Psalm 91:1 -2
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."
F R O M T H E P O R C H
Christian Articles by Dale Collins
There are all kinds of lists: shopping lists, honey-do lists, address lists. There’s one more - the bucket list. Our trip to Israel falls into the latter category. After two years of postponements due to the COVID virus, twelve of us from our church family along with other sojourners from Oklahoma, California, Texas, Canada, and Australia came together for a trip to the Holy Land.
The tour was memorable in many respects, and we came away with some notable observations. First of all, each time we open the Bible we read about events and places recorded in both the Old and New Testaments. However, actually being In Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Capernaum put a visual exclamation mark on the authenticity of the written Word as we walked on their streets and paths. It was as though we had been put in a time machine for a brief period of time so that we could have a glimpse of what might have been so many centuries ago. We were modern visitors in an ancient land.
Secondly, at some juncture each of us felt the presence of God in our lives as we stood at a specific vista overlook, or a distinct location where Jesus may have performed a miracle, spoke to a gathering or taught in synagogue on the Sabbath. “Something more than humbling, something spiritual,” as one of our group vocalized. None of us will ever read the Bible again without reflecting on our brief experience in the Promised Land.
We enjoy flower and vegetable gardening. Part of the preparation for the growing season is to make a trip to the local farm store to purchase a variety of bean, beet, squash, and zucchini seeds.
All seeds, regardless if their size, are a marvel of nature. They are the genesis, the essence, the nucleus of reproducing and developing other like plants. There’s a problem though, seeds can’t grow unless you plant them. AND water won’t quench our thirst unless we drink it. Just looking at it won’t suffice. AND, grace can’t identify us as a children of God unless we allow it to be planted into our hearts. Grace clarifies who we are.
God saved us by his special favor when we believed. It's a gift from God; you can’t take credit for it. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us new in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
Grace defines us. We are who God says we are. We can do what God says we can do. We have what God says we have. Wherever we go God is planting us there for a reason. Wherever we are, God has a purpose for our being there. Believe it. His grace gives us the power to achieve anything. He said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains. As we grow in his light, he nourishes us, his special seeds, allowing us to grow deeper into His grace.
By Dale Collins
Digging in the Dirt
Spring is definitely here and we actually look forward to working in the flower beds and getting dirt under our finger nails. Now that the yard has had its first spring cleaning we can concentrate on the perennials and flowering shrubs.
It’s still early in the growing season, but we noticed two patches of Shasta daisies that had emerged from the winter. We only had a few plants bloom all of last year and were quite surprised at how the plants had multiplied. Enough, in fact, that we decided to expand the beds where they were growing. The first step was to carefully remove the young plants and set them aside. Next, the ground had to be loosened and a generous amount of mushroom soil added. Finally, the clump of young daisies had to be gently separated before replanting them about six inches apart to create the space needed for the fragile plants to develop a strong root system.
All of the plants will still have to be nursed along in an effort to give them the opportunity to bloom at just the right time according to nature’s timetable. They will need constant attention to survive.
We were all young once. From an early age each of us has been pruned and transplanted more than once in our journey to where we are today. The Master Gardener knew when and where to nourish us so that we would grow and bloom.
Working with children, as a gardener works with plants, is messy and time consuming. Children are the young emerging plants of our future. It is our turn to nurture them along, planting love in their hearts and watering them with wisdom and life’s lessons rooted in the word of God. They need periodic nourishment to establish relationships, to allow them to dream big dreams, to help them overcome the difficulties they will face, and to never burden them down with any more than they can carry. Finally, as they grow, we must give them space to bloom.
Morning Has Broken
It’s been a really great week for working outside. Mother nature has provided the sunshine and warm days. A good night’s sleep between the days has given us the energy needed to do the manual labor required to complete the initial outdoor spring cleaning and sprucing up of the flower beds. Each day it seemed like another perennial has awakened from its winter slumber and reemerged from under the leaves and mulch.
We have been blessed to be the caretakers of the land we have owned for the last 40 years. Our home is a respite from the noises of everyday life that surrounds us just a few miles away; a quiet sanctuary. We look forward to that first cup of coffee in the morning as the sun appears through the pine trees that separates our property from the fields to the east. There is a peacefulness in that first trek around the perimeter and then down the lane before heading back to the house. Like the old Cracker Jack box, there’s always a surprise waiting for you at that hour of the day. Today it was the return of the Mallard ducks, one female and three males. A sure sign of Spring in our corner of the world.
