Apr 292017
 

This morning I woke up with a different perspective on life. I have often heard people say that life is a gift. But this morning, for the first time, it really seemed that way. God has created us as eternal beings, then he gave us this existence on earth as a temporary gift to see what we will do with it. It’s a little bit like we just got married, and God gave us a trip to Fiji as a wedding present. Someday He will ask us “How was the trip?” and we will all answer to Him. Perhaps when we meet others in Heaven, our story of how we used the gift of this earthly existence will be the conversation starter… just before we move on to the real discussion of the wonder of all that God has in store for us.

Jun 232015
 

The quail eggs won’t hatch and the mood is somber.  With each passing day, hope is transformed into hopelessness.  The somber mood, like a dense fog, hangs over the corner of the kitchen counter where the precious eggs rest in the incubator.

Tammy was so excited when the eggs arrived.  She has been faithfully maintaining the temperature, turning the eggs and caring for the future quail offspring with more diligence than even the mother quail herself might have provided. But the eggs won’t hatch.

Quail eggs in an incubator

Quail eggs in an incubator

She started with nine eggs. Two were cracked, some weren’t fertilized, and a few did not develop. Only two looked like they might make it. One even briefly pecked at the shell, but then died in the egg. It was sad. Little bird lives that could have been, one ever so close, but never made it.

I have learned a few things through this experience. Of course the most obvious lesson of all is that, when life does happen, it really must be a miracle. Also, seeing her care for these eggs and the life within, I have come to realize how precious Tammy’s nurturing, loving spirit is to me. And seeing Tammy’s care really highlights the fact that mother birds are absolutely amazing. They have to be some of the most selfless creatures on the planet. It’s no wonder our Father used them as an example of His care for us, His delicate miracles.

As for you, the one who lives in the shelter of the sovereign One, and resides in the protective shadow of the mighty king – I say this about the Lord , my shelter and my stronghold, my God in whom I trust – he will certainly rescue you from the snare of the hunter and from the destructive plague. He will shelter you with his wings; you will find safety under his wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall.
– Psalm 91:1-4 NET

How precious is your loyal love, O God! The human race finds shelter under your wings.
– Psalm 36:7 NET

Jun 252013
 

I have been thinking about rainy days lately.  In recent weeks, we have had our share of cloudy days.  A few weeks ago, the basement flooded again.  We had allowed the gutters to get clogged, so the rainwater just poured beside the house and made a mess.  But that is not really what I have been pondering.

What has been on my mind, is that not all rainy days are bad.  I remember one drizzly day long ago.  Tammy and I were not yet dating.  We connected with friends, took a long walk on a damp day and enjoyed each other’s company.  Our clothes were nearly soaked as we walked along a railroad track.  I can’t really explain why it was such a wonderful day.  Perhaps deep down we knew there is something special about a person who will walk in the rain, just to be with you.

I also remember a day a few years ago at Cloudland Canyon State Park.  We went to bed one night planning a hike for the next morning.  When we woke up, it was raining.  I was disappointed.  I thought the rain would ruin the hike.  When it slowed to a sprinkle, we decided to go anyway.  Packing snacks and a rain poncho in our backpacks, we started out.  I figured we would get drenched.  That’s not what happened.

While we hiked through the woods on the way to the canyon, the occasional sprinkle gave way to a cool, gentle mist.  As we approached the canyon overlook, I thought we wouldn’t see anything.   I was wrong.  What we saw were misty clouds gently floating in the canyon, giving an occasional glimpse of the far side canyon wall.  It was as if we were standing on an island in the clouds, and it was magical.

If there is any point to this post it is simply this:  Not all rainy days are bad.  Some can be wonderful, or even magical, if you give them a chance.

Jan 222013
 

I have a cold.  No major illness.  No major trial.  Just the minor inconvenience of a headache and a nasal system full of snot.  None the less, I will be glad when it’s over and the sickness is a memory.

Colds do slow me down, but I try not to let them get me down.  It’s a pain to have to deal with the headaches and snot.  However, I realize it is only temporary.  Colds are not typically life threatening, so in a few days, this one will just be a memory.   But today,  there is a battle raging inside my body.

While I write this, white blood cells are attacking the invading virus, determined to subdue it.  In the end, the invading virus will be conquered.  My body’s defenses will win, and I will feel better.   In the meantime, this got me thinking about why God made the body “almost” perfect.   His design allows my body to fight the germs, but why didn’t He design it so the germs never even have a chance?   Why didn’t He make it so my defenses were so good that I would never even get sick in the first place?

