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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Table of Equals (A Belizian Tale)

      **There are some that have asked if I would start telling some stories from my recent trip to the Central American country of Belize. I realize I have not written a blog in a while, so I thought what better venue to tell some of the stories than this fortress of solitude.

      This first story will be not quite what you would expect, because I am not going to tell a story about the country itself or the people that inhabit that wonderful place, but this will be the story of two Americans, and a chance encounter.

      It was departure day. We were exhausted, unlike previous trips, we did not really take a day off, so basically we worked every day we were there, and the mornings and a couple hours in the afternoon were our times of rest, not a lot. So the looks on the missionaries faces was kind of the same, baggy eyes, men unshaven, nary a decent shower was taken, or a good nights sleep was not granted this group. After we had checked our bags and gotten through the rather easy security that is Belize airport we had a little time before our flight would take off, matter of fact the plane we would be leaving on hadn't even landed yet, so we had time to sit and relax. Generally this is the time when the missionaries will take advantage of the sandwich shops and souvenir shops at the airport, this trip was no exception. I began to wander about, the airport was crowded that day, and it is a small airport so places to sit were few and far between, so our group was segmented throughout the terminal. I went into one souvenir shop that I have visited a number of times, nothing new or interesting to be found, and thats when the hunger pains hit. So I wondered out to the two or three places to eat, where should I go, the sandwich shop is always reliable, as is the shops that sell candy bars and chips, of course I got a bag of fried plaintains as an appetizer. Finally, after a long week of God's work and through the exhaustion on thought would not escape my brain, it was Matthew 9:10. "While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and his disciples. 
      So I found myslef walking to where I beleived Jesus would have gone, all the way to the other side of the terminal, at the bar.  I had been in this bar before, just to get food though, I never actually had sat down, this time I did.  Here he comes, the owner of the bar, let me see if I can put into words that can best describe this man.  He is Indian, about four feet tall, thick coke bottle glasses, and a voice straight out of the Wizard of Oz in Munchkinland.  He greets everyone of his customers, welcomes them, and will gladly take a picture with you, if you send him a copy, he will place it on his wall. He greets me and says," Hiya how you doin ma friend, we got some nice rum punch already made up, and we have a full bar, whatever you need ma friend." I politely asked him, " Do you still have hot dogs?" He says, "Bess in da worl ma friend!!" So I said to him, "Well then, I will take a dog all the way, a container of crisps, and a sprite." He says,' You got it ma friend'.
    
        I get my lunch and the thought occurs to me, do I really want to sit on a bench in the terminal and eat this in my lap?  Of course not!  In this place the bar wraps all the way around, from the open area where they serve drinks and around the wall. I find a place against the wall out of the way, sit down, and begin to enjoy the bess hotdog in da worl. Suddenly, a clinking noise beside me, its a glass of scotch, a double on the rocks, and it has been placed down at the seat right next to mine. There he was, looking at me and smiling. He asks if he can sit down would I mind?  'Of course I don't mind!', secretely wondering where this conversation is going, I am not entirely ugly he might be hitting on me. But he was like I am when I am in that country, when you see another Gringo, you can't help but wonder what brought them to Belize and where in the states they are from. We talked about why I was there, I am an international missionary and we have in the past done medical missions but now focus mainly on construction with our partner church in Belmopan Belize. He listens intently as I tell stories of what we have done, how we partnered with this church, and what we did on this trip. Then, the conversation flips, as it should, 'what brings YOU to Belize kind sir?' Turns out he owns a machine shop company, and he does work in Belize and travels there several times a year. He has a girlfriend in Belize that he stays with when he is there, I do not go into any illusions about the relationship knowing the people the way I do. And then he turns the conversation on its ear. He says." You know, I was brought up in the church, I used to be an associate Pastor, but I have not been in a church in years." So I say," Do you mind telling me what happened, if not that is ok, but you brought it up, so maybe you would like to talk about it?" He says," Well, my wife at the time started cheating on me with someone from our bible study group, I became disenchanted with God, religion, and the whole principle of faith that I walked away from the church and have not looked back since." I thanked him for his honesty, agreed with him that that really sucks, and assured him his actions were not inappropriate, given the same circumstance I am not sure how I would react, nor do I ever want to know how. I told him it is interesting that here are two different people from two different parts of the world who found their way into a bar in a third world country, and I did not think that was by chance, he smiled. We get to the point in the conversation where it is time to exchange names, so that I can commit this talk from short term to long term memory. I extend my hand and tell him my name, he smiles again, and tells me that is his middle name, which made me smile. He tells me his name, but with a small explanation, he says it is spelled a certain way, the common spelling is not the way he spells it, funny he felt the need to tell me that. Then I smiled at him and told him that his name, complete with spelling, is my identical twin brother's name, he smiled back. So I look at him and say," so how long are we going to pretend this isn't a God moment?" He agreed, and asked " what is it we are supposed to take away from this?" I told him for me that answer will come in time, but for him maybe this," God will be waiting for him when he is ready to return, and the Angels will rejoice on the day he walks back into the church." We toast, his scotch and my sprite, shake hands and part our ways only realize that we are on the same flight to Atlanta, we shook hands when we disembarked in ATL, I think there was a moment that he may have thought we would meet in an airport bar and continue our conversation, but I knew upon that handshake, I will never see this man again.

