Weekly Inspiration – 2017 Week 3

Weekly Inspiration – 2017 Week 3

hope | faith | Bible | inspiration | Scripture | Jesus | God | Christ | Lord | Christian | prayer | Catholic | healing | love | strength | cross | family | verses

My very good friend, Daniel Mathews, is guest-authoring this Weekly Inspiration post. It has been an honor to have him in my life and truly a blessing to be a student of the religious proficiency that he brings to the table. He is a Good Sheep of our Great Shepherd and I cherish the time I have with him to sit and reflect on the Good News of the Bible. This is a story that hails from Dan’s recent vacation to the Tampa Bay area.

Just when I thought this trip couldn’t possibly go any better, two experiences took place which… well, you’ll see.

Blessings To Count

As I have done every evening since I got here, I repaired down to the water tonight to watch the gorgeous sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. There was a young married couple standing next to me. The wife asked me if I would mind taking their photograph against that dramatic backdrop, which I did. Then we got to talking. It came out in the conversation that he is a youth minister for his church. He told me that the most important lesson he tries to impart to his students is to be grateful.

HE:     God is so very good to us. If only people would take time to be thankful for all that they have, instead of focusing on what they don’t have, perhaps their attitudes about life would be better. Just listen to all those beautiful sounds… The crashing of the waves, the cries of the seagulls, the live music being played on the beach… And the smell of the salt air, the scent of the barbecues and the fine cigars… How could we not be grateful?

ME:     I quite agree. There is so much for which to be thankful… Of course, standing here on this beach I suppose it’s easy for you and me to say that. Most people on this planet have it a lot harder than we do.

HE:     Perhaps. But they still have blessings to count. Everyone does.

At that point dinner beckoned, and I rose to take my leave. I held my hand out to them and bade them good night. I was a little surprised that he didn’t take my hand. He just stared at me.

SHE:    Mark, Dan is holding his hand out for you to shake.

HE:     (finally extends hand)

ME:     (looks in confusion from him to her, and back again)

HE:     You’ll have to excuse me, Dan. I’m blind.

ME:     (shaking his hand) You see farther than most…

hope | faith | Bible | inspiration | Scripture | Jesus | God | Christ | Lord | Christian | prayer | Catholic | healing | love | strength | cross | family | verses

 In a second way, on this very same night, experiencing the kindness of others and the grace of our God, Dan was enlightened by a simple gesture of a tiki bar guitar player. Cindy, Dan’s dear friend back at home, was certainly on his mind.

 On the way back to my hotel, I was drawn to a musician who was playing at a Tiki Bar. I thought that if I greased his palm he might consider playing a song for Cindy (with whom I was speaking on my cell phone). I did, and he said into the phone, “Cindy, this one’s for you.” Then he played on his guitar and sang “Souvenirs” by Jimmy Buffet, to Cindy’s great delight. When it was over, he took the phone from me.

HE:     I hope you enjoyed that, Cindy! It was a pleasure to play for you. God bless you.

SHE:    (clapping over the phone) Thank you!

I had never heard the song before, but the final verse stuck with me:

“Pieces, bits and pieces
Add up through the years,
I’ve collected a small fortune
In souvenirs.”

What a day. What a night. WHAT A LIFE!
I bid you all a heartfelt good night.
Daniel Sean Mathews
Tampa Bay, Florida
January 16, In the Year of Our Lord 2017

hope | faith | Bible | inspiration | Scripture | Jesus | God | Christ | Lord | Christian | prayer | Catholic | healing | love | strength | cross | family | verses

Weekly Inspiration for 2017 Week 2

Weekly Inspiration for 2017 Week 2

hope | faith | Bible | inspiration | Scripture | Jesus | God | Christ | Lord | Christian | prayer | Catholic | healing | love | strength | cross | family | verses

Since I was literally stumped by this week’s calendar verses, I decided to take a different route this week: I received a lot of get well cards when I was in the hospital, recovering from surgery. This was the text on the card that hit me the hardest. I think it speaks volumes to God’s love for us and how we can use it to propel us into a new year of health, happiness and prosperity.

Acknowledging His presence the whole year through

“Take hold of your gentle Father’s hand…Walk in His Son’s footsteps, for they will never lead you astray…Let the Holy Spirit fill your soul with the joy of the season and the peace of knowing how deeply you’re loved. Whatever your dreams, whatever your hopes, may they come true for you in the new year through God’s leading and His loving grace.”

