Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

“If it weren’t for the women, the men would all still be living in caves, throwing rocks at each other”.  Darrell Travis ( my brother)

They were all different, yet in many ways the same, some were girly girls, some were tomboys. But even the tomboys liked to make mud pies and bake them in imaginary ovens, and then feed them to imaginary families. Their little rooms had tiny tea sets, for having tea parties with their children to be, and their dollies were children, babies and little girls that they could feed, burp and change. As time would go on, and they would get older, even in this world that celebrates women and girls leaving their femininity behind, their heroes were always the strong women who weren’t afraid to be a girl, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast.

Then they discovered make-up, and they lost an hour from their day, spending endless time in front of the mirror trying to look their best, trying to maximize what God had given them, for the boys.  They date, finish school, go to college, finish that and get married, and then hope to get settled, financially stable, and then fulfill what they have always expected to be able to do from the time they were first old enough to think about it, they want to have a baby.

It doesn’t always go in this order, many times it is completely in reverse, families are formed in many ways, and oftentimes families are only two people. One of the biggest heartbreaks a little girl can ever encounter is to not be able to fulfill that lifelong dream of having a child of her own. It is hard on a man if he cannot be a daddy, but it is completely different for a woman, a pain on a whole different level. This day is built around honoring the mothers in our world, and our mothers will truly always hold a special place in our heart, but there are many in our lives that are not mothers who hold places of great value as well. To the wife, daughter, niece, sister, or friend who happens to not be a mother, you hold no place of lesser value in our hearts because of that, you are loved equally.

A dear friend of mine is a pastor, and together he and his wife were not able to have children. They tried doctors and special treatments, but to no avail, they remained childless, and as this day approaches each year, it becomes yet another reminder to them of what they were not able to do, to have. So each year they would come to church and the greeters would be wishing all the assumed mothers a “happy mothers day” from the time they entered the parking lot, they were all well meaning, but with every well wish they were driving the dagger just a bit deeper. After a while, they decided it would be easier to take the day off and just stay home on mother’s day, as a golfer would say, they were “taking a mulligan”. Eventually, they were able to address that pain and meet it head on, returning to church and even embracing mothers day again, but it wasn’t easy.

One of the characteristics that makes a mom so great is the fact that they are such great nurturers, a boy can go to school and put up with all the roughness that comes with the territory of being a boy, playing football, whatever, yet come home and be loved and accepted unconditionally by mom. Mom is the one who could put her arm around your shoulders when that girl broke your heart and make you feel better. She was the one waiting at home when I went out and got banged up and came home bleeding, she would patch me up and make me feel better. But here’s the thing, that is not only a mom thing, because my mom has been gone for 18 years now, yet I still have a woman who makes me feel better when I go out and get banged up, she cleans off the blood, puts on a band-aid and I feel a whole lot better, but she is my wife.

So, if I had anything to say about it, today would not just be about motherhood, but rather would be about honoring women as a whole straight across the board. Today I am thankful for my wife, I am thankful that I have four daughters, I am thankful that I have 3 nieces and yes, I am thankful that I had a wonderful mother for thirty years of my life, I wish I still had her. But there are also many women out there who are great nurturers, strong leaders, women who are such hard workers in their own households, and I honor you, whether you are a mother or not.

I ask you to take some time to let that woman in your life who means a lot to you know just how much she means, tell her verbally, show her with your actions, love on her and let her know she is appreciated. Happy Women’s Day, God Bless-JFT



Read Full Post »

Her hands had hurt as she had pulled bark from the trees, stuffing it into her pockets and looking around for anything else that might be edible. There was some grass in clumps beneath a tree, so she grabbed that too, and brought that home. Her children were starving to death, as was her mother and husband, to think of it, she was so weak she could barely walk herself, but they sat and ate the grass she had pulled up. It had come down to this; they were eating grass and bark, anything to keep alive.

During the summer, they had been able to catch rats, frogs, and even snakes, but still barely enough to stay alive. There had once been corn to eat, how wonderful that had been, but now that was just a distant memory. Before it was over, they had ground the cobs and husks down and made tasteless cakes out of even that. She still remembered when she had found the handful of baby mice under a rock, she brought them back home, one of her daughters was near death and needed to eat. She had boiled them, but no matter how long, they stayed together and doughy. Even her husband Jo asked her if she would eat that, but her daughter had been brave and eaten it anyway, and it had saved her life.

