That moment during a hot summer day when the clouds above you churn and you know it’s coming. The smell of burning wood on a cold winter night and all those memories flood your mind of how it used to be when you were a kid. How sitting on the park bench while the wind chills you reminds you of what a hot chocolate will taste like when you get back indoors.
They’re there. We just have to see them. Those beautiful junctures that make life all the more wonderful to live. Allow me to take a sliver of time from Freedom Friday to tell you about my sweet moments.
How the grass smells when I first cut it. How the house looks when it’s clean. How the garden looks when de-weeded. How I feel when I have a good movie I want to watch and have been waiting all week to watch it. How the sound of an ice cream truck brings me back to when I was a boy playing hockey with my friends in the street. How a sunset makes all the sense in the world, even when things at the time don’t make sense.
When the first snowfall hits, and my excitement builds knowing Christmas is right around the corner. When the leaves change, and I have my camera with me to take incredible shots of the colorful foliage. When the birds return after having spent those dark months away, and they sing their wonderful spring melodies at five in the morning.
The way my tongue dances after I bite into the most delicious dinner ever made in the history of culinary excellence. The silence I hear when I’m reading a good book. The joy I feel when a plan works as expected. The smell of an electronics store when I first walk in and all I want is the latest film release, but it tempts me with more. The sight of a dog chasing its tail and not knowing anything more complicated than that.
There’s more. Like those times I walk in on my wife, grab her in my arms, and tell her how lucky I am to have her. When I look into the eyes of my children and find myself staring back. That moment spending time with the extended family and someone tells a joke that everyone laughs. How the smile on someone’s face can make all the difference in the world when having a tough day. And how I try to see the good in others even when they’re terrible to me.
You see, I have many sweet moments in my life, and I’m sure you have them, too. If you look closely, you can see them. They’re there. They’re waiting for you to discover. When you do, it will amaze you by how it makes you feel knowing you’ve found one. Not everyone knows about them, but that’s okay. One day they will.
There are days when you just don’t want to get out of bed. On the other hand, there are days you want the world to stop so you can look around and enjoy the beauty. You’ll study a flower and ask yourself, what made this come from the ground? Its pedals worship the sun in harmony with the grass standing at attention. You listen to that single note in a symphony orchestra, hanging there, waiting for the piano to make the melody with its ghostlike phrasing. The moon listens to its phases. The ocean’s waves sit quietly not wanting to destroy the flowers.
The heart of a man stops, ending his journey. The cry from a hospital bed declares new life. The baby snuggles in its mother’s arms. A boat capsizes over rough waters. A whale journeys to the coast of North America, landing on the beach only for others to find it later, dead. The skies are clear. A cloud appears. It transforms into a flower, blooming and exploding in the sky as if it were fireworks on The Fourth of July.
The ice crawls on the roof, thickening as it goes. His sweat from working in the field pours from his forehead on to the beans he’s collecting into the basket. The rain doesn’t stop. Not for Big Ben. Not for the tubes. The wind hasn’t stopped carrying the sand from the desert to the towns. Bagdad will be lonely tonight, but the rose hasn’t lost its pedals.
A heartbeat pounds in the music at the bar. Eyes meet. The evening ends in fireworks. A child visits her grandmother expecting her in bed. Instead, she’s tending the garden pruning the roses. The child smiles. The bottle of wine falls to the floor. Shards of glass cover the carpet. You awaken from the noise wanting to go back to bed. The garbage truck churns its innards, having announced its arrival.
The whistle from the train doesn’t let up. The honk from the taxicabs on Fifth will get you to where you want to go. An airplane burns too much fuel to where it wants to go leaving a trail of debris in the wake of its crash. A truck filled with snow capsizes, burying a pedestrian in his car. Ghosts can’t have the answer. Not yet anyway. The daisies know, but they’re not telling.
The lonely silence on a frozen lake gives way to the loon calling its mate. The sparks flying from the fire tell the story of the woman who loved her husband very much before she took her life. The mantel sits bare except for the one rose resting in the center, dew forming on the inside as tears would from a broken heart.
Sometimes, what we think is not what we know as truth.
One rainy evening, a young woman named Rose traveled the tubes with her friends in London to a pub searching for fun on the dance floor. When her eyes met Mark’s, there were fireworks that night. The next morning, Mark explained he had to return to the United States. He was on leave from the military and needed to get back to Iraq where he would help villagers farm in the countryside. They were in desperate need of food since the desert winds would consume the fertile soil making it waste in its wake.
Months later while Rose flicked on the tele, she caught the American news channel broadcasting the names of the soldiers killed in action. She collapsed on the bed when she read Mark’s name scrolling by. The plane he flew crashed and burned after a leak in the line spewed fuel into the wind. Hours later, she ended up at the hospital delivering their baby girl.
