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Posts Tagged ‘Retirement’

Trust in God, He will never let you down, ever! Love always, Tina. I smiled at the note as I placed it back in my fabric Scooby-Do lunchbox I carried in my briefcase and zipped it shut. Today was the day, they were going to make the announcement within minutes now, and I just had a feeling my ship would dock this time. It had been many years of hard work and waiting, and watching people like Stu pass me up, but sometimes God uses situations like that to stretch us, to grow us into who he wants us to be. Stu was a, well, there is just no other way to put it, Stu is a suck up. He would sit around the office with his feet up doing nothing, but he would jump to the bosses beacon call, he was quite the pet. We were all on to him, all of us except the boss that is, and a few of the pretty secretaries in our office. When it came time for promotions, I was passed over; Stu was selected for the job. Since then, Stu is making a hundred grand more, and he left his wife and kids for Steph in reception.

I smile and shake my head as I remember how angry I was when I hadn’t gotten the job, all I could see at the time was how a man I saw as inferior to myself was selected over myself. Stu had been divorced twice since he had divorced his wife, bringing the total to three. He wasn’t dating anyone these days, he had gained about 100Lbs and was now referred to as “beef Stu” behind his back, I actually felt sorry for him these days. There was a ruckus outside of my office, so I mentally prepared myself for the big moment. There was cheering and clapping, I quickly sat at my desk and straightened my tie in case someone had brought a camera, but no one entered. The longer I sat there, the laughing and cheering faded. I heard a chime indicating I had received an email as I looked down at my computer and the subject line read “organizational announcement”. I grabbed the mouse then stopped myself and quickly said a prayer, asking God one more time to please bless me with this job, then I clicked.

Without thinking I threw the small ceramic cup my son had made me for fathers day that said “worlds best dada” at the wall behind the door and it exploded. Then, I quickly masked control and grabbed my briefcase and strolled out the door with a huge fake smile on my face. I told the pool secretary I would not be returning today and kept walking as she fired off a flurry of questions that I ignored. I had to make it out of here before someone wanted to chat about the woman they hired from outside the company that had been in the email. I hopped into the elevator as my phone began to buzz and I ignored it, I was too busy cursing in four different languages to realize it was ringing. How could this happen, this was worse than when that idiot Stu had gotten the job. This time they passed me up to hire a total stranger.

I turned into the park and stopped at the small magazine kiosk that bordered the entrance. I bought a cheap cigar and lit up as I continued on, I hadn’t smoked a stogie in years, but I was just so upset, I think I deserved one if I wanted it. I walked around the lake as joggers and mothers pushing strollers walked and ran by, some gave me “looks” as I puffed away angrily, I knew Tina would be disappointed, right now I didn’t care. I found a park bench at the far end of the lake and sat down by myself as a breeze began to blow. What would my wife think, what kind of un-promote-able loser had she married, I could not seem to get past the place where I was, I had prayed to God until I was flippin’ blue in the face, trying to do things right, yet here I was.

I was distracted by the sound of heavy breathing as I looked up to see a jogger cooling down and looking at his watch, obviously checking his heart rate. Hey man, mind if I share that bench with you for a few, he asked? Uh, sure I said as I moved my briefcase to the side. He was a young guy, no more than 22, with tattoo sleeves. His arms were completely covered, every square millimeter from his shoulder to his wrist, both arms. He wore a beanie stocking cap over a thick mop of curly black hair, and had a weeks worth of beard stubble on his face. Thanks man, he said and he sat right down, then quickly remarked “not to be nosy, but dressed in a nice suit as you are, I would think you could afford a better cigar than that”. I began to respond, and found my tongue tied as I noticed a slight grin on this guys face, he was messing with me, he didn’t know me and he was messing with me. He had the strangest eyes, they were a lavender/purple hue, a color I have never seen before. I was about to tell him to mind his own business when he stuck his hand out and said pleased to meet you, names Jay. I hesitated a moment, and then I finally gave in and shook his hand and told him my name was Todd. Before long, I had begun to actually confide in him about the events of my day. He would just nod and listen, and so I continued and told him about my faith and how my family and I were Christians, and how we had built our lives around God. This young guy with the beautiful eyes and the many tattoos was a great listener, he would just sit, and listen, and wait.

