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*Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration*

Apologies For My Absence

My goodness, it’s been a while! Three “long” months to be exact since I last published anything for your appreciated perusal and consideration. Even though that time frame isn’t considered “long” in the world of book writing, it has felt like a lifetime to me.

I and my greatly valued proof reader Shila just recently ( November 24th ) celebrated our first year in co-operation with “Smashwords” as our home base of distribution. Our sixty six books published and 4,300 downloads ( applause with thanks to you folks ), perhaps serves as a help in understanding my missing sitting at the keyboard and chatting with you all so I’m glad to be “back”. Speaking of “back”: My cherished daily routine of writing came to an abrupt halt three months ago when “my back” decided to unceremoniously remind me that it was seventy years old! While my mind, heart, and spirit are younger than young, somehow my body didn’t get the memo I guess!

The good news: After much convoluted physio ( ouch! ), I’m relatively fine now and raring to go! So I pondered before getting back in the saddle: Should I try to make up for “lost time”, or embrace the unwelcomed break graciously as a learning season, thus deeming it something far more constructively valuable than “lost”?

The latter option seemed the wiser, so with trust and confidence that the problem is now firmly entrenched in the rear view mirror of my life, I return to my keyboard with lessons learned and by God’s grace, helpful insights to share with you good folks. We all need help periodically with this great gift called life. It can get frustratingly messy at times. Those times, when theories and clichés ring empty to our valleyed hearts. Oh we remember expounding them with great fervor while perched on our mountain tops of considered relative normalcy but the known altitude of our immediate, in no way suggests that “lofty residence” as our place of momentary dwelling.

So, unless we’ve been living in an exclusive, all- protective bubble, it’s a given: Life gets messy! Rather than debate it, putting on our “big people pants” and admitting its reality, would serve us well in curtailing that nasty, utterly un-productive, “victim mindset” we so easily ingest into our souls. So, one more time: It’s a fact, life gets messy! We can run from it or deal with it but we can’t avoid it! But, is its messiness the point I wonder? Seeing as life’s “bumps in the road” are predictably re-occurring, is making “them” the equally re-occurring “story” of our existence not self-promoting a spiritual roller coaster as our lot in life with its dizzying nauseous content?

Be it on mountain tops or in valleys, this “profound truth” remains. Profound truth, never to be mistaken as positive thinking! We have choice in all matters pertaining to our responses to life! Choice is a gift from God. Right choices, which are frequently diametrically opposite to societal norms within their content of perceived radicalism, are our invitation for God’s inclusion. God’s inclusion through our voluntary invitation then becomes the determining factor to our spiritual well-being, in the middle of the messiest of messes!

Once pedestaled at the epicenter of “the messy”, our Lord becomes “the story” of prominence, taking His rightful place of dominance while leaving “the messy” in His wake as no more than an ongoing footnote.

Valleys are an unavoidable reality of life. We certainly would never invite them nor do we enjoy their arrivals. But folks ( and this is like drinking that awful cough medicine ) they do have divine purpose if seen through their offered by God heavenly perspective. In the middle of our valleys, if we hold fast to our “spiritual stillness”, we can discover priceless, golden nuggets of truth that mountain tops simply can’t provide. Life doesn’t always make as much sense as we’d like as we sojourn day to day on planet earth. Faith is therefore a “must have” included component as we stare into the faces of our circumstantial Goliaths.

I find it spiritually interesting how our amazing and wonderful God is always teaching us, even in our “down times”. Perhaps more so in our down times! During those uncomfortable inactive periods when we feel un-productive, it’s then that He seems to be His most actively productive in a uniquely personal way! Through the lens of retrospective hindsight, we see clearly that He wastes nothing and uses “all things” for our benefit and His glory. The key is to see it before the fact rather than after! Friends, our natural tendencies make that truth the tricky part! What our hearts tell us is true, is strangely seldom our immediate default point in difficult times. Perhaps by chatting about it, we can make “the tricky part” a little less awkward?