HOW GREAT IS YOUR GOODNESS…    – PSALMS 31:19

psalms

He is with you Always

The first step is to acknowledge His presence and know that He is with you always. Take His hand. Not just when you need it, but before you need it. Let Him guide you through the fields of challenges you will face each and every day…be they large or small. With your hand in His, you are already a step ahead of meeting those challenges with strength, grace and humility on your side.

Footsteps in the Sand

We all remember the “Footsteps in the Sand” poem. As God walks with us, there are two sets of footsteps and we eventually ask where He has gone when there remains only one. “It was then that I carried you,” says God. I believe that taking His hand is the first step to having a relationship with Him and when times are good, you hop, skip and you jump with joy as you travel together. When times get tough, if you’re already holding His hand, it’s that much easier for Him to pull you close, pick you up, and carry you through to better times. And when it’s your time, He will literally carry you to the Light. Stay close to Him, and allow him to walk beside you…welcome Him to be by your side.

footprints

Walk in the footsteps of Jesus, “for they will never lead you astray.” The Bible says that we were created in His image. I have to believe that to be created in His image, it seems only logical that we were divinely intended to be like Him in every way. Now, the devil and the sin of man have led us astray as a people, but if we walk in His footsteps, and abide by His teachings, we can come back to Him. Everything we need answered in our life, is addressed in the Bible and by heeding his direction and doing our best to walk in His footsteps, we can come around to humility and hope in the glory of Life Everlasting.

A Christ for All Seasons

The season can be any season. I know this card is referring to Christmas and the rebirth and dedication of a new year, but we should let the Holy Spirit fill our soul with the joy of every season. Most especially, we should rejoice at the birth of Christ, but think of how fulfilling our life could be if we were rejoicing around every corner of the calendar at the wonder that is Jesus Christ. He has no timeline for your salvation. Come to Him whenever, and as soon as you feel so moved.

Unimaginable Love

He loves you more than you can imagine and whether or not you think you love Him at any given moment, HE LOVES YOU, regardless. There is something unique and lovable about every human being, and whether or not you can find it, God knows what that thing is, and frankly, He probably has a whole list. He loves you EXACTLY as you are at this moment. With all your faults and your failings, you probably hold yourself to a much higher standard than God does. Sure, we need to try to follow Him, but as we fall short, God loves us no less. This, I believe is what this verse means by “the peace of knowing how deeply you’re loved.” We can’t comprehend the depth of God’s love for us. But we can certainly accept it and share it with someone else. Reach out a hand to someone who needs it and see if you can’t get that struggling soul to reach out their other hand to God, with your help.

How do your plans and God’s plan match up?

“Whatever your dreams, whatever your hopes, may they come true for you in the new year through God’s leading and His loving grace.” This too, is a powerful statement. “Through God’s leading,” I believe is the most important part. We all have dreams, we all have hopes. Many times, they don’t line up with God’s plan. That doesn’t mean He thinks your plan is bad or your timing is right. I know for sure that when my dreams in life fell short, my hopes seemed smashed, it wasn’t because they weren’t noble or I wasn’t worthy. It most often meantt that I had some learning to do first and some challenges to overcome on my way to earning the right to see these come true in my life. Many I’m still waiting on, but God hears my prayers and I trust that in His time – which may not even be when I still walk this Earth – all of my hopes and dreams will come true. I bow to His great plan and accept that I have a duty and a purpose in this world that take precedence over my earthly rewards. We’ll leave that for Heaven…I hear it’s nice there.

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Please see the other posts in “Inspiration”:

Weekly Inspiration of 2017 Week 1

Weekly Inspiration – 2017 Week 3

Grandpa Prayer

Grandpa Prayer

tributes | family | love | honor | to mom | to dad | siblings | cousins | aunts | uncles | grandparents | memorial | funeral | speeches | eulogy | dies | letters | sad | death | thoughts | children | kids

Once in a while, or should I say, as often as possible, I like to remember those who have gone before us. The personal blessing of this blog I’ve created is that I have a record of the important things in my life, all the while, hopefully sharing some things that can help others and relate to their lives as well. We’re never alone. Sometimes we feel alone, but someone’s always going through something similar and whether they are a friend or family member – or a stranger – we can certainly try to take comfort in the embrace of someone who is experiencing what you are.