It was a clear day when Mark’s burial took place in the United States. Rose had decided just after giving birth that she’d live close to him for the rest of her life so she can respect his memory with a bouquet of flowers she’d deliver to his grave every day.
As the years flew by, and her daughter, Daphne, grew, Rose one day awoke to the sound of New York—a garbage truck processing its pickup, the whistle from the train passing by hauling passengers for their morning commute, the honk of the taxicabs cruising on Fifth. Rose had things to do that cold, winter morning.
On her way to driving Daphne to her former mother-in-law’s, the radio reported news of a man who had died buried alive by a freak dump truck accident. Also reported, a boat capsized in the waters off the coast of California, in spite of the calm waters due to the moon’s phase. The last news item was that of a whale that had travelled from its breeding grounds to a west coast beach and died of exposure.
Soon after kissing Daphne and seeing her off to visit her grandmother, Rose heads for the weekend cabin rental by the lake. When she arrives late in the evening, she notices the ice that had formed on the roof and the silence across the lake interrupted only by the loon calling its mate.
About Midnight, Rose lifted her head from her lap after having cried for hours. Next to her, the bottle of wine she had brought for the weekend was empty. Next to it, a flat wooden box lay untouched. The fire’s flames curled upward into the chimney as she sat staring. She closed her eyes, a few moments later she reached for the box. Inside it rested a gun—Mark’s service revolver bestowed upon her during his memorial.
The symphony music Rose had playing in the background could not drown the sound of the gunshot from outside the cabin. The bouquet of flowers meant for Mark that day sat inside her car on the driver’s seat.
Sometimes, what we think is not what we know as truth.
The bullet meant for Rose grazed her temple landing in the cabin’s ceiling. Reports later suggested she died of a heart attack. But everyone who knew her knew she didn’t die of a heart attack. If anything they knew as truth, they knew she died of a broken heart. And that may very well be the truth.
I love playing with my camera. My camera has served me well over the years. During the past eleven years, since the time I’d purchase my first digital camera, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some of the most beautiful places I’ve had the privilege to visit. From Niagara Falls all the way to Nova Scotia, I have an archive full of memories I’d love to share with you this Freedom Friday.
To start—I’ve learned a lesson. The lesson I’ve learned is this: To enjoy what I’m doing while I’m doing it. What I mean by that has a lot more to do with experiencing the moment than it is to relive the moment. Photography has a way of capturing a photographer’s imagination to the point where the subject becomes just that—the subject. I had that happen to me where I did what I could to capture the subject that I’d forgotten to capture one thing. I’d forgotten to live the moment.
Nowadays, I’m careful to put my camera away and take a deep breath to look at what’s going on around me. It’s amazing what I see when I do that. Gone is the worry of thinking I’d miss a shot if I don’t have my camera readily available. Now I see an event for what it is—an experience. And because it’s an experience, I enjoy myself more knowing it’s there to capture not with the camera, but with my heart.
Pretty sentimental stuff, eh?
Okay, I have a whole lot of photos I want to share with you, so I think I’ll start with a few of my favorites from the East Coast. My wife’s family comes from Nova Scotia. Every time I’m there, I end up taking a gazillion photos of the area. One of my favorite places happens to be Citadel Hill in Halifax. The first time I’d visited there, the clouds hung low and gray, and my family and I were afraid of a thunderstorm catching us unaware. Luckily, subsequent years provided a different experience. Here, have a peek:
Next up, Niagara Falls. I love this place. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. Since it takes less than a couple of hours to get there from where we live, we end up going there quite often. You can read about some of our trips I’d written from past posts. Whenever we go to Niagara Falls it’s a mini vacation with lots to do and plenty of restaurants to visit during our stay.
Lastly, here is a collection of some of my favorite photos I’ve had hanging around collecting dust (not really). Some are random shots I’d taken in the heat of the moment, and some I’ve planned. Try to guess which is which, ’cause honestly, I can’t remember.
I hope you enjoyed this little slideshow of memories. Granted, they are my memories, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, too. Nevertheless, they are but a glimpse into my life and why I think experiences are special to have and to hold as captured moments of time to relive forever.
[Author’s note: In celebration of spring, I’ve changed the header color to reflect the season. I hope you like it!]
When Job questioned God about his suffering, stating how calamity is for the unrighteous, he was really saying that he was righteous and did not deserve what God had allowed upon his life. God had a plan, though. He was there with Job through the trials he endured. For through those trials God was showing his glory.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
There are moments in our lives when we believe God may have abandoned us. They are only moments; for in everything we suffer, God is showing His glory. Our true test as Christians is our faith we have in the Almighty. Will we abandon God if we did not receive the answer we wanted? The answer is God would never abandon us.
Through His Son, Jesus, we have salvation. God had allowed Jesus to suffer the cross as a way for us to understand God’s awesome grace. For through the cross, we also have hope of the resurrection. We will one day live again, and the devil cannot take that hope away from us.