March weather is unpredictable along with the range of temperatures. In warmer weather we settle down on the porch to begin our morning devotionals and reflect on the direction we are nudged to take that day. Until then we have to move inside to the comfort of the family room and the warmth of the wood stove.
We are blessed. All that we have are gifts from God. The dawn of each day, like a Cracker Jack box with its hidden prize, is a gift from God and we wait expectantly to see what it holds for us.
Psalm 16:5-6 Lord you alone are my inheritance; my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance.
The March of the Seedlings
Winter is fading away and the warm days of Spring are on the horizon. This past week we had two great periods of sunshine and temperatures in the high 60’s. It was a reprieve after being cooped up during the cold days of January and February. We really look forward to those abnormally warm days that occur in March allowing us to work in the flower beds, cleaning out winter debris, trimming the crepe myrtle trees, grooming the hydrangea bushes and transplanting a few shrubs that need a new home. Some of the more difficult weeding is done along the driveway which is lined with field stones. Digging up the wild onions is always time consuming.
Unnoticed oak seedings have had a full year to develop making them difficult to eliminate or transplant. These potential oak trees have a long root system that go deep into the ground. They are often longer than the portion above the soil line. If lucky we can pull them out by brute force, but often need to use a spade to dig deep to loosen them. If you trim them off at ground level they only send up new shoots and the roots spread wider and deeper.
I can’t help but think that these oak seedlings are a representation of the struggles that the Ukrainian people are enduring in their attempt to preserve their way of life. They are strong and determined. They just want the opportunity to continue to grow and prosper. Unfortunately, a foreign developer has invaded their space, cutting and destroying everything in his path, rearranging the landscape to suit his needs and thus keeping the young seedlings from developing.
Unknowingly, what he is actually doing isn’t severing the young trunks from their roots, but pruning them, allowing the root systems to become even stronger and more persistent in their efforts to support their growth. One day they will become healthy, towering oak trees among the other trees in the forest of nations.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. They are for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
John 15:4 For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
Life and Freedom
Freedom to live one’s life and its pursuit of happiness is a universal construct that people and countries around the world cherish.
They are ever fragile and need constant attentiveness to protect and guard their well being. In the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, after his great fall, all the kings horses and all the kings men could not put him back together again. Once one’s freedom is deprived and shattered it is difficult to restore without great effort, diligence, and perseverance
A children’s puzzle with only a few pieces is easily assembled. On the other hand a 1000 piece puzzle takes more time and persistence especially if there isn’t a picture of the finished product as a guide.
The events surrounding the invasion of the country of Ukraine are being witnessed in real time. The invader’s goal is to conquer and subsequently subjugate tyranny and oppression upon its citizens. Those who have managed to relocate to neighboring countries go not knowing if they will ever be able to return to their homeland. Freedom is not to be tolerated by their oppressor.
It’s winter. Water, food, and medical supplies are becoming scarce. Buildings and homes have been obliterated or made uninhabitable. Families leave in fear escaping with only what they can carry. Men of fighting age remain to protect their homeland. Many may never be reunited with loved ones.
However, God sees what is happening and has the whole picture of the events in his sight. Prayer is still God’s mighty force in solving problems and His presence is being felt through the actions of many who help those in harms way. Even though the current events are in the hands of one evil person, God is still in control. We may not fully comprehend everything that is occurring, but we must trust in God’s protection to do what is right and just.
People all over the world have condemned what they see as profoundly immoral and are doing everything possible to provide food, transportation, housing, and a safe-haven to alleviate the plight of the oppressed. Their collective endeavors shine brightly for all to see. They are the fabric of what it means to give rather than receive. God will reward each who has given even a cup of water to reduce the pain and suffering of another.
Freedom is a precious gift. We need to do all we can to help preserve it.
On our most recent trip south, we elected to take a longer route to skirt the impending winter storm approaching from the west. It was a good choice. We didn’t run into rain for the first hundred miles and then only showers for the next few hours before we stopped for dinner and refueling the car.
