“Inactivity” Update

While I have been “inactive” on this blog, I have been quite active otherwise. As I mentioned in my update April 4th, my mom went home to be with the Lord at 2:00 am the morning of April 4th, 2017. Her last wishes were that her body be cremated, and that we would hold a simple Memorial Service at her home church, Rainbow Springs Village Church. I honored her final wishes, and we had a beautiful, but simple, Memorial Service April 28th at her home church. Needless to say, I pretty much “lost” the month of April.

As I started contemplating what to do with her property, I became aware of a desperate need for a home in Florida for my brother and his family, close to SHANDS Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Mom’s place seemed to be the perfect solution to their housing needs, combined with the reality that I don’t “need” to sell that property.

A bit about my brother, Steve Melton: For starters, I have no biological siblings, so Steve and I are not “blood-relatives“, which is how we can share the same first name. God, in His infinite wisdom, sometimes brings people into our lives for some yet-unknown reason, or reasons, and those people become “family” to us. Thus it was with Steve Melton his wife Karen, and their daughter, Allison, or Allie.

I joined Rainbow Lakes Fire Department in 2002, and not long thereafter, several of us from RLFD went to Williston Fire Department, where Steve was an Officer, for some training. Steve joined us at RLFD in 2004, and while I was still pretty “green“, not much more than a Rookie, he was a seasoned pro who had risen through the ranks in several other Fire Departments, including all the way to Chief – at the tender age of 27. He was, and still is, one of the finest Fire Officers I have had the privilege of serving under. He is also an EXCELLENT Instructor, one of the best. Even though I was still pretty “green” as a Firefighter, I am also thirteen years his senior, kind of a “big-brother“, so we hit it off immediately. Our relationship has grown stronger through the years.

How is Steve my brother? We are both Veterans, so regardless of branch of service; ALL Veterans are brothers and sisters. We both served in the Army. The Fire Service is a FAMILY, regardless of whether a person is a career (paid) Firefighter or a Volunteer Firefighter. The “red-stuff” (fire) doesn’t who is on the other end of the nozzle applying the “wet-stuff” (water). Steve is also a Brother in Christ, so in that we AREblood-brothers“. Last, but certainly not least, we have “adopted” each other as “family“. Yes, Steve IS my brother, and I love him and his family like my own.

Steve and his family have been living just south of Greenville, South Carolina for several years, where they moved to be closer to his mother and some of Karen’s family. We almost lost Steve in 2012 after he was bitten by a brown-recluse (fiddle back) spider. Poor health care in Greenville allowed his foot to become VERY infected. Steve is also diabetic, so he doesn’t heal all that well anyway. The super-industrial-strength antibiotics which were necessary to finally subdue the infection destroyed his kidneys, so he is in end-stage renal failure. During a bariatric chamber treatment to help heal his foot, he suffered a massive heart attack, and almost died. Five bypasses later, he was back on the mend. Even though he has been cared for in Greenville, his care is far below the level of care that he needs, including ultimately a kidney transplant. Enter SHANDS Hospital. They have a world-class kidney-transplant team AND a philosophy of “integrated-care“, which means that his care-team will all be coordinated by one “quarterback” doctor. No more “Doctor A” doesn’t know what “Doctor B” is doing, and so on down the list.

Steve was able to get an appointment at SHANDS on May 8th to start getting his health care moving forward at SHANDS. Another friend offered him a place to crash near my mom’s place, but it would have been a less-than-ideal situation. Opening mom’s home up to him was a much better way to go, so I welcomed him “home” to mom’s (now my place) in time for him to rest up a bit before he went to his appointment at SHANDS. His initial visit to SHANDS turned out to be almost a week long, because he had a mild heart-attack during his first appointment and was rushed immediately to the ER. He spent most of the time in the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU).

I spent a lot of time going back and forth from where I live in the Orlando area to Dunnellon, where my other home is, to take care of Steve, so most of May went to that endeavor.

