Thoughts on faith, forgiveness and achievement
It was a weekly ritual between Angie and me back in the 1980s: “So what did you learn in Sunday school?” I’d ask at dinner each week. (These were the days when the Catholic Church had lost its way and, at least at the local level, had forgotten what it believed. Activities, it turns out, consisted mostly of putting crayons to biblical coloring books.)
Poor Angie, a grade-schooler, would stammer as her older brother and sister hooted and smirked at my request/demand that she stand and deliver. Finally, she’d blurt it out (the same answer each week), the always safe answer: “Uh, uh, Jesus loves me?” (Note the question mark.) I was always disappointed and often irritated.
The point: In truth, she actually got it right every week, a lesson it took me years to learn. Jesus loves us. That’s it. That’s all. If we ever get that, we have it all figured out. — jri
“A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another; just as I
have loved you, you also are to love
one another. By this all people will
know that you are my disciples, if
you have love for one another.”
— John 13:34-35
The good and wondrous news about Angie and me: Though she is passionate and fiery and outspoken (not sure where she gets that), we have always borne a deep love for each other. (Before I had heart surgery several years back, she and I had not been on speaking terms for more than six months. When she heard I was in the hospital, without hesitation, she and her sister, Nicky, flew to Georgia. Spiritually, we have not been apart since.) My greatest joy about Angie is that, in spite of my oft heavy handed efforts to pound the love of God into her head, she and her family are now believers and regular church goers. (And, oh, how things have changed: Her daughters love going to church.) So, for me, maybe this blind pig found an acorn. Or maybe God just did it in His own, sweet way. All we had to do was let the wondrous love of God in. Thank you, Lord.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
April 22, 2015
The band in church this morning played “Beautiful Things.” It’s one of my favorite Christian songs. (The chorus is below.) It made me think of the tulips that came up in our garden this week. We take a lot for granted, but think about this: Several weeks ago, all we could see was dirt (attractive dirt, but dirt nonetheless). Buried below was a handful of gnarly looking tulip bulbs. Ugly? Sort of. Plain? Most definitely.
And then, KAPOW! As if overnight (it took several days, actually), these absolutely beautiful flowers (not just one, but a flock of eight, and more getting ready) sprang from the ground. Something from nothing. Splendid beauty from plain, ugly dirt! Awesome.
Here’s the point: That’s what God can do with us! That’s what He does with us every day. He takes tired, old, sinful souls and makes them beautiful. No one is too bad, too sinful, too far gone. God is in the miracle business. Turn your pain, your sadness, your tiredness over to God. He will make your old soul radiantly new and beautiful. – jri
“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us.”
— Michael & Lisa Gungor (Beautiful Things)
Susan and I have seen our share of sorrow, loneliness and pain. Today, however, because of the miracles we have let God perform in our lives (correction, our life), we are joyful. God has transformed us. The best part: It’s soooooooooo easy. We just handed our life over to the Lord, trusting that He knows much better than we what we need. (God always gave me everything I asked for. It’s just that for years I didn’t have the sense to ask for things worth having.) Thank you, Lord.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
April 13, 2015
“Aha, this Bible is full of inconsistencies,” I’ve been told by a few non-believers. “Just look at the gospels. All the stories do not match.” Scrupulous scholars love this. For example, two criminals were crucified beside Christ. In one account (Luke 23:42), one of the criminals repented: “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’” However, in another account (Matthew 27:44), the two men were referred to as insurgents and both of them mocked Jesus: “Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.”
Here’s the problem, at least as I see it (though, keep in mind that I’m no Bible scholar): Approaching the Bible from a purely academic point of view will reveal what appears to be a jumble of disconnected stories, many of which seem primitive, quaint and naive from our modern, sophisticated perspective. The problem is that you cannot approach the Bible from a purely academic point of view.
My point: Follow these three steps: One, open your mind and put aside your preconceptions. Two, open your heart and be prepared to seek what is truth. Three, open your Bible and read. No, you do not have to believe, but to truly understand the Bible, you cannot approach it with a closed mind. Oh, and if you already have faith, the Bible makes complete sense, although it may well take years to truly understand all its beauty, as its Truths become apparent with time and study. – jri
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on you own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.”
~ Proverbs 3:5-6
One of the many great beauties of the Bible is that the men who compiled it were not afraid to include all four gospels, along with their apparent discrepancies and contradictions. The gospels were four different accounts of the same events, recorded by men who had different recollections, perceptions, and reasons for writing their stories. The stories in the Bible would make lousy fiction, but they make awesome Truth.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
April 7, 2015
What if Jesus had never come into the world? What if God did not exist at all? What if we humans were in truth nothing more than naked apes, just cunning, awkward-looking animals in a world in which morality, if asserted at all, was arbitrary and humanistic, a world in which might made right? What if human life, especially that of females, had almost no value, and dignity were reserved exclusively for conquerors and pompous kings? What if we lived in a world of darkness, of weeping and gnashing of teeth?
Some people might say we already live in that world, that earth is full of greed, brutality, violence, injustice, prejudice, discrimination, exploitation, indifference and cruelty.
