Greetings and Information

To my readers, you may have noticed that I have not written for a while. A number of things have occurred. I have spent several hours a day going over edits from my publisher. The holidays were also hectic. A family member was in the hospital but is home, doing better. Life happens.

I’ve missed writing and am eager to begin.

I would like to again recommend a great novel for Christmas. Homeless for the Holidays, is a good read by Peggy Sue Wells. It is out now for the Christmas season, available through Amazon. Enjoy.

Also, I came across this great scripture passage that I hadn’t noticed before. It really jumped out at me in this reading.

“God lifts up the poor from the dirt and raises up the needy from the garbage pile to seat them with leaders-with the leaders of his own people! Praise the Lord!” Psalm 113: 7-9 (CEB)

Racoons

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I enjoy seeing racoons in the wild. They are cute, looking down from tree limbs. Their movements and dexterity are fun to watch. The black patches around their eyes that look like masks add to their charm.

That mask is prophetic, however. They are bandits. They enjoy nothing better than slipping in and stealing food from campgrounds. They are clever at breaking into food boxes and coolers.

While I was camping recently, a mother racoon brought her two kids for a teaching lesson. They waited, watching me from the woods. Mom then approached me cautiously and looking cute, a good ploy for getting handouts. When I did not respond like an inexperienced, giddy tourist but shooed her away, she retreated a few feet and waited patiently.

The moment I turned may back–racoon students take note–she leaped up on the picnic table, grabbed a bag of marshmellows, and ran for the woods!

In the middle of the night, I was awakened by a creeping noise behind my tent. Suddenly, the serenity of the forest was shattered by furious snarling, growling, screaming and ripping of brush. Startled fully awake, I was afraid that there were grizzly bears here in Indiana battling just outside the thin walls of my tent!

Two racoons were fighting viciously over something. I wonder if that’s where part of my supper went.

Racoons remind me of me of some people who slip into our institutions, workplaces, politics, and, sadly, churches. Seemingly friendly, they soon cause conflicts, dissention, and discord.

As civilized as we are, we are not so far removed from the wilderness of our pioneer ancestors who faced bandits. Some cautions and alertness is still in order.

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.  Romans 16:17 (ESV)

 

 

 

 

Of Facts and Hysteria

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My blog will take different direction for today because of a concern that has come to my attention.

There are hundreds of thousands of women in America who have been sexually assaulted. It is a national disgrace that so many men have so little respect for women. It is also true that there are presently thousands of innocent men in prison accused of such crimes because of alterior motives of the accusers.

I have been watching the senate hearings on Judge Brett Kavinaugh. I’ve heard the, “He said-she said” statements. I’ve observed the opinions and hysteria promoted by the media for ratings. I doubt that the comedians on Saturday Night Live legally qualify as judges or senators. (Well, maybe senators.) What I’m really interested in are the facts behind the scenes. What are we not being told?

For example: Some years ago a man I know was accused of molesting his daughter by a person who was helping with a local youth group. When asked, the girl stated that it was true.

The police investigated. They looked everywhere for corroborating evidence. The lady from Child Protection Services took the child’s statement. It was obvious. It was an open and shut case.

However, there was something in young girl’s manner that made one think there was something else that she was not saying.

As the man continued to maintain his innocence, the police tried reasoning, appealed to his conscience, even threw in some intimidation. The C.P.S. agent filed her long report that included several provably false statements, claimed to be substantiated, to try get the guy arrested and the daughter into a foster home.

It took and observant detective from the sherrif’s department to dicover that it was the man who made the accusation that had been molesting the girl.

He apparently had told her that she must accuse her father if questioned.

After a year of investigation, no corroborating evidence, and a call from a lawyer, the police and C.P.S. quit. No apologies. However, the damage had been done. Just having been accused, the man and his wife lost their daycare business and livelihood. One of their clients stated that a C.P.S. agent implied that if she did not take her child out of the daycare, her child could be taken away from her.

The man and his family suffered severe stress. His reputation was ruined. The trauma was so great that it triggered life threatening seizures that destroyed his health from which he may never recover. His being unable to work forced his wife to find work in a fast food restaurant to try to provide for the family.

