Who was in the boat that day? Who was it who faced death? Where is your faith?

Who was in the boat that day? Who was it who faced death?

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Their confident eyes radiated knowledge of the sea. Their muscles confidently tensed with the skills they had practiced over and over. They welcomed the hard work that came with being professional fishermen. They knew their craft. They were good at their craft. And, they knew the sea and its inherent dangers as good as anyone.

They knew that the land around this sea was prone to earthquakes. They knew that those frequent rumbles brought torturous waves. To be on the water during those times was to flirt with disaster.

These men knew the difference between worry and concern. They knew what they had control over. They knew how to steer the craft through the currents and the coastlines. They knew how to use the net to catch the shoals of fish. and, when torturous storms came, they knew what they could control and what they could not.

When the storm unexpectedly hit them. These were the men that turned to the sleeping man and said that they were all going to perish.

There are more then a few who have found themselves deeply immersed in this situation. Like swimming in quicksand, they found themselves at a place beyond their control. And, as good as they were, it was beyond their capabilities.

Think back. All of us have been there, tested to our limits. Then, when we can clearly see the edge of what we can do, that’s where we can see someone else at work.

“Where is your faith?”

Luke 8:22-25 “One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’ ”

From the ESV notes. “Although rebuked for their lack of faith (Luke 8:25), the disciples were aware that, whereas they were helpless in the storm, Jesus was not, so they went to him. Jesus rebuked the wind and waves, revealing that he has authority over nature, just as the Lord God does. (Ps. 107:29). ”

The disciples faith greatly increased that day, just as Jonah’s did while he lived inside the belly of a fish for three days and nights before getting spit back out.

Where is your faith?

Take the time to discover God’s promises.
Take the time to increase your trust and hope one step at a time.
Then, watch your faith increase.

The Bells of Christmas ring – What is the greatest command?

Habits live on from a time that I cannot recall.
Reactions explode from the memories that aren’t even there.
Twelve years are gone, but affliction has filled all the gaps.
How do I live with a hole that formed who I am.
Please, my Lord, let me remember the joy.

And the bells of Christmas ring.

She left on the bus and abandoned three children to me,
but left all her words of cruelty and curses and pain.
But she didn’t stop there. She took all my memories.
Where do I go when I don’t even know where I’ve been?
Please, my Lord, help me remember anything.

And the bells of Christmas ring.

The world is so dark, please show me some hope if you can.
Then a gift I did get, four tickets to a baseball game.
What a surprise, it was the owners box.
With hots dogs and popcorn, we managed to get a game ball.
Please, my lord, where do I find some more joy?

And the bells of Christmas ring.

I opened my eyes and looked at the Christmas choir.
I looked at the joy in my kids and the love that they share.
I should have listened to the ringing of the Christmas Bells.
The joy in my life doesn’t come from what’s in the past.
My joy comes from the hope and the trust that I have.

And the bells of Christmas ring.

How do I live with a hole that formed who I am.
Affliction does come, but I know the Lord takes care of me.
Reactions do bloom from memories intentionally planted.
Habits are new from times that are led by the Lord.
I live now to give the gifts of the love and the joy.

May the Bells of Christmas ring all year long.

Matthew 22:36-40
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Photo Credit: http://festivalsadvices.com

Where does joy come from? Perhaps we need a little pepper for our joy.

Justin breathed heavily on the stage in front of a sea of kindergarden to fifth graders. He ran a hand through his brown hair as he relived the first part of the bible story. With his kakis and blue button-down shirt, Justin was about discover a truth that he didn’t even know he was looking for.

I’ve always loved this story. “Jonah was running away by sailing to a far-off land, but God wasn’t happy with Jonah and sent a storm. The sailors tried everything they could to save the boat, but they were in serious trouble. When the sailors found out that Jonah was the cause of the storm, they had no choice but to throw Jonah into the sea. God sent a giant fish who swallowed Jonah up. Jonah was in the fish for three days and three nights. Then, Jonah found happiness and contentment. He prayed to God and thanked Him. Then, the giant fish spit Jonah out onto the beach.”

And the children exploded with questions.
“Why is Jonah happy?”
“I would have speared the fish!”
“Look, Mr. Justin’s a statue. Let’s throw something into his mouth!”
“No, Mr. Justin has a tumor, his head is going to explode.”

I was stumped. Why was Jonah happy? Most people act like happiness is dependent on circumstances. But that doesn’t make sense. I know too many people who have no right to be happy, but still are. What did make Jonah happy?