Jo had a nephew across the river in China, and there was food there, they knew it was a huge risk, but they had to try, or the whole family would die. They set out and snuck across the border, fording the Tumen River to China. They made it and were stunned at the abundance of food, they had never before seen a rice steamer, and there was so much food they didn’t know what to do. One week later they returned home with many bags of bulging rice for their family, they would make two more trips for provisions.

A few days after returning from their third trip, Jo was arrested, she suspects a neighbor informant told the authorities on them. The following day Han was arrested also, she never saw her husband Jo again. They kicked and beat Han with wooden rods and crushed part of her skull, then placed her hands on the hard concrete floor and stomped on them. Then, without further explanation she was released, she was three months pregnant.

She would later be told Jo died on a train after having his wrists tied above his head without food or water for ten days. She returned home to find all of the rice they had hidden had been taken by the police. The kids were hungry, and her mom had been watching them.

Han gave birth to a boy, but he starved to death two months after he was born. In desperation, her oldest daughter left to find food and never returned, they believe she was caught up in human trafficking and taken to China, and then her mother died. In less than a year, her family of eight was reduced to four. In North Korea, if someone has been arrested then the neighbors no longer trust you and they suspect you of something. One night in July 1998, two policemen came to their door, and told them to leave, and if they didn’t they would burn the house down.

On July 18th, Han, with her two daughters JinHye, then 11, EunHye, 7, and  son BoKum, 5 set out on a 100 mile walk for the Chinese border. Weak from malnutrition, Han could barely walk, and the first night they stopped at a friend’s house to lodge for the evening. She looked at Han with wide eyes, how can you do it, two high mountain crossings and the river still lay ahead? Everyone was too weak to carry BoKum and he was too small and malnourished to walk. But how could a mother leave her son behind? But if they stayed, they would all be caught. She took a night to think things over, she didn’t know what to do. The next morning, her friend said “leave him, I will take care of him”. Han agreed, and planned to return for him in five days after getting the girls safely into China, she promised to bring back food for her friend. “Why aren’t you taking me too” BoKum asked, and she explained that she was going to go get some food and bring it back, and then she would take him, then she gave him a ground corn cake, she wishes she had given him more. They walked for two nights, then crossed into china, hid in fields and stole squash to eat. Then heavy rains came and they could not cross back over, Han didn’t know how to swim, and the river was at flood stage.

Then Han heard Kim Jong Il was executing anyone who hadn’t voted for him in the election, Han hadn’t because she had been in China at the time. She got jobs in China, and earned money to get BoKum back, but it took her two months before she earned enough to hire a man to go get him. Sadly, he returned empty handed. The woman had abandoned the boy, and he was seen wandering aimlessly in a field singing “when is my mother coming”. A neighbor gave him a bowl of porridge out of pity, he died immediately afterward, common when people who are malnourished eat too fast. When she heard about BoKum, her heart was ripping out of her chest.

They spent 10 years in China, and were deported several times back to North Korea, but were always able to bribe their way back into China. The last time a Korean-American pastor paid $10,000.00 to North Korean guards to sneak them back. They went to the United Nations in Beijing and asked to live in the U.S.

After 16 months, they were given a home of freedom in the U.S., one that came at a very high cost. There are only 130 refugees from North Korea who have settled in the United States, but you never hear from them because they have families. If a defector speaks out, it will be taken out on the family they left behind, Han has no one left, they are all dead. That is why they are speaking.

Crosses adorn the walls of their home, they carry bibles with them everywhere, they are on a mission to educate the world about what goes on in North Korea. You see the polished military parades, but you don’t see the people disappearing, the Christians dying. Please take a moment to pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ, for all those suffering in that poor country. And tell Han’s story over and over to everyone you know. God Bless-Jim

This Story is True

Read Full Post »


Please God one more evening

          I am  just having fun

                        You made me playful and happy,

                                        Only wanting to run


                                                                  You know I love you

                                                  And I will do what’s right

                                  So give me this evening

                    And I will serve you come morning’s light.


          I have always obeyed You                                                         

   I found myself reasoning away

        Everyone deserves an occasional

                 Night on the town to play


                                                   So I pretended You weren’t there

                                                                   And I painted the town

                                          Once I looked to the “Man in the Moon”

                                                           All I saw was Your frown


                                                          By the mornings first light

                                                       All my innocence was lost

                                                    As I began to scrape

                                            From my windshield the frost


                        As I drove down the frosty lane

        Into the rising sun

                         I reflected shamefully

                                                      On my night of  fun.


