UBC Reflections

The Potter

The Potter

“Through it all,” God is faithfully developing beautiful spirits – strong, trusting, courageous, understanding hearts of mercy and grace, compassion and love, peace and joy, and kindness.

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Some Thoughts and A Question

Some Thoughts and A Question

We enjoy observing and analyzing the animal “kingdom.” Their world intrigues us. We are both amused by critter antics and appalled by the brute “law of the jungle”. Yet, we have an intuitive sense that we fit somewhere in this picture. Some would say that humans are part of a created order; others say we are the result of an evolutionary process. Some theories attempt to combine the two ideas into a single creative, evolutionary process.

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New Dawn, New Light

New Dawn, New Light

Surprisingly, we tend to live in spiritual shadows, but when God steps onto the scene, there is light because “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”(1 John 1:5) When we begin to understand who God is, who we are, who we are meant to be, and how to become that person, He dispels the darkness of our insecurities and doubts and of our feelings of being minimized and unloved.

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The Way Ahead…

The Way Ahead…

We tend to associate meaning and joy with good times, happy moments, positive happenings, and special people in whom we find pleasure. But what happens with loss, difficult times and offensive, oppressive people? We often find ourselves in the world of “what has been” or “what might have been” or “what might be.” We all seek a world free from the baggage and consequences of our misdeeds and bad behaviors.

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Brave hearts

Brave hearts

Anxiety and discouragement occur when we lose confidence in God. If we perceive He is unseeing, distant, uncaring, unable, and uninvolved, if we sense there is little or no possibility of resolving our situation, if we feel we are alone, our faith waivers

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The Times They are A’Changing

The Times They are A’Changing

In seasons of suffering and loss or difficulties and disappointments, we may become fearful and disillusioned and question if God’s dependability is overated. However, He could not be God if He did not keep His Word. The Psalmist reassures that we can have absolute confidence in His promises. “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 33:4)

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Me? A Servant?

Me? A Servant?

Jesus put “serving” into perspective when he was asked what working for God looked like. “The work of God is to believe on him who He sent,” he asserted. (John 6:29) Trusting what Christ taught and relying upon his redemptive work is the work of faith. Simplifying how that looks, he declared that keeping the moral law meant loving God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:30-31)

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Behind the Fog….

Behind the Fog….

We cobble together our understanding of life and its meaning from snippets of information, from brief revelations, and from partial answers about ourselves, about others, and about our existence. We attempt to connect the fragmented dots of blurred perceptions, distorted thinking, and mere theories and base our world views on limited information. These views either include or exclude God.

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Calmness in the Chaos

Calmness in the Chaos

The world will always be chaotic and filled with nightly “bad” news, but the Good News is that God had always been and will always remain true to His immutable nature. He is steadfast in love and enduring in faithfulness and will never desert humanity, who, though fallen, are meant for good.

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A World of Symbols

A World of Symbols

Our world is filled with signs and objects which stand for attributes, concepts, or abstract ideas. Wedding rings remind us of love and commitment; product brands speak to us of style or quality. Emblems identify organization; Oscars and Emmys and academic cords connote excellence.

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An Equal and Beyond Fair Wage!

An Equal and Beyond Fair Wage!

Before technology changed the blueberry industry, almost every kid who grew up in Washington County, Maine earned “back to school” money by spending a few, hot, August days in exhausting, backbreaking blueberry raking along side family, buddies and migrant workers.  However, finding reliable seasonal workers and paying them fair wages have troubled Maine farmers for generations.

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Inaudible Shouts…

Inaudible Shouts…

The adage that “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder” holds some truth. We have individual aesthetics or preferences and subjectively value the quality of the tangible or intangible. So, is beauty a reality or an illusion? Is beauty is a perception or an intrinsic quality. Is that peony blossom beautiful when I am not the one admiring it? It is. Independent observers expressed their admiration even when I wasn’t looking.

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The Clearest Day Ever…

The Clearest Day Ever…

The rhythms of the sea with its shifting tides, rising waves, crashing surf, and drifting fog are mesmerizing. And as the fog lifts to expose a view stretching beyond the horizon’s curve into the heavens, both awe and calmness engulf the soul with a sense of belonging within that vastness.

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Presumption or Promise?

Presumption or Promise?

Christ’s very existence, his miraculous interactions, teachings, parables, claims and most importantly his bodily resurrection from the dead draw our attention to the reality of the afterlife of which he spoke often. If Jesus is credible, we should listen to his concerns not only for the spiritual well being of mankind in this earthly life but also for a future time.

