Happy New Beginnings!

  

Genesis contains the biblical version of this World’s birth, so how fitting it is to read Genesis on New Year’s day! Genesis 1:1 opens with“In the beginning God…”  The author of this book, Moses, did the best he could, with the knowledge he had, to write the creation story.  In my opinion, Moses gives us an “overview” of creation’s story and not a detailed account.

As I ponder this first day of the new year, I thank God for new beginnings, and today can be one of those beginnings.  Today is a day where most of us make new-year resolutions, whether we want to admit it or not.  We may not verbally express it but the conversations in our mind go something like this… 

“Perhaps I should…

  • make the most of that gym membership
  •  drink more water and less sodas
  • give up those cigarettes
  • start saving money for the future
  • start paying off my debts
  • eat healthier
  • move more and eat less
  • read more

The list is endless and as diverse as there are people in the world.  

Here’s the thing…I don’t like to tag any of these goals as resolutions.  Resolute is final…complete…without mistake going forward.  Resolute is unreasonable.  We will make mistakes and we will backslide into old habits, and we should go into the new year with this knowledge.  If we do, failure will not come as a shock, but rather as a new beginning. 

We are given a new beginning multiple times every day, and with these new beginnings we can live our life with purpose and hope.  

With new beginnings we will never give up.  

Happy New Beginnings, Friends!  

***

Honest #FOWC

The Most Precious Gift

Giving to others from your abundance is good; however, giving away something you cherish is better…even Christlike.  Jesus gave up his riches to become a homeless man, and in the end, he gave us the best gift ever given…himself.  

Maybe on this Christmas Eve we should honor him by giving our most precious gift…ourselves.

***

Rivers of Water

I was on my way home from the hospital and my first born was lying in an incubator at Pitt Memorial. The last thing I wanted to do was leave her, but circumstances prevailed, and it became something unavoidable. As I lay in bed that night my heart and mind, extremely distressed, I could not sleep. I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong, and thinking that my 3-pound 10 ounce little-one wouldn’t make it through the night. This night was dark and terrifying and I was afraid. But then my mind remembered the stars…those little dots of light sprinkled throughout the blackened sky. I realized these same stars were also watching over my baby, and that their creator was also her creator. Through prayer I placed my baby girl in God’s hands and I slept.

Prayer and meditation can bring us to peace within the storm. For the Christian it’s the fuel that keeps us going. I often neglect this spiritual sustenance and find myself running on empty, however, the stars of that night, thirty-two years ago, reminded me of a power ready for the taking. This power source is not some old grey-bearded deity somewhere beyond our universe. No, this power source is the God within us, the Holy Spirit who has taken up abode within our souls. 

A necessary element to prayer and meditation is time. Without this element meditation of course is fruitless in our lives. Thankfully with our busy lives’ meditation can occur in small increments of time…a few moments with your morning coffee, seconds waiting at the red light, the minutes between the next meeting, quiet moments before you drift off to sleep. All of these snippets can become moments of mindfulness…moments of tapping into the power source within.

I love the picture painted in Psalms 1:3 which likens the one who meditates as a tree planted by the water…

“…we shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in [its] season…” 

We are the tree, meditation the roots, and the rivers of waters the Holy Spirit within us. 

Prayer: Lord, throughout this holiday season let our minds habitually visit the babe in a manger…the very one who bled and died, rose again, and now takes his abode within our hearts. Amen. 

***

Settled Within

The Ultimate Misfit


One Christmas morning I was up before the birds and all in the house was quiet as a mouse. I was sad, rejected, a misfit because there were certain relationships within my family strained and almost nonexistent. My children and I were were separated by many American miles. As I sat in the silence of that Christmas morn I read God’s word from John 1:11… and this is what God said, “He came to his own and his own received him not.” As I finished that verse I felt Jesus whisper to my heart, “I know how you feel.” Jesus, I realized was the ultimate misfit and I knew I would never be alone.

***

His voice when you least expect it.

