This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

We were able to explore some of the southwest United States very recently, and there are no words to describe the beauty of it all.  Pictures won’t, and can’t, do it justice, but I shall try to share some anyway.  The weather was beautiful, and while my wife had a conference to attend, I spent some time riding and roaming.

This particular spot is just outside Phoenix, Arizona.  While I was not decked out in any half-way official climbing gear or such thing, I did my best with what I had.  I headed up this particular trail up and around the back side of this mountainous rock formation, all the while watching exactly where I was placing every step.  Loose rocks were plentiful, and I didn’t want to wind up rolling into any cactus, regardless of how beautiful they were.

Along this dry dusty path is posted the sign you see here – “Please Stay On Improved Trails.”  This was much easier read than followed, as many of the trails look no different than the surrounding countryside, except for the large rocks along the path.

I was walking a path that was the same color, texture, and design as the rest of the land around it.  I stumbled over rocks and climbed others just as big as the ones I was directed to avoid.  I climbed higher than I ever intended to, but after driving some of the roads we had traveled in Colorado, this was nothing!  

But it’s the traveling that can get us into trouble if we aren’t careful.  The scenery of this old world can’t be put into words.  The paths aren’t always straight, obvious, or “improved.”  The surrounding lands provide beautiful views but extremely large cactus plants that can cause great misery and pain.  So I remain on the path.  My road my not be easy, and my rocks may be just as difficult to climb as those for the lost man, but the difference is what I will find on the other side!

As you travel the rocky paths of your week ahead, watch where you put your feet, be aware of your surroundings at all times, and ‘please stay on improved trails’ as much as possible.  Others are watching where you walk.

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with the South may simply see this photo as a bunch of trees in a nasty pond.  The rest of us recognize it as a Mississippi cypress swamp.

Especially in the dead heat of a muggy southern summer, places like this are home to many untold thousands of mosquitos and other such pesky creatures.  The waters are still.  There is a green film of slime, moss, and algae covering their surface.  You can hear the croaks of the toads, the incessant buzzing of the bugs, and the ever so slight breeze rustling things around you.

However, it’s what you don’t see that can cause the most harm.  These quiet and still swamps are also home to many kinds of snakes (and who cares if they’re poisonous or not?!), and there are probably gators idling lazily much nearer than you care to imagine.  I know of no one in their right mind who would venture down into these type waters simply because of what my lie underneath the green top cover.  And yet, we venture down into the dangerous places of this life.

Why is it that we ignore the signs, the sounds, the smells, and the poisons of the devil’s evil around us, and we wade right into the boggy swamp of sin not thinking twice that we could be bitten, eaten, or literally taken out of this world due to the dangers behind the nasty parts we see?  Why do we wander around so closely, admiring, if you will, the “pretty” green, when it simply masks the ugliness of what’s below?

Remember when Momma told you to look but not touch?  She had to repeat herself so many times.  God does the same.  “Look, my child, if you must.  Even take a leisurely stroll across the planks, if you must.  But be very cautious about stepping off the pathway.”  — You see, what that green outer crust doesn’t tell us is just how deep those murky waters are.  One step out into the sinfulness and ugliness, and you could very easily and quickly be in over your head.

Listen for the warnings, watch for the signs, remain on the path, and steer clear of life’s swamps this week.

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

 Just a thought to help start your week.

Time.  Have you got it?  Your answer would probably be, “time for what?”  And that remains to be seen.  I’m of a generation of students who were still taught to read clocks and tell time.  This was before the digital clocks took over.  Very few kids these days can look at a regular clock and tell you the time.

Now, I see very few folks of the younger generations that wear watches.  Unless their “fitbit” or some other such device happens to have a digital time reading on it, ask someone what time it is, and they have to pull out a cell phone to check it.

If you’re like me, and you think that’s strange, then think further for a bit.  Long ago, folks had to tell time with something similar to the sun dial in my photo.  Strategically placed in a potentially sunny spot, the sun dial could at least narrow the time down to a near hour in the day.  Of course, at night, who knew what time it was?

One thing is for certain though.  It’s time that God’s people got busy.  And again you might ask, “doing what?”  Well that, too, remains to be seen, as God gives you a different plan for your life than He gives me for mine.  Our days are to be made up of the things He has given us to do for Him.  What is His plan for your life?  What is it that He has assigned for you to accomplish today?