Yes, this is actually true, BUT there is a small – though awesomely powerful and stubbornly inextinguishable — glimmer of light that bathes the world in hope. That is because Jesus did come into the world, and right and wrong are not arbitrary, and each individual human being has a special and blessed dignity, uniqueness, and precious value. Best of all, there is the promise that, ultimately, this light will overcome the darkness.
My point: This is Maundy Thursday, during which we celebrate the Last Supper, the washing of feet, the agony of Jesus in the garden, and, in many churches, the stripping of the altar. The next day, Good Friday, Jesus is beaten and killed, and he descends into hell. He is gone. We are alone. Just imagine if He had never come. Imagine if there were no glorious return, no Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Just imagine and give thanks for the cross and the Resurrection. – jri
“For once you were full of darkness,
but now you have light from the Lord.
So live as people of light! For this
light within you produces only what
is good and right and true.”
~ Ephesians 5:8-9
For me, the stripping of the altar at my old Episcopal Church on Maundy Thursday was the most powerful service of the year. I would sit in the pew and watch as, in silence, the candles, linens and all other items were removed from the altar, including the Missal stand and book, all evidence of the presence and existence of Jesus Christ. It was left bare. Then the Paschal candle, which had remained lighted and flickering throughout Lent, would be carried out. The service ended in silence, without benediction or closing hymn. Finally, the lights were lowered. Darkness, emptiness, and silence filled the church and the world. What a reminder of how the world would be if Christ had never come into it.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
April 2, 2015
“As long as there are girls who will giggle,
there will be boys who will make fools of themselves.” — Joth Richards
Do you understand your spouse/partner? I know I don’t. I mean the really understand part. It’s not that we don’t try, but that we have no idea where to start. (For example, Susan likes photo scrap books and carved figurines. I like chain saws and sexy cars.) We know THAT the other likes certain things, but we just don’t understand the WHY of it.
Well, Captain Jolly has it figured out … or at least he has it figured out that he will never figure it out. For an excerpt on relationships from the novel Captain Jolly’s Do Over, due out in July, go to: https://jringrisano.wordpress.com/.
Oh, and please leave a comment, take the poll, feel free to share, and click on “follow” at the end of the blog to get the latest updates.
Thank you – JR Ingrisano
One of the cornerstones of marketing is: WIIFM? That’s how businesses sell products to consumers. This will save/make ME money; make MY teeth brighter or my butt firmer; get ME the girl/boy; give ME power and prestige; make ME the envy of my friends (and enemies; yes, definitely, my enemies); make ME live longer, love longer, look better; or just make ME feel better about myself. ME! ME! ME!
Well, then, this Jesus the Christ comes along and gets it all backwards. He was supposed to be a thundering, roaring emperor of the world on a white stallion (not a donkey!) who commanded unbeatable armies, wreaked revenge on all our enemies, made the naysayers and doubters tremble and repent. Go, God!
But, no, He shows up in some Fourth World outpost of the Roman Empire, talks about forgiveness of one’s enemies (like that’s gonna work, right?), kneels down and washes His followers’ feet (like that’s gonna get you respect and power, JC), and doesn’t do a thing to straighten out the Roman soldiers and local yahoos who spit on Him, beat Him, and nail Him to a tree like He’s some uppity black boy in Louisiana in the 1920s in need of a good lynching.
My point: What if He got it right? Love your neighbor? Love your enemies? Seriously. Give your life for people who are too self-absorbed chasing after the WIIFM things of this world to even notice, let alone say thank you. Maybe that is how you conquer and save the world. Maybe? I think so. – jri
“But God chose the foolish things
of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things of the
world to shame the strong.”
~ 1 Corinthians 1:27
Years ago I was a devoted, dedicated follower of Ayn Rand, who believed that our first, last, and only loyalty should be to ourselves. I was wrong … and, no, smart alecks, don’t ever expect to hear that from me again. Today, as the sign says outside The Highlands United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Georgia, “Love God, serve people.” I now know I wasn’t put on this earth to amass wealth and power, but to serve those who struggle –spiritually, financially, emotionally. And as a result, I’ve never been wealthier. What a strange God we follow. — jri
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
March 18-19, 2015
Non-believers and neo-believers love the line in the Bible about God granting EVERYTHING and ANYTHING for which we ask. “God, gimme a pony, a Mercedes, a billion zillion bucks and ….”
See the problem here? In truth, few of us have a clue about that which we want or that which is good for us. We ask for stupid stuff, stuff that will do us more harm than good. Ah, but the real problem, it seems to me, is that there is a real neat catch to all this. You see, if we truly believe (and that’s what it really says), we won’t ask for all this worldly, meaningless stuff (I keep wanting to say “crap,” but I won’t). We will ask for spiritual gifts. We’ll ask for things like: “Lord, make me pure. Lord, make me honest and decent. Lord, make me forgiven, saved, blessed, cleansed.”
