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Archive for July, 2011

The young man sat at an outside table eating a burger with chips that were no doubt from our outside grill. One of the pastors named Sonny had been sitting with him for a while. Sonny was now gone, and the young man sat alone at the comfortable outside patio set beneath the trees. I sat alone, taking an iced tea break from working the parking lot while services were going on. It didn’t take rocket science to see that the man felt out of place as he sat alone eating his burger.

It is very humid today, but the breeze makes it nice, so I comment to him how nice it is outside to break the ice, and he agrees. We begin an easy conversation as I walk over and sit down across from him. His name is Joe, and he is from Kansas, although he has traveled around a lot. He has been on the road for a long time, and he is homeless. I learned the hard way a long time ago that homeless people do not like to be referred to as “homeless”, preferring to be referred to as “on the road”.

I ask him if he needs anything, or if he is being helped by the pastors, and he smiles, and says yes, but I doubt that they will be able to help me. Now this young man is very articulate, obviously educated and he speaks well. I ask him if there is anything I can help him with, and he sits quietly for a moment, obviously considering whether to open up. He has very clear light brown eyes, that are gentle and kind, and he looks to me, trying to decide whether to trust me, and then makes his decision.

I have a problem, and I don’t think the pastors can help me because the only way they could help me is for someone to follow me around for a while. He looks down, averting eye contact as he lays his hamburger down on his napkin. I sit quietly, waiting for him to continue, as he clears his throat and looks me in the eye. Well, you see, when I am walking around, traveling and such, a snake appears at my side and begins talking to me. Sometimes, it will be a rabbit, or a coyote, and they will just walk along next to me and talk my head off.

I don’t answer them, I try to pretend that they aren’t there, but after a while it gets numbing. You know it isn’t right, you know there shouldn’t be a snake walking along with you, talking to you, yet there he is. Or a rabbit, I know there shouldn’t be a rabbit, I know rabbits don’t talk, because they are just animals, yet a rabbit visits me regularly and wants to chat. He looks to me sincerely perplexed, searchingly hoping I have some answer for him, yet I realize quickly I am over my head.

I have met people who are insane before, but this man does not seem to fit into the same category with those I have met before. He understands the absurdity of what he has just spoken; yet he is still plagued. I ask him if drugs are a part of his life, and he says no, he did some years ago, but nothing hard. So then I ask the only other thing I can think of. How long have you been visited by these animals I ask. He says he began to be visited occasionally when he was a small boy, but the visits were far apart back then. As he grew older, they began to occur much more often. Now in his mid to late twenties, he has a virtual barnyard of talking animals that accompany him wherever he goes. He ignores them, but they talk-talk-talk, non-stop.

Joe then told me he was just very tired, tired of this. He thought that maybe if one of the pastors, or anyone for that matter could follow him, maybe they would see something he was doing wrong and tell him about it. He looks up at me with sincere hope as I look back at him, feeling more helpless than I have felt in a long time. Joe, I ask, what do the animals say to you? He looks me in the eyes again and says, they talk about God Jim, they talk about God.

Sonny returns as I sit staring at Joe, not knowing what to do, what I can possibly offer; yet wanting to help. Sonny tells Joe that he has a ride hooked up for him to get where he needs to go as Joe looks up and thanks Sonny for the lunch, and for going out of his way to help get him a ride. Sonny and the young man sit at the table waiting for Joe to finish eating, as Joe looks back up to me and says thanks for taking the time to talk to me Jim. I am speechless as I look back at him, nothing to offer, then it occurs to me. Joe, can I pray with you, that you may find your answers. Joe smiles and say’s “that would be great”.

I put my arm around his shoulders and we pray together, we pray that God will help him find the answers he seeks, that whatever message is waiting for Joe, God will guide him to it. I close the prayer, shake his hand, turn and walk away.  I know I can’t look back. I feel the lump growing in my throat already.

