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Archive for February, 2012

Trust in God, He will never let you down, ever! Love always, Tina. I smiled at the note as I placed it back in my fabric Scooby-Do lunchbox I carried in my briefcase and zipped it shut. Today was the day, they were going to make the announcement within minutes now, and I just had a feeling my ship would dock this time. It had been many years of hard work and waiting, and watching people like Stu pass me up, but sometimes God uses situations like that to stretch us, to grow us into who he wants us to be. Stu was a, well, there is just no other way to put it, Stu is a suck up. He would sit around the office with his feet up doing nothing, but he would jump to the bosses beacon call, he was quite the pet. We were all on to him, all of us except the boss that is, and a few of the pretty secretaries in our office. When it came time for promotions, I was passed over; Stu was selected for the job. Since then, Stu is making a hundred grand more, and he left his wife and kids for Steph in reception.

I smile and shake my head as I remember how angry I was when I hadn’t gotten the job, all I could see at the time was how a man I saw as inferior to myself was selected over myself. Stu had been divorced twice since he had divorced his wife, bringing the total to three. He wasn’t dating anyone these days, he had gained about 100Lbs and was now referred to as “beef Stu” behind his back, I actually felt sorry for him these days. There was a ruckus outside of my office, so I mentally prepared myself for the big moment. There was cheering and clapping, I quickly sat at my desk and straightened my tie in case someone had brought a camera, but no one entered. The longer I sat there, the laughing and cheering faded. I heard a chime indicating I had received an email as I looked down at my computer and the subject line read “organizational announcement”. I grabbed the mouse then stopped myself and quickly said a prayer, asking God one more time to please bless me with this job, then I clicked.

Without thinking I threw the small ceramic cup my son had made me for fathers day that said “worlds best dada” at the wall behind the door and it exploded. Then, I quickly masked control and grabbed my briefcase and strolled out the door with a huge fake smile on my face. I told the pool secretary I would not be returning today and kept walking as she fired off a flurry of questions that I ignored. I had to make it out of here before someone wanted to chat about the woman they hired from outside the company that had been in the email. I hopped into the elevator as my phone began to buzz and I ignored it, I was too busy cursing in four different languages to realize it was ringing. How could this happen, this was worse than when that idiot Stu had gotten the job. This time they passed me up to hire a total stranger.

I turned into the park and stopped at the small magazine kiosk that bordered the entrance. I bought a cheap cigar and lit up as I continued on, I hadn’t smoked a stogie in years, but I was just so upset, I think I deserved one if I wanted it. I walked around the lake as joggers and mothers pushing strollers walked and ran by, some gave me “looks” as I puffed away angrily, I knew Tina would be disappointed, right now I didn’t care. I found a park bench at the far end of the lake and sat down by myself as a breeze began to blow. What would my wife think, what kind of un-promote-able loser had she married, I could not seem to get past the place where I was, I had prayed to God until I was flippin’ blue in the face, trying to do things right, yet here I was.

I was distracted by the sound of heavy breathing as I looked up to see a jogger cooling down and looking at his watch, obviously checking his heart rate. Hey man, mind if I share that bench with you for a few, he asked? Uh, sure I said as I moved my briefcase to the side. He was a young guy, no more than 22, with tattoo sleeves. His arms were completely covered, every square millimeter from his shoulder to his wrist, both arms. He wore a beanie stocking cap over a thick mop of curly black hair, and had a weeks worth of beard stubble on his face. Thanks man, he said and he sat right down, then quickly remarked “not to be nosy, but dressed in a nice suit as you are, I would think you could afford a better cigar than that”. I began to respond, and found my tongue tied as I noticed a slight grin on this guys face, he was messing with me, he didn’t know me and he was messing with me. He had the strangest eyes, they were a lavender/purple hue, a color I have never seen before. I was about to tell him to mind his own business when he stuck his hand out and said pleased to meet you, names Jay. I hesitated a moment, and then I finally gave in and shook his hand and told him my name was Todd. Before long, I had begun to actually confide in him about the events of my day. He would just nod and listen, and so I continued and told him about my faith and how my family and I were Christians, and how we had built our lives around God. This young guy with the beautiful eyes and the many tattoos was a great listener, he would just sit, and listen, and wait.

