Thoughts on faith, forgiveness and achievement
Susan and I have a wondrous morning routine. At 6:00 each morning, we stumble out, coffee up, crack open our Bibles, read and pray (more like chat with God, our Friend and Lord). Then we go over our prayer list, asking God to bless individual members of our far-flung blood family and faith family, including (and this gets easier the more we do it) those who may have caused us pain. It is very routine and some days feels mechanical. But on others …. we feel guided and filled with the spirit. Our prayers do benefit others. The next time the freight train of life misses you by a hair’s breadth, consider that Susan and I (or someone else) just may have been praying for you.
Just as important: Our prayer time grounds us and energizes us for the tasks of our day and strengthens the deep roots of our relationship, not just with God, but with each other. Sometimes I think of this morning time as our high-energy spiritual breakfast. The days when we have been unable to pray together tend to feel a little less focused.
My point: Pray, and whenever possible, pray together. “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). I cannot tell you how prayer works or even exactly how to do it, or even why sometimes. It is not a science, though there are formulas to help us along. However, if you want to get to know God better, read and pray – not just once, but every day, even if only for ten or fifteen minutes. Just remember: Prayer is the most powerful force in the universe. Yes, give money and bang nails and feed the poor in the name of God, but all of these pale in comparison to the power of prayer. Pray! — jri
I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day!
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn’t have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask!”
I tried to come into God’s presence;
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“Why, child, you didn’t knock!”
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”
I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray!
– Grace L. Naessens (“I Didn’t Have Time”)
Susan and I go through the “official” Bible readings for the day, and we also read the daily devotion from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, a book we strongly recommend. Sometimes we pause in the middle of those reading to discuss them, sometimes admitting, “I don’t get it.” In addition to our readings, however, we also just chat or visit with God. And we often laugh or, yes, complain. (There’s none of this “Oh, great and powerful and all wondrous God, hail to thee,” etc. Instead, our prayers often start with something like: “Hey, God, good morning. John and Susan here.”) We talk, and we always make a point of finding something – anything – for which we are especially grateful. Yes, God is our creator and our God. But He is also a deeply, totally loving and caring friend. Susan and I cherish those morning visits and would miss them if we ever stopped.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net July 21, 2014
I’m a big fan of local ministries, of trying to make a difference in our own back yards. So, this week, I was delighted to be led to a young couple, Jen and Beau Robson, both in their 20s, who are working to end sex trafficking in Gainesville, Georgia. They’re doing it with Christ and with love through several organizations, including Straight Street Ministries and Beautiful Feet.
These are positive, love-based ministries: No picketing strip clubs or posting customers’ photos of Facebook, or puncturing tires in parking lots. Just the opposite. Instead…
- Jen goes right into the lions’ den of our one local strip club in Gainesville and visits with the girls in their dressing rooms, sharing the gospel of love and a better life. (I was surprised to learn that the management of the club has no objection; they seem to feel that it is good for morale.) As I understand it, she also brings packets of supplies and reading material for the girls.
- Jen and Beau are part of a hotline. They take calls from girls looking to get out of the strip-prostitution-pornography business. Sometimes they just talk and listen, letting the girls know that someone out there loves them. They also take a proactive approach, calling the numbers published by women on Craigslist and other sites offering sex. “Sometimes we get hung up on,” says Jen. “Sometimes a guy interrupts the call. But sometimes we get to talk, and the girls – and sometimes they’re women as old as in their 50s – appreciate our message.”
- Sometimes, they do rescue runs to pick up girls, sometimes as far away as Savannah. (A related organization, as I understand it, devotes itself to putting their toll-free number in hotels, truck stop restrooms, and other places for girls/women who want to get out of the business.)
The point: These two Bible-grounded people do not just talk the talk; they walk the walk. They are making a big difference in a little way to stop a major problem of sex trafficking in this country. And they’re doing it locally.
How can we help? Check them out on Beautiful Feet Ministries on Facebook and/or Straight Street Revolution. They need volunteers and funds. (They’re also doing a 5k run/walk August 30th to support their backpack ministries that provides food and other supplies for families, since poverty and hunger are factors in why some girls end up selling themselves.)
For our part, we have invited Jen and Beau to speak and spread their message at our Saturday Men’s Prayer Breakfast at The Highlands, Cleveland Highway, Gainesville, Georgia, on July 26, 9:00 a.m. to10:30. We’d love to have you join us. — jri
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who, brings good news, the good news of peace an salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!”
- Isaiah 52:7
I do not know exactly what has drawn me to this ministry; however, when I stop being so logical and practical, I do know it is God doing the leading, which is as it should be. I have a wife, two daughters and four granddaughters. I guess that is one of my motivations. It is through the rampant explosion of pornography and the acceptance of paying money for young girls to lap dance and more in “gentlemen’s clubs” that our daughters are not only being objectified as sexual objects, but many have come to see themselves as nothing more than that. I’m trying to make a difference with my one small skill: writing. My first short story, “The Prostitute,” which is the introduction to a novel-in-progress, Daughters of an Abandoned Civilization, has just been published. I invite you to read it online in Wilderness House Literary Review. God bless.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net July 11, 2014
As some of you know, I have been working on a novel about the sex trade. The working title is Daughters of an Abandoned Civilization. It is more than half done and coming along nicely. Along the way, I have also been carving out free-standing short stories and submitting them for publication.
