Thoughts from a Very Thankful Dad

Why Fear Not?

Here it comes again! This time it is from the other side, where we least expected it. This nightmare called fear has struck our heart yet again. We said we would be ready the next time we faced it, but once more, it has caught us off-guard, leaving us shaking like a leaf.

For you, it may be the concern of having enough money to provide meals for your family, or for some, the dread of a new day dawning, and what it may bring to an already downtrodden spirit. Fear is a real thing, and nobody understands how realistically it affects your daily living until faced with it oneself. However, there is good news…we don’t have to live each day in terror! God’s Word tells us many, many times to “Fear not”. Old Testament and New, the Prophets and Jesus Himself encourage us frequently to not be afraid.

As believers in Christ, we know those two simple words are strong enough to defend us against the Enemy, yet it’s not uncommon to question why it can sound so easy to do, yet be so difficult. But there is hope for our times of misgiving! One of my favorite Bible verses shows us a couple of reasons why we do not have to be afraid. In Isaiah 41:10, we at first see the familiar “Fear thou not”. Then, following this potent phrase are two powerful truths that can give us the courage to believe.

Why fear not? Because the Lord says, “I am with thee”. What Security! The great I AM, who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, promises He will not leave us all alone to face our fears. As He was with Moses, so He is faithful to stay by our side through any apprehension we face. Praise God for His promise to never forsake us in time of need!

And why else should we not fear? Because He also declares “I am thy God”. What Sovereignty! The Creator of the Universe cares enough about His creatures to encourage us not to dread the unknown. He is powerful enough to help us conquer each and every worry, no matter from which direction they come!

Is it natural to be dismayed and cower down when life’s uncertainties present themselves unexpectedly? Absolutely! But Isaiah assures us why we don’t have to be afraid: Our sovereign God holds us securely in His arms. We can be courageous when we trust his unfailing Word!

Rejoice with me as The Collingsworth Family reminds us to “Fear Not Tomorrow”!

 

 

 

A Warm Send-Off

Recently we took our youngest son Jordan to begin his college days. It was one of the hardest things my wife and I have had to do in our lives. Yes, right alongside giving our oldest son Seth in marriage a few years ago, and her battle with suffering a massive stroke just a few months after the wedding.

Of course, take absolutely nothing away from the traumatic experience of her stroke itself, and the ups and downs of her continual but steady road to recovery since; yet, she herself has admitted several times that having to let go of our last son has indeed been nearly the most difficult struggle yet.

At least with the first goodbye, we gained a wonderful daughter in return!!  And, our eldest and his wife live only 80 miles away. However, this latest send-off landed the “baby” not 80, but 800 miles from our house!  Suddenly, the “Empty Nest Syndrome” we heard other parents talk about for many years had come to fruition with a flurry!

As tough as it has been the past several weeks now having NO boys at home, the Lord has brought us great comfort in knowing that His guiding hand has without a doubt been upon our sons. He has blessed their life-changing decisions, and has safely lead them to the places they need to be at this time in their lives. And this has warmed our hearts.

The college Jordan chose, after many months of prayer and Godly counsel, is Champion Baptist College, located in Hot Springs, Arkansas! Actually, God chose this school for Jordan, and there is no doubt in our hearts about it. Feeling called of God to preach His Word and sing His songs of Praise, the small school with the large heart and long distance from Home has turned out to be a perfect fit! God knew all along that the coldness we would feel inside of seeing our final child branch out on his own (at least temporarily), would be replaced by the snug feeling of knowing He is following God’s will for his life.

The city of Hot Springs gets its name from the literal steamy flow of water out of the surrounding hills…water hot enough to nearly scald your hand. Trip to Champion25

This has made this beautiful area one of the top tourist attractions in the country for many, many years. As we visited this historic town on our trip to release our son into this brand new adventure in his young life, we were able to enjoy the literal sweltering temperature of the natural fountains of water in that place, but more importantly, we were greeted with the warmth of Christian love, and the fiery presence of the Prince of Peace!

Yes, it was extremely difficult saying goodbye once again to our final eighteen-year-old, but what a warm Send-off, knowing that now both our sons are in the hands of Someone Who can take care of them much better than we ever could!