There is no doubt circumstances, especially the unexpected, can ever so quickly cause our flesh to quiver, knees to buckle, and faith to falter! But, with God’s all sufficient grace applied to our “at times” insufficiencies, He patiently propels us forward with calming care. He always leads us to spiritually enhanced “still waters” in the midst of our storms. Tranquil waters, which provide an atmosphere conducent to hearing His loving voice proclaim peace and stillness to the waves as He encourages us to “Be Still And Know”, that He is God! He being acknowledged as God has a way of changing one’s perspective! But we must agree to be led. You see, we have choice!

Tantrums - Are You Kidding Me!

A seventy year old is every bit as capable as a two year old at throwing tantrums! Is that being too honest for my own good, I wonder? Probably, but moving right along. Back to my back! You might question, how my perfectly fine spine became as far from perfect as a spine can get? The pain was so bad that I likened it on occasion to giving birth “every morning” with my three hour preparation needed in getting myself reasonably vertical. Needless to say, having given birth to two daughters of her own, Shila didn’t appreciate nor substantiate my analogy. To all the ladies I sincerely apologize with this “male truth” as an explanation! We say crazy things when in pain!

Back in August, Shila embarked on her yearly pilgrimage to England to visit her family including some cherished friends from Shila’s childhood. These trips are not easily accommodated by my faithful “proof reader”, but it’s fully understood by us both, that with Mom’s health an ongoing issue, combined with the immense blessing Shila is on her arrival, these precious times are not optional nor would we want them seen as such. Folks trust me, it’s a beautiful visual that I am granted access to, as I observe a daughter loving her Mother to the extent that the many hoops needed to jump through to get to England are seen by her as minor compared to the reward of seeing Mom. I, having a front row seat, know they’re not minor, in fact the endeavor is fraught with complications. But as is always the case every year, Shila, with the determination of a Lion looking for food, wrestles those obvious inconveniences into submission and manages to get on that plane no matter what! A little insight into the heart that inspires me folks!

Once again: back to my back. While Shila was in England, with my blessing and prayers draped all over her visit, my creative heart felt it would be a good and godly gesture, from a Canadian perspective, to participate in a tangible fashion. We had mentioned the need for some painting to de done at her apartment previously. A little over-due touch up to be applied to a fairly small area where the workers who did the repair, didn’t return to finish the job. If you’ve ever lived in an apartment, that issue seems to be strangely normal these days! I had gladly agreed, that in Shila’s absence I would take care of it, thus applying a quality of wisdom competitive with that of King Solomon: “If you don’t want to be replaced, make yourself irreplaceable”. Words to live by men. And all the ladies said: Amen Bill, preach it!

Well, the “small job” got bigger by the day and to be clear, by my own choice every step of the way! Steps that led to more steps that led to more steps. I truly desired that Shila return home to something more thoughtful than a “token touch up”. “I did what I was asked to do”, wasn’t going to satisfy my need thus seen by me as inappropriately insufficient as a sincere statement of appreciation for the amazing lady Shila is. So, I went on a hunt for things to do! What was to be a two hour investment went on for three days! I can get a little extreme once I get started!

On day four, with my desired result fulfilled to my satisfaction, I woke up to a sore back, but thought of it to be a slight muscle strain. Nothing serious. It will likely be gone in a day or two with a little rest, I thought. Wrong! Each ensuing day it got a little worse but I was still upright when needed, so getting Shila home from the airport without divulging my discomfort was doable. Applying the same quality of wisdom as previously mentioned: You don’t tell your best friend that her home-coming surprise cost you your health. It kind of spoils it! Besides, “I was still upright when needed”, so why share what doesn’t need to be shared.

It would be about a month after Shila’s return that getting out of bed had regressed to starting on all fours and working up to the task of walking. Scary and no longer hideable! The pain was excruciating with its knee buckling, sudden, unpredictable, but increasingly frequent, episodes. With me trapped in the mystery as to what was actually going on, I finally paid a “hobbling” visit to the doctor. I’ve never been a big fan of visiting our friends in the medical community but this transcended my preferences so off I went for a chat and check-up. Without the need of getting into all the gory details of my doctor’s findings, let it suffice to say: “It wasn’t the best of news”. A herniated bulging disk in my 5th (bottom) lumbar that was pressing on the sciatica nerve. The lumbar itself was deteriorated (an age thing) and unfixable without surgery. A surgery that had no guarantees attached. “A last resort” was its dreadful descriptive to me! Not encouraging to say the least.

