Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Planned Spontaneity

     I've always liked being spontaneous.  Sometimes when I lived life off--the--cuff, I wasn't prepared enough and didn't like the consequences.   But it was fun to be somewhat compulsive and carefree, and not always know what was waiting around the corner.

    As life goes on, we grow older and more mature and our lives get more complicated.  We're expected to be more sensible, and make more practical and prudent decisions.  Our moves are designed to be more deliberate and our thoughts and emotions more calculated.

     I've always longed to go back to the days of spontaneity
 again.  To relive those times of being completely carefree and even sometimes totally careless.  But it seems that the stakes get too high.  We have other lives depending on us to do the right thing.   We have less room for error as we carefully plan out our lives moment by moment.

  There's been an energy and a force at work in my life for some time.  Sometimes I ignore it. Oftentimes I deny it by the way that I live.   But even when I'm not aware, it is there. Some of you prefer the ambiguity of spirituality.   I must acknowledge that it's more than a thing.  An energy force. It's God's hand on my life. 

Definition of Atheism
      I really hate it whenever people who don't know try to pretend that they do know or try to prove that they're right to believe in nothing.  They have a right to believe in nothing, but that doesn't mean that they ARE right in believing in nothing.  I also get downright frustrated with those who say we can't know.  Or won't know until after this life.   I maintain that this life isn't as worth living if you cannot know.   And being able to know God is what makes it all worthwhile.

   My faith is not just built on a hope. It doesn't depend on myself or any manufactured emotion or commotion.   It's a faith that is built on facts.  Our universe is so tightly woven together, it is so complex yet works together perfectly.  The spiritual world is no different.   It has a consistency, a pattern, a plan behind it. 

   Back to spontaneity.  As I continue to ascent to and abide in the presence of God-- the energy force, and also my personal friend--  I become aware of him actually working in and through my life.  Sometimes he's in the background, and I see hints of his working.  And other times, it's obviously his handiwork.  He comes out of nowhere and does something or works out some detail that no one else could do, and didn't even know to do.   Most of the time,  I don't even see it coming.

   It's nice to have a planned spontaneity.  It's great to wake up every day and wonder what is going to happen next.   But also to be aware that there's Someone who loves me, working behind the scenes, that cares what happens in my life, and is working out a plan, even when it seems that I'm just improvising and ad libbing my way through each day.

   If you have read this and it doesn't make a bit of sense to you, then maybe it's because you haven't found God in a personal way in your life yet.   Even more likely, you've been aware of something, but you didn't know what it was, or maybe you knew God was trying to get your attention, and you either ignored or flatly refused to allow him access.  You can know him.  It's not a boys' club, or a high-brow society.  It's a family, and each one of us is individually drawn by his Love and born as his child by accepting his Son.

   You might just say it's all coincedence and I'm making this stuff up.  You say, it's coming  right out of your head.   I don't think so.   Because if I had it my way, when things go right, I'd tend to take credit myself.   But when God works, he does it in such a way to leave you in awe and let you know that it's all by Grace.   You see-- we can plan out our lives, but it's so much better living in a--- Planned Spontaneity.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you 
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11)

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself
strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chr. 16:9)

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, 
he gave the right to become children of God--- (John 1:11,12)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Provision Prayer

   Lord.  I sit here at a computer.  Years ago, your disciples had no such technology, but wrote on parchment paper and tablets of stone.   We are so privileged.  Help me be oh so thankful for all of the modern conveniences that we have; even if we feel needy and poor, we still have more than most in the world, and much more than those who preceded us.

  I ask you to read my mind and heart, and give to me according to my need. I ask not for more than I can handle, or more than I can use, and definitely not more than I need. But I ask you to fill me with Your provision, Lord.  Help me to recognize your work in my life, both in the physical and the spiritual.  Help me utilize the gifts that I already have to the utmost, one of which being my time.   I know how wasteful I am so often of this precious gift that you have given each of us.