Though a professional writer for around 40 year, I have never had any fiction published. No takers … until now.
So, I am pleased – more like delighted and thrilled – to announce that, finally, one of my stories, “The Prostitute,” has been accepted and appears in the current online edition of Wilderness House Literary Review. It is actually the introduction to the novel. Though a bit gritty, it speaks of hope and the indomitable human spirit.
I invite you to read the piece by clicking on the above link and scrolling down to the fiction section. Mine is the lead short story. Thanks for your support, and I hope you enjoy the piece, which I am counting on being the first of many.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
July 7, 2014
Susan and I are blessed to be surrounded by people who are joyful, even in the face of ferocious setbacks. Many have battled (or continue to battle) cancer, emotional and financial challenges, as well as health issues, on top of the usual, everyday struggles of daily living. Yet they are joyful, positive people.
Oh, I am sure they have dark, dark, two a.m. times when they weep or indulge in God-challenging self-pity. However, mostly, they tend to be grateful, thankful. Amazing. No, they’re not mindless idiots. Far from it: They are intelligent, caring men and women of faith, whose hearts and souls and minds and eyes have been opened to the truth that God is a good and loving God, always. Their focus is on God and others, not themselves.
My point: People who have God, who have learned that He is the real deal and can be trusted — even when He does not always give them everything they want or think they need – these men and women have something special. Best of all, this something special is available to everyone, without exception. No matter how wicked our ways or hopeless, beaten up or beaten down we feel, all we have to do is open our hearts and let God in. Just trust. He will not let us down. — jri“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
- Zechariah (Luke 1:78-79)
How to be Happy! Whether on the front cover or not, that is the title of most how-to books. That is why we read seven-things-you-need-to-know lists on the internet. For pretty much all of us, it is our quest. It is why we marry our spouse (hoping he/she will make us happy); it is why we work hard to earn money for the big house or fancy car (hoping it will give us satisfaction and a sense of being special); it is why we go on cruises or all-inclusive vacations (hoping it will relieve our stress and give us peace and a joy). We chase these things, but nothing works. There is always that something missing. What is it? You know the answer. Imagine waking up each morning knowing you are loved unconditionally, that there is someone watching over you? Imagine waking up each morning happy, joyful, fulfilled? It is faith, giving yourself to Our Lord, Jesus. That is the “secret” to happiness. Enjoy.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net June 26, 2014
There was something different, something special about the two men who drove up my driveway. They were coming to take down and haul away the bodaciously huge shed on our property. Yes, they were positive and friendly, but I’ve met my share of con artists, grifters and cheaters in my time, and I did not know these two, so I was a bit wary.
Even after one of them offered a heartfelt “Amen!” when they had successfully backed the truck into a tight spot without hitting anything, I missed it. Finally, as we chatted casually on one of their breaks, we joyfully discovered that – like a family reunion — we were brothers in faith, three men who took our faith seriously.
Only then did I realize what had been different about them all along: It was the joy in their eyes. They were men who knew who they were: confident without being arrogant, enthusiastic without being anxious, caring without being insipid or sappy. They were comfortable speaking of God and, yes, they bowed their heads in thanksgiving before eating their lunch. They were men of faith.
My point: God blessed us with faith. Do others recognize Jesus in us by our attitudes and our smiles, by our joy? Do we share our faith, let it shine so others can see it? Because if we do, if we let the amazing love and peace and joy of God radiate from us, if we do not hold back, but instead let the Spirit shine, they will know us by our love. – jri
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
Like the men walking to Emmaus who did not recognize Jesus at first, I did not initially see Our Lord in these men. (Nor did they see Him in me, though one said, “John, we were going to witness to you before we left today.”) But once we recognized our Lord in each other, it was a joyful, heart-overflowing reunion of brothers in faith. Thank you, Adam and Tony, for your faith and for sharing it with me. God bless you.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net June 24, 2014
[Sorry, but this is not going to be a happy, feel-good posting]
Click a porn site and destroy a child’s life. It’s a simple as that. First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Yes, I’ve done it, too. I know the mixed feeling of fascination and revulsion. It can be addictive, gentlemen, if we let porn get hold of us.
So, maybe it’s time for all of us to stop. Pornography is directly related to child prostitution, sex trafficking, the slave trade. Call it what you like, but it is a supply and demand business, and business is booming, yes, even right here in the United States.
Just a few stats (and since this is a crime-world business, the numbers are hard to document exactly): The number of prostitutes worldwide is 40,000,000. The average age a girl becomes a prostitute is 14. Some third-world girls are tricked into the business by promises of jobs in foreign countries, especially the U.S.; some, sadly, see prostitution as their only choice to make a living. Typically, a prostitute is beaten 12 times a year. Every second, more than 28,000 (mostly men) view pornography. More than 100,000 websites offer illegal child pornography.
My point: This is a supply-and-demand business. Every time someone clicks on a porn site or visits a “gentlemen’s club” (a nice euphemism for a titty bar and backroom brothel), another child is put at risk. If no one clicked, the business would shrink.“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
- Jesus Christ (Matthew 18:6)
The more I have investigated the world of sex trafficking, the more horrified I have become. I am currently writing a novel (working title: Daughters of an Abandoned Civilization) that I hope will in some small way increase awareness and held lead to the decline of sex trafficking. Please pray that the book goes well (it’s about half finished and is showing promise) and that it finds a publisher. Thanks.