So I finally cut to the chase, I didn’t really know what to think of God anymore. I had prayed fervently to God, asking Him to bless my labor that I may advance. I had worked long hours at the office sacrificing where others hadn’t, I had tried to set a good example for others, I didn’t cheat on my wife, I didn’t drink to excess, I deserved that job. Jay was nodding with emphasis at every point I made, doggone right you do, and you deserve more than that to boot, now I was nodding, I liked this guy.

He looked at me and asked “so when you pray, do you pray for like, a “BMW”, or maybe a boat or motorcycle, his face taking on a mischievous smile. What about a summer home in the mountains huh, you could pray for that. No, no  I said, that isn’t the kind of thing you pray for I said as Jay sat there with a quizzical look on his face listening to me. When you pray, you don’t pray for things that are luxury items like cars, boats, motorcycles and cabins, those are not needs, but rather wants. He looked at me seriously and said “what is different about that job you want, how is it different from praying for a BMW”? His face had taken on a whole new look, and I felt as though I had just been blindsided, “it is completely different Jay, you don’t know the situation so you shouldn’t be making judgments” I said. He just looked back at me and seemed a little older now, then he looked down and slowly shook his head. How much money do you make Todd, he asked? None of your business I said, as I stood up hotly!. He looked up and said one hundred seventeen thousand dollars, and change, that’s how much. My jaw sagged as he continued.

You have a nice house in a better neighborhood, Tina is a stay at home mom, you have a warm place to sleep, comfortable furniture. Did you know that once He started His ministry, the Son of Man never had a place of His own? You have cars, a house, furnishings, a great job, yet you are not satisfied, you want a better job, because you want to further glorify yourself, because no one appreciates you enough. Well, I say there is no difference between that and praying for a new car when you already have a great one, there is no difference. Who are you I asked really? Jay, I already told you, Jay See, actually those are just my initials though. J.C. my mind raced as he stood to leave, wait I asked and he turned and smiled kindly at me. Todd, just relax brother, just relax and realize that true rest lies in surrender. Realize that there is a larger plan at work, then He placed a hand on my shoulder and jogged past me. I turned to watch Him run but He was gone, there was no one there, the sidewalk was empty. I began to make my way back to work, tail between my legs. God Bless-JFT

 

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The seventies gave us a band named the Bee Gee’s, a group of Brit’s headed up by Barry Gibb and his brother Andy. Now, to be perfectly honest, that era belonged to my brothers, it was not mine. My motto was “death before disco” and  I listened only to Rock-N-Roll music. No white polyester leisure suits for me, no siree.

But strangely enough, I was thinking about something today, actually more than that. I have been thinking a lot lately about a particular subject, and wouldn’t you know it, a Bee Gee’s song came to the forefront. The song I am thinking about is “How deep is your love”?

I was faced with the opportunity to possibly move into a lateral or slight promotion at work during the last month, and it was very testing for me. Now those of you who know me know I work a pretty crazy schedule, constantly shifting between days and nights. And to be honest, the thought of switching to a straight day job during the week made my heart swell with desire. The idea of living on a normal daytime/nighttime schedule really appealed to me, because the last time I worked a normal schedule I was a teenager, and because I am in my twenty-second year of doing what I do, working my crazy shift.

So, this opportunity came along, and I was in the running for the position, but I did all I could to keep from getting excited about it. Truth known, I really would have loved to get the job with new hours, new challenges and a new environment. So I made my heart known to God about it, and then I began to re-assure Him that if it is not His will that I get the job, then I will be content where I am for the rest of my life if that is what He wishes. After all, I always pray for God to put me where He wants me, and to use me as He needs to use me, so if I don’t get the promotion, then He must need me where I am. God should view that as me being noble right?

In the end, I didn’t get the promotion, and believe it or not I was good about it. Not getting the promotion didn’t sting like I thought it might, because I prayed about it a lot, and I thought about it a lot, steeling my mind to try and have the right attitude, and it worked. Hey, I was getting somewhere now, I am getting to be an old dog, but I can still be taught a new trick. I began to start feeling a little better about myself, my walk, another lesson learned. So why did I still feel like I was missing something, that there was something I still didn’t understand.

