Posted in Writing

Finding Your Place

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A road in Suffolk, Va.

I grew up on a street my mother named. When my parents purchased a three- bedroom, two- bath ranch in Suffolk Virginia, Momma loved everything but the name of the street. Ford Lane didn’t evoke enough whimsy or excitement for my mother, Priscilla. She wrote up a petition, loaded her small brood into the car and went door to door encouraging signatures from the residents. The houses were tucked past farming fields and wooded acres. Once the 10 residents (or so) signed her petition, the “Ford Lane” sign came down and “Mockingbird Lane” sign went up. We staked our claim. We found our place.

When autumn rolls in I long for my home on Mockingbird Lane in Suffolk, Virginia. I love the quote “home is where our story begins,” because the story I remember started there. By this time of year, I’m sure trees behind our home are turning bright red and orange. The forest floor will soon be covered in a red damp carpet. Momma would always start a fire in the fireplace by late afternoon, and from deep in the woods, where my siblings and I played after school, we could smell the aroma of burning oak in the air.

There were hills, ponds, creeks, and caves. We’d get into all sorts of trouble and find a way out. Momma didn’t mind us disappearing for hours at a time, as long as we took our dogs with us. By dark, Momma hollered from the back porch.

“Kids! Supper’s ready!”

Her voice echoed off the hills and down by the creek. We’d practically kill ourselves sprinting through the briars and branches in an attempt to get home fast, so she’d never know how deep in the woods we were.

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Colin trying out a rope swing in the Smokey Mountains of Tenn.

 

I waited for my three boys to become big enough before I took them exploring through the forest behind Momma’s house. They seemed timid following me through the overgrown trail, climbing down the hill, and crossing the creek. It was unknown territory to my Orlando native theme park babes. I glanced back at them. “Come on!” I said. “Don’t be scared. I know where we’re going. This was myplayground.” We reached the creek with the huge hills on each side. The water rushed down creek, making that gushing sound people buy fountains for. Their eyes lit up with boy wonder. “There’s a cave in the side of that hill.” I pointed. “I got stuck in it once. I don’t recommend it. And in the creek, you can catch crawdaddies. We caught some, kept them as pets for a while, but when we got bored with them we boiled them on the stove and ate them. You pinch the tail and suck the head.”

“What did they taste like?” Christian said.

“Mud.” I pointed further down the creek. “Your Uncle Brandon built a bridge there, so we could cross over without wading. We had a fort with a large black rat snake. Longest and fattest snake ever, but he was nice. He just lounged around on the branch above our heads.”
As you can imagine, they looked at their mother differently after that tour. My history lesson bridged the gap between boys and Momma.

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Our last Christmas at Mockingbird Lane.

One day, after that tour, I saw the three of them sneaking off into the woods. I ran out onto the porch.  “Take the dog! You can go, but you must take the dog with you,” I said knowing the dog will lead them home. I sounded just like my Momma years ago.

My parents sold our home on Mockingbird lane a year before my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Their new lakefront home is better suited to handling our large family when we visit, but the move felt like losing my place, and perhaps a foreshadow to a much bigger loss that was to come a few years later, when my sister lost her battle.

Yesterday, my son Colin told me how much he missed his Granddaddy and Nanna’s house on Mockingbird Lane. “Do you know how lucky you were to be able to play in the woods all the time Momma?” He said.

“Now I do, but when I was your age I couldn’t wait to leave Suffolk.”

“I wish I could live there,” Colin said. “The woods seem to go on for miles. How did you not get lost in them?”

I smiled. “We did on occasion but getting lost was how we learned our way.”

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Our conversation made me realize how much place develops a person into who they become, and how often we look out the windows of our place and long to be somewhere else. There was a farming field out my bedroom window on Mockingbird that rotated between, cattle, corn, cotton, and peanuts—yawn– but the most amazing sunsets settled over that field at night. Meanwhile, as a teenager I longed for houses and neighbors.