Then it began to pour in earnest, one of those driving storms with severe gusts of wind and rain that comes down in sheets. I don’t mind driving in foul weather but I’d rather drive during the daylight hours when I can see road markers, the traffic around me and a sense of what’s happening. As daylight transitions into darkness I become more tense. The muscles in my back tighten and my hands grip the steering wheel as though they were glued to it. Thankfully, the car had both heated seats and a heated steering wheel to relieve the stiffness of my muscles and joints. The pounding rain forced all those on the road to slow down and put on their emergency flashers. Each mile traveled was one less mile driving in the storm, one less mile of traveling into the abyss of darkness. Knowing we had a motel reservation only minutes away was a relief, the preverbal light at the end of the tunnel.
Isn’t that the way it is in the storms of life we find ourselves? Some days are cloudy but foretell of things to come, we just don’t know what . Some days irritate us because of unforeseen roadblocks that affect our daily schedule. And, some days have the potential to test our faith and trust in God to pull us through the peril facing us. We have the choice to keep moving aimlessly without a roadmap or look for the nearest exit leading to rest and comfort provided by the Holy Spirit. In these times, it’s as though the Holy Spirit is saying, “Move over and let me do the driving today. I know the road ahead, its pitfalls, and I know how to maneuver through the storms you experience. Buckle up.”
We may not know what lies ahead, but we can put our trust in the one who knows how the story will end.
Isaiah 40:30 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
With persistence and endurance over the next few days we finally finished. In front of us was a picture perfect puzzle. We could see the whole picture and all the fine details.
Reading the Bible may be like putting together a puzzle with all of its tiny pieces that make up every book, chapter, and verse. It’s difficult and daunting at first but, the pieces come together as we read more intently. Each verse read adds more clarity and detail. With perseverance and endurance over time the messages found between Genesis and Revelation reveal the picture of God’s love, forgiveness, hope, and salvation. He longs to be with us. The more we delve into His Word the more we discover new and powerful insights. Reading the Bible encourages us to draw near to God as He too promises to draw near to us.
As you begin your daily Bible reading you may want to begin by saying the following:
This is my Bible. It is the Word of the Lord.
It is called the sword of the spirit and is my spiritual weapon.
I am armed and considered dangerous according to the Word of God.
I can do what it says I can do.
I am what it says I am.
My heart is receptive.
My mind is alert.
I will never be the same again.
(Rev. Jim Logan)
Each winter, sometime between January and March, we reach a point that it’s too cold to do anything outside. That’s when we drag out the picture puzzles to put together in the family room in front of the wood stove. Normally, we tackle a 300 or a 500 piece puzzle. This Christmas our daughter gave us a box containing, not one, but four 1000 piece puzzles.
Opening the box we selected one of the four bags and proceeded to deposit the contents in the center of the card table. We were overwhelmed, to say the least, with all those itty bitty pieces staring at us. It took awhile but we finally managed to locate and assemble the ones that created the outer frame. Next we unfolded the printed detailed picture that went with the puzzle. Now instead of floundering, we had a clear picture to guide us. Yet, there were still areas that defied us. We just couldn’t see the details well enough to locate the pieces needed.
I have an old jar of keys in my garage that contains hundreds of keys from days past. Some I recognize and many I haven’t the slightest idea what they were for or why I’m even collecting them. The ones to my vehicles and the house are the primary ones I carry with me daily. They are indispensable, the ones that I keep close at hand. When not being used I hang them with other important keys on the wall rack in the hallway. However, other keys that are needed periodically are hung inside a closet door elsewhere.
Keys are important and there are so many types, each with their own purpose. They provide access as well as a source of security for those things that are valuable and precious to us.
There is one more essential key, the one the Holy Spirit provides and can be easily attached to the essential keychain you carry. It is the spiritual key that opens the door of our hearts allowing His presence to immerse us in God’s Word as we journey the path of life. This key unlocks the truth found in the Bible. It is the key that opens our mind and improves our spiritual vision of things to come. Once the Holy Spirit has access to our hearts, then His word can sink deep into the recesses of our soul where we cannot reach, filling the vessel of our lives with the sustaining living water of Christ.
Jesus explained that we cannot control the work of the Holy Spirit. He operates in ways we cannot predict, control, or understand for it is a gift from God. This gift, for disciples like you and me, is the key that we share with others in our walk with God.
Keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.
