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Heath Update

March 28, 2012
My Prayer Warriors: 

Many of you have asked me to keep you up-to-date on my health issues.   So I wanted to give you an update so you can be praying for me this week and the days ahead.  I believe in the POWER OF PRAYER and I am humbled when you say you are interceding on my behalf to the throne of God.   Thank you. 

I got word today that my PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan will take place Friday, March 30 @ 8:30 AM at Allegheny General Hospital.   This test involves injecting a very small dose of radioactive chemical, called a radio-tracer, into the vein of my arm.  The tracer travels through the body and is absorbed by the lymph nodes and tissue.   I will then be asked to lie down on a flat examination table that is moved in to the center of a PET Scanner----a doughnut-like shaped machine.  This machine detects and records the energy given off my the tracer substance and , with the aid of a computer, this energy is converted into three-dimensional pictures.  A physician can then look at a cross-sectional images of the arm and shoulder from any angle in order to detect any cancer that may have spread from the nerve in my finger.   The test will take 2 or 3 hours and results will return in 2 to 3 days, but I am praying they find no spread of the cancer.

If you have seen my finger you know how well it has healed, so far.   My doctors have been surprised by the speed and the fullness of the healing (that is a "God thing" that many physicians often do not get).  

At this time I am scheduled to have my MOH's Surgery on April 12th at 8 AM at Wexford, PA.  Because of the good healing from my first surgery my plastic surgeon wants to wait for the reconstruction to take place the following week after the MOH's.  This means leaving the wound open; he thinks that this will make the surgery less painful and complicated, if my body does a lot of the work of growing the new skin and flesh, making it less to reconstruct.  So, that puts my reconstruction surgery at Allegheny General on April 19th, time yet to be determined. 

After the MOH's I will have to go to the surgeon's office at least every other day to let her check it.  Because the wound will be left open it is important that there is no infection and they need to make sure it is healing properly.

I really have been very focused through this whole process.  I know God is bigger than this cancer.  If He wants it gone...it will be gone.  If it is not, I will trust Him and know that He has a reason for the adventure through this valley.  I just know He has not changed through all my struggles---with the problem with this finger.  He is still God and He is still good.   I trust Him completely.  

I have used this finger many times to point at individuals and remind them that they need to trust in God completely with their lives.  It have used it to poke many on the shoulder to get their attention and I have used it to point upward toward a great and mighty God.    It may be through this troubled finger God is reminding me that when I have pointed that finger at others there are three more pointing back at me---reminding me that I too need to fully trust the ways of my Heavenly Father.   God may be using my finger to poke me on the shoulder to remind me that He wants my undivided attention and I need to keep pointing to Him.

Just remember---whatever you go through, God is going through it with you.  I am learning not to lean on my own understanding.  

As you pray for me I ask you to pray specifically for my doctors.  They are guiding me through this whole process and have been wonderful in giving me all the information I need to make wise decisions.   I have been blessed by there expertise and strongly believe God has led me to these professionals to help me address and recover from this cancer.  My PCP is Dr. Margaret Morton, my MOH's Surgeon is Dr. Sharon Hrobovsky, and my Plastic/Hand Doctor is Dr. Michael White.

Thank you for your prayers, cards, and warm expressions of love and concern. 

Faron
 

FARON'S FINGER-NOTE

March 17, 2012

Many of you know I been having some health issues.   I would like to address them in my weekly footnote, maybe in this case - - finger-note.

Allow me to begin with an apology.  I am sorry it has taken me so long to share with you everything that’s been happening.   The past two weeks have been trying.  I needed to wrap my head around information coming at me from several directions.  I’ve had some major decisions to make and felt like I was in a data flood, drowning in information.   Before sharing, I needed to sort it all out in my head, with all my questions answered, so I can pass on to you what I have learned and understand.  

On March 1 I had surgery on my right index finger.  I had a growth in my fingernail bed that had continued to grow.   My doctor removed it along with a section of my finger.   The biopsy came back Tuesday.  It is cancer.  

My Doctor gave me two options:  (1) Have Moh’s surgery where the surgeon slices thin layers off my finger until they see no more cancer under a microscope or (2) Amputate my index finger at the knuckle.

I saw the Moh surgeon today, and after prayer and wise counsel have decided to have the surgery.    While there is still no guarantee I will not lose that finger, there is a slim chance I can keep it. 

There is also a fear that the cancer has spread to the nerve which will carry it to the lymph nodes.   I am still having pain in the upper knuckle which causes them to have this suspicion.   The good news is that there is no redness.

The Moh surgeon is consulting with a team of doctors this weekend to determine if I should have a PET scan where they inject a radioactive dye in my arm to check the lymph nodes in my elbow and armpit.  If they find cancer there, one or both lymph nodes will be removed. My prayer is that the cancer has not spread.

The Moh surgeon took pictures today and will share all my information with this team of physicians.  She will call me Monday or Tuesday to give me more instructions and inform me of their decisions.

Prior to my appointment today I was leaning toward the amputation, but today’s visit brought a wiser decision.  The surgeon told me that if the cancer spread, it would be systemic and removal of the finger would not stop the cancer. The conclusion being, “Why not try to save the finger?”

This is a skin cancer. The good news is that it is not a melanoma, a fast-growing cancer.  

This growth has been on my finger for about 4 years.  I have seen many doctors about this troubling issue.   A year and a half ago I had an office biopsy in a dermatologist’s office and they determined that the growth was not a wart nor was it cancer.   Based on their diagnosis, I decided this was not something serious and that I just needed to live with it for a while.  So I relaxed about it.  The Moh’s surgeon told me today that the kind of biopsy the dermatologist did that day would not carry much weight with her.  Because it was not frozen and sent out of the office, it would be nearly impossible to have known it if was or was not cancer.

The doctor who removed the growth from my finger was the 5th doctor I went to with this finger problem; he was the only one who helped me.   I am thankful for Dr. White; he has been wonderful.

After the Moh’s surgeon removes the cancer, she will turn my hand over to my Hand/Plastic Surgeon, Dr. White who will then perform reconstructive surgery.    At this time, even if I was cancer-free, I would still have to have the reconstructive surgery because the removal surgery must go nearly to the bone (1 mm from the bone) to remove the growth.    After the Moh’s surgery I must have several (3-5) follow-up surgeries to reconstruct my finger.  I was told today that if the cancer is in the tendons, there is a possibility I may not have flowing movement in that finger.

At this writing, I will have the Moh’s surgery on April 11th and my first reconstructive surgery on the 12th.    This could change because of the consultation and the decisions doctors make this weekend, but right now April 11th and 12th are the surgery dates.

As if all this is not enough, I also have a group of small lumps on the side of my knee.   Neither my surgeon nor the Moh’s surgeon believes this is related to the cancer found on my finger.  They will do a biopsy, but don’t expect to find a connection.  On April 24th I will have these lumps surgically removed.

Everyone has asked me how they can help.   My answer is simple: PRAY.   I know there is power in prayer and God is in control.   So your intercession for me is deeply appreciated.    God is watching over me, and I am blessed.   He has never failed me, so my anchor is steadfast.   One special point of prayer: I have not yet told Garrett and Isaiah about any of this. I’ll probably share with Garrett’s therapist and seek his advice as to the best way to pass this on to him; pray for God’s wisdom as I tell the boys and that I can help them understand that God is in control and is still good, even in this difficulty.

I have been emotional because of the outpouring of love you have shared with me.  People have been so wonderful.   Your prayers mean so much.  Yesterday I received a call from India from a missionary friend who called to tell me he was praying for me along with those at the mission.   I have another Christian brother who preaches in Nigeria; he informed me they are praying for me there as well.  Then there are all of you.   Your prayers, thoughts and encouragement are so very much appreciated.   Literally, I am being prayed for all over the world.   You can see how humbled I am by all your love for me.

