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Archive for April, 2010

Greetings Bloggers,

What is your guilty pleasure, what do you do when no one is looking. Do you like to curl up on the couch with a good book and lose yourself in an adventure? Do you eat chocolate in obscene quantities, and then destroy the evidence. Do you go to a movie by yourself that your spouse or friends would not be interested in seeing? Do you go golfing, or for a walk in the forest, or maybe fishing or target practicing with a firearm? What is your thing that you like to do, the thing that if God said, you need to give up your favorite personal pastime, you would shudder.

I ride my quad into the desert behind my house, and explore an old mineshaft that is hidden from view. I like to take my camera and look for that special shot, that National Geographic shot of a jackrabbit, or a rattlesnake, or a cactus bloom. I like to leave my helmet at home and ride full throttle throwing caution to the wind. I like to hike alone and listen to the wind and smell the scents of nature, and not think of anything I have to do, but to drink it in and wonder. Just wonder about everything. Anyway, that is my guilty pleasure, now what is Yours?

God Bless

Jim

P.S. If you like a picture, feel free to take it and use it as you wish!

Mighty Saguaro Cactus

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My girlfriend and I sat in the coffee shop and showed each other pictures of our children. I showed her pictures of my two girls and their brother. Suzanne, my oldest is now eleven, and is really a girly girl, while Lizzy, her six year old counterpart is a tomboy from the word go. She comes in with cuts, scrapes, and an occasional tick even,  from playing in the forest with her friends, having crabapple fights. Ethan, my ten year old son is really a thinker, he loves to play baseball, but truth known he would rather be in his room with a book. He is going to be some kind of engineer I can just feel it.

My friend Holly goes through the line-up of what her two boys are up to, and what is happening in their lives. Her oldest, fourteen year old Bryan has a problem paying attention, and the doctors want to place him on a drug called Ritalin, which has been proven to help children who are ADHD, but Holly is hesitant to allow him to be medicated. I try to be supportive to her, and inside I do concur with her feeling, medicine is not always the right answer. Her younger son, twelve year old Spence, is just, well, there is no other way to put it, he is just a slob. His room has a smell, she has to round up the laundry all the time, he never puts anything in the hamper, and he leaves everything exactly where it falls. Sweaty soccer socks and underwear left under the bed leave an odor in his room constantly. She once opened his drawer to find he had left a half eaten bowl of cereal with milk in with his clean underwear, the milk was now a solid, and the smell permanent. The frustration is evident, but Holly loves this kid immensely, despite having to keep after him constantly. He is a sports nut, like his dad, and a straight “A” student, just a slob.

Holly says Bill and she are doing well most of the time, but occasionally he says that she puts the kids and their needs before him all the time. He could accept it if it were some of the time, most of the time, but that it is all of the time, and it gets old. She says she loves Bill dearly, but at the end of the day, after getting the kids off to school, going to work herself and working most of the day, then getting back to the school and getting the kids, rushing home, making dinner, and then doing laundry, there just isn’t much left. I can relate, as her story is my story also. We spend so much of our time tending to our children, then our spouses that at the end of the day there just isn’t much left. Then, I stop and think about something else, if the kids get most of the time, my husband gets the rest, where does God come in. What am I saving for him.

As Holly and I part ways, and I am driving off to get the kids at school I dwell on this some more. My life has become all about the kids, which is what society today tells us is how it should be. Kids and their wants and desires take center stage over everything, even over the spouse with whom you love from which the children were the fruit. The Bible tells us the order of importance we should place people and things in our lives, but I think sometimes it is easier to listen to society and what is accepted than to take the narrow road God lays out for us in His Word. The order of things is first and foremost God, then spouse, then children always. As I drive I stop to consider if I have been doing that and am unhappy to discover that the order I have been following is this, Kids, Spouse, Work, God.