“They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” – Isaiah 49:10

Singing in Chapel

Have you ever heard of Providence? Your first thought when you hear or see this word is most likely the Capital of the state of Rhode Island, right? It’s a really neat place, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit this city. My only trip there was way back in the year 2000, on business, and I was fortunate to also be able to take my whole family along for some sightseeing and a little getaway. We were able to split up the trip into 2 days, stopping off overnight in Jersey, just across the river from the mighty Big Apple, and were able to take a tour of the Statue of Liberty! What a beautiful sight to see, and a historical moment in our lives, with plenty of pictures as remembrances, especially the one I took of my wife and our boys with a backdrop of the Twin Towers!

Then onward we journeyed, after this magical day, to our final destination, for the main purpose of my trip….business in Providence. The meetings were great, as usual, and the family got to have some fun in this nostalgic old city. Two of the best memories I have of Providence, Rhode Island, were the family entertainment at a restaurant called “Dave & Buster’s”, and the visit to one of the many lighthouses that don the rocky Atlantic coastline in that area of New England.

I have not been able to return yet to that beautiful capital city in the Northeast, but I have had the blessed privilege of occasionally experiencing a Providence of another kind, and most recently, one also involving a road trip.

Instead of traveling northeast on this trek, our family was headed southeast….for a little mini-vacation to Myrtle Beach. And along this highway journey, again towards the Atlantic Coast, we encountered Providence yet again….but not the city. This time it was the mighty Providence of God; His awesome guiding Hand on our lives! On one stretch of Interstate 73, our car suddenly had a major tire blowout, so severe that the object I ran over punctured not only the tire, but also the aluminum rim it was on! I had never seen anything like this in all my fifty years. Praise God for his protection!

As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, “providence” means “divine guidance or care”. Our family definitely experienced God’s guidance and care on that eventful day!

Not only did He allow me to safely steer the car from the passing lane over to the berm of the roadway, he protected my son and I against high-speed traffic in rainy weather as we put the temporary spare on the driver’s side rear. After we returned to the interstate, and found refuge at McDonald’s at the next exit, I began praying about whether to carefully and slowly continue on to our destination with the spare, or seek a nearby tire and rim dealer that may still be open on this late Friday afternoon in early August.

Providence was there that day, not in Rhode Island, but in North Carolina. We searched and found several Hyundai dealers, and finally one indeed had the needed rim in stock! Divine guidance and care was at work, preparing the way. After purchasing the new rim at the dealer, the Parts guy was gracious enough to call around the city for an “open late” tire shop.

Providence was found again. A tire facility was located in the same local area that not only had the size of tire we needed, but the business stayed open untll 8pm. Because of divine guidance and care, we were able to have the work done soon, and continue on to our beach destination for a late-night, but providentially safe, arrival. God had amazingly granted every need we had due to that unexpected event. When things looked precarious, Providence prevailed!

The Bible may only mention the word “providence” once, and that referring to the kindness of a Roman politician (Acts 24:2), but there are many verses which speak of our Father’s divine care and guidance in our lives. One of my favorites is Philippians 4:19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” What a comforting truth!

Although I would love to return for an evening at “Dave & Buster’s” and other fun sites in that great northeastern Capital city, I am thrilled that we as believers in Christ can enjoy a visit to spiritual Providence any day, especially when we least expect the trip!

Isn’t it very easy to get down in a world full of negative words and phrases?  It seems discouragement thrives amid the pressures of daily life, causing many people to make statements like “Hopelessness Abounds”, “I’m against impossible odds”, or, one I’ve said many times myself when a situation looks bleak:  “There is no way possible!”.

The fact is, these quotes have a lot of truth in them.  Truth, that is, if we try to trust only in ourselves, and seek a path that leads us away from the Hope of the world.

However, quite the opposite is true when we decide to trust God for our daily living.  We can overcome despair by filling our hearts and minds with the positive promises in His Word!  Countless things are achievable when we trust God.  “The possibilities are endless” when we allow the Lord to fill our hearts with His truth.

Saving Grace

More than anything else in this world, we need salvation from our sins.  This is impossible to earn by our own merits, but God provided the Way to have our sins forgiven through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.  The Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  About this saving grace, Jesus Himself told His disciples, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Superior Faith

After we are saved by God’s grace, we can then experience faith that exceeds any other on earth.  Jesus told his disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed… nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).  When the troubles of this world are trying to drag us into a negative attitude, we can keep positive by exercising extreme faith in the Creator of the Universe.  When we trust fully in Him, what looks impossible becomes very possible.

