Friday, May 29, 2009

LIFE IS A MIRACLE

Wednesday afternoon I left one of my precious members in hospice who is close to going to heaven. I looked long into his eyes and the 90 plus years he has lived knowing that soon he will be in eternity. Life is precious, short here on earth, but eternal when there is trust in God.

Later that same afternoon I returned home for a while before Wednesday night church and checked on the new birdies that had just hatched in the geranium on our back deck. The mother wren and papa wren go back and forth caring for their little ones. There are five or so of them squirming around with wide open becks needing mother and papa birds care. 

I took a few shot of them hoping that I wouldn't upset them or make the papa or mamma birds angry or fly down on my head. They all seemed to take me being nosey ok and I took these few shots and a video.

Isn't life a miracle? Nature itself reveals the glory of God's handiwork. 



Wanda and I had watched the nest being made and the wrens going back and forth and the little eggs being laid. Each morning we eat breakfast and share devotions and prayer at the table on the back porch overlooking the deck where the geranium sits.  

It takes 13 days from the point of nesting for the eggs to hatch. I don't know how long for the birdies to grow feathers and fly away, but I will be watching and taking a few video's along the way. 

Life is a miracle. God, you are good. You give life.


video

Thursday, May 28, 2009

TOO CUTE!

Now tell me. 

Aren't those two of the cutest kiddies ever? 

Jennifer sent this picture to me from Sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico, taken at the pool at their house. Claudia and Lorenzo could be child models. That's a proud papa saying that!

I don't normally post on Thursdays, but this picture was too cute not to share.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

FUN WITH SOME MONKEYS

Did you know that gorillas cannot swim? They can't swim very well, if at all, and drown if they fall into  water and can't get out. One drowned a few years ago at the Jacksonville Zoo as he fell into a large, deep moat and could not get out. 

The gorilla, named Ben, was one of four male gorillas known as “the bachelors.”  Ben was born on August 12, 1985, at the Oklahoma City Zoo.  He came to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in 1998.  In a freak accident, the death occurred when another gorilla, named Quito, was chasing Ben. Ben slipped on the sloop of the moat in the exhibit, fell in and drowned. 

I saw the report on the evening news about the drowning, and had met the big guy. Well, you know that we hadn't met, but I had been by his cage many times in my trips to the Jacksonville Zoo with my grands.  He fell in and just couldn't get out and drowned. That was sad.






Nic and Alex were here over the weekend with their mother, Julie,  and we went to the zoo on Monday. They love for Papa to take them so I have annual zoo passes and we make a day of it whenever they are here.

They love the animals, play areas, and zoo activities. It is an relatively inexpensive thing to do and we make lots of memories. One memory we made in a previous  visit was backtracking all over the zoo to find a tennis shoe Nic took off while I was pushing him in a stroller. I wanted to skin the little guy because he was always taking those shoes off. It took forever to find his lost shoe. What is it with little kiddies taking shoes off in the car over and over only to have to be laced and re-tied? Why do kiddies take their shoes off over and over?

Nic and Alex are growing up and it won't be too many years before I can only hope they will show me some attention. I call Alex my best Pal and Nic is my best buddy. Now I have Cole, and Page, and Alex to go with Claudia and Lorenzo. They make up a large bunch of little monkeys to take to the zoo.
We went to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you?

The last picture is one with all the grands. Aren't they really grand!




Monday, May 25, 2009

MEET WILLIE AND WILLIE

Friday I had a breakfast appointment in San Marco to counsel with a young minister. The appointment went well as he shared what God was doing in his life and his desires and plans for the future. It thrilled me to see his heart and passion to follow the Lord and use his gifts and talents for the Kingdom. He was very appreciative of our time together, and I am praying with him for God's guidance.

After our meeting, he left and as I was walking out the restaurant, I felt drawn to speak to a couple of men sitting to the right of the door as I opened it. I hesitated for a moment, but felt compelled.

"Hi," I said. "Are you two believers?"

"Yes," they responded together.