Wow, I cannot believe I have been doing this but if I am truly honest with myself, then this is what it is. I truly do love God, and want my children to love him with all of my heart and soul, but in the end, they will do what has been modeled for them rather than what they hear, talk is cheap. I also realize that if in fact, I place them first in my life always, what I am telling them is that life is “all about them” all the time, when it really isn’t. If they get the idea that life is all about them, where does God fit in with that? If life is all about them, how will that work with their personal ministry? If life is all about them, where will that put their relationships with others, or their careers? As I pull into the parking lot at school, I determine there need to be some changes in our lives. My husband Mike and I need to talk tonight, and as the Spiritual leader of our household, I will support him in leading this family back on track with our priorities.

The great thing about God is that as long as we live, we can still change. He can change anyone and anything at anytime. If He says that a faith the size of a mustard seed can cause you to move a mountain then I believe it. If that is possible, re-organizing our families priorities will be small work for Him.

Matthew 10: 37-39

 37“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

God Bless and Keep You-Always!

Jim

NOTE: This story is fiction, written for the message.

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Murray shuffles down the line with a slight limp, he has a foot infection on his left foot from spending too many hours a day on them, and having questionable personal hygiene. I smile kindly to him and ask him secretly, quietly if he would like a second portion of potatoes, he smiles and nods vigorously as I heap it on. He thanks me and shuffles off to a corner of the shelter to eat his dinner. I will have to remember to take another look at his foot before he goes out again, some Neosporin and a fresh dressing might help him to heal.

I am Tom, although that is not really important, I am just a humble servant of God. I have not always done what I now do, for many years I was someone who ignored God. I spent my days bilking the financial world from every last penny I could muster (legally) and stating that anyone who claimed faith in God was just a weakling. God was invented by the sheep of the world, something to believe in to make their mundane lives valuable enough to justify getting out of bed in the morning. God was a good thing for them to believe in, because it made them better workers, which in turn made me more profitable. I used to think “go ahead and believe in that drivel, just don’t be late for work”.

Dinner is served, and my boss and I go about cleaning up the kitchen and stowing the leftover food for tomorrow. The food for today was provided by “Meals on Wheels”, a local charity that donates food to shelters like ours. After all of the work is done, I go back to the storage room to look for socks, and am happy to find a new three pack that has never been opened, I grab one of the foot pans and some Epsom salts and the first aid kit and head out to look for Murray. He is reclining in the corner on a steel-folding chair, just happy to be warm and fed. He was once a construction superintendent and oversaw the construction of high-rise buildings, but that was before he became broken. I place the warm foot bath before him and sprinkle in Epsom salts as he looks at me with thanks and relief. I gently remove his shoe and notice he is not wearing socks or a bandage anymore as I slide his foot into the warm soothing water. He talks for a while about his ex-wife and two kids, who are now in their twenties, and how he would love to see them this Christmas. He heard down the line that Kristin, his youngest is about to graduate college and is engaged to be married. His eyes sparkle as he talks about them, as they have each time he has told me about them for the past five years. He has talked of seeing them every Christmas since I have known him, yet fear of rejection keep him from doing it.

Up until nine years ago, I lived in a huge estate house with my wife and two daughters. Brooklynne and Kennady stole their daddy’s heart right from the beginning, just like their momma. They were the refuge around which I built my life, the one thing to which I would always drop my guard. They took after their mother in nature, although Brooke looked more like me, and Kennady more like her mom. I was always able to leave work at the door when I got home, I was a blessed man, but I didn’t know it. As I said, they were my refuge, but God was theirs. They would always ask me to go to church with them, and sometimes on holidays I would go just to make them happy. If only I had taken it a little more serious at the time.

Done soaking, I pull Murray’s foot from the bath, and scrub it gently with medicated soap, hoping to remove any bacteria that might further his infection. I scrub between his toes, and gently around his arch, where the infection is as he involuntarily does the jerk reaction until he sees I am not going to hurt him. I dry his foot off, and apply a thick layer of Neosporin to his infected wound, then wrap the area in a clean bandage. I give him the clean package of socks, as he puts on one of the pairs and slides into his shoes again. I tell him I will be right back, as I drain the water and wash the pan. On returning I give him the Neosporin and tell him he needs a new application daily, and that if he comes back, I will do it. Then I sit with him and we just talk for a while.

