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Archive for the ‘Meaning of Life’ Category

Church was about to get out, and I was thinking about the prayer room. I hadn’t been going there for a while, or working the parking lot either for that matter, for the past few months I had been taking a break because of my shoulder. Because of course, shoulder surgery impedes your ability to pray with folks who are in crisis you know, yeahhhhh. More like the fog of the medication was impeding my desire to volunteer, but that was all changing because I was done taking them. That probably has something to do with why I was thinking about something other than myself again, my head was clearing, and I felt a very strong motivation that I needed to go to the room after services.

I put my name tag on, and settled in the comfortable chair and began to look over prayer request cards, as a friend stopped by and said hi. While he was chatting with me for a few moments, asking what I had been up to, where I had been and so on, a man entered the room and went directly to the wall across from me. He knelt and went into prayer, and I gave my friend the look that told him I may be needed soon, and he took the hint and left.

The man was average build, so average in fact that if I were to have to describe him to police, I would have a hard time, he was incredibly average. He was 40-50ish, dark tanned, someone who spent his days outside, and he was praying fervently, I don’t know how to explain that, but I could tell that he was in deep communion with God from the time he hit his knees. I have seen people pray like this before when they have had family members near death, or when they were wracked with guilt over a sin, or were afraid their marriage would end and they could do nothing to save it. I looked away to give him his privacy until he finally stood and turned around to face me, and what I saw was not what I expected at all, but quite the opposite.

I stood and said hello, my name is Jim, and asked him if there was anything I pray with him about. He shook my hand, but his face was not troubled in the least, on the contrary it was a mask of peace as he looked me in the eyes and said Hi, I’m Mark, what can I pray with you about?

I didn’t know what to say, I thought as we stood there shaking hands. His were hard, the hands of someone akin to working hard for a living, but he just looked into me with those eyes. He wasn’t there to make conversation, and I felt as though the man was looking right into my soul when he looked at me. He wasn’t smiling, he just had that look of peace on his face as he stood there and waited for me to tell him what he had come to hear. I could swear the man knew my story when he looked at me, had he been sent, had he looked over the shoulder of his Boss at my page in the book of life before he had been sent on this mission? I didn’t know, but I definitely knew something “different” was going on.

I hesitated, isn’t it funny, I am a prayer room guy, there to help others who are going through a hard time and maybe need a little help and support, yet when it came to me it was different. The first thoughts that went through my head were “I am a prayer room guy, I am here to help you, not the other way around” as if because I wore the little nametag on my shirt that meant I had my act together (do we ever do that as Christians?).

His stare, it just continued, and he didn’t talk, he just waited as I vacillated, he knew my story I am sure, but he waited, because I had to open up. That is what this had all been about, hadn’t it? I wasn’t supposed to go to the prayer room to pray for someone else tonight, someone was coming to the prayer room to pray for me. I was coming out of this hard time in life and God was telling me “enough, it’s time to get back to work, you’ve milked that shoulder all you’re going to, so stop feeling sorry for yourself and let’s get back on task son, it’s time to get your head back in the game”.

So I told Mark what I needed prayers for, we sat, and he prayed for me. After he finished, he shook my hand again, placed a hand on my shoulder, then walked out of the room, I haven’t seen him since, nor do I ever expect to again. Yes, I do go to a big church, and it is easy to miss seeing people, but that is not why I don’t think I will ever see Mark again, I don’t think I will ever see Mark again because I believe he was sent from heaven, I am pretty sure Mark was an angel. Hebrews 13:2   Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

I know one thing, I was a different man when I left the prayer room that day than I was when I went in, feeling strangely healed in many ways. Whether he was an angel or not, I have no doubt God placed Mark in my path that day. God Bless-JFT

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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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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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“Have you ever stopped to think about where you would be without Jesus. No, I mean really, not hypothetically, where would you be were it not for the blood and the body that were broken for us, no, not us, You?”

If was so cold, so cold in here, we huddled together because we had no choice, we were packed together like sardines, but our bodies were so emaciated from lack of nutrition that we no longer generated enough heat to warm each other. The sides of the train car had wooden slats that were just wide enough to look out of and see where we were headed to across the snowy countryside, and also wide enough for the icy wind to whip through the car, sucking what warmth we managed to muster away with it.