I'll Vote for Mickey Mouse

Friends, an innocent man does not hide.  An innocent man does not shun the opportunity to present his case to the powers that be.  An innocent man does not ignore subpoenas ordered by America’s Justice system.  An innocent man does not take his case to the Supreme Court in order to keep his tax returns private.  My question is this:  What the hell is he trying to hide?  

I admonish you to take a moment to contemplate this:  

What if Hillary Clinton, like Trump, had refused to testify? I think the Republicans would have spontaneously combusted!  (Instead she was grilled for 11 hours straight in the Benghazi case against her) (like the end result or not…she did her duty and showed up)

In the past I thought such blatant double standards rare, however, not in today’s America.  In today’s America it is acceptable for our Commander and Chief to ignore the Judicial system.  In today’s America it appears our sitting President is above the law of the land.  I fear that in tomorrow’s America democracy will be a thing of the past. 

The evidence is overwhelming and non-disputable that Trump used his power as president to coerce a foreign country to do his bidding for his personal political gain.  Let’s take a quick look at the evidence:

(The following from New York Times)

Witnesses who have provided
evidence in the inquiry

Fiona Hill/Former Trump adviser on Russia

Dr. Hill quoted John Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, as saying, “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” referring to a back channel of Ukraine policy that sought to exchange a White House meeting for investigations sought by Mr. Trump. She also sharply denounced a “fictional narrative” embraced by President Trump and others that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

David Holmes/Political counselor to the United States Embassy in Ukraine

Mr. Holmes provided details about an unusual call he overheard between Mr. Trump and Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Laura K. Cooper/Deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia

Ms. Cooper revealed during her public testimony that Ukrainian officials may have been aware that security aid had been cut off as early as July 25, the day Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine’s president during a phone call to investigate Democrats.

David Hale/Under secretary of state for political affairs

Mr. Hale publicly answered questions on Nov. 20 about the hold on security aid and the ouster of Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who was targeted in a smear campaign by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.

Gordon D. Sondland/Ambassador to the E.U.

Mr. Sondland testified publicly that there had been a clear “quid pro quo” at the highest levels of Mr. Trump’s government linking a White House meeting for the president of Ukraine to investigations that Mr. Trump wanted. He also amended his initial testimony to say that he had “presumed” the release of foreign aid was also tied to the investigations, and that he had communicated that to Ukrainian officials.

Timothy Morrison/Former Trump adviser on Russia

Mr. Morrison testified that Mr. Sondland had told him that the military aid for Ukraine would not be released until the country committed to investigating Mr. Trump’s political rivals. He also said that while he did not think the president’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was inherently wrong or illegal, he had been concerned about its political implications.

Kurt D. Volker/Former special envoy to Ukraine

Mr. Volker testified before congressional investigators and provided text messages revealing that Mr. Trump’s envoys had made clear to the Ukrainian president that he would need to agree to Mr. Trump’s requests for investigations before visiting the Oval Office. He has said that he did not know that the investigations were focused in part on the Bidens.

Jennifer Williams/Foreign Service officer

Ms. Williams, who serves as a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, testified behind closed doors and in an open hearing. Ms. Williams was among officials who listened in on a July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman/National Security Council official

Colonel Vindman told impeachment investigators that he had tried and failed to restore key details that the White House had removed from a transcript of the call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president. He also testified that he was not aware of any security official who supported the freeze on aid to Ukraine.

Mark Sandy/White House budget official

Mr. Sandy, who signed a legal document directing the freeze of aid to Ukraine, appeared before congressional investigatorson Nov. 16.

Marie L. Yovanovitch/Former ambassador to Ukraine

Ms. Yovanovitch testified that she felt “threatened” by Mr. Trump and that he had personally directed her removal based on “false claims.” During her public testimony, Mr. Trump railed against her on Twitter.

George P. Kent/Deputy assistant secretary of state

Mr. Kent, who oversees U.S. policy toward Ukraine at the State Department, appeared before impeachment investigators against the White House’s wishes, telling them that Mr. Trump’s inner circle had cut him out of Ukraine policymaking. In his public hearing, he denounced a “campaign to smear” American officials working in Ukraine.