What if, God doesn’t want me to promise to Him that I will be content in my current job, which provides a great living for my wife and girls? My current job that has been stable through this whole horrible economy, my current job where I sit in a big comfy chair in a nice control room, with lots of air conditioning. What if, He wants me to be content wherever I am? What if instead of telling Him that I would be content to keep the status quo, I told Him that my comfort was in the Lord? I guess what I was really saying was this, “it’s okay God, if you don’t give me a super cushy job, I won’t get mad at you, I will just smile and keep doing my regular cushy job”.  Now what if, instead of saying that, I said God, where you lead I will follow.

Tonight, my wife and I were talking about what it would be like if we lost everything we had, if we had no home, no money, no cars, and were living in a shelter, what would life be like. Would it be as easy to be loving and loyal to God and each other, or would we then become bitter and resentful? I would like to think that we would be the same as we are now, actually maybe even more thankful than we are now. When I look at things in this light, my noble assurance to God that I would remain content under the best of circumstances doesn’t seem like such a selfless offer. In fact, it really looks more like the self-righteous response of spoiled child that He should have cut off long ago. It is the response of someone who offers loyalty for a price, the price of a continued blessing.

So here is the question that I came up with for myself, “how deep is your love”? Is my love dependant on the good times, a good job, a good home, healthy kids and a healthy spouse? Or is my love for God rock solid, withstanding any storm of trial and temptation?

In the end, I know what I want. I know what He wants. What He wants and I want is a love that will stand any test, weather any heartbreak or any stormy sea and yet not be shaken. A love that will follow Him anywhere He leads, “regardless”.

So “How deep is your love”?

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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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

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The issue is the same, is it okay to bend the numbers a little bit, after all, since I have been told to do so, it really isn’t me making the decision is it? It is really the big boys who have the culpability for this; I am just a small fly in the ointment far downstream. Naw, I know this line of reasoning is rubbish so I don’t bother making excuses. I know God tells us thru the scriptures that worry is wrong, so that is another of my flaws then, because sometimes I still worry.

What if I refuse to do what they are telling me to do and they just fire me? What if I lose this job and can’t support my family anymore? What if I just do what I know is wrong, will it be possible for me to still strive to be a man of honor knowing I am doing something wrong? The stress builds up, and although I am praying for help, I am doing just that, praying for help, not deliverance.

So, as I have told you before, I drew the line in the sand, I refuse to do this, it is not moral, I am a Christ follower, do what you must but those are my terms. Whew, that wasn’t so bad now was it? The wise manager agrees with me, and says we will bring in legal and rework the contract, so that it will read true. I feel relief, He was with me all the way, but I bore too much of the burden, and fell very sick within a week. If only I would have let God “carry” all of it, I would not have had the stroke.

Months later, another manager, the one who ordered the number fudging in the first place starts pushing the limits again, I have to take a stand once more, but it doesn’t go away. It seems as though this issue is going to take me down before it is over, so I reach out to God. I go up the ladder and address the issue with a high ranking executive in my rather large company, and he agrees, be honest with reporting always. In the end, it is a lower level manager just above me who continues to want to push the limits of honesty, and although I have approval from all of his bosses, still he persists. When it happened for the fourth time in six months last week, I wondered what God was trying to tell me. What was this lesson oh God, what am I missing, and what are you trying to teach me? I prayed for the answers, but remained baffled, until this afternoon that is, and then the answer was delivered softly and gently to me as I dressed for work.

A man I have come to believe is a hero to our nation, and a warrior for God spoke at our church a couple of weeks back. Three Star Lieutenant General William Gerry Boykin spoke to our church, and it was awesome. The story of how he had to defend his Faith in being accepted into the first Delta force, How he was attacked by the left wing media for his faith, yet he stood strong in his faith, unwilling to placate the media mogul who was trying to bring him down. I was uplifted by this man, and invigorated to know that no matter what, no matter the pressure we are under, giving in to something wrong is never an option.