   Where I feel a desperate need, please fill that need in my life, or show me how my desperation is in vain, and give me a sense of peace to replace that empty feeling.  Your Word has said that You are our peace.

   We are complete in You.   Help me to realize and comprehend these truths and give my heart the assurance of those things. I also confess that You and You alone are our provider, and we need only look to You to sustain us and give us our daily bread.  For that, I am both thankful and needy, and ask you to fill up all of those missing pieces in my life, and help me focus on You as my total provision in this life and in the life to come.  

  Thank you.
Your Son.  Abba Father.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Keeping on Track

Getting Ahead of Myself
    I know myself.  At least I think that I do.  But part of that knowledge is the realization that sometimes, in the midst of the busy-ness of life, my emotional caboose somehow seems to overtake the locomotive and I'm trying to pull the train without the power of the engine.  

    Do you ever feel that way?   Sometimes I begin to lose sight of the journey and get caught up in the moment.  Some say, "Live for the Moment", and that's true with regard to leaving our pasts behind, and being aware of what's going on in the present.  But when THE MOMENT takes over, and begins to consume us, it's not a healthy thing.  We need to have a plan in place, and each moment should fit as a tiny piece of the puzzle into furthering our ultimate purpose.

   Along with this realization comes a sense of fulfillment and peace.  It brings with it a balance and rest, even in the midst of the chaos of life.

Runaway Train
   It is easy to just say, "I'm okay", but sometimes I am NOT okay.  I need to pull that emergency brake, stop the train, get off, stretch my legs, take a break, and then, and only then, get back on that train and resume my journey.  I'm fooling myself if I say, "I don't have time for that", and just run on and on, my mind and emotions running at breakneck speed toward oblivion.

   The nature of our physical and mental health is that we keep on going, seemingly forever, always chugging along, until at some point, the combined stress and wear and tear of the road take its toll and bring us to a sudden and unexpected stop.   It may not be of our choosing.  If we wait until then to speculate, the results may be devastating.

   A much better path is to take periodic inventories of where we are at on our journey, and stage personal yard sales to rid ourselves of all of the unneeded junk and excess in our lives.   
   Often those things we think "we may need" at some point are really just weighing our train down and keeping it from running at its optimum level of performance.   We may think by pouring on more fuel, and gunning the throttle, that we are going to arrive sooner to our destination.  In fact, we may instead become siderailed in some desert wasteland, or run into a brick wall.

   There are occasions when the Engineer calls on us as "workers" and our job is to throw ourselves into what is going on at the moment.  But there are also other times when he tells us, "I've got this," and we go back into the lounge car, take a window seat, and just relax.

   Just a thought.  Perhaps meant more for myself than the reader.  It's difficult to think of slowing down or contemplating our situation when we are in the middle of doing a hundred different things.   

   Go take a look at the personal memoirs of Jesus (the Gospels).  He had a Mission to accomplish.  But part of that was --stopping-- to enjoy a moment, or to reach out to someone in need.

   Take note of his encounter with Mary and Martha. Their house was a favorite hangout for Jesus.  But on one particular visit, he took note of the 'busy--ness' of Martha vs. the 'calm--ness' and peace of Mary.  She recognized it was "more needful" to spend time with their special guest than to be running about, seeing that all of the little last--minute details were covered.

    Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?   Don't fool yourself into thinking you're ahead of the game, when you may be on a runaway train, hurtling headon toward disaster.

Psalm 46:10- "Be still, and know that I am God."

John 15:5- "Without me, you can do nothing."

A True Friend

© 2015 by Bob Wingate

[This Blog was published in the Salisbury Post on Aug 1, 2015.]

   I awoke early this morning at 3am and almost three hours later, my mind's still racing.  Lately, I find its a rare privilege to find my mind working at normal speed, or at all, much less the overdrive mode it seems to be in right now.