My nephew is an investigator for the state police. He is very careful to find all the facts to make sure an innocent suspect doesn’t get prosecuted. (Years ago Sargent Joe Friday on the old Dragnet TV series always said, “Just give us the facts, just the facts.”)

Historically, we remember that a group of little girls cried witch and thirteen innocent people were hanged in Salem. Jesus was faced with dozens of accusers that couldn’t corroborate their stories. And we all know what the government  did to him.

So, I’m just asking for some calm reasoning. Are there some facts and motives at play behind the scenes in the senate battle that we have not been shown. Are Mrs. Ford and Mr. Kavinaugh both victims of media and political agendas? Let’s see behind the hype and hysteria. “Just the facts, folks, just the facts.”

 

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Read more: https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-truth-20-great-scripture-quotes/#ixzz5Ss5RgG2X

 

 

 

 

 

A Surprise Adventure

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The other day I awoke with an urge to go on an adventure. Where to go? Fishing in one of our newer state parks? Too far for a half day outing.

Go sit in a bird sanctuary a couple counties away? No, not today. A quick prayer, “Lord, where would be a good place to go today?” Then came the thought, how about the Wildcat Creek? I had crossed it a number of times over the years, always hurrying to get to somewhere else. I vaguely remembered there was a county park near there on a lake. Off I drove on an adventure with my flyrod in the back seat.

The farther I went the darker the sky got. Then came the rain and thunder and lighting. Washout? Pun intended. I could be discouraged, but it was an adventure. Who knew what I might discover? I drove on.

After finding the pull-off to the creek under water and unable to find the park on the lake, I turned back for home.

As I passed through the small village of Greentown, I noticed an antiques store. It was open. Stepping through the rain, I went in. There I found very friendly and helpful people. One of the ladies, Carol, was a painter like me. We discussed our interest in art. She took my name and address to contact me for a local art show next year.

I bought an antique fishing lure that caught my eye. I was also given directions, not only to the park but also to a canoe rental on the creek. All great information for future reference. It turned out to be a good adventure.

Life is an adventure. Sometimes the trip leads to unexpected places. No matter the holes in the road, storms or unplanned detours, if the Lord is leading, the destination will be good.

“And we know that all things work together for good  to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 

Rivers of Life

kayak_nature_river_landscape_water_courses_water_mountain_sky-423593Lakes across our land are beautiful and peaceful and relaxing. I love camping and waking in the morning beside a pristine lake. But I have a fascination with rivers. They have their own beauty. Yet, they are not always peaceful. They are constantly going somewhere. They are mysterious. Just what is around that next bend?

The Mississinewa River flows along the edge of a small town park near my home. When I step into it with my fly fishing gear, the water grabs me. Its cool current tightens around my waders, tugging at my legs, trying to pull me along.

Though there are people and picnic tables a few yards away, I am in another world all to myself. There is no sight of society, no sound of traffic. There is an essence of wilderness hidden in the midst of civilization.

There is a serenity in gliding upon a crystal stream, seeing fish swimming beneath your kayak. There is excitement in white water rafting a wild river in Colorado. There is silent beauty in canoeing Michigan’s Manistee River on a snowclad day in winter.

Yet, there is danger in a river, rocks, undertows, unpredictable rapids. I lost a good friend in a canoeing accident in a river, a memory that haunts me still.

A river can also lead to a town and survival for one lost in a wilderness. A river is a symbolic microcosm of life. Every person’s life is a river. There are moments of peace and joy, times of excitement and places of danger. The key to one,s river of life is its destination. Physical rivers flow into an ocean. Life rivers ultimately flow into the ocean of eternity. For those whose trust is in Christ, the final destination makes the trip worthwhile.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” (Psalm 46:4) ESV

 

 

Taylor University Writers’ Conference.

Zondervan Library and Rice Bell Tower, Taylor University (Upland)There will not be a blog today, as I will be attending the Taylor University Writers’ Conference at Taylor University, in Upland Indiana. Thanks for your interest. I will be back with a new blog next week.

This is a good yearly conference for writers and those who would like to learn about becoming writers. For more information see: TUWC.

 

Wild Indians

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As I turned from looking down into an awesome desert canyon, I noticed a young Navajo forest ranger. “You certainly have a beautiful place to work,” I said.

“Yeah,” he answered. “We’ve got it all here, wild country, wild animals and wild Indians.”

