Posts Tagged ‘journey of faith’

On Friday, February 3, 2012 we had a wonderful warm sunny day of 53 degrees.  For those of us who live in Northern Ohio this is a rare occurrence a time to celebrate and a wonderful reminder that spring is not too far off.  Then Saturday morning we awoke to 3 inches of snow.  Not the first thing I was expecting since the forecast was for sunny and 45 degrees.  I had things to do and battling the morning snow was not on my list today!  Well, I accepted the situation – guess I had little choice – and bundled up, put the dogs in the car, grabbed my camera and headed to the park.

My dogs love any chance to be out and to run, walk and enjoy, or may I say celebrate, the day and time they have been given.  Their joy and exuberance washed over me as the falling flakes of snow made me realize I need to let go and be renewed, allowing the fresh flowing spirit to envelop me.

At this time of the year it’s easy to relate to Phil Connors from the film Groundhog Day, a character played by Bill Murray who declares, “I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”  Yet through this morning’s journey I seek through the gift of photography the One who can come and heal my heart of stone.  Savior of the world, change my heart, change my mind.  Cleanse me like this fresh blanket of snow upon our dark and dreary landscape.  I am thankful that my Redeemer holds on to me as I stumble through this life’s journey. Even though I easily become weary, He does not.  These tiny pixels do not capture the refreshment the morning gave me. Psalm 33 verses 4-5 state, “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is trustworthy.  He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the LORD’s unfailing love.(Holman Christian Standard Bible)  May these images help you to share in His renewing peace!


My kids just completed reading God’s Smuggler and I wanted to share their book reviews.  I think they did a great job and hope their reviews will encourage you to read this book; I know that I was inspired and encouraged by this contemporary story of faith.

Rachel Casto Book Review: God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

 God’s Smuggler is a book about the life of Brother Andrew, a Dutch missionary who went behind the Iron Curtain to spread the Word of God to all the people of the world.  But his methods of doing so were unlike normal missionaries.  He was never formally trained and he was entirely funded by donations that were sent without his asking for them.  He fully relied on God to take care of all his needs, at home and in the mission field.

It’s a spectacular story which can sometimes bring you to tears at the sheer miraculous nature of the situations and solutions that happened during his life.  The details he used to describe how Christians could just recognize each other and feel the untamed joy from that recognition and fellowship was extremely moving.

The story is good to read for any new Christians, anyone who wishes to go into the mission field, really any Christian at all.

Alec Casto Book Review: God’s Smuggler, by Brother Andrew

 God’s Smuggler is a book written by Brother Andrew, a Dutch missionary whose main mission field was communist countries.  A lot of his work was during the 1950s and 60s, a time when the United States was more concerned with the “Red Menace” than concerned with spreading God’s Kingdom, which ironically was a time when the veil of Christianity was used to show how patriotic and God-fearing a nation we were.

The book starts during Brother Andrew’s childhood in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during the 1940s.  It then moved from his childhood to when he was in his late teens when he joined the Dutch army and fought in the war in Indonesia.  The Dutch war in Indonesia was a very unpleasant war and was for them was very similar to what the United States experienced in the Vietnam War in the 60s and 70s.  At that time Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands and there had been a rebellion.  Due to all the cruelty and violence that he faced such as the killing of civilians – they never knew who were the rebels and who were the civilians who would just leave them alone – he and his squadron just essentially became nihilists and he was a heavy drinker.  But he eventually found his way to the Lord as his mother had always been very devout and had him attend church and had always wanted him to read the Bible, but he never really cared much about it.

But one day he attended a meeting for army veterans and it made an impact on his life and he began reading the Bible and then the Lord started working in his life and he started his first step in his journey toward Christ.

Eventually as the years would go on he returned to his hometown and would make an impact on the people’s lives as he would work in a chocolate factory near the town and follow God’s example and he ended up making a big difference in the lives of the factory workers and managers there.  He became good friends with many people.  He eventually felt God’s call to go into the mission field but first he needed to get training and education, so he felt called to go to a school in Scotland where he would be trained in a very unusual and unorthodox way where it emphasized more on having faith that God would provide everything.

Much of what the book chronicles is how he starts up an unusual form of missionary work in Iron Curtain countries and how he very much relies on God by faith alone, something which is difficult for any Christian, it doesn’t matter who you are.  That’s one of the things I really like about this book, is that it really shows how he, his family, and the friends whom are also fellow missionaries of his rely strictly on God and how they all, through God make an impact in the lives of the many Christians behind the Iron Curtain.