Yes, June has arrived, and it is June 15th as I write this update. I have been busy preparing to speak at the CNA Conference at Rock Haven Lodge in Tennessee June 24th and 25th, so yes; I am getting ready to travel. After the Conference, I am driving down to where Steve and his family live in South Carolina to visit them and help them get ready to move back to Florida. Call it a “vacation”, and it will be – sort of. More like, as my Urologist put it, a “workation“, but I am sure that even as I help them get ready to move, there will be some “fun” times along the way. The last weekend I am out of town, I will be at the Christian Naturist Festival at Lake Como Resort in the Tampa area. I pull out for Tennessee this coming Monday (6/19), with a stop at my other place to take care of some business,

SO, unless I have some “spare” time, and am feeling creative, I will be absent from this blog until the latter part of July. Please keep me in your prayers as I travel, serve the Lord, and serve His people.

God bless!
Steve

Blessings!

The day dawned gloomy, which matched my gloomy-mood. It was Father’s Day, my least-favorite holiday. I dread Father’s Day because it reminds me of the dysfunction and bad-events during my years on this earth. When I should be celebrating, I am reminded of why I am NOT celebrating. Yes, I had planned another “Thoughts On Father’s Day“, but my train of thought got interrupted by a series of blessings which could have only come from the Lord. SO, instead of gloom, I am going to celebrate for a different reason.

At the gate…
When I got to the gate at Cypress Cove, I was greeted by Connie, my favorite gate-attendant. She knows me by name, so she automatically checks me in. Connie is a sweet Christian, and we have formed a bond which only Believers can understand. If there is not another vehicle behind me waiting to get in, we usually talk for a few minutes. Today was no different. I poured out my hurting-heart to her, and she said something to me that I will never forget. She said “What you are doing now is far more important than everything in your past.” I need to hear that!

I will never forget the first time I told her I was leading a ministry at the Cove. Her face lit up like a light-bulb! It was then that I discovered that she is a Sister in Christ. We have shared our faith many times since then, and I count her as one of my true friends. As I was leaving the gate this afternoon, she said “Smile, and have a better day.” That was what I needed to start breaking my gloom.

Regis…
Regis is the Activities and Entertainment Director for Cypress Cove, and he championed the effort to get our Bible Study recognized as an official group. We have talked several times over the past several months, and I was privileged to be there for him when his young son was seriously-sick a few weeks ago. We have become friends, and I cherish that relationship.

I stopped by his office to see how he is doing, and he gave me the great news that the name-change for our Bible Study is official. We are no longer simply “Bible Study“; we are now “Cypress Cove Bible Fellowship“. Visiting with him and that great news lightened my mood even more.

A hug…
Does a simple hug tend to brighten your day? I hug can certainly help brighten my day, and today was no exception. As I was getting ready to go into the office at the Cove this afternoon, a lady, who I only know by face, walked up to me and gave me a hug. I NEEDED that hug! Why don’t I know her name after seeing her many times? Because I am absolutely-horrible at remembering names. I need to make it a point to learn her name sometime soon. She had a hug for me when I badly-needed one, and her hug did its job, lightening my mood even more.

George…
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my faithful friend, George. I began the Bible Study with him last November, and he has been a faithful attender ever since. George makes it worthwhile for me to spend the time and effort necessary to prepare a lesson each week. Many people have come and gone, but George is always there unless he is out of town. His attendance has been vital to the continuation to this ministry. George needs a lot of “feeding” because he was never taught the Word earlier in his life. “Feeding the flock” is a vital-part of being a pastor.

Relationships…
Ministry is about relationships – PERIOD. As a pastor, our primary-relationship must be with God through Jesus Christ, and then our commission is to lead others to a deeper-relationship with God also, but to do that, we must form relationships with those around us, particularly those in our flock. I have been blessed to start forming relationships with many people at Cypress Cove, including both staff and permanent residents. I don’t take those relationships for granted, but try to nurture them every chance I get. Only God knows when I am going to be given the privilege of coming-alongside one of those people when they need someone to talk to.

Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote; “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;(1 Peter 3:15) We are called to be prepared to share the Gospel when and where we can, and that includes to those who are hurting from some situation or event in their life. That is part of ministry.

Gloom to blessings…
From gloom to counting blessings, all in one day. How awesome is that? We serve an awesome God and He knows what we need. God is good, and He is good ALL of the time! This reminds me of a song which I sang MANY years ago:

Count Your Many Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
(Johnson Oatman, Jr.)