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Into the Wind

Into the Wind

Sometimes, the breezes of good fortune carry us along. Other times, we become caught in headwinds and cross winds that oppose and impede and blast us off course or threaten to do us in. We may be blindsided or overpowered by circumstantial and personal adversity over which we have little or no control. And we frantically scramble to deal with disturbing or devastating consequences of our own missteps of commission or omission. But cursing ill winds accomplishes nothing!

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Coffee Thoughts

Coffee Thoughts

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?

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Land that I Love

Land that I Love

In those difficult days of war and sacrifice, God was and had always been a welcomed part of our Nation’s spoken narrative. At our beginnings, many of our founding fathers were Theists, if not Christians, who recognized God as a player in the blessings bestowed on America. Our Declaration of Independence mentions God four times. Although some of out recent leaders have expressed that God is an important part of America’s collective mindset, our country is less oriented toward God today than it was in the past. In that context, President Ronald Regan’s thoughts deserve consideration: ” Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.” and ” If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be one nation gone under.”

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Timing Is Crucial

Timing Is Crucial

Our responses to this truth may be mixed but usually include thoughts about life’s meaning and purpose and perhaps even an urgency and the making of a “bucket list”. In that context,  Diana Bell’s  praise chorus deserves consideration: “In His time, in His time. He makes all things beautiful, in His time/Lord, my life to you I bring, may each song I have to sing/ be to you a lovely thing, in your time.” (Praise chorus by Diana Bell)

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You have a Budget. What is God’s?

You have a Budget. What is God’s?

If we are wise, we work, budget, don’t over extend our credit, and live within our means. But our fortunes are tied to more than the money we earn or save. The cost of living changes as the economy fluctuates, a fact we have recently experienced during the pandemic as the production and supply of goods (and microchips) became problematic.

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Why do Birds Sing? (or Ducks quack)

Why do Birds Sing? (or Ducks quack)

Do you wonder why birds sing, why the whip-o-will ushers out twilight by persistently chanting its name or the loon’s laughter echoes through the night? To whom does the Robin merrily chirp at sunrise or the white throated sparrow whistle into a fresh morning? For whom does a solitary duck softly quack as it paddles across the pond?

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A Johnny Appleseed Psalm

A Johnny Appleseed Psalm

My Grandmother used to say, “A watched pot never boils.” Spring in Maine is a bit like that. The more one looks for it, the longer it takes! But when it eventually arrives, it does so with a dramatic explosion of beauty. By late May, flowering apple trees grace yards, highlight country roads, and bring new life to old fields and orchards. Their blossoms always remind me of the legendary Johnny Appleseed, an eccentric whose real name was John Chapman. He was an orchard man who planted apple orchards from West Virginia through the mid-West into Canada. His work inspired imaginative anecdotes and ballads about his sowing apple seeds throughout the countryside. As a kid, I learned a catchy little nursery rhyme ditty about him but never gave it much thought until some years later when our friends sang this little verse for a meal time blessing with their children:

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Magical Thinking?

Magical Thinking?

May 31st is Memorial Day, which in the post civil war period was known as Decoration Day but is now a Federal holiday designated to honor US military veterans. The day is filled with ceremonies, parades, flags, and wreaths in remembrance of all who died in military service and as an expression of gratitude for those who serve or have served. It has also become a day when families decorate graves of loved ones with flowers and meaningful mementos.

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Shalom

Shalom

The Jewish greeting “shalom” expresses much more than the thoughtless signaling of a peace sign or a superficial “good morning”. “Shalom” calls for the blessing of a whole and perfect life, of inner peace integrated with outer prosperity, of a life of harmony, health, safety, and tranquility. The origin of such peace is Jehovah-shalom (a Hebrew name for God).

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Oh, What About Those Neighbors?

Oh, What About Those Neighbors?

God exists from everlasting to everlasting, but He created time! (Psalm 90:2-17) (Genesis 1) So, our “today” is where everlasting changes to everlasting… We exist at some strange, moving focal point in an infinity that extends from “now” into all of what we know as space-time dimensions and beyond into some other dimension!! Time puts limits on us as we moves in a linear fashion, relentlessly and uncontrollably forward until it falls into eternity.

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What’s the Beef?

What’s the Beef?

Sincere gratitude and its resultant obedience to what is best are the “sacrifices” which demonstrate that we love Him. The author of Hebrews speaks of “sacrifices of praise to God” which include “the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name” , doing “good “ and sharing ” what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” These are the marks of genuine worship.

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Trapped?

Trapped?

