I Am A Blessed Man

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.

Jesus You’re Amazing

Jesus you’re amazing
You’re everything to me
I was dying in my sin
And then you rescued me

Jesus you’re amazing
You’re more than life to me
When I gave my life to you
You met my deepest need

My need was not for riches
Or for power or for fame
My need was not possessions
Or for fleshly gain

My desperate need was cleansing
Deep down into my soul
And when I gave my life to you
You made me whole

You gave me peace I’d never known
And joy unspeakable
You gave me faith that truly works
And grace unmatchable

You gave forgiveness for my sin
And mercy not deserved
You gave your life so I could live
You taught me how to serve

Jesus you’re amazing
You’re everything to me
I was dying in my sin
And then you rescued me

Jesus you’re amazing
You’re more than life to me
When I gave my life to you
You met my deepest need

A Branch of Friendship

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 inspire.

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 the pond.

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.

When Storm Clouds Gather

                      I love a good storm. I love watching the clouds roll in from a distance and seeing the lightning flashing, and waiting for the thunder to roll.  I love seeing them build as they move closer, higher and higher.  I love the pre-rain smell that fills the air when a thunderstorm gets near.  And then they are here, and the air is filled with rain and lightning and thunder – a magnificent display of God’s power.  It is one of the most awesome things in all of nature. 

When I look at clouds, I think about the storms that can come into our lives.  They come in all shapes and sizes and can affect us in so many different ways.  Sometimes, we can see the storm directly ahead of us, heading our way, but we cannot see a different road to take:

As we listen to the voice of God in these situations, He may tell us to stay on the straight road, and not turn to the right or to the left.  The Israelites were told this as they went through the desert (Num 20:7), or by Jesus in the New Testament (Matt 7:14).  There are times that God knows the battle is before you and He wants you to have faith in Him to see you through.  These times are precious because they really test our faith.  Our inclination is to avoid the storm at all costs.  It looks dangerous.  But if we listen to God’s voice and trust in His strength to get us through, the blessing that is one the other side is well worth it.

Then there are times that storm looms over us.  It is big, and ominous, and scary.  The clouds surrounding the storm hide its intensity, but you can see danger in their formation.  You do not know exactly what is going to happen, you just know this storm, this trial, is going to hit at any time:

You face it with courage and an unmoving faith in God, like a tree planted by the water (Psalm 1:3).  A tree relies on the water for its sustenance and strength.  It sends those roots down deep to gather the water and feed the rest of the tree.  When it is close to the water. It does not worry where that supply will come from, and it will not be moved from that spot.  We need to be like that tree, relying on God to give us the strength to go through the storm, not to avoid it.  The storm is right there, ready to burst, and we praise Him regardless, because we know by faith He will see is through.  He knows what the storm will bring, and He is more than able to help us get to the other side, where the blessings flow.

There are storms that make a lot of noise way off in the distance.  They look like a danger, and we start to worry long before they get near us.  And we hear the thunder rumble, and people tell us we are in for a battle when the storm gets here.  The storm, or trial, looks frightening, and could be devastating when it arrives:

We are told not to fear, or worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:34).  God holds all our tomorrows.  Only He knows what the next hour will bring.  The storm could dissipate and never reach you.  I have watched thunder storms stop on a dime and give out.   I have also seen them part and go around on all sides.  We never know.  So, when that storm is approaching, pray.  Ask God to stop the storm, or to move the storm, that is coming toward your life.  He stilled the waves and the wind (Mark 5:35-41), and He can calm your storm before it even gets to you.  Just ask.

Then there are the storms of life that affect your friends, your family, your neighbors, and, yes, your enemies.  They loom off in the distance and all you can see is the looming clouds.  You are not sure who they are affecting, or what the intensity is, but you know there is a storm over their lives, ether because they told you, or you see the signs of a storms:

This is a time to pray.  We are called to be intercessors (Ezek 22:30-31. Eph 6:18).  This is the highest calling I believe.  To be a prayer warrior for God is a blessing to so many people often those we do not know.  If we are listening to the Spirit, He will tell us people who need prayer throughout our day.  Do you ever have names pop in your head in the middle of the day?  This is the Holy Spirt prompting you to pray for them.  Never, ever doubt that.  How should you pray?  The bible tells us the Holy Spirit will give us the words as groanings that cannot be uttered (Rom 8:26).  Allow God to work through you, and just open yourself up to pray.  He will help you.