Final thoughts…
God knew my mood this morning, but He wasn’t going to leave me that way, so He had some surprises along the way. I AM counting my blessings, because I am richly-blessed.

In Christ,
Pastor Steve

Are We Too Busy?

A special visitor had come to town and there was a lot to do to get ready to entertain him, but one of the sisters refused to help with the preparations. Instead of helping with the cleaning and cooking, she wanted to hear what their special guest had to say. The other sister was furious…

38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus was SUCH an important visitor that Martha thought that she had to get things “justright” for Him. The floor has to be swept, the dishes had to be washed, and their food had to be prepared. After all, she WAS entertaining the Son of God, the most important person who has ever walked this earth. Does this sound familiar?

We succumb to the “tyranny of the urgent” far too often and leave more important things undone, such as being a good mate to our spouse or parent to our children. I mentioned the song “Cats In The Cradle” in my post “Regrets“, and it really brings to light our relentless pursuit of things we may think are “urgent“, but really aren’t.

I wrote about having proper priorities in our time-management in “Priorities – Time“, and the more I study the Bible, the more strongly I believe that, counter to what our culture would say, I really did place things in their proper order. If you haven’t read it already, I invite you to read it and prayerfully consider your time-priorities.

You may be thinking that there are some things which truly are “urgent“, and you are right. True emergencies require immediate attention, and I have responded to plenty of those. I have dropped everything to rush my neighbor-gal to the hospital many times, and I have spent countless hours with her in hospital rooms. On her part, if she was in the hospital on Sunday, she has insisted that I go to church before I come up to see her. I also take the time to give her my undivided-attention when she calls or needs to talk, and recently I set-aside a Saturday to go with her to see her father, who is in an assisted-living facility. She wanted the companionship and needed the emotional-support. Sometimes I am the only “sanity” in her otherwise-crazy world.

Jesus highlighted what our priorities should be; “but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” People and relationships MUST be our highest-priorities, and all else MUST be secondary.

Are YOU too busy?

In Christ,
Steve

Good Books

Our lives can be enriched by reading, and reading good books goes a long way towards a richer, healthier and fuller life. These are some of the books in my library:

Christianity:
New Geneva Study Bible

Commentary – Matthew Henry

Grace – Max Lucado
Traveling Light – Max Lucado
God Came Near – Max Lucado
Resurrection Morning – Max Lucado

Meeting At The River – Rev. David L. Hatton, RN

The Search For Peace – Robert S. McGee
The Search For Significance – Robert S. McGee

Walking His Trail – Steve & Ginny Saint

Finding God – Dr. Larry Crabb
Inside Out – Dr. Larry Crabb

Loving God – Charles Colson
Kingdoms In Conflict – Charles Colson

Every Thought Captive – Richard L. Pratt Jr.

The Man God Uses – Henry & Tom Blackaby

Ordering Your Private World – Gordon MacDonald

Lord, Change Me! – Evelyn Christenson

Your God Is Too Small – J. B. Philips

Marriage and sexuality:
The God Of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality – Dr. Peter Jones

The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love – Dr. Tim & Beverly LaHaye

Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage – Dr. Kevin Leman

A Celebration of Sex – Dr. Douglas Rosenau

The Marriage Builder – Dr. Larry Crabb

Making Love Last Forever – Gary Smalley

Love Life For Every Married Couple – Ed Wheat, M.D. & Gloria Okes Perkins

Real Moments For Lovers – Barbara De Angelis Ph.D

It Was Better in the Backseat – Sherry Lehman, M.A.

Relationships and recovery:
Men In Mid-Life Crisis – Jim Conway

The Art of Understanding Yourself – Cecil Osborne

Rebuilding – Dr. Bruce Fisher

The Journey from Abandonment to Healing – Susan Anderson
Black Swan – Susan Anderson

Sexual addiction:
An Affair of the Mind – Laurie Hall

Don’t Call It Love – Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.
Out Of The Shadows – Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.
Contrary To Love – Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.

Reference:
Private Parts: A Doctor’s Guide To The Male Anatomy – Yosh Taguchi, M.D. (urologist)

Out In The Open: The Complete Male Pelvis – R. Louis Schultz, Ph.D.

