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Posts Tagged ‘teens’

My friend Mel and I wedged ourselves in the crack that ran up the cliff face (known as a chimney in climberspeak) and scooted upward using our hands, feet and backsides. Never once on the way up did I even think about how we would get down, I just focused or the task at hand and went up. When we finally topped out, we stood on a small ledge maybe ten feet across and peered over the lip of a 300 foot cliff known as the face wall on the mountain we were on. Mel looked around for an anchor point for our two 300 foot coils of rope, and there was a single Palo-Verde tree with a trunk about four inches in diameter. Mel immediately began to anchor to the small tree without thinking twice. We didn’t have formal harnesses, but a nylon strap that if you tied correctly, should work just fine, so I began to put on my harness/strap and get ready for the descent. I clipped into the rope, then went over the edge, and was at that point, past the point of no return, the first 150 feet I ran side to side on the wall, hooting like an owl, jumping and having a blast, then the wall fell away and the last 150 feet were freefall, rope only. I wasn’t worried about anything, I was eighteen, I was fearless, and I was going to live forever.

As time went on, I always still enjoyed the rush of excitement. After I became a daddy, things were a little bit different, I finally realized I wasn’t going to live forever, so I bought better equipment. I wasn’t willing to give up breathing that rare air, but I could manage the risk I reasoned if I had the good stuff. But I secretly scoffed at the boy who once thought he would live forever, what was he thinking? It was important to live life to it’s fullest, but to know that we all have a number, and that one day it will be up. Teenagers are famous for their “I’ll live forever” attitude, and we are famous as parents for being annoyed with them for it. But what if, just what if, they are the ones who are right. Think about it, what if we really “do” live forever?

When we die, do we go into a dark void of nothingness where we wait for the rest of the world to fall apart, or do we just move right along? In John 14: 1-3 Jesus tells His disciples  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

So, no purgatory, no holding cells or sending angels to do pick-ups, but none other than Jesus Himself to come. Now, this was His disciples he was speaking to, not everyone else. But scriptures point to the fact that He treats all of us the same, so that would mean that pretty much about the time you code and they are placing the paddles on your chest (sorry), Jesus is going to be tapping you on the shoulder. This doesn’t seem very much like death to me, I have always thought of death as morticians, plots, souls in limbo tapping their toes, waiting for the trumpet. All of the stories of those who have died on the table and then been brought back mirror exactly what Jesus promised in John 14, except that they are told it is not their time, and they are sent back. I believe that is something done purposeful to let people know a little of what to expect.

So, if that’s what happens, then we are in fact wrong, and the teenagers have been right all along, we do live forever. Death is not a stopping point, but it is merely like traveling across country and having to stop in a strange town and switch planes. There is no stopping point, our lives are continuous into eternity except for that small adjustment when we shed the flesh, get our forever body, and our eternal assignment. So think about it folks, what if you just completely shed your fear of death altogether and realize that you are already living in eternity, we will in fact live forever, we “are” in fact living forever.

I have ventured into many dark caves in my life, some a hundred feet under the ocean, I have met the unknown, and I have the fear of not knowing what lies around the bend. I have wondered if I would meet a shark, a bear, or one of those freaks I have seen in one too many scary movies I have watched in my life, I know what it is to fear the unknown. But one thing I know, death is one thing Jesus went out of His way to make sure was “not” an unknown to us, He layed it out, and I have nothing to fear from that next step in life, because it is not an end, but merely another stage in the journey. Which brings us to the big question, do we live forever, and to that I shout “YES” we do, there is no end, we are in our eternity. I know God, I know Christ, the Holy Spirit, and I want to tell everyone I can about them as long as I have breath to do so. What will you do with your forever? God Bless-Jim

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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.

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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

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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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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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The beautiful collection of pots sat in the finally cool fire kiln, they had been built beautiful by the potter, and then solidified by their extended time in the fire, they were ready to market now, as the potter called his apprentice over to the kiln.

