CAR ART CREATOR:  AMERICAN DREAM and HOPE

Isaac Cohen, owner of Classy Art Wholesale in Houston, was featured on the History Channel’s tv show, “Larry the Cable Guy.” Larry described him as, “… this guy who’s typical of what the show is about: ‘Only in America.'”

Cohen is a designer and woodworker creating car art that has earned awards for entries in the unique Car Art Parade in Houston, Texas. His cars are beautifully and artistically crafted of wood, and he has received offers as high as 6.5 million dollars for a car. As special as his car art, his personal history is equally amazing!

Cohen had dreamed of becoming an American since he was a child in Israel. He grew up, got a green card, and journeyed to America with nothing but a dream. He met a girl who had come from Mexico without resources. Their meeting must have been orchestrated, and together they shared a beautiful dream! Both determined, both hard workers, and within five years they were both citizens of the United States.

According to Larry the Cable Guy, “Now the guy’s a millionaire because of woodworking, and it’s the perfect American story, and it’s awesome.”

I have never met Isaac Cohen, but I have learned some important things about him. He is patriotic and loves his country; he is incredibly creative, highly-skilled, hard-working, and successful; and he cares more about helping others than building his wealth. I think Isaac Cohen exemplifies the American dream and inspires hope!

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”  (Jeremiah 29: 11)

Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.”  (Proverbs 16: 3)

Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men.”  (Colossians 3: 23)

“IF”:  HOPE, TRUST, HOLD ON

Happy Birthday to my dear son! My tribute today features a well-known poem by Rudyard Kipling. “If” was published over a century ago and still offers good advice for challenges that a man often faces.

Son, after these years and the experiences that you have faced, I hope you know that I am proud of the man you have become. You’re the man! You give me hope! The poem below advises to trust yourself and hold on! I’ll add to trust God more than yourself and trust that He is the One holding you (better than you holding Him)!


IF

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!
(Kipling)


“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who sires a wise son will be glad in him.”  (Proverbs 23: 24)

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD.”  (Jeremiah 17:7)

“Do not fear for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’”  (Isaiah 41: 10, 13)

“Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you, and I will deliver you.”  (Isaiah 46: 4)

“ALIVE AND BREATHING”:  JOY, HOPE, AND PRAISE THE LORD

Happy Birthday today to my beloved spouse, to whom I dedicate the song, Alive and Breathing” (recorded by Matt Maher and written by Elle Limebear & Matt Maher).

No matter your age, if you’re still alive and breathing, then you can know joy and hope and praise the Lord! May you have many more days to know joy and hope and many more days to praise the Lord!

ALIVE AND BREATHING

What holds your heart?
What stirs your soul?
What matters come to mind?
The cares you keep,
The thoughts you think;
It’s not all wasted time.
Seek and you will find.

Joy still comes in the morning.
Hope still walks with the hurting.
If you’re still alive and breathing, praise the Lord!
Don’t stop dancing and dreaming.
There’s still Good News worth repeating,
So lift your head and keep singing.
Praise the Lord!

Years roll by;
We wonder why
We lost our way from home.
Our Father finds
The child inside
We had left for growing old.
Awake, awake, awake my soul.

Joy still comes in the morning.
Hope still walks with the hurting.
If you’re still alive and breathing,
Praise the Lord!
Don’t stop dancing and dreaming.
There’s still Good News worth repeating,
So lift your head and keep singing.
Praise the Lord!

Let everything, let everything, Let everything praise the Lord!
In the working, in the waiting
Praise the Lord!
In the blessing, in the breaking
Come on, praise the Lord!
In the dying, the rising
Let it praise the Lord!
Let it praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Joy still comes in the morning.
Hope still walks with the hurting.
If you’re still alive and breathing,
Praise the Lord!
Don’t stop dancing and dreaming.
There’s still Good News worth repeating,
So lift your head and keep singing.
Praise the Lord!

Joy still comes in the morning.
Hope still walks with the hurting.
If you’re still alive and breathing,
Praise the Lord!
Don’t stop dancing and dreaming.
There’s still Good News worth repeating,
So lift your head and keep singing.
Praise the Lord!

(Limebear and Maher)

“…Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”
(Psalm 30: 5)

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.”
(Hebrews 10: 23)

“Let everything that has breath Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!”
(Psalm 150: 6)

SILENT FILM: HOPE & BETTER ADVENTURES BEYOND

Occasionally I enjoy a good silent film, and I recently viewed one I had not seen in a long time. It was “The Iron Mask” from 1929 that was based on Alexander Dumas’ novel. This featured a heroic D’Artagnan attempting to save the King of France with help from fellow Musketeers — Aramis, Athos, and Porthos. Unfortunately each was called to sacrifice all for the glory of France.

Even without speaking there was much swashbuckling, swordfighting, and suspense before it was all over. Finally the future of France was secure, the rightful king was returned to his throne, and good had triumphed over bad although at a cost of heroes’ lives.

