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
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