I chuckled. “Good point.”

My wife and I had joined a missions group for a weeklong trip to the Navajo Reservation in Window Rock, Arizona. The area was named for a magnificent rock formation hundreds of feet high and as wide. A huge hole goes clear through the massive red rock cliff.

As we drove across the reservation line, it became a little unsettling when the group leader announced that we were entering another people’s country, and we were subject to their laws. It was also my first experience being part of a minority.

This realization was intensified when we stopped at a filling station to use the restrooms. The Navajo proprietor was polite but seemed a bit suspicious as he asked, “What are you folks doing around here?” I was reminded of the 60’s when Black people using White restrooms was a major issue of contention. I now felt uncomfortable asking to use a restroom.

Through the week our group helped repair fences, paint, and do other projects around the local Navajo church. Pastor Begay and his congregation were quiet and reserved until we got know each other. Then we found them to be warm, kind people with a great sense of humor. Other than different customs and history, we were all just people with similar hopes and dreams who loved our families and our land.

We had one other connection as well. We were Christians. No matter the country or culture or language, wherever Christians go among other Christians, we are family with the same Father.

However, that minority thing hit me again on Wednesday evening. Pastor Begay wanted to show our group a video of some of their programs at the church. “You two fellas just go across the backyard to my house. Bring my TV and tape player over to the fellowship building, and we will show you the tapes.”

Just as my friend George and I were carrying the TV out into the yard, the pastor’s five-year-old grandson came running up behind us, yelling. I suddenly realized how this looked. Here we were, two white guys, carrying a Navajo’s TV out of his house with the man’s grandson chasing us, crying, “That’s our TV. That’s our TV!” (I wonder what a Navajo jail is like?) Apparently, the neighbors in their yards knew where we were going and there was no problem.

The Bible says that a day will come when all people will live with the Lord as one family. No wars, no prejudice, no fear. Yet, we will still be our own unique selves. We will know each other as we are known. People from all nations will join together in worship together of the One who gave His life for us.

I picture a great pageant of people from all over the world entering the New Jerusalem together. People of all nations and colors, many of whom will be wearing the colorful costumes of their countries. Imagine opening night of the Olympics magnified a thousand times bigger. Won’t that be cool?!

Revelations: 21:24-26, The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

Crazy as a Loon

loon.jpgWhere I lived as a boy, a common expression was, “He’s as crazy as a loon.” It probably came from a call this bird of the North Woods makes that sounds like a high pitched, maniacal laugh. Far from being crazy, the loon is well adapted for life in the forests and lakes of the far north. It is wary and watchful, a strong flyer and a skillful diver. I have tried to get close to one in my canoe only to see it slide beneath the water’s surface then resurface several minutes later a long distance away.

It is the loon’s other haunting call that is one the most unique and representative sounds of the northern wilderness. Besides its strange laugh-like cackle, it makes a long, “Ooooo-ahhhh-oooo” sound. Seeming to have no source, it floats spirit-like over the water in the moonlight. I have fallen asleep to those lonely calls, tempted to leave my warm tent to search for the birds I probably wouldn’t find.

Once, on the upper Peninsula of Michigan, I left my rental cabin and walked up a dirt road to a secluded lake. As I stood on the shore, two loons lit on the water, their heads and pointed beaks blue-black in the morning light. Their bodies were like feathery boats of light gray and black wings with white spots. They swam about gracefully with a serene appearance, looking around in every direction. Then they began to call in their lonely voices, “Where-arrrrr-yooooo?” reminding me of two parents calling for a lost child.

I long to go back to the North Woods again to, among other things, hear that siren song of the loon.

People seem to assume that things or people they don’t understand are crazy.  The one laugh-like form of the loon’s call, for example, makes them sound kind of silly. But that’s not all of the story.

There is a rumor that’s been going around the world for a couple thousand years that Christians are crazy. They have weird ideas like certain things are right or wrong and that loving people, even their enemies, is the best way to live. They have the absurd belief that another crazy guy named Jesus performed miracles, walked on water, and rose from the dead.

I partly agree. It all sounds pretty far out. Yet, I am a believer, not because Mom took me to church or because I like the idea of going to a really neat place called heaven when I die. I believe because I am convinced.

