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Archive for the ‘Beautiful Places’ Category

I wanted to finish posting pics from our anniversary get-away.  It was a fun way to celebrate 33 years of being married to a wonderful woman who is simply a beautiful person through and through.  Heading to a tropical paradise just as the grip of winter seems to finally be slipping seemed like a good idea and the following pics show off the beautiful island of Kauai where we visited for 2 days at the end of our vacation.

I experienced a downside to this though.  My work travels the next week took me to western New York where the temperature never got above 40 F and it snowed almost every day.  My blood had gotten used to the tropics so I think my suffering (and whining and complaining) were justified and I guess maybe a little amplified.  And my wonderful wife that enjoyed our get-away so much… yeah, all she could do was laugh when I would talk to her on the phone from NY.

Did I ever mention that 34 years ago I prayed for humility right before I met my wife….

Enjoy the pics.

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A recurring prayer for me goes something like this.  “Thank you Lord for all the blessings you’ve poured out on my family and on me.  I don’t deserve it, but I thank you for it.”  And then I wonder why I am so favored.  Now I need to put this in context before I go too far.  We have had our share of difficulties.  Perhaps not the tragedies some have experienced, but difficulties just the same – my wife’s shattered leg in 2012, my near heart attack in 2014, my job loss at the beginning of 2015, my broken shoulder in 2017 to name a few.  Yet, whatever direction I look, I see God’s goodness poured out… not just on me, but on so many people that I know.  He is indeed good… all the time.  And I wonder anew, “Lord why are you so good to me?”  Today as I have thought of this I think I have at least a little different perspective to share.

Being a father for 33 years, I know a daddy’s love for his children.  We just finished souvenir shopping for our four children and four grandchildren.  This is my wife’s time to lead and I dutifully follow.  As I watch and respond to her questions I realize she is seeking the perfect balance.  She wants to get them something they will enjoy, but that is also beneficial.  No to excess sugar and candy, yes to clothing that says laid-back Hawaii.  No to things with sharp edges or that can choke a little one, yes to cuddly and cute.  Since God is the perfect Father, He wants to give us gifts that achieve that perfect balance in our lives.  He knows our talents, our personality, our likes and dislikes.  He knows what is best for us.  His gifts are meant to draw us to himself since a deep and growing relationship with Him is what we are created for.  And just like giving gifts to our children warms my wife’s heart, I sense that God is also pleased when He is able to give us good gifts that bring us joy.  Oh, and when we recognize and give Him thanks, the mutual joy is amplified.

I believe the Father loves to hear us laugh and this is frequently one of the purposes of God’s blessings.  In some cases it may be the only reason.  But at other times God has multiple motives behind the gift given.

Being open to and responsive to the Lord’s leading in gift-receiving and gift-giving is an acquired wisdom.  God will bless us so that we can in turn bless others.  Giving of tithes and offerings is a tangible demonstration of finding our place in God’s economy of blessing.  Less formal but just as important is being open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to provide help for someone when the Lord prompts us to.  Our home group purchased a moped for a young woman in difficult circumstances recently and we know it was a God assignment.  Today we are excited to see what God is going to do through this simple act of passing His blessing on.

There is one other aspect that I believe the Lord wants us to understand about His blessing, but I hesitate for fear I will not be able to adequately explain.  It is that obedience brings blessing.  As we live life the way God desires us to live, we will experience His protection, His provision, and His favor.  The Holy Scriptures contain God’s blueprint for life.  Everything necessary to know how to enter a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe is there.  However, it is spiritually discerned.  That means God Himself must be living within us by His Holy Spirit for us to read, understand, and apply the truth contained in the scriptures.  Sadly just knowing the scriptures isn’t enough.  The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were thoroughly knowledgeable of the scriptures, yet they crucified the one the scriptures foretold.

There is a progression in this flow.  The first is to recognize that there is a Creator of all that is.  He has been called many things… El Sahddai, Elohim, The LORD God, Almighty God, but it is safe to call Him God.

Second is to search for Truth.  When we honestly and openly search for Truth, asking God to guide us to Truth we will run into Jesus.  There are numerous reasons this is true, but suffice today I’ll point out the one I know to be true and unassailable.  Jesus’ resurrection proves He was Who He said He was – God’s one and only Son, sent to redeem mankind through His sacrificial death on the cross.

Third, once we recognize Jesus for Who He says He is, it is only right to surrender our life to Him and take up the life He is calling us to.  It is a life of dying to poor life choices, bad decisions, and irresponsibility.  It is letting go of living according to your own agenda and morality and learning how to live a life that aligns with God’s game plan for life.  It is saying yes to Jesus in how we live.