A cancer diagnosis was a death sentence when I was a kid. Patients were told, “Get your affairs in order.” I do not know the exact five-year survival rate (how “success” was measured), but it was slight, regardless of the type of cancer.
Today, I am delighted to see that I am surrounded by cancer survivors. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer, for example, today is an impressive 89.2 percent. That is due to massive research in finding ways to prevent, fight, and, someday, find a cure for cancer.
My point: I invite you to help find the cure so that our children never have to even think about cancer. My cousin’s son, Jeff Hunsaker (technically, he’s my first cousin, once removed, in case that sort of stuff interests you), is riding to raise money for cancer research.
Please help by clicking here and make a difference by making a generous donation. Please take two minutes now to go to the site and make a donation. Thank you, and good luck, Jeff. The world needs more people like you.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net June 16, 2014
Prayer is talking to God. Mostly, I think, our prayers tend to be to ask God for favors. Well, I figured out a while back that I had no idea what I really wanted. (Actually, “wanted” is a lot different from “needed.”) So, when it comes to me, I try not to ask for the new Mercedes, the winning lottery ticket, or even relief from my routine bouts with poison oak. God knows what I need. I just ask God to bless me and guide me … and give me patience and faith. And I pray to give God thanks for all my blessings, both recognized and not. No laundry list of favors.
The prayers that make the most sense to me are prayers for others. This is where, in the Bible, we see Jesus doing His best work: when friends and loved ones come to Him and ask healing for a loved one. It is because of their faith that Jesus cures the ailing friend or family member.
My point: Pray for others. Especially with our non-believing friends and family members, you may be the only one asking God to bless them. Make a list. Ask God to bless and guide them every day. – jri“Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.’”
- Matthew 9:2
Looking back, I realize that there was a whole battalion of prayer warriors asking God to watch over my cousins and me (and many others, I am sure). The ringleader was my Italian grandmother and her sister-in-law, who did in fact pray continuously, their prayers, I believe today, saving us from the foolishness of our often slightly misspent younger days. For Stella and Tessie and all the others who prayed for us who at the time did not have the sense to pray for ourselves, thank you.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net June 10, 2014
I know, I know, it’s way out of season to be quoting Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I do so only because I was marveling recently at the decades-long transformation in my own philosophy. In 1985, when I started my consulting / writing business, I was an Ayn Rand objectivist, a hard-nosed capitalist. (Rand is best known for her terrific novel, Atlas Shrugged.) To quote Rand directly, I believed in “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
Honest, I truly believed that, and I was one hard-nosed, full-of-myself businessman, not all that likable. I was not so much driven by money or success, but just … driven. It was kind of a mindless striving, and I was awfully good at it. (Looking back, I may not have known where I was going, but I was making darn good time!)
Today? I guess I am the transformed Ebenezer Scrooge. (Actually, the quote comes from Scrooge’s dead partner, Jacob Marley: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! “) I let God in. No, there was no burning-bush, bright-light moment, but a gradual, gentle awakening.
Slowly, I began to realize that life is not about my striving to reach some vague top spot or building an edifice to my own tiny mortality, or paying for one more Caribbean vacation or refurbished back deck. No, I began to realize that life – a meaningful life — is about others, about helping those who struggle and, just as importantly, about allowing others to help us when we struggle. (And it is about growing in and sharing God’s Word through what is known as The Great Commission, but that is a topic for another day.)
My point: Put people first! To quote Pastor Rick Warren, “It’s not about me.” It’s about others. I have come to believe that a life lived for self is an empty, sad, oh so logical existence, while a life lived for others is a joyful, purpose-driven and exciting adventure, one richly rewarding, though not always in gold. – jri“Therefore I … beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
- Ephesians 4:1-2
Last evening a friend and I drove to Set Free Mission, a men’s drug/alcohol rehab mission in Gainesville, to join them in their Wednesday night Bible study lesson. We’ve gotten to know many of these broken men over the last few months. They appreciate our coming, and we appreciate the opportunity to be there, meet with them, and hear God’s Word. Now that is an evening well spent. Amen.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net June 5, 2014
I have been tested … and found lacking. Every once in a while – and yesterday was such a day – I hit a wall. I call it my “sick and tired wall.” A series of small setbacks (poison oak, coupled with agitation over steroids; a wall full of rejection slips about my writing submission; etc.), concern over Susan’s health (please keep praying for healing of her gastro issues), and one potentially serious between-the-eyes disappointment (possible loss of teaching jobs this fall) all came together. And I roared – no, not at Susan, but at God, telling Him, complete with expletives that this is my life, not some stupid game, and I am a human being, not a pawn.
God just listened patiently. And lovingly, gently, Susan reminded me with a question: “Have either of us ever been happier in our life than we are now?” So, during the night, God and I talked; actually, I just listened. My heart became filled with an understanding of how God’s plans for me had all been blessings, even those that certainly seemed like setbacks at the time. We live with more than enough in rich abundance … in spite of illnesses and financial setbacks and irritations both minor and huge.