Just because I am going through this valley does not change the fact that God Is still good.   You can be assured He and I are walking through this valley together. He is providing answers, direction and strength.  He is placing knowledgeable physicians in my path who will do the work of His hands.  He is surrounding me with an incredible amount of love through my awesome family.  Through each of you, He is providing me a support system of encouragement.   My Heavenly Father is giving comfort when I feel the loss of my finger. He calms my fears when I think of the painful surgeries before me.  He is giving me a peace that passes all understanding and he is building my faith as I read His Word.  My trust is in the Lord and I am grateful.  See how blessed I am? 

 

THE BIG WINNER

June 17, 2010

(A TRIBUTE TO DAD)
       The announcer called my name over the loud speaker with the names of a group of other boys.   Knowing there were hundreds of eyes watching me, I straightened the blue and gold handkerchief around my neck and brushed some of the lead graphite off by neatly pressed blue pants.   I stood up and I walked to the check-in table.

I had already unbuttoned my top button because of the intense heat.  I was not sure if it was from the bright lights or the fear of standing before the large crowd.  All I know is I could feel the sweat trickle down my back as I picked up my Pinewood Derby car and headed toward the track.  The large wooden track would eventually release my car and allow gravity to pull my hand-made vehicle down the ramp to the finish line.

I had already won all my troop races which took me to the district competition.   The district challenge proved to be successful too, carrying me to where I was today---the state level.   If I won this competition my car would be awarded best in my state.  

I was now standing in the Kentucky Exposition Center on the Kentucky State Fairgrounds in Louisville, Kentucky.   I had already completed the official weigh-in and had won several races through the day, but one more loss would eliminate me from the competition and send me home defeated and humiliated.  

Each race brought tension as I anticipated the pull of the lever and watched the cars streak down the track with increasing speed.  Just thinking back on it makes my muscles tighten with tension.   I wanted to win so bad for me, my Troop - Pack 270 and my Dad.

I remember the day my Scout Master passed out the kits at our Scout meeting.    Each kid was given a small box that contained a rectangular block of wood and four small nails with which to attach the four plastic tires which were also included.  We were instructed to cut and shape our cars any way we saw fit with the oversight and assistance of our Dads.   As he gave the instructions I was already creating the perfect race car in my head.  I heard him talking, but I was thinking about how I was going to shape this block of wood into a mean, red, racing machine.   By the time he had finished with his instructions I had the perfect image of what I desired my car to look like.  All that was left was getting my Dad to see it.

By the time I told Dad of the project I had already drawn an image of what I expected our finished product to resemble.  He looked over my plans, made some suggestions, and we were off to my Grandfathers to use his workshop and tools.

As Dad slid open the large door on Granddaddy’s workshop we walked into the smell of grease and oil that permeated the space.   Tools covered every inch of the four walls and large workbench that stretched the length of the building.  Hanging overhead were old automobile and mower belts, saws and other paraphernalia that gave the impression that nothing left this place without being repaired.    Even the floor was cluttered with tools, buckets of screws, nails, and remnants of past projects.  As we came inside, we walked an oily path to a vise mounted on the workbench.  

Dad offered a few bits of wisdom about aerodynamics then he tightened the wooden block in the large steel vise.   With a small handsaw he began to cut away the wood to outline the block into the discussed shape.  While he cut, I assisted him by holding up my hand-drawn architectural plans so he could continue to refer back to it.  I felt much like a page turner who sits on the bench with a concert pianist to hold the sheets of music into place; not doing much, but the job would be impossible without me.

After comparing the newly formed piece of wood to our plans, my Dad handed me a piece of coarse sandpaper.  Showing me how to rub the thick paper with the grain of wood instead of against it, I labored diligently to smooth out all the rough surfaces.  Dad watched over my shoulder as I worked, giving pointers as I paused occasionally to blow away the dust and observe my work with a smile. 

At this present stage I have nothing that looks like a racecar.  Actually it resembles a long wooden cigar.   Yes, my car appears quite strange.  However, all I could think was how the slender body would cause it to zip to the finish line like a bullet, leaving the competition in the dust.  I kept telling myself that my fellow competitors would never expect that something that looks like this could win so handily.

The next step of the project excited me.  It was time to position the wheels to the body of the car.  My block of wood had made some major transformations, but finally it would actually look like a racecar with the wheels turning at its side.

After a study of the regulations we discovered a major problem with our design.  The slender body caused the wheels to fit too close together.   So instead of bolting down the track like I anticipated, the lead bars on the track that guides the cars to the finish line would rub the wheels, causing my car to lag behind all the others.  Thankfully, Dad had a solution.  He found another block of wood and cut from it two square pegs a little more than a quarter inch in diameter and about two and a half inches long.  We used these as axils for the front and the rear of the car.   It was in these pegs that we gently nailed on the tires, and through some skillful engineering from Dad, we attached the axils to the car.  Dad had discovered a way to make the impossible possible.

All that was left was to name the car and choose a paint color.  A slick paint job would visually identify the car and the proper name would make it unforgettable.  

My Dad and I tossed around several names that embodied a winner.    Bullet was one we both really liked.   Speedy, Flash, Zippy, and The Blur were also added to our list of possibilities.  Then Dad jokingly suggested the name Slow Poke.   I fell in love with it immediately.  I thought, ”The other cars will never see it coming.”

Choosing the color was simple; it had to be red.  That was in my original vision from the beginning.   Red just seemed like a fast color.     With a small paint brush and a tiny cup of candy apple red model paint I made the car shine with color.   Then with Dad’s help, and drops of white paint, I scribbled the name on the side with bold letters---SLOW POKE.

Again, referring back to the regulations we discovered that we had another problem.  The car did not weigh enough.   We were quite short due to the fact we had stripped away much of the wood to make the car fit our design.   So the official rules stated that if your car was underweight you could add weight to bring it back up to scale.  With a drill, Dad bore a hole in the front of my car.   We then took several fishing sinkers out of my tackle box and placed them in an old empty tuna fish can.   With a match Dad lit a small propane blow torch.  As he held the tuna fish can with a pair of pliers over the blowing flame the sinkers soon turned into a molten liquid.  Slowly dad poured the hot lead into the hole in the car.  Immediately the smell of the burning wood tickled my nose.   When the liquid cooled it became a solid again, thus giving my car the needed weight.   After some gentle sanding and some touchup paint, our car was completely finished and was ready for the race track.  

I eagerly anticipated every race.   When the first competition arrived, I won against my fellow troop members.  Then I went to the district competition at the Shelby County Fair Grounds.   Now…here I was with Slow Poke competing at a statewide level at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. 

Earlier that morning Slow Poke lost a race.   I was hurt, but was not out.  It was through a double elimination process that you were no longer able to race.  It was nearing the end of the day.  Everyone left in the competition was tired.   The sun had already set and the time was nearing 10 o’clock.  There were only a few of us left and the crowd had dwindled from its earlier mass of people.    

As I stood with the next group of racers with my car in hand, I squeezed the tube of graphite, releasing a powder of lead around the tires of my racecar in hopes that it would give it the extra boost needed to finish first.  After the announcer called my name over the loud speaker, I straighten the blue and gold handkerchief around my neck and brushed some of the lead graphite off my neatly pressed blue pants.   I stood up and I walked to the check-in table.   I prepared for the race of my life.

At the beginning, I never thought that I would be able to get to this level, but now here I am, and I want to win this race.  I was tired, but I would stay there all night if it meant that I could leave the Kentucky State Pinewood Derby a winner.  I was nervous, but I calmed my nerves by watching my family in the stands cheering me on.   I knew it would be a long ride home if I didn’t win.   I wanted this one really bad.