Lostness is all inclusive. Nobody escapes it. We need a rescuer, a redeemer, an advocate to extract us and to reconcile us to Holy God.

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No Escaping Love!

No Escaping Love!

There is no escaping God’s loves for this ” world”, a convincing fact that becomes evident when we consider the life and sacrificial work of Christ on our behalf. (John 3:16)

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Has Easter Dawned?

Has Easter Dawned?

Resurrection morning would be like that for Jesus’ followers. Comprehension of the mysteries and meaning of the man who had died, nailed to a Roman cross between two scoundrels, gradually emerged at first light as they pondered an empty tomb.

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Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

On Palm Sunday, the Christian community annually commemorates Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It initiates a week of remembering the mixture of madness and miracles, hatred and love, and grief and joy surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. His sadness over Jerusalem was very evident during his final return to the Holy City. He wept while others celebrated him!

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What is Your View

What is Your View

Often, we just want “truth” to match up to what we want it to be and do not critically think through our beliefs. One of the characters in Richard Paul Evan’s novel, The Noel Letters, makes the statement that ”…you will discover that most people don’t want truth. They want confirmation.”

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Timely and Timeless

Timely and Timeless

"..  a tree planted along the river bank..."         Early morning on Middle River, Marshfield, MaineFrom within the confusing cacophony of voices inundating us, hear the ancient Psalmist’s song and timely advice: ” Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice...

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Of Catalogues and Kingdoms

Of Catalogues and Kingdoms

One of the bright moments during Maine’s late, cold winter months arrives when the seed catalogues do. They not only inspire dreams of fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers but also astound with the awesome awareness that a variety of plants are stored in tiny seeds, varied and peculiar to the hidden plant! Packed within each seed lies potential, some for great and alluring beauty and some for tasty fruit, but there is no transformation until the seed is sown. Only then, from a very tiny poppy seed, can a beautiful poppy grow! And only a poppy!

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In a Hurry?

In a Hurry?

Are we aware of God’s faithful and merciful work in our lives? Not just when the sun shines but when adverse winds blow and confusing clouds roll in?

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Birches

Birches

Robert Frost’s “Birches” has been a long time favorite of mine, probably because it conjures up some special childhood memories of swinging on birches.

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Waiting and Hoping?

Waiting and Hoping?

Ultimate hope is an essential ingredient in happiness, which is difficult to find in a meaningless, purposeless world. We all have belief systems which attempt to make intelligent, philosophical deductions from experience, knowledge, and observation about who and why we are. In the process, we tend to become self-loathing because we fail to live up to who we believe we should be.

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Of Sheep and Shepherds

Of Sheep and Shepherds

There is something special about sheep, something both ancient and pastoral! Perhaps it is because Scripture presents beautiful word pictures of how God shepherds his people. Trusting and obeying the Shepherd’s voice lead to “green pastures” and “still waters”, to fulfillment and security. However, the Psalmist sounds a cautionary note about inattentive, straying sheep because they have left the shepherd’s protective care:

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Living Within the Margins

Living Within the Margins

Without walls, we are vulnerable, unable to discern who or what persons or philosophies may or may not enter our hearts and minds, and can easily be destroyed or headed for turmoil because internal integrity can not be maintained.

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Life and Lilies

Life and Lilies

God has given mankind something far more beautiful than what we can manufacture on our own. By His grace through faith, God gives life to our spirits. Even though some lilies blossom for only a day, they are endued with fragrant beauty which fulfills their creative purposes of reflecting and honoring God and bringing pleasure to this world without even trying. Albert Orsborn’s hymn “Let the Beauty of Jesus be Seen in Me” speaks to that thought and the purpose for mankind.

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Whose Kingdom

Whose Kingdom

There he perched, King of the Birds, quietly surveying his wintry kingdom while sitting high atop an old dead tree on a little island in Sullivan Harbor. Majestic, magnificent, powerful, and properly feared. Not a gull was in sight! As I watched him, I was reminded of several Old Testament passages which beautifully and poetically reflect God’s sovereignty, justice, compassion, and the great hope that lies in knowing Him.

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Swiftly Fly the Years…

Swiftly Fly the Years…

Amidst the confusion and stresses of trying days, we might question God’s “steadfast love”, His “work”, and “glorious power” . But we will know that “the favor of the Lord our God is upon us” if we look at Christ and his work for us as he redeems our circumstances and our numbered days.

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Christmas Gift

Christmas Gift

“Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness/ Opened my eyes, let me see beauty that made this heart adore You/ Hope of a life spent with You”

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Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness

“Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness/ Opened my eyes, let me see beauty that made this heart adore You/ Hope of a life spent with You”

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Surrounded By Love

Surrounded By Love

Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.
Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever. (Psalm 125:1-2 (NLT2)

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On the Fence?