My point: Faith is about believing and trusting, about being grateful for the good times (though I’m slowly, so slowly learning that all times are good times) and patient during the challenging times, because God is always with us – ALWAYS – and He knows our needs, our frets, our many weaknesses and concerns. We’re allowed to fail, to doubt, to throw temper tantrums now and then. God forgives and continues to love us. – jri“So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong winds and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’”
- Matthew 14:29-31
The other day, Susan’s daughter and almost-four-year-old grandson came to visit. When it was time to leave, John Christopher threw a tantrum, making it clear that he wanted to stay. He huffed and puffed and wiggled and sniffled. Susan patiently and firmly waited him out. Hmmm. Looking back on that small incident, I have to think of myself throwing a tantrum at God yesterday. “No, God, not fair. No. No. No.” But God patiently and firmly waited me out. “Sorry about that, Lord. What do you want to do today?”John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net May 29, 2014
Today is my brother’s birthday. Lou turns 67. We sometimes talk three times a week; sometimes maybe once a month. We try to do a vacation together every year or so and now it is nice to have Susan as part of the mix, though her common phrase has already become, “Now, boys, someone’s gonna get hurt if you keep that up.” (“Yeah, but he hit me first!”) And this in our 60s.
As I am fond of saying, and Lou never contradicts this fact, “Yes, he is the older, but I am smarter, more mature, and better looking.”
Oh, and did I mention he’s my best friend and favorite brother (albeit my only one)? Last year, when I had open heart surgery, Susan called and, unbeckoned, he flew from Maine to Georgia that day. (Of course, he did drink up all my wine when he got here.) Actually, that wasn’t that unusual, really … the coming part, not the wine part. My two daughters did the same: Nicky flew in from Seattle, Angie from Wisconsin. (I’m convinced that is why I was up and out of the hospital in three days … partially because I was surrounded by love, partially to save what was left of my wine cellar.)
What we have going for us is the pull of family. I describe it in one word: Blood! My brother and I weren’t close until we were in our 30s. (Sometimes blood takes aging to mature.) Even then, we spent an entire year sometime later when I wouldn’t speak to him. (This runs in our family. My son is snubbing me for 18 months and counting. He’ll come around someday, in his and God’s sweet time. In the meantime, prayers, please.)
Blood is why Susan and I can go to Florida to see cousins we hadn’t laid eyes on in decades, and there was no get-acquainted time. Instant comfort. No friend can replace blood. (Chrissy, you are blood, thank you.) No friend will be there like blood when the real chips are down. Blood is why I love to hear from my Cousin Karen (“love ya like salt!”) in West Virginia; or Mike in Maine, for whom I cried with thankful joy last week to hear that he and his children are reconciled; or Cousin Tom in Kansas, who lives a joyous life surrounded by children and grandchildren; and, yes, all those who I have forgotten to mention.
My points: 1) Happy birthday, Bro. I am grateful and thankful for you; 2) The same for all my other blood, even the ones I would love to hit with a stick from time to time. It’s all family. Ain’t nothin’ better! – jri
Susan and I are further blessed, wondrously blessed with a living, loving, dynamic faith community through our church. We don’t just show up, shut up, and sit down on Sundays. Yes, we worship God, but we also get to see our friends, everyday men and women who are followers of Christ the best they can.
I am in awe at how these men and women step up in loving kindness. For example, when Susan’s brother became ill with an aneurism, he was never alone in his hospital room. Never. And when I was recovering from my surgery last year, I would open my eyes and see sometimes one, sometimes several men and women sitting and praying. That’s a great feeling that, live or die, I was not alone. Thank you all. And Happy Birthday, Brother. Love you all.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net May 21, 2014
I don’t dance. I “bop” now and then crossing a room, but I don’t dance. I’m too constrained, I think. But I got the biggest kick watching two young boys, maybe three years old each, jumping and dancing to the sound of the praise music in church last Sunday. Kind of made me jealous. The music was great, and I was half-tempted to grab Susan and do a little jitter bug with her in the aisle. (But, alas, too constrained.)
You see, The Highlands United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Georgia, is what a friend, an Episcopal Priest, once non-critically described as a “happy clappy” church. So, raised in the more somber Catholic tradition, I had my doubts. However, over the last two years, I’ve seen people so filled with joy and the spirit that they, every now and then, call out an “Amen,” or burst out in spontaneous applause, drop to their knees at the foot of the stage (we do not have a traditional altar), hug each other (yes, even the men), raise their voices and their arms in praiseful song, and now and then, filled with the spirit, dance and whirl. It is awesome. (Constrained, I find myself thinking: “I want what they have.”)
My point: Nothing profound; just that I am delighted and thrilled and happy (and, yes, clappy) to be a part of this “happy clappy” church, a congregation where people feel free to let the Holy Spirit roar through them. It is stirring. It is awesome. It is wondrous. – jri“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” – Psalm 30:11-12
The biggest thing I see in our church is smiles. Oh, we have the “normal” collection of folks at our church: Some have been to hell and back and are grateful for a second chance (or a third or a fourth, etc.). Others look like they’ve never had a tough day in their lives. (But that’s not true. We all have our struggles, pains and losses; some just bear them without the need to bare them too publicly.) However, that one thing in common is joy, the joy that can come only through faith and the knowledge that we are forgiven and we are loved by the Lord unconditionally … yes, even when we screw up royally. No wonder some of us dance, even if only in our hearts. Amen.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net May 7, 2014
As a child, I saw church as a somber “Sunday obligation.” I thank God that, in many churches, that is not the case today. My daughter tells me that her girls actually look forward to church each week. And Susan and I often say, “Ah, we get to go to church this morning,” rather than “We have to go to church.”
