All posts by Joe Rodriguez

Husband, father, minister and lighthouse aficionado.

Is There Such Thing as Holy Envy?

As some of you may already know, I was born and raised on the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. I left home at the age of 17 and moved to the U.S. mainland to attend college. That was 34 years ago. Since then, I’ve traveled back a few times to visit my parents. Last week, our family had the opportunity to go once again and spend some time with Mom and Pops.


Ever since I started blogging about my lighthouse inspirations (a little over a year ago) I have searched the internet and found lighthouses in just about every place on earth, including At World’s End. But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered one in none other than my home island of St. Croix! Amazingly, the 102-year-old deteriorating beacon is still standing. So visiting it was definitely on this year’s vacation agenda.

Since my wife is the main inspiration for this blog and because she has accompanied me on all my lighthouse trips to date, I wasn’t surprised when she agreed to join me on my quest to find the Ham’s Bluff Light (pictured above). According to those who have been to this lighthouse before, accessing it is quite a challenge. Not only because of the treacherous road that leads to the base of the bluff but because it also requires a 30-minute steep climb uphill to actually reach it. It didn’t take long for us to confirm the first part of the warning! As soon as we arrived (no living soul in site) and began to walk the only visible and well-defined trail, I felt like a little kid embarking on a cool jungle expedition. Unfortunately, just minutes into the hike my wife changed her mind. After crossing a rather short but extremely narrow path along the edge of a precipitous cliff we encountered a dark rainforest canopy which marked the beginning of the ascending journey. That is when my wife began to feel overly anxious and immediately turned around saying, “No way. I am not going any further.”


Although she was sincere in suggesting that I continue the climb by myself while she waited in the car, there was no way I was going to leave her alone in such a desolate place. Besides, we had forgotten to pack water and bug spray. I doubt we would have survived half the trek. So with a sunken heart, I decided to follow her back to the vehicle while thinking about the amazing historical structure that, unbeknownst to me until now, laid at the top of the bluff and which I had eagerly been looking forward to visiting. But my disappointment lasted only a few minutes. Ever since dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I decided that I would visit my parents once a year. So I figured that next year I would ask a couple of my more adventurous family members who still live there to join me on a new challenging jaunt.

A couple of days ago I came across an article on the Ham’s Bluff Lighthouse in The U.S. Lighthouse Society News blog. covet As I read the detailed account of the author’s experience climbing the hill and finally reaching the top where the tower is located, not to mention his description of the amazing panoramic view, I couldn’t help feeling rather envious. Now, I know that the Lord has said, “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17), that envy is listed among the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), and that there is a form of jealousy that can be more dangerous than anger and fury (Proverbs 27:4). So, I looked up the various meanings of the words envy and covetousness hoping to find a definition that would keep me from having to repent of my seemingly pious jealousy. Here is what I found:

  1. According to, to covet is to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others. But it can also mean to eagerly wish for.
  2. According to, envy is the painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.
  3. According to Krister Stendahl, a Swedish theologian, the willingness to recognize elements in other religious traditions or faiths that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith is what he refers to as “holy envy.”

Considering the definitions above, could my desire to experience what Michael Salvarezza experienced when he visited the Ham’s Bluff Light be defined as an eager wish (1) or a pain driven desire to possess the advantage he had (2)? Can it, although not related to a religious element, qualify as holy envy since it involves admiring his accomplishment and wishing I could have done the same (3)? I must confess, I still wish I had been able to see what Michael saw back in 2016 and what was just 25 minutes away from my reach just a week ago!


Have you ever desired to experience God the way others claim they have? Maybe you have seen (on TV/Video) the joy in the faces of third world country inhabitants as they welcome missionaries who bring much-needed supplies and wish you could do the same. As a church leader, have you ever prayed for committed workers or even accommodating facilities like those found in other churches? Have you ever wished you had met Jesus earlier in life like so many others have so that you could experience His love and mercy much sooner? If envy denotes a longing to possess something awarded to or achieved by another then, technically, even desires like those mentioned above are envious in nature. According to Proverbs 16:2, God weighs motives not desire. In other words, God judges the intentions of the heart. So if desiring to experience and enjoy things that other Christians have stems from a heart that genuinely wants to glorify God, then couldn’t such desires be considered, as Stendhal would say, holy envy? Keep in mind, however, that in every instance, the Bible refers to envy as something carnal and destructive. Perhaps because it originated at the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve allowed it to enter their hearts. Their desire to possess something that belonged to God and which was seemingly better than what He had already provided them with caused them to sin and actually loose everything (Genesis 3:1-7).


There is a fine line between humbly desiring the good that others enjoy and a resentful longing prompted by an ungrateful heart. Motive being the deciding factor. Because envy stems from an inherently evil heart it can easily stunt our spiritual growth and keeps us from living free of self and fully enjoying the love and grace of God. That is why it is grouped with other moral infractions such as hypocrisy, deceit, and slander. Plus, it can also affect us physically and emotionally. Medical studies show that envying and coveting can cause digestive, nervous and even psychological problems (The Nature of Envy). John Chrysostom, an early church father, wrote, “As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man.”

