Welcome

Much like your parents attic, treasured memories lay within. So, wipe the dust off my ruminations and remembrances, sit back and enjoy!

Emmanuel

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold!, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold!, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest!, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”


Pure...and simple

~ V

I'm Dreaming Of A White...


For those of you who were dreaming of a white Christmas...well, you got your wish. Where I live, we officially received 26 inches of the white stuff, but we also had 30 mph winds that gusted up to 40+. So...As the above picture shows, we had 3 to 4 foot drifts! This lead to a back-breaking 2 hour snowblower marathon, during which I came to two conclusions...

1) Somewhere in scripture, along side His promise NEVER to flood the world again, God should have promised that if He's going to dump anything over 12 inches of snow, that the wind would either A) Not blow at all while you're removing the snow or B) Would blow only in one direction while removing said snow. I mean really! Having to snow blow 2 feet of the stuff is bad enough, but when you have the wind changing direction every minute and it either blows right back into your face or swirls back onto the path you just blew...not fun.

2) The county snowplow MUST die. I didn't get out to start clearing the driveway until almost 9:30 this morning...not late, but definately NOT early. So, I get going, decide which side of the driveway to start (I try to pick the side that's up-wind...but see #1 above...grr). I do 3 or 4 passes when I notice that our street hasn't even been plowed yet. I sigh...knowing that sometime later, I'll have to come back out and clear what the snowplow pushes into our driveway. I get near the end of our driveway and WHOOSH!! The snowplow came by and not only sprays me with a tidal wave of snow, but literally burys my snow-thrower as well! OH NO YOU DIDN'T! I obviously didn't/couldn't hear him over the engine noise, but he COULD have given a little 'beep' on his horn so I could have stepped back. So there I stood...eyes narrowing and that famous line from Moby Dick came to mind...'To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!' OK...I must be honest with you, although I know the line originally comes from Moby Dick, I know the line from Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan...there, I admitted it!

...beware Mr. County Snowplow guy, I'll be watching out for you!

~ V

Derailed

.....My mind and heart are squeezed of their juices and their strength and essence have drained out of me. Vacillating between thought and feeling, and feeling and thought...thoughts rebounding off feelings of sorrow. My mind searching for answers, My heart is...solemn...still...alone. Honestly not sure where these feelings have emerged from...but here I am. And I know this is NOT a good place...not a healthy place to dwell. I know too well...far too well the cost of lingering in this place.

Maybe it's weather...or the upcoming Holiday's...most likely it's a myriad things. (Kind of like dripping water on a rock...by itself, one drop of water is meaningless to the rock, but drip after drip over a span of years will create a divot and eventually destroy the rock.) Either way, I would ask for your prayers as I seek for the hand of Him who guides my life. Because even though all is dark around me and I can not see Him, I KNOW He is there and He knows the path out of the darkness.

I sit back and almost laugh at myself writting this, because I know my life is blessed and filled with those who love me...I have no reason or cause for feeling the way I do...and yet, here I am.

Psalm 61 - Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

~ V

...and HE shall reign

Just a quick one...saw this tonight and just HAD to post it. I LOVE LOVE LOVE things like this! Enjoy...



NOTE: No innocent bystander, patron (or anyone else for that manner), was offended, mentally anguished or religiously oppressed by the clear Christian message that was sung in a public place, during the taping of this video...

~ V

Giving Thanks...

This is the second year that I took the day before as well as the day after Thanksgiving off from work. I always take the day before off to get a jump start on cooking and baking for the feast that would follow...it's not that Lisa can't do it, it's that I LOVE to do it! We had a houseful with our 8, my sister and her family (3) and Lisa's mom and step-father, it gets a little hectic (especially around serving time) with that many people moving in and through the kitchen, but I made it and only had one somewhat mild stressor! As I stated earlier, I love to cook and for me it's ALL about flavors and freshness. I planned a fairly typical menu (Turkey, mashed potato's and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole (in Minnesota, they call it Hot Dish...I was born in Iowa and we call it casserole!), squash, rolls and of course...pies. Pretty straight up, but here's what I did to switch it up: With the Turkey, I made a garlic & herb butter which I softened, then used to coat the bird between the skin and the bird itself. This cooked the flavors right into the meat and was VERY good if I may say so myself! Next, I converted green bean casserole from a quick 5 min job into a slightly more labor intensive (30 min prep) one by making my own french-fried onion pieces the night before, cutting and blanching fresh green beans instead of canned and making my own mushroom sauce instead of using canned cream of mushroom soup. I had never done this before, so I was a little nervous with how people would like it...all I can say is WOW! This is one recipe that I will use on a permanent basis! Again, fresh ingredients provide AMAZING results! The other thing I did was stayed away from pumpkin pie mixes. Instead, I used 100% pumpkin puree, ground my own nutmeg and used cream instead of milk...OH and I made a hand-whipped brandied whip-cream and homemade caramel sauce for toppings.

My sister and her family stayed through the weekend and on Friday, we took them to Lark Toys. Where my sister bought a game called BeanBoozled...All I can say is PRAY you never...EVER get the Centipede flavored jelly bean! We had a great time with Donna, Dave and Rose, we laughed, played games, ate a lot of food and were truly blessed by their visit and the time we had together.