The wind blows wherever it wants, just as you can hear the wind, but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.
(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, devotion for January 9 )
Retaining the Edge
I enjoy working on a wood lathe. The creation process of selecting a piece of rough wood and bringing forth its beauty strengthens my inner self. My skills are improving with each new project. On the other hand, no two are ever the same no matter how hard I try. Each wood type has its unique qualities. Poplar is easy to shape. Walnut and Cherry are harder varieties to craft, but valued for their color and beautiful grain patterns. However, everything hinges on the sharpness of the tools. They allow me to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort, time, and expense.
A dull tool is practically worthless, especially if it gets to the point that it won’t slice soft butter. A dull kitchen knife can’t slice meat or cut vegetables with ease. A dull pair of scissors can’t cut cloth efficiently, and a dull axe is unable to chop cleanly or split wood with minimal effort. The same is true for woodworking tools. One that is dull just takes too much energy to use effectively, and can be dangerous to use.
Isn’t this the same for each of us? Our life can become “dull” if we don’t “sharpen” it periodically. If we are not keeping the sharpness, it seems to take more effort and strength to accomplish anything. Our life, can become, may become unfocused and purposeless if we are not careful. It needs honing and sharpening of our GOD-given tools and gifts.
Obviously, a major step is to "put an edge" to our life so that everything we do is consistent with the aims and direction GOD has
intended our lives to take. With a newly-sharpened edge and energy we add significantly to our ability to succeed as disciples, as a Messenger of The Gospel. How do we get this "edge" and keep it? By being in worship, fellowship and Biblical study.
As this new year begins I can put and edge to my life by resolving to:
1. Sharpen my spiritual life by increasing my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.
2. Hone the gifts and talents given to me.
3. Remind myself to treat others as I would like to be treated and do more than expected.
Using a dull ax requires great strength, to sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom, it helps you succeed.
…. It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Do unto others whatever you would like them to do to you. …..
To Know and Be Known
Everyone has a name. Everyone wants to be known by that name or a nickname. My Thursday Bible group meets at a local restaurant for breakfast before we journey to the church for our weekly study. We’ve had the same waitress for two years. Her name is Janine. Most of us know her well enough to speak to her about her family, and events in her life. She knows each of us by name and knows what each of us is going to order for breakfast.
I believe everyone wants to be known. Being known adds a degree of security and value to one’s life. Being known helps fight stress, anxiety, worry, and keeps us grounded. Being known is a foundational footprint in developing relationships and friendships.
We all want people to notice us, to really understand us. People know us for our smile, a special ability, our honesty, our work ethic, and how we interact with others. Most importantly, we all want to be known for who we truly are and we all want to know others in the same way. To know and be known is what we all desire whether it is from friends, parents, or spouses. Periodically something gets in the way in many of our relationships, and we are not known or understood in the way we wish. And in those times when our relationships are not as strong as we’d like we begin to wonder if it is even possible to be known.
Psalm 139 begins “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” God perfectly knows every little part of us, both the good and the bad. And yet he still perfectly loves us. To be fully known and fully loved is what we all desire.
And not only does God know us, but we are able to know him. He has made himself accessible to us. We can continually learn about and know him through His Word and fellowship with other Christians. As we come to know God more, we end up knowing ourselves better, and a real relationship is formed.
Psalm 139: 2-4
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I am far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say, every before I say it, Lord.
By Dale Collins
During the day it is easy to find your way and easier to maneuver when you can see where you are going. Everything changes when it gets dark. Even if you know the terrain like the back of your hand, things happen when there is no light to assist or guide you. You can trip on that tree root that appeared out of nowhere, or make finding something you dropped on the ground more difficult to find.
The first things you search for are flashlights and candles when you lose power to your home resulting from hurricanes and snow storms. The light given off from even a single candle can provide enough light to show you what’s in a room. It can keep you from falling, stumbling or bumping into something. A single candle can assist you in finding anything to make life easier until power is restored.
Matthew 5:14-15 is a familiar passage to many.
You are the light of the world, like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. No one lights a candle and puts it under a basket. Instead the candle is put on a lamp stand where it gives light to everyone in the room. In the same way let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Christ’s birth brought new light into the world that was full of spiritual darkness, hopelessness, and evil. Christ came into the world to be your light in the darkness, to be the light that leads you from hopelessness into hope. Let His light go in front of you to give you a safe path wherever you go, and a safe place wherever you are. He is there to hold your hand and keep you from stumbling. Let His guiding light lead you on your pathway of life today, tomorrow, and forever.