Look to God for salvation and He will give it. Our sufferings are only for a moment, and then God will glorify us just as He did Jesus. For God is almighty in all things.
The closer I draw to God, the sadder I feel from knowing just how much sin remains in me. When I was young in the faith, I could not see it. I could not understand it. Only after sharing intimate moments with God did he show me how fleshly-minded I still am. And I had to admit of the iniquity that has not left me. But I have hope:
“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
We cannot continue to allow sin to rule over our bodies. Once we receive the Holy Spirit, God will lead us to further repentance, which will encourage us to put away the transgression that so easily ensnares us. Our lives become his and our nature becomes his. For his spirit transforms us into new beings with the discernment to see right from wrong. Is it a surprise when we ache inside because we see how sin so masterfully enslaves us? Yet, our hope lies in our Savior Jesus. As wretched as I am, his blood covers all.
I may feel broken and ashamed for having sinned;
His blood covers all.
I may feel the sting of defeat for not having overcome;
His blood covers all.
My lips may preach his word, but my actions may say otherwise;
His blood covers all.
My feet may carry me away from him who saved me;
His blood covers all.
My hands may become tools of iniquity;
His blood covers all.
My eyes may drift to the lust of the flesh;
His blood covers all.
I may feel my sins are greater than he could ever forgive;
His blood covers all.
When I think about of all that has happened in my life, of all those times when I could have failed miserably, and of all those moments when one decision could have altered my future permanently, I am thankful. God could have allowed one of those fleeting instances to change my life irrevocably. But he did not. Instead, he looked after me. He watched over me. And he protected me as I went on my way. Why?
That question, why? is a big question to me. Why would God spare me the pain I would have otherwise experienced had I endured certain trials?
The Apostle James talks about trials this way:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
James is saying, trials offer opportunities to grow in faith, in that no matter what happens to us, God will give us the patience to endure whatever trial comes our way. Saying it another way, God will provide the help we need when we suffer.
I may have avoided certain trials, but I cannot tell you how many times I have felt alone, broken and upset, only to find God there, waiting to help me. He never leaves us. He is there always, hoping that we would come and give of our hearts to him in prayer. All God wants is a relationship with us. He offered his son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins. Everyone who believes Jesus is the son of God will have salvation. So how difficult is it to understand that God loves us more than he loves anything in this universe?
When I think about trials this way, it is then easy to accept the truth that God allows suffering, because no one suffered more than Christ did on the cross. And although Christ’s suffering was not a trial for him, his whole purpose for coming was so that we who suffer would have hope—hope for a future—hope for eternal life. James confirms this when he says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
Friends, continue to love God as he loves us, unconditionally and without end, for as we love him this way, our trials will then be as steppingstones toward our reward, which is the crown of life.
“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”
And I am going to be candid for what I am about to say, because I am sure you are wondering why you are reading this article on LookingtoGod.org instead of JackFlacco.com.
When I started my blog in December 2012, I was writing about zombies and I was looking to find an audience who would enjoy reading posts about the undead and the science behind it. One such post had to do with the various phases of rigor the body goes through during its decomposition. Never did I think how influential my posts would be until one night I had over 1,200 hits in an hour from people who were searching for the answer to the question, “Why do zombies eat brains?” And never did I think my first zombie book would end up as a bestseller when it came out in October 2013.
As the years went on, my measure of success was by how many followers I had on Twitter, how many likes I had on Facebook, and how many readers I had on JackFlacco.com. Everything became a numbers game. If I could grab the audience’s attention, I will have earned their loyalty. Or so I thought. That is, until February 2016. For it was then that I realized God was working with me, shaping my heart, and moving me to forgive all those who I believed had done me wrong.
I read a lot about repentance. I read a lot about forgiveness. I was going through a transformation, leaving behind old grudges to live a new life filled with Jesus. I emerged two months later as the proverbial new man. No longer was the weight of hatred holding me down, but I had the Holy Spirit guiding my decisions, showing me things in the bible I had never seen before.
Two-and-a-half years later, after having written countless articles about salvation, and having published my first Christian book, I am announcing the birth of Looking to God Ministries, an organization dedicated to drawing people closer to God by encouraging them to love others as themselves and to love Jesus. We have yet to write a mission statement, or come up with branding; but those things are on our list of things to do. The exciting news is we have a homeless outreach program already up and running; and starting with When Forgiveness Is Enough, I will be signing over the rights, royalties and proceeds to all my books to the ministry as a means to support its programs.
So I am thrilled to begin on this new journey, sharing this experience with you all, and wondering what God has waiting for Looking to God Ministries in the next little while. I am sure that whatever he has planned, it will be a time of challenges, moments of excitement, and opportunities to draw closer to him.
Please join me in prayer that I may know what his will is.