William B. Taylor Jr./Top American diplomat in Ukraine

Mr. Taylor told impeachment investigators that Mr. Trump had withheld foreign aid and had refused to hold a White House meeting with Ukraine’s leader until he publicly announced that his country would investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals. In his public testimony, Mr. Taylor provided new information about a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump that was overheard by one of his aides.

Catherine M. Croft/Foreign Service officer

Ms. Croft, who worked on the National Security Council, said that she had received multiple calls from Robert Livingston, a lobbyist and former Republican congressman, who told her that Ms. Yovanovitch should be fired.

Christopher J. Anderson/Foreign Service officer

Mr. Anderson, who served as an adviser to Kurt D. Volker, the former United States special envoy to Ukraine, helped fill in details about Mr. Volker’s earlier testimony.

Philip T. Reeker/Acting assistant secretary of state

Mr. Reeker, who serves at the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, told House investigators on Oct. 26 that he had tried to rally top State Department leadersbehind Ms. Yovanovitch as she faced a smear campaign orchestrated by Mr. Trump’s political allies.

Michael McKinley/Former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Mr. McKinley told congressional investigators that he had resigned because he was upset that the Trump administration had wrestled Ukraine policy away from career diplomats. He also told investigators that he had urged Mr. Pompeo to come to the defense of Ms. Yovanovitch.

Joseph Maguire/Acting director of national intelligence

Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, shared the whistle-blower’s complaint with Congress weeks after he was mandated to provide it. In testimony on Sept. 26, he defended the whistle-blower’s actions, as well as his own handling of the case.

***

I am flabbergasted at the support this evil man has from Republicans and evangelical Christians. I use to wonder how in the hell so many Germans stood by and let Hitler commit the horrible atrocities done to “the least of these.” I wonder no more, for I see it unfolding right before my eyes here in America.

My guess is that this whole Impeachment process will end just as everything else…Trump stinking high to heaven but once again exonerated. 

Friends, I fear the only way to be rid of this monster is for him to be voted out of office. 

This is a call to ALL democrats please VOTE!  

History has proven when there are large turnouts to vote democrats win.  You may say, “I don’t really like anyone running against Trump so I’ll just stay home this go around.”  If you do this Trump will win!  Mickey Mouse would be a better president than Trump!  We must band together and vote.  

Please Vote!

***

The next steps in the Impeachment process:  

(compliments of BBC news)

FOWC- Rare

Yes, I am in a Relationship

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…”  Hebrews 12:2

Growing up I was so afraid of hell, that I actually wished I’d never been born. Daily, I was tormented with the thought of the rapture, and being left behind.  

I knew God’s promises but for some reason they didn’t apply to me.  It was none of God’s fault but all of mine.  I knew and believed what God said about salvation, and about his promise of eternal life. 

And yet, I felt sure I would, somehow and some way, mess up my part of receiving His free gift.  What if I believed too hard thus turning my faith into work?  For God says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith…NOT by works…” 

So, what if I put my trust in my faith instead of Jesus?

What would happen then?

Would I be saved?

I was religiously taught the Roman’s Road to Salvation.  This step by step process is found in the book of Romans (of course).  This Road begins with chapter 3 and verse 10 and continues as follows:  Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-10, and Romans 10:13.  After each step has been faithfully taken, the sinner, saved by grace, is taken to I John 5:13 to seal the deal. 

I was so afraid I’d screw up one of the steps, and if I did would I be condemned to hell?  

I’m not saying the Roman’s Road is wrong, and if you have come know Christ through this path, I say a hearty Amen!   But for people like myself there is a danger in teaching the Roman’s Road. 

For us salvation does not equate to, “take these steps and get a ‘Get out of Hell Free’ card.”

For those like me there is no wrong or right way to salvation.  We come to know Christ through many paths, and for us salvation is a relationship, and any faith that we have is given to us by Christ.  Therefore, in essence, our salvation depends upon nothing we do but all in what Christ has done.  