Father’s Day 2015

Father’s Day isn’t an easy day for me, because even though I am the father of four children, my children aren’t mine any more. They have disowned me and claimed another family as their own. It is a day of mixed-emotions, love and pride, sadness and longing. I love my children and I am proud of who they have become, but I am sad because I don’t have a relationship with any of them and I long for the day when our relationships are restored.

On my way to church this morning, I heard an interview on the local PBS station of a man who will never be reunited with his only daughter. He and his wife divorced before his daughter was even born, and even though he had a relationship with her for the first few years of her life, their relationship had been shattered during her teen years. One day he got word that she had been murdered. She was only 21.

I could hear the heartache in his voice, perhaps as only another father who also doesn’t have any relationship with his children can. No amount of wishing will ever bring her back to life.

I fear the same with my own children. My middle daughter is a wife and mother to two young sons, and she is fighting cancer. Is anyone ever really CURED of cancer, or is the death-sentence simply postponed? Cancer has already claimed both of her breasts, and then in January of this year, she had to have surgery for cancer in her brain. Where will it show up next? Are there any other ticking “timebombs” waiting to claim one of my children?

While other fathers are getting dinners in their honor, fun, family-outings, wacky gifts and sweet cards, it would make my day if even one of my children told me “I love you dad!“. That would mean more to me than all the other things combined.

“Happy” Father’s Day,
Steve

Come and Eat…

When we are hungry, those three words are music to our ears, and when they carry with them a restoration of lost relationships, they are even sweeter. Some of a family’s sweetest and most cherished memories are made while eating together, and nothing says “family” quite like eating a meal together. Eating a meal together carries an even more special significance in the Bible.

David, the psalmist, points us to this special significance in the 23rd Psalm.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)

The prodigal son…
What image comes to mind when a person is described as a “prodigal“? Rebel? Wild-child? Black-sheep? If we are honest with ourselves, there is a bit of “prodigal” in every one of us. No matter how “good” you have been, there is a “prodigal” hidden inside…

11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:11-24)

Can you imagine the father laying awake at night worrying about his son? Can you see the father keeping his eyes peeled, scanning the horizon for a glimpse of his son, day after day, day after day?

What did the son look like when he approached? Was he a “sight for sore eyes“, or an “eyesore“? To his father, he certainly was a “sight for sore eyes“. Otherwise, he smelled like a pig-sty and looked like he hadn’t had a bath in months. He was barefoot, and what little clothing he had on had seen better days. He probably looked very little different than the homeless people who wander the cities of America.

By rights, the father could have had his son stripped and flogged, but he didn’t. He celebrated, but the celebration wasn’t the robe. The celebration wasn’t the ring, or even the sandals. The celebration was a FEAST, a BANQUET, a PARTY!!! He was ALIVE! He was HOME!

Peter…
Loose lips may sink ships, but Peter got caught in his own mouth-trap. It was far more serious than “open mouth and insert foot“. Peter did one of those infamous “I will NEVER…”‘s. Do you relate? I sure do, and if I had a T-shirt for every time I said “I will NEVER…“, and did it anyway, I would have to turn my home into a closet. I must have inherited some of Peter’s bragadocious genes.

Peter already had a well-deserved reputation for being bold, brash, impetuous and even a bit arrogant. He was also the “toughguy” of the gang. Don’t forget that Peter was the one packing “heat” (a sword) when Jesus was arrested. Either his aim was a bit off, or his sword-wielding skills were rusty, because he “only” cut off the guy’s ear. So much for “protecting” Jesus from arrest…

Shortly before this, Peter’s tongue had gone from being “golden“:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

to “talking trash“:
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:21-23)

What did Peter do that was SO bad?
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.

34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)

Does this all sound familiar? “I WILL NEVER…

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed.

75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)

Peter blew it – big-time, and he knew it. He had done what he promised to NEVER do, deny His lord. If this story ended with Peter’s denial, all that would have been left would have been a very despondent Peter, but this story DOESN’T end this way. It is time for another meal, time for another restoration.

21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)

Who could blame Peter for going fishing? He had been a commercial fisherman before Jesus called him, so fishing was the one thing that he DID know how to do. How could Jesus ever trust him with carrying on the ministry after He ascended back into heaven, after he made such a horrible blunder?

