Heart Restoration

My daughter in Chicago is an example of strength and encouragement to me.  A few years ago she completed her Ph.D. in Psychology and promptly passed one the most grueling exams to pass her licensure test for becoming a Psychologist.  She was asked by Moody Bible Institute to become the director of their psychology program in making it licensable in state of Illinois.  She has had to develop curriculum for the program as well as hire professors that can teach the classes along with teaching classes herself.

Her most recent challenge has been to buy an older home that was gutted from the third floor to the basement.  All new electricity and plumbing was put into this house, and then the owner stopped restoring it because of family problems.  This is where she stepped in.   She bought a house that was unlivable and is in the process of restoring this old house.  House restoration.  From top to bottom.  Hiring contractors.  Securing a building permit.  Restoring a house to its former glory.  Time and materials.  House restoration.

Over seven years ago I started a small group bible study from new people who attended our church.  We intended it to run for 7-10 weeks, but after 10 weeks, the people coming didn’t want it to end.  People have come and gone due to move changes and other circumstances in their lives, but we are on our eighth year of meeting weekly.  About a year ago the pastor encouraged people to meet together and share food with one another.  We took on the challenge and started by hiring a friend of mine who was a chef to come and cook us a gourmet meal.  That was the start of a weekly tradition of breaking bread with one another.

We still meet weekly and have a theme for the food that we eat.  Tomorrow night is breakfast night where everyone comes with something that resembles what one might eat at breakfast.  I am making chocolate chip Mickey Mouse pancakes for those who want the Disney theme.  After supper we go into the living room and focus on the theme of “heart restoration”.  We are taking passages related to the “kingdom of God (heaven)” and seeing how they can impact our daily thinking and restore our hearts.

This week we are focusing on one of the beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  As I have looked at passages about the heart, I came across one in Joel that I thought worth pondering.  “Even now,” declares the Lord,”return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:12, 13 NIV)  The Lord is speaking through Joel in telling the people to “return to (the Lord) with all or your heart.  It seems that a heart divided has multiple desires is contrary to His desire.  He wants all of our heart solely focused on Him and His plan for our lives.  It is similar to what Jesus was saying in the beatitudes when he blessed those whose heart was pure and not convoluted with other desires or idols.

Joel tells us that the way to have a heart fully focused on God is by fasting, weeping and mourning.  Jesus gives us a similar message by saying that people are blessed when they are poor in spirit and who mourn.  Humility and humbleness come when we contemplate our choices in life we regret, our attitudes we have that are displeasing to Him, and actions that eventually cause us to come to dead ends.  It’s at this point that we are ready to take on a pure heart that is totally devoted to serving the Master.

On this journey, transformation of the heart only happens when we take a sincere evaluation of our heart and seek to cut out areas that divide our focus.  Purity is what the Savior is looking for.

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Finding The Fake

Nadine and I went on our 20 mile bike ride yesterday.  It was a glorious day with no wind and temperatures hovering around 65-70.  We passed the fake Swans in the three ponds along Hayden that I wrote about 14 days ago (Fake vs. Real).  I can never go by the ponds looking at those swans the same way I did when I thought they were real.  We got to the half-way point and began to think of the egg, bacon, and bagel sandwich we would share along with a blueberry smear bialy.

On our way back, we passed the ponds again and something caught my eye.  As I looked at the swan, I saw an unusual sight.  A bird was sitting on the back of the swan.  He ( I called the bird a he, but probably it was a she because women are more insightful and sensitized to life than men)-she was sunning herself and primping her feathers on the back of the fake swan.  Not scared.  Not intimidated.  Fully aware.  Living in the real.


It reminds me of a truth that Jesus was speaking about for us to emulate.  “Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭16:1-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In our society, we (and myself) have a tendency to think that money will be the end-all of all of our problems.  If only we could have more money in the bank.  If only I could have more to buy a new car.  If only I could have a better job to bring in more.  If only I could pay off the loans.  If only.  We think that money will solve our problems.  We idolize it.  We worship it.  We toil for it.  We sacrifice for it.  We think it is the real thing.  Jesus said that money should be used for a different purpose and that is to cultivate friendships here on this earth.  It’s like seeing the swan and putting beauty in the swan for several months only to realize that the swan is only a means to an end as the bird realized.  She was using the swan to rest and be refreshed.  Jesus said that money should be used for building friendships with others.