My point: If we just ask, God gives us everything we need. My question is: Why would we ask for a zillion billion dollars when we can have peace of mind and joy of heart? – jri
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes
in me will do the same works [miracles]
I have done, and even greater works,
because I am going to be with the Father.
You can ask for anything in my name,
and I will do it, so that the Son can bring
glory to the Father. Yes, ask me anything
in my name, and I will do it.”
~ Jesus the Christ (John 14:12-14)
Before I became a reformed heathen (when I was just a heathen), God did grant me everything for which I asked. That was my punishment. These days, I say, “Lord, please give me what You know I need. Thank you.” Oh, and He always does. Awesome!
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
March 4, 2015
“Sleep with dogs and you’ll get fleas,” my mother used to tell me, referring to some of the unsavory companions of my youth. Over the years (yes, Mom, I heard you), I did learn to avoid dishonest, immoral, amoral, and unreliable types.
Well, Susan and I decided that the same goes for what we watch. Last year, we started watching the Mad Men series on Netflix. Though brilliant and well-done, the show’s characters were all morally bankrupt, not the kind of people we’d have over to our house for dinner. We stopped watching. More recently, we started the Dennis Leary series, Rescue Me. Though very creative, every one of the show’s characters lies, cheats, steals, denigrates women, etc. Again, we stopped watching. On a positive note, we began watching the Tom Selleck series, Blue Bloods. Not only were the good guys unwaveringly good, with solid principles, but they had a big Irish family dinner together every Sunday and, gasp, even said grace before the meal. In a sense, the members of this family became part of our family.
My point: No, I’m not a prude, and I will not attempt to tell you what to watch. However, isn’t life too short to waste spending time with trash and hanging out with people who you’d never invite into your house? Choose your television viewing and movies with thought. – jri
“I will refuse to look at
anything vile or vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
I will have nothing to do with them.”
~ Psalm 101:3
Since I am working on a book about sex trafficking, I cannot help but take the leap from prime time television to pornography. Porn is a biz built on supply and demand, and the demand is high, frighteningly high. Every time someone clicks on a porn site, another young girl or child is kidnapped, lured, or outright sold into this brutal modern-day slavery. (Sex trafficking is a booming multi-billion-dollar business. According to UN statistics, over the last 30 years, an estimated 30 million children have been sexually exploited through human trafficking, some as young as five and six years old.) Who we hang around with, what we watch, and what sites we click on, they do make a difference not just in our lives, but also in the lives of others.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
March 2, 2015
“Joy!” That was the answer I gave the other day when asked to describe the emotion that best describes me. Susan and I are retired and enjoying our wondrous free time together. I have had my first novel accepted for publication, and I am about to finish my second (and I believe, a much better) novel, fulfilling my lifelong desire to be a “real” writer (not just a word hack). Susan and I pray and study scripture together each morning and have pleasant chats with God and each other. We belong to a faith community and, after years of loneliness, have friends who seem to truly love us, or in my case, to at least politely put up with me. (“God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy” – Psalm 68:6) We have health. We have peace. We have wondrous children and grandchildren. Oh, and, yes, we have love and patience and respect and laughter. We have gorgeous sunrises, jigsaw puzzles, and daily visits by cardinals, mourning doves, and other birds that we call friends. We are blessed far, far, far beyond what we deserve.
Best of all, we are grateful. Yes, every morning, we wake up grateful and joyful. It took decades of struggling and suffering and loneliness, and trusting beyond common sense or reason in God’s promise to, as I am wont to say – just trust! – to bring us where we are today. I look back at where I’ve been, and I am in awe. An awesome life.
My point: Again, just trust. If you believe in this God of ours, believe that He is watching over us. Always! Today’s suffering and struggles will become tomorrow’s joy and peace. God does it all in His sweet time … but he does it. He does not abandon us. He is with us. For Susan and me, God made the suffering and tough past times sweet. Were it not for the challenges, we just might not appreciate the blessings today. — jri
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it
again – rejoice! Let everyone see that
you are considerate in all you do. Remember,
the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about
anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell
God what you need, and thank him for all he
has done. Then you will experience God’s
peace, which exceeds anything we can
understand. His peace will guard your hearts
and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
~ St. Paul (Philippians 4:4-7)
I vividly recall the darkest days – one marriage dead, the second beyond life support, my wealth disappearing, and friends few and far between. I’d get up every morning, make the coffee, let out the dog, and open my Bible and pray. I saw no relief, no solution, but I trusted and prayed. And all I know is that God answered my prayer (“God, please give me strength, faith, and guidance”; that was my prayer). Today? Again, I can only use one word: JOY! How? I have no idea. That’s why I say, Trust. Just trust! God has awesome things in store for us. Just believe. Just trust!
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
February 23, 2015
Ever meet the smirkers who look at you like you’re a pathetic dolt and say something like, “Well, good for you if it gives you comfort to believe in a god to get by”? (Sounds like Karl Marx’s brilliant comment: “Religion is the opiate of the people.”)
No, it’s not about needing a god. It’s about whether one exists. But here’s the funny part: You cannot read a book or study science to discover God. He’s not out there somewhere. He’s inside us and all around us, waiting for us not to open a book, but to open our hearts and to discover something so awesome that there is no mistaking the veracity of it. Truth.