Christ is the light of the world. He is our candle that makes the darkness disappear.
By Dale Collins
Mailboxes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are actually humorous that grab your attention like the ones that look like a chicken, a fish, or a football. Some people get carried away and mount a mailbox to the top of a ten foot post for airmail parcels.
If you have an address you have mailbox, and if you have a mailbox you have mail delivered to you one or more days of the week. Our plain, nondescript mailbox is located about 300 feet from our front door. If we are home for the day, we eventually stroll down the lane to pick up the mail and place inside mail that has to be sent. On the days we are away from the house we stop long enough to pick up its contents. One thing is sure, you don’t know what’s in the mailbox until you look inside.
Once inside the house we normally place the mail on the center counter in the kitchen and divide into several piles: those addressed to me, those addressed to my wife, bills, that which is deemed junk, and one more that has peeked our curiosity.
The junk mail is quickly set aside and we leave the pieces of mail that intrigue us till last, not knowing what to expect when the envelopes are opened. It might be a reimbursement check, a 30% offer from a department store, a thank you note from one of the grandkids or an unexpected letter that brings a smile to our faces.
Not long ago I received the following in a plain envelope with no return address. (Others, I know have received it as well.) It read as follows:
This is God. Today I will be handling all of your problems for you. I do not need your help. So, have a nice day.
P.S. And, remember….if life happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, do not attempt to resolve it yourself. Kindly put it in the SFGTD (Something For God To Do) box. I will get to it in MY time. All situations will be resolved, but in My time not yours.
My first reaction was “Whoa!” Could it be that it’s just another way that God is trying to let me know that I needn’t be so concerned about my current problems and concentrate on the all the wonderful things that are present in my life? He has examined me and knows everything about me. He directs my steps and delights in the details of my life. So why would I not trust His counsel, His understanding, His knowledge and His wisdom to guide my days?
Psalm 139 : 1-2 Matthew 6: 25-34 Psalm 37: 23-24
By Dale Collins
It's Right in Front of You
My wife and I are our two worse enemies when it comes to cell phones, I-pads and keys. We misplace them constantly and then run around in a panic trying to locate them. Today was no exception. Rising just before sunrise we both dressed in work clothes and set off downstairs to begin our morning routine beginning with turning on the coffee pot. New neighbors were coming over to the house to dig up crepe myrtle trees to plant along their long driveway. All went well and we returned to the house by 9 a.m., just enough time to shower and ready ourselves for church. Mental checklist: keys- check; wallet- check; cell-phone- where is the cell phone? Thirty minutes ago it was in my possession, now it wasn’t. I searched the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen area, the study and my work clothes. No luck. Frustration was setting in and we had to leave for church. As a last resort I used the other cell phone to call my number. Ah -it’s in the house, I heard it, but where. It seemed to be coming from the utility room where I left the work clothes. Not in plain sight, there it was lying on the floor under my sweatshirt right in front of me. The phone had apparently slipped out of the pants pocket and found its way to the floor. What was lost was found.
Though not in written form or bound by a leather cover, we unknowingly carry the Bible everywhere we go. This version, too, contains scripture and the Word of God. It will be read by many who will never fully study it. And it will be read by others who normally have no interest reading anything in print. This version may be or will be the only translation some will ever read. Each of us is a messenger of the Good News the Holy Spirit has written on our hearts. We have what it says we have. We can do what it says we can do. We are what it says we are.
Whenever others see God’s work in our compassion, gentleness, patience, kindness and actions, they will be reading His word. As believers, we are the living, breathing translation of the Word of God. We don’t have to search far and wide for this walking Bible. It is in plain sight and is with us always. It is closer to us than our next breath. Our responsibility is to go and maximize the glory of God.
Matthew 5:16 In the same way let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in heaven.
By Dale Collins
Book of Mysteries - Day 302
Thank You For Your Service
This past week we took the auto train to Florida from Lorton, VA. That in itself is an experience. You have to arrive hours ahead of departure to have your car “squirreled” away on the double decker car carriers. Then you wait until it’s time to board the train. If everything goes according to schedule, which rarely happens with Amtrak, you leave at 4 p.m. and arrive in Sanford, FL the next morning at 9 a.m.