And on the other side of that storm is always a blessing.  When we go through trials of faith, we grow in our walk with the Lord.  We become stronger, ready to face bigger trials.  But we also are ready to help others face theirs.  We are more prepared to help someone else who is going through the same storm in their lives.  These storms are meant for our growth, not out harm.  But if we try to get through them on our own, they will probably cause harm.  Either that or we will not make it through, and give up.  If that happens, we will most likely have to face the same storm again.  It is so important we rely on God’s strength to help us through.  He will never fail us.  And we will see the blessing when the storm passes.

Pride Part 1

This is a repost of the first part of a series I did on Pride two years ago. If you would like to read the rest of the series, please click on my teaching sight above and you will see the Pride Series in the menu. The reason I wrote this study was to help people see the hidden pride in their lives and work on bringing it under control.

 In my experience, if your immediate reaction to that statement is that yours is under control, it probably is not. I have been there before, and hope to never again have unrecognized pride in my life. This is a first installment to give you some background. 

One of the most fascinating things about pride is that it hides itself from the individual who is afflicted by it. I bet all of us have seen people who are full of pride and wonder why they don’t take care of that attitude. Don’t they know it is unattractive and a big turn-off? Well, no they don’t. In fact, they don’t even see it. Let me take a moment to share my story with you. 

I was a worship leader, Sunday school teacher, youth minister and fill-in preacher at my church. I also filled in at other churches occasionally. I was looked upon by those around me as having it all together and one that loved the Lord. And I did love the Lord, and I loved ministry. My wife, on the other hand, saw the pride in my life and kept telling me it was there, but I would not listen. In fact, I kept explaining to her that I was a humble servant of God. 

But the real truth lay in the fact that when I was alone, I was living a depraved lifestyle. I will not go into details, but I was not living as a Christian, but as a heathen. The things I was doing were expressly condemned in God’s word, and I knew the Bible. I knew they were wrong. But I thought God would overlook those things. In fact, whenever I had a close call to someone discovering my sinful ways, I always thanked God for “warning” me ahead of time so I could clean things up. 

Well, as we all know, what is kept secret will eventually come out, and mine did. And it cost me big time. In my pride, I violated a major policy in my workplace, one that I had written, and I got caught. I was immediately terminated after 20 years of working for the company. My pastor, who had known about my sin from a previous exposure and had worked hard with me to get deliverance before I started up again, told me I was not welcome in his church any longer unless I got help. And I did get help.

I went to Pure Life Ministries in Kentucky for Eight months. Eight months of hard work, bunk beds, dorm style living and intense bible study. Eight months of counseling which showed me the pride that was so rampant in my life. Eight months of squashing it down and bringing humility to the forefront. Heck, I was so prideful, I was even proud of my pride! When I look back on who I was it sickens me.

When I got home, I spent two years doing no ministry at all. Just sat in the pew and took things in. I learned to listen to my wife, who can spot my pride in a heartbeat. She has been a Godsend in keeping me on the right path. I am a much more reserved, quiet person than I was before. And I like that. 

In this first installment on pride, I will end with this warning. If you are a Christian, and you are doing something that is blatantly sinful, and thinking God will overlook it, that is pride at its worst. God will not overlook disobedience, which is the core of sin. The problem is that if you are reading this and if you are doing what I suggested, you most likely will say that you are not a prideful person.

You will ignore the warning, because your pride will tell you it does not apply.You’re special to God. You don’t have to be perfect. A little sin will keep you humble. That’s why God allows you to keep it.
 
My friend, all of that is hogwash! And if you are telling yourself this is not for you, then you need to seriously ask God to search your heart and try you as if you’re life depended on it, because it does. God hates pride! And He will not allow it into heaven so you better get rid of it now. I will be back with more on pride in the coming days, because without a spirit of humility, a true spirit of reconciliation is impossible. In the next post, we will examine what pride is. I always thought I knew, but found out it takes on forms I was completely unaware of.
 
I hope you’ll come back.
Pete Gardner