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Posts Tagged ‘Bankruptcy’

In my attempts to understand and work through the hard times that kept coming last week, God put people and answers in my path that has led me to some really key spiritual discoveries. These discoveries are huge, they are something I have battled with all of my life, and have finally found resolution to them, in a very long and winding road that led all the way back to a seven day long migraine headache.

After the first attack, when I answered the Spirits call, and was immediately struck down, I did not recognize it as an attack, much in the way we did not recognize the first plane to strike the world trade center as an act of terrorism but more as just a plane hitting a building. But after the second time when the Spirit called (refer to previous post) and the second immediate attack I knew something was up, something was wrong and I was under attack.

I wrote some of what I was going through in my blog, and you all responded with concern. Larry wrote me an email with some thoughts that sent me down the path of discovery though. He wrote  ” When I state that your migraines (and most migraines) are caused by a demon, this does not mean that you personally have a demon in you because your inner man is filled with the Greater One. And Jesus does not share space with a demon or Satan. (Only unsaved people can house a demon in them.)

 

But instead, it means that somehow a demon has influence over you. I think of it as a string attached to a door into your soul (mind, emotions, memory, etc.) or your flesh. Somehow this demon can pull on the string to open that door at certain times. Usually, the string is attached because of sin or a curse. So, I always tell people to ask the Lord, “Why does this demon have a right to attack me? What have I done? Or is it something that someone else has done which now affects me?”

This is the Holy Spirit’s job to help you and disclose these things to you.

Once, you know why the demon is able attack you, then you can go on the offense.

 

Hmmm, I thought, demons. Well, God uses angels all the time, I certainly don’t expect the devil to be everywhere at once, of course he uses the evil equivalent of angels to get his dirty work done, but how. I am a good person right? But I do have sin, and it got me to thinking, and it caused me to do some self-examination.

I meet with a group of guys once a week, we open up with one another, we share things that we are having issues with, family issues, work issues, spiritual issues, and we hold each other accountable. It works very well, most of the time, we share much of our deepest problems and pains, but one thing that I realized, is that you can only be held accountable for what you share, and if you don’t share something, then you are hanging on to it, and I still had a couple of things I was hanging on to.

To many of the people who know me, I am outgoing and friendly, to my neighbors I am generous and open, to my accountability brothers an open book, but the truth is, they were misled. They thought they were standing in the open vault of my secrets, but on the back wall there was a book case with a false wall, behind it was the door to the real vault where I kept the remainder of my real deep dark secrets. In that vault were the insecurities, the shame of things I had done and still did in secret, the things no one knew about that I had never confessed, and that I had been terrified anyone would ever know about. As my accountability friends would mill about the faux vault drinking their latte’s I would stand in front of the false wall with my arms spread casually over the bookcase, my heart racing the whole time for fear that one of my friends would stumble and fall on the latch that would open the false wall, exposing the real me for who I was, a sinner, not worthy of heaven, not worthy of anything.

Larry’s letter was so clarifying to me, we weren’t being “truly” accountable, I don’t know why, I know we were trying, but I just wasn’t able to open up “that” deep with these brothers. I do trust these men, maybe the problem is all mine, but the simple fact is this, the devil knows me, he knows my sin and he knows my weaknesses. Yes, I have grown over the years, but trust me; the devil was making the most of what he had. Like having a string to a trapdoor that even I was not aware of he was accessing me through my weakness. Unfortunately I found that there were some things that I don’t share with my accountability brothers. Ahhhh, says Satan, gocha, a rift with the believers, something they don’t feel comfortable with.

There are things, not much just a couple that I share with no one and I keep buried deep inside. So it all began to come together, I had wondered how Satan was hitting me so hard when I was a faithful servant of his, and Larry’s clue led me to the conclusion.

It was at the close of day seven of the migraine, and I was exhausted, spent, and my mind was working slowly. My balance is funky these days, so I decided to shave and shower before bed, four fifteen comes early, and I try to cut my “getting ready for work in the morning” time down. As I showered, I was not thinking about any of these things, but instead “do I have fresh jeans and a shirt laundered for work tomorrow” as I soaped up.