On April 11, 2014, my mother and our dear extended family lost its patriarch, Francis J. O’Connor, of Sarasota, Florida. My mother was the eldest daughter of nine kids and always exemplified leadership in the family. Myself, as the eldest of four, and the second oldest of 31 grandchildren, often had occasion to step into a leadership role as well. I had the absolute pleasure of leading our family in prayer as we gathered in the funeral home before moving to the church for Grandpa’s funeral. I’ll share with you my dedication and prayer, and hope that it inspires you if ever put into a similar position:

Grandpa had a fantastic, warm, jovial smile, didn’t he?!  Imagine that your smile was so revered that every time someone who knew you, and loved you, smiled at someone else, they would think of you. What an incredible legacy to leave. I’m going to think of Grandpa when I share my smile, and the joy he exuded will live on because of it. Let’s all honor him by smiling more. Smile at each other, smile when you talk to God, and most importantly, smile at a stranger every day because you might be the only one who made the effort to do so. You’ll make someone’s day. 

Lord, thank you for this cherished time together with family. Help us to see the very best in everyone and to live by your example of peace. As your servant Fran did, help us to lead enthusiastically, rejoice with humility and to serve with compassion. And for all of those who are in need of your strength on this day, we pray that you will offer your healing hands and loving heart. Bless our precious time together, comfort us in our sorrow, lead us to greener pastures, and give us the conviction to do your goodwill, as Grandpa did. Amen.

To paraphrase some of his obituary, “Fran took great joy in his role of loving grandfather to 31 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Fran was a true family man who drew much satisfaction from his ‘one, big, happy family.’

family

Fran was inquisitive by nature and strongly supported education. After completing high school, he enlisted in the Navy, serving during WWII. He also continued his education, studying mathematics and law, eventually becoming a member of the Ohio State Bar Association.

Fran worked his entire professional career for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, a national grocery store chain. He was the Director of Budgets and Controls, when he retired in 1987.

Fran loved the water. He enjoyed swimming in pools, lakes and oceans. He also enjoyed tennis and golf, especially in his retirement years at Palm Aire Country Club. He made lots of good friends there and at his church, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, where he was a founding member of the Knights of Columbus.”

gramgramp

I loved my Grandpa dearly. I had the utmost respect for what he accomplished in his life. He worked for the same company his whole life, affording his wife to be home with NINE children, all of whom are incredible, loving, compassionate people. He and my Grandma were best friends, always by each others’ side in everything they did, until the very end. His smile was infectious and his heart bigger than you can imagine one man’s chest could hold.

Weekly Inspiration of 2017 Week 1

Weekly Inspiration of 2017 Week 1

depression | anxiety | sadness | bipolar | therapy | mental health | therapist | OCD | suicidal | recovery | overcoming | struggles | battling | treatment | medication | severe | support | coping | alone | feelings | demons | inspiration

For Christmas, my beautiful and thoughtful wife gave me a “Daily Verse” calendar in which each day lists a short line from the Bible. Since I find searching online overwhelming to begin with, it would be difficult for me to find a ‘daily devotional’ that I could settle on, to be the one to follow out of what I’m sure are thousands. Plus, I wouldn’t have the discipline to get onto the site each and every day, without being distracted or more likely, falling behind. Finally, while I already own a few books of daily devotionals, again, I lack the discipline to open them up on a regular basis in order to use them to their full benefit.

 

So, I loved the idea of a calendar that can keep me on track! I have a daily verse to read and reflect on and I know right away if I’m falling behind. I keep this calendar hung right above my computer at my desk and I vow to keep up with its passages. I may not use them all for this blog, but with a goal of reflecting weekly, I’m sure there will be two or three each week worth emphasizing.

At the same time, as a brand new blogger, I was starting to get concerned that I may run out of material eventually. I’m now confident that won’t be the case, as with this calendar in hand and the Bible in my back pocket, I know there are endless subjects with which to reflect on. I hope this is the first of 52 posts, for starters!

Now, I am no pastor. I have no formal religious education. So, I encourage you: Take my reflections with a grain of salt and if anything feels “a bit off” in your mind, run it by your own pastor, please. I’ll start with Thursday the 5th, which is from Philippians 4:13.

