Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

It began simple enough, with common sense questions I began to ask myself. The guys at work knew me as someone who liked the finer things in life, frugal yes, I would get the best deal on the finer things in life, but none the less, the labels mattered to me. One day, I sat looking at the watch that had started it all, the most expensive one I had ever purchased. Christmas was coming up, things were tight and I felt like a real self centered jerk walking around with a $2300.00 watch on my wrist that did nothing a Timex wouldn’t. Oh, true it was good to 300 meters on a dive, problem was, no humans were good for 300 meter dives, so when the submersible recovered your body, it’s pilot would at least get a nice watch in the deal. I grabbed my camera and began taking the pictures for E-bay, I was sad to see it go, but I could no longer justify the luxury, besides, I still had my collection of Seiko automatic dive watches anyway. They weren’t Omega, but they did keep time, and cost less than a quarter what the Omega did. Sigh, I clicked “list”.

When I slid the packaged watch across the counter at the post office and walked out, I somehow felt lighter, I felt better, and I didn’t miss the watch anymore. I had been telling myself that when the kids were all grown, I would get another, now I wasn’t so sure. What did it matter?

Several years later, I wanted to go see the girls, I was really missing them, and it had been a while since I had been there, Brooke had just moved to Dallas, Lauren was still in Arkansas. With all of these tuitions I could have been CEO of G.E. and things still would have been tight, considering the two girls still at home were in Christian high school too. I didn’t even ask, I knew the answer before hand, the money just wasn’t there. I thought about something then, and I went in and looked at the Seiko watches on my dresser, then grabbed my camera. It was much easier letting go of all of them than it was the first one, and now I was watch-less, but I did still have a cell-phone that kept time I thought as I hurried through the terminal to catch my flight to Dallas first, then Little Rock.

I was able to do much more than I ever imagined by just cutting out some of the fluff, but it didn’t stop there. I then began to feel the urge to further question myself. If God came here and asked me what one possession I really enjoyed, what would it be? TV, naw I don’t really care too much about that, I could part with the computer too, cell-phone, no problem, hmm, Hey I really like my quad, yes, that would be it. God, I would have to say, I really enjoy my quad, and I want to thank you for blessing me with it. I am able on my days off to get on it and head out into the mountains by my house exploring, taking pictures, having a great time in nature. Yeah, I was really fond of my quad.

What if, Jesus told me to sell my quad and give the money to the poor, would that bother me? Are you kidding me, Of course it would bother me, take the TV, take the house, the stuff, but c’mon, not the quad, that is like my link with nature, anything but the quad, not the quad Jesus, take my tools, my wife’s truck ;-), just not the quad.

It became a realization to me that I had an unhealthy relationship with my “Off Highway Vehicle”, it had become a material possession that I was way too fond of. I stood in the garage looking at it and I actually turned right there, I began to loathe it on the spot, because I realized what all of this was leading up to, it had come between God and me. I didn’t need to sell everything I had, I needed to change my heart and I needed to stop falling in love with stuff. But the quad did need to go, because it would be a reminder as long as it remained in my garage that I “had” been in love with my possessions. I listed it on Craigslist later that day.

My wife bought me a non-dive watch for father’s day a couple months after I had sold off all of my dive watches. It is not a known name, not automatic, and not expensive, but it is the most valuable watch I have ever owned, because someone I love took the time to go out and pick it out for me. All of the others I chose, they were self-service, and they meant nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I can tell you there is nothing more freeing than no longer yearning for that next thing, no longer caring about having the latest and the greatest, and for letting God take over and helping you to shove those possessions that once meant so much to you out the door. I am sure I am not “there” yet, I am sure the watches and the quad were only the beginning, the house could be next, or perhaps my truck, I just hope that I am open minded to the Spirits guiding when it happens. After all, what here on earth besides kindness, love, family, and spreading God’s Word really matter anyway, isn’t it all temporary? God Bless-JFT

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So what do you think, the 911 or the 944 he asked me as we went out the front door and headed for the garage? We can put the top down on the 911, it is a little nippy but it has seat coil heaters that will keep us warm, or we could just forego the convertible and stick with the 944, all luxury anyway. I never gave it a second thought, the 911 I said as the garage door rolled up revealing the two freshly waxed bright red sports cars under the light.