The track master motioned for us to place our cars on the track.  I purposely waited to be the last scout to position his car on the starting gate because I wanted no chance of someone accidently hitting my car and knocking it off center.  With great precision, I laid my car on the track and with laser like vision I positioned it with great purpose.  Slowly I stepped back from the track and walked to the finish line to watch the race. 

When the whistle blew, the cars were released and gravity took over.  The cars came racing toward me with great speed.  Slow Poke came barreling down ahead of all the other cars.   Each second I felt closer to victory.  Then, ten feet from the finish line, Slow Polk fizzled out and two other cars passed him, putting me in third place.

As I received my ribbon and posed for some pictures the adrenaline began wearing off and I could begin to feel my body wilt with each passing minute.  Although I had been able to stay in the competition all day and eventually had claimed third place, I did not feel much like the big winner.   People came forward and congratulated me with smiles and hugs but my exhaustion and defeat did not allow me to accept the encouragement.

The drive home was fairly quiet.  The hour was late and everyone was short on conversation.   As my sleeping sister and I leaned against each other in the back seat I watched out the window as the street lights streaked past our moving brown Monte Carlo.    I think my parents thought I was asleep. 

My body was tired, but my mind was racing through the events of the day.   I began to reflect on what went wrong.   Could I have used more graphite on the tires?   Did I position my car correctly on the ramp?   Did I have a tire that was causing friction against the axel? 

As I debated the cause of my failure in the back seat, Mom began a conversation with my Dad, mentioning another boy in my Boy Scout Troop.   The thought of Erick reminded me of a Scout meeting a few weeks back when Mrs. Evelyn told us that Erick was not at that week’s meeting because his dad had died from a heart attack.   She passed a sympathy card around the table and we all signed it for Erick. 

The gentle purr of the engine served as a tender lullaby.   As I begin to drift off to sleep I reflected on the experience of building my little red car with my Dad.  I remember the extra time he took with me to complete the project.  I recalled the precise way he taught me to use sandpaper for the first time.  I could not forget his intense attention to detail, so much so, it was often frustrating.  While I was concerned with only completing the project he was concerned about making it the best.   His attention to detail taught me that a project worth doing is worth doing right.

I was happy that I had a Dad that loved me enough to invest that time with me and to teach me the importance of doing the best in all I do.   I was also blessed to have a Dad.    Erick depended on Mr. Aldridge to help him with his Pinewood Derby car.  I am sure it was fun and he appreciated our scout master’s help, but it was not like having your Dad - your real Dad - at your side. 

As I closed my eyes I realized that I may not have won the race today, but  I was a winner---a big winner.   I had a Dad that loved me and was there for me.   As I snuggled in next to my sister I held Slow Poke in my hands.  It was my Trophy for having the best Dad in the world.  In spite of not winning the race, I was the big winner that day.

I have come to realize that everyone has a Heavenly Father to stand by them.   Our Heavenly Father also works with us, sacrifices for us and guides us so we can be the best we can be.   We are so blessed to have this loving Father.   If you are a faithful child of God you can be sure you will win the race even with some disappointments and setbacks in your life.

 

JOY ON TARGET

June 11, 2010

I work part time at Target.  If the Apostle Paul could be a tentmaker preacher, why can’t I be a Target preacher?  This experience has allowed me many opportunit Joy is at its greatest when it is shared.   Joy comes from relationship.  ies to bring humor to my day as I work with so many people. 

  

Maria, one of my joyful co-workers, is someone people enjoy being around.    She has a positive spirit and she enjoys laughing.   Even during my early training days at Target, I noticed people were attracted to her winsome personality.   She smiled, joked and greeted people as she worked.   This is not to mention the times you would hear her contagious laughter a few aisles over from where we were working.

 

Maria brings a lot of comedic relief to a stressful workplace.   You can’t help but laugh as she shares with you serious situations in her life.   Situations in which one normally would not find humor, her positive spin leaves you with a belly of laughter and a large smile on your face.  Whether she is talking about her husband, her recent gall bladder surgery or her kids, at some point you will laugh along with her. 

 

One afternoon she told me that her husband came in from the driveway and said it smelled like a dead animal outside.  She did not think much about it, but the next day as she approached her car after work she noticed someone walk by her car and wrinkle their nose.    After closer inspection she discovered her mistake - after an evening of grocery shopping earlier that week she had left a package of raw chicken in her trunk and the heat of summer had sent it through a serious metamorphosis.   As we laughed, I told her that it was a wonder that she was not pulled over by the police on suspicion of a body in the trunk.    I jokingly questioned, “Has anyone seen Aunt Edna?”   She went on to say how she hired professionals to clean the trunk of her car and later burned candles in it to remove the smell.  Then we joked that she not only had a dead body in the trunk but she had a memorial as well.   Another work day concluded with a laugh.

 

You would snort right along with me if you heard her speak of her newly acquired little puppy.   This canine chews everything.   One day she came through my line buying a pair of shoes because their new, cute little puppy shredded her last pair, and the living room couch as well, with his teeth.   As she swiped her Target credit card through the card reader she giggled at the thought of what man’s best friend was costing her.    Even in her aggravation you can tell she loves this little dog.   The next day she came through my line and with her head turned to the side and a tone of frustration she paused for a second and said, “You are going to have to hand key in the number of my card today.”  As I took the card I realized why.  Her sweet little puppy had just about demolished her card; it was bent in different directions and was pelted with puppy teeth marks.   As I entered the number we laughed out loud to the point of store guests turning in our direction to discover why we were laughing so hard.   The next day she came through and pulled her cell phone from her purse and sure enough her phone showed evidence that her puppy was letting his teeth do the walking.   Again we shared a moment of laughter.

 

Story after story, told by Maria, one concludes that she needs to be in front of a crowd of people on a stage somewhere with a whole cluster of spotlights pointed directly at her.

 

Maria also has the same make, and model car that I drive.   Even the color of the exterior and interior, down to the wheel wells, are the same.   I admit, when our automobiles are parked side by side in the parking lot the two cars look identical.  Yet, upon closer inspection my vehicle has some serious issues with clutter in the seats due in part to my young children and in part to the amount of time I spend in my vehicle. 

 

Every day when arriving for work, Maria parks in the same space: beside the security light post in the Target parking lot.  On Monday I got to work to discover Maria had not parked in her usual space.  It was available, so I pulled into the space, excited because it is the closest parking spot to the front door for the employees.    The next day Maria told me how she left work the day before and spent 10 minutes trying to get into her car only to discover that it was not her car at all---it was mine.  Through several chuckles she said, “I just could not figure out why my key was not working.”  I guess she discovered it was my car before an emergency call to Triple A.  

 

When I arrived at Target on Wednesday, again her usual space was available, so I deliberately parked my car in her space.   After putting the sun screen in my windshield I placed a large sign in the window that read: “MARIA, THIS IS NOT YOUR CAR!” 

 

She called me later that evening laughing so hard at the beginning of the conversation I could hardly understand her.  She told me that while she was walking to her car she was wondering who attached a sign on her car.  Closer inspection of the sign reminded her that she was again going to the wrong car.

 

What is your attitude as you go through life?  Are the corners of your mouth turned down or do they stretch to your ears forming a smile; a smile so big it looks like you have slept with a coat hanger in your mouth?   Are you joyful?    Do you laugh a lot?  If you asked your closest friends, would they say you are happy? Would they say you smile a lot?  Would they conclude you have an abundance of joy?

 

I am not talking about going from day to day with a painted on smile and wearing a mask so you pretend you have joy in your life.  I am talking about having a cheerful disposition, like Maria.  God wants to see you going through each day looking for the positive, finding a friend or a stranger to share a laugh with, and concluding each day with a smile.