                                                       The tears streaked my face

                                                  As I drove into the dawn

                                              Crying and exhausted at the same time

                                       Stifling a yawn


                            Please God, one more evening

                                        And I’ll make things right

                                               I’ll make the moon smile again

                                                      Yes God, it’ll be a sight


                                                                    Please God, One more evening

                                                                         With my innocence back

                                                              Our intimate relationship

                                                Is now what we lack


                              So I begged and I prayed

             As I drove into the sun

        No longer reflecting fondly

             On my night of fun.


                      The sun was blinding

                               As I drove into the light

                                          I began to doze

                                                   As my car pulled to the right


                                                  Just before the impact 

                                           My eyes flew opened wide

                                      I would not miss the old oak tree

                                No matter how hard I tried


                                       The impact was quiet, painless and quick

                                 Time just stood still as I flew through the air

                             I threw out my hands as I went through the glass

                       And I actually said a prayer


            Please God, one more evening

     In service to You

You’re so good to me

     You’ve always been true


           So if I die today

                     Lord please take me in

                                 Then the prayer was drowned out

                                     By the sound of breaking glass and twisting tin


                   And so I survived

                           To live another day

                                     To live and to work

                                                To love and to pray


                                               God forgot that night

                           Washed my soul white as snow

                 Made my dirty nature

  Have a beautiful Glow


                                                                                                                      So I happily die

                                                                                          To myself every day

                                              Just serving my Lord

Living life in “The Way”

Read Full Post »

I sat in my room looking out the window, watching the sun race for the horizon, a darker shade of gray already settling down over the scene before me. Night was coming, and with it, another boring evening in my room surfing online, watching TV, or listening to my IPOD.

I can hear my mom and dad downstairs in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, laughing and talking as they load the dishwasher. I think briefly about going down there and just asking him, but what’s the point? I know what he is going to say. Megan is going, Danny is going, everyone will be there dancing, hanging out and having a good time.

The football game is every Friday night, and most everyone at the school goes. Megan says everyone hangs out on the home team bleachers and cheers the team on. Actually, she says the truth is they only cheer when the parents cheer and draw their attention to the field, most of the time she says they are talking and having fun up in the stands, not usually even really paying attention to what’s going on out on the field. The best part of the football game is hanging out with your friends, the game is secondary.

Every Friday now, all of my friends begin to talk about going to the game, what they are going to wear, what is going on afterwards. After all the home games there is a dance, and week after week, my friends ask me time and time again if I will be there. Week after week, I tell them no, my dad won’t let me go, and week after week they ask me why, and I tell them “because he won’t”. They look at me strangely, and usually let it go, but today was different, Megan wouldn’t let it go, she just kept pecking at me about it.

“Andrew, what is the deal, are you like grounded for life or something” she asked me and waited for an answer? I just stared back at her, not knowing what to say. In case you don’t know, I like Megan!  Actually, I “Really Really” like Megan and would love nothing more than to spend every Friday night for the rest of my life up on the bleachers with her. I love talking to her, I love being with her, I think I love her, and I never run out of things to talk about with her. Never that is, until now.  I’ve got nothing as she stands there looking me in the eyes, waiting for my answer. Finally, I just blurted out “because he won’t, that’s why”.

She looked back at me with concern in her eyes, and said “why, why won’t he let you”? You haven’t been to a game since you started high school, and we only have one more year left after this one, you are missing out on so much fun. I know you want to go, and I want you to be there with me, I want you to be my date, so will you ask him one more time, for me? I leaned up against the wall and considered my response carefully, and then I began slowly, measuring my words.

I looked at her and said Megan, I don’t know what the point in asking is, because his answer is going to be no. Last year, when we had the first home game, I went and asked him if I could go, and the answer was no. He said that he wasn’t comfortable with me going out in a car with other kids driving. Do you remember a few weeks after school started last year, those kids from the next town got in a car wreck and two of them were killed, well that happened the week before the first home game. So my dad said no, he didn’t want me ending up like one of them. That was the last time I asked him if I could go to the game.

Megan looked at me like I was crazy, “you haven’t asked him since then”, and I shook my head slowly side to side. He said no then, he doesn’t want me to go out, he doesn’t want me riding around with other kids, and nothing has changed, so why would I ask him again? His answer was no then, it will be no now, the circumstances have not changed. Why can’t you understand that’s just how it is I ask her? Why can’t you just leave it alone?