This is what I just love about the Holy Spirit, He interrupts, he doesn’t wait, and tap his toe humming a Barry Manilow, Maniloe, Manilo whatever tune? Who cares, I think you know what I mean. He just comes right in, anyway, so I was washing what hair I have left, and I heard a voice in my head, and here are the words that were given to me by the Holy Spirit in the shower. “The Keys to the Kingdom lie with you Jim”. For the first time in my life, I knew exactly what God wanted me to do. In order to stop this demon from torturing my family and I, we needed to treat it like any common household pest, figure out how it is getting in, and then close that door.

For the most part, I am an open book, and am open about my past, my sin, etc. but there is that small little vault that I still keep locked to the world, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out where the trapdoor was that the demons were sneaking in through. The Holy Spirit had told me what I had to do, the “Keys to the Kingdom” (gosh, isn’t that a cool line) were in transparency, because true accountability came “only” with true transparency.

I love my guys, my accountability guys, I really do. I don’t know why I can’t go that extra step, maybe one day, maybe because I am the old guy in the group, I don’t know. When I got out of the shower, I was exuberant, I couldn’t wait to follow through, I texted Larry thanking him for leading me here, to this final answer. I felt the final small hole in my heart begin to fill in as I went out on to my back patio and called Tom. Tom and I have been friends since the fifth grade, we are very close. He lives a couple hundred miles away, but we are closer than ever, he is the best man I know. He is the guy I had chosen, I called him up, and I told him he was the only friend that I felt comfortable really telling everything to, and then I opened the vault, loaded the last couple boxes of dirt onto a dolly, and wheeled them over to the incinerator. When we were finished, I left the Vault open, and I poured cement into the trapdoors, the ones that had been tripping me up for decades, causing guilt for decades, I was closing them forever.

As Christ followers, it becomes cliché to say that we die to self, but last week I feel I did, several times. But the last time I died to self, the new guy doesn’t even feel like the old guy, and I don’t mean only spiritually, I mean physically, I don’t feel like me anymore. You may ask yourself “what’s wrong with this guy that he can take something as simple as a migraine headache and turn it into a battle between the forces of good and evil”, and my answer to you will be, I didn’t, they did. I have asked myself that same question, why me, why now. The answer is God does what He does for a reason, and while it may or may not make sense now, it always does later. I am just blessed, mine makes sense now. So, this post is quite a long and winding road, but in synopsis;

As the Holy Spirit put it, we may all have the “Keys to the Kingdom”,

But first, we must be

Transparent

In order to be transparent, we must first

Open the Vault

While we are in there, we must burn the garbage, empty the vault, and

Seal the Trapdoors

We can’t go it alone, we even need someone more than God, we need a friend.

Be Accountable To Someone

When you close the trapdoors that the devil sneaks into your life through, he will have no secret means by which to ambush you personally. Living “fully” transparent will make you a much more effective soul winner for Christ, no holds barred, All In. Even though I had the migraine last week, I would still have to say that last week was the best week of my life to date. God Bless-JFT

P.S. I would like to give special thanks to my brother, friend, and mentor, Larry Nevenhoven for his wise counsel last week. Without his words, I would not have found my way out of the maze.

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Steve Nash blasts around the massive forward and makes the lay-up, effortlessly hooking the ball in that unique way he does it. The ball hovers for a second above the rim, then drops through the basket. The giant forward has a look of pent up frustration on his face as the small and nimble Nash throws a “got ya” smirk over his shoulder and trots back toward mid court. This has been going on for most of the game, Nash is going to have a high scoring game, and if the Suns don’t screw it up, they are going to beat the Celtics.

She comes into the living room pulling on one pump while hopping on the other, and I am so ensconced in the game I hardly notice. She is calling to Hayley telling her that they need to be gone in ten minutes. I am hoping she doesn’t even ask, I’m obviously planning on watching the game, but she can’t help herself, she asks anyway. Doug, won’t you come with me tonight, please?