 

Being happy doesn't require us to turn a blind eye to the troubles in our lives or things such as crime and natural disasters.  Neither does it mean we chant shallow platitudes such as "Don't worry, be happy."  If we desire to exhibit the attributes of God in our lives we have to begin to do some serious inward examination.   The child of God longs to imitate God in His joy, peace, patience, and goodness.   A happy heart takes root in the discipline of giving thanks.  I believe it’s the secret weapon of the joyous Christian.

 

Happy in the Lord

 

The Old Testament is loaded with proclamations that instruct God's people to remember His goodness.  1 Samuel 12:24 encourages, "Be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you."

 

The happiest people I know are thankful people.    One might ask, “How do you explain the person that has a joyful disposition, yet has no faith in God?   How can they be happy?”   They have learned to be thankful.   You can be grateful without offering one expression of thanks to the Creator.  You can be thankful for your friends, neighbors, or boss.  You can be thankful for your family, the doctor, or your community leaders.   So, even a nonbeliever can feel a sense of joy because of a thankful heart.  However life changing joy is felt only in a deep relationship with God.

 

Because I am a Christian, whenever I struggle to feel joyful, I choose to reflect on how God always meets my needs.  As I count those blessings I become a happier person because I am reminded how God is blessing me in my life.

 

It Is An Increasing Joy

 

I love Philippians 1:9-11, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

 

Paul is praying that the Philippian church would continue to grow. They are sure of their destiny but they should also be progressing in the faith. 

 

We should experience joy as we see ourselves becoming more and more like Christ.  But this is unusual, isn’t it?  This is not the experience most Christians have.   For most of us we begin our Christian life walking on a cloud of joy and then over time it gradually dissipates.  By the time we have walked the Christian life for a couple of years we are often just "going through the motions".  Somehow over time our faith has become lifeless.  That's why Paul's prayer is so significant for us.

 

He prays that our love may abound more and more.  He is not just asking that we feel more strongly about each other, though that is certainly a part of the process, but he wants us to grow more and more in our love for the Father.  This is a love that is not just emotion . . . it is based in our knowledge and depth of insight.  As we learn more about the Lord, we love Him more completely.  And as we love the Lord more fully, we experience a deeper level of joy

 

We will be living our lives and bringing God glory.  We will see every opportunity as an opportunity to honor Him.  Christianity is meant to be practical.

 

We live joyfully because we really are on a "Great Adventure".  All those mishaps, disappointments and troubles of life are a part of the whole experience. 

 

People that go white water rafting amaze me.  When first in the water they enjoy maneuvering the boat in the current.   Then they face a couple of little rapids and really enjoy them.   As the journey continues, they begin to face rapids which are bigger and fiercer.   The fiercer bigger rapids are superior to the earlier little rapids.   If the boaters had left the water after experiencing only the little rapids, they would have missed the greatest part of the  adventure.

 

The Christian life is like that. We miss out if we stop progressing. The initial stages of the faith are enjoyable but they are nothing compared with what God will introduce us to as we continue to travel with Him.  We must stay the course.  

 

Surefire Strategies

 

If developing an "attitude of gratitude" is difficult for you, take heart! You'll be surprised how a little bit of discipline goes a long way toward giving you a joyful spirit. Try these steps to put you into action:

 

1.    Start a joy journal.

 

Keep a small notebook by your bed just for jotting  down a few good things God has done for you that day.  This doesn't take long.  At the beginning, or on a day when your heart's heavy, this may take some work.  But even on those days, try to come up with three items, minimum.  It may help to look back over the other days' entries to spark thoughts of God's faithfulness to you.  As your skill of being thankful develops, this exercise becomes a pleasure.

 

2.    Find something to be thankful for, no matter the circumstances.

 

In every situation, there is something to be thankful for, if only you look for it (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  My coworker Maria has an abundance of joy because she has learned not to be a complainer.  She doesn’t focus on grievances; she notices the good things.  She has the attitude of gratitude.

 

For the past several years I assigned myself the task of making a list of "100 things to be thankful for."  Typically I find the first 20-30 easy to come up with, and then get bogged down.   After a while, I suddenly find myself remembering little things and I always manage to come up with 100. Give it a try.

 

3.    Say "thank you" before "please."

 

When you pray, don't jump directly into your want and needs lists, no matter how pressing those may seem.  God loves to hear us offer our appreciation of Him.  Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 to begin their prayer by honoring God ("Hallowed be Your name").

 

4.    Search The Scripture.

 

 Remind yourself of the importance of rejoicing by searching the Bible for God's instructions in this area.   It will spur you on to consider what great things God has done for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reminds us it is God's will that we be "joyful always" and "give thanks in all circumstances."

 

5.    Just ask.

 

When you struggle to obey God in the area of giving thanks, don't hesitate to ask Him to show you how.  He's longing to draw you close and to give you strength for the challenges of each day.   So ask for His help so you can be more grateful.

 

The work of God in us is like building a house.  At times you see great progress.  But at other times progress seems slow or non-existent.  But it is all part of the process.  The Christian life consists of both.  There are times when you will see rapid growth and dramatic change in your life. Thank God for those times.  But at other times you may feel that God has stopped working in your life.  But that will never happen . . . He may be doing some finish work on some areas of your character before He begins in another area of your life.  It could be that you are fighting Him in the process by your reckless living.  However, He has not stopped His work.

 

Joy is anchored in God's work and promises.  It’s an adventure that involves growth taking place in our lives.  As we grow in our faith, the old prejudices are overcome and hurts of the past give way to true forgiveness.  Our desires suddenly focus less on earth and more on Heaven.  Our behavior looks more like Jesus and we find it easier to trust Him in the tough times.  Christian joy deepens as the years go by.

 

What good is it to laugh when there is no one there for with to share it?  What good is a smile if someone is not there to be encouraged by it?  

 

Practice a thankful heart and it will blossom into a joyful life.   Be like my coworker Maria and develop a positive attitude that is contagious to those around you.  Learn to smile a lot and let people see your happy

 

CALMING THE ROLLERCOASTER OF FEAR

June 5, 2010

Several years ago while preaching in Northern Kentucky our church planned an outing for the youth.   The destination was Paramount King’s Island in Cincinnati, Ohio.  This was an amusement park, complete with rides and entertainment for the whole family.   Soon after the announcement of the trip our young people began signing up for the day trip and reserving the date on their calendars. 

 

My dilemma came when I realized I did not have enough sponsors to help me supervise the young people on the trip.  I immediately turned to my friend and one of our deacons.   After a good amount of coercing, David agreed to tag along to help us sponsor the trip. 

 

You need to understand I love roller coasters.   There is something about facing your fear and then getting a thrill out of it that has me hooked.  To see me on a roller coaster now, you would be surprised to learn I did not ride my first rollercoaster until I was a senior in high school.   Before that time, fear kept me far from the action and would not even let me watch from a distance.  

 

My friend Wayne Wilson tricked me in high school and did not tell me we were on the “big one” until we were strapped in and pulling out of the station.   As we were going up the first hill, the chain pulling our car was clicking under us as we went higher and higher.   He tried to comfort me and told me when we started down the hill to scream my head off and I would not be a scared.   Sure enough, I was hoarse when I removed the bar to get off the giant coaster.  Yet, I had the time of my life.  Wayne and I spent the entire day riding one roller coaster after another.

 

I never wanted my children to grow up being afraid of amusement park rides like their father.   When they reached the required height to ride, I got them on one.   I passed on the same advice Wayne gave me, “When you start down the hill, scream your head off and you will not be so scared.”

 

People have offered me many suggestions over the years on how they minimize their fear as they zip down the first mammoth hill on a roller coaster.   Some say you hold your breath.   Others say you close your eyes.   Someone else even suggested you push your feet into the floor and wrap your arms around your security bar holding you in the ride.   Others use a combination of these things.  I am a screamer.