First we heard the sound of machine gun fire, and then the vibrations of bombs coming up from the tracks, right into the train. We heard the engine pour on more steam to the drivers, an attempt to go faster, you can tell when they do that because it is very loud, and we knew, someone was standing up for us. We looked out the slats eagerly and saw the planes flying overhead strafing the forward part of the train as we watched them ducking Nazi tracer fire, they were the fighter planes. There were much larger planes higher up also, and they were in what seemed like a slower circle, and then it came. The ground pitched and we were all thrown into the air, many of us knocked unconscious as the steam engine had taken a direct hit from a 500 Lb. Bomb, just a couple kilometers outside of Auschwitz. The car was on it’s side, and miracoluosly no one was dead in my car, we were all banged up, but alive. The Allies, led by the Americans had just raided Auschwitz and came to our aid, taking what Nazi Soldiers surrendered prisoner, and killing the ones that didn’t. I was just a very small child then, but will never forget that.

 

I am an old man now, but just a few years ago, I went to America from my home here in Jerusalem, I had been looking up information on the pilots and soldiers who had been involved in our liberation, you see it wasn’t just “my” liberation, but that of all my descendants as well. He was fifteen years older than I was, but still very sharp, and he recounted as he dived his plane back and forth over the train on which I rode, taking out Nazi Machine gun pods with each pass. He caught fire with nearly every pass, by the time he had finally set his crippled plane down, it was so shot up it was beyond repair, he was assigned a different one. I looked into this mans deep blue eyes, and I knew that without him and the heroic deeds he and his peers had performed, “I” would not be sitting here, in America in his living room, but would have been mere dust swept from a furnace. This man I barely knew I loved so deeply, and owed so personally, for without him I would be nothing.

 

Sometimes when I think of Jesus, and God, or I am listening to Christian music that praises them and uplifts us, I find us thanking Him for what He did for “us”, and while what He did for us was give us life, it was a personal gift, not a corporate one. I think about the blood of Christ and how precious it is, and how we as followers of His need to value it for what it is. Because we choose to become followers of Christ does not mean that His blood flows like water through a lawn sprinkler that we used to run through, laughing and playing in on hot summer days, letting it cover us and delighting in it’s coolness. His sacrifice for us is very personal, and it always should be, at least it will be for me.

 

It is really hard for me to think that Jesus could have actually thought of “me” while he hung on the cross two thousand years ago, or my great grandfather for that matter, or even my great grandchildren either. But is it hard for us to imagine Jesus walking on the water? Is it hard for us to imagine Jesus healing the leper, or raising the dead, or turning water into wine, and not just any wine (but the good stuff). Jesus is God’s son, Jesus can do what God can do, and God put the rings on Saturn because he probably thought they would look prettier that way. God created Horse head Nebula along with everything else in the galaxy and on earth in six days, so why would it be so hard to imagine that Jesus had you in mind while He was on the Cross, I believe He did.

 

So, back to the original question I began with, Have you ever stopped to think about where you would be without Jesus? No, I mean really, not hypothetically, where would you be were it not for the blood and the body that were broken for us, no, not us, You?”

I know where I would be, If I were even alive, Satan would have his hands wrapped around both of my ankles and would be laughing that deep bellowing laugh a dictator laughs when he knows he has you right where he wants you. And I would be like the desperate Jews on the train a couple miles outside of Auschwitz, except I would be looking frantically around for a clean firstborn lamb to redeem myself with, and there would be one no-where in sight. That is where I would be without Jesus, lost and headed for hell.

 

So think about it, in as often as you partake of the communion, is it personal to you, as it was to the Jews saved from the clutches of Hitler’s murder machine, or is it more corporate, does your mind wander? If it does, do not lose hope, we have all been there, but think about it a bit more the next time you commune with Him, when you take of His body that was broken for you, when you take of his blood that was spilled for you. Make it personal. God Bless-Jim

 

The Story Part Is Fiction, Based on Fact

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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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