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-19)

Peter not only was restored to fellowship with His lord, he also received a new commission.

The Last Supper…
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:27-29)

This is the meal which we still celebrate, the Lord’s Supper. This is also a meal for restoration. Jesus didn’t say “Drink it when you are perfect“, or “Drink it when you have your stuff together“. He said “Drink from it, all of you“.

We will never be “worthy” to partake in this meal, that is, if we are depending on our own “worthiness“. We will always fall short, but this meal isn’t about us. It is about what Jesus Christ did for us. Only He can restore us to a right relationship with God the Father. I will never understand why He chose me, but He did. All of these meals are truly love-feasts, not because any of us deserves to be restored, but because Someone, who loves us more than we love ourselves, bids us come to His table.

In the presence of my enemies…
No, I didn’t forget that part of Psalm 23:5, although I am not going to touch on the last two phrases of the Psalm. We have an enemy. Satan is our mortal-enemy, and he loves to trip us up, and then make us feel ugly about ourselves after he trips us up.

The prodigal son certainly didn’t feel “worthy” to be taken back into his family, and if his older brother had his way, there wouldn’t have been any restoration, let alone a feast, but he received both. His older brother was the Devil’s advocate, but while the older brother moped, the rest of the family feasted.

Some would say that Peter had committed an unpardonable sin, and I am sure that Satan was having a gay old time reminding him of what he did, but Jesus wasn’t having any part of Satan’s celebration. When Jesus said “Come and eat“, Satan turned tail and ran.

Satan also wants to remind us of how rotten we are. There is just one problem with that. If we are in Christ, we ARE forgiven, and He has given us a permanent invitation to dine at His table. As Jesus dismissed Judas before that special meal, He also has forbidden Satan to interfere with His supper now. Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that we can’t fix ourselves, but Satan is also reminded that we no longer belong to him. We can partake because we have been restored.

Come and eat!
Steve

Storms…

35 That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:35-41)

Small boats and big water…
Even though some of Jesus’s disciples were experienced fishermen and good sailors, this storm was “over the top“. They had experienced many storms on the Sea of Galilee, but they thought this one would be their last.

Not long after 9-11, a friend of mine and I were patrolling in the Port of Tampa when a heavy thunderstorm blew in. We retreated to the Coast Guard Station to wait it out. After we tied our boat up to their dock and disembarked, the Station Officer of the Day met us. There had been an explosion at a power plant or sub-station in New York, but very little was known about what actually happened or whether it was an act of terrorism. He wanted us to check two power plants, one in the Port area, and one south of Tampa, and a ship which was docked at another Port south of Tampa for “suspicious activity“. After consulting the nautical chart, we agreed to take the mission. We were in a fourteen-feet, aluminum fishing-boat… Some would have said that we were crazy, maybe even out of our minds.

Even though the Gulf of Mexico is much larger than the Sea of Galilee, a storm can turn it from quiet waters to BIG WATER very quickly. We aren’t told how long it took Jesus and His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee, but it took us eight hours to accomplish our mission. Yes, at times it WAS a scary ride. We didn’t find anything “suspicious” at any of our check-points.

Storms…
We all go through storms in life, whether they are physical storms or the storms of life. We can all remember some of the great storms, Hurricane Katrina, Super-storm Sandy, and even Hurricane Charlie, which cut a path of destruction diagonally across Florida. There have been super-tornadoes that cut mile-wide paths of utter-destruction for tens of miles. Storms are scary, and their devastation is real.

My wife and I rode out the tail-end of Hurricane Charlie in Daytona Beach, Florida. If there was a “peacefulplace” in that storm, we were in it. As the hurricane approached from the south, we were on the north side of our hotel, sheltered from the storm. We watched as debris pelted the vehicles in the motel parking-lot, which was right in front of us. A piece of roofing landed on the new Mustang which was parked beside our vehicle. It made a huge dent in the roof, before slithering down the side of and Mustang and coming to rest under our vehicle. We watched as the storm tore huge pieces of roofing off of the motel just north of us. We also watched as a transformer exploded into a ball of fire. When we woke up the next morning, devastation was everywhere, but there wasn’t a mark on our vehicle. We, and our vehicle, had been in an oasis, a place of calm during the storm. Coincidental?