Fourth is to ask Jesus to help us to know Him better and to live the life God desires us to live.  Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to help us live life the way God intends.  He never takes away our ability to choose whether to follow or not.  In fact He partners with us in the work of transformation, but He will do the heavy lifting if we simply turn to Him and ask for His help.

As we live a life of consistent obedience, God’s blessings will flow.  It is not that we are immune to difficulties, but knowing God and trusting Him provides a solid place to stand even when all around is shaking and unsettled.  And when we thank Him in the midst of the hard and difficult, when our suffering is wrapped in thanking God for being with us in the storm, we will know His peace and comfort, which is one of the greatest of His blessings to His children.

As I shared in an earlier post, my wife and I are celebrating our 33rd anniversary in Hawaii.  I am going to post a few more pics of our trip for those who are interested.  The week has contained a snapshot of life.  We’ve experienced a good bit of clouds, rain, and wind.  The conditions were not always ideal.  But through it all God has been with us, showing us His love and care.  We have thrilled with new adventures and quiet times together.  Today the sun broke through and it is gloriously beautiful.  It happened just in time for a morning helicopter ride… with the doors off and a sunset on Waikiki Beach.

Wherever you are in life, know that God loves you and He is for you.  If you are at one of those points of progression that I mention above and you would like to know more, please drop me a comment.  I would be happy to chat and pray.  It’s what I’m supposed to do.  In the meantime, enjoy the pics. and be blessed today.  And don’t forget to pass the blessing on!

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One day in Oahu was dedicated to hiking and exploring.  Hitting Diamond Head at 6:20 am was wise, but we didn’t realize a Triathlon was taking place that made it hard to catch our shuttle.  We had to join the sea of joggers to meet our van.  This also added almost a mile to our hike, but we persevered and we can say we ran in a triathlon, hiked Diamond Head, and swam in Hanauma Bay all in one day.  It was a fun day of exercise, super views, and a good way to beat the heat.

Following our Diamond Head hike, we shuttled over to Hanauma Bay for a little snorkeling and relaxation on the beach.  Hanauma Bay is the collapsed crater of a Tuff cone as is Diamond Head and KoKo Crater which is beside Koko Head.  A Tuff Cone is subtly different from a volcano.  A volcano is an opening in the earth’s crust where lava pours forth over a period of several years to perhaps hundreds of years.  A Tuff Cone is a very short burst event where a crack in the earth’s crust results in the escape of hot gases to just under the earth’s surface.  The result is an explosion, not unlike the bubble that erupts in spaghetti sauce cooking on the stove.  Our guide said scientists believe the event that resulted in the creation of Diamond Head lasted between 1 to 7 days.  In the soil around these you can see the particles of reef, old volcanic material, and sand all mixed together where they were expelled in the creation of the Tuff Cone.

After a couple snorkel swims I felt the tug of another hike out Koko Head, so I gathered my camera and lenses and I was off.  The elevation above the bay created some excellent views.  My only disappointment was that I didn’t have the beautiful blue sky that proved fickle a few days while we were in Hawaii.

I’m not complaining though, I mean it was Hawaii, right?!

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Throughout our stay in Hawaii we heard “Aloha!” both in greeting and as a goodbye.  Every tour guide we met referred to the importance of the word in conveying the Hawaiian sense of love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy.  It was always said with a smile and, in many cases, with a hug or a kiss on the cheek.

We attended a Luau one night and the Chief spoke of the ancient roots of the word in the Polynesian language.  It seems the word is the combination of “Alo” which means to meet or stand face to face and the word “Ha” which carries the sense of breath or life or spirit.  So it has a sense of being in close connection with another and sharing the same breath or sharing life together.

As I heard this description my mind went to Jesus’ first appearance to His disciples after His resurrection.  It’s recorded in the 20th chapter of the book of John.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” ‘  John 20:19-22

Jesus is unique among all religious leaders.  In fact, Jesus would scoff at being called a religious leader.  Jesus spoke very plainly and clearly about Who He was.  He said He was God’s Son.  He said there was only one way to enter into a face to face relationship with God and that was through Him.  His disciples didn’t understand what He meant when He first told them, but with His resurrection, the truth began to become clear.  Jesus was God’s solution to man’s problem.  God is Holy and Perfect.  Sin cannot stand in God’s presence, yet His love desires to be joined with His children.  Therefore imperfect people cannot stand in God’s presence, but Jesus intervened on our behalf and in our place.  That’s what the cross was.  Jesus accepting the punishment for sin, for our sin, in our place so that we could be able to enter into a relationship with God.