“Oh the injustice of it all”: I thought secretly in my heart, as my blood pressure skyrocketed! It’s amazing how red a white guy can get when he reverts to childishness in his misled perspective!

And here comes the tantrum with all its shameful foolishness! Are you kidding me! I was doing a caring and loving thing and look what happened!

I’m not sure if the pain caused me to mis-think that I was informing God of some information that He wasn’t privy to, but I do sadly remember carrying on with the foolishness of my dialog as if it weren’t foolish.

God, letting the child within me vent for as long as it took to express my “illegitimate”, I would soon discover, complaints, finally spoke into my sudden quietness. You see tantrums are loud but are always followed with sulking, which is quiet.

His words were void of pity or consolation. No, “poor you Bill” inferred for a moment from His heart. No gentle patting me on the head to ease my unfortunate “circumstances”. No, none of that! But what God did say was cuttingly harsh. Not spoken as a parent to a two year old but rather a Father, to His grown son.

“Bill, loving and caring is messy as is life. Please don’t talk as if I don’t know that, unless you’ve forgotten the cross - My cross”.

I’m admittedly a man of many words. It would seem God isn’t! But His “few words” when spoken, have a way of stopping you in your tracks in a heartbeat. You can almost smell the rubber of internal brakes being applied with the ferocity of heaven’s power. Let’s put it this way: You don’t dare debate, you listen!

I’m reminded of Jesus calling the initial twelve. No big speech, just “Follow Me”! And they did. I’m also reminded of my first day with Christ forty three years ago. A short introduction and I followed. Back in those days I didn’t know enough to debate God. Could it be that I was better off with less to impede my trusting obedience. There is a scripture in the book of Revelation that speaks to returning to one’s first love. Maybe that’s what it means? Jesus says: Love Me, trust Me, and follow Me, no matter what. My recent experience leaves me wondering: What happened to my promised: “No matter what”?

Pierced to the very core of my being by His comment, I shamefully apologized. Tantrums, while being tolerated for a season and at times for a reason, are not encouraged by God as a regular inclusion into our graciously imparted relationships with Him. Unconditional grace is a two-way street, I’ve learned! Otherwise a “fair-weather relationship” evolves, which is no relationship at all of meaningful consequence!

May my transparent admission of foolishness save you from the pain of your own! Trust me, His words were far more painful than the issue that I was complaining about!

In questioning my motives I am left to wonder: Was my complaint truly the pain that followed my loving and caring, or was it my “sub-conscious” mind that felt entitled to be excused from pain, as a result of my caring and loving? Those two, while sounding similar-ish, aren’t actually close to being from the same spiritual family. The latter comes with a suggestion that if I do A, B, and C, God always wants to do D, FOR ME! Now, that’s not something I believe but I’ve been around for a considerable time therefore I have heard pretty well everything that has been out there to hear, the scriptural and un-scriptural included.

When I was much younger in the Lord the “Name It And Claim It” movement was in full swing with its tantalizing philosophy permeating the air waves. Could I have ingested some of their Kool-Aide unknowingly, that settled into my less obvious sub-conscious waiting for the exact right moment to rear its ugly head? While not in agreement with it, could it not have left some remnant of its toxicity in my inner-man? I think that is all very possible and should serve as a caution to be careful what we expose ourselves to. It might be unknowingly easier to give it a home by accident, than evict it later on!

The reason I brought it up? The answer to my previously mentioned wondering may very well be found in my second possible conclusion. I may have thought I should be excused from pain! To be clear: I didn’t think I should never feel pain but rather, not after being invested in “good”.

That’s as unscriptural a thought as can be imagined. Proof: If a servant is not greater than his Master as declared clearly in the bible, and as I survey the cross of my Lord, it takes no time at all to see the folly in the thought.