As someone once said, you can’t take any money with you.   This journey is a process of turning our focus to things that are real and using what God has given us for enhancing life which opens the door to new perspectives of what God intended.

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Singing With Mom

I went up to Colorado Springs to be with my mom this past weekend and something amazing happened. Let me give you a little backdrop on my mom. She is 96 and is coming up on her 97th birthday in January. She was a high school teacher of English and Home Economics for many years until the school she was teaching at needed a Superintendent and asked her if she would be the interim. She said yes and did it for 5 years. A couple of years ago she was awarded an award for being the first woman superintendent in the state of Colorado.

After she retired, she began to sharpen her skills as a writer upon my urging. Over the next several years, she wrote numerous articles that were published in various papers around Colorado. She wrote spiritual stories that were put into weekly Sunday School papers for little children to take home.

After 49 years of marriage, my dad died in 1990 so Mom has been a widow for 25 years. During that time she has completed countless crossword puzzles (I hate crossword puzzles). She loves to walk and would go on 1-3 mile treks around Seibert, CO when the wind wouldn’t blow her over. Water aerobics were part of her regime until the pool in Flagler closed. One to two times per week you would see her at a game table playing bridge with friends who went way back. Talking about friends, she would drive either to Flagler (11 miles away) or Burlington (32 miles away) to visit her friends who were shut-ins or were in Senior Citizen Centers on a regular basis. Just a note on driving, her last driving trip was two weeks ago when she went to Flagler to get her hair fixed and visit a dear friend.

This last Saturday, I found myself alone with my mom driving from Seibert to Colorado Springs where she decided it was time to give up her home that my dad build 62+ years ago and enter a Senior Citizen Center. She had an Elvis CD that she wanted to listen to and on came old-time hymns that Elvis was singing. I began to hear my mom begin to sing along with Elvis. In the Garden came on and we both began to sing,

I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear falling on my ear

The Son of God discloses

(Refrain) And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there

None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,

Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,

And the melody that He gave to me

Within my heart is ringing.

(Refrain) And he walks with me, and He talks with me,

And he tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him

Though the night around me be falling,

But He bids me go; through the voice of woe

His voice to me is calling.

(Refrain) And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there

None other has ever known.

Tears were streaming down my face. I was singing with my mother and as I write this I can’t help but cry. The greatest gift my mother gave me was her sweet spirit and her relationship with Christ. As I listened to her, I heard an angel singing and will never forget that moment as long as I live. I put my hand over on her arm and rubbed it and the love I had for her at that moment overflowed.

This journey can take you so many places were you experience ups and downs of life. Being with those who have molded your minds and thoughts can never be quantified in terms of value. Those experiences are priceless. Cease those moments with those you love during the holidays coming up.



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Kids Say the Funniest Things

We teach our children to say the right things.  How embarrassing it is when our children or grandchildren say the things that they have heard.  My daughter and her family were traveling to Scottsdale for Christmas and had a plane trip from Virginia to Chicago and from Chicago to Phoenix.  On the first leg of the journey, they landed in Chicago and were getting off the plane.  As you walk out of the plane, there is usually a gap between the walkway and the plane.  As they were stepping off the plane, Brayden, my oldest grandchild yelled, “O shit, it’s cold here”  Out of the mouth of babes.  It was embarrassing for my daughter, but that wasn’t the worst part.

When they got back on the plane heading to Phoenix, they weren’t up in the air more than 30 minutes when Brayden again blurted out, “Dad, you farted!”  The plane got quiet and Brayden’s dad was trying to quiet him down by saying that it wasn’t him.  He got even louder and said, “Dad, you did fart!”  The whole plane erupted in laughter but it didn’t feel so good for Brayden’s parents.

There is a saying in computer terms today that goes like this, “Garbage in garbage out.”  What you feed the computer is what you get out of the computer.  If you put in negative stuff in the computer, you get negative stuff from the computer.  I laughed until my gut hurt when I heard this story being retold by Victoria.  It was funny then and still is.  But there is a principle for raising children and for us as well.