A comment made by our Sunday School teacher this past Sunday reminded us that we each have the same twenty-four hours in our days.  Each of us, though, have different things which fill those hours.  I submit to you that it’s all about choice.  You choose what fills your time.  You choose how you spend your day.  Yes, you must show up for work, and you must care for your families.  There are things that must take your time.  But whether we think about it or not, every single thing we do in every single day we live is all because of choices we make – right or wrong, healthy or not.

What will you spend your week doing?  Will it fly by simply filled with all the busy things that occupy our time, or will you spend time with God, spend time in His Word, spend time loving on your family and your neighbors, spend time sharing His love with someone who desperately needs it?  The list can go on and on.

What time is it?  It’s time we quit complaining about having no time, and do something about it.  Reconstruct your time schedule to include Him and His Word, and I promise you the other things will work out.  It’s time we put our priorities in the right order and put Him first.  It’s time for God’s people to stand up, speak up, and make a difference in this world — while there’s still time!

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Fall is definitely in the air where I live.  Our daytime temperatures have been in the 70’s and low 80’s, and nighttime temps in the upper 40’s.  The house air conditioner hasn’t kicked on in over a week.  As I sit typing this, the birds are singing, the morning sun is warming the earth, and God’s blessings are too numerous to mention.

I consider one of those blessings to be that I am from a family (on both sides) of hard workers of the land — people who spent many an hour outdoors plowing & planting, picking & gathering, and chop chop chopping with the hoe.  I distinctly remember my parents telling me of their memories from this time of year spent in the cotton fields like the North Mississippi cotton patch in my photo this week.

Modern-day machinery changed the way cotton was picked many years ago, but my parents are from the generation that picked cotton by hand, one cotton boll at a time.  My mother recalls seeing her father teary-eyed at how much cotton was wasted and left behind when the machines started being implemented into the picking process.  There is definitely something to be said for working with the hands and getting our best job done.

As these cooler days creep in and this year begins its final quarter, there is a time to reflect on the year.  How much goodness did I plant?  How many seeds of the Gospel did I sow?  How many rows of folks have I walked among, sharing the Son-shine and thirst-quenching waters of His love?  How many times have I dragged out the old hoe and chopped away at those pesky weeds of doubt and despair that seem to pop up everywhere?

Am I doing my best job in His fields?  Or will I stand at the end of the lonely row teary-eyed over all those who have been missed?

You may not see much when you see a cotton field, but I see His blessings on my life, and I’m so very grateful.

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

On the east coast of the state of Oregon, just off Highway 101, sits the town of Cannon Beach.  Just off the beach at Cannon Beach sits this very large formation called Haystack Rock.  It is a sight worthy of beholding.  Compare the size of the rock itself to those people walking the beach.  It is indeed majestic.

Haystack Rock got its name, of course, because of its shape.  The smaller rocks situated around it are known as “The Needles.”  Haystack Rock’s shape makes it readily recognizable in person or in movies and on film.

This made me think about the shape I’m in.  If I was given a name according to my shape, it might be “bowling ball Brad,” so thankfully, that’s not how I was named.  We may think about our shape.  Physically, some are in bad health and can no longer do as they once did.  Mentally, we may or may not be in a shape that is very healthy for a good lifestyle.  And then there’s our spiritual shape.  Has that ever crossed your mind?

What is my spiritual shape?  Am I a milk-bottle-fed baby?  Am I growing and feasting on the meat of His Word daily?  Am I downhearted and discouraged due to seemingly unanswered prayers?  Am I one to whom others look for encouragement and prayer support?  What is my shape?

The world will recognize us by our ‘shape.’  More times than not, they see us at our worst and not the best.  So that is the picture we portray, and we must be ever mindful of our shape because of that.

Standing there, beaten by the waves of life, unmovable and strong is the shape that encourages others — and ourselves.  In your week ahead, will the world see you and know the Godly shape you try to share daily, or will it be like looking for a needle in the haystack to see any good in us?  Stand strong, in whatever shape you are, and His love will see you through.

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Hurry up and wait.  It can sometimes feel as if we spend half our lives waiting on something or someone.  We sit in traffic waiting to see if the red light will ever turn green.  We show up for an appointment only to wait in a room specifically designed for waiting, before we move on to another little room and wait some more.  We wait on the oven to heat up so we can cook dinner.  We wait on the car to cool off so we don’t blister our hands on the steering wheel.  We wait on things to happen.