We rode out three more hurricanes over the course of the next few weeks. She was at her work, and I was at my volunteer Fire Station. Even though they were bee-hives of activity, they were oasis, places of calm during the storms. We pooled our food, and the parents of one of our Officers made sure that we had good meals to eat. Sleeping-arrangements weren’t very comfortable, but we made do with what we had. Even though we didn’t have running water, we had six-thousand gallons of water in our tanker. Yes, devastation was all around us, but we were safe, and none of our fire apparatus got damaged.

Storms of life…
The storms of life can be even more devastating. Things can be replaced, homes repaired or rebuilt, but losing a loved-one is permanent. A lost spouse, parent, sibling or child can never be replaced. After my first wife committed suicide in 1997, I thought that I could “replace” her with another wife, that the “replacement” would take away the pain of my loss, but I was wrong. I did remarry, and remarry, and remarry, but none of them ever took the place of my beloved. Connie had, and still has a special place in my heart, a place that is all her own. I finally wrote my “farewell” letter to her about three years ago, but there will always be that part of me that belongs to her alone.

Health-problems is another kind of “storm” that many of us deal with. I have several ongoing health-problems, but they are manageable most of the time. Some days are worse than others, but I can still get vertical, put one foot in front of the other and take nourishment, so I am blessed. My brother has been in and out of the hospital MANY times in the last three years, and we almost lost him three years ago.

There are no “perfect” relationships because there are no perfect people. Some of us are more “broken” than others, so when we enter into a relationship, we bring our “brokenness” with us. If we expected that our new spouse was going to “fix” what was “broken” in us, we quickly found out that that wasn’t going to happen. Only God can “fix” what is “broken” in us.

Who is this?
Even though His disciples had spent quite a bit of time with Him, His disciples really didn’t understand who Jesus is. Many years later, John the Apostle finally unraveled the answers to that question for us .

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

Jesus is the eternal “Word“, the Lord and creator of all there is. He had spoken the cosmos into existence, scattered billions of galaxies across the heavens, and when He said “Let there be light“, the nuclear fires of a gazillion stars lit as one, so calming the Sea of Galilee was “child’s-play” to Him. He had also knelt in the dust, taken a handfull of it, and lovingly fashioned the first man, before breathing His own breathe of life into the man. That is as “personal” as it gets.

Peace, be still!
We desperately want and need peace, but there is only one person who can breathe peace into us, Jesus Christ. He can place us in a place of peace in the midst of a violent storm. He can cause peace to surround us and ours such that, even though everything around us is destroyed, we suffer no harm or loss. God doesn’t “wave-off” our storms, any more than I could have “waved-off” those four hurricanes or the people of New Orleans could have “waved-off” Hurricane Katrina, but He can give us peace and the strength to go THROUGH our storms.

The storms of life ARE going to assail us, and there is no escaping them, but we can know peace in the midst of our storms. Do you have His peace?

Peace, be still!
Steve

There Is A Balm In Gilead

A recent post by Rebekah Hope (rebekahhopes.wordpress.com) brought this great old hymn to mind, because not only do we need physical healing in this life, we also need spiritual healing. Jesus is the Great Physician, but how often do we go to Him with our deepest hurts?

There Is A Balm In Gilead

Refrain
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

God cares…
God cares about your broken marriage.

God cares about your grief over a loved-one who was struck down by cancer.

God care about your dysfunctional relationships.

God care about your friend who is suffering from chronic illness.

God cares about all of your hard questions, including those that start with “WHY?”.

God cares about your anxieties and insecurities.

God cares about your physical ailments.

God cares about your addictions and struggles with persistent sin.

Answers…
God doesn’t always give us the answers that we want, but He WILL give us the strength to carry on.

God doesn’t always heal our broken relationships, but He will give us the strength to work through our own emotional and psychological hurts and aches.

God won’t take our grief away, but He will wrap arms of love around us as we work through our grief.

God doesn’t always heal our physical ailments, or those of our loved-ones, but He will help us deal with them in a manner that makes us better people and trust Him more deeply.