 Boy, take those pots over to where the last batch is stored. Take care not to damage them now, because if their perfection is marred, they will never be the same. The young man began to take the large ewers, which were designed for holding water or wine over to the area of the shop where he was told to take them. While the master was watching, he carried them one by one, but when the master became occupied with a project on the other side of the shop, the young man began to carry them two at a time. Work smart, isn’t that what his father had told him?

 Rounding a corner with two of the ewers, he was startled by a large rat that ran between his feet, causing him to stumble, He lost his grip on one of the ewers, and it hit the floor on its side. It didn’t shatter as he thought it would, but it did show a small crack, hairline at best going up the side. He had messed up and the master would be angry with him he knew, but he knew he must fess up and let the boss know.

 After he had moved all of the ewers, he quietly knocked on the potter’s office door, near the end of the day. The master said, “Come in” and the young man entered. The master knew right away something was wrong, yet he looked at his young protgé’ and said “what is it son”?

 The young apprentice opened up and told the master the complete and whole truth, how things had happened, etc. To his surprise, the potter said “don’t worry about it, I actually think I know a place it will come in handy. He told the young man to grab the ewer and meet him outside, so the boy did. The master looked up towards the roof, then down at the ground, then around at the landscape. He pointed at the ground and said, “put it right here boy”, and the young man complied.

 As they closed up for the night, the young man was puzzled at why the master wasn’t angry, but he decided to take grace where he could get it, and put it out of his mind. The following weeks were busy, and the boy worked hard, taking care not to make the same mistake again. As the man neared completion of his apprenticeship, and neared his new title of junior master, he still wondered about the fractured pot, and why the master had been so forgiving.

 Master, tell me why you were understanding of the cracked ewer and didn’t punish me. You are a hard man, working hard and expecting much of me, yet that day you were kind to a fault and didn’t seem to mind. Why weren’t you angrier with me?

 The master gave just the slightest smile, and said come with me boy. They went into an upper room with windows that were open and a cool breeze came through. This room is where they ate their meals, and there was the ewer that they stored their drinking water in. Son, look over that ewer and tell me what you find. “Well, the ewer is full the young man said, there are no damp spots or blemishes on this one, I would say it is one of your finer pieces sir. The old potter smiled slightly again, then said come with me boy, and they went outside. They rounded the corner of the building and walked behind it to a place he had seldom been, except to place the ewer that he cracked months before. The scene was vastly different this time though, the entire area was changed. Green grass covered the whole area, and as the land sloped down, he noticed that the potter had planted some crops. There was corn, peas, and an array of other vegetables in the small area. “Look at that pot boy and tell me what you see” the old man said. The young man immediately saw the crack he had caused, because it was all wet. On closer inspection he found two other cracks he had not seen before that were wet also. He looked inside the ewer and it was only one third full. He told the master that the ewer was pretty useless, it was only a third full, and had more cracks than he originally thought. Once again he began to feel bad.

 The master asked him what was different from the first pot to the second, to which the boy said , the first one holds water to a fault, and this one leaks. The master smiled again and said “think about it like this”. The broken pot sits under the roof, the rain fills it to overflowing from the roof runoff. The pot is then replenished, and begins to slowly leak out its contents over time. It slowly feeds the grass you see, and even dampens the ground that supplies the vegetables with water. When it is dry, the broken pot still slowly feeds water to those things that need it. In contrast, the perfect pot with no blemishes is concerned only with itself. It contains water that could be life giving to many around it, yet it gives nothing up on its own. Its beauty and perfection causes it to hold in everything, giving up nothing that it is not forced to do.

 The boy said “but sir, that is where we get all of our drinking water from”. The old man said yes, but did it ever give you anything freely on it’s own. No, the boy said, I never thought of it that way, but you are right.

 The master said “the broken pot has found it’s place, it wasn’t’ useless like you thought, in fact, it will serve many things for long to come. Perfection comes at a high price sometimes son, as the older man placed an arm around the shoulder of his young apprentice. Come on; let’s go get some dinner.

 Many times as Christians it isn’t until we have been broken painfully, left feeling ugly and unwanted that we finally see God has a purpose for us. God Bless-JFT

This story is fiction

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“If you never allow yourself to get into a position where you need to be rescued, then God does not have the opportunity to perform a miracle in your life”. ~The Holy Spirit, whispered to me, 2011.

