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Archive for May, 2011

I sat down at the computer desk after dinner to check my e-mail. It is not that I am expecting anything; I suppose it was something to do more out of boredom than necessity, but it had become the evening ritual. I am still learning all of this high tech stuff and the computer, well we held off for a long time before finally getting one, and now I really enjoy it. Everything is just a Google away these days, now I wish we hadn’t waited.

I scroll through my inbox, past ads from all the stores my wife and I shop in, and I see a note titled “friend request” awaiting me. Hmm, interesting so I click on it. Face Book informs me that a girl I dated for some time in high school has sent me a friend request. I click on the link while casually looking over my shoulder to see my wife still cleaning up in the kitchen. Her face pops up before me and it is cool, I can tell right away who she is, she hasn’t changed that much. I study her picture, and read her info screen, noticing that she is married and has two children and lives two states away. What can be the harm, she is grown, happily married, has children and lives far away, it isn’t like she is hitting on me, and we are twenty five years older now and different people. I look over my shoulder again and make the big decision, I press “accept”.

A week has passed, she and I caught up on old times, reminisced the good and bad ones, she told me about her husband and how they have a great marriage, I told her about my kids, off in college now and how my wife and I had built a life together. We talked about our jobs and our homes, and pretty much anything else. Today she instant messaged me while I was at work, and we talked back and forth for an hour. We aren’t doing anything wrong, but I still feel more comfortable messaging at work. While there is nothing to worry about, I know my wife just wouldn’t understand.

A month has passed by, and she and I exchanged cell phone numbers and have begun texting one another and even talking on the phone when I am at work. I use my office phone, that way there are no “complications” at home. We have become the old friends we were once before, without the romantic interest of course, just friends. Yesterday my wife and I had a falling out of sorts about our finances, and I couldn’t wait to get to work so I could call my friend and share with her, surely she would understand my side of the argument, and she didn’t fail me. It is good to have someone to talk to.

Three months have passed now. The other day at work, as we talked on my office phone, she asked me a question. Do you ever wonder what it “would” have been like if we had stayed together, quickly followed by “purely hypothetically”? I sat quietly for a moment, and then said “yes, I do, do you”? She quietly said yes and then there was silence on the phone as I felt myself passing into a new and uncharted territory. I love my wife, don’t get me wrong, but it has been twenty five years after all, and it isn’t like my friend is a threat. So I tread cautiously forward and continue the conversation. From that point on, our conversations were deeper, more intimate, more the way they should have been with my wife. My wife has begun asking me if everything is alright lately, telling me that I seem to have changed and that I am quieter around her. She even once suggested we go see a Christian counselor a friend told her about.

Six months have passed now, I spend a lot of time at the office. I have caught my wife going through the texts history on my phone, and searching the history on my computer for clues, but she won’t find any, because I wipe them clean every day. My friend told me yesterday that she is thinking about leaving her husband for me, and although I shudder at the thought of walking out on my wife, I know I wound up with the wrong person. Should we have to go the rest of our lives living two lives when we have the chance to make things right? I tell her that it sounds great and that I am on board. She plans a trip here to see her sister, and I secretly take vacation from work, but don’t tell my wife. We fall together easily after so long, and our affair moves to a different level still.

Three years have passed now. I left my wife for her and set out boldly on our new adventure. It reminded me vaguely of a story I heard in school, an early explorer to the new world landed their ships, and then he burned them, forcing his crew to forge a life in this new world, making return not an option. I did the same thing, I told my wife everything, ending with the fact that I had fallen out of love with her, my ship was burned. I waited at the airport for my friend to arrive, but the plane came and went, she was not on it. I called her cell, her husband answered and told me to never call her again, they had reconciled, and I heard her crying in the background.

As time passed, my wife went from hurt to angry, and pushed the divorce through with extreme prejudice. I now live alone, and my kids don’t talk to me anymore. I have made several attempts at forgiveness from my wife, but she isn’t interested. In fact, she has a boyfriend now.

Present time again, I stir in my chair, and realize I have dozed off to sleep and have been dreaming where I sit. My wife is done cleaning the kitchen now and is relaxing on the couch. I look at the computer screen, and the friend request sits before me again. I don’t think twice, I click “reject” and delete the email. I get up and go sit next to my wife and tell her all about it, we have nothing to hide.

This is a work of fiction, written to illustrate a point

God Bless-JFT

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Omnipresence or ubiquity is the property of being present everywhere.

My brother in Christ Mike and I ride nearly every day now. We mountain bike on a new trail we discovered in the mountains near our desert homes. Altogether it is about nine miles round trip through nature, and the challenge of peddling uphill gets us in better shape each time we do it. It is also fun, a win-win all around. One of the best things about our rides is the great discussions Mike and I have, usually centered on our faith, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or something along those lines. Mike challenges me to think about things I wouldn’t consider were it not for him.