My point: Yes, there is a God (and He’s a big capital G God). Oh, and, yes, we need Him, but we do not wish/need Him into existence. He is. If you haven’t found Him yet, keep looking. It’s well worth the search. Just ask anyone who has found Him. – jri
“I see that the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.”
~ King David (Psalm 16:8-11)
During my atheist/agnostic days, there were times when my soul was so bruised that I was desperate for a god. However, I never gave in and invented one based on my need. I’m sure that, in the words of Voltaire, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” That, however, is NOT why I believe in God. I believe in God because He is. I know Him and do not need to prove His existence. Better idea: If you don’t believe in God, you prove to me He does not exist.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
February 18, 2015
Kids say it all the time when they don’t get their way. As adults, we’re not much better. God hands us a curve, a setback, a loss, an affliction. And suddenly God’s not fair! Why? Because He didn’t give us what we want. God is not fair. He’s not. Thank God!
Imagine if God were fair. Imagine if we truly received what we truly deserved. Uh oh. Ever made a promise to God and not kept it? Uh oh. Ever make the same mistake (aka sin) twice (thrice, or more)? Uh oh. Ever gossip, swear, take the Lord’s name in vain? Uh oh. Uh oh. Uh oh. Ever just screwed up royally? Okay, got it!
My point: If God were fair, we wouldn’t last a day. No, we do not get what we truly deserve. Thank God! In truth, God gives us what we need … and that’s mercy, patience, guidance, and more mercy. No, I do not claim to understand God’s ways: why there is cancer, why people commit suicide, why people hurt and kill other people, why some of us just get real sad sometimes. However, I think we should just let God sort it out. He does know what He is doing. All I know is that we should be careful when we start griping that God is not fair. – jri
“By our very nature we were subject to
God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved
us so much, that even though we were
dead because of our sins, he gave us life
when he raised Christ from the dead. (It
is only by God’s grace that you have been
~ St. Paul (Ephesians 2:3b-5)
I want it easy. I want it my way, and I get really frustrated when I encounter setbacks. However, the older I get, the better I have become at just shutting up and waiting during those times. Sure, what I want may be very nice, but I have learned that what God has in store for me is so much better. Besides, I think Job nailed it when he said: “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.” (Job 1:21) The rest is all pretty much small stuff. Amen.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
February 10, 2015
It was going to be a long night. Rascal, our new pup, had a bad case of intestinal upset (aka “da ska-verts,” as my Norwegian-American friends would say back in Wisconsin). Four times that night, I rose from my bed to get Rascal outside. I was tired and feeling anything but joyful. Though a bit chilly, the night was still and clear, not that I noticed at first.
And then I looked up. Caught by awe, I stood there with my mouth open! The silent, black sky was peppered with millions of stars, from horizon to horizon. Without even thinking, I mumbled a brief prayer: “Thank you, Lord.” My heart filled with a vast stillness and overflowed with gratitude for the majesty of what I was witnessing – not just the night sky, but God’s awesome handiwork in having created it.
My point: God’s beauty surrounds us. Even on the darkest of nights (in this case, because it was the darkest of nights), we are blessed by His wondrous majesty. All we have to do is open our hearts and our eyes, and we will experience it when we least expect it. – jri
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout
and their words to all the world.”
~ Psalm 19:1-4
I used to love the big, loud, showy, bodacious miracles. These days, more and more, I have grown to stand in awe, appreciation, and wonder at the little ones. Several days ago, Susan brought home a hyacinth bulb, wrapped in its green leaves, its roots in a glass vase. Over several days, buds began to grow up out of the center. (Imagine that, the buds came from nothing but some water and sunlight.) Then yesterday everything burst open in silent beauty, as dozens of pink, six-petaled flowers appeared on the stem, while the area around the flower was filled with a rich yet delicate aroma. “…yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are” (Luke 12:27). Awesome.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
January 27, 2015
We got a puppy the other day. As part of the training process, we spend a lot of time saying, “Good boy!” — when he comes, when he sits, when he pees and poops outside, when he doesn’t pee or poop inside, when he stops biting our fingers or toes, etc. Rascal, who is on his way to becoming a well-trained dog, is going to have the highest self-esteem of anyone in our family, maybe in the county.
We should be so good to people! Many of us ration out kind words like they’re too precious to spare. Or we look for teachable moments (here’s what you could have done better) rather than opportunities to compliment and uplift (that was a great try; you’ll get it next time).
My point (and this one comes with a homework assignment): People remember, cherish and respond to kind, supportive words. With a (sincere) compliment, you can make their day and maybe even change their lives. So, here’s the assignment: Tell at least two people close to you today (A) how nice they look, (B) how much you appreciate them, or (C) and just how special they are to you. – jri
“I can live for two months on a
Susan – the sweetest, prettiest, most loving woman I know – is crazy about me. How do I know? Well, every now and then, she pauses in the middle of something she is doing and tells me, “John, you are a wonderful man.” Now, let’s not debate whether or not it is true. However, I want you to know that, no matter how many times she tells me, I break out into a huge grin and just about giggle like a schoolgirl. (And yes, like Rascal, I wag my tail for the rest of the day. Good boy.)