First, when I see all the really crazy ways people are trying to fix the world through politics, war or domination, I see that it’s not working. The teachings of Jesus work. People who get it are more loving, hopeful and peaceful. Loving God and people, treating others as we want to be treated, works. For two thousand years people who have been hateful, cruel, and hopeless have changed to become loving, kind and joyful when they have turned to Him. Whole countries have become new, changed from barbarism to decency and democracy.

So, did Jesus actually live? Did He walk on water and rise from the dead? As crazy as it may sound, there are volumes of evidence that He did. Even Josephus, a non-Christian historian and writer of that day, knew of Him and mentioned things He did. Hundreds witnessed his death and around five hundred later saw him alive at His ascension. (1 Cor. 15:6).

So, my fellow loons and curious searchers,  among the many present day books of research I would recommend include, The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel, and More than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

 

 

Close Encounter

raindrops-546254_1280In the last of my heaven blogs, I want to share an experience that is very close and personal to me.

I answered the phone to hear the voice of an old friend I had not seen in years. Dick and I had known each other since grade school but had lost track of each other after moving to different places.

I automatically said the usual question people ask, “How are you”. I was shocked when he answered, “I’m dying.” Dick had a serious heart condition that would eventually take his life. However, he didn’t call to tell me a story about death but a wonderful story about life and a very close and personal encounter with the Creator of Life.

Dick had always been very athletic. He loved outdoor sports. I remembered many times we hiked in the woods, swam and canoed in a local creek. He also ran on a regular basis.

He told me that several years ago he came down with a rare cancer that was nearly always fatal. Doctors did all they could.

While Dick was on his back on a table waiting for, yet, another procedure, he saw Jesus as clearly as if on a movie screen. Jesus said, “You know what I did for you. What would you do for me?”

Dick said that he would give his right arm for his Lord. Jesus answered by telling Dick that he would walk out of the hospital.

The next months were very difficult. At one point he was so weary  and in so much pain that he told his wife Connie that he wanted to leave this life. During a stormy night, Dick awoke to lighting flashing through the hospital window. Beside Connie and a nurse were two men he did not recognize.

After sleeping and waking again, he asked Connie who the two men were who had been in the room. She assured him that she had seen no one except the nurse. The nurse agreed.

Dick remembered that, though he longed to leave, the thought of Connie crying at losing him made him want to stay for her. He realized that he had been given a second gift. He had been given the choice of going on or staying as two angels waited for that decision.

Dick lived several years beyond what the doctors expected. He eventually developed a serious heart condition, and again, lived years beyond medical predictions. We have talked and visited each other in those years. With his faith and passion in sharing Jesus’s love with people, he has been a wonderful inspiration to me and many others . That witness reminds me that God does see us, cares,  and goes with us through times of trouble. Plus He offers us a glorious future beyond what we experience here.

Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

 

Back to Heaven

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Just two days after I posted, Painting Heaven, the subject of heaven came up in our adult Sunday School class. Doug, a dear friend of mine, had back surgery recently. It turned out to be more complicated than the doctors expected. Doug said that at the peak of his pain he wanted to give up. He felt himself lifted up from the bed and transported to a beautiful place. He was  in a cabin with a glowing fire in the fireplace. Outside the windows was an awesome view of sparkling snowcapped mountains with lights in the valleys. All was peaceful. There was no pain.

Then he heard Jesus say that all this was his but to know that He had suffered even greater pain on the cross than Doug was experiencing. My friend felt then that he could take the temporary pain of this life then. He realized that he was back in his hospital bed. The pain began to gradually lessen. He also discovered that his nurses were Christians and were praying for him. He continues to recover today and looks forward with renewed faith.

Another lady related about someone close to her was disappointed when she came back from a near death experience. (NDE).

Relatives of another Christian friend had stated, that in her last moment, she looked up with wonder and said, “Wow, Jesus, I’ve got a lot to learn.

I find it comforting to know that heaven is not some vague Never, Never Land from a fairytale. God cares enough to make a beautiful home for us. And heaven isn’t far away. Heaven is close.

Just ask someone who has been there.

“Behold, I will create news heavens and a new earth.” Isaiah 65:17

 

 

[picture: “The Plains of Heaven,” by John Martin]