The Bible is clear about the ill effects of envy, covetousness, and jealousy. It warns us against them because, as mortals in a fallen world, we are all susceptible to them. They can arise as the result of a genuine pursuit of godly things, but they can also be prompted by subconscious selfish ambitions. Again, God weighs motives. So the question to ask ourselves is, “How do we make sure that our desires stem from the right motives?” The answer is found in Psalm 37:4.


Contrary to what many teach, this verse does not imply that God will grant us what we desire the most if we serve Him wholeheartedly. What it does is affirm that He is the “giver” of our desires. In other words, it is God himself who puts desires in our hearts when we commit to finding peace and fulfillment in Him. And if our desires are God’s desires then they are guaranteed to be free of selfish ambition. Which probably means that there is no such thing as holy envy. What do you think? I’d like to read your comments.

I will certainly be writing more about the Ham’s Bluff Lighthouse once I personally visit it and witness the awesome view from its lantern room. Hopefully, it will still be standing and safe enough to climb by this time next year.

Prayer: Jehova Jireh, you are my provider and the source of my very life. Thank you for EVERYTHING you have so graciously given me. May my heart’s desire be to delight solely in you. Help me to focus on your faithfulness and goodness so that my life would reflect how grateful I truly am. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world.” – 1 John 2:15-16 (BSB)
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” -Galatians 5:19-21
All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” -Proverbs 16:2
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” -Proverbs 14:30
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” – 1 Peter 2:1
“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” -Psalm 37:4
Hams Bluff Lighthouse (c) 2016 Eco-Photo Explorers
Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1526) [Cropped]

Shine While There Is Still Time

Considered one of the most scenic and photographed lighthouses in the world, the Lindau Lighthouse (pictured above) has long been a major tourist attraction in Germany. Built in 1856, this medieval-style stone tower is 108 ft. tall and is located in the old island town of Lindau in Lake Constance. What sets this lighthouse apart from other beacons is that it also has a massive clock built into its facade. The lighthouse, which is in the center of the city, continues to guide mariners safely to shore while its clock keeps its inhabitants from losing track of time.


Randy Pausch said, “Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.” So the question to asks ourselves is whether we are using our time wisely or not. Both in spiritual and practical living. Are we making time to truly shine? Shining the light of Christ is not just talking about God all the time, or faithfully attending church, or advertising our “Christianity” with bumper stickers, t-shirts, or social media memes. It’s about intentionally, unselfishly and even sacrificially reaching out to those in a dark and sinful world. It encompasses more than just words and emotions. It should actually cause us to step out of our comfort zones and touch people’s lives with acts of kindness, compassion, and unconditional love. We must demonstrate genuine concern not only for their spiritual needs but their physical needs as well.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” -1 John 3:18

“And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet the pressing needs of others so that they will not be unfruitful.” -Titus 3:14 (BSB)

“If one of you tells him, ‘Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,’ but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?” -James 2:16

This will unquestionably call for us to work. And the only time we have to work is now while it’s daytime (while we are alive) because the day will eventually come to an end and night will fall (we will pass away).

“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” – John 4:26

The only way to guarantee that our light will shine long after we are gone is to always preach the Gospel and as St. Francis of Assisi would say, “use words only when necessary.” Leaving a legacy of faithfulness to God, family, and community can best be accomplished through faith-encouraged deeds rather than a bullhorn.

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” -James 2:17

As I have stated in the ‘About’ section of this blog, everyone has been given a gift that can be used to make a difference is someone’s life. And while we can undoubtedly impact the world through prayer, broadcasts and published works, if we are physically capable, we ought to get up and commit to doing good deeds by being a physical extension of God’s hands and feet.

“Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” -1 Peter 4:10 (HCSB)

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9

And we must certainly never stop declaring the Gospel.

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. -Acts 5:42

Like the Lindau Lighthouse, we must keep shining right where we are but we must also keep track of time (we’ll never know how much we truly have left) and exercise our faith through random acts of kindness. And let us not forget that though the night (death) may not fall upon us for a while, there are many, including family members and friends, who are still living in sin and upon whom night can fall at any moment. So, let’s seize every opportunity and Shine while there is still time!

“Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:10

Preach the word at all time. Be ready in season and out of season.” -2 Timothy 4:2

Prayer: Dear God, teach me to number my days. For my life here is fleeting and I desire to live it fully in obedience to you. Help me to shine beyond my Christian convictions by giving me a genuine heart for people. Teach me to love them and serve as you would. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 


To Shine Once Again

The Point Abino Lighthouse (pictured above) was built in 1917 and lit for the first time in 1918. At 95 ft. in height it is considered the most elegant lighthouse on the Ontario shores of the Great Lakes. For 77 years the tower shone brightly and fulfilled its life-saving duties. That was until it was decommissioned and went dark in 1995. 22 years later it began to shine once again thanks to the efforts of the Point Abino Lighthouse Preservation Society. To celebrate the beacon’s 100 years the PALPS restored the tower to its original splendor and lit its 2,000 lbs. Fresnel lens on May 1st of this year. 


Lighthouses were built to last and to withstand turbulent weather, but many have suffered abandonment due to advancements in navigational technology. The life-saving stories associated with these Sentinels of the Sea are truly awe-inspiring. No wonder people have come together to form organizations dedicated to their restoration, relighting, and preservation. 

