Garside’s pond was a magnet for us as kids. It was a small pond nestled in a grove of trees at the top of the hill above Peter Dees house. It sat on the side of the road right where the road took a bend. There was nothing fancy about it. Definitely no swimming – it was dark and murky. Not much for fishing either – there was a tremendous amount of algae and the growing things that would grab your line. So, what was the big attraction?
First was that it was secluded for the most part. We could hang out there and not be seen. We would play around the shoreline. One of our favorite things to do was to skip stones and see if we could skip a stone all the way across the pond. Not that the pond was that big – maybe 30 feet across. But skipping a stone that far took talent, and we became pretty good skippers! The second test was how many skips you could do with one stone. I can remember several over 10. Another stone related thing we enjoyed was throwing a rock into the middle of the pond and watching the ripples come out. We used to try and make patterns by throwing rocks into different areas. Not as exciting as today’s video games, but it kept us occupied.
Second was the tadpoles. We loved to seek out tadpoles and watch them with fascination. It wasn’t unusual for us to find a nest of eggs and take some home, and watch as they hatched and became tadpoles. I can’t remember if we were ever able to keep one all the way to the frog stage, but I’m sure we tried several times over. It’s a fascinating thing to do, especially for a 10-year-old. The little eggs would first sprout a tail, then some front legs, and then the rear legs. We could watch them for hours.
But the biggest reason we hung out there was the bullfrogs. These beasts were gigantic and we were hunters. Catching a bullfrog was a talent we developed over time. Ordinary frogs were hard enough. You would see them on a lily pad, or along the shore, and you were sure you could sneak up on them, only to have them jump before you got there. It took stealth to capture even an average frog. And we caught plenty of them.
But the bullfrog, now that was a catch that made you special. These bullfrogs would trumpet their presence with a loud Ribbit that could be heard miles away – I’m sure! And you could kind of tell where it came from. Slowly you would creep that direction listening to him bellow out his presence. Then, as you got closer, no matter how quiet you were, he’d go silent. If you were really good, you might get close enough to see him sitting there. But you had to be fast to catch him. And catch some we did. Catching a bullfrog was a badge of honor to us. I will not tell you what we did with these beasts when we caught them, but it was not very humane – not humane at all.
What great memories!
I was back in Massachusetts a couple years ago, and we went by that old pond. It was much smaller than I remembered, almost more like a marsh than a pond anymore. The trees and brush had overgrown much of what was the pond many decades ago. There was no place for kids to play around the shore anymore – there wasn’t even much of a shore. It made me sad to see one of my favorite places become so un-useful.
Jesus told a parable about a sower who went out to sow his seed. Some seed fell on hard ground and the birds just ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground and never took root. Some fell on ground that then sprouted weeds that choked out the seed. And some fell on good ground and brought a good harvest. Then Jesus explained that this was really about sharing the gospel. Some will just not receive it – like the seed that fell on hard ground. Some will quickly accept the word, but the word will never take root in them and they will fall away., like the seed that fell on rocky ground. And some will accept the word, and start to live for Christ, but will turn away because of the cares of this world, much like the seed suffered at the hand of he weeds. And of course, some accept the word and go on to live for Christ and bring forth a harvest.
The pond reminds me how easily the world can encroach on the beauty of our salvation. It happens slowly, as little things start to distract us from serving the Lord. Maybe something comes up on a Sunday morning that causes us to miss church. Maybe our devotional time is disappearing beneath work or family pressures. Whatever it is, our time with God gets the short end of the stick. The world creeps in, just like the plant life crept into the pond. If we are not careful, our spiritual life can become overgrown with those other things, and we will find ourselves mediocre at best.
Examine your life, as I have been mine, and see where the world is creeping in. Then start to take steps to clear back the weeds, pull the muck out of the water, and restore the pond, restore your life, to a life-giving force once again. It can be done!
This is a reblog from my God’s Maintenance Man Blog. This blog is found under the Teachings tab at the top of this page. If you would like to read others in the series on Timothy and Titus, please click on that tab.
1 Timothy 1:12-14
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
I like to take credit. I like to think I did something myself. It was me who read the Bible and gained the knowledge I have. It was me who began to understand how the Old and New Testament worked together., It was me who figured out how the scripture applies to everyday life. I wrote all these poems and songs through the years. The moving of the Holy Spirit is due to my ability and expertise in putting a worship service together. All these years, I have been slaving away for God and coming up with these thoughts and ideas on how God works in our lives. I did it. Me!
That paragraph is the definition of pride. I did it. I accomplished it. I figured it out. This is where I lived for years, and truly believed the sayings in that paragraph. It caused me to start top think I could disregard all that I had learned and do what I wanted to do. After all, I had done it all for God!