I act like I didn’t hear her, a good play is going on and I am on the edge of my seat acting as though I am so focused I don’t hear her. Doug, Honey, she says and picks up the remote, pausing the game. Why don’t you change your shirt and come with us tonight, then afterward we will go out to dinner, she says. She begins rubbing my neck and purrs “pulleesseee, for me”. I enjoy the rub for the moment then say “I’m sorry honey, but this is a really important game, they are playing the Celtics, I really don’t want to miss it. How about next week?

She stops rubbing my neck, and I can feel her whole body droop into a collective sigh of disappointment, then she says  to Hayley, come on. I stand and wrap my arms around her, come on now, I’ll go next time, this is just a really good game, please understand. She says “alright Doug, but I am going to hold you to it”. I hold up my right hand and say, I promise. I actually said the same thing to her two weeks ago, yet she shows restraint by not reminding me of it. She smiles slightly and kisses me on the cheek, “see you when we get back, love you, Hayley, let’s go. Hayley gives me a hug, then says bye daddy, and they go out into the garage and start the car. A minute later, I hear the garage door go closed, as I fast forward through a commercial to get back to the game.

The following morning, I am taking Hayley to school on my way to work. She is seven and in the second grade. “Dad, how’s come you don’t come to church with me and mommy, don’t you love God” she asks in her sweet little voice? I look over at her, and as always the freckles on her nose, and her missing front top left tooth combined just melt my heart. Of course I do honey, I answer, why would you ask me that? Because you never come with us daddy she says, and when you love God, you want to go to church, that’s what mommy says. Well honey, you can love God and not go all the time I respond, loving God is something you do in your heart, people can love God in their own way, I say, making it up as I go.

Hayley looks at me and I can see the wheels in her mind turning, then she says “Daddy, Misses Edabaum says when we are guilty of something we make excuses, are you making excuses because you feel guilty”? Exasperated, I am grateful we are pulling up in front of the school, because I have no answer for her. Sorry honey, I have to get to work, we can talk later I say as she takes off her seat belt and I give her a big hug and kiss. I love you daddy, she says as she hops out and pulls her backpack on, then picks up her little lunchbox. I tell her I love her as she turns away and scampers off to class. I stay for a moment longer, just watching her and taking in the sight of her. I watch her until she disappears through the front door of the school. I sigh wistfully, hoping she will always be so sweet and innocent. I then snap out of it and pull out of the drop-off zone and merge with the flow of traffic, savoring the tender moment with my girl, no matter how old she gets, she will always be my little………..

That is where it ends. I don’t remember anything past that. It is dark and cold where I am. I hear sounds, voices echoing through the darkness, but none I recognize. The voices are just an unintelligible, reverberating series of echoes, but nothing beyond that. I still have no recollection of what happened, wait, hold on, I think it is starting to come back a bit. I was driving, I had just dropped Hayley off, I merged with traffic, no problems. I remember thinking about her, my little girl always, and then I turned my head to the left. I know, I was looking both ways as I went through the intersection, I remember it now, as I looked to my left, I remember seeing two headlights and a huge grille right outside my window, why was it there? It was a semi, a tractor-trailer rig, and it had run a red light, I don’t know why I know this, but the driver was looking at his phone, he was reading a text, and I also know he was racked with guilt because of the wreck. I don’t remember anything else. I remember no impact, nothing. It is probably a good thing because I think it would have hurt. There is no other explanation. I must be in a coma.

I wander in a sleepy land for some time with no sense of space or time, just darkness and hearing voices far off, like train whistles echoing across a prairie night in dead of winter. One day though, or night for that matter, I hear a voice that is close in, it is a clear voice, and it is speaking to me. Doug, open your eyes, the voice says. I struggle to open them, and then to my surprise, they open. Everything comes into focus instantly, and I am surprised and happy because I had figured that I was probably blind, after having spent so much time in the dark.

