On the 13th:  Granddaughter’s birthday

On the 14th:  Husband’s birthday

On the 17th:  Daughter’s birthday

On the 18th:  Two different grandsons’ birthdays

On the 25th:  (Christmas)

On the 29th:  Son’s death

On the 31st:  Granddaughter’s birthday

Yes, among all of that celebration and remembrance is a Holiday somewhere.  I imagine after a month like that, she and her husband are ready for a vacation.  A getaway.  A retreat with no responsibilities.  Do you think that happens for them?  Probably not.  But at least they can imagine themselves on one until it actually happens, right?  (She and her husband did just come back recently from a nice vacation, so at least they’re geared up for what’s coming.)

So next time you think you’re busy trying to get everything done in time for the family coming over on Christmas Day, say a prayer to the God of Heaven for this woman and her family to be able to truly enjoy the holiday season.  Maybe someone’s doing the same for you!

An Embarrassing Situation

We’ve all been in an embarrassing situation before, right?  Well the one I’m thinking of right now actually involves my best friend from high school.  It’s the same Rick you’ve heard about in other stories I’ve shared.

I believe it was the summer between our Junior and Senior years of high school.  Rick and I were with another friend of ours named Mike. (This was the same Mike that raced his Rabbit through city streets with me and Rick clinging to the seats.)  We all decided that we were going to make a day trip to one of the Lake Michigan beaches in Grand Haven, Michigan.  We met at Mike’s house, where the three of us piled in to Mike’s parents’ Jetta.  With Mike driving, we got there in record time (without racing anyone along the way).  Mike drove us around Grand Haven and then we parked the car and walked a short distance to the beach.  It was on the cool side and mostly cloudy, but still very pleasant.

Because the water was on the cold side, we mostly sat on the beach and sunned ourselves.  In spite of the wind and clouds, though, it didn’t prevent us from taking a swim before we were through.  We went out to water that was about shoulder depth, stayed there for a few minutes and slowly walked back to shore.  Mike was heading back first with me in tow and Rick bringing up the rear.  We were all about twenty feet apart from each other.

As we reached a water depth that was just below crotch level,  out of the corner of my eye I saw Rick suddenly plunge down into the water.  As my full attention fell on him, I noticed he seemed to be crouching in the water, but he wasn’t doing anything.  Caring friend that I was, thoughts of concern raced through my mind:  Was he peeing?  Was he pooping?  Was he cramping?  Was he playing reindeer games?  By this time, Mike was on shore and looking back at us still in the water.  He hollered to Rick to quit messing around and get moving.  I was standing in the water between the two of them, watching this unfold.

It was then that Rick made it known to us (and everyone within earshot) that his white bathing suit was revealing a little too much of his lower anatomy.  Apparently the material was not conducive to that of which a bathing suit should be.  Instead of modestly covering what was underneath, this suit was flaunting everything it could and giving free shows at every turn.  Again, caring friend that I was, once my laughter was under control, I continued to the shore where Mike was.  We turned our gaze back out to the water where Rick crouched helplessly while we delved into a deep discussion of what the best way to handle this embarrassing situation was.

We asked some important questions:  How long should we let him stay out there?  Did you bring the Doritos?  Should we go buy him a different suit?  Should we leave him?  It was in the middle of this very important dialogue that Rick rudely interrupted by hollering at us to bring him his towel so he could wrap it around himself.  Mike was  a tad reluctant to respond after his efforts at coming up with a good plan were so abruptly stopped.  I, however, being the caring friend that I was, acquiesced and walked through the sand to get his towel.

After talking with a few people along the way and stopping for a refreshing drink, I promptly walked back into the water to where Rick was.  I may have pretended to drop the towel in the water–I don’t recall–but Rick failed to see any humor in the situation at all.  He snatched the towel out of my caring hand, raised himself up and wrapped it around his waist.  He huffed through the water (as much as a person can huff through knee-deep water) and walked right passed Mike.

It’s possible that at that time we were still laughing about this embarrassing situation.  And unfortunately for Rick, his inappropriate reactions to our efforts at providing adequate help were met with more humorous guffaws on our part.  He eventually got over it and saw the error of his ways.

No worries, Rick.  There’s no need to apologize.  You’re welcome!

A Comedian In The Family

A comedian in the family is something everyone should have the opportunity to experience.  For our family, it’s our younger son, Ben.