Supreme Guidance

Although this journey of life is filled with ups and downs, and often we cannot seem to clearly see the path ahead, we are positively assured from God’s Word that by trusting the Lord wholeheartedly, acknowledging Him in all we do, “He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  The difficulties of the road may seem impossible to bear, but we can confidently trust our Faithful Guide to lead us onward and upward!

 Supernatural Blessings

Not only will trusting Almighty God carry us through life’s storms, we can expect to receive an abundance of heavenly blessings even when it appears we have lost everything.  Although we feel totally worthless, and so undeserving of any good thing from the Lord, He assures us in His Word He has forgiven us, and He delights in lavishing us with His goodness.  What a wonderful Savior!

So beginning today, don’t let the gloominess of this world send you spiraling into the depths of defeat.  All these things and more are possible for the child of God who places his trust in Him.  “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Yes, the possibilities are endless for those who believe!

Tonya & Me1

“Best of the Class!”

Yesterday, my “verythankfuldad” self-proclaimed nickname took another step forward in a major way.

Our youngest son Jordan, who will be graduating May 22 as Valedictorian of the Elk Valley Christian School class of 2014, had the honor of participating in the Charleston-Huntington TV station WSAZ’s annual “Best of the Class” program. Together with more than 200 other top seniors from the Tri-state area high schools, he donned his cap and gown for this pre-graduation ceremony in front of TV cameras and news reporters…and needless to say, some very proud parents…including me.

Best of the Class1-edited

First, I should say I’m quite thankful he even asked me to tag along, let alone to drive him to this prestigious event more than an hour from our home. After all, tons of the soon-to-be graduates came “stag”, pulling up in their own cars, or perhaps borrowed from their folks. But this very thankful dad was invited as the guest of an Honor Graduate, and he let me know quickly what a privilege for his old man it was. Ha ha. Of course, he wished his Mom could’ve joined us, but she wasn’t “up to” the crowds…which she predicted very accurately! So, Dad alone it was, his least-favorite parent, that got to enjoy the colorful scene of high school academic all-stars from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Jordan was named earlier this year to the WV Christian School basketball all-star squad, and now has earned a spot representing his school with the best of the academic talent across the area as well!

Not only am I (and certainly his mother as well) extremely proud of my son’s accomplishment, being included in this once-in-a-lifetime elite group of high school seniors, I am also grateful for what God has done in his life, and the desire he has shown to serve the Lord with his divinely-bestowed talents.

And not only am I thankful for Jordan’s being named to this academic award, I am also overwhelmed with joy to think that all we who have trusted Christ as our Savior have been included in God’s “Best of the Class”! Can you imagine that?
The seniors I watched yesterday gathered for that special event were there due to their merits of outstanding achievement, hard work and hours of studying. But we? We have done absolutely nothing to earn favor with a Holy God…to be named in a group with other undeserving senior saints such as Moses, David and Paul. Yet God sent Heaven’s “Best” to give His life for our filthy rotten sins, so that through His grace and mercy, we could be so unworthily named to His “Best of the Class”. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (I John 3:1)!

Now that’s the Best of the Best!!

 

When Did Christ Die?

As we enter Easter season and Passion Week, I’m thrilled in my heart to once again be able to re-read those familiar passages in the four Gospels of God’s Holy Word, of how Christ suffered and willingly laid down His life on the cross to pay the debt of sin that we owed! When I think about what it cost our Savior to purchase our Redemption, I am overwhelmed with amazement that Someone would love us that much!

Probably the most familiar Bible verse known to man is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What unfathomable love!

During this wonderful season of the year, I’ve also thought many times…. “When did Christ actually die?” The traditional day of the week has always been Friday, thus, the Christian holy day “Good Friday”. Most people think this was Crucifixion Day because Jesus told his followers and the religious Jewish leaders that “he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matt 16:21).  It was also the day before the Sabbath.

Some, on the other hand, tend to believe his crucifixion had to have been on Thursday, for he told the Jewish scribes and Pharisees in Matt 12:40: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” A Friday death would only allow two nights before Resurrection Sunday, instead of three, as He predicted in this verse.