Whatever we teach our children by what we say or what we do will be imitated by them in their actions.  I will never forget living in the woods of Rowley, Massachusetts years ago.  My oldest daughter was 2 years old at the time.  I was out cutting and splitting wood for the winter months and had an axe as did she (a little plastic one to be clear).  After some time had elapsed, I took a break and was shocked at what I saw.  She was spitting.  Where did she get that awful trait?  From her mother?  No she got it from me.  I grew up working on a ranch and one of the things I learned from other ranch hands was to spit.  She was just imitating actions that she saw in what her dad was doing.

The principle also applies to what we feed our mind.  Whatever we read, or watch on TV, or listen to others will begin to filter out into our thoughts and attitudes and actions.  If we read romantic novels over time, we can begin to fantasize what it would be like to be with someone else and will emotionally pull away from our present relationship.  If we are looking at pornographic literature, our thoughts will begin to fantasize being with another woman and will negatively affect our connection with our wife.

On this journey we need to be careful what we feed our minds, showing others by our actions, as well as what we are teaching one another.  What we dwell upon is what we and our children will become.  Choose those things today that bring light to yourself and to others.



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Fake Versus Real

One of the many activities that Nadine and I enjoy doing is going bike riding.  We take off from our house in Scottsdale and head west for 3 miles until we hit a trail that is called the Greenbelt.  It runs from just north of Shea all the way down to Tempe Town Lake and beyond.  It is about a 30 mile trek from our house to the lake and back.  It was created from a wash that has been made into green grass, 4 golf courses, several lakes attached by little streams.  Snaking along this wash is a path divided by stripes so that those going south whether walking or riding bikes stay on the right and those going north stay on the left.

We love to bike the Greenbelt in the cooler times of the year, so our season for bike riding is just now coming into full bloom.  At the southwest corner of Jackrabbit Rd. and Hayden, there are three small ponds that you pass on your way to Tempe Town Lake that has swans swimming in the ponds (2 swans in each of the three ponds)  We would love to go by the ponds and admire the swans swimming each time we drove by.  We talked about how these swans claimed these ponds for themselves.  It was the highlight of our journey to see these beautiful birds moving about so gracefully with a fountain spouting in the middle of the pond.


One day as we were riding by we noticed that one swan was swimming, but the other swan was close to the shore tipped over.  It’s head was in the water and the bottom part of the swan was out of the water where you could see that it was made of man-made material.  The swans were fake.  It was a ruse.  For so long we had ridden by the three ponds and admired the swans, and all this time we were deceived into thinking they were real when in reality they were fake as compared to these pictured below that were all real just a stone’s throw from the three ponds.


This experience reminds me of what happens so much during our journey through life.  We follow something we think will bring us life and pursue that which we think is real and can truly satisfy, only to find that it doesn’t ultimately satisfy at all.  It may be a prized possession, a car we have always wanted, a bigger television, a piece of jewelry, a beautiful article of clothing, etc.  We think this is the real thing that can bring us ultimate fulfillment.  Once we get it and a scratch appears on the exterior or we spill something on it, we begin looking for a newer version and it doesn’t bring the satisfaction we were hoping for.

Have you ever admired a couple from afar?  It may be a couple in a leadership position in the church.  It may be an actress and actor who are in the lime light and get married.  We see the couple and secretly admire their connection to one another.  One day we read in the paper or hear news that they are getting divorced or are having marital problems.  The beauty of seeing them in the distance was changed by the reality of seeing them up close.

Seeking out jobs that we believe will ultimately fulfill our need for recognition and making a difference in the world often fall short of our goals and satisfaction levels.  What we think is real and will bring fulfillment to our lives can in reality be fake when we get close to that which we seek.

Blaise Pascal, a 1600’s mathematician and philosopher once said, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace.  This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”  Seeking after fake will eventually find us wanting.

On this journey, there are going to be many fake things that seek to get our attention.  God is the only One that can make all things new and give us guidance on making right choices.  Taking a closer look and asking some questions will help us to choose the real from the fake.

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Excuses for Not Connecting

The common theme of interaction with friends these days can be summed up in one word, “Busy.”  We are connected to our phones at least 16 hours per day.  Constant texts (the average person sends and receives 130+ texts per day).  Constant emails (I clear off 75-100 each day).  Phone calls that can get through to me each day.  Apps that seem to make our life easier, but take up more of our time each day when we are using the apps.  This is just one apparatus that takes time from our schedule and contributes to our busyness.