This kid will utter all kinds of weird sounds from the bathroom as he takes his daily shower.  And with a huge mirror in the bathroom, he is his own captive audience as he plays out various routines in his head.  Needless to say, this usually gets him in some sort of trouble for taking so long in the bathroom.  I don’t think he really thinks much of it though.  I really wonder if being a comedian might be in his future.

Just yesterday morning, we were sitting around the dining room table eating our breakfast.  For our family, it is a Saturday morning tradition to have fresh donuts from the local bakery.  As William (our older son), Ben, and myself were eating ours, I shared a quick thought.  I mentioned how my wife has found lately that it doesn’t take much for her sweet tooth to get over-loaded and a sugar buzz to set in.  Without missing a beat, Ben piped up with, “Well, us three just power through it.”  A comedian at work….

Ben’s latest trend has been speaking with a California “surfer dude” dialect.  Sometimes it’s done so well that it’s hard to understand what he has just said.  The only word that I can make out clearly every time is when he calls me “Bra”.  As in, “Wassup, Bra?”  Add the goofy facial features that he often accompanies those words with and our family comedian strikes again.  I guess I don’t mind so much being called a piece of women’s clothing.

God’s Word tells us how important humor is.  And since we’re made in His image, that means humor came from Him as well.  Which leads me to wonder:  How much of a comedian is God Himself?  I think we will be pleasantly surprised when we are finally with Him to find out!

 

 

Dry Roasted Peanuts

Dry roasted peanuts are very tasty.  And the memories that come with a handful of these little nuggets of goodness are many.  Most of them revolve around my Dad.

He was known in our family for liking dry roasted peanuts in a variety of ways:  mixed with M&Ms; roasted with honey; in a trail mix; and just by themselves.  So, as you can imagine, I can’t eat dry roasted peanuts without a memory of my Dad having a jar of these at his side as he watched sports on weekend afternoons.

My wife just bought some of these dry roasted peanuts along with a bag of candy corns.  Believe it or not, the two of these mixed together tastes remarkably like a Butterfinger candy bar.  Once again, the memories flow.  My Dad’s dry roasted peanut legacy lives on.

But that’s not by any means the only thing my Dad left as a legacy.  What’s far more important is the fact that he touched so many lives when he was alive that quite a few people came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ at his funeral.  Nothing could be more important than an eternal difference made in someone’s life.

So what are you living for?  Yourself?  If not, why do you do anything at all?  Just for the sake of knowing that you made a difference somehow?  But for what reason?  It’s certainly a selfish and self-centered existence to be living for yourself alone.  But what guarantee do you have that anything else you do is going to last?  Our motives can be very revealing.

This all comes into sharp focus when you’re living out what God would have you do with your life.  An “eternity mindset”.  A realization that every day has the ability to count for someone’s eternity and where they will spend it.  My Dad had that kind of influence and I’m proud of that fact.  I know God is using my life even more so to that end.  And He is helping me to raise my two boys to be even more influential for His Kingdom than my life has been or will be.  And that means everything to me!

Hopefully your legacy consists of something more than just dry roasted peanuts.  If not, it can.  I would encourage you to really think about how you do that.  Regardless of what it is, it will have eternal consequences.  So choose wisely, my friend.  Your eternity depends on it!

What’s Up, Doc?

“What’s up, Doc?”  These are words that my generation loved to hear.  It is probably the most common phrase ever remembered from a cartoon character.  The now famous words of Bugs Bunny.

This brings to mind something my wife and I were just talking about.  As kids, we lived for Saturday morning cartoons!  Around mid-week the countdown would already begin for the unleashing of many hours of cartoon fun.  (I know for me and my brother, that countdown also was for the sugar cereals we would sometimes be able to have on Saturday mornings.)  So there was lots to look forward to every week!

What’s it like now?  B-o-o-r-r-r-i-n-g.  Where’s He-Man?  Where’s Superfriends?  Where’s Scooby Doo?  And best of all, where’s The Bugs Bunny Roadrunner Show?  I distinctly remember The Bugs Bunny Roadrunner Show being an hour and a half of full-length six- to eight-minute long cartoons–classic ones at that.  Like Foghorn Leghorn and the weasel; Yosemite Sam and the camel riding excursion in the desert; Daffy Duck as Robin Hood; Bugs Bunny and the forgetful wolf; and countless attempts by Wile E. Coyote to overcome and suppress his nemesis, The Roadrunner.