I mentioned that Jesus was unique.  Others have made mighty proclamations.  But no others have been able to demonstrate their deity because they were mere men or women.  Only Jesus conquered death.  Only Jesus rose from the grave to be witnessed by hundreds after a very public and very real death.  Jesus proved Who He was by His resurrection. That proof is also supported by the transformed lives of thousands into millions who have experienced a personal relationship with the living Lord.  I am one of them.

Jesus may not be Hawaiian, but I believe He is probably okay with the definition of Aloha that the chief gave at our Luau.  I know He is calling people to come meet with Him face to face, to put their trust in Him, to turn from a life of trusting anything and everything else and to turn to Him.  Jesus is waiting.  He wants to breath His Spirit into His children.  Let today be the day you lean into Jesus and say “Yes”… you put your trust in Him and say “I’m Yours”… you step off the throne of your life and say, “My Lord and my God.”  If you speak Hawaiian, you just might hear Him say, “Aloha, my child.  I’ve been waiting for this moment since the day I first thought of you.  Receive My Spirit and enter my rest.”

Be blessed my friends and pass it on!

Note: These pictures are from our first full day in Oahu when we took the Ultimate Circle Tour of Oahu with our guide, Levent, and a van full of new friends like Sandra, Johnny, Fred, and Gail.  (Sorry we got separated at the end of the day like we did.  Hope you had a great wrap-up to your trip.)

Please feel free to view an download any pics that you like.  More to follow in the coming days.

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I have a problem that I must confess. I have wanderlust. Wikipedia defines wanderlust as the strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world. It has become a passion of ours to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, and learn new things. This week my wife and I are on a getaway celebrating our 33rd anniversary. We are in Oahu, Hawaii at a hotel on Waikiki Beach. While most of our trips are planned out a year or more in advance, this one dropped into our schedule 2 months ago when a “deal” fell in our lap. Now wanderlust itself is neutral, not necessarily good or bad. Like any strong impulse though it has the potential of becoming an idol. And this morning a disquiet has settled upon me as I realize I must deal with this reality in my life.

The standard definition of idol is an image representing a deity or god. A little broader definition of idol that better captures the message conveyed in scripture is anything that takes the ultimate place of priority in our life other than the Lord God. When I look around I see many people giving the place of priority in their life to people, things, and experiences other than God. It is incredibly sad to see a child so doted upon by their parents that they begin to actually believe the world revolves around them. In this case the parents often make the child an idol reinforcing the natural self-centered tendency that most of us struggle with. Or the person who is obviously wealthy to the point they lack no material comfort, yet they continue the quest to acquire, have, and hold onto because stuff, or position, or power has become their god. Not only can I see this in others, but when I turn and look inside, I realize this tendency to elevate people, things, or experiences to an unhealthy level still resides in me.

I recognized the uneasiness stirring in me later in the day yesterday as we filled a second day with adventure. Meeting our photography tour guide at 5:20 am to begin a Sunrise Photography tour, we had the briefest of times for our devotional. From then on the day was busy. I laid my head down at 10:00 pm Hawaii time with thoughts of things done, things still to do, plans still to be made. Body exhausted, my mind was still busy, but sadly, God was not in my first thoughts. Honestly, I didn’t pause to really spend time talking and listening to Him much at all.

For me, clarity often comes in the morning and so it was today. It is a real issue and I am ready to deal with it. I slipped out on the balcony about 4:30 am, confessing my waywardness and ready to make changes. The Lord put in mind capturing my thoughts (hence you are reading them now) and to open the Word. As He often does a snippet of scripture was persistent in my mind… “Why are you so downcast, oh my soul?”

I looked it up and had to laugh. Psalm 42 is what I was looking for. I made bold the verses that made me laugh because we are in Hawaii, visiting waterfalls and swimming in the pounding surf. God can be very specific (or in this case Pacific) when He needs to be. At the end I will close with the Psalm since God fully deserves the final word.

You see, God wants us to enjoy good things. He loves people and wants us to love them fully… with His love. He has no problem with our use and enjoyment of things. He lovingly provides them for our benefit and use. And life is made rich by new and varied experiences. God works in these experiences to stretch and grow us. The issue is simply do we have God in the proper place in our lives or is He an after-thought?.. Or is He even considered at all? Are we living a life that makes knowing God and growing in that relationship with Him the pivot point of our life? Are we living in such a manner that others recognize that He is real by the way we live?