As we rode, I mentioned how when we are on a high, we need to be on the lookout for the devil, as he is usually stalking us when things are going good. Mike mentioned that recently his pastor had mentioned that in his opinion, Satan doesn’t care about us, doesn’t waste a moment of his time thinking about us, he simply doesn’t care. I had to tell Mike that on this subject I couldn’t disagree more. I stated that I believe Satan is an opportunist, constantly looking for a chance to trip us up. Mike then said “wouldn’t Satan have to be omnipresent to act that way”? My answer was yes, to which Mike said he didn’t agree that Satan was capable of being everywhere as God is. Makes you think doesn’t it?

God, the creator of the universe holds all of the cards. I have often wondered why He made us in the first place, as we have been a thorn in His side since inception. When I was a kid, I had a couple of hamsters, and kept them in a cage made of plastic with a wheel, tubes for crawling through, etc. I used to enjoy watching them play, explore, run on the wheel and live their lives inside the clear plastic cage. I also used to wonder if that was how God saw us, if we were His pets.

I also wondered why God didn’t make us with a predisposition to serving, worshipping and loving Him naturally, after all, He is the creator, and He can do as He wishes. He could have made us to where our only desire in life is to serve Him from birth to death, yet He didn’t. He instead chose to create us with a predisposition to being self-involved, the opposite of what He would prefer us to be. In studying God’s word, I find one thing to be common since the beginning; He wants us to “choose” Him.

After Satan had been roaming the earth, He joined the angels in a visit to God. They discussed Job and how proud God was of Him and his righteousness. Satan wanted a chance to turn him, and God allowed it. In Job 1:12 (niv), He said, The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

If Job was going to truly be tested, then Satan had to have true power over the man. He had to have the ability to be omnipresent in the same way that God is to be everywhere he needed to be. In the end, God was right, Job was righteous, and God rewarded him for his loyalty. He did what God had wanted, he “chose” God first and over all.

Another example that stands out to me is the temptation of Christ. In Matt. 4:8-10 (niv) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.

Even Jesus, God’s own Son was not exempt from having to choose. I always wondered, how could Satan have had the power to offer the Son of God all the kingdoms of the earth, surely he was bluffing. But if he was bluffing, then the temptations were not real, and if they were not real, then Christ’s choice of God was not legitimate. I don’t believe for a minute that Christ’s temptations were a sham, but if they were as the Bible shows them to be, there is only one way they were possible. Satan must have actually held the keys to all the kingdoms of the world, and there was only one way he could have gotten them, from God Himself.

God created Satan, as an angel, and then He cast him out of Heaven. God holds all the power to the universe, over everything. Satan does not have the power God has, but in order for our choices to mean anything, the temptation to sin, to choose the dark side must be real, it must be appealing. My belief is that God gives the power of omnipotence to Satan so that he may tempt us when we are weak, and without that power, he would not know.

Lastly, I end with a scripture that brings it all together for me, and leaves no question of his omnipotence. 1Peter 5:8 (niv)  reads  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

So what do you think? God bless and keep you all!

JFT

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Hey, you ready for this? Tim asked Bobby as the young man climbed into the car. Bobby said, “well, as ready as I can be I suppose” before closing the door. They drove toward the mall excited about the coming experience; their lives were about to change. They were headed to see the marine recruiter.

Sam poured another cup of coffee and looked over at sergeant Kevin, his fellow recruiter before sitting across from him in the small break room. Sergeant Kevin said they had a pair coming in for a buddy sign up at 9AM, He would take one, and Sam had the other. Sam nodded and continued to quietly drink his coffee, and Kevin went back to reading his paper.

Tim and Bobby entered and greeted the uniformed man at the front desk that shook their hands, and called the two recruiters to the front. Officer Sam and sergeant Kevin greeted both of the young man and confirmed that they would like to join together under the buddy program. After the boys agreed Sergeant Kevin explained that to expedite matters, He and officer Sam would each take one of them and do the paperwork, so they split up and followed the recruiters into their separate offices. Officer Sam had Tim; Bobby had gone with sergeant Kevin, the doors closed behind them.