 

I was really getting excited about the church trip to King’s Island.  I was checking off the days on my datebook.   Each time I announced the approaching date to the church I could image the thrill of each ride.   I could hardly wait.

 

When the day arrived I was looking forward to systematically riding every roller coaster in the park.   Unknown to me, my friend David did not share my excitement.   I did not realized he was in his early thirties and never been on a roller coaster. 

 

After making sure all the kids were accounted for, and sending them off in pairs through the park, David and I had some free time to ourselves before the next appointed meeting time with the kids.  As we walked through the park I suggested one coaster after another and he declined each one.   I guess I made him feel guilty enough that soon he finally relented and he followed a few feet behind as I marched to the end of the coaster’s line.   In line we had a great view of the twist and turns the coaster would make on its journey.   Not only were there giant hills, but there were a couple of good sized twists and we would even go upside down as we traveled through one loop.   Sensing his hesitation, I desired to calm his anxiety.   As we waited our turn I encouraged him to keep the back of his head against the headrest because the rough ride would beat your skull against the padded bar coming over your head and chest.    In previous rides my ears would make suction on the padded bars and would “pop” as my head beat side to side, sounding like I was on a firing range with an automated weapon.  Oh, this was going to be fun.

 

Finally, we were the next cluster of riders to tackle the Vortex.   As the previous group exited to their right, we entered the car from the left.   We sat in the leather seats and my heart began to beat hard in my chest with anticipation.   The park staff ran up and down the train to make sure all was clear and all the passengers were seated.   With a quick thumbs up sign from the staff, the operator pushed a button and the loud shhhhhh came from under the car.  The bar lowered from over our head and stopped over our chest.  Again the staff ran up and down the train and pulled on the bars to confirm they were all secure.  

 

As we looked over to our right we could clearly see a maze of green and yellow pipe that lined out the track of the coaster.   I took a deep breath and felt a bit smothered because the bar against my chest did not allow me to fill my lungs completely.  Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump was the sound beating in my chest, echoing in my head, drowning out the sounds of the onlookers.   As the air breaks released, the sound of compressed air filled our ears and the train began to slowly move forward. 

As the coaster cars turned the first sharp curve it began to pick up speed.   As we begin the incline of the first hill we felt a jolt as the chain on the track picked up the car and begin to slowly move it up the steep track.   It rattled and clicked in rhythm as we made our way to the peak.  I was preparing to scream.  Curious as to how David was going to control his fear I loudly yelled out to be heard over the moving car, “Are you a screamer?”    He yelled back, “No, I’m a wetter.”    I don’t think I screamed once on this trip.  I was more afraid he was telling the truth then I was of the coaster.


        How do you handle fear?


        In today's world there are many problems that produce fear and guilt in the lives of people.  The resulting stress becomes at times, unbearable, and may ultimately lead to emotional breakdowns and physical problems.  The Creator of our bodies never intended for us to live under these kinds of problems.   This was not why we were created.


        Psalm 139:14 says, "For I am fearfully and wonderfully made".   The human body is an incredible thing and it is wonderfully made by an Almighty God.   We are a wonderfully complex structure, but not suited for the stresses to which we are subjected.    The body has marvelous recuperative powers, but undue and prolonged stress is harmful.   There are some situations we have little or no control over.  Other circumstances we can change.  The Bible provides a threefold formula to help us overcome the problems of life. 

 

Fear Not, But Trust

 

The following passages all speak to the child of God.  Like a father or mother that comforts their precious little one in a storm, our Heavenly Father promises to help us overcome our own fears.   In your devotional time take a closer look at Luke 12:32; Psalm 27:3, 48:14; Isaiah 41:10, 58:11; and Hebrews 13:5,6.

 

The reason the Christian does not need to fear is that God is sovereign and He is in control (1 Chronicles 29:11, 12; Psalm 10:16, 22:28, 24:1, 115:3; Isaiah 40:15-23).  This is a simple and reassuring fact and should come to our attention as we come face to face with our fears.   Therefore, we should trust our heavenly Father, which helps to alleviate any fear or apprehension.

 

The Apostle Paul points out to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, "God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind".   Clearly stated, fear does not come from God, it comes from Satan.   The devil often uses fear to neutralize our Christian living, and keep us down.  Paul reminds us that God has given us the spirit of power to live constructively, the spirit of love to live sacrificially, and a sound mind to live reasonably. 

 

The more we love and serve God the less fear we will experience in our lives.  1 John 4:18 states that perfect or mature love casts out fear.  When our love for Christ is being strengthened and matured, then fear decreases.

Fret Not


        Today, most fear in society comes because of evil and wickedness, and those who promote it.  Granted, this world is wicked and there are many that promote it.  Yet, God's Word tells us to not to fret because of these evildoers because we serve a more powerful God (Psalm 37:1,7; Proverbs 24:19). 


        It does good to remind ourselves that God is in control and He sees all the evil that is going on in the world.   Psalm 7:11 proclaims that God expresses His wrath to the wicked every day.  Then 1 Peter 3:12 reminds us that the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.  The Christian does not fret because they know God is on their side and He is faithful to His children.


Faint Not

   
        In moments of extreme fear we are tempted to throw our hands up and quit.  We come to believe that God will not step in and help us in our time of need.  Our problems begin to look bigger that our God and we fear and turn instead of face our fear.    This is why God encourages us over and over to faint not.   Galatians 6:9 persuades us not to grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.   Other passages speak to this concept too (2 Corinthians 4:16 and Isaiah 40:28, 31).


        On a roller coaster I am a screamer, but in my walk through this world of tension and scary moments I am a frightened child of God that finds security in the arms of his loving Father.   No reason to fret, but many reasons to trust Him and wait in His arms until the storm is over.


        The child of God does have a responsibility when they face a fear.  First, recall the greatness of your God.   He is bigger than the object of your fear.  Secondly, trust your Heavenly Father (Psalm 37:3; Proverbs 3:5, 6), and learn to cast your cares on Him" (I Peter 5:7).  Third, don’t be defeated by not following the pathway of righteousness.   This is not a time to fret or give up, but it is time to dig your heals in and follow God with stronger zeal. 


        These admonitions sound like a glib cure for a troubled heart facing a fearful experience.  Yet, they are God's principles and promises for today's stressful and complex living.   The Christian can bank on these promises.

  
My hope is built on nothing less,
   Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
   I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
   But wholly lean on Jesus' name.

  
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
   Support me in the whelming flood;
   When all around my soul gives way,
   He then is all my hope and stay.

  
On Christ the solid rock I stand;
   All other ground is sinking sand,
   All other ground is sinking sand.[1]


[1] Edward Mote, The Solid Rock, ©1834 now Public Domain.

 

DON'T YOU FORGET IT!

May 24, 2010

While leading music a couple of weeks ago Bob noticed his mother-in-law was not one of the many faces in the crowd that day.   After the music portion of the worship service ended, Bob sat down beside his wife Lynn, put his arm around her shoulder, and leaned in and whispered in her ear, “Where is your mother today?” 

Lynn smiled and whispered back, “Georgia . . . visiting family.”   A light bulb flashed over Bob’s head, he had already forgotten he was the one that delivered his mother-in-law to the airport the past week.

Have you found yourself in a situation like that?    We all forget.  

As I grow older I am amazed at the things I forget.  Where have I left my keys?  Where did I put that important paper?   Where are my eyeglasses?    More often than not the keys are in my opposite pocket, the paper is positioned on the dining room table and my glasses are resting on the top of my head.   Yes they are close, but my forgetfulness has stolen my accessibility to these important items.