On the Fence?

The best way to stay on a fence is to straddle it, but that is both uncomfortable and accomplishes nothing. It gets one nowhere.

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Thanksgiving Grace

Thanksgiving Grace

Fall and winter holidays may be difficult, depressing and isolating for some. Not everyone harbors happy memories, and this pandemic season has been especially stressful. Sorrow and grief for loss of loved ones, social isolation, mourning financial setbacks, and anxiety regarding health, national unrest, and uncertain futures may be foremost in our minds. Maybe our greatest blessing this year is a special memory. But regardless of our circumstances, we can be thankful for grace!

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Some Go Down to the Sea ( and others)

Some Go Down to the Sea ( and others)

This Psalm lifts us out of our dilemmas and trials by pointing us to God’s sovereignty and redemptive power over all His creation, to His consistently constant love for humanity, and to His tremendous patience with us.

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The Barn is Full. What Next?

The Barn is Full. What Next?

Old potato houses and imposing barns contribute to the charm and mystique of Aroostook County’s farming country. Often in disrepair and forgotten, they still hold treasures, not treasures of harvest but troves of memories and tales of generations of hard working owners. Their emptiness still echoes with laughter of children jumping from the rafters into the hay and with remembrances of bountiful or meager harvests, of dreams fulfilled or shattered, of some good and some difficult days. They speak of valuing and working the land.

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A Driven Leaf?

A Driven Leaf?

Fall In MaineHelen Hunt Jackson’s October’s Bright Blue Weather opines the beauty of October skies: “O suns and skies and clouds of June and flowers of June together, Ye cannot rival for one hour October’s bright blue weather.” My grammar school teacher used this and...

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Grains of Sand

Grains of Sand

Corea MaineWhat can be more mind-clearing and reorienting than a brisk walk on a cool fall day to an isolated Maine sand beach where the stark and vast beauty of creation and the salty smell of the sea mingle with the awareness there is One present who knows and cares...

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Beyond the Glorious

Beyond the Glorious

We are awed and humbled by our vast and magnificent world, but what do we see when we look into the huge expanses of space, or stand before the vast wonders of the earth, or probe the strange world of ocean depths? When Jeremiah looked “for the reality beyond the appearance,” he saw God and exclaimed ,”It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” (Jeremiah 10:12

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A Treasure Hunt

A Treasure Hunt

The impact of his discovery hit him. He realized this was it! This was what he had searched for. It was a treasure of such great proportion that he joyfully gave all that he had to attain it. He gave up his old life for a new one! He had found the kingdom of heaven!

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A Good Harvest

A Good Harvest

We have difficulty understanding ideologies different from our own or why people think differently than we do. Those interactions are difficult to negotiate because often they are accompanied by pride, disgust or distain. There may not be a whole lot one can personally do to address the divisiveness and contentiousness we are experiencing in our communities, but we can do “good”.

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I Hope You Dance

I Hope You Dance

On that journey, it soon becomes evident that happiness is not the same as self-discovery and self-fulfillment or what we might consider success. Somewhere and sometime, we will begin to ask ultimate questions.

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Of God and Dories

Of God and Dories

These little boats lure us to bygone days which have been romanticized and influenced by lore and art. They draw one to Celtic ballads, Irish fiddling, and tales and tragedies of the hard scrabble life of cod fishing on the Grand Banks; They remind us of the harsh reality of life on the sea and Newfoundland’s struggling hamlets.

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Summer Fun

Summer Fun

Racing, Winter Harbor, MaineJames Russel Lowell, lawyer, politician, writer, poet and New Englander, rightfully and wonderfully reminds us of the hope and joy of spring’s renewal with the opening words of his famous poem: “And what is so rare as a day in June?”...

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Fiddleheads and Grace

Fiddleheads and Grace

Eating “Fiddleheads” is a Maine culinary experience which dates back to early Native American days. A “Fiddlehead” is a curled fern frond which can be found for a brief time in the Spring before it unfurls to become a mature fern leaf. Time changes “Fiddleheads” to ferns.

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Changing Landmark

Changing Landmark

Whatever our response to “change”, whether we agree or disagree, whether it brings pleasure and joy or chaos and deterioration, there is an enduring beacon of Truth which may or may not be evident.

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Commending God

Commending God

A New Beginning in Prospect Harbor, MaineAnother beautiful day begins on the Maine Coast, where there is always something old to be taught and something new to learn … Down east accents murmur and drift across the water as this old salt and his unseasoned stern man...