The 911 already had its top down, and was a sight to see with its flared wheel wells and the wide whale tail on back above the engine grill. It was flawless, there was not a scratch anywhere on either of the cars, and although I have never really been a car guy, the only car that has ever stolen my heart was Porsche. Were I ever to buy a car, it would be one of these I had often thought. The 944 was a nice car, I mean Tom Cruise did make it famous in that movie “Risky Business” after all, what was it he said? Oh yeah, “Porsche, there is no substitute”. But that wasn’t my style at all, I would take one if someone gave it to me of course, but the 911 was the one that held my heart, no, not heart, lust. Matt 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

Think fast, he said as he chucked the keys at me and I caught them in midair. Dude, you know I can’t keep doing this, if I wreck this thing I would have to sell my house to pay for it, if I even owned my house anyway, which I didn’t, the bank did. He would just laugh and say “you worry too much, c’mon, let’s go have some fun, after all, that’s what insurance is for right? It purred as I turned the engine over and pulled out of the garage onto the street, headed for a main thoroughfare. He reached over and turned on the state of the art Blaupunkt stereo, setting it to some serious rock as I punched it out onto the main road. As I zigged and zagged in and out of traffic with the music blaring I remembered the movie “Against all odds” and the street race scene between the 911 driven by Jeff bridges and a Ferrari Testarossa driven by James Woods. That was where my love affair with this car had begun.

As I came up on an intersection where we would be turning right, I turned on my blinker and began to slow, but my friend said don’t slow, punch it. I didn’t get it, it seemed dangerous but he was an old guy, probably 36 or 37 and I was like 24, so I did as I was told. The car took the corner at high speed without even a hint of slide or slip, it was pure beauty. If our wives had known what we were doing they would have been really ticked, but you know, they probably did know. As I would drive his 911, he would regale me with stories of how he had begun working at a fast food restaurant and worked his way to the point he was at now, where he owned a finance company and was filthy rich. He was also house speaker for the state legislature, he had his fingers in a lot of pies, we had met at church. I was so impressed with him, I wanted to be just like him, after all, he was a Christian so that had to mean he was okay, right? If he could do it and make it sound so easy then maybe I could too. Matt. 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal”.

 That was over twenty years ago, and we lost touch with time. I saw him not long after I was divorced and struggling to start over again, bumping into him at another church. He shook my hand and said “My condolences or My congratulations on your divorce, whichever fits”, then he smiled and patted me on the shoulder, then turned and walked away. Spoken like a true politician I thought as I watched him walk off, a comment for each scenario that might or might not exist, without bothering to take the time to find out.

The lure of things shiny and red, fast and powerful or glittery and exclusive is one of the best things the devil has in his bag of tricks. If he makes us want something so bad that we begin to lust after it, then we are willing to often times work our fingers to the bone to get it. If we get to that point, then he has won, because when we begin to work our fingers to the bone to get something we want, we take our eyes off of God, and our focus is on the material. He also will mask our materialism with words that are more palatable than “greed or materialism”, words like “collector, enthusiast or hobbyist”. I know about these things because I have had to deal with them first hand, seeing things and wanting them, thinking about them for a long time until I could get them, watches were a vice. My kids laugh and call me a “former watch junkie”, and while it sounds funny, it is representative, I used to spend a lot on them. Just two days ago, I had to interface with a very nice man from headquarters at work who is a peer.

As we were chatting I noticed he had on the exact model of dive watch I used to own and I mentioned what it was and that I used to have one. He smiled and began to name off the other watches he had too, all big name, big dollar watches rated for diving. Ah, you are a collector huh, I asked? No, I don’t have the money to have the watches I really want he said, although he had just told me the watches he had, and I knew the combined value was at least $10,000.00. He then told me the ones he wanted but couldn’t yet afford, and considering the ones he already had and the fact that he didn’t even consider himself a collector, I had no doubt that he would find a way to get the ones on his list.