You’ve probably, at one time or another, used the phrase, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” meaning, “Let’s wait and see how the situation turns out, and then we will make a decision on what to do.”

The particular bridge in my photo spans the Columbia River and connects the towns of Hood River, Oregon, and Bingen, Washington.  It is a toll bridge, meaning you wait in line, out on the bridge, to pay your toll.  And, this bridge also happens to be a drawbridge.  A drawbridge is designed to open up near the middle, raise up out of the way of passing boats, and allow them to pass.  But that means the vehicles attempting to cross the bridge must wait yet again.

Do you ever get tired of waiting on God?  Perhaps you’ve asked Him for answers to a question, for healing of yourself or a loved one, for guidance in upcoming circumstances, for wisdom to train your children, or for any number of things.  We ask.  Then we wait.

Why do you suppose He lets us sit and wait on Him?  Perhaps it isn’t that He is not ready to answer.  Perhaps it’s because we aren’t ready for the answer He will provide!  The more we wait on Him, sometimes the more our true desires, wants, and wishes may change.  That waiting period may also be God’s way of telling us to slow down, to not focus so much on the future and its problems, but focus on the time we are granted today.

Maybe you’ve anxiously awaited what this coming week will bring.  Wait on Him.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s today He wants us to focus on and experience.  Good things really can come to those who wait.

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

I am not a fan of heights.  I have climbed a few ladders, but I always find it easier to go up than to come back down.  As a young teen, I was on my grandparents’ roof many times cleaning off debris or taking care of some such item on my grandmother’s to-do list she mentally prepared before I arrived.  And yet, getting from the rooftop back onto the ladder was often the scariest part of the job.  I’ve climbed pecan trees in the fall to shake the big limbs, allowing the nuts to rain down.  Thankfully, this ‘nut’ never fell out!

Why do I tell you that?  Well, strangely enough, I find that very high places wherein I can be safely enclosed don’t bother me in the least.  I’ve been to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, a few times.  I can see for miles across Missouri in one direction or Illinois in the opposite direction just across the river below.  In this view, I was facing eastward, downtown St. Louis in the foreground.  

Just off to the left, you see Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Down that main street, about three-quarters of the way, one can spot Union Station which was once a grand hub for transportation.  And near the bottom right is the museum referred to as the “Old Courthouse,” where the first two trials of the Dred Scott case took place in 1847 and 1850, part of a decade-long fight for freedom by an enslaved man.

On the ground, I have walked to all of these places, and I have seen the architecture, the height, and the intrigue of each.  However, by looking down from above, I have a completely different vantage point and can see so much more.  Because I rose to heights that challenged my idea of safety, because I stepped out of my comfort zone, because I did something I sometimes fear, and allowed myself to be many feet into the air, I received the benefit of the fantastic views.  And, those views added to the knowledge I already had of each place.

Sometimes changing our physical perspective can positively influence our spiritual perspective.  By stepping out of our comfort zone and going someplace we might not normally go, we gain a new perspective on other God-loved people around us.  By visiting and ministering to those we normally haven’t, we can see beauty we’ve not seen in our regular routines.

I challenge you to channel the inner “Star Trek” in you.  This week, go somewhere you’ve never gone before, either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, and allow yourself to meet and see others from God’s glorious vantage point.  Once there, you’ll find it isn’t nearly as scary as you thought!

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

It seems to be that time of year when the animals are running amuck.  Perhaps they sense that the heat of summer may soon ease up, giving way to cooler months.  Whatever it is, there is certainly activity in the air in the animal kingdom.

Just a week or two ago, I and the car just ahead of me had to stop on a local road to allow at least a dozen or fifteen turkeys to make up their mind which direction they wanted to go.  One day this past week, my wife and I experienced the very sudden erratic road-crossing attempts of two separate groups of raccoons.  Unfortunately, I must report that at least one of those pretty creatures in each of the two groups failed to make up their minds in time to avoid tragedy.

And then I’ve seen several deer lately, like the ones in my picture here.  Momma and baby deer were out for an afternoon stroll.  I snapped several photos in which Momma deer was very keenly watching her surroundings, me included, in order to make sure everything was safe for the little one.