DailyConnections 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 January 20, 2015
|TAKING CARE OF EACH OTHER
The last thing I worry about is salvation, about getting into heaven. My challenge is getting through the perils and pitfalls of each day. But one of the things I have learned over the course of my 64 years is that the reason we’re here is to take care of each other.
That’s the joy. Let me repeat that: That’s the joy. No, it’s not about being busy-body do-gooders (who try to boss people around and save them from themselves, usually with other people’s money), but about caring and giving, about offering our time, our patience, our love and our support. Often it’s just a matter of being there, of buying a cup of coffee and listening, of letting others know you care.
My point: I believe many of us (yes, me too) spend way too much time meditating on our navels and wondering and worrying about what we want, what we should do, what we hope will make us happy. As the Brooklyn cousins might say: Fagetaboutit! Instead, share yourself, your love, and your time with others. Odds are that you will bring them joy just by letting them know that they are not alone and that you care. Oh, and you’ll make yourself feel pretty good, too. I guarantee it. – jri
Now and then, several friends and I do the Bible study lesson at a drug rehab center called Set Free. Most of the guys living at the facility (an old, bare-bones former chicken processing plant) have lost everything, including family and friends. Many feel forgotten. Yes, we do a semi-formal presentation. But we’re not ordained ministers or counselors. Mostly we just visit and talk with these men who are trying to turn their lives around. They invariably tell us how grateful they are that we took the time to come by. And we invariably remind them how blessed we feel for the opportunity to spend time with them.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
January 11, 2015
The car rental counter clerk was snarly like a North Korean customs’ agent. “Driver’s license and credit card,” she snapped. My pleasant holiday smile quickly turned into a frown as she ran almost angrily through the contract terms. I was slowly pulling out and cocking my emotional shotgun. I was getting ready to let her have it … with both barrels.
But then I reminded myself (or was reminded) that (1) it was Christmas day and this woman was working when she would probably have rather been home or anywhere else, and (2) I just might want to put all that Christian love stuff I spout so freely to work for a change. Though I wanted to strangle her, I put on my friendliest face, thanked her for working on Christmas, asked about her life, etc. In short, I reached out. At first, I was met by a determined scowl. Eventually, however, she smiled back and began asking about our travel and family plans. We had a nice chat. Before leaving the counter, I gave her one of my pocket crosses, wished her a Merry Christmas and told her, “God bless.” She smiled and said, “You, too.”
My point, two, actually: First, we do not have to escalate every incident into a full-blown confrontation. We do not have to let others control (and potentially ruin) our moods. Second, and more importantly, we can make a difference in others’ lives. That clerk and I could have growled at each other for ten minutes and made ourselves and each other miserable. I’m pleased (okay, downright proud of myself) that I may have made a small difference in this woman’s life. What we do counts! – jri
“We shall never know all the good
that a simple smile can do.”
- Mother Theresa
Bonus: As I blessed this woman, I was blessed in return tenfold. I could have blown a gasket, snarled and yelled, taken names, threatened to make phone calls, made phone calls, been a real horses ass, taught her a thing or two, and absolutely destroyed my own attitude and mood, as well as made Wife Susan miserable, and maybe even slopped some of my bad cheer over onto my daughter and her family when we arrived at her house. Instead, Susan and I got into our car in good moods. I also suspect/hope that the rental car counter clerk paid it forward and was pleasant and helpful to her next customers. Yes, we can make a difference.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
January 6, 2015
This one is not about God directly, but about one of the greatest gifts
God has given us.
Last month, I witnessed something beautiful. It lasted only a second, but it made my whole day. I was doing some paperwork and enjoying a cup of coffee at a fast food restaurant. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an old couple. Carrying their meal and leading the way to the table, he was moving slowly, cautious with every step. She, partially bent, with a slight palsy, was inching along behind, relying heavily on a walker. As I said, they were old.
It was what he said to her that gave me wondrous pause: As he placed the food on the table, he turned to her and softly, tenderly said, “Over here, Baby.” That’s what he said: “Baby.” She smiled, nodded, and kept inching along. In my mind, I instantly saw a young couple, maybe in high school or college back in the 50s, dating or planning a wedding at which they would exchange vows to love, honor, and care for each other, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. And they had.
My point: Just because the body ages, that does not mean love has to die or even grow old. Our ability to love is the greatest gift God has given us. — jri
“Those who love deeply
never grow old;
they may die of old age,
but they die young.”
- Benjamin Franklin
Susan and I have been blessed with a Do Over or Third Life. In love once and long ago, then separated for 45 years, there are times when our hearts and minds jump back and around in time. Our bodies may look like they are in their 60s, but our hearts are still of those golly-gee kids giggling over our plans for the future. The best is yet to come.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
January 2, 2015
I know people who get this Christmas thing all balled up and twisted in their heads. ‘Tis a season of joy, and they think that means they’re supposed to be happy, dammit! So, because many people cannot (not will not, but cannot) walk around with vacuous grins plastered across their faces, they think they are lacking. They become melancholy and broodful.