Annie and the girls were waiting on me, I was at the office trying to close up the latest deal before we were due to leave on vacation for a week on Martha’s Vineyard. Our flight was due to leave in one hour, and I was meeting the girls at the airport, but it wasn’t going to work, I wasn’t going to make it so I told Annie to go ahead and go, and I would catch the next flight to Boston. She said okay, that she would go ahead out to the rented beach house end get everything set up, we then exchanged “I love you’s” and then ended the call. That was the last time I would hear her voice, their plane went down over eastern Kentucky later that evening due to wind shear, all souls were lost. My refuge was gone, my life was worthless, and my career was worthless rags, my estate an empty tomb. I sought refuge in the bottle, in prescription drugs, then illegal drugs, anything to stop the pain. One night, I got out my Colt .45 automatic, and a bottle of whiskey and decided to end it all, but something drew me to the cabinet next to the TV. I looked in and saw an unmarked videotape, so I shoved it into the VCR and hit play. The video shows my girls at a church function, I am guessing they were probably five and seven and they were singing “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. The tears flowed and I poured out the bottle and unloaded the gun, and got on my knees and begged God into my life and accepted His son as my Savior. The Holy Spirit entered me then and a warm feeling flooded my soul, and I then knew everything was going to be alright, it wasn’t too late.

I ask Murray if he will be staying at the shelter tonight, he says he doesn’t know yet, there may not be room as it is going to be a cold one tonight. I then ask him if he would like me to take him to see his kids next week, when they get back into town, and his face clouds with fear. He begins to make excuses, his clothes are bad, he isn’t clean, he needs a haircut and on and on. I promise him that if he wants to see them, he will have new clothes, a shower, and a fresh haircut if he would like, but that it is up to him. He smiles finally, relief flooding his soul, and he says he will think about it. I pray with him, tell him God loves him, then I head off to my room in back.

I miss my family, and if you had asked me back then, I would have told you that I believed life was for living, even though I was dead then. Now, despite all of the loss, I know what it is like to live. As I pray before bed, I thank Him for all the blessings He bestows on me, how He taught me what true happiness is. As I curl up in my donated twin bed I can’t help but think, “Life is Good”!   John 13:5   After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

NOTE: This story is fiction, written to send a message!

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I am finishing up at the office for the weekend, gathering a couple of small projects to take home for the weekend. As a rule, I try not to work too much on the weekend, and this will only take maybe four or five hours to complete, leaving me plenty of time to sneak in a game of golf on Saturday, it is important to schedule in a little “me” time here and there. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, right. As I leave my office, Sarah my secretary is on the phone again, and I give her my best steely stare, so she quickly says she has to go and ends the call. She then apologizes and says her mother is in the hospital back in Iowa, and she was just checking up on her. I nod and then pass the buck and say, “Just be careful, you know regional is really cracking down on personal calls lately, I would hate to see you become a victim”. She nods approval and apologizes again as I smile smugly and wish her a good weekend. Nearing the elevator there is a Mexican man mopping the floor, he looks up at me, worry on his face and I frown and skirt the wet floor he is working on. Don’t these people stop to think for a minute that we might actually want to USE the elevator once in a while and mop accordingly?