The movie ended with D’Artagnan, who had been fatally stabbed, being beckoned upward by the other Musketeers already deceased. Words appeared on the screen regarding “…better adventures beyond.” The Musketeers were joined a final time, and the last message on the screen was “The Beginning” rather than the usual “The End.”

I thought it was a satisfying ending for a work of fiction. It was appropriate that the Musketeers would be together forever because of their deep bonds of loyalty to one another in this life.

I believe that leaving this world for the next is a beginning not an ending for God’s child. The Bible teaches that Eternity is an everlasting and eternal life for those who go to heaven. On the other hand those who reject Jesus Christ in this world will suffer eternal death. It is simply a matter of choice. We choose life by choosing Christ.

As the movie expressed silently, my hope is for better adventures beyond in heaven than even the best ones on this planet. I can only imagine!


I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”  (Deuteronomy 30: 19)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)

“For our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Philippians 3: 20)

“AMERICA AGAIN”: THE ONLY HOPE FOR AMERICA IS JESUS

Happy Birthday, America! As we celebrate this national holiday, may we remember that which made America great. May we remember to pray, “God bless America!”

I encourage Americans who may have forgotten our nation’s origins to review “America Again, a song by Carman. Here is a small but important part of its lyrics:

The only hope for America is Jesus.
The only hope for America is Him.
If we repent of our ways, stand firm, and say,
We need God in America again!'” (Carman)

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7:14)

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.”  (Psalm 33: 12)

Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
(Proverbs 13: 34)

AMERICAN SPIRIT: SHARE THE SPIRIT & HOPE

As the birthday of America will be widely celebrated tomorrow, I think about the American spirit. I am proud to say that I am a patriot, which is not to say that all Americans are perfect just as not every American law is right. Still there is hope that many Americans try to be their best and that most American policies promote freedom around the world.

One recent opinion column by Dana D. Kelley reinforced my view. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro, Arkansas. Based on her personal experiences in Mississippi, she wrote, “That’s the spirit,” which describes the best in Americans. May it add hope to our national holiday. She began with the following paragraph:

Independence Day is the supreme American holiday. The reasons, principles, and ideals explaining the colonies’ separation from England formed the foundation for everything else the United States would ever be or hope to become.”

I invite you to read the entire article: “That’s the spirit” by Dana Kelley, 7/2/2021. It is definitely worth reading.  The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette article is found @ www.nwaonline.com/news/2021/jul/02/thats-the-spirit/.

Kelley compares today’s American spirit to how it was in 1776 where I believe it was rooted in love. She ended the article with these two paragraphs, of which I fully agree:

That’s the spirit. Same as ’76. Thank God it still lives and lives forever.

Celebrate it this weekend. Even better: Practice it every time you get the chance.” (DDK)

Enjoy our birthday celebration, and ponder our nation’s beginnings. Be thankful, and share the spirit and hope!

We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister, whom he has seen, cannot love God, Whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him that the one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.” 
(1 John 4: 19 – 21)

PRAISE GOD IN THE STORMS:  PEACE AND HOPE

I think it is understood that one aspect of humanity is experiencing storms of life. It is reality that in this life those storms come, but how we respond is important and makes a huge difference.

If we believe we are alone, then storms can devastate us and leave us hopeless and in despair. However when we trust a loving Sovereign God, we can choose to praise God in the storms. This kind of faith leaves us with peace and  hope.

Casting Crowns is a contemporary Christian rock band that has sold over ten million albums, has been awarded Grammy and Dove Awards, and set a record for longest-reigning No. 1 song on Contemporary Christian charts. Their songs indicate that they understand the importance of praising God.

Their song, “Praise You In This Storm,” calls us to praise God in life’s storms. As this song rightly says, God is Who He is no matter where we are. Here are the words as recorded by Casting Crowns.

PRAISE YOU IN THIS STORM

I was sure by now, God,
You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away,
Stepped in and saved the day,
And once again
I say, “Amen,” and it’s still rainin.’

But as the thunder rolls,
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain,
“I’m with you,”
And as Your mercy falls,
I’ll raise my hands and praise the God Who gives
And takes away.

And I’ll praise You in this storm,
And I will lift my hands
For You are Who You are
No matter where I am.
And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand; You never left my side,
And though my heart is torn,
I will praise You in this storm.

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry.
You raised me up again,
But my strength is almost gone.
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You?

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain,
“I’m with you.”
And as Your mercy falls,
I’ll raise my hands and praise the God Who gives
And takes away.

And I’ll praise You in this storm,
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am.
And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand.
You never left my side,
And though my heart is torn,
I will praise You in this storm.

I lift my eyes unto the hills.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.
I lift my eyes unto the hills.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.
(I lift my eyes unto the hills.
Where does my help come from?)

And I’ll praise You in this storm,
And I will lift my hands
For You are Who You are
No matter where I am.
Every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand;
You never left my side.
Though my heart is torn,
I will praise You in this storm.