I am lying prone, and the Doctor looks down at me, concern on his face. Are Melissa and Haley here Doctor, I ask as I focus on his eyes? No Doug, they are not here, he says. How bad am I Doc, I ask as I look around the room a bit, can I still walk? He looks down at me and says “yes Doug, you can walk as well as you ever could” then he tells me that he is not a doctor. “Where am I, I ask, is this a rehab center”? He just looks back at me and then extends his hand to help me up. I am surprised, I feel no pain as I stand, testing my weight on each foot. The man turns around, and I am blown away to see great wings coming out of his back, with beautiful white feathers cascading down past his knees. Although shocked at the implications of my death, I smile inside and say “are you what I think you are”, thinking that if I was with an angel, I was in the right place. Reading my mind, he said Doug, you haven’t been judged yet, the decision is yet to be made. Anxiety instantly floods my soul, “oh man, oh man, dear God” I find myself saying, He turns and says “Doug, the time for prayers is over, come with me”.

His name is Silas, and He is an angel of The Lord, charged with bringing people to judgment. We exit the room and ender a huge hallway, I look to the left and right, the walls are made with cut stones bigger than any I have ever seen. Looking at it from a distance, it would look like a  block wall, but the stones are each the size of a semi trailer. The walls disappear up into the clouds, and there is no ceiling in this hallway, I look up and the ceiling is a moving mosaic of clouds, the sheer immensity of it stuns me. At the end of the hallway, we encounter a room with huge doors made of olive wood, I don’t know how I know that, but I do. The olive wood doors have engraving across them of a huge bird like creature with broad wings spread wide. There is one on each of the two doors, and their wings touch in the middle. I look to Silas and he nods to them saying, Cherubim and Seraphim, The design is from The Lord’s temple in Jeruslaem. He then places his hand on my shoulder, and kisses me once on each cheek. Doug, this is as far as I can go with you, then he opens the door for me, and I enter.

Before me is a huge desk, the size of a house. And on each side of the desk is another figure like each one on the door. Cherubim and Seraphim as Silas called them, but these two are instead gold statues. Each one is at least fifteen feet tall, with a wingspan of thirty feet, their wingtips meeting in the middle, touching just below the top of the huge desk before me. Behind the desk sits an ominous figure. His face is aged with experience, His beard long and white, matching His long and white hair. His eyes a bright and luminous blue, beautiful and yet piercing and His entire body glows white so much so that there are no shadows near Him. I know instantly that it is not possible for darkness to be in company with Him, His brightness would prevent it. I know without doubt who He is from the moment I first looked in through the door. I knew he had created me. I knew that He had knitted me into existence in my mother’s womb. I knew He was God, and I knew He was my Judge.

The Judge opens the book and turns to the page that has my entire life recorded on it. Doug, how do you plead, He asks? Innocent I say quickly. The Wise Judge reads the book intently, studying one page, then another, turning pages as He goes. Finally, He pulls a feather from and ink well and writes with its tip on one of the pages. “You are guilty my beloved”, as he looks up at me, and closes the book. “Wait please, I shout! I was always a good man wasn’t I, I was always honest wasn’t I”? Yes, the Wise Judge said, that you were. I was always kind wasn’t I? Yes, he agreed, you were. I came to church every Christmas, Easter, I worshipped You then, and sometimes I even came on a whim when Melissa asked me, certainly You can’t boot me when I was so faithful to you, can You?

As the Judge listened to me, a tear actually rolled down His face. I protested for what seemed forever, making a great case for my clemency, and He listened. When I was done, He began to slowly shake His head, as another tear followed the first. Doug, kind you were, generous you were, with everything but me. You never missed a game the Suns played, but you only came to church when your wife wouldn’t take no for an answer, and worship Me you did not. You forget I see all, and I know your thoughts. I know you were lamenting every minute you were in church, I know you thought it was a waste of time. You refused to give Me your heart, you rejected My Son. Remember Doug, I know your heart. Finally, I pleaded “how can you condemn me, didn’t you call me beloved? “Yes, I did call you beloved, because you are my beloved” He said. I loved you so much I gave My Son for you, but you refused Him, you never took Him as your Savior, you were too busy. Yes, I love you, but you are lost. I began to protest, but my upper and lower lips grew together, muting me as the Wise Judge slowly and quietly dropped the gavel, issuing my sentence.

