Tag Archives: Self

Redneck Patio

I was talking with an old-time backwoods country friend of mine the other day. We weren’t two minutes together and we started telling “one-up’m” stories. These are stories where simple country folk explain how their life was either better or worse than the other. The story I told my friend is one I like to call “The Redneck Patio”.  Not a long story but, a simple story.

Picture if you will, the 1970’s, in the upper portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Think about a small 1200 square foot shack style never quite finished home. This home had two tiny bedrooms, a tiny kitchen, and a medium-sized living room. Needless to say, this tiny home could get crowded real quick. Especially, with a family the size of mine. Most of the time it was just four of us in the home; Mom, Dad, my Brother, and I. However, when all the family was around, the group could grow from four to twenty real quick-like.

In the summertime, unlike many families today, my family would spend most of the day outside. In all actuality, the house was a place to sleep and enjoy indoor plumbing; after we shut down the outhouse and finished the indoor plumbing, of course.  I recall one summer afternoon, as my family sat out on the homemade picnic table my Dad came to this conclusion. He mentioned to Ma, “Ma, we don’t have a very good sittin’ area out here. For Pete’s sake, all we have is this six-person picnic table. What do you think about making a patio out front under those tall red pine trees? Always a good breeze coming through there.” She said, “Good Idea, Pa”.

The next day, Dad, my Brother, and I headed straight away to the local junkyard. This junkyard always had a bunch of half-stripped big old hulks of American steel just waiting to be parted out, on the cheap. We had been to this junkyard many times, however, today we are not looking for parts to keep our car running. No, we are looking for patio furniture. It doesn’t take long for my Dad to find two stripped out sixty-something Buick Riviera’s. Dad looked them over and saw the seats of these cars were in pristine condition. He talked with the owner of the junkyard and they agreed on a price of 50 dollars for the four front seats and two six-foot-long rear bench seats.

After Dad paid, he said, “Boys, I am heading back out to the Buicks. You two go get the tools.” My Brother and I headed quickly to the truck and retrieved the tools. I was fairly young at the time, I think about 8 or 9 years old. So, my Dad and Brother did most of the work removing the seats. In no time, the seats were out and tied down securely with old rubber bungee straps for the short trip back to the house.

Once we arrived back at our house, Dad went out by the tall stand of red pine trees located about 100 feet from the front door of our house. He sized things up a bit, then decided on a particular area for the “redneck patio”. I remember helping my Dad pull those blue vinyl General Motors American made beauties from the back of the truck, and place them ever so gently on the 2×8 pine lumber platforms my Dad had built the evening before. Today, I think to myself, “The Lazy Boy furniture I have owned in my adult life had nothing on that redneck GM patio furniture.”

With the furniture expertly arranged and tied down, my Dad said, “Now for the electricity.” I remember my Dad digging a 6 inch wide and 18-inch deep trench from the house, near the fuse box, to a spot on the patio next to his chair. In the trench, my Dad placed a piece of Romex that went from the electrical panel to a 4 outlet electrical box, attached to a 4×4 post my Dad had placed in the ground, next to his chair.

My Dad was quite proud of his patio set. As he looked around he noticed something. He said, “I need to figure out a way to keep the electric box from getting wet.” I watched him closely as he nailed a 2-inch thick 8×8 piece of pine lumber onto the in-ground 4×4 the electrical box was attached to. Then he went to our old dilapidated garage and pulled out an old pair of fishing waders. I think he grabbed my Mom’s pinking shears from the house, to add a little design, and began to cut an 8 inch wide and 32-inch long piece out of the waders. He then attached the waterproof piece of material to the board onto the in-ground wooden 4×4 that was next to his chair. Problem solved.

I recall many, many, good times we had those summers on our redneck patio. I loved sitting out there in the evening listening to the song “Rednecks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer” over and over on a busted, single track playing, 8-track player with old wood speakers. Man those were good times!

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A Road Map To Lasting Contentment

Can you honestly say you are “content” both, inside and out?

What is “Contentment”?

Where do we find contentment?

Should fleeting environmental circumstances affect our contentment?

Should we rely on personal pleasures or perishable possessions to fuel our contentment?

Apostle Paul seems to share the answers to these questions in Chapter 4 of his letter to the congregation at Philippi.

The secret to un-wavering contentment can be found in Paul’s statement:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

The key word in this scripture is: ALWAYS. Here the word always is used to mean “completely and infinitely rely upon” the LORD (Jesus).

Just as we all made the decision to have faith in and believe upon our Lord (Jesus), we must also remember to rejoice (or find our Joy) in Him at all times. No matter the environmental or emotional circumstances that happen often and inconveniently in this earthly life.

Rejoicing (to have joy or be joyful) is not a right nor a privilege; it is a choice. I think my personal relationship with Christ is what allows me to be joyful in all circumstances; pain, and suffering included.

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Sifting Through Social Media Opinions

When I was a kid, I often watched my Mom bake bread. One part of the process I really thought was neat was when she dumped the clean pure bleached flour through a sifter.  I asked her, Mom, if the flour is already clean pure and bleached then why do you need to put it through the sifter? She said, “It makes the flour lighter and it blends better.  Plus, it removes any potential non-palatable hunks, chunks, or impurities.  When it comes to baking a “Great” loaf of bread, I never assume the machinery that spits out the finished product is flawless.”

Wow! What a lesson. Today, I think about social media and how it has the potential to produce non-palatable hunks, chunks, and impurities.  Now, I am not attacking it (Social Media); I use it.  At first, I despised social media, I somehow thought I was subject to every opinion I read. News Flash:  I am not and neither are you.