If you’ve been constantly reflecting the light of Christ ever since you came to know Him as Savior and have never experienced a flickering or temporary power outage then you are a recent convert or you met Jesus in person soon after your conversion. Which means that you are reading this post from heaven and therefore there is no need for you to continue reading. However, if you have experienced (or are experiencing) moments when your light has been snuffed out leaving you temporarily in the dark, then you’ve known the Lord for a while and are reading this from somewhere on planet earth. If that is the case, then keep reading. This may encourage you or someone you know the next time you go through a dark period in your life [ReadSpiritual Blackouts].

As long as we live and breath on this earth we will encounter times when our light will dim or even burn out.  In other words, spiritual, emotional, and physical challenges are bound to occur and cause setbacks in our daily routines. That’s because while we are not of this world we are still in it.1 As mortal beings, we are subject to distress, pain, and even death. That is, if we don’t hear the trumpet sound before then.2


It is said that you cannot exercise patience unless you are forced to wait. That you cannot enjoy peace unless you have been in conflict. And that you cannot truly rest if you have not experienced exhausting labor. If you agree, then the same holds true for light. You cannot appreciate it unless you have undergone a period of darkness. “I once was blind, but now I see” can be recited/sang by anyone, but these words are more than just a liturgical verse to those who can truly identify with it. To have been in spiritual darkness and then been able to “see the light” (of Christ) is not just a reason to sing, but to uninhibitedly praise God and proclaim His goodness to all mankind, especially to those who are still in the dark. It’s like being a decommissioned lighthouse who has been given a new lamp and lens to shine and once again fulfill its true purpose.

Those who have temporarily lost their physical sight have testified that there is no other sensory input more valuable and appreciated. I recently surveyed a number of family members and friends and asked them if they were to live with only one of the five senses which would they choose. 95% chose sight. That’s because in darkness you cannot appreciate the beauty of color, texture, shape and form. In darkness, you are lost without a sense of direction. Gollum’s riddle (in The Lord of the Rings) perfectly defines darkness. “It cannot be seen, cannot be felt, cannot be heard, cannot be smelt. It lies behind stars and under hills, and empty holes it fills. It comes first and follows after, ends life, kills laughter[Read ‘Light vs. Darkness Pt.2′].

We will all experience dark times in our lives. Times when our light will temporarily stop shining due to a tragedy, spiritual carelessness, mental or physical illness, or unconfessed sin. These are the times when we need to totally surrender to the Holy Spirit of God [Read The Keeper of our Light] and seek spiritually mature counsel [Read Every Lighthouse Needs a Maria].


We were not made to travel the road of life alone. We were created for fellowship. Fellowship with God and with people. But the truth is that there will be times when we will find ourselves alienated from both. Either subconsciously or by choice. Yet our loving and gracious Heavenly Father never forsakes us, especially when we walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death. He is always there to comfort us and, from time to time, send assistant keepers who will help us rekindle the light of joy, hope, and salvation. 

I pray that as you read this devotion you are brightly shining for Christ. If not, then take courage. This devotion is intended to help relight the beacon within you by reminding you of God’s faithfulness and linking you to some of my previous devotions which are relevant to the topic. I encourage you to read them. After all, it is His light that God wants you to shine once again [Read His Light is Your Light].

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your life-saving light. The light that has brought me closer to you. The light that others need to see in me so they too are drawn to you. When my light dims out due to the challenges in life remind me of your unfailing love and rekindle the fire of your Spirit within me that I may continue to shine for you. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

I am not asking that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”  – John 17: 15-16
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” -1 Thessalonians 4:17
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” -Psalm 23:4



At The Feet of Jesus

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  -Luke 10:38-42


Located on the highest cliff of Ona, a tiny island in Norway, you’ll find this beautiful ruby red beacon known as the Ona Lighthouse. Built in 1867, it stands 48 ft. tall and overlooks a small village of no more than 25-30 inhabitants. At the foot of this tower, you’ll find a cluster of brightly colored wooden houses that help create an indisputable peaceful and tranquil scene.

When I contemplate the serenity depicted in this image it almost seems as if the houses are gathered attentively around the lighthouse waiting for its light to shine; the light that will reassure them that they will be kept safe from the dangers of misguided nocturnal sea vessels. Then, I am instantly reminded of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus.


Like Martha, we have all experienced the pressures of the daily cares of life. The demands of school, work, church, and family will occasionally gobble up most of our time and attention.1 Book reports due, projects to complete, lessons to prepare, house to clean and baseball practices to attend. No doubt that these responsibilities constitute an important part of our lives. However, they can become detrimental to our overall well-being if we allow them to overwhelm us and overshadow the more important things, like physical and spiritual disciplines and quality family time. But the truth is that most of us already know this. We have been convicted of it many times before. We’ve felt guilty about it and we’ve told ourselves that it’s time to make a change, but unconsciously we get sucked back into the routine of meeting deadlines, giving in to our OCDs and thinking that the world will collapse if we stop (even if just for a moment) to sit down and catch our breath.