The children’s coordinator smiled and laughed. “Wow, children! You stumped Mr. Justin! That’s not easy to do. I have a great idea. Let’s let Mr. Justin think about it and give us an answer next week. And, all of you can think of more great questions to stump Mr. Justin!”

The children cheered!

I picked up my bible, a notebook and a pen and drove to a local all-night restaurant. “Coffee and a piece of apple pie please.”

The coffee came. “I hate coffee, why did I order it. Maybe the sugar will help.”

Then I heard an ornery voice. “You put me in your coffee and I’m asking to be moved. How would you like it if someone spit up coffee all over you?”

I looked at what I was about to pour into my coffee. “Yuck! Pepper!” I put the pepper shaker back down on the table. I looked around. “Who tipped me off? Wow, I don’t see anyone. Weird.”

The ornery voice was back. “I am not weird.”

I looked up in shock! “Woah! I’m talking with a pepper shaker! It really looks like your talking! Maybe you have a really small speaker on you?”

The pepper shaker responded. “You caught me. I do have a speaker on me. It’s called a mouth! You need help from the #1 spice in the world?”

I was incredulous. “You are not the #1 spice in the world.”

The pepper shaker stomped right up to me. “Wow, what a grump! You ARE like soggy pasta. No wonder Joy won’t talk with you! What did you accuse her of, being no more then dish soap?”

I closed my eyes. How can a stupid pepper shaker know that I don’t know where joy comes from? “You know what? You’re right. I can pull up a movie on my phone. Do some social media. I’ll just order one beer … barrel. That’s as good as joy. Are you satisfied now?”

The pepper shaker huffed. “Think Einstein, you’re supposed to be the salt of the earth, not syrup of ipecac. Those are just distractions; really, really brief distractions. Like opening up the door and looking at the salad dressing. Now, are you ready to put some spice into this, or are you going to just keep sitting on the shelf with all the other spices that don’t want to be used?”

I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath. “Okay, okay, I’ll try. I have a newborn in the hospital, but I should be happy. The doctors don’t know whether he’ll live or die. So, I should be filled with joy. After all, ‘Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials.’ And then there’s the ‘rejoice always’. What I really should be doing is walking around clapping people on the back and telling them what a great day this is! Why didn’t I think of this before?”

The pepper glared at me. “God didn’t ask you to be an idiot either.”

I blew out a deep breath. “Okay, okay, okay, what should I do Mr. I’m going to spice up your life?”

The pepper went quiet for spell. “Okay. Here goes. Picture a time when you were thoroughly humiliated. You can still think, can’t you? Did it make you feel like crawling back into bed and never come out? Do you ever want to experience that humiliation again?”

I threw my hands into the air. “You want me to what? Wow! This is so great! I never thought to think about the myriad of times that I’ve been totally humiliated! What a great way to increase my joy! You’re a genius!”

The pepper shaker rolled his eyes. “Your sarcasm is truly terrible. Have you thought about running for congress? Now concentrate. What if I offered you ten million dollars to endure a full day of that humiliation, would you consider it?”

I was was confused. “Where does a pepper shaker get ten million dollars?”

The pepper shaker smiled broadly. “I know a good kitchen when I see one. And, I’m really good at getting a lot of spices from the stock market. Now, stop changing the subject. Will you or won’t you?”

I looked up at the ceiling and tried to imagine the money. “Why would I want to endure that? … Well … Maybe … Okay … Sure, for ten million dollars, I’d do it. I could really use the ten million. That could be fun!”

The pepper shaker smiled. “You know, when you changed you’re focus from the bad event of getting humiliated to the good event of getting ten million dollars, you were willing to suffer through the bad to get to the good. You know, joy works the same way. It all depends on what you’re focused on.”

That hit a chord. It made sense after that.

Just like “your attitude determines your altitude, your focus determines your happiness.” Zig Ziggler

“Happiness always sneaks in through a door you didn’t know was open!” John Barrymorre

Happiness is the knowing your journey is taking you to a great place. “Thanks Pepper Shaker. We make a great team.”

The pepper shaker stomped off. “They may be no I in team, but there are four I’s in Platitude-Quoting Idiot!”

Back as the storyteller, I was ready to answer the children. “What made Jonah happy? Happiness is knowing that all things work together for the good for those who love God. And Jonah knew that no matter what happened, God would always be there to take care of him. Even more, Jonah know that he was going to a better place, no matter what happened. That’s where Jonah found his happiness.”

I paused and looked around at the children’s faces. They were all in deep thought. Considering.