As we settled into our roomette, the couple across from us was finishing unpacking as we were. Noticing his Purple Heart Vietnam cap, I thanked him for his service to our country. He looked up with an appreciative smile and quietly said “Thank you.” That simple acknowledgment started an hours- long conversation as the train clacked down the tracks.
Later in the week history repeated itself. While playing miniature golf, we both commented on a patriotic shirt that someone ahead of us was wearing. Except for the color of the shirt, it was identical to ones we own. Then I noticed his Navy cap and when he looked up, I thanked him for his service. He too acknowledged me with the same appreciative smile and said “Thank you.”
We finished our round. My wife was in her glory as she whomped me by seven strokes, including two holes-in-one. As we were returning our clubs, the veteran approached us. He was so thankful that we publicly acknowledged his service that he came back wanting to know if we would join him and his wife for refreshments at the restaurant on the grounds of the resort. Needless to say, we spent the next few hours in conversation and laughter.
Both encounters ended with exchanges of phone numbers and email addresses. Whether we see either couple again is insignificant. It’s the fact that the act of honoring these veterans for their service touched them.
What about our daily walk with God? Isn’t it good that we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives and thank Him for all He has done for each of us? We do this by thanking Him for our time, our talents, and our gifts to touch the lives of others needing a hand up, a lifeline, or an encouraging word. We also need to thank Him for giving us opportunities to interact with others knowing that the simplest gesture of confirming another’s self-worth is pleasing to God.
Psalm 107: 1
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
By Dale Collins
October 25, 2021
The Covid pandemic has changed how we interact with one another. Many of those who are vaccinated still feel the need to wear masks in public places, outdoors, in their cars, and even at home. Masks prevent us from seeing one another’s facial expressions that reveal their non-verbal feelings. You can’t tell if they are smiling or if they are in a sorrowful mood. Don’t get me wrong. I respect the right of those who feel they must wear a mask. I only ask that they respect my right to avoid wearing a mask if I’m not required to. Even more disturbing is that more and more people have become accustomed to avoiding eye contact walking down the street. All of these new “norms” stymie relationships.
In the not-so-recent past open handshakes were commonly done when meeting or parting company. They were a gesture of welcome, the signal of acceptance. Handshakes, especially one with a firm grip, signified congratulations, or gratitude. They were also a public recognition of completing an agreement or good sportsmanship. Handshakes denoted trust, friendship and a willingness to help. This custom, too, is waning in our current culture in favor of fist bumps and elbow taps. Hugs are definitely frowned upon.
However, all is not lost. The hands of worship, the hands of praise, and the hands of thanksgiving are done with open hands. Open hands that are raised to accept and welcome God’s blessings. Open hands stretched out to establish a heavenly relationship. No earthly Covid mandate can destroy the power of the spiritual open hand.
Psalm 134.2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
By Dale Collins
October 6, 2021
Work, Hot Dogs, Fellowship
For 25 years or more the church has held its annual picnic in September at what is still known as the Frenchtown Swim and Tennis Club, even though it is no longer in operation. The Renwick family has continued to maintain the property and graciously offers the pavilion and grounds to be used for the annual event. Until last year. The Covid pandemic has altered how people interact with one another with ever-changing policies on mask wearing and vaccinations.
But, the good news is that we are sensing a degree of normalcy and we are beginning to have the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company with less fear and trepidation. That includes having our church picnic once again. It’s been two years since we’ve had this outing, and much had to be done in order for it to take place this coming week.
The grounds needed some basic clean-up removing leaf and twig debris, leaves raked from under the pavilion, the picnic tables cleaned of cobwebs, dust and dirt before they were stained to look new again, and the bathhouse facilities cleaned.
A general call via announcements at church and email was made inviting volunteers to come and help one evening with the promise of food when the tasks were completed. No one ever knows how many will appear to lend a hand. Early responses indicated between 10 and 20 able bodies would be on hand, a sufficient number to say the least. Rakes, shovels, and cleaning supplies were all waiting for someone to put them to work.