Like Mary, we all need to take a break and sit at the feet of Jesus every now and then. No, I don’t mean sitting in a church pew, or even behind a computer or phone screen scrolling through inspirational quotes and devotions. I’m not even referring to a routine devotional time. Even when doing these things we sometimes miss what God is trying to tell us simply because we are either on a time schedule, fulfilling another duty, just “kicking off our shoes” or simply going through the motions. What I mean is that we have to take the time to get away and wholeheartedly immerse ourselves in His grace [Read Escaping Not “From” But “Into]. Time to intentionally contemplate and appreciate His handiwork; the earth, the heavens, and the intricacies of the human body [Read Fearfully and Wonderfully Designed]. Time to deeply reflect on how the stripes that were on His body have completely healed us from the ill-effects of sin.2 (Quite frankly, we should be doing this one more regularly instead of once a year during the “holy week.”) And we should also take time to just sit down quietly and give Him our undivided attention. Perhaps this is the only time He has to tell us how much we truly mean to Him. This doesn’t mean that we carelessly ignore our responsibilities as Martha thought Mary was doing. There has to be a balance between work and leisure in order for us to be effective and productive as Christians and as citizens in general. The key to obtaining this balance is discerning, like Mary, when it’s time to pursue “what is better.” In other words, we should know when it’s time to put the book down, take our hand off the mouse, or turn off the vacuum cleaner and take care of what is more important. Maybe it’s time to redo our priority list.  


To manage life properly we need order, direction, encouragement, and support. God provides all of these through His word, sermons, blogs, songs, and through godly counsel. But He also accomplishes it through the gentle whisper of an undisturbed quiet time at the feet of Jesus.

There are two other interesting facts about Ona that serve as an excellent Gospel analogy. The relatively small island has been populated for centuries because of its proximity to the fishing expanse close to the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason, fishing has traditionally been the only source of income for its inhabitants. However, the island has recently attracted a few pottery makers who have also made little Ona their home.


This reminds me that at the feet of Jesus, we can also find the motivation and passion we need to become effective fishers of men.3 Every heartbeat of our Savior has a name; the name of every soul who is yet to be saved. If we listen closely we’ll hear their cry and be encouraged to reach out to them with the Gospel.


At the feet of the Master Potter, 4 we also learn how we can help Him mold the clay He has placed on the wheel by following the Great commission and making fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.5

I am not sure about you, but I am ready to spend some time at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He’s been trying to tell me. How about you? 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, there is no other place I rather be than at your feet. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of life quicken me to stop and listen to what you have to say. Thank you for the privilege of being able to be in your presence and listen to your heartbeat; the heartbeat for a lost and dying world to which you have called me to shine the light of your Gospel. I pray this in you precious name, amen. 

1- “…but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”  – Mark 4:19
2- “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaih 53:5
3- “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19 (ESV)
4- “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand..” – Isaiah 64:8
5- “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” -Matthew 28:19-20

Brokenness Brings Strength

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. – The Apostle Peter

What do storms, earthquakes, wars, erosion and rotten wood have in common? For one, they have been the leading cause for the reconstruction and/or relocation of many lighthouses throughout the world. In the early years of lighthouses, people used whatever materials were available locally to build them: wood, brick, and stone. And while these life-saving towers were successful in warning and guiding mariners to safety, they only lasted until their next big battle against man or nature. Many of them had to be rebuilt more than once, but with the advancements in technology and engineering not only where they made stronger but lasted a lot longer. A few of these “saviors of the seacoast” are still standing. Some for more than 200 years!

Located on Little Brewster Island in Massachusetts, the Boston Light (pictured above) is the first of American lighthouses. Originally built in 1716, the tower is older than the republic itself. It is one of the many lighthouses to overcome several calamities and still stand tall and strong. The tower first suffered its major disaster in 1775 when Minutemen set fire to it in retaliation against a British blockade. Although it was quickly repaired, the tower was destroyed by gunpowder the following year.

C. early 1780s, from a painting by Capt. Matthew Parke. This image apparently depicts the original tower before its 1776 destruction.

The present tower was rebuilt in 1783 to its original height of 75 ft. and in 1856 it was raised another 23 ft. One can only imagine the punishment that this and other lighthouses have faced given their location. Exposed not only to inclement weather and the elements of the sea but to intentional damage as well, they have truly endured the test of time. Many of them, like the Boston Light, have undergone a series of renovations and restorations to fortify their structure and preserve them for posterity. Today, Boston Light and many others are still standing and shining their light as a symbol of perseverance, strength, and commitment.


Imagine giving up on a project simply because it initially broke down. If that was the norm, we wouldn’t have the vacuum cleaner, the automobile, the light bulb, the airplane, or even the life-saving sentinel of the sea a.k.a. the lighthouse. Failure and brokenness are inevitable in life. And while they may normally be regarded as setbacks, they are actually the first step to success. Plus, they grant the opportunity to start over again more intelligently. Failures have inspired the greatest inventions. Brokenness has helped build the strongest of armies.

Perfection can only be found in God. And while He created man in His image and likeness (the ability to commune with God, to reason, and to choose) sin put a spiritual wedge between man and His Creator. It broke the perfect fellowship/intimacy that they once enjoyed before the fall. Hence why Jesus came.


The brokenness caused by original sin can be immediately repaired through repentance and the acceptance of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. However, because we are still in a mortal body and are part of a fallen world we have yet to experience the fullness of that redemption; the day when all sin is eradicated forever.  Until then, we will face many battles with temptation, sickness, the consequences of disobeying God, and even persecution.