One of them spoke up and said, "I am Willie and this is my friend Willie."

"I'm Milton Dykes. I am the pastor of Southside Assembly here in San Marco. I felt drawn to speak to you."

"Praise the Lord," they both responded. One asked for my business card.

After a moment of small talk, one of them spoke up and shared, "My wife just died and I am hurting so bad."

"I'm so sorry," I empathized.

"It is unbearable," he continued. "I don't know what I am going to do."

"I know how you feel," I said. 

He looked strong at me.

"My wife of 37 years died last year. I know the hurt you are going through."

He looked with amazement and said, "I can't believe you stopped to talk. I had been looking to find someone who could help me and knew how I felt. I have a friend who lost his wife, but we haven't been able to get together."

"The pain is so bad. Part of me is gone. I don't know what I am going to do," he said.

For a few moments I shared my story and described what I went through and how God helped me and how God would help him. I told him that he would make it and that it was ok to cry. I said there is more room on the outside than inside and that he just needed to tell Jesus what he felt. I told him that Jesus was loving enough and big enough and compassionate enough to hear anything he had so say.

We talked more and then I asked if I could pray with him and we did.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. You knew what I needed. You know how I feel. God sent you here for me. I needed your words so bad. You have helped me. Thank you," Willie said.

His friend, the other Willie, said, "You are an angel sent of the Lord."

It was a God moment. It was a moment when God's loving care reached out through me and touched another hurting brother. God sent a wounded "preacher angel" to pour in some oil.

I left Willie and Willie and felt grateful that I had obeyed the Lord's voice to just say hello.

God did the rest. God does unusual things to show us his love. I left wondering if the earlier appointment there wasn't just a God set up for me to be there to tell Willie  that he would make it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

RACCOONS OR BIRDS?

Our backyard is being swarmed by birds and robbed by raccoons. We have had several days of wind and rain and the double bird feeder blew over during the night. That exposed the bird seed to new critters who are now having fun robbing seed that just doesn't belong to them.

I love watching the redbirds, wrens, woodpeckers, doves, and other birds fly to and from our bird feeder early in the morning and later in the evening when I am home. Wanda and I eat more often than not on the back porch or deck enjoying the sights and sounds of birds.

Now the bird feeders are pulled over and down by the varmints stealing the bird seed. I have a few pictures and a video of their antics. The first time I caught one of them the raccoon fled over the backyard fence just at my voice.

The next time he did too. Then next time I clapped my hands and he ran. The next time I yelled and he just starred. Finally the little critter wouldn't leave unless I ran down from the deck to literally make him leave. Yelling and clapping hands didn't work anymore.

Anybody got any ideas about how to get rid of a raccoon herd in my back yard? Some may love raccoon over birds, but they eat all the seed in one or two sittings and leave nothing for the birds. Now that isn't very nice. Besides the birds are so colorful and I enjoy their music.

I thought about a BB gun. Now ladies don't write any nasty notes. I am not going to do that, but I may borrow a trapping cage to catch them and relocate them to another part of Duvall County. Maybe there is so kind of spray to get rid of them. 

All I want is to enjoy the back yard and not be bothered by the little rascals! 

Birds or raccoons? What is your choice?

video

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

PORTRAITS TO REMEMBER

I am very excited about the renovations in our church facilities at Southside Assembly where I served as senior pastor. We have spent last year working on the roof, air conditioning, moving interior walls, painting exterior and interior walls, totally re-carpeting, improving sanctuary sound and lighting, foyer redecoration, and on the list of improvements could go.

The facilities look great and the improvements continue. One of our families suggested portraits of Christ to be hung in our new church foyer and 
made a donation of the first two portraits. They encouraged others to join in and now there are 15 portraits donated.








Each portrait gives a beautiful reminder of the love and grace of Christ as He came into the world, lived, ministered, died on the Cross for our sins, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and now sits at  the right hand of His Father to make intercession for us. 

His awesome love is beyond comprehension. He loves and reaches out today to show His amazing kindness and grace. These portraits are a reminder of His faithfulness to us.