So I finally cut to the chase, I didn’t really know what to think of God anymore. I had prayed fervently to God, asking Him to bless my labor that I may advance. I had worked long hours at the office sacrificing where others hadn’t, I had tried to set a good example for others, I didn’t cheat on my wife, I didn’t drink to excess, I deserved that job. Jay was nodding with emphasis at every point I made, doggone right you do, and you deserve more than that to boot, now I was nodding, I liked this guy.

He looked at me and asked “so when you pray, do you pray for like, a “BMW”, or maybe a boat or motorcycle, his face taking on a mischievous smile. What about a summer home in the mountains huh, you could pray for that. No, no  I said, that isn’t the kind of thing you pray for I said as Jay sat there with a quizzical look on his face listening to me. When you pray, you don’t pray for things that are luxury items like cars, boats, motorcycles and cabins, those are not needs, but rather wants. He looked at me seriously and said “what is different about that job you want, how is it different from praying for a BMW”? His face had taken on a whole new look, and I felt as though I had just been blindsided, “it is completely different Jay, you don’t know the situation so you shouldn’t be making judgments” I said. He just looked back at me and seemed a little older now, then he looked down and slowly shook his head. How much money do you make Todd, he asked? None of your business I said, as I stood up hotly!. He looked up and said one hundred seventeen thousand dollars, and change, that’s how much. My jaw sagged as he continued.

You have a nice house in a better neighborhood, Tina is a stay at home mom, you have a warm place to sleep, comfortable furniture. Did you know that once He started His ministry, the Son of Man never had a place of His own? You have cars, a house, furnishings, a great job, yet you are not satisfied, you want a better job, because you want to further glorify yourself, because no one appreciates you enough. Well, I say there is no difference between that and praying for a new car when you already have a great one, there is no difference. Who are you I asked really? Jay, I already told you, Jay See, actually those are just my initials though. J.C. my mind raced as he stood to leave, wait I asked and he turned and smiled kindly at me. Todd, just relax brother, just relax and realize that true rest lies in surrender. Realize that there is a larger plan at work, then He placed a hand on my shoulder and jogged past me. I turned to watch Him run but He was gone, there was no one there, the sidewalk was empty. I began to make my way back to work, tail between my legs. God Bless-JFT

 

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I looked into his eyes and saw my friend. 22 years of history played before my eyes as I remembered him as a junior chemist when I first came here, then after his boss retired a couple of decades ago he became the senior. We had first discovered that we had the same faith, and that had been a tie, one of many to come. He had a great love for the outdoors as did I, and we had yet another. Danny, or Dan was fond of hiking the Grand Canyon, and also Humphrey’s peak, the highest mountain in Arizona at 12,633 feet, we had both reached the summit several times. He would go on to do power hikes, rim to rim on the Grand Canyon in a day, starting at 8,000 ft in snow and dropping to under 1000 ft, temps near 90, then back to 7,500 feet in snow again before sunset, Dan is a mans man.

My favorite memory of course was in 1998 when we got a group together and went to the mountains outside Telluride Colorado to climb our first 14er’. We reached the summit of Wilson Peak somewhere around 14,250 and stood enjoying the rare air as a huge thunderstorm formed and grew below us. I guess the reason I am telling you all of this is I want you to know a few things, Dan is my friend, Dan is my brother and we have many fond memories together. But although our bond is strong, yesterday will not be one of those memories that we remember fondly. Dan was spilling his heart to me, you see his wife of 41 years, mother of their two boys, his best friend. She has lost her battle with brain cancer; Danny has brought her home from the hospital to die. The doctor has given her a few weeks at best.

I sat and listened to him tell how he is caring for Robbi (Roberta) with love, and how she is facing her short future bravely. Dan is just being a rock, he talks about how they have resolved that it is okay, she is just going to beat him to Heaven by a short time, then he looks down for a moment and says “man, I don’t know how people do this without God though”. I know what he is talking about, I wonder too.