In older times individuals would tie a piece of string around their finger so they would not forget.   Over time, we advanced to magnets that held notes on our refrigerators to capture our awareness; then post-it notes came along and we posted yellow squares of paper everywhere.  As technology highly developed we put reminders on computers which would sound alarms or bring pop-up windows that would jolt our attention.   Today special applications on smart phones remind us of important data we quickly forget.  Even for me, as I typed the last sentence my phone alarm blasted three loud tones, reminding me of my next appointment.

This problem of forgetting is not just a dilemma that has appeared in this present era in which we live.  Nor is it something only associated with progressing in years.   Everyone forgets.   My children forget to brush their teeth, take their dirty dishes to the kitchen sink, and often purposely forget their chores.   When I was a kid, I did the same thing as I am sure you did too.   Now that I am an adult, I never forget.   HA!

Forgetting is something that happens to all of us; thus the importance of reminders.   God understands we are forgetful people.

When I was a child one of my favorite Bible stories was when Jesus fed 5,000 people with a lad’s lunch of fish and bread.   I imagine what it was like for the disciples as they approached Jesus and presented this small amount of food in contrast to the huge crowd of people setting all over the hill side.   These men had to marvel at the Master as He took the food in His hands and begin breaking it into manageable pieces, placing it in the baskets.  

I can see Peter now, raring to go, being the first one to grab a basket and share the feast with the onlookers.  As the hands of eager families reached into the basket I spy Peter counting the number of removed pieces in amazement.   He rapidly returns to Jesus with an empty container only to find another full basket of fish and bread ready to be dispersed to the waiting swarm of hungry men, women and children.   

Wow!   That must have been one those amazing days that will forever be etched in the memory of the disciples.    One of them had to think, “I’ll never forget the events of this day!”

As Jesus put them in a boat to go on to Bethsaida, He informs them He will be going up the mountain to pray after he dismisses the crowds. 

As these obedient disciples dug the oars into the deep, cold waters I can see their faces warm with conversations about the powerful miracle they had just witnessed.   I hear the laughter ripple across the stirring water as they discuss their reactions to the abundance of bread and fish, not to mention the 12 baskets of leftovers.   I see their eyes widen with excitement as they chatter about their individual experiences of serving the mass of people.   Their eyes twinkle as they discuss how every person there was filled and satisfied as if they had stuffed themselves at a Sunday Buffett .   I can smell the salty air turn fishy as the storm clouds begin to darken the sky and the distant lightning accents the emergent waves.   Their relaxing cruise across the lake initiated by Jesus has quickly turned into a quest for survival.  

If the storm was not enough to drain their courage, they now see a shadowy figure walking toward them on the water.  As the flickering lightning cuts through the darkness they become terrified with the revelation of each flash.  

I picture them setting in the boat…in the rain . . . quiet … still … anxiously waiting for the next flash of light to determine if the image is approaching closer in their direction.   As they discover the hovering form is drawing nearer their bravery melts into panic and fear.  One of them cries out like a child scared of the dark, “It’s a ghost!”  Immediately they huddle together closing their eyes.

Earlier that evening, these men courageously delivered a lunch box of food to Jesus so He could multiply it enough to feed over 5,000 people.  Now they were shaking in their sandals; their faith chased away by the thunder and a ghost walking on the water.   What could cause such an abrupt transition?   What could cause their faith to faulter so quickly at the next storm?

Mark 6:52 delivers the answer for us, “They considered not the miracle of the loaves.”   That simply means they forgot one of their most amazing moments with Jesus, which had taken place only a few hours earlier.  They forgot about His miracle working power.   They forgot about His faithful, unconditional love.  They forgot how He forever provided for their needs.   They forget about Jesus and they sadly replaced Him with a superstition---a ghost.  

I have done that in my life.  One minute I am rejoicing because of a providential blessing I have clearly recognized from the hand of God and the next I am anxious about how He is going to get me out of a present dilemma that looks impossible.  

Sadly, I forget my Jesus is able.   He is able to do anything.  He is able to do the impossible in my life.  He is able to love me unconditionally when even my closest companions have deserted me.  He is able to provide for my needs when my resources do not meet the expectations.   Like the disciples though, I have forgot Jesus . . . and on occasion I have put my faith into something that looks real, but isn’t.  

Again, God understands this imperfection about us.   That is why He took a pinch of bread and a sip of juice and told us to take it….in remembrance of Him.   I am ashamed of the times I have forgotten about Jesus and took the reins of my life and chose fear over courage.   That is why I need those three minutes each week to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for me.   They not only refresh me, but they remind me to never forget the blessing of having Jesus in my life to help me face my uncertainties.

In the disciple’s fear Jesus reminds them that they are to be of good courage and then He proclaims to them that it is He who is walking on the water.  Does the Lord shout out little reminders to you in your moment of weakness or fear?  You fret about a bill coming due and suddenly money appears from someplace unexpected.  You receive bad news from your doctor and your eyes are open to your blessings often taken for granted.     You struggle with a sin you are continually drawn to and a Scripture verse pops into your thinking bringing calm to the storm.

This story in Mark 6 concludes with Jesus getting into the boat with His disciples.  The gale immediately calms; the water goes from choppy whitecaps to a smooth sheet of glass.  Mark tells us the disciples are no longer terrified; they are amazed!   This fact serves to remind me when Jesus is in my boat the raging storms of my life will transform into a soft stillness that will bring a peace that passes all understanding.  Afterwards, you will stand in amazement of such a powerful God.  

Don’t you forget it, but you probably will!

 

BUCKET OF GRACE

May 18, 2010

My sister and I bolted through the front door, out of breath.   The long dusty lane leading back to our Kentucky farm was not the smoothest of race tracks.  This daily run from the bus stop to home often put my sister and I at odds with each other for the rest of the evening. 

 

Often I would win this race, especially if I tricked my sister into carrying my book pack before leaving the bus.  Then again, I was 2 years older than her.   In those early grade school days she was quite gullible; actually, she was just too nice.

 

Mom greeted us at the door with a huge hug and kiss and then she looked at me and pointed to the back door.   She did not have to use words.  That pointing jester communicated my chores were waiting as soon as I changed my clothes.  Again, leaning toward on my sister’s generosity---I asked her for help.   This time she did not bend; so out the back door I stormed to take on those farming tasks independently; murmuring under my breath as I stomped to the barn.

 

There were animals to feed and water.  On this day I was not eager to fulfill my obligations.   In the feed barn I poured the pellets of grain into the buckets and walked to the pig pens and began dumping the food into the long wooden troughs.   Immediately the pigs were all around me and I struggled to free myself from the stall.  I pounded back to the barn to fill the buckets with water . . . on the way I met my sister.   Angry for her lack of cooperation, I tossed the bucket in the air toward her and blurted out, “You get the water!”  

 

It is to this point that my sister and I have debated time and again over the years.   As we contest each other’s opinion, whether or not I was just pitching her the bucket (my side) or I deliberately threw the bucket at her because I was angry (my sisters unwavering argument), our kids giggle in the background because of the silliness of keeping a disagreement alive for so long.  Even though through the years our outward tone has become a bit humorous, inside we are boldly standing on the validity of our judgments.

 

Those three to four seconds that it took for that bucket to leave my hand and hit my sister in the forehead seemed like eternity.   I watched the bucket turn in slow motion through the air until the bottom lip hit hard against her head.   How could time move at such a slow, snail’s pace?   This event took place 33 years ago, yet it seems like yesterday.  Even so, those few seconds of a bucket tumbling through the air seemed like years.

 

As the pail bounced off her head and hit the ground all I saw was blood covering my sister’s puzzled face.   She just stood there; then seeing the blood she began her run toward the house yelling for Mom all the way.   I followed closely behind, then eventually began pushing her toward the house in spite of the knowledge I was in the biggest trouble of my life.  