God knows the value of place. He puts us in places where He can build us. Where our character, knowledge, or influence can be strengthened. He placed the Israelites into the sandy wilderness for forty long years, to teach them obedience and discipline. While we all know they were yearning for the tall grasses of the promised land.

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The lake my parents now live on.

Where has God placed you? Are you stuck in an apartment with loud neighbors? Still single? Still longing to become a mother? Stuck in a dead-end job? Battling an illness? Caretaker of the ill?  If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, there’s a reason for it.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 English Standard Version.

Don’t fret if your place doesn’t have the name you want or it’s not as exciting as somebody else’s neighborhood, for God knows the place you need.  Find contentment and stake your claim right where you are, for if you allow it God can take your external and design your internal.

 

See you at your place next week…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Christian, Writing

When A Farm Gets X-Rated

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First day of Dove season. Our friends Ed Kobel and Beth and Mike Weems on an unsuccessful hunt. The dove  were all hanging around our house and vacated the woods. Smart Dove.

So, October is not only breast cancer month, but wait for it…..drum roll please…. it’s wild hog month!  Who knew? Well, um… this girl did. Last weekend, I gave an X-rated tour on the farm to a few wives that attended our couple’s Abiding in Christ study. I drove them through the woods back towards the river and beach. Along the way, I spouted off bits of information I’ve collected about farming from how to produce rich grasses to how to make the meat of a hog juicy. The ladies in the back seat leaned in close to hear.

Through the woods, I pointed out where the wild hog had destroyed the vegetation.

“The vegetation along this trail used to be so dense and beautiful, but we’ve since had wild hogs come onto the property. They start their mucking which makes holes in the land, and then those holes fill with water and can turn a dense forest into a swamp. They can quickly tear up an ecosystem.”

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I further explained, “the weekends my son Christian is on the farm, he hunts at night for the hogs. He walks on foot through the darkest part of the woods, finds a hiding place, and waits. Many nights he returns to the house with several dead hogs in the back of his ATV. One weekend, he’d had an unsuccessful hunt, so he prayed that God would send him something. Suddenly, the brush started moving and he heard their snorting. He’d been standing in that same spot for a while, and they were silent, but as soon as he prayed God brought the hogs. He killed them and brought them home.”

“What do you do with the hogs once their killed?” One of the ladies asked.

“We clean them and put them in the freezer for meat,” I said. “Well, we do that with the females and babies, but if it’s a male you have to cut off its testicles within seventeen seconds, or the testosterone will spread throughout the meat and ruin it.”

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My son Christian in the forefront with his kill. His little brother and friend admiring his work.

Their mouths dropped open.

“Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do with all this information I’ve heard today.” Angie, one of the women said. “But it’s been a very interesting ride.”

I thought since they liked that one, when we reached the bull’s pasture I’d bless them with more. “Did you know we had two bulls last month break their penises trying to mate? They jumped on the back of the cow and missed their aim and it just broke!”

They gasped. “That’s possible?” A lady said.

“Apparently so.”

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Let’s assume he’s fully equipped to handle the job. This girl’s not inspecting if you know what I mean.

 

After I dropped them off at the house, and drove off, I realized I just filled their minds with some X-rated hog testicles and bull penises, when they came to the farm to learn how to Abide in Christ. I wondered what they must think about me. I admit, I tend to put my foot in it.

Surprisingly, the next day they circled around and hugged me goodbye. They thanked me for giving them such an interesting farm tour. They couldn’t wait to go home and tell their sons all that I’d shared. One of the husbands even laughed and told me he’d wished he’d been on my tour.

All was well.

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A boar I painted. 