I continued on. “In my life, I’ve discovered the same thing as Jonah. So, where do you find your joy? What destination can you focus on that will fill your ‘here and now’ with joy? Write it down right now so you don’t forget it.”

The children filled up the rest of the story-time with amazing stories of God-filled joy. I loved every minute of it. My life got a whole lot better when I discovered a little pepper for my joy!IMG_0311.GIF

We can’t always see him

Piercing blue eyes looked back at him in the mirror. There’s too much gray. I look old. I wish I didn’t have to do this. I hope I don’t get kicked. Maybe I should put some pads underneath my jeans and teeshirt. Naw, that would look stupid. I feel stupid enough. Let’s get this over with.

John picked up his violin and walked out the door.

In no time, John walked to the interior of a busy train station. He listened to the trains starting and stopping. The overhead voices guiding people to the right tracks. People drinking oceans and oceans of coffee and running to the bathrooms.

Well, here’s the spot.

John opened up his violin case and left it open on the floor in front of him. He picked up his violin which revealed a “Donations Welcome” sign. He pulled out his bow.

Sweat beaded as John played hour after hour. Some clapped lightly. A few families stopped briefly and listened. Most didn’t even know he was there even though they passed within ten feet. However, there were those couple of policemen that were leaning against a pole a little ways away and watching him with some interest.

Finally John got up the courage and looked into his violin case. Four dollars and thirty two cents. That’s really insulting. I might as well stop. I have a couple of hours to clean up before I play again.

John went back home, took a long shower, and groaned loudly. Oh does that feel good. Thank you God for warm water. John stepped out, toweled off, groomed, and put on his tux.

An hour later John was standing in front of one of the premier symphonies in the country. People cheered wildly as the first violinist weaved the same intricate melodies that he had played only hours earlier. No one noticed him in the train terminal. Everyone noticed him now.

After the concert, he met the researcher. “It went just like you said.I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. It’s truly amazing how much is right in front of us that we just don’t see. By the way, thanks for the police.”

I finished reading story and it got me to thinking.

"Enchanted Forest, Bavaria, Germany from YourAmazingPlaces.com
“Enchanted Forest, Bavaria, Germany from YourAmazingPlaces.com

The earth is filled with beauty that we miss every day because we’ve simply filtered it out, like a window filters the sun. It’s our choice for what we filter out and what we choose to look at.

Do I feel the anger of traffic? Or, do I notice the beauty of the forest that I am driving through?

Do I judge people just because they look and act differently? Or, do I see that everyone is a genius at something.

Do I spend my time complaining and tearing people down? Or, do I look for opportunities to build people up.

Do I go though life thinking that God isn’t there, doesn’t care, or it mad at me? Or, do I look at what He has promised to me and look for His answers.

John 20:14-16 “Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”

Just because we don’t see Him, doesn’t mean He’s not there. Look to His promises and what He is accomplishing.

What are the invisible killers that all of us must face?

What are the invisible killers that all of us must face?

Remember when life gave us our first kiss
The moments were magical and life was bliss
Remember when the friendship was warm and inviting
Our words flowed in torrents and touches were exciting
Remember when our parting was such sweet sorrow
The ribbons of joy caressed us till the morrow

Life’s messages are blaring and declaring
that contentment is not what we are sharing
They cause me concern and I need your appraisal
Am I doing okay? Please give me your approval
Your caring words shower me with judgementalism
because you believe God gifted you with criticism

We are endlessly sad and tired
Friendship moments are all expired
Connected through angry exchanges
Pain increases and peace just ceases
I won’t help you and You won’t help me
You are are nothing and I need to flee

I desperately need your validation
your acceptance and approval are in question
I have no choice but to tell you how you should act
Your carping and faultfinding do not fulfill our pact
My rights, my needs, and my desires are what I crave
but our constant warfare is sending me to the grave

We are becoming experts at horrible words
that shred our hearts and souls as if we used swords
Pain mutates into fear and it grows so strong
that we accept it and live with it all day long
Fear filters your words to what I don’t want to hear
and words that were meant to heal will now only sear

Finally I see what my friends have been telling me
intelligent boundaries will erase my reactions to flee
To measure my words on the way in and the way out
Will help me to clearly see what my words are about
The invisible killer called fear will appear
I will see fear’s true colors so it can’t interfere

Life has given us another first kiss
Moments are magical and life is bliss
Friendship bands are warm and inviting
Words flow in torrents and touches are exciting
Our lives are full and amazing and sweet
Ribbons of joy hold us and our lives are complete

Fear infects our lives with hatred and war and pain
Whispering in our ears that there is nothing to gain
Fear robs us of peace by deepening our distress
Not warning us but completely stopping our progress
Only true love can conquer the horrible plight
Fight the fear by transforming your life with love’s daylight

Living life with paralyzing fear
Remember the attractions
Diagnose the distractions
Recognize the reactions
Examine the effusions
Detect the deceptions
Fight the frustrations
Rebuild the relations
Live in true love

Mr. Dove finds happiness in an eight inch fish

A man doesn’t know what true happiness is until he gets married. Then it’s too late.

