Are We Walking on the Roadway or the Treadmill of Life?

Walking on a treadmill and walking on a roadway are two entirely different experiences.  One may walk the same distance in the same amount of time on a treadmill as he does on a roadway.  He may burn the same amount of calories and reap the same health benefits.   But the two experiences are far from the same.

A person may walk a circuit on a roadway, going out a certain distance and then returning along the exact same pathway to the starting point; but the return trip is never the same as the advance trip. The flora and fauna are viewed from a different perspective.  When returning, the person sets new landmarks and goals to reach.  Vehicle traffic varies.  The surroundings are ever changing and the possible encounters unpredictable. But the most rewarding part is feeling as if one is advancing.

On a treadmill, the goal is to cover an imaginary distance within a predetermined time limit. The goals and landmarks are numbers on an electronic display.  And though one may try to take the edge off of the boredom by watching a televised event, the surroundings and encounters are both controlled and  predictable.  And the worst part is experiencing the feeling that one is going nowhere fast.

Life is much the same. When one sets attainable goals for each day, and then consciously strives to methodically reach those goals by moving forward in this ever-changing, unpredictable world, at the end of the day, he will look back at the day’s efforts with pride and pleasure.  He may find himself at the very place he started, but he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he did his best to advance.

However, if one spends an identical amount of time simply existing, he may feel the same amount of seconds ticking away from his lifespan. He may walk the same amount of steps. He may seemingly put forth the same amount of effort, all the while pretending to cover the same amount of ground. But the experience will not be the same. He will inevitably find that his day was filled with clock watching and sighing.

The perception of advancement makes all the difference in our outlook on life.  If we feel like we are on the treadmill of life, we will spend our time asking how much more time and effort we  have to put in until we have completed our walk. However, if we feel that we are advancing toward a goal, we will spend our time asking  how much further we get to walk.

Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
(Ephesians 5:14-17 ESV)

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Seagulls in Kentucky? What Are They Doing Here?

Look!  Up in the sky.  Is that a some type of pigeon?  Is that some type of huge killdeer or dove?  No.  I believe that’s a seagull.  What’s that doing here in Kentucky?

Wildlife abounds in our region of rural Kentucky; far more so than during my youth.  During the 60’s and 70’s, people rarely caught glimpses of deer, fox, wildcats, or local Canadian geese.  Turkey, coyotes, bear, and bald eagles were virtually nonexistent in this area.  Most of these species were at one time indigenous to south-central Kentucky, but through the years they had been uprooted to other areas of our state.  Now, through renewed wildlife conservation practices, flocks of turkeys roost in every small patch of woods, herds of deer graze along tree lines, choruses of coyotes echo throughout the night, and even the occasional bald eagle can be seen perching on a limb at the top of a tall tree.

These gulls were resting in a shopping center parking lot in Glasgow, KY. 12/19/16

But seagulls?  What are they doing in Kentucky?

I remember the confusion I experienced the first time I saw gulls circling around a shopping center parking lot in Campbellsville.  They landed directly behind a Long John Silvers restaurant and I concluded that the franchise had imported them to create a more authentic atmosphere. Since then, I have seen several flocks of gulls in different towns around the region, and I have come to understand that although gulls do not usually abound in an inland area like ours, it is not uncommon for them to settle in areas surrounding rivers or lakes.

The term seagull is a misnomer.  Not all gulls are restricted to saltwater habitats.  Gulls are scavengers.  Some species – like the Ring-billed gull and the Herring gull – even breed in the Great Plains and in Central Canada. (  Since they are scavengers, gulls also sometimes find trash heaps and landfills to be inviting.  So basically, one should not be surprised to find “seagulls” anywhere that food and water may be found.

Spiritually, we may have been conditioned to believe that only certain types of people “belong” in the church or will become Christians.  Those of us who are Christians sometimes contrive the notion that  salvation and discipleship is limited to people like us; our type people are the only type people who can understand the truth and will be willing to accept the truth.  Those who have yet to believe and obey the gospel sometimes convince themselves that salvation and discipleship is exclusionary to people like themselves; our type people don’t belong there and we won’t be accepted by those type people.

Hover over scripture reference to see Biblical text.