I know what to do if someone is hungry, you feed them, thirsty, give them a drink, if they need a roof, or clothing. I know that Jesus refers to them as “the least of these”, but what can you do here, what are the answers? There are none, sometimes kindness is all you have. I do have faith in God though to answer prayers, and the Bible tells us that we need to have faith that our prayers will be answered. So I am praying that somehow Joe will wind up getting the help and medication he needs to make the talking animals go away for good.

God Bless-JFT

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Last winter, when I had a health problem that made me sit up and take notice, I missed a bullet. I decided I was going to  begin eating healther and ramp up my mountain biking efforts as a means of exercise. Now here in the desert, during the summer, people just don’t go out in the midday, only those who are super conditioned athletes. I was not that guy, but I had a plan.

I thought things over and decided I wanted to be one of those few who do go out at midday in the summer, but it would not come without a lot of work. My riding partner  and I began to ride three to five times a week, depending on my work schedule. You see, we figured that if we stayed at it as the spring ended, and it began to get hot, we would become conditioned to it. Our stamina would rise, and we would be among the few who were out on those miserable summer days, and it would not bother us.

Mountain biking, which I never dreamed I would even remotely be interested in, has become something I really enjoy. Besides having to work really hard to do it, it is a very active mind sport too, as your mind is forever clicking away. You have to anticipate every move, every hill, every dip, every fast downhill, and every section through a cactus forest. There is no room for error, cactus is just not forgiving. One wreck in a cactus forest, and they will be pulling cactus out of you for the next ten tears (really!).

A couple of times, I was riding and I heard a plane overhead. Mister easily distracted here just had to do it, just for a moment, I looked up. In a split second I had left the trail and was quickly headed for a very long drop-off. Both times, I slammed on the brakes, mentally chastened myself “what were you thinking”? I have crashed very hard before, and it is not something I want to re-occur, the whole having to have rocks extracted from your back thing, so now I try to stay focused throughout the entire ride, no mind wandering.

Here is a sample. Okay, slightly uphill stretch, keep in mid gear. Steep part coming up, gear down, no slow pedaling on this one, hit it hard, power up this one. Okay, flat stretch, “very important”, go slow, minimum pedaling and catch your breath, take a drink, not too much. Okay, here we go up again, pour it on, don’t think, just pedal. Okay, on the top now, time for fun. My speed picks up and I am really ripping now, as I near 20 mph, screaming down this rock and cactus trail, I briefly consider what it would be like to wipe out here, in a cactus forest and it causes me to apply my brakes. My partner is no-where in sight, he rides full out with what I would consider reckless abandon. He is young, and has never crashed hard like I have, so he cuts loose every time. Last week he told me this, Jim, you are like a packhorse, you aren’t super fast, but you sure can go a long ways. I was happy with that, distance has always been more important to me than speed.

When you stop to think about it, what I have just told you is exactly what others do for success in their jobs. Much planning and much preparation go into someone building a career. If fact, when you really get down to it, everything in life that is worthwhile requires much planning and preparation. Think of the planning and preparation that a soldier goes through before he enters the battlefield. His brawn and muscles will not keep him alive, but his planning and preparation will.

We seek out books, manuals, courses, mentors, and sometimes (like me) the failures of the past as the compass that will give us the direction we seek, or need. Planning and preparation have proven to be a successful means of achieving what you seek, of keeping you alive and uninjured in the scary places in life. Yet, do we not still go out into “life” unprepared on a regular basis. Do we not have challenges to our faith that we fail often because we failed to plan and prepare for challenges that lie ahead.

How many executives would be sitting at the top of their industry if they had planned and prepared for their careers the way that many of us Christians plan to live out our faith and prepare to meet adversity. We dedicate ourselves to learning complex systems of engineering, learning electrical theory, reading volume after volume on business accounting or mechanical engineering, or how to be a better salesman. A tax accountant can quote tax code by memory that will make my eyes cross, as can many of us in our different fields of expertise. Yet……….