Materialism is like the old saying, if you throw a frog in hot water, he will jump out and live, but if you put him in a pan at room temperature and set him on the stove, and slowly bring it to a boil, he will die because he won’t see it coming. I think of the parable of the rich man, the problem wasn’t that he had possessions, the problem was his heart, he liked it all too much. The “stuff” had become his god. Who is your god, is it the One who sent His Son down for you that you may have everlasting life with Him in heaven? Or are you serving the god of money, the god of prosperity, are you a collector or things, is there anything that you own that would give you real heartbreak to part with if you had to choose between “it” and “God”?

Be Blessed-JFT

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The trail was empty as I pumped my bike as hard as I could, trying to beat the setting sun. The ride is an hour and a half, but the sun was only good for an hour. This was my eleventh day out of fifteen back at it, trying to get healthy again, and I was giving it my all. I rode over the place where I destroyed my left shoulder last year, and I thought about the scars on my shoulder from that surgery, already becoming tan from riding (sleeveless). I wanted to shout at that cursed piece of ground that had caused me so much pain, to tell it that it hadn’t beaten me, that it wouldn’t ever beat me. But I couldn’t, because it had.

It had beaten me because I had let my guard down, and truth known, it wasn’t even this piece of ground that I was talking about as I rode in silence listening to “Casting Crowns’ on my IPod. A guy at work about twenty years ago used to say to us when we were in school that it okay to be “cocky” as an operator, but if you are, you better be “real” good. What he was saying is that if you were cocky in what you do in work, you better be prepared to back up what you say. As followers of Christ, we now know that is not really a good character trait, but guess what, it is one I still fight, but not in the way you might expect.

Last fall, I was so angry at the devil for attacking my brother with the terrible disease that he was stricken with. I called out the devil and challenged him, told him to “bring it”, give me your best, and called him out for the pathetic loser he is (oops, there I go again). So there you go, that was my cockiness, not at work, humility at work and home, cockiness with the devil only. I just forgot the second part of the equation, the part about being “real good”. What happened next was tantamount to boiling a frog slow so he doesn’t know it, I slowly let my guard down, and Satan was waiting, he brought it just like I asked him too, only I wasn’t ready then, and he got me.

I came around a bend in the trail as the sun dropped below the horizon, and began my last brutal climb, sucking and blowing yet trying to keep my breathing under control as I pedaled up at a 45 degree angle. My lungs burned and my quads and calves burned too, but it was all good, I was getting stronger with every pump. The shoulder surgery had left me in more pain than I had ever been in before, even though my right shoulder had been worked on about a decade ago, it was small potatoes to this. The pain killers were a necessity I guess, but I knew they were not good for me. Little by little things started to change, I stopped hearing my beloved Holy Spirit, and that just broke my heart. I began to feel as though I were all alone in the world, it was because I was in my own little world. I became numb, and my deep connection to the Lord seemed to be a much longer distance connection than normal. He was waiting, I was no longer “that good” and he “brought it”.

I am nearing the top of the hill now, the desert is pretty as the shadows fall and darkness begins to gather, I must hurry. I catch my breath and take a drink of pure water as the sweat drips from me in at least ten places and the song “Hosanna” begins, I think for a moment, what better song could I be listening to as I pedal to the top of this mountain, picturing the scene of Jesus triumphal entry, people laying palm leaves before him. I am no longer winded as I hit the last stretch and begin the long downhill stretch that is the happy ending of the ride. During the time I was on the pain meds, he threw so many trials at my family, big things and I felt like my head was going to explode, I was so ill equipped to handle it. A fellow blogger Linda C. pointed out to me that that is what the devil does to people who are bold with their faith, he waits for a weakness like when you have to have surgery, and are not maybe your sharpest, and then he attacks you. I think there is a lot of wisdom in her statement, I am quite certain that is what happened with me.

But the Lord is faithful, and He showed me enough to know what was going on, and gave me the strength to break the chains of bondage. I threw them away and told my wife and friends I am never going to ever take them again, I always want to be sharp. The Spirit was back immediately, an old and dear friend that I had missed more than I can ever say. As depressed as I had become for over two months that I was healing, the return of the Spirits voice has placed me in a euphoria that has lasted for weeks.

