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

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

What If You Could Pick?

In this life change is inevitable. From the moment we wake to the setting of the sun, our bodies and emotions continue to evolve. One could argue that we possess the power to alter the severity of these changes through prayer, meditation, exercise, and diet; however, this one thing is certain: we cannot stop change. If you’re reading this and breathing you’re on your way to the end. Hopefully that doorway is far into the future.

Ben Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Well, Mr Franklin, you’re right about the dying part but not so right about paying taxes. Obviously, your crystal ball failed to reveal the Donald Trumps of this present world, and large corporations like Amazon and Netflix. But I refuse to talk politics. It’s a subject that has cost me family and friends.

BUT…

What if…what if we were allowed pick some of those changes?

I’ve borrowed the following scenarios from one of my favorite blogs, This, That, and The Other. ( https://fivedotoh.com ). It is a set of “What if we could change” questions. I thought it would be fun to venture into Neverland, and post my answers here on Redhead Reflections. If you would like to share your answers to these questions please leave them in the comments section. I always seek to better know my readers.

So, here we go…

Rory Asks About Loose Change

Right now, right this minute, what could happen that would change your life totally for the better?

Healing for someone I hold dear to my heart.

How well do you handle changes in your life, to your life, or to your regular routines?

Well, it depends on the type of changes, of course. Obviously, if I won the lottery I’d be doing cartwheels, but in general, I’m not very good with change.

If you could jump into a pool of something odd [not water] what would it be?

Rice pudding, but only if I could carry a spoon.

What would be so much better if you could simply change the color of it?

My lily-white skin. (heeeheeeeheeee)

If you had a time machine, would you go back in time or visit the future and would you change anything?

I would go back to creation and chop down all the apple trees.

Do you prefer dogs over cats or cats over dogs?

I consider cats my spiritual avatar, but, that being said, I have 3 dogs and I love them with all my heart. (Is that dodging the question?)

How would you react if you were unexpectantly changed into a frog?

Well, I sure wouldn’t eat a fly! I’d probably take advantage of my jumping ability and do somersaults in the wind.

Write a random sentence about blogging without using the letter G.

My site, Redhead Reflections, is almost 6 years old!

If you could change the world over, what would you change?

Kindness would be innate.

Why did you do that?

So mankind could truly live out the golden rule.

If you could disinvent something, what would it be and why?

War. War would never be an option. Without war, perhaps we could live in peace, where no one is taken advantage of regardless of gender, race, religion, wealth, or sexual orientation.

You have been gifted an elephant – you cannot give it away, donate it, or sell it – what are you going to do with your elephant?

I’m going to hug him, kiss him, pat him, and name him George.

What are your values with regards your life?

To be kind and help others. (sounds “cheesy” but it’s genuine)

Who do you prefer to spend the most time with?

As an introvert, I love my alone time. I find I’m a better person to all those around me when I’ve had enough me time. When I’m recharged I love spending time with my wife, children, sister, my three dogs, and two cats.

Which is worse, falling over or not getting back up again?

Not getting back up again…no explanation needed.

If the currency was happiness and goodwill, what job would you perform?

I’d be a farmer.

You have lost your Interney connection for ten days, there is no internet connection within 50 miles of where you live. It matters not about what you use to connect, it simply isn’t happening – what will you for those ten days?

Read, eat good food, and be outside.

…and that’s all folks!

Feel free to leave your answers in the comments! Thanks for reading!

***

Todays Word: Pick

This, That, and The Other

…having done all to stand…stand

Oak Island NC

When you remember that you are fighting in God’s power and that He will help you…you can stand strong. When you have only what appears to be a slingshot and stones to fight with, hang on: The Lord will deliver you just as He delivered David. (365 Devotions for a Thankful Heart)

Lord, remind me of who I am in you. Remind me that I am hidden with you, within the Father, and that nothing can separate me from your love. Remind me that you will take whatever is in my hand and use it to do wondrous things for you. In your wonderful name I pray, Amen.