JL's Corner

7/22/18
My wife Pam recently went picking fresh strawberries from a local farm. This morning I smothered my bowl of Special K with the juicy, sweet, melt in your mouth little morsels. This is just another example of the many simple gifts of life that God has lavished upon us as we enjoy living here on planet earth. The creation is chuck full of little treasures for us to discover, responsibly use and enjoy. Every day when I drive home I am greeted by beautiful flower gardens, green yards and endless trees. Today I am reminded that I should stop and give thanks for these and the many other wonders that God has so graciously given us. He is indeed a very generous God and His love and care for us is clearly visible all around us.
 
“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it… You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the dessert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.” (Psalm 65:9-12)
 
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
 
Tomorrow Pam goes to pick wild blueberries so I am looking forward to fresh, homemade, blueberry muffins and pancakes. Yum!

Love, J.L.
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7/15/18
Every year many Americans celebrate the Fourth of July. Our family has been getting together each summer at my parent’s home on Long Lake in Cheboygan to celebrate. We raise a huge American Flag while singing the Star Spangled Banner. Donning our patriotic attire we place flags all around the yard, on the dock and on the boats. In the afternoon during the annual boat parade I pull my son James around the lake dressed as Uncle Sam. The boat we use is a vintage red, early 1960’s model, Rinkerbuilt with a forty horse power Johnson motor. The boat is the oldest left on the lake and the people love to see it pulling Uncle Sam as they wave and cheer. The day of course is finished off with fireworks. It is definitely one of my favorite holidays.
 
The fourth of July also known as Independence Day celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence by our forefathers in Pennsylvania, way back in 1776, declaring the United States independence from Great Britain and its King. Each year we celebrate the freedoms that many have fought for, some even making the ultimate sacrifice and giving their life for.
 
As Christians we sign a sort of declaration of dependence when we are baptized into Christ for we understand that our salvation is totally dependent on our faith in Jesus whom by His death, burial and resurrection has freed us from our sins. Now that is truly something to celebrate!
 
“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6)
 
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”                   (Romans 8:1-2) 
 
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
 
Love, J.L.
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7/1/18
Jesus said: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”(Matthew 7:24-25)

The unprecedented, torrential rains that hit the Copper Country communities roared down the hills carrying mud stones and other debris with them. Many of the old houses in the U.P. actually have foundations made of rock. Therefore the houses remained standing however the basements were full of water, mud, sewage, rocks and debris. Oh what a mess the rain caused.

Early last week the Hancock congregation was contacted by the “Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort in Nashville Tennessee desiring to send up a whole semi-trailer full of food, personal items, infant items, cleaning supplies, shovels, rakes, wheel barrows, bleach, face masks, gloves, rubber boots, mops box fans, clothing, water and much more. After some outstanding organizing and coordinating by Troy and Holly Belanger, members of congregations from the U.P. came together to help serve those devastated by the flood waters by distributing the many relief items as well as listening to their stories, crying alongside of them, praying with them and giving them some encouragement and hope. We were simply trying to be God’s hands and feet, loving our neighbor as ourselves and by doing so the name of Christ along with his church was lifted up. May God receive all the praise glory and honor for it was only by His grace that this effort came to be.
 
Love, J.L. 
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6/24/18
One of the sayings I have heard and even used myself while living here in the U.P. in regards to living somewhere else is: “Hey, we may have lots of snow to move in the winter but we never have to deal with earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods.”  Well that may have been true until this weekend when an extreme rain storm moved through the area dumping many inches of rain over a very short period of time causing severe flooding to the Houghton/Hancock area of the U.P. Roads and bridges were quickly washed away, pavement was pealed up like it was simply tar paper, parking lots gone, infrastructure destroyed and all other sorts of destruction were present across the region.
When one lives near a volcano an eruption is a real possibility. Likewise if one lives next to the San Andres Fault an earthquake is a real possibility. But if one lives high on the hills of the Copper Country, nowhere near a flood plain; flooding is never really a concern. Or is it?
 
We never really know what’s coming down the pike at us. Whether it be a natural disaster, man-made cataclysmic event, plague, disease or other disruption of everyday life. No matter how hard we may try to guard ourselves against such things none of us lives in a bubble. One thing is for sure whoever, and each of us has a personal responsibility to be ready for it. 
 
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
 
Are you ready?
Love, J.L.
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6/17/18
As our president met with the leader of North Korea this week we were once again reminded of how precarious the world stage is. There remains always the threat of nuclear war, terrorism, bombings, school shootings and church shootings. There also continues to be volcanoes erupting, earthquakes shaking and tornadoes ripping. Although we are aware and concerned of what is going on around us, as Christians we need not fear for our trust is in God and our hope is in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall, he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolation he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:1-11) 
 
Indeed, God is still in control!
Love, J.L.
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6/10/18
This is the final week of school with students and faculty alike excited as they  look forward to the end of the school year.  Sure they will miss the daily routines, the friendships, camaraderie, sports and even the education. But after the last week of school they will be free to go on vacation, sleep in and enjoy all that the summer will bring. Oh how glorious it will be.
 