There is one book that holds “all” of the answers we need, do you spend time in it daily? That book that holds answers from how to deal with people honestly in the workplace, do we read it. That book, has everything in it from the engineering plans on how to build an Ark or a Temple, to what to tell your children when they become disrespectful. That book that has all of the answers on how to stop homelessness and hunger, do you read it.

When we go out into this sin and temptation laden world without the armor of God, we are in danger. The devil is out there, with all of his demons, and they lie in wait for us. If we have taken the time to have a plan, and to be prepared to meet him and his minions, then we will not be blindsided. But if we spend all of our time preparing and planning for our earthly careers, yet minimal time on preparing our souls to do battle when temptation does arise, we will become casualties of that dark loser who prowls the earth merely to trip us up. We will find ourselves hurtling downhill out of control, and into a cactus forest, from which recovery will be painful at best. “He who fails to plan, plans to fail” ~Winston Churchill.

Feast on the Words that God has left for us as a guide to live by, you won’t be sorry!

God Bless-JFT

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The hoopla and fanfare was all over now, it was now just a waiting game, and he was alone with his thoughts. He couldn’t lie, he was terrified as he was arrested and brought before Nero, who had publicly announced that he was the enemy of God. But he knew that it was all going to be fine, he knew the ending.

He thought back to the time when the Man he loved had been arrested. Prior to the arrest, The Master had foretold of Peter’s denial, and Peter had been offended, no way, there is just no way that will ever happen. Yet when that stupid rooster crowed, Peter realized what he had done. The hurt on Jesus face as those he had given so much to forsook him; it was almost more than he could bear.

Peter then realized he had begun to drool, and it had gotten in his eyes. He opened his eyes wider and looked around, there was blood pooling on the ground from the nails in his wrists, and he could see the legs of a few soldiers around, everyone else had gone.

He remembered the kindness the master had shown everyone, loving to a fault. Healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising the dead. He came bearing a message of salvation and grace, freedom from the old law, preaching a gospel of love. He had never hurt anyone, he had only loved, healed, and instructed, yet they killed Him. Not only killed, but humiliated Him first. He remembered the Savior hanging there on the cross, the Son of God, the Messiah. Sin and evil had ruled that day as the only perfect Man ever to walk the earth was nailed to the cross.

Peter hung there in anguish, remembering the suffering the Rabbi was made to endure, and the pain on his face. What made matters worse, Peter was always a hothead, and when Jesus had tried to explain that the prophesies needed to be fulfilled through His death, Peter has stood up proudly and said “never Lord, this shall never happen to you”. Peter was implying that Jesus would be crucified over his dead body, he would be Jesus’ defender. Jesus had then called Peter Satan, and said get behind me, clearly annoyed at Peters macho blustering. As Peter thought of this, Tears welled in to his eyes, and then rolled down his forehead into his hair.

He thought of his last huge failure, when they came to arrest Jesus, and he drew his sword and lopped off that soldier’s ear. Again, Peter saw the disappointment in Jesus as he turned and told him to sheath his sword. Then, in a way only Jesus had about him, He actually picked up the guards ear and placed it back where it had come from, He healed the guard. Even during His arrest, He had still found a way to do another miracle, He had healed the very one who was persecuting Him.

He reflected on the cross, the agony that Jesus went through, bearing not only His own weight, but also the burden of sin for all those who would choose to become His followers for thousands of years. He bore the burden of murder, adultery, hate, lust, cheating, lying and the list goes on. His perfect soul, cluttered with all that filth he was bearing for us. Jesus had known and understood, but Peter hadn’t. He remembered Jesus battered body hanging there, after he had committed His Spirit into His Fathers hands. What a horrible final mental picture in his mind. But, it didn’t end there, He rose from that tomb.