God won’t take away your anxieties and insecurities, but He may send people into your path who can help you with your anxieties and insecurities. He may also give you the courage to own and face your anxieties and insecurities.

God may not take away your friend’s chronic illness, but He may send you to help that person get through those times of illness.

God may NOT Take away your addictions or release you from your persistent sins, but He will give you arms of love to flee to as you realize that those things are bigger than you are.

The Balm of Gilead…
Yes, there IS a Balm in Gilead, and that Balm is the blood of Christ. Some of our wounds ARE deep. Some of our struggles are over our heads, and we ARE powerless to release ourselves from sin, but none of those things are beyond the power of God through the blood of Christ. That is what GRACE is all about. God is able to do what we are powerless to do, to heal our sin-sick souls.

May you come to the Great Physician for His healing Balm of Gilead.

Steve

David and Goliath

Are you faced with a “Goliath“? Are you facing what seem to be insurmountable obstacles in your life? Have you ever lost your job suddenly and without any warning? Have you ever been unemployed AND unemployable? Are you faced with financial distress so great that you don’t know how you are going to pay your bills, let alone live? Are you in a relationship that seems so irreparably-broken that you think that there is no hope of saving it? Are you plagued by a growing list of chronic health-problems? Have you lost a loved-one to death, and wondered how you could ever carry-on without him or her? Has the seemingly “organizedchaos” of your life descended into utter-pandemonium? Several thousand years ago, David, a young shepherd-boy, faced Goliath, a man who was nearly twice as tall as him, but he conquered that that giant with the help of the Lord. So, sit back, relax, and buckle up, as we look at how David slew the giant, and how we may “slay” our “giants” with God’s help. We may never completely “slay” our “giants” in this life, but God has promised to show Himself strong where we are weak.

David and Goliath

17 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

How big was Goliath? Six cubits and a span translates into 9 feet, 8 inches tall. His armor weighed 5,000 shekels of bronze, or 125 pounds. and the head of his spear weighed 600 shekels of iron, or about 15 pounds. He was enormous! He was a trained warrior, he was invincible, and yet he was felled with a stone hurled from a sling. Maybe everyone else thought he was too big to fall, but to David, with the help of God, he was too big to miss.

Goliath thought that David was easy-pickings, a push-over, but he was dead before he hit the ground. Using his own sword to lop his head off was merely the coup-de-gras. Even though David removed and saved Goliath’s armor, his real reward was seeing the hand of God at work and saving the Israelites from the Philistines.

David may have been a “lowly shepherdboy“, but God had prepared him well for this battle. As a shepherd, he was responsible for his sheep, including protecting them from predators. Lions and bears are serious predators, and to go against one of them with a stone and sling would be unthinkable today, but they were all in a day’s work for David. Never underestimate the effectiveness of “primitive” weapons, when wielded by a skilled hunter. Of course the true game-changer was God Almighty. David faced Goliath as one would face a Sherman Tank armed only with a sling-shot, except that with the help of the Lord God, that small stone became a precision-guided anti-tank missile. Goliath never even saw it coming, let alone duck.

My “Goliaths”…

Why do I keep writing? Why do I keep baring my heart and soul for you, my beloved readers? Is it because I am an “overcomer” and have something to brag about? This blog is “STRUGGLES“, not “Triumphs“, because I am still a struggler. I hope that, by writing about my struggles, someone is given hope in their own struggles. I received an email recently from a very dear friend of mine, and he told me that when he read my testimony, he was challenged to revisit and think more deeply about his own faith. Thank you my dear Brother! That is why I keep writing…

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:12-14, said: “12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul, even though he was an Apostle, was still a struggler.

Jobs…

I have lost four jobs since 1994, and all were under suspicious circumstances. Two of those jobs lasted ninety days or less, and three of the four were “management” positions. I won’t bore you with the details of each, just a thumbnail sketch, and to the best of my knowledge, none of them involved some kind of impropriety on my part.

1994 – Quality Assurance and Maintenance Manager – Fiberglass cooling tower manufacturer. “Christianowned” – less than ninety days.

1997 – Safety Manager and Maintenance Foreman – Aluminum trailer manufacturer. Three years. My wife committed suicide shortly thereafter.

2000 – Maintenance Assistant – Nursing home – ninety days.