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

Wow, could this be more appropriate for the six weeks my family has just endured? I was three weeks in the hospital and three weeks of recovery at home. My wife kept working her teaching job, getting the kids up extra early in order to get them to daycare, which is usually my job. Then, picks them up after school and gets them home for dinner and the whole bath-time, brush-your-teeth, get-to-bed routine…for two kids, aged four and one. My wife has been so strong through this ordeal and I know she owes it to the strength she gets from our Lord. She, unlike me, does follow a daily devotional online, and often leaves me notes before work with her favorite verses. I really appreciate that she takes the few minutes to do that once in a while. She knows me, and knows the verses that I will connect with.

Thankfully, my parents arrived from Florida shortly after my surgery, to help Sybil with the kids’ morning routine and be with us. As devout Catholics, I know for sure that my parents’ strength comes from the Lord as well. I’ve witnessed it my entire life. As for myself, two separate visitors of mine at the hospital had brought me “comfort crosses.” These are small, usually hand-made wooden crosses, meant to be held in your hand to feel close to Jesus. I literally cried when the first one was handed to me, because it was exactly what I needed. For the rest of my three week stay, I had that cross in hand around every turn. I endured a lot of pain, a lot of anxiety and thus, I prayed a lot. And to me, the cross in hand seemed to multiply the effectiveness of my prayers and certainly did its job of comforting me. The more I worried, the more I grinned, the harder I squeezed that cross. I know He was there with me. I could feel Him.

Most importantly, where do you garner your strength? If we set the Bible aside, there are a limited number of answers: The support of my family; my physical strength; the depths of my passion or enthusiasm; the breadth of my intellect. Are there more? Maybe a few. When we allow the Bible to direct and inspire our hearts and minds, the scope and scale of our strength becomes absolutely limitless! We can do all things in Him! There are no challenges that aren’t addressed at some level in Scripture.

So, Friday the 6th is the Epiphany:  In Christianity, the Epiphany refers to the realization that Christ is the son of God. Western churches generally celebrate the Adoration of the Magi (the Three Kings) as the Incarnation of the infant Christ. Today, the calendar reads, from 1 Peter 1:3.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

This is not a verse that needs much explanation. This is one of the most basic ideas of Hope that comes from the Bible: Through the resurrection of Jesus, we are reborn into a world with renewed Hope. I haven’t yet published them, but I have many a blog post written already about my struggles with depression, and all of my healing can be traced back to Hope. I pray that you have Hope in your life and that you recognize that our Hope comes from Him. Stay tuned for much more on this subject.

Finally, one of my favorite Bible quotes. Saturday the 7th comes from John 13:34.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

The first part of this verse, “A new command I give you:,” I didn’t know how to reflect on. I was unsure of its meaning. As I said, I am not a Bible scholar. My wife, however, has a significantly more amount of training than I do. As she read my post, she taught me about this phrase. Why is this a “new” command? She explained that this is a reference to the Old Testament versus the New Testament. In the Old, there is the notion of an “eye for an eye and tooth for tooth,” which this New Testament phrase is often compared to. It represents the somewhat harshness, or matter-of-fact, crime-and-equal-punishment sentiment found in the Old Testament. Sybil said that the prophets often spoke of the ‘Mighty King’ and ‘Rule Enforcer’ to come, whereas the Savior who arrived was in contrast, a humble, gentle, forgiving soul. So, the fact that loving your neighbor as yourself or as the Lord loves you is referred to as a ‘new command,’ speaks to the hard and fast rule of law depicted by the Old Testament versus what in fact, was to manifest into the true Grace of God.

Then, certainly love is one of the most talked about themes in Scripture. This one speaks specifically about loving your neighbor, even to the extent that Jesus loves us. Is that possible? Can we possibly love another to the depth that Jesus loves us? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But what he does is raises the bar extremely high. He gives us something to reach for, which He thinks is possible. Can you imagine the type of world we could live in, if our love for each other approached the level of love that Jesus has for each of us? Something to shoot for!

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So, this has been my first week of devotional reflections. My hope is that by following my blog – and if you’re so inclined to appreciate the love of Christ in your life – that you’ll find that following a weekly devotional easier to stick to than a daily one. Remember, I’m no religious authority, but I think as a Christian community, if we can share our own personal thoughts on how Scripture reaches us, then there’s value in that. I hope that you’ll comment and share your thoughts on the idea of helping each other understand the Bible.

