Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Facing our Giants

Gayle, Anne, Nathaniel, Will and Abby
Recently Anne and I were sitting in an adult Sunday school class.  The pastor was talking about how the Israelites when leaving Egypt, (a place of slavery for them) were up against the Red Sea. (Exodus 14) The Pharaoh’s chariots were swiftly on their trail when Moses used his staff to part the Red Sea as God had instructed him to do, which allowed passage for the Israelites to go across safely.  Soon after, the Pharaoh’s chariots followed, but were swallowed up in the sea as it closed up behind the fleeing Israelites.  God made a way for his children to pass through the Red Sea, unharmed without even getting wet.

Later, when the children of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land, (Number 13:17) they first sent out spies into the land that God had given them.  10 spies came back and said that the land possessed giants and it would be impossible to conquer.  On the other hand, 2 other spies returned and said that with God, the land was theirs for the taking, and with that, these two spies praised God for this gift.  God’s people on the hand chose to believe the 10 spies rather than the two (Caleb and Joshua).  The Israelites then wanted to return to the land of Egypt.  They remembered getting 3 meals a day with a roof over their heads.  They saw the Promised Land as a death trap, which would be impossible to conquer.  In God’s anger he allowed them to wander for a whole generation in the desert, and for that unbelieving generation, to die in their disbelief. 

Will by the water.
During this point of the lesson my wife Anne spoke up.  “Do you know, in looking at your map pastor, the Israelites would not have been able to go back to Egypt even if they wanted to.  The Red Sea would have prevented them from crossing into Egypt.”
That thought never had crossed my mind in all the times reading this before.  Anne was right; they could not have crossed.  Then it dawned on me, “How many times do we as Christians see insurmountable odds in front of us, and we too want to go back to Egypt?”   This simple lesson was such a revelation to me.  In looking at different times in my life, I as well wanted to go back to Egypt, rather than believe and face my giants. 

God many times brings these giants into our lives with a hope that we, as Paul calls it, “A time to get off of milk as an infant Christian, and get going in eating meat as a growing Christian.”  (Hebrews 5:12) I can look at myself and see that many times I chose to see the challenge as a problem rather than as a gift.  My eyes were focused on heading back to Egypt in my feelings of defeat, rather than looking to our Lord for his strength and insight. 

As a growing Christian, God brings challenges into our lives not with the intent of causing us to stumble, but only to grow and trust in him more, and not only these things, but to bless us as well.  Caleb and Joshua’s eyes were on the promise that God would give them the victory, and eventually give them the land of “milk and honey”.  Their eyes were not focused on the problem, and on their own lack of strength and where with all, but on God alone.  They knew that in themselves they could not receive what God had already given them, if they were focused only on the challenge, rather than God.  I am realizing that for myself to grow as a Christian, I need to focus on Jesus rather than wanting to go back to Egypt (my past life of sin and walking in my strength alone).  Each day we are given the chance to see what is before us as a gift in growth and trust, or to turn and live in disbelief.

Where is your faith today?  Do you want to return to Egypt?  We can’t cross back over the Red Sea even if we wanted to.  God’s peace is found not in the absence of challenges and problems, it is found when we focus our eyes on our creator instead.
Are you wandering in the desert of unbelief and lack of trust in God?  We each are faced with giants in our lives, we can chose to look at our Savior for strength, guidance and growth, or chose to remain in the desert where we will never find peace.  God has given us the choice, the decision is ours to make.  Chose today to trust in God, he will lead you through to the Promised Land, and his peace will surround you on your journey with him. (Philippians 4:7)


Sunday, December 16, 2012

2013 HealingScapes and Wellness Calendar

This HealingScapes calendar has 12 photographs of nature taken from around the Winona area.  I was fortunate enough to have one of my photographs in the calendar.  If you desire to order a calendar, click on the top link listed below, or copy and paste the web address found at the bottom of the page into your web browser at the upper right of your computer screen.  They will direct you as to purchasing this calendar.

"This calendar was inspired by our HealingScapes project, which began when a team of dedicated inpatient nurses was looking for artwork as the hospital was transitioning to all-private patient rooms in the spring of 2012.  At the same time, Winona Health was celebrating the hospital's 50th anniversary in its current location on Mankato Avenue.  These milestones were acknowledged by inviting our community to participate in our first HealingScapes photo competition.  The response was overwhelming--nearly 150 photographers submitted more than 400 photos."