So, the question could be asked… “At what point does salvation actually occur?”

To that I say, “I don’t know, and not knowing is okay.”  

I don’t have to know if I’ve dotted all my I’s or crossed all my T’s because I have nothing to do with my salvation…it belongs to God.  

And in that I rest. 

receive love. give love. repeat. 

***

Indulge yourself in Peace.

In Search of Mahanaim

…for they said, “The people are hungry, weary, and thirsty in the wilderness.” II Samuel 17:29

Half Marathon

King David and his followers ran for their lives into the wilderness. Absalom, his son, was hot on the trail, and would settle for nothing less than the head of his father on a stick. Absalom had set himself up as king and sought to kill David, God’s appointed king, in order to seal the deal. David, warned of Absalom’s pursuit, “…arose and all the people with him and passed over [the river] Jordan. By daybreak, not one was left who had crossed.”

Exhausted, hungry, and thirsty he and his trove finally came to rest at Mahanaim, a place approximately 10 miles east of the river Jordan, and incidentally the same place where Jacob had wrestled with God for his blessing. The residents of Manhanaim learned of David’s plight and they sent beds, basins, wheat, barley, parched grains, honey, sheep, and cheese. God provided provision in the wilderness.  Mahanaim became a place of blessing for David and his followers.  Previously before King David’s rule Mahanaim was known as a sanctuary city where fugitives could flee to and find safety.  After King Saul’s death his son, Ishbosheth, found sanctuary in Mahanaim.  The Song of Solomon speaks of “the Dance of Mahanaim” which portrays two camps in opposition coming together to find reconciliation, harmony, and joy.   It’s safe to say that Biblical history portrays the city of Mahanaim as a place of safety, blessing, sustenance, reconciliation, harmony, and joy.  

A few years back I attempted to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) in Gloucester

Massachusetts. Gloucester, one of New England’s quiet, little fishing towns, is simply beautiful.  If you’ve ever seen the movie A Perfect Storm with George Clooney you’ve witnessed a little of the ambience Gloucester. When I signed up for the race my thought process went something like this…

“Oh, what a beautiful little place…with so much to see I bet race will be fast and maybe even a little easy.” Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Sure, it started out that way, but by mile five I couldn’t give a rat’s ass for the scenery. The beauty was still all around me but I couldn’t enjoy what was right before my eyes because I was so exhausted and filled with doubt. 

I was hot, tired, sweaty, breathless, and my legs ached from all the hills I’d conquered. 

The hills…”Damn,” I thought, “I freaking forgot to check out the hill situation before committing to this race!” I chided myself, but chalked it up as a rookie mistake and made a mental note to not repeat it in future races.

As tired as I was, I pressed on to mile 8, and it was at that point I physically and mentally broke. I literally stopped. I couldn’t take another step and, in my heart, and mind I was defeated. I felt I had failed and I began to cry. Not knowing what else to do I pulled my phone from its pocket and called Corinne, my wife, who was waiting for me at the finish line.

“I can’t do it…I just can’t…please come and get me,” I cried into the phone.

Of course, she agreed to my request, but rather than jumping in the car and coming to my rescue she offered a suggestion instead… “Why don’t you go a little further and then if you want me to come and get you I will,” She added, “I know you can do it…I have faith in you.” In that moment her belief in me became the provision I needed in my wilderness. Her faith was my gateway to Mahanaim, a place where I could get sustenance to put one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish line.

As we walk through this day may we be diligent to look for God’s provision in the wilderness. Maybe it’ll come from a friend, or perhaps a stranger…a warm smile…a kind word…a song…a cool breeze, the melody of wind-chimes…the love and loyalty of our fur babies…a walk in the woods or the beach… The possibilities are endless, but like all of God’s gifts they do us no good unless we receive them. 

Go out into your world and receive the Mahanaims God has for you, and then become the Mahanaim to those around you. 

receive love.  give love.  repeat.