Last week, I attended the funeral of another old friend from work who fought and lost his battle with cancer. Then just Wednesday, it was announced that another close friend at work has inoperable cancer and they will attempt to treat it with radiation.

I know God has a plan, and I know that this kind of thing just happens, but it has just been rather overwhelming lately. The class I am taking at school is “Foundations of Pastoral Care”, and it deals mostly with counseling people who are in crisis or trauma, and I have to tell you, I am really ill equipped to help anyone in that state.

After I left Dan the other day, I thought about our conversation. He told me that his wife has really for the most part lost the ability to converse, so she mostly just nods or says uh-huh. He said that sometimes, she will surprise everyone and throw out a perfectly formed sentence, and it is just like a gift from God, for a moment he forgets she is sick and thinks his Robbi is back. I couldn’t forget that as I drove home, I thought about all of those taken for granted conversations with loved ones we have where we will half tune the other out. I thought of my own wife, and how she will talk about how she has had to prepare for a board meeting and the things she has had to do. Or even if she were to talk about something like accounts receivable, which is something I could really care less about, but if the gift of speech were taken from her sweet lips because she were dying, it would tear my heart out not to hear about it.

I guess these past couple of weeks have caused me to think a lot. Besides the fact that I have had to work a ton and am overtired, the message of loss seems to be recurring. The good part of this all is that they have God, but besides that the lesson I got is that it is really easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of life. There is always a danger then that voices of those we love will be lost to the white noise that comes with a life in the fast lane. I hope as long as I live I am able to hear the voices of my wife and each and every one of my daughters, and that I will always take the time to listen to them and what it is that they are saying.

God Bless-JFT

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Recently we had a sermon in church that struck a chord with me, it hit me right in the heart because it touched on a subject that has long been a battle in the church, since the beginning of time I think. Our pastor simply compared two things, tradition against truth. Tradition has been a consistent wedge between God and us since the beginning of time and continues to be today, and as he outlined how tradition had affected him in his own early life and upbringing it brought memories of my early life to the forefront also.

He told how alcohol was never allowed in his home when he grew up, he was raised in a tight strict Kansas bible belt home and there was no doubt that its consumption was wrong and sinful. He was taught that the wine referenced in the bible was actually not wine as we would know it, but grape juice, because there is no way the son of God would defile himself with an alcoholic beverage. When he became a man and a pastor himself, he traveled to the holy lands for the first time to see the place where it all happened. It was then and there that it all became clear to him, there was no way those people were able to keep that wine cool enough from fermenting, that wine was “real” wine.

My home was the same, alcohol was not allowed in ever, we did not drink (at least not in front of family members). It was wrong, same as dancing, cursing, and even having instrumental music in the praise service. You see, there is “A” scripture, Eph. 3:16 that says “singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord”, and because it doesn’t mention anything about instruments we assumed they were not allowed. If you were to mention David and the harp, we would have told you “yeah, but that’s the Old Testament, the old law, we now live under the new law”. Every time there was a marriage class we were happy to use Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) as a platform for how a couple should love one another. And every time we wanted to teach a men’s class for say “potential deacons” they would use the book of proverbs because of its great wisdom. Married women would always use Proverbs 31 as a platform for teaching how a Christian wife should be. But anything that mattered and we would cherry pick our scriptures. I am saying we, because I was right there doing it too, complicit in the problem with everyone else, although I did always wonder, but not enough to buck the system.

So I wonder where these great traditions like “drinking is wrong and un-Christian” came from? Well, probably not too hard to figure out, the bible has 19 examples of people abusing alcohol, but with that there are 145 positive references to consuming alcohol in the bible.

There is some interesting scripture to read here,  Proverbs 31:6-7    6 Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

Now don’t get the wrong idea here folks, I am not trying to suggest we should all go out and start getting lit every night, especially if we are what could be considered in the poverty level, because of course the bible says it’s okay. I am merely saying we need to stop making manmade traditions and stamping them with Gods seal when that could not be farther from the truth. Ask yourself this question, how often do you take communion, and is it because you choose to do so or because it is a tradition. What day of the week is communion to be taken on, is there a day set aside, or is it tradition? These are all questions that I have asked myself, and I found that I was steeped in tradition myself, and I didn’t like it. Our pastor gave a pretty good self check though, he said it is simple, if it is in the bible, it is truth, if it isn’t, it is tradition.