She shakes her head in frustration, and says “I think you are making a mistake, unless your dad is a psycho, he loves you and wants you to be happy”, don’t you think he wants you to be happy? Yes, I nod. You have to give him a chance, just because he said no once doesn’t mean he will never change his mind, that was over a year ago. You have grown up a lot in the last year, in many ways you are a lot more responsible than you were a year ago, but you have to give him a chance, so promise me you will ask him Andrew, c’mon now, promise me. I stare back at her, wanting to go, knowing he will say no yet wanting to please her, so I said okay, I promise.

The sun is beginning to turn the thin clouds a fiery red, sunset is beginning, as I stand up and turn away from the window, resigned to keeping my promise. I head down stairs into the kitchen and head towards the den where dad is watching Seinfeld. Hey pops, you got a second, I ask as he pauses the TV, muting George Costanza in mid rant. Sure son, what’s up he asks. Well, I know you are going to say no, but I thought I would ask anyway. Can I go to the game tonight, and the dance in the gym afterwards, and I brace myself for the response. He asks who is going, how late I think it will last, and then shocks me beyond belief and says “Sure, I don’t see why not”, and he fishes out his wallet and extracts a twenty and hands it to me. He hands the twenty to me and says “have a good time son”, then un-pauses the TV again, and George resumes his rant. I bolt for the door, so excited I don’t know what to do with myself; it will be the best night of my life!

Okay, sounds a bit odd for a story, right? A kid knowing his dad will say no, so he doesn’t even bother asking. For a while, I have had some questions concerning prayer going around in my head, and strangely enough, they resemble the story above. We pray for guidance in life, we pray for things like jobs, promotions, and other situational things in addition to people being ill and praying for healing. When I pray for things like this, I always will say that I want God’s will to be done, that I want Him to put me where He wants me. But am I not in fact asking Him to put me where “I” want to be. So there is the quandary, do I pray for my will, or God’s will.

A dear friend and I discussed prayer the other day, and this viewpoint, and his opinion was that God’s will is going to be done no matter what, if your request meshes with God’s will, then you’re in luck. Things are going to be as they are going to be whether you pray about it or not. While I hold this friend in very high regard, I do not agree. If this is the case, God is going to do as He wishes no matter what.

We are in fact encouraged to bring our prayers and protestations to God, He wants to hear from us, and in my opinion, He considers our communications with Him very seriously. The scriptures leave me with the thought that He craves open dialogue with those He has created, and this is why I think so. His Son was sacrificed for us, and God was the one who chose to tear the veil/curtain between us and the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. Without tearing the veil, only the priests could enter, only the priests could intercede on our behalf’s, only the priests could talk to Him. He didn’t like that, He tore the veil, He wants to hear from us. The Bible is full of examples where God has granted changes to the course of someone’s life because they prayed about it. Lazarus course was changed, the thief that hung next to Jesus, his course was changed, the woman at the well, her course was changed.

The best way for me to understand my relationship to God is as that of a Father and a child, and if the fathers mind is made up all the time, and is solid and unchangeable, then it is not an intimate relationship they have. I believe there are things that are always going to go according to God’s plan, but I believe there is also much that can be changed, if you take the time to go to Him in prayer. I can’t help but think about the example of faith, and what would be possible if our faith were only the size of a mustard seed. The problem has never been with God not being there, it has always been with getting us to take the time to just talk to Him.

God Bless-JFT

The above story is fiction, written to underscore a point.

Read Full Post »

Definition of beliefs, this has been on my mind a lot lately. As I sit at my cluttered desk, across from my wife, sitting at her not as cluttered desk, I think about my blog. I began my blog a couple of years ago, inspired to write about God. I never thought about even the remotest of possibilities that I would eventually post over two hundred and sixty articles, as I call them. How could I even come up with the material, certainly not without divine intervention, but divine intervention “would” in fact come, and the posts would be written.

Recently, I had a comment from a reader that caused me to really stop and think about “why” I write what I do. My blog, “thoughts on being a Christ follower” is meant to be an encouragement to others, to be uplifting to those who follow Christ already. It is also meant to be thought provoking to those who are investigating Christ as a Savior, and is meant to plant a seed to those who do not know Christ at all, a seed planted in love. God has been so good to me in my life, teaching in love through experiences I have been placed in. So again I ask why, why do I write this Blog?