As I blast down a hill that we have named “lung-buster hill” (when you are going up) the street lights are beginning to come on in the subdivisions in the valley below. I have learned a lot again I think, I have learned that I am nothing. I am not a warrior, I am not bold, I am not tough, I am fragile. There is nothing about me that I am that I can take credit for, not even this riding, I am not staying upright because I am an awesome rider, anyone can crash. I am upright because that’s how God wants me to be, I am not a warrior apart from the one God makes me into, I am not bold with strength apart from that strength which God blesses me with, and I am not tough apart from the durability God has tempered into me through life, I am yours my Lord.

I do not regret calling out the Devil, I would do it again but I do regret letting my guard down. As I blast out onto the pavement again, I shift up into high gears and push it harder, it is so great to be alive and here now. I don’t feel as though I am the same person I was last fall, I feel much more grateful I think, and blessed, funny how God is constantly re-inventing us isn’t it? God Bless-JFT

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 *Note* this is a letter that was written by my eldest daughter before she went off to college. She has since graduated, married, graduated again from grad school and she and her husband have settled in Dallas.
I have an old shoe box in the nightstand by my bed, in it are the priceless things in life, pictures, baby teeth in ziplock baggies with dated notes when I was the tooth fairy, newborn hospital caps, pacifiers, homemade fathers day cards and this letter, among many other things. When I read it, I can still smell the air, feel the breeze, and the warmth of my girl under my arm. This note touched me deeply, and I would like to share it with you.
                                 “Home”  by Brooke  July 21, 2003
                  Another strip of lightning lit up the sky, briefly illuminating the face of my father who was sitting beside me on the bench in our front yard. The words he had just said so matter-of-factly slowed my thoughts to a halt.

“So, I guess this is going to be your last year at home.”

Rather surprised at the turn of conversation, from talking about a dead tree to talking about my future, I found myself feeling a strange sort of denial.

“Well”, I replied trying to keep the same calm tone he had used, ”probably not, dad. I mean, I don’t think so”

“No, Brooke, you’re going off to college in a year, and after that, you’ll most likely be on your own. Gosh, I wish you didn’t have to go. I wish I could keep you here forever.”

My heart turned over in my chest as I realized I wanted just the same thing. I suppose going over my plans for my life at college for the past couple of months had done all it could for making me thrilled about dorm life, but had not prepared me for letting go of my home life. I guess in my subconscious , I had not realized that in a year, besides my parents funding, frequent phone calls, and letters, I would be completely on my own. No more relying on clean clothes to be in the closet through no action of my own. I had no guarantee that the pantry would always be full, no one person but myself could be relied upon to throw out the old milk and replace it. For some reason, I knew I was going to miss terribly the voice of my mother telling me it was time to go to bed.

        I the background, I was vaguely aware of the fact that the storm was heating up, as were my father’s comments on how close the lightning was getting. “We might need to move the bench away from this tree if we don’t want to get fried.” Similar comments punctuated my scrambled thoughts, and I was aware of the fact that I was agreeing with everything that my father said, something that didn’t always happen, especially when I was driving with him. Suddenly longing to look, I turned and glanced up at him. He was staring into the oncoming monsoon with that faraway look he always gets when rain comes. This look didn’t surface often, considering the fact that we lived in Phoenix, Arizona, a city that I was sure was cursed with the endurance of only getting rain a maximum of 10 times a year, on a good year.

         Watching my father filled my heart with an overwhelming love, and this, not so strangely, made me want to cry. I observed his thinning hair, the results of getting perms in the eighties. He was so close to bald, but his hair still possessed enough zest to     stick straight up, blowing in the warm gale. His tiny little brown eyes were taking in the whole scene, enjoying it so much that one could be jealous of his still childlike wonder while observing God’s great creation. His thin lips sat slightly apart, as if he were going to say something, but got distracted. This all accented the loveable nature of this built, round, five foot eleven man who had the likeness of a teddy bear. Goodness, I loved him. Although there were times when he annoyed me, and yes, embarrassed me, there was no one else I could have wished for as a father. I wish I didn’t have to leave him.