God Bless-JFT

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We sat in our neighborhood group and listened to our sister in Christ convey her disappointment over an experience at church during the past couple of weeks. She has been teaching Sunday school for some time in the third grade I believe, and the person who arranges all of the teachers had called her aside and asked to speak with her. She asked our sister if she had ever become a member of the church before, to which my friend replied no. The lady then told her sadly that we have a policy that one needs to be a member of the church to teach classes, and asked her if she would place membership, my friend refused. She attended the church she went to before this one for ten years and wouldn’t place membership there, she wouldn’t do it now.

She recounted to us that there is nowhere in the Bible where membership in the church is required, that she is a follower of Christ and that’s good enough for her, she was plainly upset. What came to mind for me were several instances in the past that I have seen when a church does not go to the trouble of making sure its teachers and volunteers are on the same page. First off, let me tell you what we do, we have a simple class called “starting point” that is designed for everyone, new and mature Christians alike, or those who have not yet made the choice for Christ for that matter. In SP we go over Christianity, the plan of salvation, who Jesus was and why He came down and was sacrificed for us, what one must do to be saved. We go over what we believe and why we believe it, we provide childcare, and we feed everyone on top of it. It takes four hours on a Sunday afternoon, and it is very interesting, I went twice.

When you leave SP, there will be no confusion of what we believe, everything is spelled out very clearly, and at the end of starting point, you may turn in a membership card if you would like to become a member. There is no being baptized into our church, no proving your Christianity to the church leadership; it is merely about being on the same page. Is this important? I had some very good friends that attended for about two and a half years before going to SP, and they enjoyed the sermons, loved the music but did not get the deeper picture until they went to the class, then they kicked themselves for not going sooner.

Many people choose not to go deeper and that is okay, for we are not to judge but to love, and we embrace them and hope they will keep coming week after week until they develop a hunger to know the Lord. Membership is not required, it isn’t a social club but if you are going to teach or volunteer, that changes things. When I work in the parking lot directing traffic I wear a red “lifeguard” shirt and a name tag that identifies me as a parking lot guy. And when I work the prayer room I just wear a name tag, but to the visitor or even a regular attendee, I am a member of the staff and a code of conduct is expected, if I lose my cool and yell at a visitor who makes a wrong turn, it reflects badly on our church.

I have attended churches before where people have come in and been eager to help, and the leadership just puts them in without even getting to know them. One time a man who had been in the Mormon Church before came over to our church and began teaching the high school boys class, of which I was one. He then began teaching us his opinions rather than the bible, and there was a lot of Mormonism thrown in to it. Another example is when a woman attended our church and we were talking one time, and she stated “you know, I don’t think it really matters whether you pray to God, Buddha, Muhammad, they are all really the same aren’t they, if you are a good person that is what matters”.

It is “very” important what we say when we teach others, we are held to a higher standard when we teach.  James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. And the elders charged with leading that church are held to a higher standard still. No one has said it more than me that the church is not the building; the church is not the assembly, or even the gathering, but all of Christ’s followers throughout the world as one. But that distinction as Christ’s own should not be something we hide behind. The Apostle Paul in his many letters to the various churches were always addressed “to the church at Corinth, Ephesus, etc… He never addressed them as “you Christians over there”, he addressed them by their association, and that was their identity. I am sure that if a group of Christians had been traveling from Ephesus and bumped into a group of Christians from Corinth, that is how they would have identified themselves, they were members of the body.  Romans 12:4-5  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

I was disappointed at this situation, I think sometimes we big deal things at church that we shouldn’t. What would happen if she went to her gym and said that she wanted to pay her monthly fee, but she didn’t want the responsibility of being a member and getting a picture taken? Or what if she went to her cell-phone company and told them she didn’t like contracts, so she was going to call the shots and set the terms, I think they would both tell her to take a hike. In the end, I think we could all just learn to surrender a little bit more, don’t you think?

God Bless-JFT

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