In spite of the attempts of some to say that these cartoons were too violent (Really?  Compared to what? The video games of today?), they still live on through certain cable channels and YouTube.  But what happened to our Saturday morning line-up?  The answer is that our education system got involved.

Through the antics of politics, money, and influence, the education system insisted that children must learn something educational when watching cartoons.  If a cartoon didn’t have that key ingredient in it somehow, it was thrown to the curb.  But let me ask you something:  What child wants to learn anything on a Saturday morning??  Saturday morning cartoons were an escape from having to do any of that!  A child spends his days in school all week long learning all kinds of things that typically in his mind are pointless, needless, and downright stupid.  He doesn’t look forward to Saturday morning cartoons to learn something more.  He looks forward to Saturday morning cartoons to escape into those worlds for a little while and enjoy the fun of doing that.  Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be.  Or was.  Because it sure isn’t that way any more.

It’s sad because my kids won’t have that experience.  Granted, they can get on YouTube or a cable channel to see some of those same cartoons, but it’s just not the same.  (There was just something about knowing that come 9:30 a.m. you were going to be tied up for an hour and a half watching Bugs Bunny).  And as far as the cartoons of today, they certainly don’t have the same type of cartoons to choose from that we did!  It’s a bygone era that thankfully lives on in the memories we share with our kids and that can be backed up by watching certain episodes found on YouTube.

Though things do change, it’s great knowing we can still use today’s technology to keep the memories of yesterday alive!

Time Management

Time management can be amazingly difficult sometimes.  From what I see in others on a day-to-day basis, most people don’t manage their time well. In fact, it probably gets away from most of us on a regular basis.

But that’s life, isn’t it? Time management is challenging, yes, but as most of us know, it is well worth learning how to do well.  Now, I realize that there are quite a few resources out there about time management and how to do it effectively. I’m not here to go over that kind of information. But just to address the issue….well, that’s important.

I am finding this to be a huge challenge right now. Between lots of overtime at work, home-schooling the kids, house projects still beckoning and jewelry to make for a local business, managing my time is crucial right now. And I’m still trying to figure that out. But it is happening!

I’ll tell you one thing: I am so thankful that God doesn’t expect me to figure this out on my own. I really don’t know what I would do without His presence or His help in my life. People can say what they want to and believe what they want to about that. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with a theory. I know from personal experience what He has done for me and how faithful He is to what He said He would do in His Word (the Bible).

So we keep pushing forward, living the life He has given us to live and making the most of every moment. And learning how to best use and manage that precious time we have so that we can make the most of it.

Happy Time Management!!

The World of Selfies

Selfies.  A word that I never heard growing up.  Now, of course, it’s such a popular term that it has found its way into the dictionary like the word “Google” has.

Taking a selfie is something I rarely do.  In fact, I really don’t do much with the camera on my phone (or any camera, for that matter).  My wife, on the other hand, is quite familiar with her camera and selfies.  (I’m glad she is.  Otherwise, we would hardly have any pictures of our boys from over the years.)

We were all invited to a wedding yesterday.  I may or may not have mentioned in previous conversations that my wife does Daycare work out of the home.  One of the moms she watches for was getting married and invited us to the wedding.  So, as you can imagine, I’m basically flying blind as I attend this event.  I hardly know the mom and certainly don’t know anybody else in attendance.  My wife wasn’t too far behind me either.  She may have known another person or two, but she was essentially in the same boat as I was.  But that was okay.  Our boys were with us in the boat as well, so we were content as a family to just float along and enjoy the afternoon.

It’s interesting to watch people you don’t know interact with other people that they obviously do know.  Interesting behavior was observed all the way around:  An older couple walked in and were greeted by a woman whom they had apparently not seen for a long time.  She gave each one of them a peck on the lips as they caught up on human events.  A couple of individuals even deemed this celebratory event worthy of bringing an open beer to the wedding ceremony.  But none was more entertaining for us than the young woman who sat directly in front of us.