 

I painted a Wild Hog once. I was renovating and decorating the retreat home, where our guests stay the night. My friend Ed wanted the home to be in the theme of a hunting lodge. One of the bedrooms I made the Wild Hog room. I couldn’t find a painting of a wild hog that fit into my decorating budget, so I printed off a tiny picture of a painting from an artist off Etsy, taped it to my easel and went to work. While painting, I realized how peculiar, spectacular, and cute these creatures are. From the rich autumn colors of their fur to that funky twisted snout with the flat end made for rutting. (The wild hogs of North America don’t have the twist, but the European Wild Boar do.) I had to remind myself what these creatures do to the land and wildlife in order to allow my son to go out and hunt them after painting that picture.

Temptations in life are like that. We entertain the thoughts, justify them in our minds, and lose control of them. Suddenly they are a full-scale sin wreaking havoc on the landscape of our lives. It can ruin the ecosystem of our souls. We won’t see the damage at first, it’ll leave a little hole here, a little hole there, but then the rains of lies, pride, fears, justifications- whatever we try to cover up our sins with, come. Before we realize what’s happening there’s a stinky swamp where lush foliage used to be.

I am thankful our forest on the farm has yet to become a stinky swamp and still has plenty of vegetation, but we are vigilant about keeping the Wild Hog controlled.

So, as you celebrate Wild Hog month (side note: we celebrated Christian’s 18th birthday this month as well), keep a grip on those temptations don’t let em loose.

Before I close I thought you’d enjoy some wild hog trivia. You know I got it in me.

 

-Wild hog rut in search of food. They eat snakes, worms, acorns, berries, roots, eggs from birds and alligators. They have ravenous appetites and rut all day and night eating.

-As I stated before, their rutting uproots small trees, grasses, shrubs, turning a forest into a field of mud holes. Their rutting damages root systems of trees, taking out homes of other animals. It damages an ecosystem, causing other animals to flee an area where wild hogs have taken over.

-They normally travel in packs.

-They produce four times the amount of offspring of a deer in any given year. They mate more than once a year and produce 5 to 6 offspring on average.

-The Wild Hog carries 45 different parasites and diseases that can be a danger to livestock and cost farmers boo-coos (very technical term here) of money.

-The Wild Hog can charge up to 30 miles an hour. Females are aggressive if they are protecting their offspring. Males will become aggressive if they feel threatened, but normally they are not aggressive animals.

-They have weak eyes, but they have keen sense of smell. So, believe me they can smell you when you are hunting them.

The Wild Hog started in North America when hunters released farm hogs into the wild in order to later hunt them. Not realizing how quickly they multiply.

-Currently, in some southern states there is an overabundance of wild hog creating real problems for not only the ecosystem but the economy as well. The wild hog can be hunted year-round as they are considered a nuisance.

 

Supposed to be cooler this weekend. Hope you get some Outdoorsy time.

 

Posted in Writing

Is Multi-Tasking Doing More Harm Than Good?

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There was a Howler monkey above us on one of our hikes through the woods in a Belize rainforest, but we couldn’t see it due to the foliage.

I’ve noticed something different, on dog walks through our neighborhood. In previous Septembers, the acorns fell from the trees and popped me in the head or hit the top of the car, but I haven’t gotten pelted once this September. I’ve noticed this fall the squirrels seem manic to pick them off the trees before they even fall to the ground. As I’m walking the dog, the discarded shells crunch under my feet. It is systematic of God’s creation. Acorns ripen, squirrels forage, winter comes. I’ve always been told it is a sign that winter will be cold if the squirrels act this way. In Florida, a girl can only hope.

My work load has grown this year, and recently I took a course on Productivity for Creatives, for we creatives are known to be heavy right- brained individuals, and are viewed by society as often scattered between our inspirations. I can’t speak for all creatives out there, but it is true for me. In fact, all along I thought multi-tasking was a skill resume-worthy. I can swing a skillet with one hand, have the laundry going, pop some Goldfish in Bella’s mouth, all the while typing out an essay on the computer while my paint dries on a canvas nearby. 