Church for so many people today is a place of joy and peace and a ferocious, inspiring spirit that sometimes swirls and roars through the building, bringing people to tears and, on occasion, to their knees. Just as exciting, it is a place of love, a community of clay-footed believers who stumble through their own struggles and also try to be there for each other. They’re not perfect, and many have doubts and even demons. But they are open and they try. A visit to our church is a joyful, welcoming experience. I know that in The Highlands United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Georgia, I have never before experienced such love and acceptance, and thought such joy and peace and fellowship were possible (and this though, they love to remind me, I am a Yankee). Awesome and awe-ful.
My point: Find a church. Find one that works for you. You are not obligated to go to church, and you are not obligated to stay in one that leaves you empty and dull-headed each week. Find one that makes you say, “Wow! We get to go to church today!” — jri“They worshipped together at the temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity –.” – Acts 2:46
I have friends who insist they do not need church. They find God, they say, in walks in nature, in the beauty of a sunrise, in an unfolding flower, in a beautiful poem. These things are great, and I find God in these things, too. However, I believe that faith and God are about more than being wowed by a brilliant sunset. They are about community, about sharing, about helping others to find and serve God, and about allowing ourselves (this one is tough for me) to be helped and served, as well. Oh, and by the way, Pastor Jeff Coleman, thank you for all you do at The Highlands. You can take a Bible verse I’ve known about for 50 years and help me see it for the first time. Susan and I count you and all the members of The Highlands among the grace like rain, the many and great blessings, that showers down on our life. Thank you and Amen.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net May 6, 2014
I have several friends who would rather wallow in the mud than accept a helping hand from God. (I don’t mean to sound sexist, but it’s mostly a guy thing.) They hate the idea of what they see as surrendering their freedom to a God who just might tell them what to do: I gotta be me; I gotta do it my way; I won’t back down; Mother, I’d rather do it myself. You get the picture.
Just as puzzling, in a world where the ultimate outcomes are the result of events beyond our control — where we were born, how long it took us to get through the birth canal, our genes, how we were raised, how well our health holds out (and how many buses and drunk drivers miss us by a hair), how the economy fares, how many people mentor, educate, support, or abuse us, what we saw or did in a combat zone, etc., etc., etc. – they insist on being fully credited for all passing, temporary success. In short, they believe in their own self-sufficiency. What they believe is simply not true.
My point: Such claims of self-sufficiency are nothing more than arrogant silliness. God decides. As Job said (Job 1:21): “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” We fool ourselves when we think all (or any of it) is in our hands. – jri“The truth is that self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success. Health and wealth can disappear instantly, as can life itself.” – Sarah Young (Jesus Calling)
This reminds me of a joke about a scientist who tells God he has learned how to create life out of dirt. “Go for it,” God tells him. As the scientist picks up a handful of dirt, however, God shakes his finger. “Uh uh,” he says. “That’s my dirt. Use your own.”John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net May 1, 2014
Constant pain – spiritual or physical – can destroy our outlook, rob us of our joy. It sure doesn’t feel fair, especially for those of us who believe in a loving, merciful God and try to follow God’s Way. I also know that it is difficult (impossible?) to come up with a heartfelt “Thank you, Jesus!” when our heads are splitting and ready to explode or our spirits are dwelling in a cold, windowless room.
However, as I have expressed before, I have come to believe – to know beyond knowing – that (1) God is always there, (2) He is always good, and (3) He knows what He is doing, even when we do not understand. I also know that all pain comes to an end in God’s own time. Now, I realize that I take all of this on faith, but I guess that is the point. I believe not because God does magic tricks and performs miracles; I see those miracles (no, they are not magic tricks) because I believe. Yes, even when life seems to truly suck, I believe.
My point: Just trust! Nobody gets through this life trouble-free. Nobody. (How very boring it would be if we did.) The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. We have days of abundant blessings and days of deep sorrow and loss. That is – for reasons we cannot fathom – the way God has made this life. Are they tests of faith and challenges? I do not know. But I do know that even in the midst of my toughest, most painful times, I’ve found joy and peace when I am able to just trust. – jri“I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed from weeping, drenching it with my tears. My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies. Go away, all you who do evil, for the lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.” – Psalm 6:6-9
I admit that pain puzzles me. Is it punishment? A test? A way of strengthening us, like the tempering of steel? I think that’s one of those things that – if God ever lets me into heaven, and God only knows why He would – I have to ask Him about. Until then, I guess it’s just a matter of trust and faith. Oh, yeah, trust and faith. Now I remember.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net April 30, 2014
Susan’s brother Phil was set free in prison. Once a gifted, hard-working man, he had embarked on a long, downhill life of drug use and self-destruction. He became a liar, a cheat, a thief, a slave to his addiction, and he hurt many people, especially those he professed to love. His life had become a total waste and failure. In prison, he told Susan later, he wished/prayed for death every day.