My biggest complaint against the book is the fact that many characters aren’t detailed enough and so we don’t get the sense that they’re real people, just that they’re characters in a book.  And the book does skip a lot of time as it starts in the 40s and ends in about the mid 60s and a lot of time has passed.  For instance Brother Andrew is married and has kids but we never know much about his children or even that much about his wife.  We know some, but not a lot.  We also don’t know a lot about the other fellow missionaries who work with him in the Iron Curtain countries and it would’ve been nice to know a lot about them and see them not as characters but as people, and that’s my biggest complaint is that a lot of times they seem more like characters than people.

But overall it’s definitely a good book to read and it will hopefully inspire Christians to rely solely on God and faith and it’s definitely a book that also shows missionary work can be very unusual and that we need to really radically think what it means to be a missionary and we need to always be thinking about how we’re serving God.


Life Lessons for Everyone in the Arts

Posted by Stephanie Riven On December – 21 – 2011
Stephanie Riven

Perhaps you have been following David Brooks’ series of op-eds in The New York Times. He asked people over 70 to send him “Life Reports” — essays about their own lives and what they’d done poorly and well.  No need to wait until we turn 70 to reflect on these “life lessons” and devise our own, especially as we approach the time for New Year’s resolutions.

Formulating lessons are important for all of us who work in the arts, whether as a performer, an administrator, an advocate, or an educator. These lessons are especially important because of the nature of our field — low wages, long hours, competition for jobs, among other obvious challenges.

What can we learn from Brooks and those who submitted “Life Reports?”

Divide your life into chapters: Brooks talks about “the happiest of his correspondents being those that divided time into (somewhat artificial) phases.” He describes these people as those who could see time as “something divisible into chunks” and they could more easily stop and self-appraise. This approach, he says, “gave them more control over their lives.”

How often have we talked to students/teachers/artists who struggle with indecision about their next steps as if it is their final step? If we could only help them to see that through experimenting with one role or another they will build their skills and realize their vision. Chapters, yes. End points, no.

Beware rumination:The most impressive people were strategic self-deceivers. When something bad was done to them, they forgot it, forgave it, or were grateful for it.”

Can we as artists, arts educators, and administrators become “strategic self-deceivers?” Can we forgive ourselves when the performance, the class, or the board meeting doesn’t go so well? Can we go around the barriers to achieve our ambitious goals?

Lean toward risk: “Many seniors”, Brooks reports, “regret the risks that they didn’t take.”

And how relevant that is to so many organizations, boards, administrators, and artists who don’t understand that to grow we must take on the unknown. How many organizations won’t hire that next person who they know will make all the difference, take on a more ambitious script, or commit to innovation because they are risk averse?

Can we learn from these seniors before we turn 70?

In 2012, let’s pledge to reflect actively on where we are and how we will proceed, forgiving ourselves, moving ahead, and writing new chapters.


New York Times
Op-Ed Columnist

The Life Report

Published: October 27, 2011

If you are over 70, I’d like to ask for a gift. I’d like you to write a brief report on your life so far, an evaluation of what you did well, of what you did not so well and what you learned along the way. You can write this as a brief essay or divide your life into categories — career, family, faith, community, and self-knowledge — and give yourself a grade in each area.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

David Brooks

If you send these life reports to me at, I’ll write a few columns about them around Thanksgiving and post as many essays as possible online.

I ask for this gift for two reasons.

First, we have few formal moments of self-appraisal in our culture. Occasionally, on a big birthday people will take a step back and try to form a complete picture of their lives, but we have no regular rite of passage prompting them to do so.

More important, these essays will be useful to the young. Young people are educated in many ways, but they are given relatively little help in understanding how a life develops, how careers and families evolve, what are the common mistakes and the common blessings of modern adulthood. These essays will help them benefit from your experience.

The closest things I’ve been able to find to Life Reports of this sort are the essays some colleges ask their alumni to write for their 25th and 50th reunions. For example, I just stumbled across a collection of short autobiographies that the Yale class of 1942 wrote for their 50th reunion. Some of the lives are inspiring, and some are ones you’d want to avoid.

The most common lament in this collection is from people who worked at the same company all their lives and now realize how boring they must seem. These people passively let their lives happen to them. One man described his long, uneventful career at an insurance company and concluded, “Wish my self-profile was more exciting, but it’s a little late now.”