As I head out across the sidewalk to hail a cab, there is a homeless urchin on the sidewalk with a can, asking for food money, but we both know it is for booze, that’s probably why he is on the street. He looks up at me as I walk by, holding his can up as I avert my eyes, always better to not make eye contact with them. I hail a cab as another businessman starts toward it, but I beat him to the punch and hop in closing the door quickly, I can’t help but throw him a quick grin as the cab pulls from the curb. He waves his fist at me as I chuckle, “Sucker”. After telling the driver where I need to go, I pull out my Blackberry and start to surf the net. He then says “how are you today” as he looks toward me in the rear view mirror, and inside my head I hear the words “talker alert, talker alert”. Sometimes when in cabs or on planes you will get these guys who cannot just shut up and leave everyone around them to their own lives, they have to chat you up and ask about your jobs, your families, your pastimes, it is so annoying. Can’t they just leave us alone? I tell him I am just fine, and then decide to throw him a bone and tell him I am looking forward to the weekend because I am VERY tired and looking for some peace and quiet. Read between the lines pulleeeese! He doesn’t get it, and says he too is looking forward to the weekend, His daughter is getting Baptized Sunday at church, and it will be a great day. I don’t really know anything about this guy, so I just say “nice” and go back to looking at yahoo finance. He probably goes to one of those churches where people handle snakes and speak in tongues anyway.

As the cab pulls to the curb, and I throw him a twenty for an eighteen dollar bill, I tell him to keep the change, he say’s thanks and smiles at me, I say “see ya” and silently think “wouldn’t want to be ya”. I walk the short distance toward my apartment building noticing a young lady sitting on the steps to another apartment building, she looks about ten months pregnant and she is sobbing deeply. For a moment I feel sympathy for her, whatever her problem may be, but I don’t know her. She raises her head from her hands, and her beautiful blue eyes are rimmed in red and her makeup is streaked down her face by her tears, and she looks me directly in the eyes. For a moment, my little voice tells me to stop and see if I can help her in any way, but my other voice tells me “avert eye contact” you don’t know her, her problems are HER problems not mine. I look the other way and head on ahead to the steps leading up to my own house. I enter my home, and head straight for the kitchen and the comfort of a nice glass of scotch, I don’t drink much, just a couple of times a week after rough days at the office. As I drink the warm smooth liquid it is like taking a shower after doing yard-work on a Saturday, it washes the grime of the day away.

Saturday was a great day of golf, enjoyed it immensely, spent a few hours in the home office working then relaxed at dinner with the fam. My son asks me if I want to go to the batting cages after church tomorrow, as his coach thinks his batting needs work. I tell him I don’t think we will be able to do it Sunday, as I have a heavy weekend workload from the office, maybe next weekend. Truth is, I will want a nap after church, now I will have to take it in my study with the door locked, that way he won’t know what I am really doing.

It’s now Sunday, and the pastor is talking about evangelizing where we work, where we live, where we travel. What a great message I think as I listen to what he says. He says we must love our neighbors, and I think to myself, I don’t even know my neighbors, he talks about taking the opportunities we are afforded when they arise, the opportunities to share His love, share our wealth, share the Gospel. I think to myself that he is right, so I throw an extra twenty in the bag when it comes around. As for opportunities, I don’t really know what to say to that, in my world I don’t really have any opportunities to really share His love or the Gospel. I am not a missionary or anything, where am I supposed to find those opportunities at? I guess I could have talked to the pregnant neighbor.

Matthew 5:2-4

 3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 4Blessed are those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted.

Matthew 25:35-40

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

NOTE: This story is fiction, written for the message.

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Prayer has been the thing that finally made it possible for me to break through my mediocrity in faith and grow after so long in a Spiritual winter, as a friend would say. Before I begin, let me start by saying this is in no way intended to be preachy, or imply that I have the answers, but merely to state that this has made a big difference in my prayer life and closeness to Him, that said, here goes. In my searching for closeness with God, I keep going back to a passage I read in 1 Kings 3:5-14. In this section of scripture, young king Solomon is summoned into communication with God while he is asleep and dreaming. God asks Solomon “Ask for whatever you want me to give you”. Wow, what an invitation yet Solomon keeps it simple, and asks for discernment in judging wisely.