Isn’t it amazing, the long shelf life of an incorrect sub-conscious error before it’s expiry date lapses! The allowed circumstances of life may be God’s way of bringing these viruses to the surface to be dealt with, once and for all. If that be so, we can be thankful for circumstances seeing them for what they are. Tools in God’s hands used for our benefit!

“Search me oh God and know my heart today”, is a line from a very well-known church classic. Following up on that line is: “See if there be some wicked way in me”. Quite the request! Quite the needed bravery to request it with sincerity.

In simple terms and as a prayer: If there is a weed that has rooted itself in the garden of your temple, search it out Lord and expose it, so that we can co-operatively eliminate it. Over time we can develop over-inflated opinions of ourselves. It’s a seniority pit-fall we must be aware of. It often happens innocently but we have an amazingly understanding God who is always at the ready to embrace our humbleness and help us deflate that which we’ve inflated. You do know: There’s such a thing as having too much air in a tire!

Changed Attitude - Changed Altitude

Three weeks ago, “Hi Doc”, was my friendly entrance to the most recent visit to see my medical advisor. I felt much better by far and was waiting for my opportunity to verbalize the reason for my difference directly into the ears of this young man.

He definitely noticed something of significance had changed since our last chat. “What in the world have you been up to Bill? You were seriously “down” at our previous appointment, but today you look good. You even have a renewed pep in your step, minus the limp. Tell me what changed!”

My response? “I’ve changed”! His follow up query? “What does that mean?” My response? “I’m glad you asked”. And the verbalizing was officially on!

Well, up until recently my pain was managing me but I finally realized, I have legitimate choices in the matter, but only two. Stay with the status quo and let my pain manage me or I manage it! One of these two options was going to be my choice for my ongoing everyday reality. There was no third choice. It was simply this or that, so I chose the latter and by the grace and enablement of God, I am winning the battle!

You know, God invests Himself in our right choices Doc! I’m thankfully now at 90% which is a long way from the 9% I started with. I changed my attitude and re-calibrated my focus. While refusing to allow my back issue to be “the story” in my life, I re-pedestaled God at the center. I’m not ignoring my back or worse pretending there’s no problem, I’ve just put it in its proper perspective and by doing so, it has been forced to relinquish its ownership of my every thought. In changing my attitude I’ve increased my altitude and taken control rather than be controlled. You see, I have choice and have made it!

I will do all I need to do in order to maintain my improvement but the difference now is, I do it experiencing the joy of the challenge. You see Doc, I have choice and have dug in my heels and refused to quit!

End of verbalizing, but not without an interesting response from my smiling doctor. “Bill, that’s impressive”! My response? Yes HE is! My dear friends and appreciated readers: YES HE IS!

Hoping Isn’t Knowing

The time away from my routinely spent ten hour days at the keyboard has proven itself to be fruitful. I've learned much, not the least of which is this:

The circumstantial landscapes of our lives can and likely will change, sometimes without notice or warning, however: Unendingly by grace, coursing through our spiritual veins, is the tangible  presence of our ever abiding "unchangeable God".  

The luxury of God's “determining factor essence” being ever present, is our adopted by Him, all-sufficient provision to embrace in the inevitable valleys that life presents.

He was the "Cool Breeze" for the Hebrew children's fiery furnace heat. 

He was the "Sleeping Pills" for Daniel's hungry lions. 

He was the "Guidance" for David's little stone. 

He was the "Hand" for Peter's needed water rescue.

He was the "Forgiver" for Peter's heart breaking denial. 

He was the "Resurrector" for the dead Lazarus. 

He was the "Restorer Of Dignity" for the woman caught in adultery. 

He was the "Attitude Changer" for some of the religiously blind. 

He was the "Eyes" for the physically blind. 

He was the "Babies Skin" for the lepers. 

He was the "Deliverer" for the oppressed and possessed.

He was the "New Legs" for the crippled!