Others regret the risk not taken. One rancher wrote, “The pastoral country and its people of New South Wales and Tasmania are similar to Arizona of fifty years ago, that I recall so fondly. I deeply regret not moving to Australia when I was married there 25 years ago.”

Others wish they had had more intellectual curiosity, or that they weren’t so lazy, or that they had not gotten married so young. Some are strangely passive even in the case of their own character flaws. One chemistry professor wrote, “I am stubborn, cold, selfish, and resentful of being corrected or opposed. I also wish that a course in parenting had been required of all of us at Yale.”

Looking back, many were amazed by the role that chance played in their lives. Others point to the pivotal moment that changed their lives. One man was nationally humiliated when he lost to Charles Van Doren in a television quiz show (Van Doren was cheating). Another had a daughter who developed schizophrenia at 16. Another made his fortune in a moment, inventing a mechanical birdcall. “The way it is shaping up now it will be The Audubon Birdcall that is my legacy, and not much else,” he wrote.

The most exciting essays were written by the energetic, restless people, who took their lives off in new directions midcourse. One man, who was white, trained an all-black unit during World War II, was a director of the pharmaceutical company that developed The Pill, and then served as a judge at an international court at The Hague. “Career-wise, it was a rocky road,” another wrote, “but if diversity is the spice of life, then mine resembled hot Indian curry.” Nobody regretted the life changes they made, even when they failed.

Some felt summoned to do one thing. Their essays ring with passion and conviction. “I have been put on earth to be a painter,” one artist wrote. A scientist writes, “I can think of no career more rewarding and no pursuit more noble.”

After an unexciting business career, one man found total fulfillment teaching others how to build custom fishing rods. Another found it volunteering for the International Crane Foundation, preserving bird habitats.

The men all mention serving in the war, but none go into detail about their war experiences. Many were struck by tragedy: blindness, the suicide of a child, a profound professional catastrophe.

They strike me as less intellectually adventurous than the Yale students of today. They were alarmed by the shift in values they had witnessed during their lifetime. But most were immensely grateful to live in the era that they did. An amazing number cherished their marriages of 43 years or more. And, for almost all, family and friends mattered most.

And they left these essays, offering lessons for the rest of us. I’m hoping you’ll do that, too.

Back in the day when we used maps, before GPS, travelers had to learn to be observant and follow a map.

In our current society we are blessed with many choices, many different voices and directions to go; in fact our possibilities seem almost limitless.  Yet I know that I have limits, in all things.  In 2012, as I continue my journey of faith, what am I called to do this year? Maybe I should narrow that down to this month or focus and just look at today.  As I seek to follow you Jesus – today I want to quiet all of the many voices that are calling to me and listen in the hope to follow you – today, right now –  and be faithful in that to which you are calling me.

2 Peter 1:2-4

 2 May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.
3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
In seeking to follow Jesus I ask for His Holy Spirit to guide me in understanding His words… Today!
It’s hard and I’m glad that God is patient with me!
I like what Jon Swanson expresses below… I don’t need to focus on what God is not calling me to do -but what is right in front of me to day.  Step by step following and sometimes falling in faith.

what God did not call you to.

Lots of people are wondering what God is calling them to do.
And that is a good question. But on the way to the answer, we fill in many answers.
So let me suggest some of the things that God did not call you to.

You are not called to be me.
You are not called to be your mother.
You are not called to be your pastor.
You are not called to be happy all the time.
You are not called to be rich.
You are not called to be as organized as the neighbor on the right.
You are not called to be as disorganized as the neighbor on the left.
You are not called to as ___ as your uncle dave.
You are not called to be your sister.
You are not called to be the guy in all the ads.
You are not called to be the perfect family.
You are not called to smile every moment.
You are not called to have every answer.
You are not called to say ‘yes’ to every request.
You are not called to work 24/7.
You are not called to read the Bible through every year.
You are not called to measure up.
You are not called to do it all.
You are not called to remember every detail.
You are not called to run their lives.
You are not called to do everything right the first time.
You are not called to be at the church every time the doors open.
(okay, maybe the custodian is, but other than that.)
You are not called to stop everything.
You are not called to save the world.
That was covered.
That’s why we’re called to follow Him.
A step at a time.
And that feeling of relief?
You are called to that.

Posted on May 9, 2009 by