Well, it seems to me that this is NOT meant to be a season of joy because of the cheery songs, the glitter-wrapped presents, the emotion-oozing movies, the make-believe-happy-happy family dinners, or the eggnog and mistletoe. No wonder people get depressed!
My point: This IS a joyful season, but not for those dopey reasons. It is a time of joy for one reason and one reason only. It is the time we prepare for and then celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Man/God who changed everything, who brought hope to a pain-filled world, who brought light and love and salvation to a world filled with darkness, who brought purpose and truth to our lives. Celebrate this joy this season. Let all the other stuff go. — jri“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
- Galatians 4:4-7
Have a joyous Christmas. No, don’t try to be happy; just let it happen. Think and pray on the great and wondrous gift we have been given. Not sure about that. Well, then imagine how dark and cold the world would be without the birth of our Lord and Savior. May God’s peace fill your hearts.
I get tired sometimes, bone-weary tired, trying to be a good little do-bee Christian, and getting the snot kicked out of me for my efforts. (I think St. Theresa of Avilla said it best: “God, the way you treat your friends, it’s a wonder you have any.”)
Those are the times when I sometimes run out of pious, Christian patience, grab God by the lapels, and say, “Enough is enough. I’m tired of doing it your way.” So, we go a few rounds. No apologies. No begging. No groveling. Best two out of three. And in the morning, both of us beat to a pulp, He breaks loose and hits me hard, blesses me with a dose of enlightenment and the love of the Spirit. And I say thanks, offer tears of joy, and we part friends to go about our days, though we never really part. (Maybe it’s a guy thing; I’m not all that sure.)
My point: Perhaps this is heresy, but I do not believe in blind obedience. God made us joyful, willful, arrogant (my favorite vice), challenged and challenging. I love praying to God, talking to God. It is a conversation. When joyful, I thank Him. When not so, I sometimes challenge Him. Our periodic wrestling bouts are a form of prayer, very hands on, very personal. On this, I am not alone. Perhaps this is why Genesis 32:24-28 ranks among my favorite verses. — jri“This left Jacob alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’ “But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ “What is your name?’ the man asked. He replied, ‘Jacob.’ “Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.’”
- Genesis 32:24-28
When I was a kid, before the days of political correctness, boys fought. They’d call each other out, usually over nothing at all. After a few rounds and no real injuries beyond a torn shirt and a bloody nose, they would often shake hands and become close friends. I didn’t matter who won. (Years later, both would generally claim to have been the winner.) It was the challenging that tested and proved them. That’s how I sometimes still believe it is with God. I am not afraid to be honest with Him about how I feel. (If I said it was okay when I wanted to cold cock Him, that would make me a hypocritical toady.) Not that I really know a whole lot, but I think He demands and respects our honesty. So, the next time you’re really angry at God, sit down and tell Him. Let Him have it. That, to me, is called prayer, very honest prayer. God will bless you for it.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net November 19, 2014
I believe God, and I believe in His word. Most of all, after spending years doing life my way, on my terms, I finally figured out that I had no clue as to what worked best for me. (FYI: Living on my terms – I pretty much got everything I set out to get, accomplish, obtain.) My egoistic arrogance nearly did me in. I learned that winning is not the same as succeeding. Big difference!
Today, I try to do it God’s way. I try to put my trust in Him, not casually, but intensely, knowing that He is real, not some Sunday morning phantasm, but very much with us always and watching over us … always. But for me at least, that trust and faith is flawed. I fail. I fall. I stand with God and keep my promises to Him ferociously and intensely … but only for about a minute, maybe two. Yet, God still loves and forgives me over and over again.
My point: God is not fair! He does not give me what I deserve or what I have earned. If He did that, He’d have skinned me, de-boned me, parboiled me, dumped me off the Glory Train bound for heaven, kicked me to the curb, and moved on to more worthy prospects decades ago. Instead, in spite of my failure to keep my word and keep the faith, Jesus Christ – our friend, brother, always-present companion, Lord, God, King, Redeemer, and Savior – He has never abandoned me, even when I have taken Him into some pretty unsavory places. So, thank you, my Lord and my God, for not being fair, for not giving me what I deserve, but instead for giving me Your unconditional love and forgiveness. — jri“He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.”
- Psalm 103:10
I know I am forgiven. I don’t just think so; I know so. So, I try to spend less and less time scraping my knuckles raw by knock knock knockin’ on the door asking for whatever it is I need. Instead, I try to ask once (okay, once a day) and then leave it in God’s hands. More and more, when it comes to myself, I pray simply for three things: “Lord, please grant me faith, strength, and guidance this day. Amen.” And He does. Awesome.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net November 17, 2014
It was a Labor Day weekend, normally a very busy time for Terry and Marie at their drop-dead gorgeous, Southern style bed & breakfast, Magnolia Oaks Inn, in the Georgia foothills outside Gainesville. The problem: The inn was empty; zero bookings. Marie kept checking the website and phone, and even called around to see how other lodgings were doing. All the others were booked full. Not Magnolia Oaks. Empty.