I am not really an autobiography or memoir reader, preferring a good fiction story instead, but this man had a book, and it was being sold in the bookstore at church after services. I bought one, and then stood in line to meet him and have him sign it. Now ever since I got that book, I have been reading it every day, it is a good book, but a good sized book also, and I haven’t lost interest in it at all, but rather can’t wait to read it each day.

Today, I again prayed to God for guidance as to how I am to respond to the latest salvo from this manager with a different moral character than I, and then I began to get ready for work. I went to pick up the book and put it into my lunchbox, and then I stopped and did a double take before picking it up. There, on my nightstand was the answer I had been waiting for all along. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I realized why I had been so drawn to the book and the man of great faith. The answer God sent me was in the title, and calmness settled over me, I finally knew what God wanted me to do, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me that it was the answer, I only need to persevere.

God Bless-JFT

This story is true

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This is it; this is the last thing on the list he thought as he jumped out of a perfectly good airplane at the altitude of eleven thousand feet. A parachuting instructor was strapped to his back for the tandem jump as he flew towards the earth at breakneck speed. This was so cool; John had always wanted to do this, now he could say he had. A videographer had jumped with them at the same time, and was filming Johns jump and the various expressions of happiness and surprise on John’s face. It was his first, and would be his last.

John had set out to fulfill a “bucket list” of things he wanted to do before he died. You see, John was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer last fall, and given less than a year. The first six months, he felt nothing, no pain. In fact, he felt healthy as he set out to put a check by all the things he had always wanted to do before he died.

His wife didn’t understand why he wanted to go off about the world checking off this doggone punch card, when he could be at home with his family, but she didn’t stand in his way, and he left. First stop was the Caribbean, he was going to learn to dive, and explore the reefs off of Cozumel and the Gran Caymans. One trip after another, some with friends, some solo until he found himself here, at eleven thousand feet with the final check left to be marked, the list complete.

Riding back to the airport, be pulled the list out and made the check, completing all. He looked over the list, mentally replaying each and every adventure, skiing in the Alps, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, watching a space shuttle liftoff, all things he had always dreamed of, and now had done. He folded the list and placed it back in his jacket pocket, a mildly unsettling feeling coming over him. John had been trying to fill a hole, an emptiness inside by doing this bucket list thing. He figured he deserved to do all of those things, he had worked hard for thirty five years and would now never see retirement, didn’t he have it coming?

That was a month ago, my how time flies he thought as he stared at the ceiling. Soaring through the air like an eagle one month, dying in a hospital bed the next. It reminded John of the television commercial that say’s “life comes at you fast” because it really does. The pain had flooded in two weeks after the parachuting thing and only gotten worse. Sally wasn’t there when he returned from his adventure trip, and he hadn’t seen her since. She was staying with her mother, the kids were at college. He had tried to call her several times, but her mother wouldn’t put her through. “Now John, you have broken this girl’s heart for the last six months while you drained your savings chasing your pursuits, and it has to stop now.”

As he drifted off to sleep in a cloud of morphine, God was kind to him and sent him the sweetest dreams. He remembered having to win Sally back in college, she was dating someone else. He dreamed of their first little tiny apartment. He dreamed of the morning that Sally came in grinning ear to ear and announced that they would soon be three, and how they both laughed, then cried joyfully at the thought of being parents. He dreamed the time when the doctor handed Amber to him for the first time, and he fell deeply in love with his daughter at first sight. He dreamed of sitting at Josh’s little league games and standing up cheering for him when he got a hit. Visions of the four of them camping in the mountains, sitting around the fire ring together blessed his mind. He dreamed about when he had held Sally tight and comforted her when Josh left for college and they became empty nesters, and she wondered what was in store for someone who had spent her life being a mommy, when the kids were gone.