Although we may never be able to agree on the day of Christ’s death, nor ever know for sure, the Bible is still God’s infallible Word.  And I want to share with you a glorious truth from it that we do know.  The Bible does indeed tell us when Jesus died for our sins…and it has absolutely nothing to do with days of the week! It’s all found in the book of Romans, chapter 5.

First, He died when we were without strength. Verse 6 says, “For when we were yet without strength…Christ died for the ungodly.” We were too weakened by the filth of our flesh to save ourselves. Only the almighty Son of God has power to save!

Secondly, He died when God’s appointed time came. Verse 6 also explains, “…in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” He left the beauty and splendor of Heaven, being the eternal Word of God, to take on flesh and reveal the Father to the world He created, only later to be rejected by His Father in order to become our Sacrificial Lamb to save us from our sins!

And lastly, Christ died when we were sinners. Verse 8 proclaims, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” There is nothing good in ourselves that could make us righteous before our Holy God. The Scripture plainly states, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). But on that glorious day when Christ died, His holy blood atoned for our sins!

So as we celebrate His crucifixion and resurrection this weekend, remember this:  the day or date when Christ died takes a back seat to the awesome thought that when He died, He gave His life at just the right time…to purchase eternal salvation for weak, helpless sinners like you and I! Praise God for the Lamb that was slain!!

Have you trusted Him to be your Savior? Accept Him today!

 

Anxious to Write!

Well, it seems that every time I say I’m going to start regularly blogging again, something seems to come up.  “So what was it THIS time, Mark”?   I guess you’re anxious to know, huh?  Well, so was I!  REALLY anxious, as it turned out!

Back in January, I suddenly started experiencing a rather quick elevation of my blood pressure, which has been relatively normal for a long, long time.  After some caring nurse friends advised me to see an urgent care doctor, then my family physician, the doctors agreed I was facing a bout with good ole Anxiety!  I’m so very thankful there was no problem with my heart, but nonetheless, this blood pressure needed to come down.  I’d like to say this anxiety issue was due to our youngest son being in his Senior year, and helping him plan for college next Fall already, and his being the typical “let it all hang out around Dad” type of teenager at home.  But then how could I claim to be a “verythankfuldad”, right? Haha

Actually, I’m sure now that a whole lot of factors have contributed to this period of “Anxiety Gone Wild” that I went through several weeks ago.  My doctor was quick to assure me that the responsibility I’ve had taking care of Tonya (and I’ll quickly add that ANYONE who is a caregiver for a family member has!)  since she came home from the hospital after surviving her massive stroke just over 2 years ago, has gradually caught up with me….not to mention the “50 Factor” that I had to face last June!  But we won’t go there.  Haha.

So, add all these family issues up, and my doctor gave me peace and encouragement that I had a very good reason to be experiencing a little stress in my life.   She believed a medicine regimen to treat this very common problem would most likely bring down my blood pressure.  And, thank the Lord, she was right.  I did not like to have to take any more medication, but I would be crazy to refuse what could help my condition in this case.  However, I also had several days to search my heart during the week I took off sick, and the Lord spoke to me about a few items that quite possibly have been the biggest factors in bringing on anxiety….greater than the family issues!

In trying to solve the world’s problems lately (my Family World, especially), I found out I had, for quite some time, strayed away from some extremely important matters pertaining to my physical and spiritual life.  For one, I had become too hard on my son about some home-life issues, and also, I was wearing out my body with keeping late night hours needlessly, which was doing very little to strengthen my walk with the Lord!  So with this recent trial, I have come to the conclusion that God in his great mercy has tenderly spoken to my heart about these areas of improvement needed in my life….in order for me to be a better caregiver for my wife….and a better Dad to my sons.

The Bible verse He kept bringing to my mind through this battle with anxiety, and still does, was Philippians 4:6, “Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  When I finally realized I needed to focus more on Him instead of myself and my problems, some of which I had totally brought on myself, then peace began to replace some of the anxiety (Phil. 4:7)!

The appropriate medicine is good, and I’m thankful for having it and for  how it helps, but a closer relationship with the Heavenly Father is the very best antidote for anxiety!   Yes, I’m anxious to write again, and to draw closer to the Lord…but that’s the only kind that’s good for the soul.  Praise God for his goodness and healing in all parts of my life!

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