 

My mom saw the blood and immediately placed a wet towel over the fresh wound.  My sister’s eyes were wide with fear and tears mingled with the blood as they ran down her face.   By this time my little sister was beginning to answer Mom’s probing question, “How did this happen?”   The whole time my sister recounted the events, my mother’s eyes never left mine.  They glared at me, piercing the air like a spotlight in the fog.  Her stern look was speaking volumes.  Yet, she said not one word.  When my sister explained the part of how I threw the bucket, her eyes widened and her lips tightened and curled inward until they were no longer visible.    I wilted like a flower in the scorching sun.

 

When most of the bleeding stopped my mother examined the 1 inch gash I put in my sister’s head. Swiftly she made the decision, “This will require a trip to the emergency room.”   

 

As mom drove to the hospital I was quiet.  I knew anything I said would somehow be used against me.   My sister reclined against my mother in the front seat as we sped down the highway.  This was before there were laws about seatbelts so my sister made full use of the front seat by propping up her feet on the passenger side.  Even though room could have been made, I sat in the back seat listening to my sister whimpering as we traveled.  Each screech of pain made me feel worse and I sank deeper in the seat. 

 

I suspected my punishment would be coming as soon as we got home.  I was at least hoping that the whole hospital would not be witnesses to my sentence of death   Then again; maybe that was not such a bad idea.  All joking aside, I knew this was too big of a thing for which you were only grounded.  This was going to hurt.  When Dad found out he was going to do some house cleaning and he was going to start by dusting my backside.

 

As mom filled out the papers at the glass window, my sister and I sat in the waiting room.   The large clock on the wall ticked against the rhythm of my heartbeat.  I could not distinguish which one was louder.   Each time my heart beat I knew my sister’s head was throbbing and then the clock would tick.  This round circled my in my head until a nurse stepped out and loudly stated my sister’s name. 

 

My mom and sister rose from their seats and I buried myself in mine.   Mom looked back and reached behind her and held her hand out to me.  I whimsically took it and followed quietly behind.  We were lead into a bright room filled with white linins and light blue curtains.   The nurse helped my sister onto the table and pulled up a chair beside it for my mother.   Then she escorted me outside and closed the door.   She pulled up a chair near my sister’s room and gave me permission to sit down.

 

Eventually a man wearing a white lab coat and one of those heart-beat-listening-things resting around his neck approached the door.   (To this day I cannot pronounce stethoscope.)  He smiled at me as he knocked on the door and entered.  As the door closed I heard the introductions and then he said, “Let me take a look at this.”   By this time the door was closed.  The sound was muffled but I heard the doctor ask my sister the same question my mother asked before, “How did this happen?”   

 

My sister began to speak and I begin to cringe with each understood word, “Brother….angry….bucket….head….blood…”    Suddenly the door opened and the man in the lab coat said, “Come on in here a minute.”  The doctor looks quite different now. He is wearing rubber gloves on his hands, a mask over his nose and mouth and wearing a silver saucer on his forehead.

 

“So…I hear you did this to your sister,” he said as he positioned his shiny tools on a cloth covered table.  I was still and silent, looking at the floor.

 

He continued, “Well your sister is going to have to have some stitches to repair this cut you made on her forehead.   Since you caused this I am going to let you stand right here (pointing to my sister’s side) and watch.”

 

And watch I did.  I reluctantly watched as he took a needle and pushed the numbing medication under my sister’s skin; I saw it bubble up as he slowly pushed on the syringe.  Each time he pierced my sister’s skin with a curved needle I watched as he pulled the thread through and tied it into a neat, clean knot.   I have never felt so sorry as I did that moment. I wished that bucket would have never existed.  I wished I would have never thrown it at my sister.  My lingering thought haunted me, “I caused all this.”  

 

Over the years I have been prideful as I recounted the great bucket debate.  And I have never overlooked an opportunity to point out my innocence.    

 

Reality…I have lived a lie a long time.    Truthfully, I was angry that day.  I did throw that bucket at my sister because I was annoyed at her.  I did want my sister to hurt the way I was hurting inside because she would not assist me in MY chores.   I wanted it to hurt; I did not want it to scar.

 

Sister, I am sorry.   I caused you pain because of my sin.   I apologize for being so prideful.   I am sorry I wanted to hurt you.  I am sorry I left you with a scar that you have had your whole life, marking my failure and the hurt I have caused you.     

 

My sister is not the only one I have sinned against.  My dear sweet Jesus took my sin . . . my pain . . . my piercings . . . and made them His scars.   Jesus bears those scars of my sin.   Forever His hands will show the cost of my sinful pride.   I thank you Jesus for paying the price of my sin.  

 

My parents never punished me for throwing that bucket at my sister.   I guess they thought the doctor punished me enough that day.   Thank God for amazing grace; I learned it from bucket.

 

A LIST OF MY WANTS

May 11, 2010

As a divorced parent and a single Dad there are times when reality hits you smack dab in the face and buried pain shoots to the surface like a buoy on rough waters.  

As I taught the Sunday night class my children were in my office putting the final touches on their Mother’s Day cards.  After my eight year old completed his card to his Mommy, he took out a large, clean sheet of paper and wrote a title across the top of the page, as only a second grader can do.   In large uneven-spaced and sometimes misspelled letters I read his caption, “My list’s of things I want realy bad”.   Under this heading he began to list a series of things he wanted “really” bad: A Star Wars bunk bed, a cage (for what I do not know) and a kitten were some of the things on his list.   The one that tugged at my heart strings was on the top of his list, obviously perched on the crest on purpose.   The thick pencil markings stood out boldly on the crisp white paper:  “I want my Mom to let my Dad come home that’s realy want I want.”  

No matter how many times you explain divorce to a kid they never seem to quite understand it.   How can they?   The two people they love the most, who are the most influential individuals in their young lives, now have only one thing in common---them.   In their minds there is always hope that some way, some how, Mommy and Daddy will get back together.   What do you do as a divorced parent?   Whatever you say will crush their hopes of reconciliation and you conclude the conversation defeated because this is one boo-boo you can’t kiss and make all better with a fuzzy Elmo band-aid.

When it comes to talking to your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up; others become frustrated, because they continually answer the same questions over and over.  Freezing up makes children feel like all the pain is their fault.   Becoming obviously frustrated builds a wall and your children…they eventually will just stop asking questions.  Thus, pushing them away and slowly dissolving the relationship they share with you.


        Make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing significantly as you anticipate their tough questions.   If you can deal with your own anxieties ahead of time, and plan carefully what you’ll be telling them, you will be better equipped to help your children maneuver through this minefield of emotional pain.

 

What to Say and How to Say It

 

Difficult as it may be to do, try to strike an empathetic tone and address the most important points right up front.  Give your children the benefit of an honest, but kid-friendly explanation.

·   Tell the truth. Your kids are entitled to know why you are getting a divorce, but long-winded reasons may only confuse them.  Pick something simple and honest, like “We can’t get along anymore.” “There was a promise broken.” or “It is not healthy for us to be together.”   You have probably offered these responses many times; they already know the answer, but they often need the reassurance  everything is going to be alright and you love them.

·   Say “I love you.”  However simple it may sound, letting your children know that your love for them hasn’t changed is a powerful message.  Tell them you’ll still be caring for them in every way, from fixing their breakfast to helping with homework.  Stop occasionally through your daily routine and ask them, “Have I told you today I love you?”

·   Address changes.  Preempt your kids’ questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different now, and other things won’t.  Let them know that you can together deal with each detail as you go.

 

Avoid Blaming

 

It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse.  With a little diplomacy, you can avoid playing the blame game.   It will take some work on your part, but prayer will help keep your focus and the Holy Spirit will help you to clearly communicate.