The teacher of the course pointed out that multi-tasking is not something to brag about after all. In fact, recent studies have shown, that those that multi-task regularly produce below-par product, have trouble getting larger projects completed, and may be hurting their brain in the process. Gulp! Our brains are not wired to do more than one thing at a time hence multitaskers are not actually working on multiple projects at once, but are switching their attention from one project to another often only getting small parts done.

The Time Management Class for Creatives, (You can find the class here:Creative Live Classes) taught the time-blocking method. In a nutshell,  you keep a master running list of everything you are working on, and place the items in blocks of time on your daily schedule. One project should never take more than two hours (which is the brain’s limit on one task) and there should be a fifteen-minute break between each. 

I’ve been trying it out, but I have to admit it’s been a challenge, for someone who has the attention span of a gnat add to that three children at home, one at college, three pets at home, one at college, and husband. Discipline Tammy…Discipline…Bang head on desk…Focus!

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Our last day, a whole family of Howlers came to see us and hung out in the trees surrounding our house.

One summer, we took the kids to Belize. We rented a house that sat atop a mountain and overlooked the tops of the trees in the rainforest. Several days, we walked down the mountain, through the woods  into this beautiful meadow by a river. It was what I imagined the Garden of Eden to look like. One day in the meadow my sons pointed out the leaf cutter ants to me. They had cut this distinct trench through the grass and were carrying leaves five times their size through the trench. Thousands of ants working together climbed up the tree, and came down in this clean pattern to take the leaves to their nest.  I was mesmerized and stood watching them for a while. It reminded me of the passage in Proverbs.

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The trail the Leaf Cutter ants made through the meadow.
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Their trail up the tree. Amazing isn’t it?

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8 English Standard Version. If you observe the ant, it is an example of not only diligence, but organization as well.

Then there’s God Himself. Think about the story of Creation. I went back and really read it recently, and noticed that God created A before creating B in order to get to C. It was a very systematic and sustainable way of creating the world. In order to form man, I must have the soil, I will create soil first. In order for man to survive there must be fruit, I will plant fruit trees.

 

I am filled with awe.

God is creative and not scattered. He works systematically and within blocks of time (days). He’s also managed to find time to rest. 

Is there hope for me? For you? For us?

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him’ male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1: 26-27 ESV)

We were made in His image. He’s creative and organized, so we must have the ability buried in us somewhere. We just need to develop it. And you know, God must believe in our abilities too, for He made us managers of all His creation. 

Something to think about.

Enjoy the fall breezes and take a minute to check out those squirrels, what are they doing in your area?

Posted in Writing

A Bike With Fat Tires

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Something happens to me when I hop on my bike and head out for a ride; in my mind, I become a 10 year old. It’s as if I have no fear, and I’m transformed into that dirty, stringy, tow-headed girl who wanted desperately to keep up with the country boys. I probably smell like her too. This morning, I flew through our neighborhood gate right before it closed, jumped a few curbs, and twisted through traffic. Afterwards, as I’m parking my bike I have a conversation in my brain that goes something like this… “that was really stupid, you could’ve hit the gate. Praise God, that driver saw you! Tammy, if you wipe out jumping that curb you’re not going to jump up and yell, “That was radical!” You’re going to lie there crying, “Dial 911!” 

But, then… it’ll happen all over again tomorrow.

I have a hybrid. I love my bike. It has the wider wheels that can get me through packed sand, turf, or city traffic. Last weekend at the farm, I was eyeing my friend Ed Kobel’s bike in his garage. It had extremely wide wheels. I’d never seen a bike like it. 

“That’s the wheels it takes to get down these sandy roads?” I said nodding at the bike. “I’ve been wondering if my bike could handle it.”

“Oh yeah,” Becky, his wife said. “A normal tire can’t make it here. You have to have thick wheels to get through thick sand.” 

Thick wheels to get through thick sand… 

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Appian Way, outside Rome: That cat has no fear.

