Thoughts on faith, forgiveness and achievement
GOD: “Hey, John, word in the heavens is that you’re feeling a bit shaky today.”
Me: “Really? Who told you that?” (Pause) “Oh, yeah, sure. Never mind. I just have a few doubts. I guess that means there’s something wrong with me, eh?”
God: “First of all, let’s get one thing straight: There’s nothing wrong with you. I made you perfect. You are terrific, and I love you dearly. Who told you there was something wrong with you?”
Me: “No one. I can think for myself, you know.”
God: “Exactly. That’s what I like about you and the rest of the human race. That’s why it’s okay if you have some doubts and questions. When you read the Bible or go to Church, don’t think you have to check your brain at the door, sit there, and smile beatifically. If I’d wanted blind obedience, I’d have stopped after creating dogs.”
Me: “How about cats?”
God: “No, cats are challenging. Ever try herding cats? Harder than people.”
Me: “Yeah, but back to me. I know I should trust you more. However, there are days when things just go so wrong …. “
God: “Correction, not ’wrong’; just not your way.”
Me: “Okay, days when things just go so not my way.”
God: “There’s a big difference, you know.”
Me: “Whatever. My point is that I sometimes get so mad and frustrated I could spit nickels.”
God: “I know. I do listen. You sometimes use language that would make a sailor blush. Even my dear friend St. Peter has been shocked by some of the language you use.”
Me: “Oh. I guess I don’t think about you listening.”
God: “About that brain you have ….”
Me: “Yeah, good point. You do hear everything. About my language, sorry about that. But there are times when – and please don’t smite me for saying this, but — I’m not even so sure I believe in You sometimes. It’s not easy being a believer.”
God: “Well, it’s not like I’m a unicorn or Big Foot. I AM. Still, let me reassure you. Everyone – let me repeat that: EVERYONE – has doubts now and then. The fact is: All believers are agnostics from time to time. Oh, and get over this smiting stuff. Life happens.”
Me: “Hmmm. What was it St. Teresa of Avila said about you? I believe she said, ‘If this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few!’”
God: “Interesting how you cannot quote one verse from the Psalms, but this one you remember. Oh, and I’ve spoken to St. Teresa about this.”
Me: “She was in big trouble, eh?”
God: “No, on the contrary, I admire her honesty. I admire yours, too. It’s the language that drives me to distraction. Still, I wish all my people would be so honest and candid when they are troubled.”
Me: “So, it is good to doubt?”
God: “It is good to be honest. Life is not easy.”
Me: “Tell me about it.”
God: “There is a reason life is so challenging. I want you to search for me, to question what you know. I want you to come to me not because believing is a walk in the park, but because I am the Truth, and I am all loving. Figure it out. Think. Question. Keep an open mind. And be honest. I am not afraid of doubts or tough questions. Keep asking, keep seeking, and I will help you. I will show you the way. Remember: Knock and it shall be opened.”
Me: “So, everything has a purpose.”
God: So, everything has a purpose. Don’t be afraid to challenge me with your questions. I can take it. That is how you grow and become the person I want you to emerge into. Questioning and doubting are healthy. Use your brain. That’s why I gave it to you. Just be honest.”
Me: “So my midnight rants are okay then?”
God: “Well, I would appreciate it if you toned down the profanity. But in truth, I’d rather have these very creative and vulgar moments than to see your dog get hit by a bus and you smile and say, ‘Thank you, Lord. I praise you.’ Yes, my ways make sense, but they are not always obvious.”
Me: “Just be honest?”
God: “Just be honest.”
Me: “Well, thanks for your time.”
God: “I have all the time in the world.”
Me: “Oh, one more question, Lord.”
God: “Oh, I can tell, this is going to be a good one. Go ahead.”
Me: “Will the Packers win the Super Bowl this season?” (Pause)
God: (Sigh) “So now you want to talk about miracles? Later. We’ll talk more at midnight. Oh, and don’t forget that I love you.”
Me: Love you, too. Later, God” – jri“Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.”
- Miguel de Unamuno
I do wrestle with God now and then. I challenge Him, whine, and ask why, why, why. Susan, bless her patient heart, always looks at me with love and perplexity when I share my anger and frustration over some setback. Her best response recently was to point out, “John, you take this all so personally.” My response back: “Well, duh. Of course, I do.” Then I realized that God and I do have a very special – sometimes contentious, always honest – relationship. And there are times when, borrowing a thought from St. Teresa, it is not easy being one of God’s people. Whew!John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net August 20, 2014
There is only one thing more vulnerable than a hatchling baby bird. A pair of birds set up their nest this spring in a small plant on our back deck. At knee level, the nest, I thought, was a poor location. But the birds quickly adapted to our comings and goings, and we would occasionally peek in to see one sitting on the nest, protecting its young. They did their job well. One day, silly feathers sticking out every which way, the babies took a few practice turns around the yard and then left to explore the world on their own.