He spent time with His disciples after he had risen from the dead, they talked about a great many things. But Peter still carried the anguish of letting Jesus down so many times. Jesus had known about Peter’s anguish, and the pain it caused Peter from the guilt. But Jesus knew, and now so did Peter, that the anguish and guilt were needed to complete Peter into being the “Rock” that Jesus knew Peter was destined to be. The mental picture Peter had of Jesus that meant the most was of that time Jesus had prepared breakfast for them on the beach, after he had returned from the dead. He cooked them a meal of fresh fish over a fire, and then talked quietly to Peter.  “do you love me” he had asked, when Peter said yes, Jesus responded “then feed my lambs”. . Jesus asked Peter two more times the same question, and Peter answered the same, to which Jesus responded “then feed and take care of my sheep”, a reference to Peters future ministry. He then foretold Peter that he would face the cross also, and that his death would glorify God.

He knew the end was nearing, the pain was terrible at first, but he was becoming numb now. He could hear the soldiers laughing and making jokes as he and the others hung on the crosses up on this hill, how could anyone be jovial while surrounded by such suffering and death. Anyway, it now all made sense, when He had asked Peter three times “do you love me”, it had at first hurt Peter’s feelings, but now he understood. Jesus was letting Peter know that He knew how much Peter loved Him. Peter affirmed his love for Jesus three times, Jesus was telling Peter it was okay to forgive himself for denying his Master three times, He was telling Peter to cut himself some slack, he was forgiven. The love on His face that day on the beach is how Peter would forever remember Jesus.  More than sixty years had passed since that day.

When Peter was led to the top of the hill, before the soldiers began their grim work, they asked if Peter had any last requests. Peter then said “I do”, I would like you to crucify me upside down. The soldier’s jaws dropped, and they asked why anyone would wish for that. “Because I am unworthy to die in the same manner of my Lord”. They looked at one another, then said “whatever” and began their work.

As his vision began to blur at the edges, he realized there was no more pain, looking to the right, the left, he realized the blood puddles were large now, he was bleeding out. No longer distracted by the pain, he began to wonder how it would happen, would he go to Heaven immediately, would he have to face judgment first, would he be met and guided for the final leg of the journey, he didn’t know. For a moment, his vision cleared, and he noticed a pair of feet in sandals standing before his face. He strained to look up, it was so hard at this point, but he did, and then he knew. It was Him, He had come, Jesus stood before him, tears streaming down his cheeks. In the blink of an eye, they were embracing one another as they both cried. It was then that Peter realized it was finished, the cross was gone, and Jesus smiled and said, “well done Peter, well done”.

God Bless-JFT

This Story is fiction, but is based on facts.

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Seeing a Christian counselor so early in the marriage was scary at best, after all, the last thing I did in my last marriage before it ended was go see a Christian counselor, but that didn’t help. But this new marriage was not the same, and I wasn’t going to let this woman go without a fight. The gentle counselor talked to us about letting independence go, and bonding as one and his words helped us immensely. We saw him for six months, then things were much better. About a year later we went back for a short time again to learn to deal with some other issues and again it helped. God wanted us together, of that there was no doubt.

We went to her church, I didn’t like it, but I went. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I didn’t like her pastor much, but I went anyway. I always wanted to debate scripture with him, I thought I knew it better than he did. I really had the love of the Lord in my heart huh? As time went on though, The Lord said “it’s time”, and He started working on my heart. I began to see things differently, I began to soften up and thank God for the gift of Grace that His Son offers us through His Blood. I began to start to “get it”. I didn’t judge her pastor as harshly, and I realized that he was a man who lived more on faith than scripture, something I never considered.

Four years into our marriage, we moved, and it was a great thing for the whole family. We felt lost because our old church was forty miles away now, so we had to find a new church, so we began our search. God led us to this amazing place. Now I never wanted to go to a big church, I liked a nice three to four hundred person church, just the kind of place where you can know everybody, get involved in a clique you know. This place was huge, there were over ten thousand, how could I ever become comfortable in a church of that size, but my brother went there, and he invited us.