Like the many lighthouses that fell apart due to the forces of nature, there will be times when we too will be broken by life’s adversities. But, we can also be restored and emerge stronger than before. Through His word and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, God can rebuild that which has been broken by trials and by sins (of commission and omission). And that which God himself repairs will stand exceedingly greater than that which stood before it was broken. Therefore, the most distressing brokenness we can ever experience can actually help us become significantly stronger in character and in faith.

The key to remain standing in the midst of our brokenness is to keep in mind who we are and what our calling is in Christ. Jesus said, “You ARE the light of the world.” In spite of the storms of discouragement, wars of opposition, earthquakes of fear, erosions of uncertainty, and all other challenges we may face in life, we ought to continue shining as lighthouses for God.

When our foundation is built on the Rock (Jesus) He is the melody in times of peace, the anchor in the midst of the storm, and the mender when we are broken. His restorative touch not only rebuilds our faith but increases our resolve to persevere. So, keep your eyes on Jesus, trust His word, depend on His faithfulness, and remember that He can use brokenness to bring strength; strength that can serve as an encouragement to others who are broken. 

Prayer: Mender of the broken, Healer of my soul, I call upon you today and ask that you touch me. Strengthen me in the hour of my need so that I may continue to shine brightly for your glory. In the midst of my brokenness I will praise you and know that once I am restored I will be stronger than ever before. In the precious name of Jesus, I pray, amen. 

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” -1 Pet. 5:10
“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” -Psalm 147:3
“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord…” -Jeremiah 30:17 (ESV)
“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” -Job 42:10, ESV
“I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'” -Zachariah 13:9 (NLT)
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the authenticity of your faith — more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 1:6-7 (BSB)

1 Year Anniversary. Thank you!


Today, April 6, 2017, marks one year of publishing Lighthouse Devotions on WordPress. A big “THANK YOU” to all my followers and those who have read, commented on, and shared my posts. I’ve been greatly blessed with the privilege of writing 58 lighthouse inspired devotions this past year. I am looking forward to writing many more and publishing a devotions book in the near future. Let us keep shining the light of Jesus!

The Dangers of an ‘Ear Candy’ Gospel

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. – The Apostle Paul to Timothy

Most likely you’ve heard of or seen a gingerbread house, but have you ever seen a gingerbread lighthouse!? You can imagine the smile on my face as I stumbled upon this magnificent confection. Gingerbread houses can be traced back to 1800’s Germany. Many food historians agree that they were made popular as a result of the famous Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel.  During the 19th-century mass waves of immigration, many gingerbread house-making Germans moved to the US.  Since then, these creative treats have become part of the Amercian Christmas tradition. 

Every year I look forward to making and savoring some of the most delectable traditional holiday dishes of my Carribean culture. And though I have lived in the US mainland for over 30 years, I honestly never thought of incorporating the popular gingerbread house to my Christmas menu. Up until now, that is. As a lighthouse aficionado, you can rest assure that I will be designing my very first gingerbread lighthouse this Holiday season. 

Are you familiar with the term “eye candy”? It’s a phrase commonly used to describe that which is attractive and pleasant to the sight, something that tempts us with its addictive visual. For example, glittering night lights, a seemingly endless buffet, colorful natural scenes, a bountiful display of sweets, and even titillating billboards can all be considered eye candy.




How about the term “ear candy”? Well, that is what we call the all-inclusive, non-judgemental, non-offensive, “it’s all about you” messages coming from many pulpits today, especially in the West.  These are the messages that are meant to attract large audiences by pleasing the ear. While their content is socially relevant, their effect is spiritually devastating. They are too often weakening, rather than empowering, God’s people. They perpetuate rather than break spiritual bondages. 

Churches are like lighthouses. They are to emit the light of Christ by inviting and guiding lost souls with the unadulterated word of God. But many houses of worship are slowly becoming spiritual coffee parlors and narcissistic social centers that condone immoral behavior and encourage selfish entitlement. All in the name of love and unity. However, it’s not that difficult to conclude that the main reason is to increase and secure financial support. Instead of preparing fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, these ear candy gospel lighthouses are producing malnourished religious marionettes.


Harsh isn’t it? This is definitely not the typical inspirational and encouraging devotion you are used to reading from me. But as a soul-loving minister and a protective father of three, I believe that encouragement also comes in the form of admonition and rebuke. I am greatly troubled by the growing number of churches that are leading souls deeper into darkness instead of guiding them to the saving light of Christ. It would be irresponsible of me to only write about the encouraging characteristics of effective lighthouses and not mention the detrimental effects of the ineffective ones.

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Just as gingerbread houses taste sweet to the lips, the gospel messages preached in many of today’s churches are sweet to the ears. They cause the hearers to feel good and want more but never challenge them or help them to grow stronger in their relationship with a holy God. Instead of well-cooked meat to strengthen the soul, ear candy messages have become the main course of spiritual diets. Very few preachers, especially those on TV, talk about repentance toward God because that presupposes sin and “sin” has become a politically incorrect word in our society.  The word “sin” makes people feel uncomfortable. It is judgemental and offensive, so “ministers” just exclude it from their inspirational speeches.

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They steer clear from teaching about faith in Christ alone because it is a much too narrow road to travel upon. They believe that people need a broader spiritual path to cruise comfortably without being hurt or offended. So, faith in the individual self or in some other ideal that promises a better, healthier, wealthier life is more inviting than faith in a character that warns of inevitable troubles as a result of following Him.  They certainly won’t talk about repentance because that suggests that people are not living right and need to change. And why change when God loves us just the way we are? This ear scratching gospel is what is leading people straight to hell while they sit in churches or in front of TV screens week after week being inspired instead of being transformed. 