Jesus is ( present tense ): "The same yesterday, today, and forever". Therefore He is today, all that He ever was yesterday and in fact, all He has ever been throughout eternity! Our Lord, being the epicenter and giver of life, provides us with a never changing foundation to tread, while all else around us changes constantly! He is the " Rock" on which we stand that cannot nor will not be moved nor re-moved!

From the very beginning and throughout history, nothing at all of "consequence" has changed in the slightest because Jesus isn't circumstantial, He's consequential!   

It is He who determines outcomes! Circumstances do not manage Him, He manages them for His purposes and glory! 

This is our Mighty God, Lord, Advocate, Savior, and Lover of our souls, who reigns at the right hand of the Father. Jesus himself has promised to go before us, thus we need not “hope” as those hanging by the thinnest of threads to their faith, but rather “know” with the utmost of assurance  that He is God, OUR GOD, always and forever! 

Immersed in this ever present truth, we discover our stillness of soul and peace in the middle of our storms KNOWING, whatever the weather, we are the ones who KNOW the "Weather-Man" intimately, which trumps all else!

While God's name may be considered small letter-wise, His true reality is all encompassingly  huge in our lives at all times! In that we rest, KNOWING that our Lord is in control, making all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose!

When circumstances don't look so, we must keep in mind that Jesus didn't look like a King while hanging on His cross: But He was! Things aren't always as they seem, it would seem! Bad backs included, I've learned! 

Lately, I've experienced many unexpected opportunities to share my faith with a plethora of doctors, a pharmacist, a chiropractor and a receptionist! If not for my back issue, I'd have never met these people whom God so loves. He's still making all things work together folks! Praise His Holy and Eternally Sovereign name! 

It’s amazing what you clearly see when you get over yourself as the primary character in “the story”. As for me? It’s amazing what I saw, once I got over my tantrum! You see, tantrums blind us in an introverted way to the external blessing, purpose, and plan of God’s story. By throwing them, we run the risk of missing the entire point while we scurry to bring understanding to the ever fluctuating complexities of life. Misused energy, I’m thinking.

Never to be dismissed as fantasy or under-valued for the amazing gift it is, we have choice in all matters pertaining to life. But only two! We can, by the grace and enablement of God, manage life or it will manage us. One of those two dynamics will be our daily reality. Because Christ lives, we can not only face tomorrow, but look forward to its challenges with their, to be revealed by God, divine purposes!

While others did, those three Hebrew children never made the fiery furnace “the story”. So when we feel the heat let’s remember their standard and do likewise. It will serve us all well!

My Ministry Into Our Ministry

Mark 6 - 38 & 41: “How many loaves do you have He asked?” “Go and see”. When they found out they said, “Five and two fish”. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to His disciples to DISTRIBUTE to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all”. ( Five thousand plus, were fed that day! )

In the biblical story of the “fishes and loaves”, I so clearly see three dynamics in play to achieve the desired completion of the heavenly orchestrated equation. The young boy GAVE what little he had, our Lord then MULTIPLIED it, and the disciples then DISTRIBUTED it.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus, after the multiplying didn’t say, “Come and get it”. What He did say was, “Everyone find a place to sit on the grass and I’ll bring it to you, through my own”. Folks, He loves to involve us. He loves to make us matter! We are blessed beyond measure to be written into, His stories! Just imagine: Invited by Him to participate in His plans for others!

From the inception of the idea of writing books to be made available to “all freely”, there has never been a moment when I haven’t been aware of its ministry context. I could easily be seen as the “young boy” in the story. Jesus has most certainly multiplied my meager offering to Him.

So may I invite and encourage you to be a distributor of that which He has multiplied, thereby elevating “My Ministry” into “Our Ministry”, thus completing “His Ministry”. There’s something about that idea that sounds “perfect” to my heart!

We all have friends, family, work mates, school mates, etc. I’ve included a simple directional on “how to find” the “fishes and loaves”. Please feel free to share “what you eat” with others. You have no idea where it could lead to! That young boy’s mother could never have dreamed, what that little lunch she had prepared for her son on that fateful morning, would produce!

Thanks in advance. Bill Taylor

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