A sharp pain brought him out of his sleep and back into reality again, he looked down at the rolling table that contained his dinner. The bucket list sat at one end folded open. He picked it up and looked it over, somehow all of the adventure had gone from the listings, this list he had worked on for so long now meant no more than a discarded grocery list after a trip to the store. The list was filled with things he had done mostly alone. When had life gotten all about him? He didn’t know, but he felt truly alone, and that hole he had been trying to fill was still there. He wadded the list into a ball and threw it at the trash can at the end of his bed. He then picked up the phone and called Sally’s mother just once more, but this time with a different message. When she answered, tension clearly in her voice, he calmly apologized for the things he had done, how he had harmed their family, and asked forgiveness. There was silence on the other end of the phone and then Sally came on and said hello. Sally was shocked to find out that he was back, and pained to hear that her mother hadn’t told her John was in the hospital, she hurried right over. Over the next two days, Amber and Josh came home from college on emergency leave, and the family spent a lot of time together.

On the evening of the last day, John could no longer talk and felt as though he were being pulled backward out of his own body, he knew it was the end and that he was saved, he just wanted to stay a little bit longer. He looked into the faces of his family and his heart warmed, and all of the precious memories flooded back in, the kids on the trampoline, Sally goofy golfing with him, late night scrabble as a family. He never even thought about how it felt to climb Kilimanjaro or dive a reef, he couldn’t have cared less about the list. He felt a tap on his shoulder and someone he couldn’t see said c’mon, it’s time. He let go and felt himself being pulled into the light and a new and wonderful future.

This Story is Fiction

God Bless-JFT

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In case you didn’t read part one-

https://blesseddad.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/he-aint-heavy-hes-my-brother/

The last time we communicated a few years ago, things were tense. I knew it would not be a good idea to have a face-to-face meeting, afraid I would say something I truly do not want to, if that makes sense. So I took the coward’s way our, I fired him an e-mail wishing him well in his retirement, although there was still much ire in my heart. The friend from long ago left behind in many discussions that ended bitterly. These thoughts passed through my mind as I placed my truck in park in front of his house. You see, he hadn’t answered that e-mail, I had no idea how I would be received this morning. The man was an old warhorse, would he kick me off his property?

I heard movement as I rang the doorbell, and I felt watched as I saw light move back and forth on the other side of the peephole, then fade altogether. I rang the bell once more, and was about to walk away when I heard the deadbolt begin to open. I turned as the door opened and I found myself face to face with my old friend, my old enemy.

The conversation was awkward in the beginning, but only for a little while. We soon fell into an easy and comfortable rhythm as we caught up over all the years. I was honest with him, we had been friends, and then adversaries, and I wasn’t comfortable leaving it at that. I wanted us to mend the fence. The warmth of my old friend returned to his face and his clear blue eyes began to fill with tears as he came over and hugged me. This would happen several times again before I would leave.

He still had all of his hair, although he didn’t know why, he was done with Chemo and he had just one week of radiation left. He was substantially smaller than he had been when I had last seen him. He then told me about Christy, his wife. They were still close, although they were separated. She has cancer too, throat cancer. Fitz shakes his head as he tells me about it. She has never smoked, yet she got a smokers cancer. He said she has lost the ability to talk, and she needs everyone’s prayers worse than he does.

His eyes water up again as he talks about her and her suffering, you can tell his heart is breaking.

We discuss his son, and how well he is doing in his career, and then I ask him how his relationship with the Lord is, and he smiles and says “better than ever”. The two and a half years since he retired has given him the opportunity to get closer still with God. Before his sickness, he would volunteer regularly at church.

We didn’t waste any of our time talking about “old times” but rather on things that mattered. He walked me out to my truck, and told me he was “very” happy that I had stopped by, and that I was welcome to do so any time I wanted to. He teared up again and gave me a final hug as I climbed into my truck and drove away.

He had changed and so had I, many times when we see someone for the last time under bad circumstances, that last snapshot we have is the one we use to classify them from now on. But people change, Fitz had changed. I no longer hold anger in my heart when I think of Fitz, instead I think of the broken man who kept thanking me for visiting him, the man who kept getting tears in his eyes, not the tyrant.

I know this post doesn’t have some huge Biblical discovery in it, but if there was something I wish you would walk away with, it is that we all change, and we all deserve a second chance. Is there someone you have held a grudge against for years, or maybe months? Maybe it is time to cut them some slack.

God bless

JFT

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