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Full Sails

Full Sails

Sailing in Frenchman's Bay, MaineJuly is a great month for sailing in Maine. Watching sails appear and disappear on the horizon makes one yearn for swift winds and stiff breezes, to hoist sails, and to be propelled into open ocean with its invisible boundaries, clear...

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Morning Prayer

Morning Prayer

Sunrise in Sullivan Harbor, MaineA new day with its fresh possibilities is best begun with thoughtful consideration of our Great God, whose purposes for us are grand and wonderful and whose thoughts toward us are “precious” and “vast” and more numerous that “the...

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Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River

Photo taken:        Penobscot River in Edinburg, MainePerhaps you can hear the song rising from the heat-soaked cotton fields? I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul I’ve got love like an ocean, I’ve got love...

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Freedom Rings

Freedom Rings

The Machias Valley "Down in the valley where the river meets the sea..."Nestled in the picturesque Machias valley lies this historic New England village. The Church in this photo played a role in the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War during which local...

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Becoming Gold

Becoming Gold

Authentic Christian faith encompasses the whole person and involves one’s will and emotions as well as the mind. It entails trusting and submitting to what God has revealed and has done through the sacrifice of Christ, and it is evidenced in desires and efforts to live out the love and mercy and forgiveness granted through the Good News of Christ.

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Whose Story?

Whose Story?

Reflection of Fort Knox, MaineLast week we remembered D-Day, that historic day which began the joyful reclamation of Europe from tyranny but which was tragically stained by the tremendously sad sacrifices of young men dying to restore liberty. Remembering people and...

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Just a Glimpse

Just a Glimpse

White Lady's Slipper, Steuben, MaineAndrew Young, a Scottish poet, compared his ongoing but somewhat futile quest for meaning to searching for lady slippers:  "...I peer in every place: Seeking for what I cannot find/ I do as I have often done/ And shall do while I...

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Slack Tide

Slack Tide

Such is the twilight moment of “crossing the bar” when mortality transitions to immortality, when the spirit silently leaves its earthly abode and enters the after life.

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Sweet Word

Sweet Word

Canoe at Sunrise, MaineThe phrase to “paddle your own canoe” has been around since the mid 1800’s and conjures up ideas of independence, self-reliance, persistence, endurance and the belief that we control our own destiny! Several poems were written and entitled...

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The Way Forward

The Way Forward

Although they appear headed straight for disaster, they are confidently advancing to the next lobster pot. They are in familiar territory as they pull their traps in the fog. They know the way.

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Solitude and Solace

Solitude and Solace

Even the extroverts among us need solitude (even in a pandemic) — a time and place free for uninterrupted thought and meditation, for processing life, for resting weary minds and reviving waning spirits, and for re-energizing tired bodies.

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Rocky Shores and Firm Foundations

Rocky Shores and Firm Foundations

   Looking back from the sea, this lobsterman can visually grasp the firm foundation of our great state. Maine has magnificent rock formations from its mountain ranges and slate and granite quarries to its rockbound coast with rugged, beautiful cliffs and outcroppings...

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Surprised!

Surprised!

 The unusual and the unexpected startle us –like a pig in the living room window!    Life is filled with the unanticipated. And that is partly why God is so awesome. He is the Master Revealer who surprises us with every good thing! However, our responses to Him are a...

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Victory!

Victory!

We are born contenders! Most of us enjoy some form of individual or group competition. We love to cheer on our favorite teams and challenge each other with family games, pickup basketball, and school sports. We test ourselves in attempts to better our individual swim...

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Despair or Hope

Despair or Hope

We know about hopelessness and despair! This world is filled with violence, brutality, inequalities, injustices, avarice, and poverty. So, are we stuck in this culture of rising self and of diminishing reason and civility?

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A Break in the Storm

A Break in the Storm

In the midst of personal storms (and pandemics), believers have an unmitigated confidence, a steadfast hope, in the One who not only rules over life’s storms but enters into our pressing situations where He sheds His light and casts His love upon us.

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Anchored

Anchored

Each day we awaken within the mist of the unknown. Sometimes we do so with fear and anxiety; but in our culture, we generally feel safe and prepared for our daily routines as we look forward to the small joys that will unfold. We are not concerned about unexpected...

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New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Watching the sun peek over the horizon to gaze upon the awakening day is spirit lifting! Sunrises offer us new beginnings.  Even when we carry old business forward, dawn brings freshness and excitement, a renewed hope, and an anticipation for possibilities, yet to be...

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