The three men looked at one another and were calm. There was no temptation to give in to the king’s demands, so they simply replied to him the following.

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

I imagine these bold men, Heroes of the Bible to me, and I picture them unsheathing the sword of truth and holding it high, knowing they were drawing a line in the sand before a very powerful and proud king. They had made their stand, there was no more talking needed, the fires were stoked, and they were thrown into a furnace so hot it killed even those who threw them in. But they had something else when they went into that furnace; they had the shield of God. The shield of God is something that comes when you wield the sword of truth and take a stand for what is right, prepared to face the consequences. They didn’t know that they would live through the furnace, but they knew that God was with them. This is one of the Bible stories that sends chills up my spine because had they just given in and bowed before the idol, this would have all been a non issue.

Challenges to our faith, to honesty and integrity still come to us regularly, and if we choose to not take a stand and do what is right, God doesn’t get to perform a miracle in your life, as he did with Daniel and the lions, David and Goliath, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I have been reading a lot lately about faith, and I believe the trust that all of these Bible heroes showed in God was rooted in their deep faith. I truly believe God still performs miracles like those above in today’s world, but we have to trust in Him, we have to be willing and able to un-sheath the sword of truth and hold it high in His name, and then the shield of God will appear in your other hand, and you will fear no more.

I have worked at the same job for almost twenty-two years, and in the last year, I have been “told” to submit reports daily that I feel are less than honest. This is the first time in over two decades that I have ever been told to do something I feel is not right. It first began around last Thanksgiving, and my superiors were hostile when I questioned doing it. You see, it was their boss, a new manager who had started it, and they were afraid to make waves. Long about late February, after much prayer, discussion with my wife, pastor, friends, I made a decision. I had to stand for the right.

I went three levels up, to the new managers boss, and calmly told him that I would not be doing it anymore. I explained that I am a Christ follower, and that I knew that what I was being told to do was not right, and I was willing to leave my job over it, it was a moral issue to me. I felt a sense of peace come over me; I knew God was going to take care of me either way as I drew my line in the sand. The manager calmly told me that he would get with “legal” and have the report changed so that I was comfortable with it. And he did, right had triumphed, and I felt the shield of God surround me warmly.

When we work in a secular world, we sometimes work for people who are accepted as good, decent honest people, yet their moral character is different than ours. They are willing to fudge the numbers, or tell a little white lie on a report and they don’t feel the moral dilemma about it that we as Christians do, such is the case with the young new manager I work with. As time passed, this same issue came up again, although in a slightly different scenario, and once again, I was being told to report falsely. Even my peers this time told me I shouldn’t make waves, it isn’t that big of a deal, just let it go and sign on the dotted line. Exasperated, I returned to the same place I did before, first God, then spouse, and friends and pastor for counsel. The answer was the same, I would rather live in a shack and have a clean conscience that compromise what I know is right for worldly security.

I was calm as I went to work on the fourth of July, and wrote an e-mail to a man I have never emailed before, the man who manages all of the power plants in my company and requested a meeting. I was confident as I walked into the office to meet with this man, because I knew that I had the shield of God around me, and I was wielding the sword of truth. I started the meeting by informing this man that I was a follower of Christ, and that Jesus guides my heart and mind, and that I know what I am being told to do is wrong. I explained to him that I was willing to let it all go for this one issue. He sat and listened, and then he agreed with me that it wasn’t the right thing to do. He assured me that this would all be taken care of as we stood and shook hands. Once again, the shield of God surrounded me.

When I told my friends the story of how this had ended, they told me I was gutsy and brave, that I had stood up in the face of persecution. My reply was that I have never been persecuted, people in China, North Korea, Columbia, Egypt, Iran and many others face persecution, I just stood up for what was right.

The shield of God is an amazing thing, the knowledge that you are being steered and guided by Him, the creator of the universe. Refuse to compromise what you know is right, draw a line in the sand and take a stand for what you believe, and you too will feel this amazing power. If God is for us, who can be against us?

God Bless-JFT

This is a true story

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