All the the portraits were donated in the memory of beloved family members who have preceded us in heaven. Wanda and I gave a portrait of Christ with the children in honor of our first spouses, Kristy and Jim. They will be remembered, but more importantly Christ's love will shine into the hearts of those who see these beautiful portraits of our Savior. 

Christ's love reigns. 

He is Lord!




Monday, May 18, 2009

YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE....

Wanda and I have laughed our heads off watching a video series by Mark Gungor entitled "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" this past week.

It is hilarious! But it is also life impacting. 

We both had great first marriages and learned a lot of do's and don'ts to hopefully make our marriage even better. One thing that helps make marriages better is to make an effort to work at it every day. 

We do just that.

We begin each day with prayer together, and we go through the day doing our best to bless each other. As newlyweds, we are still learning each other so adjustments are not even in view yet. We are on a grand honeymoon and not worrying about a whole lot. We are "in love."

Marriage is God's intended way to bring the fullest of blessing in life, and we are blessed twice over with new love and God's blessings and favor.

We still haven't had an argument or disagreement, but I know it is inevitable. Every couple is bound to have disagreements and even some very major ones. Paul made it clear that those who marry will have trouble....

I Cor. 7:22   ".... But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this."

Marriage has trouble? 

Yes, you can be happy one day and married the next!

Yes, marriage is full of trouble so it is best to learn how to navigate through the rough waters. The fun part is learning how to paddle together.

Mark Gungor hits the mark defining the differences of thinking processes between men and women. He also gives some incredible insight on how to face "trouble" in marriage and make it work. I found the following YouTube video clip by Mark. It is insightful.

Click on Mark Gungor and learn and enjoy!


Friday, May 15, 2009

WATCHING THE BIRDS AND LILIES

Wednesdays are study and prayer days for me, and I do great deal of it sitting on my back porch. Looking out through the screened porch into the back yard is glorious.

Wanda and I also like to eat our breakfast on the porch and read the Bible together. As we shared Wednesday morning in our early devotions, my eyes fell on Luke's recording of Christ's teaching on the Kingdom, worry, and the lessons of the birds and lilies. Christ taught us to trust Him, put the Kingdom first, and not too worry about the daily needs. He will take care of us even more than He does the birds and lilies.


I looked out beyond our deck to the bird feeder 
and watched all the birds coming and going for their breakfast. There were a couple of red birds, a male and female, and woodpecker, and wrens, and other unidentified birds. They chirped and sang with a joy of life that stirred new refreshings in me. They weren't worried about tomorrow and all its issues and needs. They were happy today.

Right in front of me was a little male wren taking food to his female partner who is nesting in a geranium plant now blooming in all its glory.

I looked further into the back yard to day lilies blooming and again saw the wonder and beauty of God.

Squirrels were racing back and forth over our fence and through the woods sending mating calls to each other. 

All of the flowers of the back yard we have recently planted were glowing the goodness of God. 

I too will trust in Him. He will take care of tomorrow.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

FREE IS BETTER THAN CHEAP

Mother's Day in Jacksonville offers a wonderful concert at the Jacksonville Beach Pavilion presented by the Jacksonville Symphonic Orchestra. I have gone every year except last year since moving to Jacksonville.
It is a leisurely evening of sitting in the open in lawn chairs, snacking, and soaking in the soothing, soft music. 

When I was a teenager in high school I played trumpet in the marching band and symphonic band and really love all forms of music. I like music from the Gaither's and Southern Gospel to classical and then to blue grass, and even some other forms. 

God gave us music which blesses the soul and encourages the heart. Music in heaven will be loud so you better pack ear plugs if you get nervous with today's music. Of course, music loud enough to do damage to one's ear drums isn't very helpful or soothing.

I read the instructions for the Iphone I bought a few months back and was intrigued by the liability disclaimer that filled several pages of the user guide that warned of hearing loss due to listening to sounds too loud. They were covering their liability responsibilities from people who would listen to music so loud that they would experience hearing loss. 