But I soon fell hard, lost my job and almost my family and had to take inventory on my spiritual life. What I found out was what Paul says here. God has enabled me. I do not have the ability within myself to do the things above. It is God in me and through me. That is the only way these things can minister the way they do. That is the only way the right words can get on paper that will touch hearts and heal up wounds of the soul.
You see, I was once very much like Paul. I certainly was a blasphemer, a breaker of all the commandments, a drunkard and drug addict and a person who could care less about God. My own way was the way I would go and no one could tell me I was in the wrong. I had walked away from God in high school and had no plans on coming back to Him. I was a persecutor, maybe not of the saint, but of everyone around me. I would put down, speak badly of, and try to hurt with words anyone that wronged me. I was a smaller guy and not a physical specimen, so I relied on a quick wit. This also made me injurious, like Paul. My words could injure peoples spirits and hearts quicker than a dart being thrown at them. The bigger problem is that they could dodge a dart, but could not avoid my stinging words.
Then grace came in. Love came in. Faith came in. Somehow I found myself driving to Iowa to see my best friend. Clear out of the blue I had decided to make the 1300 mile drive from Massachusetts to Iowa. When I arrived at his house, we had a great reunion, having not seen each other for over a year. He was a Christian, and had tried to sway me a year earlier at our high school reunion. It didn’t work, but it also did not hurt our friendship. Here I was on His doorstep in Iowa. Through the last year we had sent letters back and forth and each one of his letters had a scripture address on it. I had to look it up to see what he was saying. He was a sly old fox (well, not that old. He was a week older than me).
Then he said come to church with us tonight, and I said OK. I had no problem going with him, just don’t give me any of that salvation stuff. Don’t tell me I need saving. I was doing just fine. And I was so wrong. That minister, who was a missionary home on leave, told me I was headed for a burning hell. I did not want to go there! Then he told me there was only one way to avoid it, and that was Jesus Christ, I wanted Jesus. Jesus took me into His arms later that week and saved my soul. His grace covered me completely.
Now He enables me. I do everything I can to keep my thoughts out of this blog, out of the poetry, out of the songs that fill the pages of my web sites. I seek God’s wisdom and His words for these pages, not mine. I have nothing of value to give except my life. These are His words, His thoughts, His songs. I claim no ownership.
Since He has enabled me, it is now up to me to be an open conduit. He has put me into this ministry and now I need to allow His message to flow through me out to you. Paul tells us that the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet (1 Corinthians 14:32). This means God gives us the ability to shut it down or make it flow. We can muzzle the message God gives us to share. We can say “God gave this to me and I’m not going to share it!” We absolutely can. But I do no want to be that person.
My heart’s desire is to be counted faithful. Jesus said that to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). The words, songs, melodies and so on come from God. He has given them, for some reason I will never understand, to me. He entrusted me with the ability to hear His voice, and I for one want to make sure He will say I did it well. I could care less if anyone on this earth says the same. I am aware that very few hear God the way I hear Him. Very few have learned to listen as He has taught me to. He holds me accountable for those things He has entrusted to me.
What about you? What gift, or gifts, has God given to you? What talents do you possess? What are you doing with them? I suggest you make a list of all the gifts and talents God has bestowed on you. Some will have just a few items they can think of, others might have many dozen. Pray about it and be thorough. Once you have compiled your list, take each item one by one and ask God if you are doing a good job with that talent. If you’re like me, there are some you are doing well with and others you need to do better.
After this is done, ask God to help you do a better job of ministering in the areas where He has gifted you. Ask Him to enable you to reach more, teach more, love more and touch more. Ask Him to make your light shine so that you might bring Him glory. Give yourself as a living sacrifice for Him so that you might prove the will of God is alive in your life. Be vigilant in your ministry and never back down. This world needs you!
The night hair is crisp and clean as I walk my dog this evening. The air feels almost warm at six below zero since there is no wind to chill the soul. The light blanket of snow that covers the ground sounds like Rice Krispies as I walk across the shoveled sidewalk. I look up at the twinkling stars and see the Cheshire cat shaped moon smiling back at me. This is such a beautiful evening to behold. I ponder the day and the week behind me and I realize how much God has blessed me.
I have a wife who loves me. She is hard working and loves to sit beside me and in our Laz-Y-Boy chairs and watch a good Hallmark movie or an episode of a favorite show like Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman. She has been a wonderful caretaker to me as I battled through cancer the last three years, always keeping a smile on her face and doing what is best for me. To this day she gets my meds ready every night. Even though she works over 60 hours a week between two jobs, she is still alert and conversational when she gets home. She is well respected in town and is well loved by her children and her husband. She is the epitome of a Proverbs 31 wife and I am a blessed man.