Photographs within the calendar.
"Community members and Staff voted for images of the Winona area that would enhance the healing atmosphere in patient rooms.  The winning photos were enlarged, framed and hung in each of the now all-private rooms.  The photos included in this HealingScapes calendar are among the top choices.  We hope you enjoy using this calendar throughout the year."

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Heart of a Princess

Abby meeting Cinderella.

This year the main event in going to Disney was Abby’s “Princess Dinner”.  Anne schedules it many months in advance.  The reservations are often hard to make since so many people want their little princess to meet the ‘real’ Disney princesses.
Anne is able to get reduced ticket costs since our family is Disney Vacation Club members which makes it much more affordable.  Such organizations such as “Make A Wish” foundation also schedule events such as this for children that have serious or terminal illnesses as well. 

Getting to meet Pluto as a family.
During the supper hour various princesses come to the tables and visit with each of the children seated there.  As I looked around I could see many of the little girls who had their princess dresses on and were very excited about meeting their princess hero.  Abby would be mesmerized by each approaching princess, and sometime she would have an unexpected princess visitor come from behind her.  During these times her eyes would become as big as saucers and we could see the reserved nature that Abby had, dissolve into breathless anticipation as that particular princess would address her personally.  Abby would get up slowly, pull her skirt out on both sides, and bow her head and curtsy.  Some of the princess’ would be surprised by such a show of respect and honor towards them, but to Abby she wanted to venerate them for whom she knew them to be, her heroes.  It would not be uncommon at this point for the princess to bow in return to Abby.  Then the princess would kneel down to Abby’s level and speak softly to her.  The rest of us would strain our ears to hear what was being said, but realize our efforts were in vain.  We would then collectively smile and confess to ourselves that this moment was for Abby and not us.  

Abby meeting a new friend on the Disney bus.
In digressing, I remember reading once of a family who were about to pray before a holiday meal.  The honor fell to the little girl in the family.  She shyly prayed in a low tone and when the little girl was done she ended by saying proudly “Amen!”
The grandfather retorted in frustration after the prayer, “You could have spoken louder, I couldn’t hear a word you said!”  The little girl visibly shrank in her chair after the grandfather’s remonstration.  Just then the little girl’s father spoke up with a gentle smile on his face, “Don’t worry dad, the person she was speaking to heard her fine.”

Towards the end of the princess meal Abby spoke up and said with disappointment, “I forgot to give the princess’ the drawings I did for them.”  We tried to console her, but before we could speak again, Abby left the table and walked over to another table close by.  We collectively watched with puzzled looks on our faces.  Abby started to speak with a little girl who did not have a princess dress.  I noticed at that time the little girl did not have a mother with her, just her gentle father.  The little girl’s dad watched with a puzzled look at the conversation between the two little girls.  They both then dropped to the floor and had a long discussion between them.  We couldn't hear their conversation, but we could see the smiles on their faces.  I looked over to the little girl’s father; he had a smile that went from ear to ear.  His little girl was having the time of her life.  Just then I glanced down at the girls and I could see they were not looking for princesses anymore, they were enjoying each other’s presence.  Next, I saw Abby take her pictures and give them to the little girl.  The little girl’s face just beamed with joy.  I then looked over to the father and he was so happy.  I could see that his whole world was at peace and filled with joy.  His little precious daughter was so happy and that made him know a completeness that was so visible on his smiling face. 

When visiting China at Epcot, Mulan was sitting alone in shadows watching the activities nearby.  Abby was fortunate to be able to visit with her for quite sometime.  It appears they had become good friends before leaving.  Mulan walked Abby over to the wall facing us and spoke to her in quiet tones.  I could see that they were having fun getting to know each other.  Later Mulan spoke to Will who was shy.  She was able to get him to talk to her through her gentle ways.
As we were leaving the father spoke to us as we were passing by, “Your daughter truly is a princess!”  I could see that he was approaching tears and it choked me up so that it was hard for me to speak.  Anne seeing my state of emotion thanked him for allowing his little girl time to play with Abby.  I realized after leaving the meal that my little girl was teaching me about kindness, selflessness, and generosity.  I too was a father who was very appreciative of the precious gift of a little heart God has placed in my presence, my little Abby.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Traveling Together

Disney Illuminations fireworks at Epcot in Disney World
Every year Anne works on scheduling events for our Disney World trip months in advance before we leave in the winter.  By the time we are heading south, plans are pretty well set in place.  Everything from frozen dinners that she has made for specific meals; to that of budgeting the gas that we consume on our way down and back on our trips.  Planning trips is her cup of tea so to speak.  Anne grew up going on frequent vacation trips with her folks, and traveling with her grandparents who were Baptist evangelists that traveled in a mobile home all over the U.S. and Canada.  At times I like to kid Anne by telling her that she has gypsy blood in her veins.  The odd thing about that, she is Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch and Scottish.  Come to think of it, I don’t believe there were many gypsies in those countries.  On the other hand, Anne has gotten me to take more and more vacation trips the longer we have been married. 