As we go through our lives and particularly as we get older and near the end of our lives I wonder if we are as excited about and looking forward to what comes next as the students and faculty are for summer vacation. Just think, when we go we will leave behind all the burdens, physical ailments, emotional struggles and sin that we deal with on a daily basis. When this life is over we will be set free into eternity.
 
Heaven will be much better than summer vacation or any other thing we can compare it to here on planet earth. As we read the Word of God it is evident that even the biblical writers had a hard time putting into words in a way that we can understand what heaven will be like. It is simply far too amazing to describe.
 
I have been blessed to see some beautiful and amazing places like the Grand Canyon, Lookout Mountain, Pictured Rocks, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Lake Superior and Niagara Falls but nothing I have seen will compare to what is ahead for all of us who are in Christ Jesus.
 
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”  (I Corinthians 2:9)
 
“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger, never again will they thirst. The sun not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”                  (Revelation 7:13-17)

Love, J.L.
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6/3/18
The warm temperatures and plenty of precipitation has caused the foliage and blossoms on the trees to explode. My wife’s Hostas went from the size of a pencil to full flowers seemingly overnight.  And of course the grass in our lawns has taken off as well. This means it is time to break out the lawn mowers. The rickety old rider I had did not want to start this spring so I had to fall back on the walk behind model. Now some folks love to cut their grass while others hate it. I am probably somewhere in the middle. But this year I was very happy to be able to walk behind our mower and cut the grass in our lawn. After my back surgery last year I was unable to even ride a mower let alone push one. Our neighbor was kind enough to take care of our lawn for us. Isn’t it amazing how our perception of things can change? What I once viewed as a chore was now something I was grateful to be able to do.

Maybe we should just always be thankful for many more things in our lives than we are. Someone has phrased it as having: “An Attitude of Gratitude.”  Indeed we all have much to be thankful for. There are the obvious things like taking our next breath, food on the table and a roof over our head. But we have been so much more abundantly blessed. Just stop for a moment and think of all the physical blessings you have in your life. And then there are the extraordinary Spiritual blessings in Christ. Wow! 
 
As Dennis Jernigan wrote in his popular hymn. “For all that you’ve done I will thank you. For all that you’re going to do. For all that you’ve promised and all that you are, is all that has carried me through, Jesus I thank you. Thank you for loving and setting me free. Thank you for giving your life just for me. How I thank you!”
 
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
 
Love, J.L.
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5/27/18
Early Monday morning it was already warm enough for me to be sitting outside enjoying a cup of coffee on our front porch. As I spent some time in prayer and personal reflection I tried to embrace the beauty and wonder of the creation around me. Wispy cirrus clouds wrapped around the sun provided a backdrop for a sort of circular rainbow to do the same. Perched above me in the still leafless maple tree were two hummingbirds both eyeing our feeder along with mamma Robin keeping an eye on me and her nest snuggly built above our front porch light. A small flock of ducks flew in formation making a perfect landing on the calm waters of the crystal clear lake.  A neighbor was watering her freshly planted flowers while another was giving his grass the first cut of the year. As I took another sip of my coffee I thought how thankful I was for just this one small segment of God’s creation and the life he has blessed me with to live here and most importantly to live in Christ. I don’t deserve any of this, yet there I sat smack dab in the middle of it all at our tiny house in the small town of Gwinn, located in the vast Upper Peninsula of the Great Lakes State of Michigan, a part of the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, on glorious planet earth.
 
Memorial Day could just as soon be Thanksgiving as we remember those who helped contribute to what we now enjoy. There were our great grandparents who chose to travel across the sea to forge a better life in a new world. There were those who have fought at great cost to preserve the freedom that allows me to write and send out this article without fear of reprisal.

And how about the one who gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could not only enjoy an abundant life here and now, but an eternal life with Him in heaven.
 
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
 
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7)
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)  
Love, J.L.
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5/6/18

This year spring seems to have been exceptionally slow in arriving but as our calendars turn to May we are hopeful that it is indeed on the horizon.  I have lived in the U.P. for sixteen years now and this is the latest I have seen snow on the ground and ice on the lake. However I have recently been reminded that my historical perspective is rather short. After having viewed the Kaye E. Barker stuck in the ice off Marquette I read an article in the Mining Journal that told me ships have been stuck in the harbor even later than this. “In late April 1917, a report in the Mining Journal predicted that navigation would open within the week but this prediction proved overly optimistic. Reports throughout the month of May detail a total of 15 ships getting stuck in the ice, some for up to two weeks.” (Mining Journal, Wednesday April 25, 2018)

Indeed our perspectives on many things are very limited. None of us will probably live to be one hundred or more. The United States of America has only been around for less than two hundred and fifty years and it has been less than two thousand years since Jesus walked this earth.  So, as we wait for things to happen, prayers to be answered and seasons to change let’s remember that our schedule, our timing and our view are very limited.

David in the following Psalm shared how his patience in the Lord eventually paid off. Why should the same not be for us?

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust.” (Psalm 40:1-4) 

The Apostle Paul likewise encourages us to hang in there and never give up. 

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:11-12)

Grace and Peace to you all as we wait for spring to eventually get here!

Love J.L.