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Part of the body of Jesus Christ is anemic and slowly dying as a result of sugar-coated sermons. It’s time to do away with these poisonous sweets! Time to crumble the gingerbread lighthouses and build strong Holy Spirit reinforced beacons of hope. Time to do as the Apostle Paul said and “…demolish all arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The Gospel is more than a message of hope, peace, and love. It is also a call to repentance and transformation. A call to mature spiritually through godly disciplines and many faith-trying challenges. Jesus warned His followers of the imminent dangers they would have to face as a result of believing in Him. He said they would be hated, persecuted, imprisoned and even put to death. Many of them were and many still do!

Jesus himself had no qualms when addressing the issue of sin, especially religious hypocrisy. His zeal for proclaiming the truth of God’s kingdom drove him to say and do things that were considered blasphemous and even criminal. At his trial before Pilate, the main charge against Him was brought on by religious leaders. After actually trying the case, Pilate found no fault in Jesus. However, if tried today, He would most certainly be charged with hate crime, harassment, peace disturbance, and vandalism, among others.


Believers in Jesus Christ are called to obey God, but also to submit to earthly authority. However, our commitment to honor and respect man-made laws should not keep us from declaring and obeying the Spirit-inspired word of God. Nor should it cause us to compromise the truth therein. Regardless of the opposition we may face from a dissenting crowd, we should never alter the message of the Gospel in order to please people, gain their acceptance, or even avoid conflict. Remember, Jesus’ teachings were not popular in his times nor have they been ever since. They frequently rubbed some people the wrong way.  In fact, that is exactly why they had him crucified!  Yet, what He taught by word and by example is what has and will continue to change countless lives and guarantee them a place with Him in heaven forever. 

So church, let’s quit trying to attract men to Christ by becoming ear candy lights. Let us restore the law of God to its rightful place by being straight forward about what separates man from his Creator, namely sin. Then let us offer the solution to restore that relationship by preaching salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. But we must not stop there. We must also help believers grow spiritually by teaching sound biblical doctrines. And we must encourage them to pursue holiness by living according to God’s precepts and not their own. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I believe the Gospel of your Son is power unto Salvation. Help me Lord, to live by and share this truth to all who are lost without eternal hope. Don’t let me become or be a part of an ear candy lighthouse. Help me to remain a strong tower so that I may shine the life-changing light of the true Gospel wherever I go. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:3
“But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!” -2 Timothy 3:1-5 (BSB)
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:5
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” -Romans 13:1
“Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.  You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.” -Psalm 119:1-4 (NLT)

A Conforming Light

For unto those whom he knew beforehand, he also marked out beforehand the way that they might be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. – The Apostle Paul (Romans 8:29, JB2000)

Pictured above is the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse. It was constructed in 1899 on Fastnet Rock, a slate-granite islet in the southern coast of County Cork, Ireland. This granite tower which measures 177 feet (the tallest in Ireland) was built to replace the previous cast iron one erected in 1853. You can still see part of the original lighthouse’s base on the highest part of the rock. Fastnet Rock is also known as The Teardrop of Ireland because it was the last piece of land that Irish emigrants saw as they sailed away to the New World.

Due to its location, the topography of the islet, and the amount of granite needed for its construction, this lighthouse is considered one of the greatest feats of its time. It actually took 8 years to complete!

A quick glance at this lighthouse today and one would think that it is part of the islet itself. Not only are their colors and shades strikingly similar, but so is their texture. The natural rock formation was obviously there before the lighthouse. In fact, the area where the tower now sits had to be leveled prior to setting its foundation. During its early years, the unweathered lighthouse was completely white.  It was once compared to “a beautiful bride on her wedding day in a lovely lace dress.” Unfortunately, the same battering waves, inclement weather, and resilient marine algae that have stricken the very small island over the years have taken their toll on the towering beacon. They have caused its base to change color and now it resembles the rocks around it.

Scriptures declare that even before we were created, God had already planned to conform us to the image of His Son.¹ This process actually begins with our confession of Christ as Lord and Savior. And while it is entirely a work of the Holy Spirit (through sanctification),² our job is to submit to His leading and respond in obedience to God’s word. In other words, God imparts to us a new nature the moment we place our faith in Jesus. He then continues to cleanse, purify, and renew us through our commitment to spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, bible study, worship, fellowship, witnessing). The result is an ongoing inner transformation that allows us to conform (become similar in character) to the person of Jesus Christ. 

HNY17Persecution caused many of the early followers of Jesus to be scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria. Some of them traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus, but it was at Antioch that they were first called Christians because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ.3 Contrary to what some teach, the word Christian does not mean “little Christ.” That idea erroneously suggests that we are diminutive copies or duplicates of Christ. “Christian” actually derives from the Greek word Christianos,. which is a combination of Christos (anointed, messiah) and ianos, a suffix denoting adhering or belonging to and commonly applied to slaves.