As a child, raised up in “the Church” as I knew it, we were known as non-denominational, because that implies that there was no headquarters from which all of the franchise congregations were run. I never really knew what non-denominational was, because it was one of those things that the adults “assumed” we knew. Truth was, they probably didn’t know what it meant either. It was assumed that you would get baptized between the ages of ten and twelve, if you were early; they doubted you truly knew what you were doing. If you were late, they began to worry that you were going to go the other way. So, I chose to be baptized at the age of ten, coincidentally on the evening following the baptism of two of my good friends, no peer pressure though 😉 . I just kind of felt it was the thing to do, you know.

After I was baptized, I really did feel white as snow as I rose from those waters, and I did know I loved God. I then began the life of being a pre-teen Christian. Here was the drill, after you became a Christian (baptism), you were then expected to tow the line, and walk sinless. In doing so, sometimes you would occasionally stumble, leading to a collection of sins that would begin to mar your soul. Even one sin on your soul makes you unfit for Heaven, or so we were told, so upon stumbling you would then be lost again. I used to see it like this, a sin was a black dot on my soul, as time would go by; I would begin to look like a Dalmatian. When I just couldn’t live with myself anymore, I would need to go to plan “B”, which would involve taking a walk at the alter call. Every service, twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday, the preacher would give an alter call, anyone who wanted to be baptized, or needed the prayers of the church would head for the front pew during the singing of the invitation hymn. As a preteen boy, then as a teen, I spent a lot of time on that front pew, having the congregation pray for my “restoration”. It was so self-defeating, saved on Sunday, lost from Monday on.

Conscious of how often I would make the trek to the front, I began to think “what’s the point”, I am a bad person. I obviously have no self-control I would think because I spend the vast majority of my time standing on the trapdoor to hell. You can’t go up front every week, if I was there as often as I needed to be I would be getting my mail there. So I began to be comfortable with being lost most of the time, and I would actually wish that I would die directly after going forward one day, I mean, if it didn’t happen that way, what were the odds of winding up in Heaven?

From where I stand now, it would be easy to look back at those folks and be angry with them for forgetting to mention the gift of Grace. But in truth, I think they were just the same as many other generations of religious before them, they thought they were doing what was right, they were holding to tradition. I am grateful to God that I was able to break from tradition and ask those hard questions, and that I turned back to the only place where “all” of the answers lie, The Bible. The problem with holding to tradition is that tradition makes us lazy, when we just keep doing what we’ve always done, then we stop thinking about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and God gets lost in our repetition. As followers of Christ, we don’t have the option of becoming lazy where God’s word is concerned, and we do have an obligation to make sure that what we tell others is true and accurate. There is only one way we can do that, and that is by studying God’s Word. Our relationship to God is a personal one, it is a One on one thing with God. Being misled because you chose to let someone else put their own spin on God’s Word without knowing it yourself is not acceptable, we must know what we believe, and we must know why we believe it. We will also be held to a higher level of accountability by God when we share our faith with others, this is an “incentive” for us to make sure that what we tell them is accurate and correct.

I know what it is like to walk around without hope, I know what it is like to feel dirty and worthless. I know what it is like to “know” that you are going to hell no matter how hard you try to be good, and that on our best day, we still aren’t good enough to “earn” Heaven. I fail to understand how the wonderful message of Christ and His sacrifice for us can be missed when we all read the same Bible, but somehow it does. And that is why I write this blog, because I want to do everything I can to tell people the good news, that you don’t have to walk around in hopelessness as I did. That you don’t go in and out of salvation daily and that God knows what we face, and that is why He gave us the gift of His Son, because He knows it is not possible for us to tow the line. We needed help, we needed a “get out of hell free card”, and that card is crimson, that card is Jesus blood. I want people to know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that we might have the gift of eternal life”. He loves us that much!

So that is why I write what I do, because I want you to know what I know, that God loves us. The decision to follow Christ is a decision that only “you” can make, but I hope if you have read my blog that it will encourage you in that direction, to make that decision. While I sometimes write short fiction stories, make no mistake, they are not written to entertain you, they were written with the purpose of causing you to think, ask questions, and seek answers. I love God, and I love you, and I want you to have the opportunity to know the peace inside that God has blessed me with. The word “hope” of salvation has never really done it for me, in my mind failing to capture my true thoughts. “Anticipation” of salvation is more like it, confident in the power of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s promise. Hope has a question mark attached to it, and I have spent too much of my life stumbling around in the gray area already. There are no question marks attached to God’s promise as I know it, so rejoice in the anticipation of our final resting place. Rejoice in knowing that you are bought and paid for, rejoice in knowing where you will spend your eternity, “if” you will only accept Gods gift of His Son.