Our little dog, a mix of little dogs, playfully goes between her chair and mine. He picks up a toy occasionally and has us throw it so he can bring it back, tail wagging and a look of anticipation on his face. My wife laughs and watches him playing, citing how much she loves him. He brings the toy up to my leg and squeezes it in his mouth letting out a squeak as he pushes it into my leg, wanting me to take it and throw it again. He always shows his affection to me and I realize I am a blessed man.
My three children are all healthy and moving forward in life. They have different goals and different jobs. They all have a hunger for God in varying degrees and acknowledge Him as the one they turn to in difficult times. They love us and we love them so much. I talk to my daughters regularly and enjoy getting caught up with them on a weekly basis. We see them as often as we can and they always tells us how much they love us. They are a great joy in my life and I am a blessed man.
My five grandchildren are a joy to talk to. They will send stickers on Facebook messenger to let us know they want to talk. Sometimes they will just call and hope to get us. We love talking to them on the phone and they always let us know how much they love us. We have one granddaughter living with us. She is such joy to have around the house. She brings laughter and a sense of the unknown. We have been through these waters before, with a teenage girl in the house. She will do anything for us and is a great help to me. I see her smile after all the difficulties she has had and I realize I am a blessed man.
My writing is ongoing as God continues to inspire me to put together Bible studies, poems, and pieces like this one. He has helped me with the knowledge to manipulate a web site and has given me a good friend who will help me with things I don’t know in that arena. More and more, I see visitors stopping by and taking note of what God is doing with my life and all the various projects he has me working on. I realize I am but putty in His hand, and He is molding me. This humbles me and makes me a blessed man.
There is so much more I could say about my life in it’s sixty-seventh year. There are so many things that I can’t explain, except to say God is moving in my life. He is my rock and fortress, my strong and mighty tower. He is my Savior and redeemer. He is my soon coming King. I lift my voice and praise Him at every chance I get, because He has been so merciful to me. I will never comprehend how much He loves ma and cares for me, yet I will always give thanks for those very things. In all of my ways, He is watching over me and guiding my life. I am a blessed man.
This is a story of how my life-long best friend Jason Jenkins (pictured left) saved my life.
It was a January afternoon in 1960. Fresh fallen snow blanketed everything in sight as the sun roamed low in the sky with dazzling brilliance. My friend Jason and I were dressed warm enough. Snow pants, heavy coats, mittens and stocking caps made us snug and happy. We were all geared up for an afternoon romp in the deep New England snow. The world was our playground whether it was sledding, or a toboggan, a snow ball fight or building forts in mounds made by the snow plow. We spent hours outside at a time, best friends making the most of a winter day.
This day we headed out through the farm field across from
his house. We climbed over the wire
fence that was meant to keep intruders out.
A slow slope was easy to navigate as we scampered across the field. The
ground was covered with waist deep snow which made the adventure more
interesting. We trudged our way down to
an old farm pond about 200 yards from the road.
The ice-covered pond was windswept with snow, making the ice on top look
rugged and not suitable for skates. There
was a large willow tree on the south side of the pond. The dangling branches of the willow flowed
down almost to the ice. There were also
a few small white birch trees near the water’s edge. They looked feeble and
about ready to fall onto the ice, the heavy wet snow bending them down. As I reminisce, I realize what a picturesque
place it was. A regular Currier and Ives
setting. With the two of us standing by
the edge of the ice, and you could have a Normal Rockwell painting sure to
We made around to the west side of the pond and noticed there was a small opening in the ice about 100 feet from the shore. Since we loved playing games and were both great competitors, we decided to have a contest. An old stone wall was near the water’s edge, broken down by years of wind and wear. This left many small, medium and large rocks sitting around the shore. We decided to see who could throw the most rocks into that hole. Jason went first, and he just missed the small target. The rock he threw bounced across the ice halfway to the other shore. My first try wasn’t any better as it skipped the same direction.
After several more attempts, we realized this game was harder than we thought it would be. I came up with a plan to make it easier and more interesting. Why don’t we throw some of the bigger rocks out there and see if we can make the hole bigger, so we would have a bigger target? Jason liked that idea, and we started picking up the rocks we thought we could throw far enough to make a difference. This required more strength, and often we had to heave them out there. It was working great and the hole was getting bigger with every rock we threw. Soon it was about 6 feet across, and Jason said that’s good enough. We now had a target we could easily hit with the smaller stones. He started picking them up and throwing the, hitting the hole every time.
I disagreed. I had to
outdo him, and the only way to do that now was to make the hole even bigger
then he had. I searched around for the
right rock. This was no throwing rock,
at least not from that distance. I had
to get much closer to get this rock near enough to break the ice and make the
hole bigger. I picked it up and started
out on the ice to make sure I could get it close enough to heave it into that
hole. I was about 10 feet from the hole
when I heard a noise of cracking ice.