Fifteen minutes into the service, my wife and I knew that this was where we were supposed to be. It was not her church, it was not my church, but it was Christ’s church. Our hearts both began to change from that moment on, and we began to see things from a different perspective. We began to truly build our marriage around our growing love and new understanding of the Lord. As a man who had gone to church all of his life, I was seeing the scriptures differently than I had before, I was seeing the Love woven in the words written in red. I was seeing God as not a harsh ruler who can’t wait to punish those who have defied his commandments, but a loving Father who cries every time one of His beloved chooses the path of destruction.

A few years ago. I had a niece with a problem with her jaw. Her jaw was out of alignment and was causing her many problems. The doctors found a solution, her jaw needed to be broken from its current position, and re-set into the new and proper position. She had the surgery, her face was horribly swollen, and she was in terrible pain, and it broke all of our hearts to see someone we knew and loved suffer such pain. But then she healed, and her jaw was right then, and the problems were gone. If you asked her today, she would tell you that the pain and suffering she endured were well worth the outcome.

My life, as God has realigned and rebuilt it has been the most wonderful thing. I know He placed my wonderful wife and I together, I know he placed me at a fellowship where I was meant to grow, even at this point in my life. And I know that He wants me to rejoice in a life of service and dedication to Him. He has placed me with young men to mentor, and older wise men that He chose as mentors to me. Had I not walked through the pain and misery I did, I would have never learned to truly be grateful, I would have never learned to be humble, I would have never had the super-dependant relationship that I have with my Lord that I have today. Without Him, I am nothing.

Today, two of our girls are grown and off making their mark on the world, and two are in the last two years of high school. We will be empty nesters in less than two years. That will be hard, but God will see us through it as he has through every other challenge we have faced.

So if you are in the midst of a storm, you feel as though you are forsaken, and you feel you have no where to turn, I hope you will take comfort in knowing God loves you, and He may be merely changing your course for you, putting you somewhere that He knows you belong.

God Bless-JFT

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The view from the bottom is completely different than anything I have ever experienced before. When you have been surrounded by the gray cloud that has enveloped you for so long now, and the life that you knew and even loved is gone, it is quite an adjustment.

When you are at rock bottom, and you rise by just an inch from the bottom, you will find joy in the strangest things. When life has been really bad, you will find yourself feeling happy because someone smiled at you in the grocery store. Your mood can even be buoyed by a beautiful sunrise. It would console me to put Ivy, my little one on my chest and rock her to sleep, and for her to still be there on my chest in the morning when the sun rose.

I made a lot of mistakes in the first couple years of my new and different life, but every step I took was a fraction of an inch higher from the bottom, but my heart was not yet changed toward God. I went to church regularly, but there was just still a huge separation from God, I still felt forsaken.

As my girls and I went through the seasons of our lives, the years began to build. After a couple of years, when I would look over my shoulder at the past, I could not even recognize the man that I once was. He looked the same, perhaps younger and more naïve, but the face that stared back from the mirror at me was a more seasoned face, one who had seen things, one who knew that everything can blow up in your face when you least expect it.

As the years since my old life began to build up, without realizing it, I began to engage in reckless behavior. I began to push the envelope in many ways, engaging in activities that are meant to get your adrenaline flowing. God was not visible in my witness yet, my example was not laced with the Holy Spirit, It was laced with Jim. When I didn’t have my girls, I lived a life on the edge. Besides trying to check off a bucket list before the term was even born, I would confront dangerous situations with excitement. I wouldn’t say I had a death wish, but I acted like I didn’t have anything to lose either. I was so wrong.

God knows everything there is to know about us a thousand years before we are conceived. When Jesus walked the earth, God knew I would be born, and he knew the challenges I would face. That just sends shivers up my spine. God knew I had a purpose long before I did, when I walked through the valley of self-pity and cried “why me God”, He didn’t get angry. When I ran into dangerous situations because I embraced my recklessness, He put a bubble of protection around me, He had a plan. And somehow, I fit into that plan, I was being protected and groomed for Kingdom work that lie ahead, work that I had no idea of.