Deadlines in our work experience can blind us to the important priorities of life.  Completing proposals.  Fixing relational problems.  Completing tasks.  Calling on new clients.  These are a small sample of work necessities of life that zap our energy and take a bite out of our schedules.

There is also all the busyness of running a home and family.  Bills to pay.  Chauffeuring children.  Doing meals.  Cleaning dishes.  Doing laundry.  Cutting the grass.  Fixing the cars.  Dusting the house.  Vacuuming the rugs.  Meeting laborers at our house to fix the water heater.  Cleaning up after the kids-others.  Doing the same things the next day.  The list goes on and on.

What about friends that want to get together.  “Let’s get together soon.”  “We need to set up a time to have lunch soon.”  “I’ll give you a call to get together.”  All of these statements can be sincere, but the action and completion of our desires fall between the cracks of our busyness.

It was during my reading through the bible that I stumbled onto a passage that caught my attention.  Jesus is speaking when He says, “At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’”Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”‭‭Luke‬ ‭14:17-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus in this passage came upon the same issue we face today.  There are three different excuses that people were making which stop us from really connecting with God and with others.  The first excuse centers around our possessions.  The person had bought a field and prioritized his/her possessions over having a connection with the Master.  The second excuse centered around prioritizing work (working the oxen) over spending time with the Master.  The third excuse involved putting priority on our earthy relationships (just getting married and needing time with the spouse) over spending time with the Lord.

On this journey I have been given the time to do a makeover for my bad choices of the past of prioritizing possessions, work, and relationships over the Lord.  Fortunately I have the opportunity before it is too late to make Him my most important priority.  It is a daily choice that I need to make on this journey.

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Javelina versus Monty

I had a somewhat traumatic experience this weekend in Flagstaff.  It was the boys weekend so Monty, the family male dog, and I took off for a little retreat of playing golf, fixing holes in the siding of our cottage that the woodpecker pecked, painting the front porch, and planting bulbs in our flower garden for next spring.  Needless to say Monty didn’t do any of those things, but just befriended me as I sweat.

In the process of painting the deck, a very interesting encounter took place.  I have to digress just a minute.  When we are up in Flagstaff and are sitting on our front porch glide love seat, Monty feels that he needs to protect his territory and chooses to bark at every dog that goes by, every person that goes by, and runs out to greet them with his tail wagging.  Most are very cordial to him and bend down to pet him.  As you can see in the picture, he wouldn’t hurt a fly–literally.

Well this particular morning we were both outside in the front and he was by my side as I was painting.  As was his usual custom, he began to bark at what seemed like a small dog going down the street  in front of our house.  I didn’t have my contacts on so I looked and saw a small dog without a master.  He ran out to the street and I got up to find that it wasn’t a dog but a baby javelina and his mother.  The baby stopped up the street with Monty’s bark, but the mother came after Monty with her teeth chomping ready to take a bite out of Monty.  At that instant, I ran down the driveway waving my hands in the air and yelling at the top of my lungs.  Monty stayed put and I chased the mother and baby javelina into the woods.  The mother’s teeth came within  6 inches of Monty before I stepped in to rescue Monty.  The mother was protecting her baby and I was protecting my baby.


Needless to say Monty was traumatized the rest of the day and didn’t let me out of his sight.  He was right under my feet the rest of the day and never went to the street again.  It reminds me sometimes of myself.  There are times in my life that I see a problem and make a choice to fix the problem on my own.  Sometimes I am able to take care of whatever is happening, but there are times when I take on something that is too big for me to handle and get frozen by the enormity of the task.  I need in those situations to depend upon my Father in heaven to come to my rescue.

But I would go a step farther in saying that God wants us to come to Him for everything in life.  He wants us to be totally dependent upon seeking His face for the little problems of life as well as the big problems.  King David was confident in his abilities and skills as a fighter, but when he sought the Lord for direction and protection for his life, he had the greatest victories.  It was only when he rested upon himself to find answers to his problems that things went South.

On this journey when you come upon javelinas in your life, the Father above is closer than you think to be your protector and solver of the aggressive javelinas.  Enjoy the journey.

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