Today, after they went home, we started the transformation of our home into our little Christmas wonderland! I LOVE this time of year and I LOVE decorating for it. As we were putting up one of the trees and listening to Mannheim Steamroller over the stereo, I became a little nostalgic...My mom loved the Christmas season as well and all of the decorating, baking and celebrating that went with it and although she's been gone for 10 years now, those memories are as fresh as yesterday! I miss her...and I wish mom could have met Lisa...they would have loved each other and Lisa would have fit right in with the quirky family that we were back then.

We kind of have this little family tradition where we go around the table and tell each other something we are most thankful for from this past year. Sometimes they're silly, sometimes the older ones feel it's corny and don't really want to participate...but in the end they do. This year I'm thankful for a mother who loved her children until her heart broke...wasn't afraid to discipline her kids...who shed tears over their losses and smiled with pride in their triumphs and who was staunchly resolute in bringing her children up in the way of our Lord, Jesus Christ. She was much braver and stronger than I'll ever be...Thank you Mom.

~ V

~ Family ~

Genesis 27:6-13, 27-36, 37-41 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”


So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,


“Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness - an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”


After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.” Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!” When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”


Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud. His father Isaac answered him, “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. and when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”


So Jacob stole everything that was rightfully his older brother Esau's...his inheritance AND their father's blessing...and evdidently their mother's love as well as she played a terrible role in what transpired...talk about family division and tension! How would you react if something similar happened? I'd like to think that I'd just rise above it and go on...but I just don't know. Going further a few chapters, this is how it played out.
 
Genesis 32:3-5 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’”
 
Jacob had to go to Edom and he knew his brother lived there. The last time he saw him, Esau wanted to kill him, so Jacob is a little more than nervous and uncertain of what to expect...so he offered up the following prayer.
 
Genesis 32:9-12 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”
 
And when they finally meet...after all this time...and all that's been said...
 
Genesis 33:1-4 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Family...a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~Erma Bombeck


...Thanksgiving is just a week away and Christmas is right around the corner from that. Families the world over will gather to laugh, reminisce of days long gone and sit down to break bread together. But that's not true for everyone...for many, this is an incredibly sad and stressful time of year. Family hurts, divisive attitudes and hardened hearts will turn what should be a bright and joyous time into one full of tension and dread...Why is it that we treat family with less grace and with more contempt than the clerk at Wal-Mart? We often take our families for granted, expect far more from them and give far less in return then any other relationship. Family is supposed to be there when you need them, and is supposed to have a strong hold on the ground you walk on. They stick with you through the toughest times and offer help and advice when needed. You know you don't want it to be the way it is...no one enjoys holding hurts and sore feelings and it doesn't make you feel better. Pride, selfishness, lack of communication and lack of understanding are relationship killers...they need to be stripped away and laid aside. You choose to be prideful...choose to be selfish...choose to seal yourself off. Make this year different...choose to change. 'But I've been hurt!'...yes, you probably have been. 'But he/she did......to me!'...I know, but why allow that to control you? Choose to change. 'But it's SO hard!'...yes it is, but I guarantee that if you take the first step and choose to change, you will be happier.

Listen...Families aren't perfect...none of us are, but in the end when the rubber meets the road, while friendships fade and disappear like smoke in the wind, family will always be family...Take a chance, Jacob did. It was scary at first for him...but BOY did it pay off in the end!

~ V

In Search Of

Psalm 62:5-7
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Finding rest...finding shelter...two things everyone seeks. But where do you seek shelter and rest? That is the real question...and how you answer is the difference between contentment and continued struggles. Seeking shelter and rest in ANYTHING (or anyone) other than God, will always see you out in the cold and more tired than when you first started...and yet still we try. Fame, Wealth, Status...every one of them is fleeting and in the end...empty. King Solomon says as much himself in Ecclesiastes. He pursued wisdom, pleasure, folly, hard work, advancement and riches...during his pursuits, he denied himself nothing and in the end said, 'Meaningless! Meaningless!...Everything is meaningless!'

This got me to thinking...If we claim the love and trust of Christ and yet place our rest and build our shelter elsewhere...isn't that betraying that love and trust? Is that any better than Judas's betrayal?

Just a thought...

~ V

Life in Fast-Foward...

Summer has come to an official end as the kids started their first FULL day back to school today. This will be a significant year as this is Hope and Kyle's last year of Elementary school, Nick and Vinny's last year of Middle school AND Trevor's last year of High school...major changes indeed! It's really weird to think that when Lisa and I first met, Nick and Vinny were in the same grade that Kyle and Hope are in right now (4th)...now they're in their last year of Middle school...where DOES the time go? It's
truly amazing when you think about it...all the changes...all the adjustments...all the growth everyone of us have gone through. Has there been pain? Yes... Tears? Of course...but there has also has been laughter and play...bonding and dare I say, sense of 'Family'. There is a love there that is growing, that I honestly didn't expect.

Out of the ashes of both of our pasts, God has and IS building our house. Board by board and nail by nail...built by the carpenter of the Universe...and our foundation is built not upon shifting sand, but on the ROCK!

~ V

Brain Drain...

OK, so tonight Lisa told me she thought we, as a family, watch too much TV. She went on to say that from the moment the first kid is up, until we go to bed, the TV is almost always on and that she wants that to change. I must admit that this irritated me at first...I work hard and I just want to come home and relax...in front of the TV...Then I started to remember that when Lisa and I dated and even during the first months after we were married, we watched VERY little TV. Now it seems to absorb all my time...it didn't used to. I used to listen to music, or listen to Lisa play the piano. I used to work on the boys's rooms or some other project around the house. I used to BLOG...everyday! and I used to read A LOT more scripture. I've allowed TV to 'take over' and it has stolen the joy I used to get from doing all those other things.
Lisa's right, we are watching too much TV and the first step is recognizing it...