Two scaly gargoyles led me down into a dark cave, my hands behind my back. They placed my hands behind me, and I thought they would handcuff me, but my hands grew together as my lips had. My arms ached in the painful position, skin and bone growing together painfully. They demons walked behind me, pushing me before them into the dark. Horror filled my heart as I was pushed through giant spider webs, and I could feel creatures scurrying across my skin, but my hands were welded together behind my back, so I could do nothing. It was then that I realized I wasn’t wearing shoes either, and the jagged stone floor was hurting my feet. Finally, the deeper I went into the cave, there began to be more light and I could make out scorpions crawling across the floor, the sharp pains I felt weren’t rocks, they were stings.

As the cave opened up, it appeared that we were in the inside of a volcano, rivers of lava surrounded me, and it is so hot, how could I possibly not burn up, but I didn’t. A huge hideous creature with the body of a goat, and the torso and head of a dragon came and greeted us. Two long curved horns protruded from his head. Welcome, he said, I am so glad you could make it. I never doubted that you belonged to me. I tried to refute him, but my lips, and now even my teeth had grown together, so that I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t even make a sound. Circling me, the creature appraised his prize with pure happiness. Yeah, I gocha didn’t I, after all, what God would condemn such a good, honest decent man as you? He then leaned his head back and cackled as loudly as he could. I just love it when you guys buy the lie, no need for commitment; religion is just for the weak. I remember when you read that book by Karl Marx with the quote Religion is the opium of the people“. I remember what you thought, you thought Marx was onto something, I just love guys like you who think worshipping God is a waste of time. I just love guys like you who embrace my greatest virtue, pride. Oh well, welcome to your reality, you will have only one possession that you are allowed to keep while you are here (for eternity). As a matter of fact, that one possession will actually be enhanced, who says I am not generous. Your one possession that you may keep is your memory, and it will be enhanced a thousand times, every memory of the good life you had will now be available to you. Welcome to Hell! He then leaned back and cackled in a loud booming voice that shook my entire body, and caused me to fall to the ground, partially into the lava. My skin burned but would not be consumed, and I screamed, but my mouth would not open.

I hit the floor, landing on my head first, and jarring me from the dream. I started and sat up quickly, terrified to my core at what I had just experienced. I looked around, it was six twenty, Melissa had been gone fifteen minutes. I stood up and shook my head, what a dream, what a horrible dream this had been I thought. The game was still on but I no longer cared about it, so I looked around for the remote control to shut the TV off, I had to think about things. That was when I saw it, sticking out from under the couch. I reached down and picked it up, and my blood ran cold. It was a feather, it was one of Silas’ feathers.

 I bolted to the bedroom, peeling my shirt off as I went and letting it drop to the floor. I grabbed a clean one and ran for the door, picking up my shoes as I went. One thing I knew, as I drove to church, I was going to be going slow, and looking in all directions before entering an intersection.

God Bless-JFT

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Phil and Carrie sat in church, and as the collection basket was passed Phil pulled the check from his front pocket and tossed it into the basket with a neutral look on his face. Inside, he was feeling the pressure; he had just tossed another twenty-five percent of his monthly income into the basket. Carrie smiled tentatively at him as the pastor took the lectern and began prepping for the service.

Phil loved God, and he wanted to do God’s will, but things were not going exactly the way he had imagined it. He had pulled his kids from Christian school and placed them in public school to free up more cash to give back to God, they had gone down to one car, and although they were current on the house, the last of their savings was now gone, and this was the root of Phil’s anxiety.