One possibility:  Because I was sick from the day I was born.   This earthly body is not perfect.  The disease of sin means certain death to this earthly body.   A cold reminds me of that.  Any trial, any sickness, any disease, any death of this earthly body is just a reminder that sin has to go.  It also helps me realize that eternal life in this corrupt body would be a curse.

A God who would leave me to live forever in a sickened corrupted state would not be a loving God.   Therefore, our Heavenly Father has provided a solution.  Christ is the cure.  He is a living example of the truth that the body must die so the spirit can live.   Perhaps eons from now, looking back from the perspective of eternity, I may turn to one of my Christian friends and say, “Remember that time when we were all sick?  Aren’t you glad we got over that?”

 

So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
     – Romans 8:8-14  NKJV

Sep 292012
 

Below is a poem I wrote more than ten years ago and sent to poetry.com.  I have hesitated to post it on my blog because, quite frankly, it’s a little embarrassing.  Despite that, I have decided to swallow my pride and post it for several reasons.  First, I have felt like I should for a while now.  Second, I need another post for this month.  (I try to at LEAST do three a month.)  And finally, since I am not feeling this way at the moment – hopefully learning a few things since then – you don’t have to feel sorry for me or be amazed at my pity party.  I am VERY blessed, as are many of us.  However, my guess is that some others have felt this way at times, so maybe you can relate.  If I am the only one that has ever felt this way, don’t tell me.  It will just make me feel bad.  😉

—————————–

Midlife Musing

Life is hollow.
Striving, Reaching, Struggling.
Close, but never there. Grasping.
Not quite good enough,
Not quite quick enough,
Not quite old or young enough.
A life full of not quite enough money,
Not quite enough time,
Not quite enough talent.
A life of almost good enough,
Almost correct and almost right.
Hoards of I-wish-I’d-done-thats.
Regrets scattered everywhere.
Success seems scarce, Yet blessings abound.
Self pity is sickening.
The end of life. A talk with God.
The unimaginable happens.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Nothing else will matter at all.

– JMS

 

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
              — Matthew 25:23  NKJV

Sep 192012
 

There is no such thing as leftover bacon.  I have never seen it and I am convinced it does not exist.  In researching the topic, I have discussed the issue with several people.  They have all agreed.  Leftover bacon is a myth.

At first, this theory may appear to defy logic.  Every other food is capable of producing leftovers.  At our house, for example, spaghetti is particularly adept at this.   English peas and rice are also very leftover prone.  We once had three or four dates that sat in a small container in the back of the fridge for almost a year before I finally consumed them and put them out of their misery.  But never bacon.  Bacon is just too good to be left unconsumed.  The demand always meets the supply.

When I die, I don’t want to be like spaghetti or English peas.  I want to be like bacon.  One hundred percent shared out.  Every crumb given away.  Every bit consumed.  Nothing held back.  No leftovers.

He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
-Math 10:39

Apr 302011
 

My heart beats at 68 beats per minute.  That’s on the low end of average for a person who is sitting around doing  nothing.  When I get up and go for a walk, my heart works a little harder, speeding up to 72.  When I wake in the morning, it’s already thumping along at 66 bpm.  Not much change for a heart.

Although it’s drumming a steady beat now, there will come a day when it stops.  The last beat.  It’s been counting down ever since before I was born.  Only God knows exactly how many beats I have.  It’s a bit sad and introspective for me to think about it, but I wonder if God sees it differently.   I wonder if He is watching the count-down. 

Does He consider the day of the last beat, when my heart stops and my eyes open to really see Him for the first time?  Does He eagerly anticipate, like a Father waiting for his children to come home?   Is He marking off the beats on some Heavenly count-down clock?  I can almost imagine Jesus elbowing some big angel and saying, “Just wait ’till Mark gets here.  He’s going to be amazed at the place I’ve prepared for him.  Only 1,751,299,200 beats to go! ”

  “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
     – John 14:1-3

Mar 232011
 

Sam and I came across some bones while on our Sunday walk.  A skeleton of sorts.  It was the backbone and rib cage of what I can only guess was a deer.  It was kinda weird to see it laying there by the side of the road so we stood for a while, trying to figure out what it was.  Before concluding that it had been a deer, we speculated on a few other options . . .  an alligator perhaps?  A very large dog?  Maybe a dinosaur whose bones had been washed up by the rain?  OK, maybe not a dinosaur, but it was fun to speculate.