Hello, my name is Vince...and I watch too much TV.

~ V

















Dad's Life

Ok, so here's one for the guys...I love this!




~ V

Rhapsody to beat all rhapsodies

Saw this on someone's Facebook post today...simply awesome!



~ V

My Dad

10 years ago last month, my Mom died of sepsis; a complication coming from having Calciphylaxis, which I’m sure was made worse by her being Diabetic. My Mom spent the last three months of her life in the hospital and was in such pain during the last days, that although the Morphine kept her unconscious...she groaned and cried with pain. To my knowledge my Dad spent every waking moment of those days (as well as many nights) with her in the hospital. I know he experienced the frustration and hopelessness, the sadness and despair one feels as they helplessly watch their spouse slowly slip away...I've never forgotten this, nor the impression of duty and love it left with me.

I've written about my relationship with my Dad as I grew up before...he was a pretty harsh disciplinarian...kind of a 'shoot first, ask questions later' type of guy and while I know there were plenty of times where I had earned his wrath...there were many times where justice wasn't blind and the scales were weighted against me and as I grew older, I took a lot of resentment for my father with me.

It wasn't always that way...I remember in my early years Dad would take me fishing or I'd go along with him while he road hunted for Pheasant. He taught me how to bait my own hook and how to not just rely on the bobber, but to keep the line between my thumb and pointer finger, so I could feel the fish nibbling before they struck. He also taught me how to look for Pheasant runs along fence rows...and that a hen will nest not too far from a run. My Dad taught me about grilling (although I'm a better griller!), how to clean a fish (which I hate to this day) and how to work on cars. My Dad sat down with me when a girl broke my heart for the very first time and I thought the world was crashing in around me and told me through the lump in his throat 'Son...It'll be OK. It will only hurt for a time and then you'll never allow yourself to be hurt that bad again.' ...Of course I allowed myself to be hurt again...but the point was he was trying to connect with me...trying to ease my wound heart...and it's a moment that I'll never forget.

A few weeks ago, Dad and my stepmother Dee came back to Iowa (from Arizona where they live) because Dad needed to see his eye doctor. They stayed with my sister Donna and her husband Dave. They had planned on spending two weeks there and I really wanted them to come up. On Wednesday of the first week, Donna called me and said that she had to tell me something. Her, Dave and my two other sisters (Denise and Deb) had gone down to Arizona about a month earlier, and at that time, Donna had told me about an incident where Dad had acted disoriented and confused. All three girls impressed upon Dee that she should get Dad in to see a doctor. Well...Dad had another similar incident the night before, at their house. After getting Dad settled down, Dee told Donna that she had taken Dad to the doctor and after examining him, he's fairly positive Dad has Alzheimer's...

...As she kept talking, I could feel my eyes start to water and a lump the size of Sugarloaf seize my throat. She asked me if I was alright...I couldn't answer her for about a minute. After I got off the phone, Lisa wanted to know what was wrong...I just buried my head in her shoulder and wept...hard. I sat there wondering what the heck was going on! In my heart I had forgiven my Dad long before...I had buried the demons of my past, I had shaken free the manacles of resentment and the bondage that comes with it and had gone on with life...but now it all came flooding back. I was a kid again, and in my mind's eye I was reliving moments both good and bad...all in a flash.

I'm not sure why it affected me the way it did...I honestly thought I'd cried my last tear over my Dad years ago. Maybe it was because both of my parents had/have terrible diseases. Maybe it was because of the history with my Dad and I want the time to replace the bad with good. Maybe it was because the sorrow of the bitterness that resentment left behind in me, washed over me in that moment...most likely it was equal parts of each...

After Donna's call, we made special plans and met them all that Friday in Rochester for supper. We stayed late and kept the restaurant open later, but they were kind and didn't complain. Lisa took pictures of Dad and I...Dad and the kids and Dad with Dee. Dad and I sat at one end of the long table and we talked about nothing...and everything. It was a good night and I am so glad we were ALL able to make it happen. I'm not too sure with time and distance how many more we'll be able to have...but I'll cherish every one.

Dad? I know there were times when I was growing up that I didn't make it easy on you...and that at times because of my actions or attitude you didn't like me very much. Will you please forgive my stubbornness, resentment and my disrespect? I need you to know there were times when I felt you were overly harsh or unjust in the way you punished me...But I know as a father myself, the incredible responsibility we have to properly discipline and instruct our children...I need you to know that I forgive you for the times of harsh or unjust discipline and that I love you for loving me enough and for caring enough to do so. I know there were MANY times when you felt I wasn't paying attention to what you were trying to teach me or tell me, but I want you to know that I was. Whether it was grilling hamburgers, changing a tire or cleaning a fish...thank you for teaching me the countless things that you did...Thank you for being my Dad.


~ V

I have...and I ALWAYS will

While preparing to put a Photoshow together for a young couple in our church whom Lisa shot their engaugement pictures, I ran across this song...



Here are the words...