The Lord certainly takes care of His creatures.  He provides their meals, shelter, and safety.  But alas, each animal must make up its own mind about the way it will go.  Those turkeys finally gave up the group decision making process, leaving the road in at least two different directions.  Those ‘coons had no idea which way to run, and this indecision inevitably led to death.  Momma deer was ever watchful of all her surroundings, making sure everything was safe.

We are all beloved creatures of the Lord.  But in His goodness and grace, He allows us to make our own decisions.  Some of those are life-changing.  Some of our choices result in splitting from the rest of our group.  Some result in safety and beloved protection.  But, sadly, some of those choices in life can lead to our destruction.  We must always be on guard.

Just as the Psalmist wrote, as a deer pants for the water, so I long for the Lord’s presence.  May we, as His little creatures this week, pay very close attention to the paths we travel, the obstacles and dangers that will most often come our way, and the reality that He longs for us to look to Him for guidance and protection when we have no idea which way to go.  May we be faithful to follow in His paths this week.

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

One of my favorite sights in New Orleans would be the trolleys running up and down Canal Street.  Although I’ve never ridden one, I’ve watched many.  They are identified by the red paint color and the ringing bells.

New Orleans can provide a sensory overload of sorts.  There is so much to see.  Now, granted, I have seen some things there that should never be seen.  There are so many sounds, too, especially the loud jazz music played on the street corners or by a group of individuals marching down the middle of the street, oblivious to the vehicles trying to make their way through the mobs.  But I’ve also heard some things and had some things said to me there that should never be said.

I’ve witnessed the throwing of the beads during the parades, I’ve felt the downpour of drenching rains while caught walking through the French Quarter, I’ve seen the public drunkenness and all states of dress or lack thereof.  I’ve also been witness to the smells of New Orleans, from the wafting odors of fresh beignets, very strong coffee, and fried alligator to the very unpleasant smells of public nastiness unworthy of mention.  And yet, through it all, it is such a fascinating place to visit.

Our lives are full.  Parts are pleasant, but some are far from it.  There is the sweet smelling blessing but also the nose burning smell of sin.  There are the beauties in our world, such as the ornate St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square, and then there are the unpleasantries of the bums sprawled out in the middle of the public walkways.  Life brings a variety of experiences to us.  And each and every one of them make us who we are today.

New Orleans wouldn’t be New Orleans without every single one of the things I mentioned above.  Every one of those things enhances the experience.  Every one of the things we go through, or even step in, in our lives enhances our witness.  The nastiness helps us appreciate the beauty.  The sour smells help us appreciate the sweet aromas.

As you meander through the back alleyways of your week ahead, be ever mindful of the sounds you hear, the sights you see, and the places you step.  You just might not truly appreciate the beauty of life without them.

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Because of a meeting my wife was attending, I got to spend some time in New Orleans last week.  While she worked, I walked.  She later calculated that I had roamed probably eleven miles by foot in a forty-eight hour period, all within one square mile.

I walked the paths along the Mississippi River and around Jackson Square, the aisles between the pews in the St. Louis Cathedral, the streets in and around the French Quarter, the sidewalks of Canal Street, and the nearby storefronts.  But one place I did a lot of walking was inside the Audubon Aquarium, where I met the little fellow pictured here.

This penguin and his buddies are used to the crowds, and they love to dance around in the water and entertain.  This one nosed up to the glass to get a good look at me.

Funny.  I paid to enter the place, to roam its halls and exhibits, staring at every creature within its walls.  And yet the tables were turned here.  The penguins seemed to be the ones staring at us.  I wonder if I had the experience backward.  Were the animals there to entertain me, or was I there to entertain them?

We get life backwards like that as well.  For some reason, we seem to think that God’s purpose is to be here for me.  He’s to be at my beck and call, to speak when I ask, to provide me with what I want, and to keep me entertained.  Actually, we are here for His purposes.  We are to serve Him, to worship Him, to bless Him, to walk and talk and live for Him.

As long as I remain here on this earth, along with all of its other creatures, I am here to do all I do for my God, Who watches me constantly, cares for me always, and will never leave me behind.

Enjoy this new perspective on your aquarium of life this week.  Oh, and keep your noses off the glass.  Somebody has to clean up behind the penguins.

Just a thought.