At the appointed day and time the crew began arriving. The first four immediately picked up the rakes and got to work. The mechanical genius of the group tacked the gas grill and got it back in working order. Two others were only a few minutes behind them. The remaining eight joined in shortly thereafter. Everyone pitched in. When one task was completed, each simply went to assist someone else. Even the horseshoe pits were made ready for friendly competition. What would have taken one or two people a full day to do, was completed in one hour.
Finally, someone asked, “What’s next?” I said, “Hotdogs!” and the crew headed to the fire pit not far away. Everyone found a comfortable place to sit until everything was ready for consumption. It was just a simple meal of hotdogs, chips, and beverage but for the next hour or so we fellowshipped with one another talking about sports, vacations, the recent damage caused by the hurricanes, the whereabouts of our children and grandchildren complete with pictures. Lots of laughter. What a pleasant antidote for the world that is swirling around us.
The point of all of this is that when you work together in community, work is fun and the resulting fellowship binds you together in friendship.
Christ encouraged fellowship. Pass it on.
Psalm 65:8 “You make the gateways of the morning and of the evening shout with joy.”
By Dale Collins
September 21, 2021
It dawned on me that if we focus our attention on what is around us and right in front of us, we will discover that the Holy Spirit is there to welcome us each and every day. You just have to be willing to look for that wave and smile.
If the weather is cooperative, I take my Bible and my coffee out to the porch. Recently I noticed a single leaf from the Norway maple tree just a few feet away. One individual leaf among the thousands that provide cooling shade during the day. Swaying back and forth frantically, it seemed to be waving at me. The sunshine coming through the branches highlighted it as though it were performing on stage. It was as if the Holy Spirit was right there in front of me, smiling and saying, “Good Morning. I had the feeling that He was encouraging me to talk with Him.
Over the next few days, I constantly looked for those morning greetings somewhere in the yard. Instead of hide and seek, it was seek and find. Some days it was the fresh bloom on a single flower that captured the sun’s first rays of the morning. Other times it was a Bluebird resting on the bird feeder chirping its song, “I’m here, I’m here;” or a gentle breeze touching my cheek.
Jeremiah 29:13 If you look for Me wholeheartedly you will find Me. (NLT)
Zechariah 1:13 So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. (NIV)
Matthew 7:7 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find, keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. (NLT)
By Dale Collins
August 19, 2021
FROM THE PORCH
Are You A Gardener?
It’s Spring again and our vegetable garden needs to be prepared for the upcoming growing season. You have to have a desire to be a gardener, to work diligently year after year to have one that is productive. The spring work begins in the previous fall when we dump mulched leaves into the garden and work them into the soil.
In March, when there is a stretch of warm weather, we re-till the ground adding more leaves from the winter stockpile. Once the danger of frost has passed, we plant a variety of seeds and young, tender tomato and pepper plants. As the growing season progresses, we nurture the plantings with the proper fertilizer while eliminating the invasive weeds that sneak between the rows. Eventually, if all goes well, we
will reap the fruits of our labors. Nothing tastes better than fresh produce from your garden.
Like an earthly vegetable garden, the soil in God’s garden, our
heart, also needs to be cultivated if it is to prosper and be
productive. The question for a disciple is, “How do we become God’s gardeners?” First of all, gardening is a LABOR OF LOVE and takes PREPARATION. Being a spiritual gardener doesn’t happen instantly. It takes the Holy Spirit. Being a spiritual gardener takes time, dedication, and being diligent in acquiring knowledge, being in the Word, the Master Gardener’s Book to gain wisdom. It means trusting in the Lord with all your heart and not depending on your own
understanding. It also means seeking His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take. This type of gardening involves opening the door of our hearts, devoting time to prayer, and reflective study to discern God’s will and direction and timing. The process may mean pruning and weeding those things in our life that keep us from being a productive disciple.
Once the spiritual gardener (Disciple) has been prepped adequately,it’s time for planting the seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Each seed requires a unique combination of knowledge, understanding and discernment. As we watch the seeds grow, we look for ways to NURTURE them allowing GOD to bring the growth.
Just as our gardens need sunshine and water, so they need nourishment to enhance growth. Church fellowship and Biblical studies develop greater awareness of the ways God directs us to help others. This might include a hand written note, a batch of homemade cookies, offers of help, a listening ear, and the offer to pray with someone and reading the Word with one another. Each act of kindness blesses the receiver and it blesses us and most of all it brings glory to God.