Darling, we're both scared
But where love is, fear won't tread
All of these friends here agree
We're right where we should be

Underneath all your white
My Lady, My Love, My Bride
In your darkest hours
Will I love you still
I have and I always will

I guess it's because I just do
Following heaven's clues
This is a big mystery
How I found, you found me

Underneath all your white
My Lady, My Love, My Bride
In your darkest hours
Will I love you still
I have and I always will

And you are changing now
Your part of me somehow
And I will never be alone

In your darkest hours
Well I love you still
I have and I always will
I have and I always will

 
...every once in awhile, something comes along that you either read or hear that speaks exactly what your heart feels. Words not originally spoken by you...but might as well have. The prose itself is from the heart, but combined with the written music, well...stirs me.
 
My love...my Lisa...my wife. This is for you...
 
Today, tomorrow, forever I love you!
 
 
~ V

Shake it off and step up

There was a farmer who owned a mule. Now throughout the years, the mule helped the farmer by hauling dirt and rocks and whatever else the farmer needed moved from one place to another. One day, the mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule 'braying' (or whatever mules do when they fall into wells) and eventually found him in the well. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened ...and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back ... a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! This he did, shovel full after shovel full. "Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!" He repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on shaking off the dirt and stepping up!

It wasn't long before the old mule...battered and exhausted...stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like would bury him, actually blessed him...all because of the manner in which he handled his seemingly dire fate.

If we face our problems, respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity, the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us. The older I get, the more convinced I become that EVERY adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit...It ALL depends on how we face them.

'Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.' 2 cor 6:4-10

~ V

Why indeed...

Please watch...



Oh Lord...search my heart, bring me ever to the realization of who You are and who I am...

~ V

Construction Zone
















So, yeah...under the suggestion that my site might be too 'visually' dark, I'm going to be window shopping for a new layout for my blog. I kind of like this one...although technically it's still dark, but who knows. A change was WAY past due and it might take me awhile to find the right look, if you know what I mean. So, be honest and tell me what you think???

~ V

Family???

Talk about my family? Dare I? I mean, honestly...there are good, bad and ugly moments and while I KNOW all families experience these, I've honestly avoided all but the funny because we're still relatively newly married (two years this June!), we're still growing together as a family and well...I've just not been sure how my better half would feel if I openly and honestly BLOGGED about a frustration or a 'not-so-happy' moment...I would never want to hurt her...even inadvertently. So, generally I've avoided talking about such things. But thinking about this has caused me to realize something...I tend to avoid blogging altogether when something 'family' related is on my mind. Not sure what that means, but it just came to mind (see hon? I can ramble too! :)).

With that said, I DO feel like I've just recently awoke from a long sleep. Prior to a few weeks ago even Lisa would look at me and tell me, 'You just don't look happy.' And honestly...I wasn't. I wasn't unhappy in our marriage...I wasn't unhappy in my job...and even though there honestly are times of frustration with the kids, I wasn't unhappy in our family life either. Time flies and I feel I've nothing to show...I hate that I'm diabetic and feel ashamed for the financial strain it puts on my family. So, those are the things that have been on my heart...and you know what? In typical Vince Howard fashion, I haven't placed any of it at the foot of the cross. Why do I continue to do this? You'd think I'd learn by now...

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Oh how that line rings true...O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer...
 
So, with Christ's help...I'm picking myself up. Who am I kidding! He's lifting me out of the pool of self-defeat that I've thrown myself into and He's washing the stench of self proclaimed failure from my feet.
 
~ V

What's your pleasure?

I feel like I've really not written lately. Yeah, I've put out some perfunctory posts and some silly ones, but I really haven't connected and posted something with any substance for quite some time. So, I want to know what some of you would like to hear me talk about?

So...what's your pleasure?

~ V

A Praying Day...

Today marks the 59th observance of the National Day of Prayer. Created in 1952 and signed into law by President Harry Truman. Prior to the nation's founding, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation recommending "a day of publick humiliation, fasting, and prayer" be observed on July 20, 1775 During the Quasi-War with France, President John Adams declared May 9, 1798 as "a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer," during which citizens of all faiths were asked to pray "that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it". On March 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation expressing the idea "that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins", and designated the day of April 30, 1863 as a day of "national humiliation, fasting and prayer" in the hope that God would respond by restoring "our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace". He went on to say, "...it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord."

In more recent history, the idea of an annual National Day of Prayer was introduced by the Rev. Billy Graham, who suggested it in the midst of a several-week crusade in the nation’s capitol. Members of the House and Senate introduced a joint resolution for an annual National Day of Prayer, "on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals."

On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer must be declared by each following president at an appropriate date of his choice. In 1982 a conservative evangelical Christian organization called the "National Prayer Committee" was formed to coordinate and implement a fixed annual day of prayer for the purpose of organizing evangelical Christian prayer events with local, state, and federal government entities. In his 1983 declaration, Ronald Reagan said, "From General Washington's struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future." In 1988, the law was amended so that the National Day of Prayer would be held on the first Thursday of May.

Now today, in our history, just this year in fact, a federal judge from Wisconsin has ruled the National Day of Prayer, unconstitutional. On March 1, 2010 U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb stated: ‘In my view of the case law, government involvement in prayer may be consistent with the establishment clause when the government's conduct serves a significant secular purpose and is not a "call for religious action on the part of citizens." McCreary County, Kentucky v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, 545 U.S. 844, 877 (2005). Unfortunately, (section) 119 cannot meet that test. It goes beyond mere "acknowledgment" of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. "When the government associates one set of religious beliefs with the state and identifies nonadherents as outsiders, it encroaches upon the individual's decision about whether and how to worship." McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 883 (O'Connor, J., concurring). Accordingly, I conclude that (section) 119 violates the establishment clause.’