God Bless-JFT

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Peace, blessed peace. Sometimes I crave peace, peace and quiet, peace of mind. Sometimes I crave an empty mind, the kind of empty mind that doesn’t have a care in the world. What comes to mind for me is the cabin by Lake Vallecito, Colorado that I used to rent for summer vacations every year. It had a large covered porch with log railing, and I would love to lean back in a rocker, and put my feet up on the rail in the evenings when thunderstorms would roll in. Close my eyes and listen to the clap and roll of thunder as it echoed through the mountain valleys, carrying with it the fresh mountain rains and a scent I have smelled no-where else.

I can still remember that smell, so fresh and earthy as the rain would begin to fall and the warmth of the summer day would be ushered out by the cold rain. The rain would usually only last for an hour or so, and then by sunset, it would be gone, the skies clear again.

Another memory of peace that I reminisce of often was last years vacation in the mountains of Arizona with my family, a similar cabin, and again the mountain thunderstorms that come every evening. Lying in a hammock, not thinking about the trivialities of life that we all must endure. Last summer when we went on vacation, I think I liked being in that hammock more than just about anything else, listening to the music of my family laughing inside. Rocking slightly in the cool breeze until I would drift off to sleep.

It was so nice to not have anywhere to be, not having to look at my watch or having a schedule to keep. And not having to worry about needing to be here or there, but to just swing and relax, letting the cool mountain air mend what a busy life does to us, it was pure bliss.

In times where things are stressful and busy, I think about those memories, I think of the good times we have had in the past. I think about all of us riding horses in the mountains together, recharging our batteries and having fun as a family. I have always believed in taking a vacation as a family every year, and this is why, because we can leave it all behind and go unwind.

When we enjoy those times together, it is easy to become addicted to the “simple, easy, or good” life. It is easy to enjoy it so much that you want it to be your reality all of the time, you begin to think it would be a good idea to leave behind the hustle and bustle of a busy life for a life on easy street, complete with hammock.

In the evenings we would hang out as a family and play board games, enjoying the absence of distractions that seem ever present in our daily lives. My wife and I would go on long walks through the mountain community and begin to daydream about how wonderful life would be to live there all of the time, to have a log cabin in the forest, to live the dream. The desire would cause us to begin to consider what it would take to make that dream come true, so before you know it, we would begin to collect flyers from the tubes under for sale signs, looking for that one miracle that we would need to actually be able to do it. Then the Spirit would gently tap us on the shoulder and remind us how blessed we already are, and we would enter into reality again, realizing we had allowed the devil to seed our hearts with a bad case of the wants.

As much we enjoy getting a chance to purge the stress and clear our minds out once in a while in such a wonderful environment, we realize that our vacations are a gift from God. These great family times where we have a chance to step away from the hustle and bustle are meant to be a time of repair and healing, not an everyday reality. It is amazing how much you can heal in one short week with those you love, but if it were an everyday reality, it would cease to be sacred and instead become something that we would begin to take for granted.

When I was younger and less seasoned by life, I used to have the dream of one day leaving the city behind and retiring into the mountains where we would have a nice big log cabin. We would have a place big enough for us and our four girls and their future families and our home would echo with the laughter of our future grandchildren. It was a beautiful dream, but as I grow older I know that it is just a dream, it will probably not be our reality. You see, those dreams we used to have had failed to include a very important part of our life. We never thought about how we would go about serving God while achieving our personal goals.

Another aspect of the dream that I never really thought about is this. If I build a life that is based on setting ourselves up in comfort and excess, life begins to be about us and our own wants, which does not leave a lot of room for God. Our world is full of examples of what happens when people first seek to serve themselves, chasing their dreams and becoming obsessed with financial and material gain, only to find that winning the lottery and getting that dream house, car, or vacation home was not the secret to happiness that they thought it would be. Without God at the forefront, their lives were still empty but now much more complicated.

Now I am not suggesting that if you live in the mountains in a log cabin with a hammock that you cannot serve God, because that could not be farther from the truth. What I am saying is that when you put your goal of achieving something like that at priority number one, it might be time to do a self check. When your “wants” begin to drive your life, you are entering dangerous territory. So now, when we are blessed enough to still get away and recharge our batteries, we take it as just that, a gift from God, and we try to keep our case of the wants in check.

Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV)  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

God Bless-JFT

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »