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Archive for March, 2012

I would lie in bed and my mind would spin like a movie reel, ideas for inventions that I imagined had never before been thought of. I would think of ways to implement them and become a successful entrepreneur and leave my mark on the world. My spinning mind would take me to the tallest mountains in the world, as I would imagine what it would be like to set foot on the top of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. I would imagine exploring new frontiers that had never been touched, crossing the ice to the north-pole, or diving to great depths in the ocean. I was a dreamer, or rather I should say I “am” a dreamer, although my mind no longer spins to the point that I cannot sleep anymore. Now I just think fondly of these things and move on.

When I was a younger man, actually from the time I was a teenager I used to have this feeling in my heart that I was meant to do something “great” in my life. It was never one of those things where I thought I was destined for fame or fortune, but rather something quietly. As I grew into a man in my late twenties and early thirties, the feeling only grew stronger, and so I began to channel it into occupational goals. I opened my own company, found willing investors and made a go of it with only my head and my heart as a compass to lead me by; sadly I didn’t spend a whole lot of time seeking God’s direction. I did that for a couple of years and things looked promising until my marriage fell apart before my eyes and my zeal for success died. I gave up my business and focused on my day job and licking my wounds as the course of my life changed drastically.

As the clock of my life ticked away and the crow’s feet began to appear, I became aware that my time for this task of achieving something great in my lifetime was getting shorter. Another business venture, a new novel idea, or perhaps a more personal great new task? I began to wonder if this was just a preprogrammed thing that God places in all of our hearts meant to motivate us through the years of our life. Or was it something I had yet to discover?    One thing I did realize over the years is that I seemed to have a problem finishing things I had started, and I had problems with consistency, how would I ever achieve if I didn’t finish what I set out to accomplish in the first place? I would later be told I was ADD, and it clicked that maybe that had something to do with why I had been given Ritalin for years as a child. They had called me hyperactive when I was little, but they had changed the name and given it a new acronym since then, and that would explain a lot. I don’t feel this is a disease or a handicap, I just think sometimes people’s minds are overactive, and I know mine is.

Since I was little, I have always sought the approval of others, my father and mother first and foremost, and have always feared letting them down. When I left the church I was raised in and went elsewhere, I was so afraid of what my father would think that I would always find a way to dance (lie) around the subject. I had moved to another side of town and assured him I was plugged in to the congregation in that area, when I was really attending another place that I knew he would not approve of. I would eventually be led to a different church as we moved once more (where we go now) and God began to speak to my heart, telling me that there was no reason for me to feel bad because I was not following in my earthly father’s steps. He began to place it on my heart that I should be more concerned with what my heavenly Father thinks than my earthly one, that it is better to serve Him where “He” needs me than to be stagnant in my faith to please someone else. He placed it on my heart that His church is not the building you meet at but rather the group you belong to, the group that calls themselves followers of Christ.

I no longer shy away from talking to my father or step mother about where I attend or why, but I am open about things, the way I believe God wants me to be. About the time I had all but given up ever achieving that “one” great thing in my life that I would lie in bed and just “know” I was destined for when I was a teenager, it became clear. I finally knew what it was, and it truly is something great that I now aspire to, but it is something far different than I ever thought it would be and this whole wonderful/painful life has all been preparation for getting it done.

Looking back at the ideas I once had of greatness, the tangible goals of success I had, they seem so shallow compared to the great achievement I now aspire to, Mount Everest is small potatoes when compared to what God has in store for me. And it is not just one thing either, but several things.

1. The 1st great thing for me to do is to die to myself daily and know who my master is. To rise each day with the goal that I will first seek to serve and glorify God in everything I do, and trust him to take care of the rest.

2. The 2nd great thing is that I want to be the best husband, friend, and brother in Christ to my dear wife Stacia that I can possibly be. To be a helpmate to her and to treat her holy and sacred always as does Christ with His church.

3. The 3rd great thing is to be a loving father to my girls and to model Christ before them, to be dependable and consistent with them, and for them to never have to wonder whether or not they are loved, but to be secure in that always.

 4. The 4th great thing is for me to drive a stake through the heart of my pride, which is no small task. I have found that God is more than willing to help me with that when I need it, but after the pride is removed, the hole it leaves behind should be filled with humility, mercy and love. To trust God always and to not fear where He leads me, wherever that may be.

5. Lastly, to set aside any worldly ambitions and devote my life to sowing the seed, to fulfilling The Great Commission, hey wait, did you notice that? Not the commission, but the GREAT commission, spending the rest of my life in service to Him.