What is an opinion?

Opinion Definition: a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

How many opinions do you think you sift through on a daily basis?

How many of those opinions do you understand to be truthful?

Does the act of opinion sifting cause you unnecessary stress, depression, worry, anxiety, and/or fear?

I asked myself these questions as well. And, because I was truthful with myself I discovered just how much the opinions of others, if I let them, attempted to mar my identity.  I then thought about my Mother’s flour sifter. I wondered, how can I sift through the junk, hunks, chunks, and other impurities found in social media?  Then all of a sudden it hit me:

  1. I have the power to question any and all opinions before I accept them as truth.
  2. I have the ability to educate myself on the truth of the matter before I consider absorbing what I have just read or witnessed.
  3. I have the strength to bypass those opinions or comments that in no way uplifts me or any other human being.

Oh yeah! And because I am Christian I can recall the words of the Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:8-9):

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

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Unwanted and Unsolicited

This is a friendly reminder of a law that was signed by President George W. Bush in 2003. This Law is called the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. This law was designed to stop the barrage of unsolicited marketing emails inundating our personal email accounts. These type of emails are called SPAM. This is a bit different from the “Spam” I grew up with. The Spam I grew up with was a wonderful concoction of delicious pork pieces. I became very fond of this product. The difference between the Spam I enjoy and the SPAM I don’t is a matter of choice. I consciously choose the tasty pork loaf, however, I did not choose to be slammed with a million emails. Emails, whose only purpose is to tempt me to purchase or subscribe to something which provides nothing fruitful or uplifting. Spamming is actually a subversive attempt at mind control. Did you know that Satan is a “Spammer?” He SPAMs by slamming our minds with unsolicited negative thoughts.

Friends, don’t lose hope, and don’t lose heart. When it comes to unwanted SPAM we do have a choice. Because of the CAN-SPAM Act, by-law an “Unsubscribe” or “Opt-Out” button must appear on any unsolicited email or electronic advertisement. Yes! Great freedom comes from clicking the unsubscribe button. It isn’t easy to find, it is usually at the bottom portion of the email and is often in very fine print. I do not covet power on a regular basis, but in this instance, it feels pretty good to shoot down menacing advertisements with one click of the mouse. Ok, sometimes it takes two clicks.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul actually talks about “unsubscribing.” However, Paul hopes we would be strong enough to unsubscribe from unsolicited negative thoughts. In Philippians 4:8-9 Paul gives us a list of things to mediate on. Things like: Love, Truth, Holiness, Righteousness, Nobility, Purity, and Virtue.” When we mediate on these things we subconsciously unsubscribe from their polar opposites. Sure, it takes some effort on our part to meditate on these things, especially since we are bombarded everyday with their opposites. But, if we do as Paul asks great mental weights are lifted off of our minds. Remember, whether it is an unwanted email or unsolicited thought we always have the choice to “Unsubscribe.” Take charge of your thoughts, you are the only one that can.

 

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Remembering the Benefits of God

I remember the multiple times in my life I sought employment. Each time the most important factor for accepting a job offer was the amount of quality benefits. Benefits like health insurance, sick leave, vacation time, education, promotion potential, and a good working environment. I was raised to focus more on benefits, than on the hourly wage. Why? Because the lack of substantial benefits consumes a large portion of the hourly wage. I truly appreciate the lesson my parents taught me concerning a need for quality benefits.

Until recently, I really never stopped to realize how the “benefits” lesson related to my spiritual life. Specifically, how it affected the efficacy of my prayers. I often prayed to my Father (God) without first considering the multitude of His quality benefits. Benefits like, to name a few, the sacrifice of His Son for my salvation, His Grace, His Mercy, The Gift of His Spirit, His Truth, His Word, His Forgiveness, His Redemption, and most important His Love. I used to always open my prayers with “God, I need this” and “God, I need that.” Or “Please, God change this” and “Change him or her.” It wasn’t until I walked with King David through his Psalms that I began to pray to God with first, his gracious benefits in mind. Now, I do my best to preface my prayers with; “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” (Psalm 103:2) Opening prayer with true praise and a thankful heart helps me focus fully on God’s gratuitous nature. From there He willingly fulfills my needs, as well as my heart’s desires.

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Free Will

One day, after an extremely poor choice on my part I asked God a question. I asked, God, why did you give me free will? Immediately God said, “No real conscious choice can be made without free will.” James, he said, “Like it or not, “love” is a free will choice. Take away free will and “love” becomes a mechanical notion. I don’t want my children to love me because they have to; I want them to love me because they have chosen freely to do so. It’s all in the choice.”

Upon hearing this I thought: God’s gift of free will isn’t a curse, it’s a cure. Free will is actually a blessing, it gives me the power to choose. Sure, it introduces a dilemma between spirit and flesh. It has too, without this dilemma there would be no sacrifice. God modeled free will choice when he decided to send His Son to the cross for my sake. Ok, I’ve got it – God gave humanity free will for one reason and one reason only: To Choose Him!

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Who’s Kidding Who?

Someone asked me this question: “Jim, what’s wrong with the Church these days?” I said, “The Church is the same “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, and so are the people. Yes, I said “so are the people.” Don’t be discouraged by the actions of others, keep you mind focused on Christ. The truth is: “If we walk barefoot into a room full of broken glass chances are we will experience some lacerations. How deep, how wide, or how infected the wound gets is up to us. Let us not blame the Church.”

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