Well, anyhow the concert was good, not too loud, and comforting to the soul. Wanda and I made sandwiches, took chips and cheese, and some cookies and had a wonderful evening.

The best part was that the concert was free. 

Did you know that free is better than cheap? 

Enjoy the short concert video clip below.

video

Monday, May 11, 2009

SPEECHLESS AND CLOSER TO GOD

Jennifer wrote the following on her blog. It was too beautiful and touching not to share. She has an amazing gift of heartfelt communication. It leaves you speechless and closer to God. 

You can read more of her writings at her blog


SATURDAY, MAY 09, 2009

Dance with Jesus

Tuesday I attended a memorial service in honor of my mother, Kristy Dykes who died last July from a glioblastoma brain tumor. My mother was a pastor's wife serving 37 years in church ministry along side my dad. She was a published award winning author, speaker, writer, painter, pianist and so much more. A talented woman. Her grave marker reads Pizazz! Enthusiasm! High Energy! This describes her perfect.

I flew into Orlando without the kids on Monday for the short two day trip and my dad and Wanda picked me up. Julie joined us and we had a wonderful time together.

What is it like having a stepmother after the death of my own sweet and wonderful mother? Wanda is a comfort, a soothing balm to a wounded and worn soul. There is a spoken and even unspoken understanding and love that flows from her heart. She is a rare gift of hope and promise from God Himself.

Tuesday was the memorial service given by the Assemblies of God at their annual district council. It was in honor of all the ministers and spouses of ministers who have passed away in the past year. We sat in the front of a church that seats 6,000 and waited for my mother's name to be called and her picture displayed in a brief moment of honor.

Sitting there grief and disbelief grabbed hold of my heart. Waves of tears threatened to shake me to the core. Suppressed sobs and screams demanded to ring out of my heart and spill through tightly drawn lips.

"
How oh how, will I ever be able to grab a hold of myself?" I wondered desperately. My eyes stealing fleeting glances at the many others who dabbed at tears with tightly wadded tissues. Their eyes rimmed red with tears that spilled in grief for their loved one. "Get control of your emotions, Jennifer." I shouted quietly to myself.

But oh how my heart bucked against reason and longed for once to be let loose in loud, long wails of grief and pain...

"
Your beloved sweet mother is dead and you are all alone. You sit on a bench with only a rose to hold, instead of her sweet hand. She is gone...gone...gone...!"

Suddenly her name was announced, we stood in shock looking up at the picture of her beautiful smiling face. So full of love for life, passion and energy. And then it was gone. Blinked out and another face flashed on the screen. We sat down almost unwillingly as our hearts sighed for her to come back... 
"just one more minute...don't take her picture down..."

Crushed I felt. Defeated. Left feeling robbed, I sat with my shoulders slumped, head bowed and hid behind a curtain of my long brown hair. And then someone started singing. Something about Jesus the Savior. 

I closed my eyes and listened to the music with my heart. Sweet images of my precious Savior Jesus started washing over my weary mind. My soul became silent and still with the knowledge that He is God.

I felt a gentle whisper into my heart calling me. Ever so quietly. Ever so sweetly. Ever so softly like a gentle flutter of a butterfly wing against my soul. A voice called... 
"Look Jennifer! Can you see? Can you see her, Jennifer? Can you see us? Look with your heart, not your eyes Jennifer! Look! See!" 

Looking with the eyes of my heart, I strained against a cloudy and unclear vision. But I saw! A sigh of instant peace and joy washed over my soul. 

For there in my minds eye was placed the beautiful and perfect image of my mother held tenderly in the arms of Jesus. And they were dancing! Dancing slowly to the same sweet worship music I was hearing!
 My heart sang: "Jesus, I see! I see her! She is perfect and made whole and smiling! She isn't gone! She's right there in your embrace, dancing with You!

Real or imagined, that image remains forever burned in my mind. Hope replaces broken despair! Peace replaces raging, unchecked grief! Joy replaces despondent sorrow! 