That great thing I was destined for wasn’t something I was supposed to achieve for myself, but rather to tell others about the greatness of having a Savior, leading others to the God who sacrificed His firstborn and only Son because He loves us. And God has been whispering that into my ears since I was a small boy, it just took me a long time to figure it out. How blessed I am!!!  God Bless-JFT

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God loves anguish! I have come to this conclusion and it has troubled me wondering why God would create us in the way that He did, and then want us to be in anguish rather than happiness. We are often compared in our relationship with God to the relationship we have with our children, He is our father, and we are His children. Having four girls of my own, I know that there is nothing much that hurts me more than to see the wife or girls I love heartbroken and anguished, it tears my heart out. So why the disconnect, a parallel in most every way to father/child relationship except in anguish. Perhaps I should explain why I know God likes it when we are in anguish.

It all began in the garden as I see it, God built us and wanted us to be happy, he breathed the first breath to fill Adam’s lungs by blowing through the soon to be man’s nostrils. He set up a wonderful home for man, and then he created woman. He wanted to have a personal relationship with them, he could have made them predisposed to worshipping and adoring God mindlessly, but God didn’t want that, He wanted to be loved, but out of choice. So God granted them the gift of free will, he left it up to them as to whether they would choose to follow Him. Without a temptation what good is free will, there had to be an alternative to God for them to have a choice to make, so he created the serpent, and the rest is history. They were in fact tempted, and they chose disobedience over obedience, and God became heartbroken.

Our world has been at struggle since the day Adam and Eve ate that apple looking to be like God himself, believing the lies of a snake over the promises of a creator. And that process has continued on and only spun farther and farther away from Him up until today, If only we would lean on Him, worship and love Him, and make an effort to know Him, but our world doesn’t promote that.

We read books on the how to take control of our career path, how to succeed, how to make more money than we need and pull eighteen hour days trying to be all things to all people, except Him. We push our bodies and our schedules much farther than we were ever designed to go, never missing a soccer game after a twelve hour work day, and when it gets to be too much, and the stress begins to wear us down, we go to the doctor and get a medication that will help us cope better. When people ask us what is important to us, we give all the right answers, God, marriage, children, friends, etc. But if we were judged solely on our actions, what would our actions show?

Anguish comes when people reach the end of their rope, when they stand over the coffin of a loved one wishing they had one more conversation with that person, but knowing that the relationship had taken a back seat to the white noise of a busy life. Anguish comes when we as spouses do not take care to nourish one another in the many ways we need to because our schedules somehow become more important than nurturing the heart and soul of those we have pledged to have and to hold for the rest of our lives, and we find ourselves alone. Anguish comes when we realize we have no-where else to go, no one else to turn to but God, and so we do. We find ourselves on the ground beating our chests in anguish crying out to God to save us. And He smiles…..

He loves us and wants us to just love him back, but many times we don’t do that until we have lost everything we know and love, everything we have come to depend on. Every entitlement we have come to expect, when it all comes crashing down and we have no-where else to turn to, then we turn to him, and He smiles. He doesn’t smile at our pain, at our sense of loss, he smiles because He is the father of a prodigal son who has returned home, broken and wasted and begging to be taken back. But here is the great thing, when he takes us back, He doesn’t do so in the same manner that we do when a friend has wronged us and asks for forgiveness, we hold silent grudges, He doesn’t. All is forgotten and he gently begins with washing our feet, and then He washes the rest of us too, and when He is done, we are as white as snow, our sins not only forgiven, but forgotten as well.

Yes, God loves anguish, because it is the beginning of a new friendship to Him, the beginning of a new life where we realize that without Him, we are nothing. He stands at the end of the road with a purple robe of royalty, a handful of golden rings and calls over his shoulder for His servants to kill the fatted calf, His child that was lost has now been found. God Bless-JFT

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I was ushered into an ornate waiting room adorned with huge portraits of men wearing turbans. A heavily armed guard stood by me with a look of pure hatred on his face, I knew he would much rather have killed me than to look at me, but he was under orders. After an uncomfortable 30 minute wait he grabbed my arm and roughly pushed me toward the huge wooden door carved ornately with middle-eastern scenes. The door opened and two finely suited men the size of gorillas stood aside and motioned for me to enter, so I did.

There he sat behind his massive desk, his hands folded confidently before him. He didn’t bother to greet or welcome me but pointed to a wooden chair before his desk and said “sit”, refusing to make eye contact as he did so. When he finally did look at me, it was the same look you would have if you poured a bowl of cereal and noticed a cockroach as you were about to pour the milk, a look of disgust. The man is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran.

My aides tell me that you have been causing dissention among the people of my country. They tell me that you are speaking with authority, foretelling my downfall as the leader of this country, is this true? I looked at him solemnly and said “yes, I have told the truth that you will fall as will your government and all who support it”. He slammed his fist down on the desk and jumped to his feet. Do you know who I am, do you know that I could clap my hands and have your head on a platter in less than 60 seconds? He gained his calm again and then asked if the Americans had put me up to it, if I was a spy for them or the Zionists? No I answered, I represent only the Lord God, and I have a message to deliver to you from Him. He began to laugh, are you serious, you must be joking. You represent the god of the infidels and are willing to lay your life down for no reason other than that? Fine, what does your god of the infidels want you to tell me then, I might as well hear it, I am sure they will be your final words then, so go ahead.

I cleared my throat and stood, the Lord placed it on my heart to inform you that your regime will not last another week. He has heard the cry of His faithful in your land, the faithful that you punish, imprison, torture and kill for their faithfulness to Him. He has heard the cry of Israel whom you promise to destroy, He knows your plans to make a weapon capable of their destruction, and He wants you to know that He will never allow that to happen. The children of Israel will crush you because He has given them dominion over you, your very life will be taken by the Jews you despise and hate, and that all the world will know that God has protected them from you, you will not win. Your very bones will be picked clean by the crows and you will be forgotten as though you never existed. The Lord has had enough of your forcing your people to worship false Gods or face death. This land was once populated with people devoted to His service and you have filled it with minarets and idol worship.

The dictator began to look anxious and nervous as I continued, the Lord wants you to know this in advance, so that when all of this unfolds just as I have said, you will know it was foretold. You will run and hide in caves like an animal, but you will not get away, your reign is over. You may certainly kill me for this news, if that is what God wills, but your future is set. I then stepped around the chair as the dictator said “wait, just a moment”. Is it true that you met with Saddam Hussein? Yes, I answered, right before his empire fell, and I also met with Bin Laden a week before his demise, and when I leave here I will be going to speak to your ally in Venezuela. He will die a painful death of cancer because he too hurts God’s people, and they have cried out. 

Mahmoud’s face reflected fear now, as I turned and walked through the door unhindered. His guards looked to him for orders, but the confidence that was on his face when I entered was replaced by fear and he told them to let me go. I left the presidential compound without incident and headed for the Imam Khomeini International Airport, with not a little fear and trepidation flooding my soul. As the plane left Iranian airspace I began to feel slightly more relaxed, but still wondering why God had chosen me to deliver this dangerous message to the tyrants of the world.

Of course the above is fiction, but it too is based on fact. This has really happened in the same way I just described, but to different people. In 1st and 2nd Kings, the various kings documented there were regional tyrants in their own right. After each king would be killed, the scriptures would state whether they were good or evil in the eyes of the Lord, and unfortunately most of them did evil. Those who were good in the eyes of the Lord with one exception always tore down the altars and idols of false gods, it seemed to be a large part of whether they were judged good or evil. The prophets Elijah and Elisha on several occasions were summoned under similar circumstances to those above and asked to prophesy for the evil kings of the world. They would foretell the death and destruction that the kings were headed toward; always knowing that doing so would probably lead to their death. But it did not, God protected them through it all, and their prophecies were fulfilled.

Elijah was such a man of God; he had a direct line of communication with the Lord. He was protected time and again as he went into danger, yet he still had fears and doubts. 1kings 19:10  And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”  Even though he had been tried and tested, had seen the power of the Lord displayed over and over again, he still feared for his life. In 1 Kings 19:18 the Lord tells him he is “not” the only one left,  Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Elijah was truly a man of God, so much so that God just lifted him up into the heavens when his time was up, he never died but just ascended into heaven. It makes me feel good to know that an amazing man of God such as he still faced fears like the rest of us do, that despite being so close to God he still became discouraged. That being so close to God he still had doubts and questions, and still needed a pep talk from God once in a while, even he wasn’t perfect. God Bless-JFT

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I haven’t been scared in a long time, but I was scared. He was coming out of anesthesia, after just having a triple bypass, and he is 80. He would briefly open his eyes but look straight up, unable to focus his pretty hazel eyes, those same eyes I have stared into many times. I looked down at him and briefly thought about all the disagreements we have had and all the times I have been angry with him, and I didn’t give a rip about any one of them, I only had sadness at watching him writhe in pain, begging for water. I wanted him back

He couldn’t talk really, he would just whisper for water while jerking violently as the anesthesia exited his system, then they restrained him to keep him from hurting himself. I have never felt so helpless as I looked down at this strong man who was now helpless and at the mercy of his pain. For some reason, something came to mind, a lullaby he used to sing to me when I was a child and I was going to sleep, it would always sooth me and make me feel loved and comfortable. So I got as close to his ear as I could and began to sing softly.

Toora Loora Loora, Toora Loora Lai

Toora Loora Loora, Hush now Daddy don’t you cry!

Toora Loora Loora, Toora Loora Lai

Just an Irish Lullaby.

 He calmed down some, so I sang it again, softer this time as he squeezed my hand, and I ended it with a kiss on his forehead. Later as I stood holding his hand and looking at the room across the way, doctors and nurses began to run in, stopping as an attendant would gown them at the door and put a hat on their head. They were wearing surgical gear in the room, which I thought odd as they rushed in. It seemed to be a scene from E.R. where someone would have called for the “crash cart”. Although they wore masks, their looks were serious and they were working feverishly, but then it all stopped as another doctor showed up and stuck his hands in the gown, but a doctor inside said something and shook his head no. The dr. pulled his arms out of the gown and just walked in as everyone in the room began to un-gown. I could see the man lying supine on the gurney as a nurse snapped a fresh sheet out and covered him up. They moved him to the side of the room, turned the light off, and left the room.

I held my father’s hand and did my best to look around and see if I could spot the soul of the person going on, but all I saw was the dark room. Our nurse composed herself, rescrubbed and came back in, her usual cheerful self recomposed, no sign that she had just watched someone die. I closed my eyes and prayed again that God would see my dad through this one time and that He would just let my dad be okay.

I looked around the small wing of rooms in a circle, called a “pod”, and I thought of it differently now than I had when I first had entered. This was the valley of the shadow of death, the reaper has a locker in the break-room here, people come here to be healed and to die, and my dad is walking the balance beam between the two worlds now. My trust is in the Lord though, and in His hands I place my dad, because no one and nothing can heal or repair him apart from the will of God the Father. So I just hold his hand and try to comfort and love him the best I know how for the time being, that’s all I can do….. God Bless-Jim

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So hey, we all go through tough times once in a while, I mean it would be unrealistic to think things are going to go smooth always right? We all have to wade through a certain amount of mire in this life, and although it thoroughly stinks, we know that is where many of life’s greatest gifts come from. Gifts like wisdom, character, perseverance, humility, empathy and a host of other great virtues are usually picked up as we are walking barefoot down that sharp gravel road of hard knocks. Unfortunately, those virtues are not something most folks can pick up in a teen bible class, or a leadership seminar. They’re usually not learned but more often earned.

Walking that sharp gravel road can get really old though, and before long you can begin to find yourself asking God “what’s the deal”? How long do I need to walk this road before I get to take the easy path for a while and relax for a bit? Sometimes, even though we may never verbalize it don’t we find ourselves asking God “hasn’t it been enough already”? I know for a long time, I delighted myself in believing that I had never questioned God about such things, but had rather just always tried to accept, or even embrace everything without questioning. I can no longer say that, recently I faced a series of crises that combined left me in a cold dark place Spiritually wondering why. Even though I knew the crisis was mine, and that God had not changed, I felt so lonely and abandoned. Then of course comes step two, feeling sorry for myself. But the following passages are such a wonderful and descriptive view right into the mind and heart of God on the subject. Besides being uplifted by them, I actually also felt ashamed after I began to meditate on the following passage because of its deep truth. Hebrews 12:4   In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

I have certainly never shed any blood for my faith yet, although I have said many times what an honor it would be to die in service to my Lord, I would only hope that I would be courageous enough to stand by my faith as so many others have. But aside from that, when you compare my problems in life with those who have shed their blood, I am still a lightweight.

Unexpected Flattery

Who would have thought, that when life’s struggles began to feel as though they were more than I could bear, I would actually wind up feeling flattered by the depth of God’s love for me, shown in the trials. Hebrews 12:5-8, And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

It is flattering to me that God wants us then to be encouraged by hardships and trials, because they are proof that God does care about us. They are proof that God sees us in a father to son relationship, and he loves us enough to discipline us with the trials of life.

I remember when I was a kid growing up, I was raised in a fairly strict household. If I got into trouble, I knew there would be discipline awaiting me when I got home, or if I didn’t hold up my responsibilities, discipline. I didn’t ever like the discipline, but in the end, it was good my parents used it. God still uses hardships and trials today as a means to guide us through discipline. When you look at it that way, you can see God working behind the scenes, using the events in our lives as a stone wheel with which to sharpen us into better tools for the kingdom. When you look at it in this light, it is much easier to make sense of things and stay on the pathway.