It saddens me deeply to see this blessed country that I SO love, turning away from that which made us the great and blessed country that we have been. Contrary to what many would want us to believe, this country was founded on Christian beliefs and values. If you don’t believe me, just read the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration contains five references to God - God as supreme Lawmaker, God as Creator of all men, God as the Source of all rights, God as the world's supreme Judge, and God as our Protector on whom we can rely.

The very idea that a government or President, through acknowledging the importance of prayer and humbling of ourselves in a National way, can or has caused ‘concrete injury’ to anyone, is beyond me. If I don’t like a book, TV show or movie, I choose not to read/watch it.

2 Chronicles 7:14 - If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Pray with me, wont you?


~ V

Warmer Weather + Junk =

Spring has officially decided to stay and day by day it's getting warmer. With the combination of those two things and the deep seeded need in us to 'spring clean'...you know what that means...It's garage sale season!

I find it funny...here we are each spring, going through our closets and storage rooms, deciding what to sell, donate or simply get rid of and then we go off to buy stuff from other people who are trying to sell, donate or simply get rid of the stuff they've cleaned out. In the wake of 'cleaning out', it seems we just can't help but collect more. Garage sales truly prove that one man's garbage is another man's treasure!

And it's also funny if you have kids. They want to get in on the action too, so they go through their things and come out with a box mostly full of Happy Meal toys. They have grand dreams of buying PlayStation's and XBOX's with the riches they just know they're going to get and actually look at you confused and disappointed at the $2.50 you give them at the end of the day!

So, here I am today sitting at our own garage sale...have I mentioned that I HATE getting ready to DO a garage sale? The sorting, the folding, the pricing, the setting up, the tearing down...yeah, pretty much everything but the actual taking of other people's money. You see, it's NEVER a simple thing...you HAVE to go through every drawer, every closest and every box in your storage closet and look at each item and think...Hmm, I haven't seen this item in over 3 years and even tho it's sat unused in this box and up until now I've completely forgotten that I owned it, there MIGHT be a chance I might need it within the next 5 + years...Thank heavens Lisa and I are NOT like that...well, not to any extreme that is!

Now as I said, I'm sitting here at our own garage sale, typing this BLOG and watching people come and go between our neighbor's house and ours. Each year at this time our entire town does a city wide garage sale and people from all over the area come through. So far we've sold an old refrigerator, large dog kennel and our treadmill (so long New Years resolution!) and many other smaller items. I like to price items to move; I figure that if I took the time to sort through all of our CRAP, that means we don't want to keep it and it does me no good to spend this time just to put the stuff back into storage. The worst is this...putting stuff out to sell at your garage sale that you purchased from garage sales the year before...I have to admit that we're guilty of that!

One guy came up, said that he recently had a heart attack and needed the treadmill to help him in his recovery. So, I was happy to help him load the thing up in the back of his truck. Then there's the family who drove up with their black lab in the back seat. Sitting there with a stuffed teddy bear in his mouth...not chewing it mind you...just sitting there like it was his security blanket!

I'm thinking next time I'm just going to put a sign in the front yard stating 'Garage Sale, Knock On Door'. Then I'll have the 'Pickers' just go from room to room in our house and if they find something they like, they can ask and who knows...maybe I'll sell it!


~ V

Calling Your Wife Bub...

I call my wife 'Babe'...in fact, I call her that ALOT! I know most of you probably have a pet name or nick name you call your significant other...Babe is the one I use. Once I called her 'Baby Girl', but she quickly put the kabash on that for two reasons 1) I call my youger daughter that and 2) 'I'm not 10 years old' as she would say.

So...today I finished dressing and came out to the kitchen where she was doing something on her computer, I grabbed my lunch bag (yes...adults can have lunch bags too...) and said; 'Ok Bub, I'm out of here...' obviously I meant to say BABE...except that BUB came out instead. I knew what I said and, hoping that she was too engrossed in what she was doing, continued on with getting ready to leave. Three full seconds had past and I was silently rejoicing inside when she said, 'Bub??? I'm your Buddy???' to which I replied, 'Yeah, I was hoping you didn't catch that.' She said, 'Oh, I caught it alright! Since when am I your BUDDY??'

Yeah...nice...

~ (not your Buddy) V

Separated...




For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39


From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land…the earth shook and the rocks split…” Matthew 27:45
 
Christ's deep agony on the cross was not from the physical pain or the rejection by man. The deep agony was from the separation that occurred when the wrath of the Father was poured out upon the Son…His Beloved.


I doubt that any of us can understand the depth of the love that binds the Triune nature of God together. It is a “oneness” that goes way beyond that which He designed for a man and a woman. Even though God planned for us to participate in, and experience, the “profound mystery” as Paul describes it, it is, no doubt, but a speck in comparison to the love and the union of the Father and the Son.

Jesus said they were “one”.


…and they had been for all eternity…and they will be for all eternity.

But on the cross, Jesus was separated from the Father when He bore the penalty for our sins...the eternal separation from God. That was the price and Jesus paid it.

And He cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?


Many have said that Jesus died from a broken heart. I don’t know whether or not this is true. But die He did…for the penalty of sin includes death. His blood was shed…for there is no remission of sin without it.

But His real cry of agony on the cross came from being separated from the One He loved.

We experience that, too, when we are long separated from those we love. But this is nothing compared to the magnitude of the separation that Jesus bore for us.

But why did He?

Because He loves you…really loves YOU.