Oh to have such eternal hope! Won't you too trust Him? Don't you too hear Him calling you? Whispering tenderly to you,
"Look! See! Oh how I love and care for you!" 

My heartfelt prayer: Dear Jesus, How sweet and beautiful You are! At times You take my breath away. I am speechless in front of Your stunning beauty. Just what is so beautiful about You, some may ask? Why, it is Your amazing selfless love! It is Your perfect love that is so stunning!

Friday, May 8, 2009

A NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER


The first Thursday of May is always our National Day of Prayer across America. Yesterday, I gathered with a number of pastors and city leaders at the Jacksonville City Council Chambers to call on the God of heaven for our City, State, and Nation. America so desperately needs 
return to the precepts of God. 

Mike and Dana Hammontree, our church worship leaders, and Chad, their oldest son, led in singing and did a fabulous job. They are gifted singers with hearts of worship that glorify God. 

As part of my prayer, I included the words of David in Psalm 19. It reads:

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, 
       reviving the soul. 
       The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, 
       making wise the simple.

 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, 
       giving joy to the heart. 
       The commands of the LORD are radiant, 
       giving light to the eyes.

 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, 
       enduring forever. 
       The ordinances of the LORD are sure 
       and altogether righteous.

 10 They are more precious than gold, 
       than much pure gold; 
       they are sweeter than honey, 
       than honey from the comb.

The words perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, enduring, sure, and precious as gold are used to describe the laws and precepts of God. You can get any better than perfect, right, radiant, pure, and gold. 

Who wants to drink impure water? Who wants to eat food that is not right? Who would chose sand, or cheap minerals over gold? Chosing anything less than the laws of the Lord is even worse than impure water or food.

That is why I choose God and His laws. The Judeo Christian ethic is the proven best way to govern, live, and thrive over all other world systems. You just can't improve on living God's way. Anyone ready to move to Cuba, Russia, Africa, Mexico, or even Europe? I don't think so.

I have visited Cuba twice as well as other countries that do not honor God. I couldn't wait to get back to America. I wanted to kiss the ground as I got off the airplane.

I also was involved in a united prayer time at the Fair Grounds in the evening. I led in prayer for America. Most of all, we need to pray daily for God to heal our land, for righteousness to prevail, and for a return to the laws of God. 

You can't improve on God's laws. They are perfect, trustworthy, right, sure, radiant, pure, and precious. 

May God bless America again.

Below, is a video of a small part of my prayer Thursday evening.

video

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

KRISTY REMEMBERED


Tuesday morning Wanda and I attended the Memorial Service at our State Denominational Meeting at Calvary Assembly in Winter Park, FL. Julie and Jennifer were there with us along with several other family members. The denomination honors ministers and spouses who have died during the past year.

It was a touching service where a number of ministers and spouses were honored including Kristy. Kristy served for 27 years in this state and another 10 years in Alabama and across the South and Nation mentoring pastor's wives and touching untold lives through her teaching, writing, and faithful service. 

I stood along with Wanda, my daughters, and other family members present as they showed her picture in a the large video screen in this church seating 6,000 or so. We had preached there several times in the past which brought up 
 memories.


I took a picture of the girls during the service of the holding Kristy's rose they gave me in her honor. As the service progressed Jennifer gave me a note that said, "She is dancing with Jesus." We chose to celebrate Kristy's life and the wonderful work she did all those years for Christ. She is dancing with Jesus and has obtained her reward.
 
Rev. Malcolm Burliegh a close minister friend and pastor brought the memorial message and referred to Kristy along with several of the others who were honored. His words spoke to all of us but I felt really made a point of impact on Julie and Jennifer to take their Mom's torch and go forward with purpose to honor Christ.

Many of our dear friends offered love and comfort to me and my daughters. A rose was given to each family in their love ones honor and Wanda got an extra one after the service so each of my daughters could have a rose. 

I was blessed to have Wanda there to comfort my daughters and me. God told Kristy who we needed in our lives. We need Wanda. That was Kristy's way. She lived to bless others. 