Hebrews 12:1-3   Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

God Bless-JFT

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Sometimes God just puts something on your heart, like a blog that you need to write,  https://blesseddad.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/be-careful-what-you-pray-for/ , and it is meant to be a sign, something to make you sit up and take notice, pay attention, but sadly I don’t. I am a study in contrasts at best, my friends would tell you I am kind, giving, generous and run a tight ship. But in my heart of hearts, I am competitive against myself to the extreme, with a sense of determination that equals the competitiveness. I come from the old school that believes if you roll up your sleeves and bust your tail and outwork everyone else around you that you will be rewarded for it. It makes sense right, at least until God steps in.

I still battle that old guy thing; wanting to move up at work, grab that brass ring that is above the next rung on the ladder. Problem is, every time you climb a step up on the ladder and reach for that ring, you find out it was actually higher, it is one step higher than you are. I know that, and have known that for years, yet I still tried to climb for that ring again, and this time I gave it everything I had. I trained on my own time with people, who were in that position, and they were amazed at my aptitude and how fast I picked everything up. As time would go on, they would tell me that I was definitely the front-runner for the position. I trained with even still more people in the job to try to get a wider range of style and experience, and once again they flattered me with compliments for asking the right questions and having the right technical knowledge. I was feeling good, this was going to be it, I was pulling 70-80 hours a week between work, training and school, I knew I had to get it this time. I memorized all the things that I suspected they would ask me in the interview, and I was ready.

There was a five-person panel interviewing me, and their sole purpose was to try to rattle me. I was ready though, I am a power plant operator, I have ice water running through my veins, right? They began with a simple question, one that I had studied and memorized without fault, but nothing came out. I sat there, I had become a deer in the headlights who could no longer remember his name, much less that the answer was “transmission operator”. So I explained it long form, in less than three hundred words painfully and waited the next assault. The rest of the interview had better points, and worse points, ups and downs. At the end I left not feeling particularly good, but feeling as though I had indeed allowed myself to be rattled. I still counted on the field reports of those who had trained with me to carry me though, they were just so confident, even if I did blow the interview.

I saw her email, she wanted me to call her when I got in, this must be it, so I called right away hoping/expecting the best. She was kind as she told me that she was not pleased with my interview, and was surprised because the field reports were all so positive, but that I should focus my efforts elsewhere. I folded the phone shut and tried to process what I had just heard, didn’t that mean, “you need not apply here again”? How could that be?

I stumbled around through the motions that day, doing my best not to reveal to anyone what I was feeling, but inside I was falling deep down into an empty well of despair, I had just been told I wasn’t good enough, and I would never be good enough. Everything began to cave in on me then, every little perceived failure in my life, how I had never felt like I was a good enough son, or brother, or husband, or father, or even a friend, but certainly never a good enough follower of Christ. As the week went on, my despair only increased as I began to really not even want to get out of bed every day, I just really felt as though I was a loser. It wasn’t about the job, the job was just the straw that brought everything crashing down on me, all I know is that wherever I was, it was a bad place.

There is no mistaking that God has been at work in my life, and that of my wife’s in the past few years, He has put us where we are and we are grateful for that. I am attending school now taking ministry courses, I know He steered me to that, I know He sent me on a mission, I know He wants me to spread the word, I know God loves me. But still, when it came to this job that “I” wanted, I pulled out all the stops to get it myself, and gained confidence in my own abilities, not stopping to ask if that’s what God wanted me to be doing. God has placed me on a course of some sort, one that I still have no idea the outcome, and I need to stay the course and follow His leading.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who is going through a hard time also, and he asked me what he should do? My only answer for him was that he needed to take it to the cross, I told him that I knew it even sounded lame, but that I knew it was the true answer. I haven’t been able to ride my mountain bike because of my shoulder surgery, so that is frustrating. Today, As I was out and about, I was drawn to the mountain behind our church where they have a hiking trail to the top. I hiked up there, and there is a cross about the size of the one I imagine Jesus hung on mounted in the ground right at the top. I sat at the foot of that cross and opened my heart up to God, I gave it all to Him and asked Him to help me trust in the path that He has in store for me. I asked him to lift this black veil that has been over me so that I may begin glorifying Him again in all I do, and I left every other problem I could think of at the foot of that cross. When I hiked back down, my burden was much lighter, I am sure I left them on that cross. I didn’t feel as though I were deep in the well of despair anymore, but as though someone had just dropped me a ladder, disguised as a cross. God Bless-JFT

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