Deer Bones

Where did these bones come from?

I never thought about it much, but whatever it was, it most certainly is not that now.  For it to be a deer, it must be alive.  Otherwise, it is the bones of a deer, or the body of a deer, or the skin of a deer, but not a deer.  Now it’s just the dead bones of a deer and whatever happened, it must have happened pretty quickly.  The last time Sam and I walked the gravel road, the bones were not there.  We considered the possibilities and decided this must be the poor deer’s story:

He was running along in the woods when he decided he was not happy where he was.  He wanted to be someplace else, so he headed out across Buford Highway to get to the woods and the gravel road on the other side.  Along came a car and ruined his plan, blindsiding him.  Mortally injured, he stumbled on across the road and down to the woods and gravel road along the other side.  There, he finally fell in the ditch and died.   The buzzards must have promptly picked away at him, leaving just these bones laying by the dirt road.

The story is familiar.  It happens to people too.  They go the wrong way at the wrong time and get blindsided.  Then along come the “buzzards” to pick at them while they are down, tearing away all that is left of them, leaving nothing but dry bones and no life.  Sometimes I am the deer.  Sometimes I am the car.  Sometimes, I am even the buzzard.  And there are definitely days when I feel like the dry bones.   But God, He is the one that can give life even to dry bones, and thankfully, He does.

“I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.'”
–  Ezekiel 37:14 NASB     Read Ezekiel 37:1-14 for the story of the dry bones come to life

Dec 272010
 

I have been on many rides at many amusement parks but the wildest ride I ever went on was at a place called Fair Park in Nashville, TN.   The late, great, Fair Park was closed down years ago.  The old wooden roller coaster was dismantled.  The Tilt-a-whirl tossed in the scrap heap.  But there is one wild ride that still lives in my memory.

Insane Ferris Wheel at Fair Park

The ride looked a little bit like a ferris wheel, only instead of two wheels with baskets hanging between them, this evil contraption had enclosed “cars” in line with a single wheel.  Imagine if you took the basket loose from one side of a traditional ferris wheel, swung the loose end behind you and attached it to the same circle, then turn the seats 90 degrees so that you are facing along the outside of the wheel like a normal ferris wheel.  The basket was an enclosed cage, making it slightly safer, but no less wicked.  And I rode it.   

It started with a dare from my uncle Carl.  He dared me and my uncle Tim to ride it and promised to pay us each five dollars if we would.   I was maybe 10 years old at the time.  Tim was only 4 years older than me, and evidently not much wiser, so we agreed.  I don’t think there is any way this could happen today.  We are both much older and wiser, the rides are much safer, and five dollars won’t even buy a decent lunch. 

Back then, it was a different story.  Tim and I wanted the five bucks, and the ride operator had replaced his height requirement sign with one that said You-Must-Be-This-Dumb-To-Ride-This-Ride.  Unfortunately, I qualified.  So, Tim and I climbed aboard and strapped in for the ride of our lives.  

I spent the next few minutes doing uncontrolled loops, dangling by my waste from a loose fitting strap, hanging on for dear life while loose change from my pockets first fell below me, then pelted me in the face as we went around the loop and started back up.  It was like constant loops of “blast off” heading straight up with our backs in the seat like astronauts, over the top, then straight down in a nose dive.  We were supposed to be able to control the thing ourselves by turning a wheel that would spin the car as we went over the top and at least keep the G forces positive.  That was the theory.   But for a skinny 80 pound kid that could easily slip through the loose strap, it was not an option.  Both hands were completely busy hanging on for dear life.  So, as often as not, we went around the loop on the wrong side, hanging completely upside down, pulling negative Gs and screaming our lungs out. 

Even when the ride was finishing up, the torture continued.  Stopping to let the other guys off at the bottom was a nightmare when we were the ones in a nose dive for the ground.  I wondered if the ride operator knew or cared about my predicament as I hung there, suspended by that canvas strap around my waste while some guy in the bottom car stumbled out and kissed the ground.

At last it was our turn to exit the ride, which we did swiftly, albeit with a little less change in our pockets.  We proudly collected our five dollars, and acted like we would be glad to ride it three or four more times if they would be willing to pay up.  Mercifully, Dad and Carl decided we had better move on to something a little less exciting. 

I don’t remember anything about the rest of that day, but the ride of my life was forever burned in my memory.  Fair Park is now gone.  We never climbed on that crazy ride again.  Even so, there are times when I feel like I never got off that ride.