Finally, something happened. No, I am not exactly sure when or how it took place. However, locked away in prison, paying the price for that self-centered, wasted life, Phil opened his heart and was finally, suddenly transformed. He went from complaining to God to asking what God wanted from him, to committing his life completely and totally to serving God. Out of prison, he then spent the next three years of his life, before dying of an aneurism, transforming the lives of many other people, including that of his sister. (And though I had not entered Susan’s life or ever met the new Phil before he died, he continues to impact my life every day.) He died a blessed and much beloved man of faith, surrounded by friends.
My point: Life is never hopeless. Never! God put Phil in prison to set him free. (Funny sense of humor, that God of ours, eh?) Some people suffer illnesses as a path to finding spiritual healing. God’s path for us is beyond our understanding. That’s as it should be. All we need to do is trust that all things are possible. Most of all, just trust that God has some pretty awesome plans for each and every one of us. All we have to do is open our hearts and let Him set us free. — jri“Some of My most precious children have been laid aside in sick beds or shut away in prisons.” – Sarah Young (Jesus Calling)
I stand in awe of how Jesus transforms life and lives. I can look back at some dark times in my life, when I felt totally alone and abandoned, mostly the result of poor choices on my part, I admit. However, during those times of despair, I could see no way out, no end, no light. For me – and I suspect for many, many others – the miracle was in the transformation, that the darkest of dark times ended in the brightest and most joyful times. Today, my life is peaceful and spirit-led, and I am blessed with a loving wife, affectionate family, and a faith community that inspires, guides, and supports me. So, never despair. Never. God is always there, even during those dark times when we cannot see Him.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net April 29, 2014
Non-believers must think we are nuts. On this day we call “Good” Friday, the man we call God was beaten, tortured, stripped, humiliated, mocked, had a crown of thorns driven into his head, nails driven into his hands and feet, and was hung up on a cross of wood to die a criminal’s death. (Not much to work with, really, if you’re trying to build a faith platform.)
Yet, yes, we say it was/is a glorious, wondrous, “good” day. This is the cornerstone of all that we believe, an immense, awesome act of faith. No, it is not the murder of our Lord that we celebrate, but His rising from death, the simple fact that without the brutal horror of the crucifixion on Good Friday, there could be no wonder of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. That is why it is Good Friday, the Best Friday. It is in dying that He gave us life.
For me, this day is also a reminder that all days are good, that our God can and does take even the darkest pain, the worst loss, the saddest depression and turns them to joy for those who believe, who simply and honestly open their hearts to His love.
Reminder for non-believers: We don’t smile and pray and sing because we’re idiots. We do so because we know something very special and very true.
So, Lord, on this day, this Good Friday, we thank you for your sacrifice, your humbling of yourself, so that we all might be free, joyful, saved, and alive. Amen – jriJohn Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net April 18, 2014
Life can be chaotic, with days filled with surprises and adventure. One of the great gifts Susan and I have been given (it kind of developed by itself, through God’s guiding hand) is our morning routine of Bible reading and prayer together. It grounds us, reminds us about what is important and, literally, gives us the opportunity to offer the day to the Lord.
Each morning follows the same routine, which we both now begin in comfortable silence: I bring out the Bibles and notebooks, and while Susan gets her coffee, I write down the readings for the day (which I get from a book called Forward Day by Day, that, I believe, follows some vast and mysterious Church calendar that, I suspect, all mainline churches follow).
Before we begin the readings, we write in our own notebooks that one blessing for which we are particularly grateful that morning (our dogs, our friends, our love, our health, our children, our church, etc.); some mornings, it is hard to choose, if only because focusing on our blessings helps make us aware of just how blessed we are.
Then I offer a brief introductory prayer of praise and thanksgiving, which tends to start with a simple “Good morning, God.” This is followed by the sharing of our special blessings and then the Bible readings, with Susan and me alternating the readings. Then one of us (again, alternating each day) reads the day’s devotional from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, and the other follows with our prayer list for individuals.
My point: It is a joyful time. It is very much the routine and sameness that makes it so special for Susan and me. It is truly a pleasant visit and chat with God. It helps us better understand His word, gives us an opportunity to express our gratitude and special requests for help, and prepares and grounds us for whatever comes our way the rest of the day. Starting each morning this way is great. Doing so together as a couple is fantastic. – jri
“I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray!”
– Grace L. Naessens (“I Didn’t Have Time”)
The whole “visit” (a joyful routine, truly, often marked by laughter and more conversation with God than formalized prayer) takes us about 20 to 30 minutes. It is time well spent. Mornings when we must miss it leave us feeling a little lost and adrift. If you prefer an abbreviated prayer routine, how about reading and discussing the Proverbs? There are 31, which means if you do one each day, you finish the whole book in a month. After that, either do them again or let God show you where to go next. Enjoy.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net April 3, 2014
David Brenner died last week. Who? He was 78 and famous not so long ago as a stand-up comedian. Who? He was big in the 1970s and the 1980s, and a regular guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Who?