Then I asked out this pretty little gal who was different than anyone I had ever met. She was a new Christian, and had been divorced at the same time I had. Single a couple of years, like me. I tried to take her somewhere impressive for dinner, and then afterward for a walk in a pretty area. I thought I would be smooth and try to hold her hand, she yanked away and gave me a look. Wow, who was this woman with scruples that wouldn’t even hold my hand on the first date, I wanted to know more. We dated for a couple of years, she was a single mom of one daughter. She was independent and a warrior woman at heart, with a great sense of humility built in too. She was a controller in her company, ran all the finances and a small staff. Yet, when the company lost its janitor to another job, she stepped in and said “I will do it”. It paid a few hundred a month extra, just what she needed to send her young daughter to Christian preschool. She would run the company’s finances all day, then brush the toilets and empty the trash, clean the break room in the evenings. What a hard working woman of humility. Her co-workers nicknamed her “Shasta” the Dutch cleaning woman, and they would all laugh, her included.

As a legalistic guy who had been trained to remember scripture my entire life, I tried to explain to her my much more legalistic views. She didn’t know the Bible like I did, but she had something about her that I didn’t have, a simple Faith. I thought she needed to know things the way I had, after all, my faith had really carried me through the hard times, right (gimme a break). But she had a simple faith in God, and Jesus the Savior, and that was all she needed, she knew her Savior.

We were married in January of 2001, and off toward our new blended family life we went. A few things we forgot to discuss first though. We never discussed where we would attend church, I liked my church, and assumed that is where we would go, and she thought the same-strike one. We didn’t discuss the finances, I assumed we would have a separate account with a little personal spending money, she assumed the “what’s mine is yours, we’re married now, one account approach”-strike two. And there were certain issues with the family blending that we did not even think of, Strike –three. Also, four and a half years of being single for both of us had made us very independent people, sure we loved one another, but I was my own man, she was her own woman, strike four, wait, there is no strike four, the batter was out at three right. Now you see what we faced, second marriages have the cards stacked against them in the first place, and then we had all of this. Six months into the marriage, we met with the Christian counselor for the first time.

God Bless-JFT

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I had the tiger by the tail as they say. Young, yet some money in my pocket, yet old enough to where the younger folks respected me a bit. And I was a thinker, I would sit and solve the world’s problems every evening, sometimes well into the night as my brain would crank away. A snappy dresser and a networker, wasn’t it Billy Crystal who said, “It’s not how you feel, its how you look”. Had the church thing going on though too, involved here and there, taught a class on young marrieds, worked with the teens. Life is good.

I reflect on that for a moment, as I leaned my elbows on the couch late last night, kneeling in my favorite place. I reflected on that time when I was younger and had it all figured out. My little fast firing mind came up with a rather good idea in the early nineties, and I worked it out in my head. I located a couple of wealthy investors who agreed it was a good idea, and I was off and running. I was now a fully funded entrepreneur. I worked at it as hard as I could, giving it everything I had. Of course, as they say “I still kept my day job”.

The firm had promise, and I was heading in the direction I wanted to go as time progressed, but as to be expected, there were quirks and issues that needed to be ironed out. I had done the math many times over; I was on track to have my business accounts secure with solid residual profit margins within eighteen months. The plan was to sell my company shortly after my thirty-fifth birthday. Based on a business profit amortization scale, the annual profit would be near two million, which amortized over ten years would mean the selling price would be in the tens of millions. I would chuckle under my breath and tell them they could have a twenty five percent discount if they signed today and let them have it for fifteen million, I mean “hey, I am not out to gouge anyone right”? I was well on track to realize that goal, but then life stepped in.