Weekly Inspiration for 2017 Week 2

Weekly Inspiration – 2017 Week 3

Waiting for Noah

Waiting for Noah

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For most of my life, even as young as about second grade, I envisioned my life with a big…bigger than normal…family of my own. My mother had four brothers and four sisters and my dad had two of each. I was the first of four. So, I was always accustomed to lots of kids and loved being around the little ones. Naturally, I always saw myself as a family man and had designs on having a large family of my own. But, of course, life takes different turns, doesn’t it? Not having gone to college right after high school, I felt like I missed out on finding a soul mate early. I have no regrets, of course, because the love I did find eventually was completely meant for me and a gift from God. But, we were both a little older by the time it was time to have kids. Anyway, that’s just some background. When we were finally pregnant, I was ecstatic! It was certainly a lifelong dream come true to have the anticipation of my very own flesh and blood reincarnated into my very own ‘mini-me’…I couldn’t wait! Here’s a poem I wrote for Noah, about a month before he was born:

Daddy’s waiting patiently

I can’t wait for you to see

All the things your mommy and me

Will show you when you come to be.

Things like hope and faith and love

All the blessings from above

So many friends you have to meet

Our love for you no one can beat.

Come on, my son, open your eyes

To a world of vast, amazing size

There’s so much to see and do

We can’t wait to share with you!

A few days later, he was here! After about 12 hours of labor, I got to witness one of the great miracles that God shares with us. For nine months, he was but a silent blob, poking around in there, peaceful as can be. When he finally came out, screaming immediately and moving around like crazy it was such a sight to behold. I couldn’t believe how much energy he had right from the start…we knew we were in for quite a life change.

noah-2

I remember my father telling me the story of my birth. I was his first born and he too described the experience as a pure miracle. On his way home from the hospital, after my mom gave birth to me, he stopped at church and just sat and prayed and prayed in silence, in total and complete awe of what he had just witnessed. It truly is a miracle for parents to behold and treasure. I pray that every parent feels the presence of God and the absolute astonishment that goes along with witnessing a new life coming into the world.

sybil-n-noah

Four years later, Noah is practically a young man. Isn’t that just an unbeatable smile? Adept at conversation, creative, musical and compassionate, he is in love with his baby brother Elliott. We are so blessed. They are the light of my life. Cherish every minute you have with your kids. That doesn’t mean that every moment is going to be wonderful, there are some frustrating, loud – how’d I get myself into this? – moments. But, whenever you can turn those hiccups into a smile or a hug or a victory of any kind, appreciate that there was a challenge presented to you that you could meet, and carry on with great hope for the next amazing moment. They are around each and every corner, waiting for your embrace!

Please post a comment about the first time you laid eyes on your precious child. Share the magic with us and let us know how it made you feel and how it changed your life. 

Grandpa Prayer

We’re in this together…

We’re in this together…

Introduction | Family | Wife | Kids | Motivation | Vision | Mission | Home | Personal | Icebreaker | Myself

The wedding song I share with my wife, Sybil, is “God Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts. It is certainly a metaphor for my life…our life. And I’m sure many of yours. You have an idea about how things are going to take shape when you’re in high school, and soon enough, the paths you take are like nothing you’d ever imagined happening the way you expected.

Mine, I’m quite certain, is a journey not unlike millions of others. I’m not special. I’m not a pastor, or a successful businessperson, a high-powered executive or some kind of super dad or super husband. I’m no expert on anything, but I’d like to think I have something to offer.

We all have something to offer. We all learn valuable lessons around every corner of our lives. Most of us take them in stride and appreciate their value, hoping that when the same situation makes its way around again, we are better equipped to handle it the second time around. It’s called learning and growing.

Again, I don’t pretend to contend that my learning is very much different from yours and certainly no more profound, but since I enjoy writing and sharing with others, I’ve decided to document some of my life’s struggles and triumphs with the mere hope of inspiring others who may face some the same challenges and grapple with similar reflections on life.

I intend to share a lot of life experiences that you may find unique and interesting. My surgeries, my battles with depression, my return to Faith, and a number of just fun short essays meant to make you smile. I hope that some of you can benefit from its posts. I have written many of them already, but will release them gradually, a couple each week. Please feel free to provide some feedback. I value your opinions. Thank you!

See other posts about my family:

MQDs

My Marriage Proposal…doin’ it right!

Grandpa Prayer

Waiting for Noah

About Me