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We are not called to morph into small Jesuses. We are called to be “like” Him. To be a Christian simply means to choose to believe in, submit to, and obey Jesus’ teachings, and strive to live as He did. It is important to understand, however, that living like Jesus does not save us. Amidst all the chaos, feuding, and acts of hate and evil, the world is filled with “good” people. But generosity, kindness, compassion and even religious traditions do not automatically grant anyone access to heaven. If it were so, then the entire Bible and the Christian theology would be false and useless. But the irrefutable, inerrant, and life-changing word of God declares that salvation is through faith in Christ and Him alone.4 That same faith allows God’s Spirit to work in us and compels us to follow in the footstep of our Savior. Good works are a result of salvation, not vice versa. Jesus is the Rock of our salvation. If we remain firmly anchored in Him we eventually begin to live, love, act, and react like He did while on earth. That is, we slowly conform to His likeness, pretty much like the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse has been conforming to the image of the rock upon which it stands.

Becoming like Christ may seem like an impossible task at times,  especially when we have to face difficult and unexpected challenges in our lives. But let us not lose heart and trust that if Jesus himself prayed that we would become one with Him as He is one with the Father,5 then God is most definitely involved in the process. Plus, we have been given all the tools necessary to help us. The change begins on the inside in our spirit being where we are made right with God the moment we accept Jesus in our hearts. Then, through obedience to God’s word, it slowly begins to shape our way of thinking making itself evident on the outside in the way we live day by day. In fact, it should even shape the way we treat our physical bodies for it becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit.6 So remember, spiritual re-birth is just the beginning. Remaining in Christ and His word is what helps us in the process of becoming A Conforming Light.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the Rock upon which I stand. Thank you for the sanctifying work you are doing in me. Help me to stay committed to your word so that I may continue to conform more and more to your likeness. I surrender to the leading of your Holy Spirt. For it is my desire to reflect you and the light you brought into the world every day of my life. This I pray in your precious name, amen. 

1 “For unto those whom he knew beforehand, he also marked out beforehand the way that they might be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:29, (JB2000)
2 “[The elect who are] chosen by the foreknowledge of God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ…” -1 Peter 1:2 
3 “…and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26 (ESV)
4 ” Salvation is found in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
5 “I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You…” -John17:21
6 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (BSB)

Escaping Not “From,” But “Into”

“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray and when the evening was come he was there alone.” – Matthew 14:23

There are quite a number of lighthouses located offshore that were built upon either dangerous shoals, reefs, or submerged islands several miles away from land. But at 25 miles from the nearest shore, The Stannard Rock Light (pictured above) is the most distant lighthouse in the United States. Built in 1883, this 100 ft. tower was named after Captain Charles C. Stannard, who first discovered the underwater rock formation in 1835. Because of its remote location, it was designated a “stag light, ” which meant that only men (without families) could serve as light keepers. If someone got sick or there was an emergency of any kind at the light, it would take weeks before anyone could arrive with assistance! After warning mariners of the treacherous reefs for over 100 years, the tower was finally retired in 2008. It is now used for climate research purposes. 

 Have you ever wanted to just get away from it all – I mean, very far away? To escape to somewhere quiet and peaceful where you could take a walk, read a book, or just vegetate without being interrupted? 

 How about escaping to a place where you could pray, meditate, read God’s word, or just marvel at His creation? 

 We all need to take (not make) time to separate ourselves from the “world” and come closer to heaven. A time to not only lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross but to receive new strength from the very throne of God. A place to experience a truly intimate moment with our Heavenly Father. 

At times life can simply become too much. The cares, interactions, expectations and demands of our daily lives can drain us to the point of physical, emotional and even spiritual exhaustion. Stress can easily turn the peaceful, exciting and inspiring wonders around us into a war-like zone where everything is but beautiful. Life becomes more like a static TV Screen; a noise from which we desperately need to escape to alleviate the heaviness.

Jesus identified with every human emotion, including stress. After spending hours teaching, listening, touching, healing and comforting people he longed for a time to just relax. A time to recuperate both physically and emotionally. For Jesus, it was mostly about giving and meeting people’s needs. However, there was no one to give to him and meet his needs, no one except His Father in heaven that is. The difference with Jesus is that he had no problem in stepping away from the stresses of ministry and into a quiet place where all noise could be muffled. That quiet place was in the presence of God the Father.


We may be able to temporarily separate ourselves from the world around us, but rarely, if at all possible, do we find a place to be absolutely and completely apart from the noise. Such a place is not to escape from something, but rather into Someone. It is a place where we can leave the world and its noise behind and meet with our Father, just as Jesus did; a time to truly PRAY. Do you know of such a place? A place where you can escape into God’s presence and spend uninterrupted time with Him? Perhaps for many of us, such a place may be a spare room in the house/apartment, a bench at the park, or at a church altar. Regardless, I believe God is calling his children to escape into Him more frequently. If you believe that calling is for you, then take the time to escape. I guarantee life will become a lot less stressful. 

Prayer: Lord, when all around me captures my soul and imprisons my time, my heart and my energies help me find and run to a place far away, where it’s just you and me. In Jesus name I pray, amen.