I have mentioned this passage before in my writings, but there is more that we need to discuss about it, as the Spirit won’t let it go and keeps leading me back to it. So let’s hit it again, while it was not technically a prayer, it still kind of is a prayer. In my thoughts, a prayer is a direct communication with God, Solomon was doing that although in a dream. God asks Solomon a question, Solomon answers the question, which I would consider lucid thought and therefore would place it on a par with prayer. That said, my real reason for this path is to determine the nature of God concerning prayer. God was really happy with Solomon, when given a blank check, he took the minimum and asked instead for wisdom rather than the maximum, palaces, women, wealth, domination, etc.. He was so happy with Solomon that he decided to bless him with all of the things that Solomon chose NOT to ask for, palaces, women, wealth, domination.

My prayer life has changed a lot during just the last year, and I must say it has made all the difference in my relationship with God. We are given many examples of prayer in the Bible to model our own prayers from, yet I chose to model my prayer life after what I saw others doing instead. One other thought that changed my idea was when my pastor at church stated “if your prayers are all about you, asking for this and that from beginning to end, with no thanks added in, are you not acting like a spoiled child who keeps asking again and again for a toy until he gets it”. That was me, God please do this for me, do that for me, give me this blessing, give me that blessing, thanks for Your Son, in His Name, Amen. My prayers were all about me and mine, but mostly me.

First, here is how a typical prayer went for me. Dear God, thank You for our blessings, please watch over and protect us and keep us. Protect and keep my daughters in college out of state, help no harm to come to them. If someone is traveling, please get him or her there and back safely, Help me to get that promotion at work dear Lord, Help me to keep my job God. Please keep us from getting sick, and please help us to get well, etc., ect., etc..

In Your Sons name, Amen. In all of this, only one thank you and I didn’t even spend any time giving it, just kind of went by it quickly. In Matt 6: 7-8 we read

7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

So knowing that, I have spent a lot of time telling God what he already knows, and even knew before I asked him.

Being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean life is going to be easy, in fact, if you are walking in faith, there is a very good chance your trials are just going to increase, If the devil doesn’t have you, he is going to kick it up a notch or two, and if you aren’t feeling the heat, examine your walk. That said, I now would pray a bit differently, for instance this section, please watch over and protect us and keep us. Protect and keep my daughters in college out of state and help no harm to come to them. I might now say Lord, please help my girls to have a closer relationship with you, help my daughters in college Lord to walk in faith, help them to be Your girls. Help them to turn to you in times of trial, help them to use the Holy Spirit as a guide. If someone is traveling, please get them there and back safely, I would now pray Lord, help us to be ready to greet you at all times. Help me to get that promotion at work dear Lord, Help me to keep my job God. I now ask God place me wherever you want me, wherever I will best glorify you.

A healthy Christian walk will be riddled with tests, temptations and persecutions up to and including asking some of us to be tested unto death. More of us now than ever are dying for their faith, and I am no longer going to ask God to steer myself or my family away from persecution, but to give us the strength and faith to endure the persecution. I will no longer pray for financial stability or security, because when I am comfortable, I cease to grow. Hmm, okay so now you have a list of what you will no longer pray for Jim, what is left? I pray for others in need, others who do not know Him, I ask Him to daily put me where He wants me, to make straight paths for my feet. I ask him to help me take away my pride, anger, lust, material desires, and to help me be submissive to Him and the Spirit that leads me, and I actually started praying for all of those people I would say “I’m praying for you” to. I started praying for my enemies, not for them to be a footstool, but for their salvation and wisdom.

I want you to know, these things DO NOT come natural for me, I am a selfish, prideful, lustful, materialistic man at heart, and it is in my nature to put myself first. But it is not about me, it is about Him and we have so many examples to choose from, and they all lead back to humility. God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

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“A Little Humor”

funny video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2BgjH_CtIA

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Manual is so excited, the local leader of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) spoke to him on the phone, and requested a meeting with him for this afternoon. Manual has worked so hard establishing the church in Chopal village. A few months back, he decided to take a bold new step for Christ, and come out of the underground, opening the church publicly to all who will attend. When he did, we were surprised when three members of FARC and seven members of the paramilitary militia of Columbia and their families, gave their lives to Christ and afterward were immersed in Baptism. It was a festive day, everyone happy, the kids playing, much food and fellowship for all, God has blessed us. The FARC and militia families that came to The Lord that day have been faithful followers ever since.