“I wish you didn’t have to leave me Brookie.”

Was he reading my mind?

“I know daddy, me too, but you know I’ll come back, soon.”

“Yeah, I know…” he muttered absentmindedly. “Still……”

             He began to talk to me about how he planned to drive me and my things to Arkansas. He planned to bring tools to assist in setting up my room. Thoroughly awakened from my intense reverie, I focused on the conversation he was having with me, not wanting to miss anything important.

“Do you know if Harding supplies a computer in your room? You know, for email, and homework and stuff.”

              Still trying to gather my thoughts, I scanned my extensive knowledge of Harding University (go Bisons!) for an answer to his question.

“Ah, no, no I don’t think they do. But ya know what, I was thinking perhaps a laptop would suffice…….

As I peeked over at him, I was relieved to find that the hopeful tone in my voice had resulted in a knowing smile from my dad and not a resounding “No!” I tilted my face to the fitful sky , finding peace in its distress and turmoil. I inhaled deeply the sweet smell of the rain, remembering every summer before this one where my dad and I had come to meet the storms on the front porch, building our relationship up to the point to where it was now. It was as if every summer, the rain had carried a bundle of refreshment as well as love, and as cheesy as that sounds, it feels true to me, because I never felt deprived of love, even though the rain has deprived us of its presence. And after a night full of, “Wow girl, did you see that one? I bet it wasn’t more than a mile away!” My eyelids began to grow heavy, and the lightning was no longer enough to hold my attention. As I leaned over, curling up into my daddy’s arms, a realization came to me, the fact that I would never have to leave home. My home was every time my sister and me stayed up late talking, every time my mother came in to pray and talk with me about everything before bed. I was completely at home whenever Ivy would sing to me in the shower, or sing to me anytime for that matter. It was home when I told Stacia that I loved her, or when I kissed Jeff on the cheek. Home was sitting next to memaw in church, having her caress my arm when I really should have been listening more intently to the sermon. Home was in my father’s arms. My home, now and forever, is with God. As long as that was where my home was, which I knew it would always be, I knew I would never be away from home. Because His arms will always be open to me. And I can always return to my family. But I am not worried. I hear there are a lot of thunderstorms in Arkansas.

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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Hi Brothers and Sisters,

I bring great news from the world of school land, according to the scores from my first week, now this is purely according to the scientific data, I have not yet spoken to the professor about my concerns. But according to the first week’s scores, it would appear that even at my age, I can still be taught.

I know, but you must remember, stranger things have happened Genesis 21:5  Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 

Seriously folks, school has been great, it has been very busy, and it has taken a while to get the hang of it, but I am catching on now, and I love it, and I am definitely going to want to continue.

But, as for my bog, we have some catching up to do, and today we are going to take it to a new level. Now I know there are a lot of you folks who read this bog from around the world, Korea, China, Russia, even a strange country somewhere west of the mighty Mississippi known as Arkansas 😉  Well, I know a lot of you read the bog, but do not leave comments, which up until now has been fine, but I want to challenge each and every one of you readers out there, and I would like to hear from you, because I would like you to use your response to encourage others.

Here goes!

Sunday, or Saturday, most of you will probably make your way to some type of worship service. Whether it is a home, a church, a bunch of people who meet under a tree, it doesn’t matter, if you know me, you know my feelings on the church, “we” are the church, wherever we are. Anyway, so we will find some way to worship God this weekend if we aren’t working, we may take communion (our church does every week) and then you will take the collection, where you will leave your tithes and offerings. Therein lies a part of the challenge.

I ask you, and I want you to all search your souls as I ask you this, is there someone at work with whom you have a less than cordial relationship? Someone that maybe you got into an argument with a few years back, and you just tolerate one another now, but you “don’t” like each other. Hmmm, no one huh, so you haven’t wronged anyone, that is great, I am really proud of you, you treat people well, and I know that makes God happy too. But what about that guy over there?