The visiting pastor had talked to them about giving more than a year back, at the time, Phil and Carrie had been tithing, and giving an additional twenty dollars a month to a missionary work. The pastor had told the congregation that giving God ten percent of their income was not giving, that was God’s anyway, as a matter of fact, it is all God’s, but He only asks for ten percent back. The pastor went on to say that real giving begins beyond ten percent.

The congregation was energized by his testimony, his story of giving all he had away to the poor and needy. He had started with one car, then the other, then his house, then all of his retirement funds. He had given it all away, yet every time he would give something away; someone would give him something better than what he had given away. He would give away his income, and someone would give him a check totaling ten times what he had given away. At one point, the pastor had begun to feel smug about his giving, he had nothing left and he looked coyly toward the Heavens and told God he thought he had actually out-given God. Soon after, a member of the church donated him a brand new airplane with a pilot whose salary the man paid, at a hanger in the airport that would also be paid for, even the fuel and maintenance. The pastor lost his smugness immediately and then promptly gave the plane away.

Phil and Carrie loved the story, but the generous pastor’s story had not been their story. They were broke, and they were waiting for some payback. They had given until it hurt, they had given until they had bled, but there were no planes waiting in hangers for them. When they gave away their second car, no one had replaced it soon after, not at all for that matter. When they began giving fifteen percent above their tithe, they looked out for the blessings, waited for the blessings, prayed for the blessings, but nothing happened. Phil didn’t get it, what was the deal, he had tried to do everything right and Carrie had been on board too. He wasn’t even listening to the sermon because of his inner turmoil.

Service let out and Carrie went to get the kids at the children’s ministry. Phil approached the pastor near the rear of church and asked if they might talk a little when the crowd thins? The pastor smiled and said no problem, “we don’t need to wait Phil, let’s go talk now” he said, and they headed to the pastor’s office down the hall. Phil and the pastor sat, and after a beat Phil began to explain their quandary to the pastor. When he was finished, the pastor sat quietly with his hands together in prayer fashion at his chin as he contemplated his answer to his troubled friend.

Finally, the wise old pastor began to speak, and told Phil that he understood the problem, and he also knew of a solution. Phil smiled and scooted to the edge of his chair expectantly, eager to finally have the answer within reach. The pastor looked Phil in the eyes and said “give less, and replace the car you gave up, and your problems will go away”. Obviously disappointed, Phil asked if the wise pastor would mind explaining.

Well Phil, what it all comes down to is the motivation of the giver. Phil looked exasperated and said, “But I did exactly what the visiting pastor did”. The wise pastor slowly shook his head and said, “No, Phil, you didn’t do exactly as he did, let me explain”. The visiting pastor never expected to get anything back, he was willing to be broke and without possessions altogether for the Lord, in serving others who had a need. He trusted The Lord to provide his daily bread, and nothing beyond that, while on the other hand, you gave with the hope of receiving tenfold in return. Giving is about just that, giving, not receiving. The visiting pastor gave without any expectations, and he would not have been disappointed if nothing came back to him, he wasn’t expecting it. I guess what I am saying is, the pastor was willing to live in poverty and carry the cross with Jesus to be closer to Him. The blessings that came he continually passed on to others, not to get more, but to show God he was content in his faith that he would be taken care of, to show his trust in God. The pastor leaned back and looked at Phil, noticing that the lights had come on, Phil got it now.

Phil stood and reached across the pastor’s desk and shook his hand, thanked him for the insight, then joined his wife and kids in the parking lot. As they drove home, he told Carrie about the conversation with the pastor, explaining everything as the pastor had explained to him, Carrie nodding in understanding. They agreed that they needed to work on their perspective, and that they had something to work towards, a growth opportunity.

God Bless-JFT

This is a work of fiction, based on some fact.

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Huffing and puffing I crested the hill leading to uphill point, racing the sun in my quest to ride late in the day. It wouldn’t be long until dark and I had decided to get in a last minute ride, too short of notice to call my riding buddy, I went alone. I ride alone about half of the time, and I just tune into my IPod and ride away. As I crested the hill, I was surprised to see another rider coming my way like his tail was on fire. He was the only other rider I had seen in six weeks, most of them have hung up their bikes until fall. He came to a stop as I paused my playlist and pulled along-side and said “hi”.