This morning on my ride I was thinking about fear versus faith. How Satan loves to throw the stick of fear into our spokes knocking us off the course God’s cleared for us. God never leads us to a place of fear. He may ask us to do something that gives us fear, but the feeling of fear and trepidation is never manifested by God. It is propagated by the enemy.  It is the enemy’s way of getting you to doubt the Father. So, if you are feeling fear about something God is leading you to do, don’t let the enemy win. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 English Standard Version.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” How is it God tells us in His Word be anxious for nothing, yet anxiety is now the most common mental illness in the US?

As Christians we are equipped to deal with anxiety and fear. The anxiety or fear I’m referring to is not birthed biologically or traumatically, it is the fear produced by insecurity in who God is, and who you were created to be. If you truly believe God and His word, you won’t let fear rule your life. 

Thick wheels can cut through thick sand. The most important tools we have to combat fear is God’s word and the Holy Spirit. If the word of God is your foundation throughout your life, you will have the ability to glide through whatever season or calling your are in. When the sands of life get thick and you feel fearful of the trail ahead, you have God’s power inside of you to break that debilitating stronghold and pedal forward.

Remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 ESV.

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I was a witness to the enemy’s fear tactics when my sister, Tricia was dying of breast cancer. It was around two months before she passed, and I found her sitting up in bed one morning. 

“I know you’re not going to believe me,” she said, “but Satan was whispering to me all night.”

“What were you hearing?” I said, a bit skeptical.

“Sinister laughing. Then he told me that God could’ve healed me, but He didn’t love me enough. He told me the work I did for God won’t matter once I’m gone. He told me my life with cancer was a waste, and never made a difference like I wanted it to. He was constantly repeating, you’re going to die and laughing.” 

She grabbed my hand, her palm was clammy.

“Tammy, I know where I am going. I don’t fear dying because I know I’m going to heaven, but do I have to be terrified in the process? It was so real, I looked over at Thomas to see if he was hearing it too, but he was asleep.” 

The passage in Psalms popped in my head, so I recited it to her. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, as You are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. ” (Psalms 23:4 ESV) For the first time in my life, that passage came alive between us. I fully understood God was warning us that Satan was not done with her. It wasn’t enough her body was riddled with pain. He wanted to discourage Tricia even on her death bed. We prayed that God would intercede on her behalf and He would give her peace. The Bible reminded Tricia that God is there with her in that valley, she just needed to grab on to Him. 

Tricia destroyed the bondage of fear with her faith. The next night, Tricia slept with no problem. 

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4 ESV)

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Jay giving me his evil expression. That would be my purse he was holding. (felt I needed to clarify)

 

Looking back now, I think about what the enemy was telling my sister. Her cancer didn’t matter… Her life didn’t make a difference to anyone. If you’ve been following this blog, you know her cancer made a difference in the life of my friend Vanessa who died one month ago from brain cancer. Vanessa Raghubir’s decision to follow Christ started by reading Tricia Baines’s story, yet Tricia died not knowing the impact her life and death had on others.

We, as Christians are God’s army. We are all a threat to the enemy. He would love to keep our journey’s stagnant our lives meaningless because we are ill- equipped with skinny tires in thick sand or paralyzed in fear of what’s ahead. Are you going to let him derail you from God’s plan for you? Or are you going to place the thick Word of Truth as your foundation and utilize the Holy Spirit’s power in the pedals?

Is God calling you to speak? Just do it.

Is God calling you to write that book or article? Do it.

Is God calling you to forgive someone? Do it.

Is God calling you to try out that Bible study? Do it.

Whatever God is calling you to do, don’t let fear win. And believe this, whatever God is calling you to do, it will be a success if you get on that bike and pedal. Ride your faith like you’re 10 years old. You’re life will be powerful!