Where do we find happiness and contentment? Events, movies, that next big raise? If the answer were so easy, why do we have so many unhappy and depressed people walking around? How would you answer that question?

I read about this older gentleman – retired, happily married, content with life. Mr. Dove, he found the answer!

When Mr. Dove was younger, he loved to fish. In fact, he caught more fish then were in that lake. And between the boat and the bar, his fish always doubled in size. But, when Mr. Dove was bragging on and on about that eight inch fish that he caught, his friend stopped him right then and there, “eight inches? That’s puny.”

Mr. Dove responded “I measure them between the eyes.”

After Mr. Dove left the bar that day, his entire life would change forever!

As Mr. Dove described it, “I was perfectly content in my misery, walking along the beach when The Lord himself spoke to me.”

“Mr. Dove, I want you to go to the capital city of your neighbors to the East, and tell them to clean up their acts or they’re going to get destroyed.”

Mr Dove responded, “The people who constantly steal all our cattle and silver and gold? The people who live in the city where it takes 3 days to walk from one end of the other? To the people who hate us? That city?”

The Lord responded. “Yes, that city.”

“Wow, how cool! I could be like Daniel surviving the lions Den – David killing Goliath. Wait, plagues! There could be plagues! Mr, Lord, I’ve got some great plague ideas for you.”

The Lord’s voice boomed. “Just give them the message Mr. Dove.”

“Can’t I just send a telegram?”

“No, Mr. Dove. Go!”

So, Mr. Dove ran, in the opposite direction. When the going gets tough, the tough get going – far away. He took a slow boat to China.

As Frank Sinatra said, “He did it, his way!”

I stopped reading. So, that’s where happiness comes from! I did it my way. I told my wife what she needed to do and by when to do it by. She had some choice communications with me. If mama isn’t happy, no one is happy.

Well, the Lord wasn’t too happy with Mr. Dove. So, he sent a nasty storm after him. It was so windy, chickens were laying the same eggs six times. ouch.

Imagine if a storm was following me around? Man, I would feel like Eeyore from Winnie the pooh. “sometimes storms get lonely, too.”

No wait, a storm following me around… I could be a superhero. I could be an Xman, like storm. Bumper to bumper traffic slowing me down? No worries, Super Stephen is here. A little wind will clear a nice path for me. Got a bad review from your boss, maybe some isolated thunder storms will help. Wow, that could be fun!

But, It wasn’t fun for Mr. Dove. When the ships crew found out that Mr. Dove was to blame for the big storm that was threatening to kill them, they had no choice but to throw Mr. Dove overboard into the stormy sea.

Mr. Dove pleaded. “Please Mr. Lord, save me!”

“Well Mr. Dove, I have an eight inch fish that can help you.”

“Mr. Lord, excuse me, but an eight inch fish seems kind of puny.”

“I measure the size of the eyes.”

Well, that eight inch fish swallowed Mr. Dove up whole. “A boat would have been easier, Lord!”

But, Mr. Dove didn’t die. He had time to sit back and think a spell – three days and three nights, in fact. Then, finally, that eight inch fish spit Mr. Dove out onto a beach.

Mr. Dove is sitting on the beach and he’s happy! I’ve got it. I went to work and I rubbed lots of fish guts over all of my clothes. When I saw my boss, he was furious with me and sent me home. Wow, that worked great! I’m really happy!

Well, Mr. Dove didn’t waste any time.

As Frank Sinatra would say, “He did it, the Lord’s way!”

Mr. Dove joined a caravan going to that big city. It took him months to get there.

When he finally arrived, the city already knew about Mr. Dove and his eight inch fish. What’s more, they listened to Mr. Dove. They cleaned up their acts and they became the best of friends with Mr. Dove.

Then Mr Dove explained it. “I found my joy in that eight inch fish. I found a friend. Someone who’ll always be there for me – through good and bad and thick and thin. I can’t even imagine where I’d be today if it weren’t for my friends. Let’s face it, friends make life a whole lot more fun.”

Sometimes, we all need an eight inch fish to help us to find happiness and contentment.