One of the tedious duties of the gardener is WEEDING those invasive plants that hinder the growth of the seeds. Just as we must keep watch for the weeds in our gardens, we must watch for the weeds in our own lives and the lives of those we are tending. Little actions or words that may be hurtful to others, thinking more of our own needs than someone else’s, choosing to follow our own will rather than God’s, depending more upon our own abilities than relying upon God’s strength, not staying in touch with God as often as we should. If we aren’t attentive, each of these weeds will continue to grow and keep us from having a productive garden. If we can’t weed our own garden how can we help others eliminate the weeds in their garden.
At just the right time we can begin HARVESTING what has been planted, watered, nurtured and weeded. What joy there is in picking a juicy, ripe tomato, fresh green beans and beets. The spiritual gardener relishes the moment when their efforts have helped others becomes fruitful in the eyes of God.
(ISAIAH 55:10-11 PROVERBS 3:5-7 GALATIANS 5:22-23)
May 25, 2020
I Have Overcome The World
“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! For I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It is hard to believe where we are as a country until you read Scripture (Daniel 9, Matthew 24, 2nd Thessalonians 2, Revelation 6 and 13). I realize, that there are widely differing views of these and other Scriptures. That is why I suggest that you read your Scriptures, pray, join a solid Bible discussion group, and listen to the Holy Spirit.
The world has been in the “Last Days” moving toward the End of Days since the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord. The Church is in the days of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).
Many things have hung with me from the 60’s, many others have drifted away. One that has resurfaced, a song by Bob Dylan. I’m sure many know where this is going.
Since the Lord has taken His rightful place in my heart, the meaning of this song has taken on a whole new meaning (John 3:8). You see, “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.” Only GOD knows what all this means.
Our role as Disciples of Christ, is to Stand Firm (2nd Thessalonians 2:13-16). Our role is to encourage one another (Romans 15:4-5) and to stand guard of our own souls and that of loved ones and friends (Ezekiel 33:1-7).
The answer to what we see and experience in the world today, lies within the Word breathed out (Acts Chapter 2, Pentecost). The Holy Spirit of GOD, among other works is to provide, wisdom, fortitude, revelation and knowledge.
Keep in mind, we are all just passing through this world.
~ Rev. Bob (retired)
Flower gardens are God’s love song to us. As in a song, the beauty is in the composition; the varied notes, instruments, voices and the harmony. In a flower garden it too is the sum of its plants; the shape of flowers, the fragrances, and the colors. Once the pieces are assembled together, they create a unique set of lyrics that give us a glimpse of the Holy Spirit’s nature and God’s diversity (Acts 2:8-12,16-21).
Every day in the flower garden is fresh and new. It changes constantly. There is always something blooming during the normal course of the growing season before disappearing into the time of rest. The daffodils come first, followed by emerging hosts, brightly colored azaleas, the white blooms of the spirea, the flowering dogwood trees and the rhododendrons in April and May. Then it's time to plant the annuals, and wait for the rest of the perennials to burst out in all their splendor (Genesis 1:11-13).
Flowers are nature’s music. Their lyrics and melodies keep time with their swaying of the breeze, back and forth as they ask us to join in their rhythm of seasons and then to be at rest (Genesis 2:1-3). Yet as gardeners in God’s garden of today, we have work to accomplish; weeding, planting, transplanting, trimming, pruning are all part of the process (Genesis 3:17-19).
The result of a well-cared for garden rests in the beauty of the arrangement and variety of the plantings. The arrival of the hummingbirds with their flitting here, there and everywhere even if for only a few moments is my reward. Sometimes, even for the briefest of moments, they stop in front of me, as if to say, “Thank you for providing me with nectar and caring for the garden.” Could it be that the hummingbird symbolizes the Holy Spirit in that it ducks in and out of our lives just at the right time, the right moment, for the right reason? As with the hummingbird, our delight is in knowing that He is there. Awareness of God’s presence in His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) must, from time to time, again and again bring us to the understanding of His Grace upon our lives.
I know I am skirting around the theology, just nipping at the edges, but I had a really good day with the Holy Spirit today and I look forward to the time he returns to my garden of my heart.
Artist drawing by: Blair Beaumont Baker - Wiltshire, England