Leaning hard on my elbows, head in my hands, I shudder to think of that time, and the state of my heart. I didn’t want much at that young age of thirty-thirty two, when I was working that business plan. No, I didn’t want much, just total financial freedom, college money for the kids, plus a Porsche 911, Rolex, and the rest of the big boy’s toys. The big house, the mountain retreat, it wasn’t like I was looking to live high and mighty, I just wanted a few million dollars worth of possessions for my family and I, that’s all. I was working my tail off trying to get there, and making progress, but then something I hadn’t seen coming at all happened, something that snuck in while my back was turned and blindsided me with a sucker punch. When I awoke on the floor, I found my marriage had left me, and my life changed overnight.

Shell-shocked and wounded, hurt beyond even the possibility of describing the pain in words or type, I stumbled around with no plan for the first time in my life. I found that without a spouse, I didn’t care to continue to chase the dream, so I let it all go and recoiled into a corner to lick my wounds. I was a broken man who knew God was there, but had never taken the time to get to know Him intimately when times were good, so I certainly didn’t know how to know him that way now. I drank, I was angry, I would spend days crying that would not end, so I would soak the pain in whatever was on sale. Looking into the tunnel of my life at that time, there was no light visible anywhere on the horizon, only a black hole that I was walking into. You know, they say in space a black hole will suck anything that gets too close to it in, planets even, and they disappear forever to places unknown. The black hole I was staring down was such a hole, and I knew if I didn’t get away quick, It would pull me in forever.

January 14th, 1997, it was a Tuesday evening, I could even be more specific and tell you the exact time, but it doesn’t matter. That is the time when I was closest to the vortex of the black hole, other people refer to times like that in their life as when they hit rock bottom. That is the day I bottomed out. When you are at rock bottom, the good thing is that there are only two places you can go, back up, or check out through suicide. The shallow faith I had at the time was enough to keep me from taking that course of action, so I chose up. The man I had been before was no longer, he was a casualty of his lifestyle.

I used to lament those days, reflecting on the great pain of going through the loss of the marriage. But as I sat there on my knees, elbows on the couch, a great sense of thankfulness fills my soul, happiness like I didn’t know back then, and I began to thank God for something I had never considered thanking Him for in the past. I thanked Him for the pain and suffering that I was allowed to go through, I thanked Him for allowing me to be broken so completely and painfully, yet giving me the strength to pull away from the black hole before it claimed me permanently. I thanked him for teaching me the joy and pleasure that comes with learning to live a life based on gratefulness rather than entitlement. I thanked Him for allowing that old man to die and a new one to be born and take his place.

Every so often, that old man will show himself when I see a nice watch in the jewelry store, or when I see a beautiful mountain lodge. But he doesn’t stay, he is not invited in, he is not welcome so he turns and leaves. Like Job, God has seen fit to bless me far beyond my needs, and I am grateful to Him for that. As I begin praying again, I thank God for loving me enough to break me, and for being patient with me as I began to look for the path to His throne. I thank Him for loving me enough to cover my sins with the royal blood of His Son.

God knows what plans he has in store for us, far better than we do. If you begin to find yourself heading into a black hole of despair, know that it is just God changing the course you are on to place you on the one you should be on. Like any Father, our Heavenly Father aches when we are in pain also, He loves you enough to do that though. All of you believers out there who have been through this know what I am talking about, being broken. Have you ever thanked Him for it? God Bless-JFT

This Story is True- It is mine

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The beautiful collection of pots sat in the finally cool fire kiln, they had been built beautiful by the potter, and then solidified by their extended time in the fire, they were ready to market now, as the potter called his apprentice over to the kiln.

 Boy, take those pots over to where the last batch is stored. Take care not to damage them now, because if their perfection is marred, they will never be the same. The young man began to take the large ewers, which were designed for holding water or wine over to the area of the shop where he was told to take them. While the master was watching, he carried them one by one, but when the master became occupied with a project on the other side of the shop, the young man began to carry them two at a time. Work smart, isn’t that what his father had told him?