He had never ridden here before, and he asked me a few questions about the trail, so I told him what I knew. His name is Sean, he is twenty- two and just graduated in May from “Brown University”, an Ivy League school, where he had a basketball scholarship. He hasn’t found a job yet, so he has moved in with his mom and dad while he job hunts. His folks have recently moved here, so he doesn’t have any friends here in the area. I noticed right away that he was not wearing any bike gear, no helmet or gloves, nothing. I warned him of the dangers, and showed him the scars on my arm and shoulder from my big crash and burn. He nodded and told me he would get one before riding again. We talked cordially for another ten minutes or so, and he asked when I would be coming back, he would like to ride with me sometime. I told him I would be there tomorrow evening if he would like to ride, and he said he would. I then continued my way and he went his.

I was two thirds through my ride the following evening; Sean had not been there, so I had gone ahead after waiting ten minutes or so. Focused on the ride, listening to my IPod again, I didn’t notice until the young man was beside me calling my name. Startled, I nearly crashed as I came to a stop, my heart beating like a hummingbirds. Sean had pulled into the parking lot just as I hit the trailhead, and he had been chasing me for about four miles now. He said he had been running late and he hadn’t expected me to wait. I was happy to see the young man wearing a helmet this time; he said his mother had gotten it for him.

We sat there, out in the mountains and talked for a while. He was really bothered that he had not found a job yet, and said more than half of his friends were already working, and that they were starting above a hundred thousand, some a hundred and fifty. He then said he had been offered a couple of jobs, but he thought his minimum starting salary based on his school and education should be a hundred thousand. He said he had turned down the jobs because they didn’t meet that criteria, and he didn’t want to make a mistake by taking the wrong job. I could not help but look sad when he said this. This young man with his whole life before him did not want to make a mistake by taking a job that paid less than a hundred thousand, and he was twenty-two.

As we talked, I could not help but feel sad for this young man, so focused on income and career, and I couldn’t help but wonder what had led him to put them at the top of his priority list as he had. Later I would look back thinking on my upbringing, and how my parents had brought me up in a middle class blue collar home. They weren’t wealthy, but we had a good life. If you asked them what they wanted for their children, they would say “we want our kids to have a better life than we had; we want them to have more opportunities than we had”. Now they had come up from poverty level to where they were, so they were succesful because we did have opportunities that they never had.

As my children grew up, my motto was the same, I wanted them to have a better life than I had, to have opportunities I didn’t have. So they went to universities, they became educated as I had not completed college. But as far as giving them a better life, at what point do we stop saying that? If you had a good upbringing and didn’t have to suffer, didn’t have to wonder where your next meal came from, if you grew up in a God loving home with a family that loved each other, when do you stop trying to improve on that? The sadness that I came up with was that it was “my” generation that was responsible. We had taught with our actions that good is not good enough, and that there is always room for improvement, even when you are already “very” blessed. Settling and contentment is for losers, you can always do better!

Our generation has taught our kids to be competitors in all they do, that they must fight and claw to achieve a position of importance in this world. If they do succeed in fulfilling this dream, will they not be filled with pride and arrogance at their successes? If they do not succeed will they not be filled with a sense of worthlessness at their perceived failures? One of the great struggles we continue to have with our faith is that we want our kids to thrive in the world that we know is the playground of Satan, and he delights in it. This is one of the reasons why pharmacies cannot keep depression medication in stock.