And that deep, deep love meant paying the penalty on our behalf so that there might never...EVER be a separation between the Lover and the loved...the Groom and His bride...the Shepherd and His sheep.


Who can fathom the depth of this? Paul was given the words to help us grasp it:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” He then lists the possibilities and the answer to each is understood:


Trouble? No...

Hardship? No...

Persecution? No...

Famine? No...

Nakedness? No...

Danger? No...

Sword? No...

Death? No...

Life? No...

Angels? No...

Demons? No...

The present? No...

The future? No...

Any powers? No...

Height? No...

Depth? No...

Anything else in ALL of creation? No...

Have we gotten the point yet? In case not, he sums it up this way:

“NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

...I guess that means NOTHING...

Remember...when you feel that you're at the end of your rope...that no one cares...that you've been beaten and left for dead...that everything you've done has come to naught...that no one loves you...He does.
 
In the presence of something so awesome, my weak little “thanks” seems somewhat inadequate.


~ V

Only You

Only You


Take my heart, I Lay it down
At the feet of you whose crowned
Take my life, I’m letting go
I lift it up to You who’s throned

And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You Lord

Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I’m leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
Be all my delights, be my everything

And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You Lord

And It’s just you and me here now
Only you and me here now
And It’s just you and me here now
Only you and me here now

I have, for a very long time, blamed myself for my eldest son's circumstances; If I would have provided better fatherly guidance, or maybe if I would have loved him the way he needed to be loved, or possibly if I would have simply spent more time with him after his mother passed away...maybe...just maybe he would still be getting straight A's...maybe he would have continued with the sports that he loved...maybe at the age of 16 he wouldn't have become a father himself...and maybe he wouldn't have rejected the faith his mother and I instilled in him...
 
A lot of maybe's...and as I watched my son determinedly set his path on one I knew as self-destruction, I continued to heap the burning coals of condemnation on my head. It's a horrifying thing, as a parent, to watch your child turn their back on the things you hold dear and important. What happened to the little baby boy I watched take his first steps? What happened to the little boy I taught to hit a baseball? What happened to the boy I proudly coached? What happened...what have I done...
 
Last Sunday in church, God spoke to me saying:
Yes Vince, you could have provided better guidance, loved him better and spent more time with him...but you have and continue to provide him with guidance. Guidance you have gleaned from My word and the wisdom I have given you from the life you have lived and the experience, both good and bad, you have gained from it. And you love him with the heart of a father who loves his children for the potential you know they have and not with the scales of justice, weighing rights and wrongs. Your son's problems aren't a result of anything you have failed to give him...they are a direct result of the continued rebellion that he's pursuing.
 
 ...A weight was lifted and some tears followed as God helped me realize that I may not be a perfect parent, but I have given guidance, love and time to all of my children and if they choose a path of sin and rebellion...they have chosen it...not me.
 
Now, throughout this past week, I've been thinking about this and my self condemnation has been replaced with just a general sadness over my son's choices/rebellion. Today, during worship, we sang the song above (Only You) and while I was singing, I asked God, 'Thank you God for lifting this burden I placed on my own shoulders, but I am sad with the concern over his continued rebellion and the state of his soul.' God was quick to answer, Worship Me...give him over to Me...lay him down at the feet of Him who's crowned...let him go and worship Me
 
And so I will...Lord, I give him over to you, please take this and all other distractions in order that I may worship you...
 
~ V

Sweet Amongst the Bitter

Judges 14:5 - 9 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. Sometime later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass. In it was a swarm of bees and some honey, which he scooped out with his hands and ate as he went along.

There are times in our lives when we feel under pressure or attacked. As with Samson these attacks can come from any area and at any stage of life…home, work, spiritual, financial…and they often surprise us. I’ve also noticed that it matters who we turn to in the midst of these attacks. If we turn to God and His strength and power, there is a certain humbling of self and reliance on Him and this provides greater trust, peace and faith in Him. But if we continually rely on ourselves, we tend to become hardened…cynical. Dog eat dog and survival of the fittest becomes our rule…It doesn’t take a sociology professor to see evidence of this in society today.

Sampson’s trust was in the Lord and because it was, God gave him the power to overcome the lion’s attack. God will do the same for you and I…His promise to do so is repeated again and again throughout His Word. (Psalms 27:1, Psalms 34:17, Psalms 46:1, Psalms 56:11, Psalms 138:7, Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 43:2, John 14:1, John 14:27, Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Philippians 4:7, 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 Peter 5:7).

Now, pay close attention here. Sometimes the battle is hard and they leave deep and lasting scars that we really don’t want to relive or even think about. Later in Sampson’s story, he revisited the site of his battle with the lion. Within the carcass of the dead lion he found honey…sweet, energy restoring honey. I believe in the ‘carcass’ of every battle we’ve faced…every hardship we’ve endured…every scar we’ve obtained, there is a store of ‘honey’. Sometimes it’s hard to see at first and maybe God needs to draw us back to the site to help us realize that this ‘honey’ has helped us in our walk, or perhaps has positioned us to do God’s work in ways we never knew or expected or maybe it was there just to show us God’s majesty…in any case, it does show that God has a blessing for us in ANY circumstance.

Sweetness out of the bitterness of battle…only God can do something like that…amazing!

(this was expounded on after I heard someone share the story in Church this past Sunday)
~ V

Are You Listening?