The Bible plainly teaches that the saving gospel is available to all. (John 3:16-17; Revelation 22:17).  The Bible is filled with examples of men and women coming to Jesus from all walks of life ; highly immoral and destitute people, (Matthew 9:10-13), moral and religiously trained people (John 3:1-36), physicians (Colossians 4:14), royalty (Philippians 4:22), military leaders (Acts 10:1-47), governmental officials (Acts 8:26-40), those who practiced witchcraft and sorcery (Acts 19:17-20); and the list goes on (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

“Seagulls” belong in Kentucky just as much as any other bird.  My ignorance convinced me to exclude them.  God has made the saving grace-filled gospel available to every person. (Acts 10:34-35)  Only human ignorance makes it exclusionary.

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Keep the Heart Fires Burning

A man who sold firewood as a sideline gained a contract to sell several semi-truck loads to be delivered to a metropolitan area.  For a couple of years, he made sure that only the best hardwood (oak, hickory, ash, etc.) went on those loads. Hardwoods are considered the best, most desirable wood for heating. The dealer kept the softwoods for his own usage.  He thought that in doing so, he was keeping the seconds and shipping the prime cuts.

On one visit, the man purchasing and reselling the fuel looked at the “seconds” pile and told the contractor, “I see what you’re doing.  You are keeping the best for yourself and sending all the stuff no one wants with me.”

Most of his customers in the metropolitan area did not purchase wood to be burned in a stove for heating purposes.  They intended to burn it in indoor fireplaces, in outdoor fire pits, or in other settings where the heat was a nice side benefit, but the real desire was ambiance.  His patrons wanted  wood which would ignite and flame easily and which would continuously crackle and pop while being consumed.  They wanted to create a warm and cozy atmosphere through the  visual and audio effects of the burning softer wood.

The next year, the seller kept all of the hardwood to sell to his local customers and to burn for himself.  He shipped only the soft wood to the metropolitan area.  The middleman responded by saying it was the best quality of wood which he had ever purchased and that his customers loved it.

Spiritually, God intended Christianity to be a long lasting, enduring source of heat; a source which continually burns in a person’s life and is fueled primarily by spiritual hardwood which produces a life-sustaining, long-term warmth and comfort.  Many are searching for this type of lifelong, life-changing “heat” when they approach God’s word.  And they are not disappointed.  They both discover and nestle in the warmth of the gospel.

Others want something different when they look to build a spiritual fire with the fuel of Christianity.  Some  simply want the ambiance; the comforting, peaceful looks and sounds which a softer form of Christianity can produce. They welcome any stimulating heat produced, as a nice side benefit, but it’s not really the primary purpose for including a Jesus-based religion in their lives.  For these souls, the “Jesus” fire needs to be quickly and easily ignitable, but  just as easily extinguishable, so that they can enjoy it on an “as needed” basis.

One can find both types of spiritual wood in God’s Word.  The key is to search out and use both types. There are times when we need an easily ignitable source of fuel in order to create an immediate atmosphere of spiritual warmth, comfort, companionship, and security.  However, we need to never forget that exclusively using spiritual softwood to ignite an occasional fire totally defeats the purpose of the cross.  Christianity is never to be used exclusively to produce an ambiance; a visual and audio psychological effect. Our faith in Jesus must produce a life-changing, life-sustaining fire that burns so hot that it can never be extinguished; and only the hardwood of the Gospel can fuel that type of fire.

“Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  (1 Cor. 15:58)


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Go To Church, But Not Because Mama Said To

“Always Be Humble and Kind” went all the way to the top of the charts.  Tim McGraw recorded the country favorite, but it was written by Lori McKenna. Mrs. McKenna wrote the song as a poetic way of reminding her children of several noble practices she hopes they will implement throughout their lives.  Going to church is one of those practices.  The fourth line of the song exhorts, “Go to church ’cause your mama says to.”

Often, the writers of songs, TV shows, movies, and books will inadvertently express an attitude or motivation which resides in the hearts of much of the populace.  Perhaps they have observed it within themselves, perhaps they have observed it in others, or perhaps the expression just naturally fits and completes their work of art.  Either way, the author embeds the phrase within the piece and fans hear it repeated over and over.

“Go to church ’cause your mama says to” is one of those inadvertent phrases.

Today, many in this world will attend a worship service devoted to the God of the Bible simply because Mama, or Daddy, or some other family member told them to do so as a child.  Through the years, a seed of belief may have been sown on the surface of their heart, but it never deeply embedded itself, and it never grew into faith.  For them, “going to church” was, is, and always will be a family tradition; and nothing more.