 Rounding a corner with two of the ewers, he was startled by a large rat that ran between his feet, causing him to stumble, He lost his grip on one of the ewers, and it hit the floor on its side. It didn’t shatter as he thought it would, but it did show a small crack, hairline at best going up the side. He had messed up and the master would be angry with him he knew, but he knew he must fess up and let the boss know.

 After he had moved all of the ewers, he quietly knocked on the potter’s office door, near the end of the day. The master said, “Come in” and the young man entered. The master knew right away something was wrong, yet he looked at his young protgé’ and said “what is it son”?

 The young apprentice opened up and told the master the complete and whole truth, how things had happened, etc. To his surprise, the potter said “don’t worry about it, I actually think I know a place it will come in handy. He told the young man to grab the ewer and meet him outside, so the boy did. The master looked up towards the roof, then down at the ground, then around at the landscape. He pointed at the ground and said, “put it right here boy”, and the young man complied.

 As they closed up for the night, the young man was puzzled at why the master wasn’t angry, but he decided to take grace where he could get it, and put it out of his mind. The following weeks were busy, and the boy worked hard, taking care not to make the same mistake again. As the man neared completion of his apprenticeship, and neared his new title of junior master, he still wondered about the fractured pot, and why the master had been so forgiving.

 Master, tell me why you were understanding of the cracked ewer and didn’t punish me. You are a hard man, working hard and expecting much of me, yet that day you were kind to a fault and didn’t seem to mind. Why weren’t you angrier with me?

 The master gave just the slightest smile, and said come with me boy. They went into an upper room with windows that were open and a cool breeze came through. This room is where they ate their meals, and there was the ewer that they stored their drinking water in. Son, look over that ewer and tell me what you find. “Well, the ewer is full the young man said, there are no damp spots or blemishes on this one, I would say it is one of your finer pieces sir. The old potter smiled slightly again, then said come with me boy, and they went outside. They rounded the corner of the building and walked behind it to a place he had seldom been, except to place the ewer that he cracked months before. The scene was vastly different this time though, the entire area was changed. Green grass covered the whole area, and as the land sloped down, he noticed that the potter had planted some crops. There was corn, peas, and an array of other vegetables in the small area. “Look at that pot boy and tell me what you see” the old man said. The young man immediately saw the crack he had caused, because it was all wet. On closer inspection he found two other cracks he had not seen before that were wet also. He looked inside the ewer and it was only one third full. He told the master that the ewer was pretty useless, it was only a third full, and had more cracks than he originally thought. Once again he began to feel bad.

 The master asked him what was different from the first pot to the second, to which the boy said , the first one holds water to a fault, and this one leaks. The master smiled again and said “think about it like this”. The broken pot sits under the roof, the rain fills it to overflowing from the roof runoff. The pot is then replenished, and begins to slowly leak out its contents over time. It slowly feeds the grass you see, and even dampens the ground that supplies the vegetables with water. When it is dry, the broken pot still slowly feeds water to those things that need it. In contrast, the perfect pot with no blemishes is concerned only with itself. It contains water that could be life giving to many around it, yet it gives nothing up on its own. Its beauty and perfection causes it to hold in everything, giving up nothing that it is not forced to do.

 The boy said “but sir, that is where we get all of our drinking water from”. The old man said yes, but did it ever give you anything freely on it’s own. No, the boy said, I never thought of it that way, but you are right.

 The master said “the broken pot has found it’s place, it wasn’t’ useless like you thought, in fact, it will serve many things for long to come. Perfection comes at a high price sometimes son, as the older man placed an arm around the shoulder of his young apprentice. Come on; let’s go get some dinner.

 Many times as Christians it isn’t until we have been broken painfully, left feeling ugly and unwanted that we finally see God has a purpose for us. God Bless-JFT

This story is fiction

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