Manual is expecting an approval by FARC of his plans to build a new church building and to be able to legally meet in the village. You see, Christianity here is outlawed and many have had to die for their faith. My dear husband has prayed day and night for this day, an opportunity at real church growth, legitimataly. My son and I have been cooking all morning to have a nice lunch ready for the troops when they arrive to set the tone for talks with Manual. We hear the sound of the jeeps coming up the road, as manual looks nervously at me and asks me for the third time this morning if he looks okay. I tell him to relax, that he looks great as I kiss him on the nose. He smiles and kisses me back then turns and heads for the front door as I tell my son they have arrived and I need his help serving.

Our oldest son is ten, and he comes in as I place several glasses of cold water on a tray, ready to be served. The jeeps stopped in front of the house, and I hear Manual speaking quietly with them. The front door opens and I turn to see if Manual is wanting us to bring out the refreshments, but it is not Manual, it is a large FARC soldier, and he has a machine gun aimed at my son and I, as he orders us to stay put. I hear loud angry talking as I hear Manual say “no, please” then I hear the loud explosions of gunfire. Five shots ring out as I try to go outside, but the soldier holds the gun on us, as he shouts over his shoulder “make sure that dog stays dead”, referring to my husband, my Manual. My sons eyes are huge and welling with tears, as the guard turns and starts to go out, one more shot is fired, I would later learn into Manuals neck, to insure he was dead.

I run outside, seeing Manual lying on the ground, unmoving, his face covered in blood. I run back inside, get a moist cloth, and begin to clean the blood off of my husbands face. He is lifeless and gone now, so I drag his body up under a tree, the one we used to sit under in the evening. FARC is still there, lingering at their jeeps, as the other villagers come to see what happened. I decide to do what Manual would do if he could, I run to the house, get my Bible, and begin to preach the Word to all who will listen. The FARC looks on incredulous at me, as though I have a third eye on my forehead, but they take no action on me, just sit there and listen. I read to all who would listen the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus spoke to so many, I don’t know why I chose that, it just seemed right at the time. The FARC men listened to it all, they were scowling, clear look of defeat on their faces that they had not silenced us, but they listened, even the angry soldier who guarded my son and I. You could tell, they all wanted to know how I could preach the word to my husbands killers while his body cooled under the tree.

When I had finished, they left without a word. As My children and I began to make preparations to bury their father, my oldest son spoke these words to me. “Mum, don’t worry, Dad died for Christ, and now he is with Christ. My tears flow freely as I acknowledge that my son is right, and think Manual would be so proud to hear his son speak those words.

Two weeks later, it was late in the evening, and there came a knock at the door. I opened the door, and it was the Soldier, the one who guarded us with the gun while manual was killed, but he is not wearing his uniform, he is wearing no guns, just street clothes. He has a look of sadness as he asks if he may speak with me, and I warily agree and step out on the porch. I now see he is crying, tears streaming down both cheeks as he gets down on both knees and begs my forgiveness. It is hard, but I place my hand on his head, and tell him “it is forgiven”. He then says that my strength after the killing made him listen to me, and that he gave his life to Christ just yesterday, and would like me to be at his Baptism in the morning. I agree to come, as the sobbing man walks off into the dark.

I will continue here, teaching others until either this country is freed or until another band of  FARC comes to silence me. God watches over us, and will bring us home when He wants too, and I am good with that. My oldest son has also said he would like to follow in his daddys footsteps, and be a pastor too. What more could a mother ask for.

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

This story was written based on real events that occurred in Columbia

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