I know, you never wronged him, he actually was the one who wronged you, but God says we need to make those situations right also. So how do you make it right with someone who wronged you? Well, here is what I did, I had a guy that just hated me for 22 years and he was a boss too. He never passed up a chance to use his authority to make me miserable either. So I went to him last week, and I said I didn’t know what I had ever done to him, but that if I had wronged or offended him, I was sorry, but either way, I wanted the remaining years working together to be good. In the end, he rejected everything, and stormed off angry, but I had made the effort, and I knew God was happy. I think more often than not, it would have worked with most people.

Challenge, mend a fence before close of business Friday, then come back here and share the story on the comments, would love to hear it. Here is a sch=ripture that goes with this challenge  

Matthew 5:23 

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

God Bless-JFT

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Okay, I have started to write three blogs on various subjects this week, and fell asleep at the keyboard on the last one. I have been trying to keep up what I feel is kind of a responsibility now, to encourage those who tune in regularly. But the fact of the matter is this, I have been depressed, my brother’s illness has been a serious blow that has knocked the wind out of me.

I was sick for a week with a migraine, then several days of recovery from that, and then before I could catch my breath, my brother was diagnosed with ALS, the cruelest of diseases known to man. Last night, I went to my girl’s high school football game (they are cheerleaders), and it was my first social outing in three weeks. I have been sleeping night and day, and I know the signs of depression, and I know I can’t keep giving myself over to them. I haven’t ridden my mountain bike in weeks, which is a passion you know. So he has succeeded, he has derailed me. Satan has knocked me for a loop this time. It just goes to show you, on the heels of every great achievement follows a great challenge and I am in that challenge now.

It is at times like this where the depth and breadth of ones faith are truly revealed. Is my faith like a mountain stream that flows rapid and tempestuous, yet is shallow and seasonal? Or is it like the mighty Mississippi, deep and wide and long, forever flowing. I would like to think the latter.

So, it is necessary for me to get out of this funk I am in and get back to being Jim, so for the time being, I have made the decision to double my caffeine intake and get back to being who God wants me to be.

I think one of Satan’s biggest tools is confusion, hitting us where and when we least expect, from the direction we most do not expect. I had a breakthrough a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about here, about how I was able to close a back door the devil was using into my life, and I was exuberant. In the background of my celebration, I wondered if he would now go after my family, less than a week later, that question was answered.

When we make the choice to follow Christ, to take up our cross and follow him wherever He leads, we have to be prepared to be targets, but we also have to be prepared for our loved ones to be targets too, and here is the hard part, “sometimes the people we love get hurt because of our faith”. Yes, if we are making life hell for the devil, he will strike out at us, and if he can’t reach us, he will take what he can get, he is a sulfur stinking rotten to the bone opportunist. When we take up the cross of Christ, we must know that it may cost us our wives; it may cost our children, our parents, brothers, and friends. Those are the hard losses; the easy ones are job losses, home losses, monetary ruin, etc. Satan is a sore loser, and he is ruthless in his pursuit of those he considers his.

Now while I haven’t been his for a very long time, I have been making life hard on him, doing my best to steal his followers at every turn I can. I pray to God every day that he will place me in the path of someone who I can share the news of Jesus Christ with, and I have been praying that prayer for more than two years now. And guess what, God has answered that prayer favorably, when I have been sick for a week and don’t leave the house, God doubles up folks on me when I am well. I don’t keep track, but if I did, I would bet that it would be exactly one for one since I began praying that prayer. Did all of those folks come to the Lord? I have no idea, God gives the increase, but all of that talking is bound to make the devil a little anxious, wouldn’t you think?

So, When folks ask us what is most important in our lives, most of us Christ followers will say, God, then family, then friends, work, etc. …………

But, what if being a Christ follower means your child, your wife, your son, your mother, your brother, your dad are under attack, will be killed because you are on fire for the Lord, how strong will your faith be then? When your family is on the line, will God still be number one?

I know how strong my faith is, I know who is at stake, I know how much I love them, and I know this life is just a trial run for Heaven. I know if my family continues to get harmed because of their or my faith, God will see us through it, so here is what I have to say to the devil. Is that your best? You fight like a girl, when you are really ready to fight, bring it, I’m ready!

God Bless-JFT

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