See you on the trails! Until next week…

My latest article for She Leads Daily:

My latest article written for She Leads Daily is a subject I feel strongly about Abortion. I really prayed over this one. I thought my readers would like to see it, but you have to go over there to She Leads Daily to read it. I’ll make it easy on you just click on the link below…

https://www.sheleadsdaily.com/blog/9/17/2018/the-fight-for-life-abortion

Posted in Writing

These Are the Days

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In 2001, we rented a small house that backed up to a preservation on a lake. My boys, Nicky and Christian were before-the-sun risers, and a routine morning consisted of me brewing a pot of coffee before taking my boys out to the pier. From the gazebo, I drank coffee as the sun came up and shined away the mist floating on the surface. Some mornings I’d pray, while Nick peered over the edge for the turtle we named “Hook,” (a fish hook was caught in his foot.) The mornings we were lucky, we’d see the surface sliced by the resident gator, who nestled into the uninhabited reeds during the day or the pair of bald eagles nested in our trees. It was a quiet little oasis for me in a bustling tourist town. 

DSC_0940On the morning of 9/11, we returned from the dock, everyone was dressed, fed and “10,000 Maniacs” was blaring through our home. I was twirling my soon-to-be-one year old Christian in my arms while Nick was shaking his booty on the floor at my feet. Natalie Merchant’s edgy voice sang “These are the days to remember…” as I dipped my heavy Christian over the sofa, and he belly laughed. 

Then… the phone rang. It was my husband.

“What are you doing?”Jay said.

“Dancing with the boys.”

“Turn the news on. One of the twin towers in New York was hit by an airplane!” He said.

Music went off.

The news came on.

I nestled Christian in my arm and slid onto the sofa. Nicky plopped by his basket of toys.

On the Today Show, the World Trade Center gaped open while fire and smoke poured out. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer interviewed witnesses via the phone. Control tower problems? Something wrong with the pilot? Engine failure? Were all discussed possibilities,  but then…another jet sliced into the second building. 

“I think it’s undeniable this is an act of war,” One of them stated.

Nicky jumped up. “Kaboom! Crash!” Flailing his arms in front of the television. 

“Nicky, come sit.” I wrapped my arms around them and held tight.

The words of the song still rang in my ears.

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Today, I’ve thought about how rapidly our world has changed since that devastating day. Here is a small list of all that’s happened: terrorism, culture of consumerism, social media, political correctness, global awareness, increase in technology, celebrity worship, culture of acceptance and self-love, texting instead of talking, political bullying,  Keurig Coffee makers, airport security, Oxycodone addictions, Amazon shopping, cell phones that act like computers, Drones, social protests of every sort, Christian bakers sued for not baking a gay wedding cake, multiple threats against Christianity,  and somebody please explain why we had to close Blockbuster Video for goodness sakes? Whew! Depressed yet?

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I’m in awe that at a time in history when Christians were staked and burned so Nero’s garden could have light for his dinner parties, Paul sat on the stone floor of a dank, dark prison knowing he was going to die.  He penned the following letter to his young friend and co-worker, Timothy.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning, but never able to arrive at a knowledge of truth.” 

He goes on to say, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (II Timothy 3:1-7 and 12, English Standard Version)

Do you think he was writing about today?

I believe we’ve lost so much more than the lives that perished on 9/11 in this fast paced, approval based, trying to keep up with the Joneses world of ours; and there are times I wish I could push rewind and the buildings would re-erect, and the workers would be leaning over their desks again. I’d be back watching the sunrise, brewing a pot of coffee, and dancing with my kids, instead of drowning in media.  What would be different in your life if 9/11 never occurred? 

If only…

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Then again…have you ever noticed it is in darkness that a beam of light shines brighter? It pierces through the dark and creates focus. With focus, we see the lit path we are to take, and ahead the destination, which becomes our vision.  It is in our darkest hours with which we feel God’s presence closer. I thought about Elijah standing on that mountain in I Kings. 

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“…And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” (I Kings 19:11b-12 ESV)

You see, God is not in the devastations, He is experiencing them right next to us. So, maybe these are the days. 

 

 

Something to think about…

Prayers for those in the storm.