Enjoying the motel room together.
For me though, I grew up in a family that didn’t take vacation trips at all.  I remember as a child talking to my grandmother Anna, asking her if there were gypsies in her linage, since she had dark skin and hair like my father.  She wasn’t sure, though gypsies did live in Bohemia where her parents had come from.  If that were the case, some how it is now being awakened in me.  I do enjoy traveling to different locations and getting to know people and their unique ways of living. 

In going to Disney World each year I discover a microcosm of the world and its peoples there.  I stop and listen to the myriad of people walking past me and I can hear many different languages spoken.  Each group of individuals acting very excited, and anxious to share one with the other all about the things they have seen and experienced.  In watching my daughter Abby when making new friends on a trip, she can go from, "Hi, my name is Abby" to sitting on the floor and talking to her new friend in just a few seconds. 

Meeting Abby's hero princess.
Perhaps politicians from all over the world should go to Disney and discover how so many people can get along when having fun together.  Maybe, just maybe, that is one of the keys to compatibility, having fun together.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Family Ties

Family Ties

No words can express!
Discovering their Viking heretage, fighting Trolls.
As a family, we have been here at Disney World for about a week having fun.  Grandparents, parents and children all sharing and expressing themselves.  I have to say though, these will be some of the special times that our children will recall when growing up, and look back at with fondness and joy far into adulthood.  They will be times that we, as parents too will also treasure. 

I have to say that I love-watching people in places such as Disney World.  I see parents and grandparents becoming children once again with their little ones, sharing the same experiences, all having the time of their lives.  On the other hand it saddens my heart to also see families so very fractured, not by the events happening around them, but by what their lives are summed up to be in spite of the joy and happiness in their midst.  For some, they have hopes of mending broken relationships by coming here, for others, having dreams of sharing special experiences for the first time. 

Our family sitting on a stone wall, looking up to heavens and sharing memories.
Meeting a gentle, kind and gracious hero.
This is truly a place where dreams can come true, but it is also a place that can expose our lives as well.  I have seen parents and children yelling at each other, parents hitting their children, with both parent and child sighing in complete exhaustion, and even crying.  Why?  I don’t know all the whys; but I do know that the life that we lead before coming here will not change when arriving, it will only be intensified.  If families that are well connected and have a wholesome love and respect for one another before arriving, will also reveal this as well.  If on the other hand, families that do not have these things before coming, the result will only intensify as to what was there before setting foot into the park.

Can problems arise even in the best of relationships here at Disney?  Of course they can and do.  But, it is not in having the absence of problems, but in how we handle them, together.  Car manufacturers put their products under extreme stress conditions before introducing the final product to the public.  These events of extreme duress, reveal to them where the cracks and weak points are.  They then are able to reinforce these points of weakness, and produce a safe automobile for the public.  For our families, being in crowds numbering sometimes in the thousands can also be very stressful, but they also reveal to us the areas that need improving as well.

A princess wanted to meet the older brother as well.
Last night when coming home on the bus I saw something that I had never seen before.  Almost everyone in front of me had a cell phone in his or her hand, and was either playing a game on it or texting someone.  No one was talking to each other!  They each were in their own worlds sitting next to one another and not sharing their joys, or for that matter, disappointments of the day.  Are we coming to a world that is so fractured that we cannot communicate with the person next to us?  Anne noticed before going into the Princess Dinner at the Norwegian restaurant, a family of 17 all waiting in line, either playing on their cells or texting, even grandma was playing a game on her cell.  No one was talking to each other!  Electronic devices are a wonderful tool, but are they revealing to us how fractured some of our families have become?  Obviously, they are not the cause, but only the symptom.  Does putting the cellphones down change our relationships, obviously not in the beginning, but it is a start to making positive changes.  Our relationships with our family and friends are very precious, we can’t let them go and not pay a price.  Places like Disney are not places to discover happiness; they are places to share happiness.  It is not in the event that brings joy and connectedness one to another, it is the time that we invest with one another.  Some of my most precious memories are not in places that are full of elaborate entertainment, but in a simple sandbox playing with our children, or on a crowded Disney bus.  Sitting there, listening to them share with you their dreams, concerns, and joys are memories one will never forget.