Wanda sat in this same church five years ago as her first husband, Jim, was honored in a similar memorial service. Wanda uniquely understood what we were feeling and how to go forward. Through it all, God is our comfort and strength.

God is good.

Look closely at the picture below. They put a random shot of Julie up on the screen just as I took this picture. 

Amazing!


Monday, May 4, 2009

A CHAPEL FIT FOR BIRDS


I continue to work in the yards. Months of lack of attention has left areas over-grown and lacking the beauty that the back yard has offered in the past. But, with Wanda's 
 help, the back yard is blooming again. All it takes is some will power, elbow grease, green thumb,  money for plants, and water and then the colors begin to glow.

We were blessed by the kindest, thoughtful family and friends with many lovely wedding gifts. Wanda and I are overwhelmed by the gracious warmth we have felt by our dear loved ones and friends. Day by day, Wanda is putting her touches on our home, and the aroma of home cooked meals is filling the house again. God is good!

One gift that I finally got put up is a chapel bird house for the back yard. Saturday I had to cut down a dead tree that was right up against the fence in the very back, center of our yard. It had been struck by lightning and had brown leaves but had a sturdy trunk. One of my good deacons, Gary, cut it down but left the trunk to place the chapel bird house. It looks great.

Now the birds can sit in their own place of worship and give glory to God. The back yard is filled with chirping, happy birds and they are busy nesting and preparing for the future little "birdies." 

In fact, one little couple is building a nest in one of the large flower pots Wanda placed on the back deck. Maybe they will see the nice, new bird chapel and check into one of the condo suites there. 

Spring is in full bloom, and the glory of God is revealed.

***

Monday we will be going to our annual state denominational meeting and there will be a special memorial service on Tuesday for ministers and spouses who passed during this last year. They will show a picture, call their names, offer prayers, and give roses to family members to honor those who served faithfully.

My daughters, Julie and Jennifer, will be present along with Wanda and me to honor Kristy. It would take a year of blogs and more to tell all that Kristy did to bless others and glorify her Savior. She truly deserves this honor. Jim, Wanda's first husband, was honored in a similar service five years ago. 

Pray for the girls and our family. This will be a moment of celebration of Kristy's life as well as the others who will be remembered. It will be touching and hurtful too. 

Kristy is smiling down on us from heaven. I am quite sure she is pleased and thankful for God's blessings on our lives. She labored for our good and wanted us to go forward to complete our journeys here on earth. 

One day will we see our precious loved ones again. 

God is good.

Friday, May 1, 2009

HOSPITALITY: A SPIRITUAL REQUIREMENT

Hospitality is almost a lost art in today's society and also in the church. People are busy, too busy and fail to realize that connecting relationally best occurs around a table. Follow Christ's example in the Gospels and you will see Him eating and cooking and sharing around a table or open fire. Paul, also spoke to the value of entertaining and caring for the physical needs of people around the table.

Families eat with the TV blaring and too often don't get to share "family time" around the dinner table. That is a shame. Families and friends saints and sinners bond around the table of bread. Yes, I wrote sinners. Jesus ate with sinners too.

This week we have entertained a couple of times in our home as Wanda and I have invited friends over for a meal. Wanda is a calming and comforting person who just has a sweet special knack for making people feel at home.

We sat on the back deck eating and enjoying good fellowship, delicious meals, cool days, beautiful flowers, and birds singing, and very soft music in the background. Our talk was uplifting, encouraging, prayerful, and filled with fun and laughter. It had both physical and spiritual value to all present. That is pleasing to the Lord, glorifies Him, and helps promote His Kingdom. 

I actually entertained a number of guests in my home as a single guy, but it is more fun and enjoyable to share the experience with a beautiful partner who is a "great" cook.

God is good.

Part of the requirement for being a pastor is the gift of hospitality. Read what Paul wrote to Timothy. Wanda has that gift as a pastor's wife and helps me qualify in the hospitality category. Food is expensive, finding time is a challenge, and preparing for guests is demanding, but it is a good and spiritual thing to do. It is also a blessing to get to bless others.