Brenner was not quite so big as Milton Berle (Who?) or Jerry Seinfeld (Ah, finally, one I know!), but he was big. However, even if you remember Brenner, your children most likely will not
My point: Fame and fortune are fleeting puffs of smoke. Many of us devote major portions of our lives to accumulating wealth and achieving recognition and honors. It is all for naught, all for nothing. A better use of our time: Serve our brothers, help our sisters, love our children, bless the strangers we meet on the street. – jri“’Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless!’ What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.” — Ecclesiastes 1:1- 4
One of my regrets in life is that I spent way too much time trying to make my family comfortable beyond what I would now say was “enough.” Once I’d met all their basic needs, I should have spent more time fishing with them, swimming with them, playing with them, writing books (literary novels, not sales training programs), and taking time to get to know God. But wait, I still have today and as many tomorrows as the Good Lord grants me. Yes!John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net March 24, 2014
“It’s all good.” That’s what Susan sometimes reminds me when I express disappointment over not winning yet another fiction writing competition, when I express frustration that the insurance premium is just a tad more than we have in the checking account, or when I express fury at the universe when the !%$#* riding mower, once again, breaks down. (Regarding the mower, I’ve offered the manufacturers a new slogan: “I once had a life; then I bought a Poulan.” Alas, another rejection letter.)
Susan’s words ground me, bringing me back to faith-filled reality. It’s all good. God has blessed me with easy days filled with grace like rain. He has also blessed me with challenges that have left me lying face-up in the desert for days and gasping, “Why, God? Can’t you find someone else to torment for a few days?” But all of it, ALL of it, when I have opened my heart and let myself be led by faith and trust (no, not always easy), has brought me to the sweetest, most peace-filled places of my life. So, no, I’m no longer afraid of those desert days, because I know what is on the other side. Again, it’s all good.
My point: God is with us! Always! Period! Exclamation point! No exceptions! Through good times, bad times, even going half-mad times (thank you for the lyrics, Jimmy Buffet), God is with us. And what He has in store for us is good. It’s ALL good! – jri“Even though the fig tree has no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! – Habakkuk 3: 17-18
My life, to some degree, has been like a Frank Sinatra song (“I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king ….”) I’ve had times when I’ve been in total control and pretty much won every round, but I realize now that those wins were only because my loving, caring, ever-patient God gave me all I asked for. He never stopped me. However, it has only been since I began asking God what He would like me to do and be that I have truly received – and continue to receive day after day after day – exactly what I truly do want and need, even when what I need is a setback or a disappointment. It’s all good.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net March 21, 2014
I grew up believing that I could count on just one person: myself. No, I wasn’t abused or beaten, just sort of left to myself. So, I grew up restless, very untrusting, wary of both God and man. This go-it-alone life took its toll on me. I remember that there were times when I would wake up at two or three in the morning — the darkest hour, the time of unguarded vulnerability, regret and fear. I would feel totally and completely alone, sometimes with icy cold terror roaring through the bleakness of my heart.
But something changed something grand and wondrous. Oh, it sometimes still happens that I awake with a start from a deep sleep, and for just a flicker of a second, my heart groans, as I experience a kind of spiritual Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome. But then I remember that I am not alone. I smile and say something like, “Hey, God, thanks. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for blessing me far beyond what I could ever deserve. Thanks for showing me that I don’t have to go it alone.” And the bleakness disappears and a warmth fills my heart, my soul, and my mind. I am not alone. More than that, I am loved – and I know this beyond knowledge itself – wrapped in an unconditional love I never imagined could have ever existed. Awesome.
My point: I strongly suspect God has been there all along. I never really ever had to go it alone. I just didn’t know it. It was a choice I made. And, yes, it took years to learn to not just believe in a God, but to trust in The God, to put my faith in Him, even when everything looks wrong. – jri
“The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.”
– Psalm 28:7
So, I guess my real point is simply this: Just trust. Without exception and without excuse, just trust that we are not alone; just trust that we are loved beyond what we could ever imagine; and if we’ve screwed up – yes, even royally — just trust that we are forgiven, without exception or excuse. Just trust.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net March 12, 2014
I bet I get this one all wrong. I know what I’m trying to say, but it’s a toughie. Anyhow, here goes:
Let’s peek for a moment at the Man behind the curtain, at the mechanics of two of the neatest elements God inserted into His universe – evil and free will (and, yes, they are directly connected).
Imagine for a moment a world without evil, a world where everything was good. On one hand, we’d all be living in this blissful garden of joy and delight, munching on grapes and smiling all day like idiots, supposedly as happy as the happiest of clams (and though I have no idea why, people who are happy are sometimes described as being happy as clams.)
However, if there were no evil, there would be absolutely no need for free will. There would be no consequences for what we did … except, of course, that it would all be good. And if everything were good, the only choices we would have to make would be as insignificant as choosing between eating a white grape or eating a red grape.
My point: God gave us free will, and free will does not work unless we have real, significant choices – life and death choices — from which to pick. We can choose good (life, light, love, gentleness, forgiveness, compassion, and more) or we can choose evil (death, darkness, hate, pain, greed, and so much more). So, the whole driving force of life – everything — just doesn’t work without evil. (And, no, I have no idea if God created evil, or if He gave us free will and we created it on our own. Don’t know; don’t care. I do know, however, that the act of evil is our choice, not God’s.)