   I find myself thinking about how nice it is to really connect with another person in life, either a good friend, or on rare occasions, someone that ends up becoming a lifelong companion.  And how bittersweet, or even heartbreaking, it can be when you think of people you lost touch with along the way, those you were close to at one time, or those you always wanted to get to know, but somehow never did.  There are those people from my life, and I'm sure you can think of some too.

   As I often do, I draw an analogy to God and our relationship with him.  He says that our sin has seperated us, and keeps us from enjoying his presence in our lives.  God's plan included the sending of Jesus, not just as a prophet or teacher, but as a sacrifice for our sin.  As much as we take our lives and problems and try to figure them out on our own, this was, and is, the only way to ever make a bridge between ourselves and God.

John 15:13- Greater Love has no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends.

   My father was a wonderful man who found the way to God in Jesus.  Since his death in March, we've been going through old boxes of papers and memorabilia, and consequently, a lot of memories.  Today I found a couple of annuals from eighth and ninth grade with pictures and notes from a lot of old friends.  As much as this meant to me, I also found a notebook from a summer camp that means even more, for in it I wrote, "Tonight- August 1, 1972, I trusted in Christ as MY Savior." It's great to find such a personal heirloom as this. I've never doubted my relationship with God since then, but it's nice to see how real it (and he) was to me way back then.

   Perhaps you've never experienced that time in your life where you allowed God access to your life by believing in his Son.  Jesus described it as having a rebirth.  Seems odd.  It did to the man Jesus was explaining it to back then. He wanted to know how he, a grown man, could enter again into his mother's womb and be born again. What a ludicrous thought!  Jesus must've laughed.  No, no.  It's a spiritual rebirth, in which God forgives us and renews our spirit with His spirit.  I trusted in him to do that back in the summer of 1972 and I've never been the same since.  It made me a new and different person.  And whenever I lose sight of him in my life, or begin to drift a bit, I go back to that first night when my life with him began, and look at a signpost to lead me back, and let me know everything's going to be alright.

   As I looked back at pictures from school days gone by, I wondered and thought back to those times.  I miss some of my old school buddies and wish I could see them again.  Sometimes I do, at class reunions or from time to time. And it's good to get together, and renew those old friendships once again.  I cherish many of those friends.  But even better, I have this True Friend that I met back then, and we will never ever have to part, for he is with me each and every day, and I carry him with me in my heart forever.

Hebrews 13:5-- I will never leave you, nor forsake you.


BOB WINGATE is a free lance writer, guitar player and teacher, and music promoter living in Salisbury.  
His web blogs are at --- and

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Behind the Curtain

   I was just watching a video of a pop singer.  She was performing in concert, and dressed in a bright, shiny jumpsuit.  Her dark, black hair shimmered in the spotlight.  And when she began to sing, the audience suddenly became silent in anticipation.   The time had finally come.  All of her fans delighted in her performance.

  As I listened and watched this, my mind thought of what that star must have gone through to get herself ready for that moment.  Hours of practice.  More hours with wardrobe and makeup.  All for a few moments in the spotlight.  And then what ?

Fans Can Be a Fantasy
  Most of us probably don't have moments in the spotlight, performing before adoring fans. But we do have times of performance, where we have to be at our best.  And our peers and onlookers are not always so forgiving and adulating as a successful pop singer.  We have the pressure of being at our best, and looking our best.  And with that pressure comes stress and anxiety.

  When that star comes off of the stage, there are down times, when there are no fans seeking autographs or longing to hear them sing.  There are lonely times, and other times with friends and family.  Some of those friends, no doubt, are friendly because of what they can get out of being close to someone who is rich and famous.

   It is a rare occasion when one finds someone who is there, loving and accepting us, not because of what we can give back to them, but only because of who they are.  God is like that.  The Bible tells us that the definition of Love is that "God gave."   It is not so much in the moments that I feel 'religious' and close to God, but in those times of deep loneliness and despondency, that I need to know this reality.  He is my best friend.  He is as close to me as my heart. His presence is as necessary as the air that I breathe.