“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” -Matthew 6:6
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35
“But he [Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” -Luke 5:16 (ESV)
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” -Mark 6:31 (NASB)

Photo Credit
Jesus at Gethsemane – The Passion of the Christ (movie scene)
This is a revised version of my  devotion, “Take Time to Pray“published on January 2013 by

The Perfect Retirement

Pictured above is the Point Reyes Lighthouse. It was built in 1870 on the windiest and second foggiest place in North America, the Point Reyes headlands, which are located about 10 miles from the San Francisco Bay area in California.  This incredibly well-constructed lighthouse has endured many hardships, including an earthquake in 1906, which displaced it 18 feet from its original location in less than one minute! After fulfilling its life-saving duties for 105 years, and like most lighthouses still standing, this beacon was retired as a result of the advancements in navigation technology. Many retired lighthouses in the U.S. have been either sold or donated to local municipalities and private organizations who then renovate them and make them available for public touring. Unfortunately, some of them have been left unattended and are slowly rotting away.

Retirement (noun)
a. the period after you have permanently stopped your job or profession.
b. removal of something from service or use.

Are you retired already or are you looking forward to that big day? Perhaps you’ve practically just entered the workforce and have a very long way to go. Either way, retirement is a life event which you will have to plan for and the sooner you do it, the better.


For most people, retirement is both a time of completion and a time of new beginnings. Not everyone who retires gets to fulfill their life-long dream(s), but they all get a chance to finally end one chapter in the storybook of life and begin a new one. They also get a chance to sit back and reminisce about the gratifying (and the regrettable) moments they experienced while employed. If you haven’t done this already then you and I will both have an opportunity to do so at some point in the future. That is if we haven’t been called into eternity before then.


Some people say they don’t plan to retire at all. They want to be able to work until the very end. By that, I suppose they mean till death comes knocking at their door. Such attitude is both honorable and commendable, especially if it means working for an evangelistic or humanitarian cause. But perhaps staying laboriously active until your last breath is not an option you’ve considered. You are probably among those who are looking forward to the day when you no longer have to wake up to go to “work.” If so, then what would you consider to be the perfect retirement? For me, it would begin with a trip around the world visiting as many lighthouses as possible while taking detours to explore the beauty of God’s creation. I would eventually come back home to take my daily morning walks with my dog along the beautiful flower path that leads to my private oceanfront lighthouse. Here, I would be able to pray, meditate, and be inspired to keep writing my Lighthouse Devotions without interruptions, except for when my wife shows up with a hot cup of Chai Latte and a slice of cheesecake.


Speaking of perfect retirement, here are some of the images that came up as a result of a Google search for “perfect” or “dream” retirements. [click to enlarge]

Maybe your idea of a perfect retirement is similar to one of the images above or perhaps it’s something even more fascinating. It may even be something that others would not consider to be a retirement at all. But regardless of what you and I may think a truly peaceful and fulfilling retirement is, NOTHING compares with the retirement that our Heavenly Father has prepared for those who love Him. For those who have accepted His Son as Savior and have finished their pilgrimage through the heavy-laden path of life. And while we may be able to reap some of the benefits of laboring for His kingdom here on earth, our ultimate recompense will be when we finally hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.


As I sit down to pen this devotion I can’t help but think of an old (Spanish) song I use to sing at church during my early teen years. “Mas allá del sol, mas allá del sol.  Yo tengo un hogar, bello hogar mas allá del sol. ” (Beyond the sun, beyond the sun. I have a home, a beautiful home beyond the sun.)


Not only beyond the sun but beyond anything we could ever imagine is that place where the redeemed of the Lord will one day retire for all eternity. Forget about no more toiling, how about no more dying, no more crying, and no more pain? And it doesn’t matter whether or not you get to stroll along white sandy beaches that overlook turquoise waters, how about basking in the glory of God while walking tirelessly through a street made of gold so pure that it resembles a sea of clear glass? Just think, the world’s most beautiful and costliest structure cannot compare to the splendor of the golden city that is adorned with every precious stone imaginable. A city that has 12 breathtaking gates, each fashioned from a single pearl! Even the most luxuriant earthly landscapes are no match to the beauty of the river of the water of life which flows from the throne of God or the tree of life whose leaves will serve for the healing of the nations. This is the place where Paul and all of God’s children will finally receive their retirement crown. This is the place that Jesus said He would go to prepare for us so that we could be with Him. This, undoubtedly, is THE perfect retirement!


Until the day we get to retire for all eternity, we must count it a privilege and an honor to be (or have been) able to work.  And when/if the day of our earthly retirement does come, whether we choose to keep working or live a life of leisure, we should embrace it with a sense of fulfillment, gratitude, and joy. I surely wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my retired years visiting lighthouses and writing about them in my very own cozy beacon by the sea. Hopefully, one of these will be available for sale by then! [click on images to enlarge]

Prayer: Oh God, Maker of heaven and earth, I look forward to the day when I am retired to be with you. The day when I enter my eternal rest along with all the redeemed of the Lord. Until that day, help me to remain faithful and strong in my faith. Renew me physically, mentally, and spiritually, so that I may continue to shine your light until the day when your glory is the only light shining. 

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” -Revelations 14:13
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” – Matthew 25:21 (ESV)
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus…” Acts 20:24 (ESV)
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” -Hebrews 6:10
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” -John 14:2-4 (ESV)
“Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, producing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”-Revelation 22:1-2
“And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory.” -Revelations 21:23-24 (BSB)
A Vision of Heaven – Revelation 21
© Point Reyes Lighthouse by Frank Schulenburg, April 2012
The Lighthouse Keeper, Dalmatian, by Donna Gelsinger