What is more vulnerable than a hatchling? Us. That is because, it seems to me, we never outgrow the need for the safety of the nest. We fly and soar and crash again and again during our lives. And there are times when we are afraid, or just worn down and worn out. (Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s calls the feeling the “screaming reds.”) Life is tough, and there is no way we can get through it on our own. The good news, at least for us believers: If we ask, God covers us with His wings and protects us from the terrors of the world.
My point: We are never alone unless we stubbornly, egoistically choose to be so. (That’s a message I personally was long and slow to learn.) That is one of the great themes of the Bible – that God is always with us, always, and ready to help those who ask. So, the next time you are in way over your head, ask God for His help. Let Him wrap his powerful wings around you. And when you are ready to emerge and face the world again, pick a few stray feathers out of your mouth, say, “Thank you, Lord,” and take a few practice laps around your life, knowing that God is there, always, to protect you and catch you if you fall. – jri“He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” – Psalm 91: 3-4
Now, I admit that the idea of God having feathers and wings seems a bit strange, and I do struggle with that concept. But imagine mighty Michael the Archangel, always depicted as the winged warrior. All I do know for sure is that there are nights – those 2:15 a.m. stirrings when the screaming reds strike – when I love surrendering to the warmth of God’s feathered wings wrapped around me. Very comforting in a less than comforting world. God bless.
John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net August 18, 2014
Rocky and I have a simple morning ritual. You see, being a Boxer with a smoosh-nosed face, he suspects he may not be the best-looking dog in the pack. So, each morning, he ambles over to me and, while giving him a thorough scratch from head to butt, I tell him, “Rock, you are a good dog and a handsome lad.” Then I smack him lovingly on the side, and he wanders off, tail wagging, happy as a clam the rest of the day.
This is something I believe we all could use. Too often, we tend to either not share the compliment about someone or we focus on the “teachable moment” and point out areas in need of improvement (aka criticism) rather than address the good – in life and in our faith.
My point: Encourage one another. Life can be tough, and it is so easy to become discouraged. As Christians and men and women taught to love one another, we should share the kind word, offer support and encouragement, send that email telling someone how much we love him or her or how much we enjoyed a recent Facebook post. Thank you. – jri“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – St Paul (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Several weeks ago, after I had done some small thing for Susan, she looked at me and said, “You’re wonderful!” I grinned from ear to ear and, like Rocky, I just about wagged my tail. We all need to hear nice things, supportive things, words of encouragement. Try it. No, nothing phony, but genuine. Find something genuinely nice about someone and then share it with that person. If we all do this, there’ll be tails wagging all over the world! Be joyful and thank you for reading my ramblings. I appreciate you.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
August 15, 2014
If you’re in business – a sales professional, manager, or entrepreneur – you read how-to books. And the first thing you check out is the subject’s or the author’s credentials. Makes sense. After all, you don’t want biz advice from a person best known because “he once ran a lemonade stand; it failed.” No, you want to hear from someone who knows the game.
Well, how about a business how-to book about how Jesus would do it? That’s what you’ll get in Dennis E. Hensley’s Jesus in the 9 to 5. Hensley, the director of professional writing at Taylor University, blends the practical side of business with a playful narrative about how Jesus sets out to start a furniture manufacturing company, beginning by recruiting a burned out failure of a man named Pete Fishers. In one chapter, Jesus has a personnel problem: An employee named Mary, accused of stealing from the company, is brought into his office. I’m not going to tell you how he deals with the issue, but it may sound vaguely familiar if you know your Bible.
I will say, however, that Jesus in the 9 to 5 is a good book, well worth the read. Within the 12 sections are advice on how Jesus handled personnel problems; how Jesus recruited and trained employees; Jesus on quality control; and what Jesus taught about stress management.
Best of all, all the how-to advice is Bible-based. I’ve known Hensley for more than 40 years, from back when I was an unreformed heathen, when we set out as young pups to become successful writers. In that time, he’s written more than 50 books. (Me, well, I once had a lemonade stand.) He’s also a playful though very serious, committed Christian, who knows his stuff. (He is also a terrific public speaker, by the way, who does fantastic presentations on a number of subjects.)
The bottom line: Hensley knows business; Hensley knows writing; Hensley knows Jesus. So, if you’re a sales pro, a high-powered exec, or business owner looking for the Christian approach to business, you want to get a copy of Jesus in the 9 to 5, read it, dog-ear it, read it again, and keep it close at hand on your bookshelf. – jri
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
August 12, 2014
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