Teaching our children to run in the mouse wheel of life does not mesh with the message God has for us. Mark 10:31  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” , or, in Matt.  20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”. or Matt. 23:11-12  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

How wonderful if we could teach our children to find comfort instead in the scriptures, such as Psalms 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God”, or teach them to go here for answers, Philippians 4:7-8   Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In summary, I wonder if I have done a disservice to my own girls by not spending more time in the scriptures with them. I pray that they will know enough to realize that they cannot serve both God and money, they have to choose. I hope that they will take this scripture to heart and live their lives based on its message. Matt. 6:20-21,  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. God Bless-JFT

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When I was a teenager, our youth group would gather for what we affectionately called “devo’s”, which was teen code for, a place to eat, sing songs and meet girls, with emphasis on the food and meeting girls. We would all huddle together and sing these ”devo” praise songs, and one that sticks in my mind was called “by our love’. The chorus went “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love”.

As I was walking across the turbine deck at work today, this song was going around in my mind. It has been near thirty years since I have sung this song, but it is revolving around in my mind none the less. There is usually a message in it when something is placed on my heart like this, but today I know what it is, and I know why it is there.

I saw an old friend this morning, a man I have been friends with at work for at least fifteen years. He worked at my plant for the last decade, but at the beginning of the year, was transferred to a plant closer to his home. He comes back one day a month still, and today I got to see him. We did the usual banter and handshaking, his unflappable good natured grin and laughing signaling all is well. Then I say what I always say, “how is La Familia”? He smiles a sad smile, looks down and begins to slowly shake his head, “not good man, not good”, and I know the answer before he even gets it out of his mouth. “She left me, two months ago”, hangs in the air as the smile fades and the facade begins to shatter.

My friend ,“V” we will call him was divorced about the time I got divorced, back in late ninety six, and we would hang out and just talk, no need to be macho or bluster, we were just friends. After a few years, I met my lovely wife and he met a beautiful single mom also with young twin boys, both of us were destined to have another chance at happiness. I got married, and V got married and we rejoiced in our new lives. V took on the role of surrogate father to the boys. V had framed and tacked pictures all around his office/cubicle back then of the family on a cruise, of them all wearing Mickey Mouse ears. The picture that forever will stand out in my mind is the one where they were all wearing blue jeans and white cotton oxford shirts. All of them in their white cotton shirts, they looked heavenly together. If you didn’t know their story, you would assume they had been high school sweethearts and would never even consider that the boys were not his. This was clearly a family, and they were clearly meant to be together.

V and I sat in his office, deep pain etched into his face as he unfolded the story. I asked him what happened, and he said he still didn’t know. Well, you know she never was much of a talker, most of our conversations took place with me doing most of the talking, he says. I asked if they had been fighting, and he said no, they had been getting along the same as always. Then one morning, she asked him to leave. She told him that she didn’t love him, never had loved him, and should have never married him. If he didn’t leave, she would. Stunned, he told her to stay, he couldn’t put her and the boys out on the street, so he left. A friend let him move into a rental house that he had that was vacant. I ask him a stupid question, “how are you doing, I mean really doing”? His eyes water up and he says “bad man, bad”. I have no desire to get up in the morning, I have no will to go on, I just don’t even want to keep going. I ask if he is turning to God, and he is honest and says “not really”. I am just numb Jim, and I don’t even know what to do. V is a big guy, muscular wise, and to see this big strong man emotionally crushed just kills me, Of course, I would love to have some cure all that I can pull out and soothe his wounds, but I know there are none. I then pull out my Bible, and we read some scriptures of strength. Then we go where God seems to be leading me daily, in everything I do. I place an arm around “V’s” shoulder and we go to God in prayer. I ask God to reach down into “V’s” heart and bless him with a few things, the peace that surpasses all understanding, the assurance of God’s love for him, and for God to remove the anxiety from his heart. Help him to have comfort in knowing that Jesus died for V and that God will surely guide V through these dark times to place him where he needs to be. V’s big shoulders shake as his heart breaks, and he is not yet at the point where any of it makes sense yet.

I walk across the turbine deck, the “devo” song bouncing around in my head, and then another answer becomes clear in my head. Our world is full of broken and bleeding people, and that song holds the key to how we will reach the world for Christ. Here it is, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love”

God Bless-JFT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless-JFT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Story is True- It is mine

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