She wore a skirt short enough that my wife was concerned our boys would eventually see something they shouldn’t see as this woman sat in front of us.  Then, almost immediately, she pulled out her phone.  I thought, Oh no!  Here come the selfies!  She held it out and slightly up in classic selfie fashion.  Her head tilted to one side.  She smiled real big (I know, because I could plainly see the selfie screen of her phone as she held it out for all of us to see).  Click.  (Her head tilts the other direction.)  Click.  (She and the woman next to her lean in together.)  Click.

Then, in what had to be gold medal Olympic selfie speed, her fingers flew all over her on-screen keyboard as she madly texted something.  This seemed to be extremely important as it had to go along with the selfies she had just taken.  The world of Facebook was waiting!

This happened two or three times from the time we first sat down to the end of the ceremony.   At least I can say that I came away from that wedding knowing I was entertained and certainly wasn’t bored!

One On One Time

I didn’t grow up having one-on-one time with my Dad.  I really wish I had been able to.  But that’s one of those things you don’t necessarily have control over.  Not so with my boys!

The power of generational influence is huge.  God’s original design for this was to have a father teach and influence his children so that they know more and can do more than he ever did.  Then, when his children have children of their own, they are doing the same thing.  The result is that each generation is further ahead and knows even more than the one before it.  And each generation is passing on its legacy to the next.

What do you think the answer is to the question, “Is this happening today?”  I know it’s happening, but not near to the degree that it should be.  I want to do my part to change that.  And that starts with how I raise my own children and how I influence them for the next generation.

It’s important for you to know that this cannot be done properly without God’s help.  That’s intentional, too, by the way.  And I’m glad it is!  Why try to do something like that without His help?  He’s the One who knows all about us anyway.  After all, we’re made in His image.

My one-on-one time with my children is vital.  It makes them more comfortable talking about uncomfortable things.  And it helps them get to know their Dad better.  It’s uncomfortable for me, too, but so worth it when I look at the Big Picture:  I’m very thankful that my boys know that as they grow up through the roller coaster ride of adolescence, they can come to their Dad with any question or problem that they may run across.  (They can come to their Mom, too, but who knows better what they’re going through or experiencing better than their Dad?  And by the way, a mother’s influence with her daughters should be the same way as well.)

This can get in to other areas like mentorship, counseling, teaching and other related things.  Those all have their equal importance and they can all effect the influencing of the next generation.  In looking to keep this as simple as possible, however, I would recommend reading a book to start you in the right direction (if you’re needing that input).  It’s entitled, “Preparing Your Son For Every Man’s Battle” by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker.  The first half of the book is my focus for recommending it.

Whether you are a Mom or a Dad, single or married, with boys or girls or any combination thereof, the first half of the book will help you see the importance of one-on-one time and how to effectively implement it.  From there, you can go to whatever source you’d want to for your children’s needs (if you have boys, the second half is right there for you to use to get you started).

I hope you are able to positively influence your children for the next generation.  I pray God’s blessing on your efforts!

Autumn In The Air

Autumn has definitely been in the air this week.  Cooler temps and shorter days certainly add to the feeling that the Holidays are just around the corner.  The sky itself–the position of the sun and even how the clouds look–lends to that Autumn feel in the air.

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan

Our family loves this time of year.  The coziness that comes with the weather getting colder and the Autumn decorations coming out (excluding anything to do with Halloween) continues on into the Christmas season.  Even more so with all of the Christmas decorations that come out.  Some people and families don’t make this much of a big deal.  And that’s certainly ok for them.  But for us, it takes on a wonderful life of its own.

This time of year also means getting ready for home school.  And this year brings for us a new curriculum that we’re using.  That usually brings a little more stress to the situation since we aren’t familiar with the curriculum.  But compared to the stress teachers deal with in public school on a daily basis, what we endure is hardly worth mentioning.

My wife does Daycare out of the home and has watched kids for a number of school teachers over the years.  One of them was homeschooling her kids, even though she was a teacher!  If that doesn’t go to show how bad things have gotten in our school systems, I don’t think much else will.  That arena certainly is not what it used to be when I was a kid.  I wouldn’t want anything to do with it now, which is another reason we took the home school plunge years ago.

We certainly recognize that homeschooling isn’t for everyone,  but for those willing to do it, it’s very much worth the effort!  We have found it makes things far more flexible for us, allowing for trips to see family in Michigan certain times throughout the school year.

So, as we begin that process once again, it just goes to remind me that Autumn–my favorite time of the year–is here again!

Autumn at Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

Happy Autumn, my friend!

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