·   Present a united front.  As much as you can, try to agree with your ex-spouse in advance on an explanation for your separation or divorce—and stick to it.

·   Plan your conversations.  Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in the living arrangements occur.   If possible, plan to talk when your ex-spouse is present.

·   Show restraint.  Be respectful of your ex-spouse when giving the reasons for the separation.   You have to be careful here—children have a way of reading between the lines.

After reading all the things my son wanted on his list I pointed to the top one and said, “Tell me about this one?”  

“That’s what I really want Dad,” he quipped.

I quietly responded, “I know honey, but you understand that is not going to happen, right?”


        “I know, but I want you to come back home,” he said in a saddened murmur.

I fought back the tears and through a forced smile I answered, “It doesn’t matter where I am---I will always, always, always love you.   When you are with Mommy---I love you.   When you are at school---I love you.   When I am at work---I love you.  If I was on the other side of the world---I will always love you.”

He then reached his arms around my neck and whispered in my ear, “Dad, I love you.”   

My arms embraced him and my chin slowly sank deep into his neck and he let out a giant giggle.

I am so blessed to be my kid’s Dad.

 

Psalm 127:3 (NIV)"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him."

 

I LOVE THE CHURCH

April 30, 2010

      In the course of human history few institutions have been more misunderstood and maligned than the Christian church. Indeed, it would be foolish to insist that the church is perfect, because it is made up of frail and fallible people like you and me. Unfortunately, the criticism being leveled against the church today is not only coming from those outside the church, but from those within.

However, those who have a gloom-and-doom attitude toward the church are certainly overstating the case. Surely, the picture is not as bad as some would have us believe.

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish dramatist, playwright, and literary critic who at best was a mystic and at worst an atheist, once stated what would happen if the church went out of business for awhile. He proclaimed that it would have “a very salutary effect. It would soon evoke an irresistible desire for the re-establishment of the church.” No matter what people say, the world just can’t live without the church.

Here are nine reasons why I love the church:

First, I love the Christ of the church. The church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. He bought it with His own blood. The Bible says, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). I believe that we should hate what Jesus hated and love what Jesus loved.

Second, I love the creation of the church.  The church originated in Christ and was forged by a handful of Christians who had been on their knees in prayer and empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world.  They emerged from an upper room with an determined faith and an unconquerable zeal to face a world that had previously intimidated them into a paralyzing fear.  Inspired by the events of Pentecost they launched out on a grand adventure that resulted in churches being planted throughout the whole world.

Third, I love the convictions of the church.  The convictions of the church are drawn from the Bible. The Word of God is an infallible handbook that is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:16). When a church fails to embrace the Bible as completely true its doctrines and values are subject to weaken or disintegrate. However, praise the Lord for those churches that don’t try to change the Bible or find fault with it, but just believe it and preach it with boldness.  Those convictions will move her forward with future generations.

Fourth, I love the congregation of the church. There are always some surly, cantankerous, quarrelsome people in the church, but the best people I know are also in the church.  I have received great acts of love from caring church members. I have made intimate and lifelong friends in the church. I thrill to find warm, hospitable fellowship among God’s wonderful people wherever I go.

Fifth, I love the commission of the church. Of course, the commission of the church is articulated in Matthew 28:18-20, and it charges the church with the responsibility of evangelizing the world.  We are to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person.  Only when man’s heart is changed will the world be changed. No institution, entity, or organization has a higher or nobler commission.  Evangelism is one of the main focuses of the church.

Sixth, I love the cooperation of the church.  The world is known for its anarchy and competition, but the church is known for its camaraderie and cooperation.  When God’s people get together incredible things are accomplished for the good of mankind and the cause of the Kingdom.

Seventh, I love the charity of the church. Think of all the needs that have been supplied, all the hurts that have been alleviated, all the homes that have been blessed, and all the lives that have been changed because the church is motivated by love.  So long as the church insists on love being the quality which crowns her ministry worthwhile things will be attempted and achieved. 

Eighth, I love the celebrations of the church.  I have seen the revelry that comes with winning a championship football game and the festivities that follow the final out in a Major League Baseball World Series, but there is nothing that compares with a worship service when the Spirit of God is moving, souls are being saved, heaven comes down, and glory fills the souls of the saints. Now that is a celebration!   Scripture even echoes that Heaven rejoices when a sinner comes home.

Ninth, I love the consummation of the church. The church will outlive and outlast every other organization on earth. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. The church is the bride of Christ and one of these days He is going to receive the church unto Himself. It is going to be a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

Perhaps you can add a tenth reason for loving the church.  At any rate, make sure you hold the church in high esteem.   Remember Jesus did.  So much so---He died for the church.   Thank you Lord.

If you are not completely involved in the ministry of the church---You should be.  Our sweet Jesus died because He loved you---the church.

 

THE REAL THING

April 11, 2010

As the author introduced me to the characters, they became a part of me, and I experienced a series of roller-coaster emotions.  I finished the book as the morning sun began to peak through the blinds.   At the last words I rested the book in my lap, laid my head back and sighed.   It was a sigh accompanied with a faint smile and a good feeling inside because I had traveled on this journey.

The book had captured my attention like an accident along the side of the road; you do not know what you are looking at, but you slow down anyway for a prolonged gaze.     In the times I was forced to remove myself from the reading I was anxiously awaiting my return to its pages.  I was rushed to finish because I was scheduled to watch the movie, but in actuality the story fed my motivation.

Only two days after reading the manuscript I stepped into a darkened theater.  With a Diet Coke and a box of popcorn I remove my shoes, crossed my feet at the ankles and rested my back against the plush seat.  I watched the previews flash before me with great anticipation.  In only moments I knew that the flow of words I drank from in the last week would unfold in front of me through visual images I would soon not forget. 

As the feature presentation spills across the sky-sized screen I again am engulfed in the lives of these people.   Even knowing the next turn and twist of the plot my emotions are stirred.   As the movie concludes the ending credits roll up the screen.  Again, I lay my head back and sigh, but not for the same reason I did when I completed the book.   This time there was a hint of disappointment.   That disappointment led me to a couple of profound conclusions I felt worthy to share with you.

First, the real thing is always better.  In this case, the book I completed in only three days was better than the 107 minutes it took to watch the movie.   The visual did not encapsulate the depth of each character I gained from the book and my imagination.  When you have the original it is better than the imitators.  

In my years of being a Christian I can say that nothing beats the real thing.   Some people think they can improve on the Word of God so they “add to it: or they “take from it” so it will suit their needs.  Some go as far as to change important details to make the words more palatable.  God warns that His original truth is what is real and the one that “adds to” or “takes away” are walking on shaky ground.

In my book one of the main characters was greatly influenced by the town’s preacher.   The spiritual leader’s influence over the main character’s early years shadowed him in his adult years.   In the movie all this was removed----not even a hint.   Well unless you count the 3 seconds they displayed the preacher shaking hands after a funeral service.   I am sure this was Hollywood’s way to make a point that anything of spiritual value is of no value to them.   Yet, for whatever reason, the movie lacked compared to the book the author intended.

My second observation is I realized how easy it is to become emotionally connected to something that is fiction.   The characters never existed.  The plot was from someone’s creative imagination.   The story was based on truthful principles, but they were not truth.

I began to think of how often I do that in my life.   I put possessions over the One who desires to possess me.  I desire authority instead of looking to the One who has authority over me.     I seek power when I need to be surrendering to the One that has all power.  I find myself leaning on the world instead of leaning on my Creator. 

I can become so emotionally connected to this world.    The world has a lot of good to offer, but not as much as our great God.   If I can become so connected with an object or a toy, how much more should I connect to a loving God?

What was the book?   Well, you will just have to figure that one out on your own.

 

 

Evangelist

Faron Franklin
Mcdonald, Pa
Faron Franklin