When a child is young, “Because I said so!” may prove to be the easiest, quickest, and simplest solution to a Sunday morning conflict, but it should never be the go-to  answer.  Parents must be willing  to take the time at home to describe the love of Jesus to their children, and explain the true motivation behind the Sunday gatherings of the church.  They must take the time to explain the meaning of worship, the motivation for expressing adoration to the creator, and the personal benefit of practicing a sincere faith.  Otherwise, the child’s faith will not mature as he matures, and “going to church” will never become anything more than “going to church.”

Today, as we go to worship, may we all understand that we are going to worship, and not going to church.  May we praise God from a fervent heart; not just carry on a family tradition.  May we teach our children this all important difference.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 ESV)

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24,25 ESV)

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Can We Increase Our SEO With God?

In researching the best way to increase the popularity of a blog, I’ve run across many terms, mnemonics, and acronyms that are unfamiliar to me. Any novice tech geek can easily define them.  SEO is one of those acronyms.  SEO means search engine optimization.  It refers to the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a web search engine’s unpaid results.  The use of highly recommended SEO practices will increase the chances that Google, Bing, Yahoo, or other search engines will easily locate the webpage, and it will be displayed as one of their primary recommended results for a search.

I want my page to continually increase in traffic and to increase in it’s number of repeat readers, so I added a plugin to my site which evaluates each post’s readability and SEO.    Even as I type, the plugin is counting the number of transition words, repeated words, and passive verbs.  It measures the length of each paragraph, evaluates the use of pictures and blank space, and it will list recommendations for improving my post’s readability.  Eventually, the plugin will tell me how I can increase my SEO by modifying the title, slug, and key words.

If I’m going to blog, I want to blog right. I want to be located and recommended by the search engines. I want my readers to come back to my site because they enjoy reading each post.

Spiritually, many of us have a desire to be noticed by God and by Jesus.  Deep down, we believe that there is a formula somewhere in this universe which will increase our visibility and SEO by God’s search engines.  We think that if we conduct our lives in a certain way, Jesus will like what he sees, and this will cause him to regularly return to observe and enjoy the posts we have written by our lives.

But we are mistaken.

God has no search engine because he does not need one.  Although we may feel unnoticeable and undetectable as we are jostled around by the crush of humanity which inhabits this vast universe, God knows the exact number of the hairs on our heads. (Matthew 10:30).   Although God made many promises to humanity as a whole, he made just as many promises to each of us as a unique individual; “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). Although Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1,2), we can assuredly know that he died to save each of us as individuals from the eternal consequences of our sins. (1 John 1:1-10)

May we each accept the loving sacrifice of Jesus so that our sins can be forgiven (Acts 2:36-41). May we each feel the security of God’s arms as he lovingly wraps them around us. (John 14:15-21)

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Snow: Do You Consider It A Blessing or a Curse?

Snow is a prime example of the mixed blessings of God’s creation.

It can be a source of fun, excitement, and anticipation, or a source of extra work and energy sapping dread.

Snow can come in the form of a soft, mesmerizing shower or a bone chilling, frightening blizzard. It can form a beautiful blanket of purity, peace, and tranquility, or it can lay upon the ground as a shroud of destruction, danger, and death. It can be a dream come true or a nightmare transformed into reality.

Snow can be a boon in moving objects by sled or a hindrance in moving them by automobile.

Snow puts nitrogen into the ground and acts as an insulation blanket for the earth, but it also hides the natural food supply from birds and wildlife.

Snow produces appreciation for warm clothing, and warm dry houses.  It produces active empathy and compassion toward those who do not have warm clothing, or warm, dry lodging. It creates opportunities for service, and opportunities for neglect. It creates opportunities for wise decisions based upon careful observations, correct evaluations, and healthy concern for the safety of oneself and others, and it also creates opportunities for making unwise decisions due to lack of observation, under estimating the severity of the situation, and overestimating one’s ability to handle the circumstances.

There are many more ways in which snow can be construed as being a blessing or a curse; it really depends upon our age, responsibilities, attitude, the amount of snow received, the length of time it remains, the  preparations we have made, and the people that surround us.

Snow is an illustration of life in general; to some it is a blessing, to others it is a curse, yet to all, it is a reality with which we must deal.

“He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.” (Psalm 147:16-18 ESV)

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