Then the phone rang. There had been a car accident. (I believe it was Marie’s aged parents; forgive me if I get this detail wrong.) They were able to shut the inn and race to Alabama. Her father was going to be all right. However, they arrived just in time to gather around her mother’s hospital bed, pray for her, sing Amazing Grace, and bid her farewell back to the Lord’s arms an hour later. Had the inn had guests, Terry and Marie would not have been able to get there in time.
The point: Some events may not seem like blessings, but that is only because we are not given insight into God’s ways. Terry and Marie were frustrated because their inn was going to lose money that weekend. And then they received a glimpse into the Lord’s immense, unfathomable plan and how He cleared their schedule so they could be present at her mother’s deathbed. So, I guess the true point is that God is watching over us and His plans are not our concern. Everything has a purpose in God’s wondrous plan for us. Just trust. God knows what He is doing … ALWAYS. — jri“Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted.”
- Job (Job 36:26)
Susan and I are learning that it is not necessary for us to understand or approve God’s plans. It’s like that saying (I forget who said it): We do not believe because we see miracles; we see miracles because we believe. God watches over us and all people. That is the only understanding we need. God bless.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net November 3, 2014
As always, noisy me would have missed it. Last week, Susan and Rocky and I were enjoying a fall-day walk on a park trail. The sunshine was bright and warm, and not a breath of wind stirred the yellowing leaves on the trees. As always, I was chattering away, imparting words of brilliance, when Susan paused and touched my arm. I followed her gaze and, together, for several moments, we watched as three leaves slowly jumped and twirled a foot off the ground beside us.
Brilliant me thought nothing of it until Susan pointed out, “There’s no wind.” As we watched the dancing leaves, Susan and I became gently, comfortably aware of God’s peace-filled presence close at hand, as if the Lord were walking with us, beside us.
My point: Yes, it could simply have been weird thermals rising from the ground; maybe it was God joining us on our walk. That is NOT my point. Rather, that gentle dancing and whirling of the leaves, moving as if by a life of their own, caused us to give pause and reminded us that God was with us, is with us, always. All we have to do is open our eyes and see. — jri“And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire, there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” — 1 Kings: 11-12
As Susan and I are learning to open our eyes to God’s presence, more and more we see it in all things: a beautiful sunset, a silly bug, a blooming flower, a chance encounter with a person who leaves us inspired, or just our ability to relax quietly together in the evening in gratitude. This “vision” is perhaps one of the greatest gifts God has given us in a life filled with His blessings.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net October 29, 2014
Misguided folks sometimes believe that God zaps us once, good and hard, with the Spirit, and we’re good for the rest of our lives. After that, we can/should walk around all day with beatific grins plastered on our faces and live joyful, wondrous lives. They think that this come-to-Jesus moment is supposed to be a spiritual vaccination that lasts a lifetime. They need to think again.
Faith is usually a daily — sometimes plodding – process; at least it is for me and most people I know. Just like life, faith is not always easy, and we need lots of infusions, daily doses of guidance that build us up spiritually and, gradually, day by day, grow the Spirit stronger and stronger in our souls. Like vitamins, these spiritual doses help make and keep us strong.
My point (and this one’s real simple): Read the Bible and other soul-building books each day. Set aside time – usually the same time, if possible – to read the Bible and study God’s Word. The results – gradually, over time — will be spiritual knowledge, faith, strength. — jri“If you don’t eat, your body won’t grow. Likewise, if you don’t read your Bible, you’ll never grow beyond spiritual infancy.” — Jamie Buckingham (Power for Living)
Looking for guidance on where to start? One of the things Susan and I began to do, even before we met again after 40-plus years apart and were just talking by phone a thousand miles distant, was to read and pray together. These days, we devote 30-45 minutes each morning (usually starting at 6:00 a.m.) reading the Bible and praying (giving thanks for our blessings and praying intercessory prayers for our loved ones and those in need). We generally get our daily Bible readings from Forward Day by Day. We also read the day’s reading from Jesus Calling by Sarah White. And this month I’m reading on my own Buckingham’s Power for Living. Should you read the Bible from beginning to end? I did it, and I found that the result was okay at best. It left me a bit confused at times. A better way, at least in my opinion, is to get a good study Bible and follow the daily prayers that provide order and help with understanding. Enjoy and grow spiritually.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net October 9, 2014
Alex is a vibrant, indomitable corn plant, noble like a Standard Poodle. He has a sturdy, five-inch round trunk, and when I first met him back in 2006 or so, he towered at least seven feet out of his large pot. However, he was stuffed in a corner of a six-foot tall room and, though not weakening, was bursting at the seams, so to speak. I took him back to the well-lit, cathedral-ceilinged sunroom of my house on the shores of Lake Michigan. Bathed in light and with ample space, he thrived, growing to a strong and sturdy nine feet.