I see my disquiet for what it is, a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit to check my priorities and be sure God was not lost in our enjoyment of this beautiful place. And so, Lord I do. You are my priority. I put my hope in You.

‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ Psalm 42:1-11

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Giving credit where it is due, PSD was in our “Tighten the Knot” Marriage series message by Brad Cooper.  Yet the importance of this resonates in me harkening back to a 5-year long lesson the Lord gave me on my most important role on this earth.  During those 5 years the Father continually brought me back to these verses in Ephesians.  ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. ‘  Ephesians 5:25-27  If you are married, your first human relationship is with your spouse.  Men, God has given you the responsibility to partner with Him in His sanctifying work in the woman you pledged to “cherish for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”  You made a commitment to your wife (and to God, if you missed that part) that you were in it for the long haul.  You have signed on the dotted line and the contract is not just valid in all 50 states, but in heaven as well as on earth.  But never fear, God has co-signed this contract with you so success is 100% assured, IF we do it His way.  (Another borrowed thought from Dr. Jimmy Evans in our Marriage series.)

First, we must take a moment to define commit and love.  Both are verbs and despite the dilution both words have experienced in the modern day, they indicate two eternally powerful concepts that God uses to accomplish His divine purposes.  To Commit is to agree to with the full weight of your will to fulfill that which you have agreed to.  Love is to desire the very best for another and to do whatever is required to achieve it for them.  The term love is used in so many lesser ways today, but the picture of love is a soldier sacrificing his life for a another.  The Greek word for this type of love is Agape.  It is the love Jesus refers to when He tells the disciples to “Love one another”.  It is the love He demonstrated in dying on the cross for our sins.  Husbands, it is the love we are called to have for our wives and it is demonstrated in thought, word, and deed.

So, PSD… Pursue, Serve, Die.  There is a phase in boy – girl relationships that is intoxicating.  Dr. Gary Chapman refers to this as the “Falling in Love” stage of a relationship.  It is what causes two people, often very different people, to desire companionship, togetherness, and in the normal course of time, intimacy, while modifying or at least softening, a number of personal likes and dislikes.  In the Falling in love phase, faults become hidden, often with no effort, disagreeable traits meld into likeable quirks, and the object of our affection becomes the epitome of perfection.  This phase can last up to 2 years, but…. and this is important, it is not permanent.

It is critically important that we understand that the Falling in Love phase is not only not permanant, it was never meant to be.  The Falling in Love phase serves an important purpose to get us past ourselves and into the realm of risk, trust, sacrifice and eventually into true love.  I have watched some very good sports teams accomplish surprising results riding the wave of an emotional high, but unless there is something more than just emotion the success is not sustainable.  The same is true in marriage.  Falling in love is emotionally fueled.  It is important to get us to the point that we realize there is such value in the relationship that we begin to move into true Love.

True love is of divine origin. ‘And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. ‘  1 John 4:16  This love is not caught, but received and grown.  It involves the will more than the emotion (although the emotions are definitely engaged) and it takes time to mature.  Let me make no bones about it, I loved before I fully committed my life to the Lord 35 years ago, but only after that did I begin to realize the capacity to love that was now resident within me.  Now I admit I am far from loving to the full, but there are times when His loves breaks through to me, and even more wonderfully, when His love breaks through to others through me.  This is a fundamental calling for Christ-followers, to allow Jesus’ love to fill and overflow us.  But the exclamation point on that is for husbands… to love our wives as Christ loves the Church.

Going back to Falling in love, PSD tends to happen spontaneously during this phase.  Pursue, Serve, and Die happens naturally, but again it is largely emotion fueled.  Just because the emotion fades though, does not mean we should not abandon these.  In fact the maturing and deepening of love is the transition from emotional, almost-without- thought, pursuit, serving, and dying for our beloved, to the intentional, purposeful pursuit, serving, and dying for them.  Once the blinders are removed and we realize that our beloved isn’t perfect… and sometimes isn’t totally pleasant… and they sometimes do, or say something that hurts you… (Note, Honey, if you are reading this I’m speaking hypothetically in our case!)… then is the opportunity for PSD to begin morphing into true love.