   When the lights go down, the curtain closes, and we retreat off stage to our private lives, it is important that we have someone there to remind us that our worth is not in our performance, but in our essence.  A good friend gives a hug or says a kind word, not for selfish gain, but to encourage.  God has accepted you in his Son, and made you his child. If you are in Christ, you have God's love.

This is Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son.
[I John 4:10]

   Don't let yourself get in the habit of feeling great when you are congratulated and adored for your good performances, and feeling sad whenever you are without that applause.  When you go behind the curtain, you are still the same person that you were on the other side.  If you understand that, you will seek God's approval and love, and begin to bask and live in it every day of your life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Attics, Basements & Closets

Originally written in August 2013, 
this blog was recently published in The Salisbury Post.

  The title for this journal entry just came to me.. it's a complete coincedence that its alliteration is A-B-C.  But this also paints a picture of our lives.. how simple they are, and yet how complicated they can become, if we let them.

  All houses have closets.  Many of them also have attics and basements.  They seem like "add-ons" to houses, places that are "a part" of the house, but also "apart" from the
house.  Places that we may not spend a majority of time, but places that we can run to whenever we need to.   I have fond memories of these places.  I also, if I struggle to think back, have some scary memories of these places too.

  Early in childhood, I remember being scared when I heard noises in the night (maybe sometimes in the day too!) and went and hid in the closet.  I also remember being scared of these places too.  I once heard noises in our basement, and didn't go down there for awhile.

  But I also have good memories.  I remember hiding out in the basement.  We once had an orange beanbag chair, which I used to plop down on, and probably took naps on many times.  During the summer especially, I remember playing ping pong or cards with friends.  Playing hide 'n' seek.  Hanging out all by myself, and hiding from other members of my family.

  Attics, at least for me, have always been places of storage.  I didn't often visit our
attics.  They were usually hard to maneuver, and full of cobwebs and dust.  And hot during the summertime.  But occasionally, it was also a place of discovery, where
when adventurous enough, I might find something appealing, perhaps a long-lost toy or relic.  Just recently, an ole college friend mailed me an envelope with a series of messages that I had sent to her.  In that envelope was a picture of me at about 22 years old.  It is now on this site ("What About Bob?").  She found these while going through a box of her old college memorabilia.

  Attics.  Basements.  Closets.  Places to hide.  Also- places where we hide things from our past.  Some cherished.  But some- that we are avoiding, for they make us remember things that we would rather forget.  Places where we store things that we cherish. But also, places where we hoard things that would best be thrown away.

  Attics.  Basements.  Closets.  Real places.. in our lives.. our present.. our pasts.  But also- symbolic of our lives.  How we often hide from things that we cannot face.  How we hold on and cling to our pasts, rather than move on into our futures. 

  [ PRAYER:  Lord, help us to recognize the attics, basements and closets of our lives.  They can be useful at times, but help us not to use them as places to hide and hoard.  Set us free from the things and places that bind us.  Help us to move into your freedom.  Amen. ]

Friday, June 5, 2015


©2015 by Bob Wingate


  There are things in our lives that are obvious and some others that are more obscure.  Sometimes, when we may least expect it, the obscure surprises us by suddenly becoming obvious. Oftentimes, it has been there, staring us in the face all along, but our ignorance or obliviousness has clouded it from our view.

  So it is with God and his presence in my life. I've never doubted his existence. But I've often doubted or ignored his presence.  His footprints and handiwork are all around us- his beautiful creation that we all seem to take for granted, and more importantly, his work in the deepest recesses of our hearts.

  I believe God seeks us out, and reveals himself to us.  And rather than being busy about figuring God out, we do best just to be ready whenever he begins speaking to our hearts.

  There is a Divine Line that demarcates the believer from the unbelievers.  We must step across that real but surreal boundary to enjoy and experience GOD in a real way, and then he opens up a line of communication with us that we were never able to tap into before.

  And so-- when my days are dull and uneventful, or seem to blend and blur together, I go back to that day when I first heard him speak to me, and ask him to renew that relationship in my life once again..