Listen, this is important. There is never a time during which Jesus isn’t speaking to us. Never. There is never a place in which Jesus isn’t present. Never. There is never a room so dark…a concert too noisy…a wasteland so desolate…or an office so sophisticated…that the ever-present, ever-pursuing, relentlessly tender Friend is not there…speaking words of guidance…tapping gently on the doors of our hearts…waiting to be invited in. Few hear His voice, few follow His guidance and fewer still open the door. But never interpret our avoidance or numbness as His absence. For in the midst of this world full of fleeting promises of fame, fortune and pleasure, is the timeless promise of His presence. Hebrews 13:5 says: ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’ and in Matthew 28:20: ‘Surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.’


There is no amount of noise so loud or place so remote that the voice of God cannot be heard…if we but listen.

~ V

A Matter of Perspective...

Please watch this short video...
video

Satan is a liar. He wants you to believe that the reality of life is filled either with hopelessness and darkness or you get what you want in life by the power of your fist and the cunningness of your mind. He wants you to believe that there is no God...or if there is, that He's so far removed that He couldn't care less about you. Psalms 56:8 tells us, "You number and record my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle--are they not in Your book?" How precious are tears to God? So precious that He has recorded every single one of them in a book and has stored them in a bottle. You matter to God and the ONLY thing that separates us are our misconceived perceptions and sin.

"Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Without God...without Jesus, we are blind to the truth. That truth being that you don't have to live in darkness...that living in Christ, you yourself, become a light in this dark world. That living in Christ, your life now has meaning and that you are loved. You don't have to be blind

There will come a day when there will be no more tears (Revelation 21:4) and I wonder what God will do with the bottle of the tears of His children that He has collected? Will He toss them into the sea of 'forgetfullness', Will He use them to fill the rivers of heaven? I don't know, but I do know that they are VERY precious to Him, not nearly as precious as you.

~ V

Customer Dis-Service

By now, many of you know that my wife was in a minor auto-accident earlier this week. She was driving to one of her client's houses on a very narrow, back-country road when a truck rounded a corner and they both started sliding headlong towards each other on the ice and snow. They barely missed a head on collision, but the truck ripped Lisa's driver side mirror off and they both ended up in the ditch...on opposite sides of the road. Long story short, Lisa's car needs a new tie-rod, wheel and some repair to the steering gears. I'm just thankful she wasn't hurt! Cars can be replaced...people can't.

After Lisa's accident, we had to call roadside assitance. It's a service that Lisa got when she purchased the car, which actually is pretty nice because they will tow you or change your tire or even bring you some gas if you run out. In talking to the customer service rep, she was having a difficult time figuring out exactly where we were in order to dispatch someone to help us. The conversation went something like this:

Customer Serv Rep: ...Ok, and where's the car located?
Lisa: MV Road
Customer Serv Rep: Did you say that's in "this town"?
Lisa: No, it's near "that town"
Customer Serv Rep: Are you at the car now?
Lisa: No, we're on HWY Y. The car's about 3 miles down on MV Road...I can't get cell phone service there.
Customer Serv Rep: I'm having trouble finding MV Road...what's the road next up from there?
Lisa: LP Road.
Customer Serv Rep: No...can't find that either...are there any other major roads close by?
Lisa: No...wait, highway X is close by.
Customer Serv Rep: ...OK, so the car is on HWY X...
Lisa: ...No.
Customer Serv Rep: ...OK...I don't understand how HWY X is related then...
Lisa: Uh...you can't find MV Road...you asked for a major road that might be nearby...
Customer Serv Rep: Oh...yeah.

Now, we DID get the needed help, but that little exchange reminded me of the following little comic I ran across a week or so back about customer service...









I'm sure most of you, at some point in time, have had the 'pleasure' of placing a call to customer service as well and I'd like to ask you to share your FAVORITE customer service call or moment!

Look forward to reading yours!

~ V

Cookin' up a Scheme

I'm really not sure if I've shared this before, but I like to cook...in fact, I really LOVE to cook. I once played a chef in the musical Hello Dolly...I looked JUST like the Swedish chef from the muppets: White pants, white cooks coat, white chef's hat and a big cookie-duster mustache! I came running out on the stage and said to the maitre d, 'Rudolph, it's true no?' OK...that really has nothing to do with what I'm talking about, but it popped into my brain while I was typing, so there ya go. I find a lot of enjoyment in cooking and take pride when something I've prepared is well liked.

I've had some success (my grilled prime rib roast is top notch if I say so myself)...as well as some failures (tried to make an Italian pudding once and well...got chocolate soup instead...), but either way it's fun and I've decided to periodically share some of my 'homeruns' so to speak. If any of you actually tries a recipe, I'd like to hear how you liked it and if you made any modification in which you felt made it better. So, without further ado here's the first one...


Vince’s Chili

Ingredients:
• 4 Lbs Ground Beef
• 1 Box Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Chili Mix (I use everything in the box except the cayenne)
• 4 fresh Red Peppers
• 1 Can sliced mushrooms
• 1 Lg red onion
• 3 cans tomato sauce
• 1 Lg can whole tomatoes
• 1 Lg can crushed tomatoes
• 3 Can’s HUNTS fire roasted diced tomatoes (yes, Hunts…they’re the only ones that make a fire roasted kind, and it’s important to get fire roasted)
• 2 Can’s Bush’s white beans
• 2 Can’s Bush’s red beans
• 1 Can Bush’s black beans
• 3 Cloves garlic
• Smoked sea salt
• Chili Powder

Method:
1) Pre-heat oven to 400.

2) Chop the onion and mince the garlic.