As I sit on this balcony in a beautiful tropical location at 4:00 am celebrating our 33 years of marriage, I am able to reflect on marriage to a wonderful woman.  She has demonstrated a deep and abiding love to me and I have been truly blessed.  I realize that over these 33 years, I’ve sometimes gotten it right and made steps in growing that capacity to love.  I also admit, the old man… the self-centered man that I once was, has not completely died.  I see why Jesus said we have to die to ourselves daily, because the old man is a stubborn old coot that keeps trying to assert himself.  But, in our marriages we are afforded the marvelous opportunity to practice love that transforms.  I love my beloved more today that when we first fell in love.  We have weathered storms together, we’ve experienced many joys side by side, and with the Lord’s help we’ve grown much.  The old man has suffered greatly due to the purposeful following of the Lord’s leading to “Love my wife like He loved the Church”.  And the results are the best kind.  We both grow.  We both love better.  We become examples of a love that lasts.  Our lives and our marriage shows to any who wonder, what God can do through two people committed to Him and committed to love with His love.

Be blessed today my friend and be a blessing.

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The bible is replete with imagery of God as our Father.  Some of the sweetest of moments are those when my spirit, stirred with love for my Creator, cries out “Abba, Father”.  Abba is an intimate Hebrew term for a father, more akin to Daddy or Poppa.  But when God created mankind He was very intentional that both sexes were fully image-bearers of God.  We see this in Genesis 1:27. ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.‘ ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ‘

Genesis 1:27
https://www.bib While the imagery of God as a mother is less frequent, it is still there.  David picks up a piece of this in Psalm 17 ‘Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.’ giving us a picture of a mother bird sheltering her chicks from danger with her wings.  Jesus uses similar imagery – “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37 NIV

It’s not a stretch to realize that the best traits typically exemplified in either a father and a mother emanate from the character of God. This was impressed upon me recently as I did a photo shoot for our youngest daughter and newest granddaughter.  At 10 months old, Lilah, our granddaughter, had not been out in nature before so when we headed to a local park she experienced many new sights and sounds.  She was clingy at first not wanting to get out of Momma’s arms.  I captured one particularly poignant scene as Momma introduced Lilah to what a tree is.

 

Lilah and Christin-8

“Lilah, this is a tree.  It’s a plant – a living thing, but not like Duke, our dog, or Mommy or Daddy.”

 

Our daughter spoke gently, explaining to Lilah, what she was seeing.  She wasn’t pushy.  She wanted Lilah to learn something new without fear.

 

Lilah and Christin-9

“Look at that rough skin.  On a tree it’s called bark.  It’s okay to touch it.” 

 

Lilah and Christin-10

“It’s rough, but if you touch it gently it won’t hurt.”

 

Lilah and Christin-11

“Here. I’ll help you.”

 

Lilah and Christin-12

“Ah, See, you tried something new.  That was fun wasn’t it?!”

 

Lilah and Christin-13

Ever so gently Lilah examines the tree trunk.  

 

Lilah and Christin-14

“Look Mimi, I’m touching the tree!”

 

Lilah and Christin-15

A little girl happy to be holding Mommy’s hand and experiencing something new.

I couldn’t help but make the connection between how tender and loving our daughter was with Lilah and how God lovingly leads us.  He wants us to experience new and different.  But He is not pushy.  God has so much good in store for us, but much of that good is beyond the horizons of what we already know… beyond what currently feels safe.

  • Reaching out to people different than us…
  • serving in places we’ve never been…
  • loving without conditions…
  • giving kindness in the face of anger and hostility…
  • forgiving even when the wound still hurts and the grievance is legitimate…
  • facing fears that threaten to overwhelm us…

In each case God is with us as the gentle parent.

  • He encourages us to extend a hand… just like Jesus extended His hands for us.
  • He shows us how to serve… like Jesus when He washed the disciples’ feet.
  • He teaches us to love without limits… like Jesus does whenever we humbly return to Him after a fall.
  • He exemplifies poise, dignity, and equanimity… like Jesus when His accusers hurled lies and abuses at Him and He refused to fight for His rights.
  • He burdens us to forgive those who abuse us… like Jesus did when He whispered to His Father, “Forgive them” for His killers.
  • He tells us we need not fear… because He has overcome the world.

 

 

 

 

God is the perfect Father – the perfect parent.  He knows us intimately and loves us completely.  His desires for us are altogether good.  And His ways with us are perfect.  Put your hand in “Abba’s” hand today.  Take time to just rest in your Father’s loving embrace.  Listen to Him say, “You are my precious, precious child.  I love you with an everlasting love.  I will never leave you or forsake you, because you are mine.”

 

 

 

 

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