And though my heart is torn,
(Though my heart is torn)
I’ll praise You in this storm.
(Praise You in this storm)

(Casting Crowns)

“Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And praise the mention of His holiness.”
(Psalm 30:4)

“I will praise the name of God with song
and magnify Him with thanksgiving.”
(Psalm 69:30)

I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart and will glorify Your name forever.”
(Psalm 86:12)

MIKE FOY:  LEGACY OF CHILDREN & HOPE

Father’s Day will be observed tomorrow in the U.S. to celebrate and honor fathers. I am blessed to have known my father’s love and am thankful for my father and for my father-in-law.

Today I want to honor a father who left a legacy of children. He was Father to eight — two sons and six daughters. They are all living, all loving, and all faithful Christians. This kind of legacy gives me hope. This father was Elwood M. Foy (1916-1996) known as Mike Foy by many friends.

Mike met his parental responsibilities with help from Mary Frances, his faithful wife and the mother of his children. More importantly he looked to his heavenly Father and to Biblical instructions to guide his path as husband, father, and friend. He was blessed with success in these roles.

One son wrote poems to honor his dad’s example. His poetic tribute expresses that he can follow Jesus by following his dad, a wise and godly man. I can think of no better gift for a father to give his children!

MY EXAMPLE, MY DAD

I have seen faith and honesty walking the street.
I have seen self-respect and humility meet.
I have seen serving others stretched out to full length.
I have seen the true melding of meekness and strength.
I have seen self-control over what was deemed bad
As I watched through the years my example, My Dad.
(James Foy © 2016)

FOLLOWING DAD

I’ve been taught ever since I was a kid
In this life, live as Jesus lived.
I may not know what Jesus would have done,
But I have Dad, the Guide God gave this son.
I have Dad, a wise and godly man,
And I can follow Jesus by following my dad.
(James Foy © 2016)

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers who love their children and who are loved by their children. You are blessed and are a blessing!

 

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”  (Psalm 127: 3 – 5)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.”  (Psalm 103: 13)

I will guide you in the way of wisdom, and I will lead you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered, and when you run, you will not stumble.”  (Proverbs 4: 11, 12)

ANDREA BOCELLI CONCERT:  FAITH, HOPE, AND OPTIMISM

My opinion is that anytime is a good time for beautiful songs by world renown tenor, Andrea Bocelli. Last week I thoroughly enjoyed his concert, “BELIEVE: Live in Malta” on the PBS television series, “Great Performances.”

Andrea’s song choices and candid conversation reflected his personal “faith, hope, and optimism.” Impressive scenes of Malta’s churches, beaches, sunsets, and more accompanied the music.

Andrea explained the location, “Today Malta stands as an example of rebirth after such a troubled history as it has experienced. Today it teaches us that there is always hope that we can overcome any situation even the most difficult.”

Andrea perfectly performed the following songs: Gratia Plena,” “Angele Dei,” “Ave Maria,” “Oh, Madre Benedetta,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna,” “Pianissimo” (with Cecilia Bartoli), “Hallelujah,” and “Inno Sussurato.”

I especially appreciated the inclusion of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It reminded me that I will never walk alone in Life. That means not alone through perilous times of pandemic and never alone without my Source of faith, hope and love as Guide.

If you missed this meaningful concert, you may view it online. I am thankful for the gift that Andrea Bocelli shared with us. As always I loved hearing his extraordinary vocal talent and was blessed by his testimony that he believes in sharing faith, hope, and optimism. Bocelli’s reasons for his beautiful concert are the same as my own reasons for this blog. May you share them in your life, too.

***
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”  (John 14: 1)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  (Ephesians 2: 8, 9)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3: 5, 6)

TAKING CHANCE:  A JOURNEY OF DIGNITY, RESPECT & HOPE

The film, “Taking Chance,” is a moving tribute to a 19-year-old Marine who did not return home from military service in Iraq the way his family would have chosen. Instead his body was escorted by Lt. Col. Michael Strobl back to Wyoming for a hero’s burial.

On the day he died, Chance was voluntarily manning a .50-caliber machine gun in the turret of the lead vehicle of a convoy. When facing intense fire, Chance returned fire as he had been trained and saved the lives of fellow Marines until becoming fatally wounded.

During his service of less than a year in the United States Marine Corps, Private First Class (posthumously promoted to Lance Corporal)  Chance Phelps had earned a marksmanship medal, six ribbons, and the Purple Heart medal.

Lt. Col. Strobl’s journal writing about escorting Chance on his journey home inspired the movie, “Taking Chance.” Strobl experienced Chance being treated with dignity and respect by military personnel and civilians throughout the journey. It touched him in a way he would never forget.

Besides dignity and respect this true account includes duty, honor, and hope. Chance stepped up to fulfill his duty, served with honor, and even sacrificed his life to save others for the cause of freedom and to make our world a safer place. In his heroic actions I see hope for our future and our world.

I highly recommend the 2009 movie, “Taking Chance,” which starred Kevin Bacon. It is an unforgettable journey of dignity, respect, and hope.


Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” 
(John 15: 13)

Read “A Marine’s Journey Home” by Michael Strobl (sfgate.com)

Watch “Taking Chance,” 2009 HBO film.