3) In a large soup pot, add the ground beef, chopped onion and minced garlic and turn the heat on to 7 or 8. (check periodically to chop and mix hamburger).

4) While the meat is cooking, cut two of the red peppers in half and lay them open side down in a shallow, jelly roll pan. Place into pre-heated oven and cook 15 to twenty minutes or until the skin on the peppers are mostly black.

5) Clean and chop the other two red peppers.

6) While waiting for the meat and peppers to finish cooking, open all of the above cans. Drain only the mushrooms and whole tomatoes. Taking a pair of kitchen shears, cut up the mushrooms and whole tomatoes (leave them in the can).

7) When the red peppers are done cooking, place them in a large Ziploc bag for at least 5 min. (this will help loosen the skin, which will be removed).

8) When the hamburger is fully cooked and chopped, drain and add the contents of the chili spice mix according to the directions and mix thoroughly.

9) Next, add the tomatoes (crushed, whole, diced & sauce), beans and chopped non-roasted red peppers…mix, reduce heat to 5 or 6 and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.

10) Take the roasted peppers and using a fork, remove the skin(s). Dice the skinless peppers and add to the chili. Add smoked sea salt and chili powder to taste. If you don’t have smoked sea salt (I make my own), regular sea salt and just a drop of liquid smoke will do.

Bon Appétit

~ V

I'm Goin' On A Bear Hunt...


While in the nut-house recovering from her traumatic experience with the three bears, Goldilocks took up a few new hobbies...taxidermy and fashion design...

Honestly, just look at those eyes...can you say issues?...yikes!
~ V

Lost and found





For the past week and a half, I've felt beaten down...like the entire weight of the world was on my and only my shoulders. Honestly, nothing really happened to make me feel that way...I just did. I was pretty somber and Lisa on several occasions asked me what was wrong...I just said that I was tired or something. I know I should have opened up to her...but I just didn't know how to put what I was feeling into words without really freaking her out. I knew I felt this overwhelming weight and I was sad...tired...hope seemed very far away. I felt that I had failed my children...failed as a father to ensure they were brought up in the Lord...felt that I had failed my wife because after a year and a half of trying to 'blend' our families, it seems that someone is always unhappy...but it's VERY hard to 'blend' kids who much of the time are like oil and water...and I know that causes both of us a lot of stress. I also felt I failed her because I promised to be her rock...promised to be her safe place...her unsinkable ship. But much like the Titanic, there are times when the water is dark and I can't see the icebergs. As these thoughts took root in my head, the more withdrawn and somber I became. I was utterly defeated...and I honestly didn't know what to do...

I love my wife! God has given me exactly what I need in her. She comforts me when needed, but also holds me accountable. She is supportive and loving, but can also counsel me when the need arises. Kind and caring, beautiful and sensitive...I love her with all of my heart! After moping around for 10 days, it was Lisa who actually helped me realize that I hadn't been in the Word lately...I know...you'd think after everything I've talked about here...after all I've experienced, that I'd know better. I fell into the trap that many people do...I let the cares and worries of my circumstances distract me...and instead of running to the One who is more capable of handling them than I, I handled them myself and, well...we know how that turned out. Lisa, in her loving, patient way, helped pull me out from under the raincloud I was under...did I mention that I LOVE her??

By the way, I thank God that the 'hull' of our marriage isn't held together by the sheer force of our wills and desires...which, by itself is about equal to the strength of Dollar Store aluminum foil...but instead is reinforced and strengthened by our bond in Christ and slices through those icebergs like a hot knife!

~ V

There's Power in Praise

Acts 16:23-26 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.

This Bible story begins with the unwarranted arrest of Paul and Silas. They had cast a spirit of divination out of a slave girl and realizing he had just lost his 'golden goose', the girls owner had them arrested, afterwhich the local Philippian authorities beat them and then threw them into a jail cell. Besides the trauma of the severe beating, they were also locked in stocks which held their arms and legs in an immobile position...can you say cramps and loss of circulation? The atmosphere there was depressing, most likely quite smelly and who knows what crawling all over them. Prisons of that day, were more like a dungeon; a dark, damp, stench-ridden place, with no facility for waste or comforts of any kind.

And then at midnight, in the midst of hearing their fellow prisoners groan and curse their fate, Paul and Silas started praying and singing praises to God. And not just quietly and under their breath, but loud enough that even the jailer heard them. Then suddenly, an earthquake shook the prison...the doors to all the cells flung open, and amazingly, the bonds that held Paul, Silas, and every other prisoner fell off! Paul and Silas knew how to lift their hearts above their troubles and enter into God’s presence and power. Through praise and worship their hearts were raised into the joyous presence and peace of God. Their praise and worship allowed them to not be a victim of their circumstances, but instead to trust in God. Psalms 22:3 says that God inhabits in the praises of His people. In other words, God 'dwells' in the atmosphere of His praise. This means that praise is not just a reaction from coming into His presence - Praise is a vehicle of faith which brings us into the presence and power of God! Praise and worship is the gate which allows us to enter the sacredness of His glory. Psalms 100:4 says, 'Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name'

In my humble opinion, if you're praising God...then there will be no time to listen to the temptations of the evil one. If you're praising God...then you can't wallow in the stench of your own pity. If you're praising God...you will come to see how blessed you really are. If you're praising God...you will find joy in most anything. If you're praising God...you will find a peace that can not be explained.


Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer!
For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.
He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the Crucified.
Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong..

~ V