When I moved to more modest digs (and after some research and much concern), I cut Alex down to three feet of barren trunk. Though sure I had made a mistake and killed him, he sprouted new growth and climbed back to six feet within a year. When I moved from Wisconsin to Georgia, I could not leave him behind. He was like family. (I confess that I had grown to admire his amazing spirit and endurance.) So, I cut him down to four feet and loaded him in the U-Haul. Again, even after the thousand-mile trip, he thrived, now as a Southern corn plant (though, in truth, I think of him as a corn tree), and he is now pushing seven feet again and more robust than ever.
My point: Like Alex, we get trimmed back and pruned from time to time in this glorious life. They’re called setbacks, and we tend to hate them, perhaps resent them. We shouldn’t. These prunings are God’s way of making us stronger and healthier, of preparing us for the challenges of the future. (Imagine a life without setbacks: We would grow big and blousy and soft and vapid, and eventually wither away. So, thank God for the challenges and for the tough times. These prunings make us better, stronger, more alive. — jri“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” — Jesus (John 15:1-2)
Unpruned, I used to grow in my own self-directed way, sprouting and prospering in all directions, until I would outgrow myself, so to speak, rising to the level of my own incompetence, after which I would crash and burn, victim of my own success. Fortunately, the Lord would prune and trim me, making me stronger, sturdier, more focused, and more aware of His beauty, strength and Spirit.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net October 6, 2014
The image of Moses at the Red Sea has been in my mind recently: There is Moses looking out over a good-sized body of water. The entire nation of Israel is standing behind him, counting on him, nervous about what they’ve gotten themselves into. Behind them is the Egyptian army, armored men and chariots bearing down fast, determined to either kill or capture every last one of them.
The pressure is on. The situation is dire; no, it’s more like hopeless. And then, with a wave of his arm, in God’s name, the entire sea splits in half. The Jews escape; the Egyptians, every last one of them, drown when they try to follow. Ridiculous. Unbelievable. Impossible. Oh, but that’s what happened. The Book of Exodus covers it in great detail.
My point: God is in the miracle business. Big ones, little ones, that’s what He does. He takes the impossible and makes it possible. The miracles in our lives are not always as dramatic as the parting the Red Sea, but they are miracles nonetheless. We are surrounded by them, thousands of them, every day. When it comes to the really big ones – when we need healing, recovery from incomprehensible losses, relief from pain and suffering in any number of ways – just trust. Just ask. God may not give us the miracle exactly as we requested, but He will give us a miracle … often better than the one we had requested. And then just say thank you. Your Red Sea will part. — jri
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
“The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, ‘Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’
“”Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’ Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
“But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.”
— Exodus 14:21-30
Susan and I live in awe of the miracles God performs. From the huge and bold ones (such as how we joyfully came together against all odds after 40 + years apart … and remain joyfully so) to the slightest whispers of encouragement (the unexpected insight into a friends’ needs or a Bible verse or sermon with perfect timing, as if selected just for us, to answer a question or quell a fear), God’s miracles surround us. Susan and I talked about how she had been alone and lonely much of her life, but how now she lives surrounded by people she deeply loves and who deeply love her – a quiet, powerful miracle that God slipped in while she was busy doing other things. Open your eyes to see and enjoy the wondrous miracles God has delivered to your life.
4279 Hunter Road
Gainesville, GA 30506
September 30, 2014
When I went out to the car last Friday afternoon to run errands, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a flat tire…not just low, but flat. My first reaction was to snarl and curse my luckless fate. Still feeling forsaken, I decided it would be easier to just change it myself, even though my last flat-changing event had taken place in 2001. Actually, once I located and cranked down the spare, the whole process went relatively easily.
I was about three lug nuts in when the full beauty of this blessing dawned on me. You see, Susan was gone, off to visit her daughter, which was what she almost always did on Fridays. However, she almost always drove the red car, the one with the flat. Instead, this day I had suggested she take the black one, which I almost never did. If we had both followed our “almost always” routine, she would have ended up on the side of the highway half way to Atlanta. So, by the time I finished changing the tire, I was giggling and remembering how God always – not almost always, but ALWAYS – watches over us.
My point: Susan and I are learning – not always, but almost always – to recognize the God winks in our life, those little reminders that life is not just mostly good, but it is ALL good. Sure, I had to change the tire; God never said life would be an easy-as-pie cake walk. (Sorry, but I like that baked goods mixed metaphor.) As we learn to trust, we also see how much reason we have to trust. Life is good, even the flat tire parts … ALWAYS — jri“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is in the LORD.” — Jeremiah 17:7
Susan and I have gotten into the practice of looking for our blessings, and we are in awe as we discover just how many we have. Each morning, before starting our prayers, we each write down in a notebook that one thing for which we are most grateful. Many mornings we have difficulty deciding which one of the many to record. God’s blessings are all around us. Each day is filled with God’s majesty and the splendor of His creation. It is just a matter of taking the time to look. Enjoy the wondrous, blessings of this day.John Ingrisano 4279 Hunter Road Gainesville, GA 30506 www.dailyconnections.net September 14, 2014