My real point: Imagine if we all chose good for even a day, if everyone chose life, light, love, gentleness, forgiveness, compassion, and more. Wow! The world would be transformed immediately, in an instant. I’m game if you are. Shall we give it a shot? – jri“Evil was necessary because without it free will was impossible, and without free will there could be no growth — no forward movement, no chance for us to become what God longed for us to be. – Eben Alexander III Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife
One of the best things about free will is that God gives us the opportunity to make our own choices. He tells us what will work, what is best, what we should do, and what joy is awaiting those who listen. But the decision is up to us. Ah, free will.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net February 25, 2014
Some people demand, “Prove to me there is a God!” Sorry, I can’t do it. Believers see and feel God’s hand everywhere. For example, Susan will call me to the front door some evenings to see a breathtaking sunset, and we will say, “Thank you, Lord.” Or we will wake up in the middle of the night and just touch hands and smile at each other, grateful for the awesomely, wondrously, amazingly, miraculous events that brought us together less than two years ago. (Can you believe it? Less than two years ago!) We see proof of God’s existence and, most of all, His tender love everywhere we look.
Nonbelievers, on the other hand, look right through and past the miracles. They miss them. No matter what they may see, experience, or feel deep within their souls (souls, huh?), they will always and relentlessly find some reason to doubt. Mostly, I believe, they refuse to let themselves believe. It’s more close-minded stubbornness than doubt.
My point: I’m no theologian, but it seems to me that belief has nothing to do with exterior events, of proofs and theorems. No, it is a gift, a sometimes gentle, sometimes thunderous stirring of the spirit deep inside. The colorful flowers, birth of a child, periodic rainbow, wild storm, wag of a dog’s tail, and stirring sunset are all just ways God says, “Hey, just letting you know I’m thinking of you. Enjoy this day that I have made for you.” – jri“Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him—but some of them doubted!” – Matthew 28:16-17)
When I give Susan, a friend or one of my children a present, it has nothing to do with proof that I love him or her. That love is something we already know deep down inside. It requires no proof. And I learned long ago (and painfully so) that the ones who demand proof will never believe me.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net February 20, 2014
I have a confession: I do not have an on-my-knees relationship with God. Yes, he is my Lord, my God, my Savior. But I am a son, not a slave. God didn’t tame me or beat me into submission; I came freely, of my own accord. (And if He said, “You! Kneel. Now!” I’d stand up straight, turn my back and walk away. That’s not the kind of God I would ever bow down to.) When I do kneel, it’s because I think He’s awesome, a God to whom I can commit myself one hundred percent.
You see, my God is tough. Very tough. He’s also demanding. I have no problem with that. I don’t want a wimp for my God. So, when he deals me a four-card straight (a guaranteed losing hand, in case you do not know poker), I play it like it’s a full house. Win or lose, I’ve grown to trust Him, to believe He’s not jerking me around for grins and giggles, but that He has something special waiting at the end of my now-and-then, dry-as-dust desert treks. And just for the record, He hasn’t let me down yet.
My point: It’s simple: We do not need to plead and beg with God, or make weird, I’ll-never-never-never-do-that-again promises/lies to convince Him. We are His children, not His slaves. The relationship is about love, not obedience. Go for it. — jri“This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” — God (Joshua 1:9)
I think God expects/hopes that we’ll be honest and candid. That’s why I love St. Peter. He was the first to step up and acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. However, he was also the first one to cut and run when the going got tough, the one who pulled Jesus aside and told Him to cool down His inflammatory rhetoric, and the one who cursed when Jesus asked him for the third time, “Do you love me?” He was real. He was honest. He was not a sniveling toady.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net February 13, 2014
Check as many as apply to you: [ ] loneliness; [ ] financial worries; [ ] bad marriage; [ ] family illness; [ ] children with problems; [ ] children who are problems; [ ] mental depression; [ ] cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or other physical illness; [ ] obesity and food addiction; [ ] home foreclosure; [ ] bedbugs or lice; [ ] unplanned pregnancy; [ ] shame over something truly horrible done by you/to you; [ ] sexual/porn addiction; [ ] victim of sexual or physical abuse; [ ] self-loathing; [ ] doubts; [ ] lack of faith; [ ] alcohol and/or drug addiction; [ ] lack of love; [ ] lack of appreciation; [ ] loss of hope; [ ] loss of love; [ ] mental illness; [ ] unemployment; [ ] underemployment.
Did I miss any? Probably. We are not alone. Everyone – everyone – has troubles. Some last a few days; some hang on for decades; some are terminal. Especially for believers, it sometimes can be confusing, daunting, discouraging. “We are the chosen?” we may ask/say. “I thought we were promised joy and peace, not misery and pain. This really sucks!” (Nonbelievers have it easier. They believe it’s all a crap shoot, the random luck of the draw. It’s supposed to suck.)
My point: This is life. It is challenging and sometimes downright lousy. However, it is not some meaningless, three-times-around-the-track pony ride. If you think it’s supposed to be easy, think again. Jesus said, “My peace I give you.” He did not say, “My ease I give you.” Plus, keep in mind that His life was not a chauffeured-limousine series of opulent good times and parties (well, some parties, maybe). And if I recall, maybe just one out of the original 12 apostles died of natural causes; the rest were killed, brutally. And these were His friends! Does any of it make sense? Yes. – jri“There could be no resurrection without the crucifixion.” – Various sources
I am not afraid of pain or disappointment. It’s a grownup thing. In the words of James Jones, from his movie, From Here to Eternity, “They can kill you, but they can’t eat you.” (Of course, I once said that to my globe-trotting brother, and he replied, “Sure they can.”) But seriously, dig in your heels, stop running from the pain. Building a life based on an attempt to flee from pain is futile. Let it wash over you. Just let it go. And just trust. God does know what He is doing. He really does.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net February 11, 2014