Before I could retreat, the slab of ice beneath me gave way. I
dropped the rock as soon as I felt myself going down, but it was too late., I
was suddenly in the frigid water, my heavy winter clothes dragging me down into
Scared was not the right word. I quickly started flapping my arms to try and
get to the surface. I was a good
swimmer, so did not have too much of a problem getting up. Some of the gold water had been gulped up,
but I was OK at this point. I got to the
surface and out my arms up on the ice in front of me only to have it give
way. Plunging back down into the water a
second time was not what I had anticipated.
The ice was supposed to hold me up!
Now my coat was wet all the way through and it was harder to
get back to the surface the second time.
As I lunged upward with my arms, I was able to get above water and put
my arms up on the ice again, only to have it give way once more. Oh my, down I went again. I was running out of strength. I had heard the stories – third time up is
usually the last. Panic set in. I had no idea what was going on up above as I
floated downward that second time, trying to get up the strength for one last
pass at the surface.
Jason was frantic on the shore, and all I can do is give you his account of what he did. When he saw me go under, he yelled out to me, but of course I did not hear him. Ten he saw me surface and the ice break beneath me and knew I was in trouble. As he surveyed the area, he saw those old birch trees leaning down from the snow. He quickly ran over and grabbed one of them, pulling it up with some supernatural strength for the moment. He saw me go down for the second time and knew he didn’t have a moment to lose. With that tree in hand, he sprawled across the ice and put the tree right over the hole where I was. Tears welled up in his eyes as he knew he had to get this right.
I had no idea the tree was there. I mustered up all my strength to get to the surface one more time, and there it was. That branch was right where I needed it. I heard Jason yell out to grab it and I did. He held on and so did I as he dragged it back toward the shore. Some ice still broke beneath me, but finally I arrived on the surface of the ice and crawled as he dragged, I was exhausted and elated. He was shouting for joy. But I was also quickly turning into ice as we finally got to the shore and hugged each other. The house was 200 yards away across a snow filled field an over the fence
It took forever, it seemed, to get there. The snow was waist deep and I was completely soaked. I was freezing. Jason went before me, trying to open up a trail through the snow. He tamed the snow down to make a path so I could get through easier. Following the same path we had come down on made it easier. I was getting bluer and bluer as we went, shivering all the way. My body and my clothes felt like they were turning to ice as I moved. We got to the edge of the field and climbed over the fence, heading across the street. We got to his house and ran inside.
“Mom, Mom, Peter fell through the ice” Jason cried out.
His Mom came running out and Jason quickly had my clothes off and a towel around me. Oh, that felt so good. I was blue all over my body, but quickly started to warm as Jason’s mom gave us hot chocolate and delicious hot-cross scones. It took a while, but finally I was warm enough to get dressed, and Jason gave me some of his clothes to wear. Once I was warmed to a normal state, we took the ¼ mile walk to my house.
My Mom greeted us as we walked in the door and gave me a quizzical look. “Do you have Jason’s clothes on?”
I simply said “Yes, Mom.
All of them.” And then we told
her what had happened.
After high school, Jason joined the Army. It was the middle of the Vietnam war, and he decided that he wanted to fight for his country. He went on to become a ranger in the army, and a 1st Sargent. God only knows how much that incident that day prompted him to take on such a daring life, but I’m sure it did in some way. Before he got back to the states, he committed his life to a higher calling then that. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
I, on the other hand, went the opposite direction. There was no discipline in my life, and I
fell into a well of lust, booze and drugs.
They took over my life. For the
next 5 years after high school my existence was a blur of parties and missed
opportunities. I had received a full
ride to a great technology school on my grades and blew that chance because of
drugs. They even gave me a second
chance, but I threw it away. I was
whirling out of control.
Then came my 5th high school reunion. Lo and behold, Jason was there, now Jason. We talked and talked. We spent time together after that night. He tried to tell me about Jesus, I didn’t want to listen. But our friendship was renewed and we vowed to keep it going. For two years, we corresponded as I stayed at home in my drug filled life and he travelled to Florida, met a girl and moved to Iowa. We wrote to each other regularly and he would send a scripture address each time, forcing me to look it up. After two years I finally went to Iowa to visit Him. There, I accepted Jesus as my Savior as well. Jason saved my life a second time.
Jason and I are still best friends 55 years later. He has suffered a lot of depression and PTSD because of the two wars he served in. Sarin nerve gas, Alfloxin nerve gas and Agent Orange have eaten away his body. During these years, I have talked him down from suicide several times. I think of it as returning the favor of him saving my life twice. Now I am upon life, and he is the same. Putting our trust in our Savior above is what keeps both of us going. We talk almost every day and are closer now than we have ever been. We reminisce a lot about those days and many of the other things that we have been through together. I am so thankful for his friendship and that God has kept us close, despite some very hard times between us. It’s a friendship that will last a lifetime.