Rewind : Going Back to 1971
  Rewind to early 1971.  I was finishing my sophomore year at Salisbury High School, and looking forward to the summer with my friends. But then I learned that spring that we would be moving to Camden, SC, a town that I knew fairly well from visits to my aunt's and uncle's home, but a place I was about to get to know even better.  My dad, unbeknownst to me, had been talking to my uncle, who told him about an opening for an assistant manager in their downtown Belk's store.  My dad had been with Belk's earlier in his career, but for the past fifteen years or so had worked in a local independent men's store.

  Our move to SC turned out to be a short-lived one.  My dad's excitement for a new opportunity turned into sour disillusionment as he slowly discovered that the store manager had hired my dad primarily to train his young nephew for a future management position. My dad, who never went to college but was once his chain's youngest manager ever at 21 years old, remarked to me that this boss's nephew had spent four years in earning his Business degree, but needed my dad's help to fill out a simple order form.

   I enjoyed being in our new town, but it never quite felt like home. My dad eventually got an offer from his prior employer to return, and about 15 months later, my family and I moved back to Salisbury, finishing my senior year and graduating from Salisbury High in 1973, even though I owned a class ring from Camden High School.

  While this year in my life doesn't seem too important at first glance, its events coincided to change my life forever.  Prior to 1971, I would've probably ascented to a belief in the existence of God, but there was no valid reason to claim his presence or interaction in my life. I had been baptized at age 12, but unfortunately, it didn't include a faith decision on my part.  But what happened next, coupled with my own soul searching and openness, allowed God to do a marvelous miracle in my heart.

  There was this guy in my homeroom that was different from everyone else. Most kids were involved in noisy chatter about TV shows or what they'd done over the past weekend.  He came into the room, quietly sat down, opened up a book and began to read.  I noticed him over a few weeks, and saw that all of his books had a similar theme-- God.  Then one day, I got up the nerve to ask him, "When you're done reading that book, would you let me borrow it?". He was surprised, but agreed to my request.  The book was GOD'S SMUGGLER by Brother Andrew.  It told the story of a Christian missionary who risked his life and freedom, smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain.

   I'll never forget that book, its message, and the reaction that I had while I read it over
God's Smuggler
the next couple of weeks, sitting in a beach chair under our outdoor carport.  I'll always be grateful to my Christian friend John for loaning it to me. God used that book to soften my heart and make me ready for what was about to come.

  One passage especially spoke to my heart. It told of an episode when the KGB stopped Brother Andrew and ordered him to let them search the trunk of his car. He opened it, knowing full well that it contained dozens of copies of God's Word inside.  The officers looked, but did not see anything, and left him, still a free man and his faith charged from the miracle he had just witnessed.


  While I was going about my daily routine in SC, a young man named Dale Parker completed his studies at Bible College, and moved back to his home in NC to start up a new youth ministry.  Called the Christian Youth Ranch, it was one of many like it all over the country.  It began meeting in the Parkers' house and their backyard.  Scores of teenagers started going to this group, and among them were several of my old friends.  Post cards began showing up in my mailbox, saying, "You gotta come back to visit & go to this fantastic youth group with me."  Not too long afterward, my dad's decision came to move back, and when that news reached my friends, even more cards, letters, and phone calls started pouring in, all with this same invitation.

  My first visit to the Youth Ranch came in the late spring of 1972, when I accompanied my dad back to Salisbury.  He'd returned to his old job, but had not found a home yet.  We stayed together at Harold's Motel on the edge of town, and on Thursday night, one of my friends gladly picked me up.  I'd never experienced anything like this up to that point.  Electric and acoustic guitars, bass, makeshift drums and tubs used for percussion all contributed an exciting backdrop to the songs we were singing.  Then the Youth leader got up and delivered a very direct, but informal, message to all of the teens sitting crosslegged in front of him on the floor or grass.