2008 – Service Manager and Lead Mechanic – Bicycle shop. “Christianowned” – about four and a half years.

By the time I lost my last job, I was over fifty and pretty much unemployable. Companies weren’t hiring “olderworkers“.

Finances…

I am very familiar with “too much month at the end of the money“, and I have faced that problem many times. I wish I could say that I always have money left over at the end of the month, but I am exstatic if I break even. Some people would say that if I didn’t write that check for my giving to the work of the Lord, I would have more money, but in my experience, if I DON’T write that check for the work of the Lord, it is garaunteed that I WON’T have enough money for the month. Non-Christians don’t understand God’s economy and never will. Finances are one of my “Goliaths“.

Relationships…

I wish that relationships were easy to maintain, but they aren’t. It takes two to make a relationship last, and even if one spouse is doing everything they can to keep a marriage together, the other spouse can still ruin it. I am a veteran of several failed relationships and three failed marriages. My latest “marriage” lasted less than six weeks. She decided that she wasn’t “happy” in our relationship, so she moved out, and went and moved in with another man. In spite of everything I did to try to reconcile and restore our marriage, we are still seperated, although we are still legally-married. I prayed, my church prayed, my international community of friends prayed, but to no avail. I finally had to leave it in God’s in-box for Him to take care of, and He still hasn’t…yet. Patience…

Health,,,

I could list all of my health problems, and yes, the list seems to be growing, but that is one “Goliath” that I don’t have to face alone. A few years ago, when I had no health-insurance, and barely had two nickels to rub together, I got fast-tracked into the VA health-care system. Over the last almost seven years, I have had an incredible group of health-care providers, both doctors and nurse-practitioners. My two ARNP urologists deserve special thanks, because the first one cared enough about me to stick with it until she was able to figure out what is wrong with me, and the one I have now has continued to carry the baton for me. My hematologist is tops, and even though we have a disagreement once in a while, I wouldn’t trade him for any other. God has definitely been at work making sure I get the best health-care that is available.

Death…

On October 22, 1997, I got the kind of news that I pray no-one else ever has to face. My wife of 19-1/2 years had committed suicide. I was devastated. My world was already crashing down around me, and that was a catastrophe of horrible proportions, but I didn’t have to face it alone. I even lost my own children. Through it all, God sent several people, including my parents and a very dear pastor, to come along-side me so I didn’t have to face it alone. Life before that had been “organizedchaos” to a certain extent, but it quickly descended into utter-pandemonium. I had lost just about everything that I held dear, including my wife and children.

These are just some of the “Goliaths” I had to face through the years, but one thing is certain, and that is that God has always been faithful to me, even though I haven’t always been faithful to Him.

Additional thoughts…

I believe that God sometimes allows us to face our own “Goliaths“, not to test our metal, but to test and deepen our trust in Him. Some of us, myself included, never seem to “get it“, insisting that we can go it alone, hoping that we are smart-enough, tough-enough, strong-enough, skilled-enough, or whatever-enough to deal with the situation. I have been a master of “doing it myself“, and a chronic “slowlearner“. Just a few days after my first wife committed suicide, a friend of mine asked me how I was doing. I told him “I am doing okay. I am tough and resilient.” Was I crazy? Maybe… Was I in shock? Probably… Grief will do that to you, and it is called DENIAL!!! That was only the beginning of many tough, rocky roads that I would travel over the next several years. It would take me fifteen more years before I started allowing myself to grieve her death, and that grieving process isn’t over yet. Some of that pain is still there, but I am no longer afraid of it. Connie is gone, but definitely NOT forgotten.

I failed that test, and have failed many since then. It has take me a long time to start realizing that I don’t have to face my “Goliaths” alone. It is a lesson I still have to learn, day by day, sometimes hour by hour, because I still don’t always completely trust God to do what I can’t. Maybe that is because I don’t always see Him topple that giant how and when I want Him to. Another lesson I still need to keep learning is that He is God, and I am NOT.

What is my only hope in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

What “Goliaths” are you facing that still aren’t toppled? What “Goliaths” have you faced with God’s help and are now buried in the “Goliath Cemetery“? If you feel so inclined, please join in on this conversation. I would love to hear your story.

In Christ,

Steve