Prayer:  Lord, open my eyes to your blessings and make me a blessing for all who cross my path.  Amen.   

My Story…

A question was posed at church yesterday: Where and when have you experienced the movement of the Spirit?

My Story…

It was Christmas morning and I was sad.

I was sad because I felt alone.

Yes, I was the only one up…Corinne, the puppies, and the kitties were snuggled in their beds with visions of sugar plums still in their heads. But this is not the kind of “alone” I mean. This “alone” is good. I love this “alone.” I drink coffee, read, and pray to this kind of “alone.” This alone makes me happy. My introverted self has fallen in love with this “alone.”

The aloneness I’m talking about hurts deep in your spirit, and its name is rejection.

Rejected?

I was sad because I felt rejected by those who were supposed to love me.

They use to love me and welcome me into their life. We shared tears and laughter, and get-togethers…dinners and movies… We were partakers of time together. My time was their time and their time was my time.

But on this particular Christmas morning I was alone and the chasm was deep.

Seated on my sofa I began to cry.

I noticed the Bible on the table beside me. I reached for it with the intent of reading the Christmas story…after-all it was Christmas morning.

Matthew? Mark? Luke? John? What version should I read? I chose John.

John’s version of Christmas opens at the time of creation, and I envisioned Jesus’ Spirit moving within the mist among His heavens.

John speaks of Christ and how the words of His mouth created all we see. He paints Jesus as light and life, and how his light shown in the darkness and how the darkness comprehended it not…and how this light physically came into the world as a babe lying in a manger.

As I read I began to feel his presence.

I felt his Spirit urging me to read on. As if He whispered “Read on my child…I have something else to tell you…” And so I did, and as I did I saw the words…”He came unto his own and his own received him not.”

In that moment his gentle voice spoke to my heart…”I know how you feel…”

Again I cried, but I was not alone.

***

Word for the day: Mist

Beer-Battered Baby Squash & Blooms

I could wait no longer!

I had to have them and nothing would deter me.

Standing by my little garden I salivated as I gazed down upon the treasure; and so putting an end to my hesitation, I bent down and picked six baby squash, one with a lovely bloom intact.

That was the beginning of a delicious ending I’ve chosen to call, “Beer-Battered Baby Squash & Blooms.”

And so, to quote Paul Harvey… “Here’s the rest of the story…”

Ingredients

Baby Squash with blooms if possible

1 Bottle/Can Lite Beer

1 cup Self-Rising Flour

1 tsp Garlic Powder or Onion Powder (or both)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh Mozzarella (or your favorite cheese)

Fresh Green Onions finely chopped

Vegetable Oil for frying

Mix flour, garlic/onion power, salt & pepper, and beer until it resembles thick pancake batter.

Remove the pistols from flowers. Blanch for 30 seconds and then put blossoms in a cold water bath for 5-10 seconds. Lay on paper towels to absorb water. Mix cheese and green onions. Carefully stuff squash blossoms with cheese, drape petals over cheese and twist the ends to seal. If the blossoms are frail and difficult to handle put them in the fridge to sit about 15-20 minutes. I totally skipped this step.

Dip stuffed squash blooms and baby squash into the batter to completely coat. Drop into hot oil (375 degrees) and fry for 1-2 minutes.

When they are golden brown, remove from oil and lay on paper towels.

Take a bite and enjoy the scrumptious soft middle surrounded by a light and airy crust (thanks to the beer). It’s truly the best “homemade homework” I produced in quite a while.

Friends, these are simply delicious!

I hope you get the chance to indulge this summer!

***

Today’s Word: Homework

A Cup of Water

Reaching out across the ocean to help the helpless is honorable and necessary, but we don’t have to go to war-torn countries to be of service to those in need. Open your eyes for there are battle worn souls in the midst.

“You don’t have to travel the world to serve; you can find opportunities right in your own community…Whether loving your neighbor is as big as crossing the ocean or as small as offering someone a cup of water on a hot day, God is pleased by it all.” Erica Cosgrove

And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

***

Word of the day: War