  There was something captivating about this group and its message. Some might call it a cult, or a club, but in reality, it was the same simple message that's been shared for hundreds, even thousands of years-- that God loved us so much that he sent his Son to save us and bring us back to him.  There were many prodigals there that night, and I was still one of them.

Going to Florida!
   During the night, it became aware to me that something else exciting was happening-- they were planning a trip to Florida for a summer camp.  I'd never been to Florida before, and so this was greatly appealing to me, but my disappointment was just as great when I discovered that the three buses they were taking were fully booked.  There was no place for me!  Oh--- but there was a waiting list.  And so I quickly signed up.

  I left that night despondent over losing out on the trip of a lifetime, but a few short days later, I was told of three girls who had cancelled their reservations, and I was one of the three who benefited with a seat on the bus!

  We were going to Florida!  Looking back, it would be nice to say that at least one of my motivations for going to "Hollywood '72", which was a teen Bible camp, was a spiritual one.  Most of my thoughts were on sun, fun, and girls. But I cannot blame myself-- and God had his own plans for me, in spite of my own ideas.

Florida Bible College in Hollywood, FL
  After a long, but exciting 15-hour bus ride, when we arrived at our Florida destination, there was a drawbridge over the highway, and as we drove up the incline, on the other side awaited the home for the camp, a seven-floor former resort hotel, situated against a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon.

Aerial Ocean View
  The first step was to check in, and when I did, it suddenly dawned on me that, because I had registered later than all of my friends, I would be staying in an entirely different area.  When I arrived at my assigned room, I found it to be an oceanfront room, which was wonderful, but also found six guys from Texas in a four-person room, blowing up their air mattress beds in desperation, and not welcoming a seventh roommate, and definitely not an outsider from North Carolina.

  It took me about two minutes, if that, to assess the situation, and run for cover. I headed back down to the registration desk, with key in hand, protesting and demanding a new room. They politely informed me that the overflow crowd of 1,500 teenagers had filled up every available room.  There was just no other place for me.

  My heart in hand, I turned and, to my surprise, was face-to-face with our group's youth leader, Dale Parker.  I had met Dale and talked to him before, but was not at all acquainted with him.  He seemed to immediately understand my situation, and said, "Maybe I can help you.". He went on to explain that, normally he and his wife Sharon would be sharing a room, but for this week, they had volunteered to be floor leaders, who would have devotional meetings each night.  Then he said, "So I have a room all to myself. You can stay with me, if you'd like.". At the time, this was great news, but not because I was getting to share a "Room with the Reverend" --my mind was on escaping the can of Texan sardines upstairs for a more peaceful and comfortable environment.


   Let's summarize the story:  A move to South Carolina to borrow a book that's probably available in most public libraries.  Three girls unwittingly giving up their seats and trip to Florida so I could have that privilege.  An impossible rooming situation, and a youth worker who gave up the comfort of staying together with his wife for a week, so that I could enjoy the fellowship of his company, and hear the gospel from his lips.
All coincedences?  You can think that if you wish.  I find it hard to believe any single one of these events to be a solitary serendipitous happenstance.  But for all of them to fall into a congruent flow, it required God's orchestration behind the scenes.

  What is the conclusion?  On Tuesday night, August 1, 1972, which was the third night as Dale's roommate, he shared the good news that Jesus Christ took my place on the cross, paying a debt that I actually owed.  We were disconnected from God, but the death of his Son, and his rising from the dead, was enough to bridge the gap and allow us to be restored and 'born again' into God's family.

  I had probably heard various forms of that same message before, but that night, it finally clicked and made sense to me. Not only that, but my heart was so fertile and ready to receive the gift of God, his Son Jesus.  Recently, I came across a notebook from that week in which were inscribed these words : "Tonight, I trusted in Christ as MY Saviour." These words penned back then weren't needed to make my decision any more real, but it did reinforce the reality of it for me.  This Story is a Divine Line, a thread weaving its way through years of his preparation, intersecting with my Life in a moment of time, and now it's a never-ending Love Story.  His Story.