Before starting, Officer Sam reached up onto a bookshelf and pulled down the official field manual of the United States Marine Corps and laid it before him on the desk. He opened it up to a section he knew well, and told Tim, “just so there are no surprises, I want you to know what you are getting yourself into”. You will be sent off to boot camp for a period of three months, during that time, we will break your spirit down through very hard work and training. You will be sleep deprived, you will march until your feet bleed, you will be expected to have your boots and belt buckle shine like a mirror at all times. Your bunk and footlocker will be your only possessions, and they will be on loan. You will have no free time at all for the first six weeks, then you will be given a few hours, but your curfew will be at 10 PM sharp. If you are late, you will be thrown into the brig until you have served your time. I know all of this sounds tough son, but it will make you a better man. Officer Sam looked up and Tim sat there with his mouth open, seemingly in shock as officer Sam slid the paperwork across the desk and said All we need is your signature son.

In the other room, sergeant Kevin talked openly with Bobby about the Marines. “When I joined, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and the military gave me a home”. I learned a sense of discipline; I learned to have a great work ethic also from the Marines. I earned money toward college by signing up, that was my initial reason for doing so, but after my initial four years, I decided to re-up while attending college. After I graduated from college, I re-upped again and decided to go career. The marines have taught me so many things that the thought of leaving them was out of my mind completely. I am just waiting on my officer’s commission now that I am a grad. Don’t get me wrong, some of what you face will be hard, it will test the limits of your endurance, but in the end, it will all be worth it. I never have regretted joining, and I don’t think you will either. What do you say Bobby? Bobby leaned forward eagerly and signed the paperwork that made him a marine. Sergeant Kevin shook his hand eagerly and said, “welcome aboard Son”.

Tim was waiting for Bobby as he cam out of the office, unhappiness clearly etched on his face. What a bust this was he said as they walked out and toward his car. What do you mean, Bobby asked? You know, how they read all the rules, the things you can’t do, the punishments you face, who would want to do that? Bobby was clearly flustered; He looked at Tim and said, “What are you talking about”? Tim then explained his experience and how he couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Bobby explained how his recruiter had talked of his love for the marines, how they had made him a better man, had given him a home, a place to belong, and how he had eagerly signed up. Tim was shocked; his experience had been totally different, and he had chosen to pass, I guess they wouldn’t be going in as a team after all.

Friends have told me many times that they were afraid to share the Gospel with others because they don’t know the Bible well enough, what if someone asks a question they cannot answer, etc. I can’t help but think of us in terms of being recruiters. One recruiter carried around the rule book and quoted the manual to the potential marine on rules, regulations, and codes of conduct which ultimately frightened away the potential marine, while the other explained with passion his love for the corps, how it had made him a better man, gave him home and purpose.

Spreading our faith is not unlike recruiting. If we approach folks who know nothing about the Bible and quote scriptures from a book that they know nothing about, will it not scare them away like it did Tim the fictional recruit. Would we not stand a much better chance if we show them through our actions that we are different, and when we do talk to them if we explain our love and devotion to our God? If we then tell them the inner peace we have since becoming followers of Christ. As Christians, we have to be careful not to speak Christian-ese to people we are trying to share our faith with. If you are presented with an opportunity to share your faith, tell them all the ways you love God and why before you open the Bible and begin to read. I think you will be pleased with the results.

God Bless

JFT

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We wept quietly.

The flames blew out the windows and doors of the ancient church I have worshipped in since I was a boy. The same church my father worshipped in since he was a boy, and the church he met my mother in. The weapon-wielding mob screamed and shouted in a crazed frenzy of sick happiness as they dance in front of our church, firing rifles and pistols into the air to celebrate their accomplishment for Allah.

When we saw what was happening, we didn’t dare go near the church or try to stop the vandals, there were hundreds of them and they were seeking blood. So we gathered across the street and watched. It didn’t take them long to spot us though, we were the only ones who showed sadness and distress, everyone else was partying at a fever pitch, so we stood out from the crowd.

At first there were about sixty or seventy of us gathered together, and we huddled together and began to pray quietly. Spectators from the apartment building above us were leaning out the window watching the mob destroy our church and set it on fire. They were the first ones to notice us below, and they quietly prepared to attack us from above. While our attention was focused across the street, they began dropping bricks on us from above mortally wounding several of us before we even knew what was happening. Like arrows from a coordinated team of archers the bricks were dropped on us as we prayed together, and we began to fall. As we ran and dragged our wounded and dead away, I counted seven of my brothers and sisters that were killed instantly, many others wounded with broken bones, concussions, abrasions, many unconscious.

A few days prior, a bomb was placed in a church in Alexandria and was detonated during services, killing many instantly and wounding the rest. The church building was destroyed additionally, and once the church is gone, the government takes it over. It will not be rebuilt.

We are Copt’s, also known as Coptic Christians (Arab Christians) in Egypt. We have been tolerated in Egypt by the government and allowed to continue meeting. Although we are discriminated against in all facets of our life by the Muslims, who would just as soon kill us as to look at us. Lately though, they are trying to purge us from Egypt. Copt’s have been allowed to practice their faith generation after generation in the same family, but we are forbidden to evangelize outside of our church. New converts are not allowed, especially converts from Islam. They will be labeled apostates, and a Fatwah (blood order) will be issued by the mullah’s. After that they will be hunted down and killed by anyone who wants to be involved. . The authorities will also turn a blind eye and no-one will be charged in the killing, as no-one will be charged for the burning of our church, or those who killed or maimed my spiritual siblings by throwing the bricks.

This is Cairo, and it is a powder keg now, a pressure cooker just waiting to explode, and when it does it will be us who will pay. A Holocaust is coming if things continue to progress as they are. We know our God is faithful, we know we will have a home with Him when we move on, but as humans, we fear pain and torture like anyone. Our plight is not unlike being a wounded antelope in a herd of hungry lions, waiting to be devoured.

Our hope is that we can be helped by our siblings in Christ from the west. We pray for deliverance, as did Daniel in the pit of lions. Surely our friends in America with all of their vast resources will come together and help us. In the end though, we just pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

God Bless-JFT

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

This story was written based on “facts” of the Copt’s persecution in Egypt. A Coptic Christian friend in Cairo has given me these facts, and the following video of the destruction of his church. The video was shot by one of the Muslim raiders, and shows what is “really” going on in Egypt, and that they are crying out to the USA for help. I ask you as your Christian brother to think about and pray for your fellow Christ followers throughout the world.

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Mothers Day, 2011.

My brother has a saying that I will edit slightly for your benefit. “If it weren’t for women, we would all still be living in caves (men) and throwing rocks at each other”.

My mother was born on July 26th, 1935 to a poor sharecropper family in rural Arkansas. She was in the fields picking cotton at the age of six. They didn’t have a car, that was for the rich folk, no they had a team of mules and a wagon they would hitch up to, and then they went to town or to church. They moved frequently, as they had to go where the work was. Her parents never owned a home; they stayed in the housing provided for sharecropper families.

She was born the youngest of five, with two sisters and two brothers. There were many times during the winter when they would have beans for lunch and dinner because that is all there was. Occasionally cornbread, but that was a luxury. She would get one pair of shoes per year, and was expected to make them last. She grew up through hard times, but she was a survivor and she never complained, she didn’t know any better so she didn’t feel deprived.

After her mother died of cancer when she was thirteen, her father decided to move her and the family to Arizona for a new start. The city was new and exciting for her, and there were many in her school classes. In her senior year of high school, she as swept off of her feet by a dashing young man who had just returned from the Korean War. They dated for a time until he proposed to her and she accepted. She agreed to marry him and she left school to do so.

They began a family with the birth of their first son a couple of years later, and followed shortly thereafter by another. Her husband was a railroad man, and they had to frequently move as he was assigned to new posts. Nine years after her second son was born came the third and final son, me.

They raised us up in an imperfect but loving home. Dad could be a stubborn and hard man at times, and mother would be the velvet to his iron. Mom always had a kind and loving word for you when the world was tough, and she would always know when you just needed a hug.

She was a housewife and stay at home mom who worked her fingers to the bone to make sure that we had all we needed. We never ate in the cafeteria when I was growing up, because we didn’t have the money for that. She would always make our lunch with care in the mornings before we left for school. She kissed my “owwies”, she sat by my bed when I was sick, and she listened to me when kids at school were mean. She always had a ten squirreled away when I was broke, and I saw the love of God “first” in her eyes. I first loved writing when reading her memoirs.

Everything she did would be laced with love, and God was worked into her actions and her interactions. She knew when to be soft, and she knew when to be tough. Even though my Father was a man you didn’t want to mess with, my mother was someone you “really” didn’t want to mess with. If you crossed the line with her, she would show you the meaning of tough love.

Imperfect yet wonderful, God fearing and righteous, gentle yet a scrapper when she needed to be, her life affected all those who were blessed enough to cross her path. A wife to her husband for forty-two years until her death at age fifty-nine in 1994. My father still wants to visit her grave once or twice a year and I will meet him there. Although she is long gone to be with God, and the grave is empty, it still comforts him to be there. We sit, talk about the good times back then and about how we miss her so much.

She has been gone for seventeen years now, but I still miss her fiercely. You enter a new phase in life when you no longer have a mother; there is a void that will remain empty. This mothers day, I pray that if you have a mother, you will take the time to let her know how much she means to you. I pray that if you have a disagreement, if you are estranged from your mother you will be a peacemaker and seek her out to bury the hatchet, even if you are in the right. Extend grace to her as grace has been extended to you and make every day from here on out mother’s day.

God Bless-JFT

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