      So, what was the answer God gave me? The easy conclussion is Matthew 13, The parable of the seed sower. How at any given moment, at any given time, and any given place we may be called upon to sow seeds of faith. This may have been what I was supposed to do, I always wonder afterwards if I did good enough, but that is worry and not from God. But I think that the deeper lesson for me was this, in the Old Testament in Psalms 96:3 it says 'Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!' In the New Testament in Mark 16:15 it says 'And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'  But what I cannot find in biblical text is this, where does it say it is my obligation to 'make' someone believe in Jesus? I cannot find it, so I did what I have found in the word, I spread the message, the good word to ones willing to hear. I have to trust that the seeds that I have planted will grow, but not for my glory, but for His. Since it is His glory, he will be the one to grow the seeds that find good soil. My prayer and my hope is that this man was at a point in his life, where the words I gave to him found a good heart, and that through Christ his heart will be healed, and he will find his faith again. The reality is this, in my life, I will never know the answer to that question, I will never see the fruit of the tree, or even know if a tree of faith has grown. Isn't that ok though? Where does it say all the answers will be given to me, here, or there? Along with faith must come patience, and with patience, peace. Peace He gives us, Peace he brings us, let not our hearts be troubled. Ultimately please remember this from this story, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.' Jesus words in Matthew 9:12-13**

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

For the Day's, and For the Nights

     This one has been on my mind for some time, I have not written anything yet because once you read this, you may come to the same conclusion that I have, it's an incomplete thought.  But it pertains to our walks in Faith, particularly when we step out in Faith, have Faith outside the box, or blindly serve God without reservation about what we are doing.....

     First, if you are experiencing that, congratulations, and thank you for being so bold.  I try in my life to be courageous in Faith but sometimes find myself conforming to Societal Faith like most of us do.  What does that mean?  Well, when we do the bare minimum, maybe a bible study here and there, maybe a church service every other Sunday, doing just enough that we can say we are Faithful without actually serving in any capacity.  But there are some among us, myself and probably you as well, who take that giant leap like Indiana Jones did, stepping into the void trusting that it is the will of God and that he will protect us.  In our walks there can be no better feeling  than those butterflies in the stomach we get when we take that leap, and the joy of confirmation when we realize that we have served our God.

     But that is not what is on my mind, what I cannot stop thinking about is the enemy among us.  For every bit of love that God gives us and every bit of grace He shows us, satan hates us and tries desperately to take all those things granted by God.  The enemy is opposite of everything that Jesus is, he is the loud voice inside us trying to overpower the quietness of goodness and virtue.  Your success in Faith angers him, and he watches you, waiting on you to reveal a weakness that he can exploit.  So, how does he do this?  By establishing a line of communication with you, therefore forcing you to listen.  The devil has no say if you can truly be like Jesus and tell him to get behind you, and actually mean it.  The greatest lie that satan tells is that he doesn't exist, but I have always believed that he does not directly lie to you, as much as he deceives you with the truth.  For example, in Genesis 3:4-5, 'You will not surely die, the serpent said to the woman.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'  This is not a lie, it isn't the complete truth, and it is truth in how we want to hear it.  See, they did not die, not right then, but taking that bite cast them into a life of mortality, up until that point, they were like the angels, immortal, and their eyes were opened, they became aware of the evil that exists.  Had they known of evil before, there might not have been a conversation with the serpent in the first place.  But it wasn't her ego or curiosity that led to the fall, it was her talking to and acknowledging the serpent, whom portrayed himself as innocent as they were.  And that is what he does with us.  Have you ever considered ghosts?  What are ghosts?  Frankly, they are demons, pure and simple.  The belief in ghosts means that there is something between Heaven and hell, and it makes you consider there if there is something in between, maybe it doesn't exist at all.  The worst part about ghosts and spooks is this, what do we most often do when encountered with a spirit, we talk to it don't we?  We allow unwillingly a line of communication with the enemy.  We even get the point where we say, well it can't possibly be a demon, it looks like a little girl playing with her doll, so we feel safe, just as safe as Eve did when she approached the Tree of Knowledge. 

     So, is possession real?  Yes it is.  But not in a theatrical view like we have.  An evil spirit cannot consume your spirit unless you have willingly accepted that spirit into your body, you have like the vampire at the door, invited it in.  That is the dangerous part, once you have willingly or unwillingly established some form of communication with an evil spirit, whether you believe it to be your deceased Aunt Jenny, or whether you are actually trying to communicate with satan, he can take control of your life, directly, or indirectly.  Suddenly, after you step out in faith, nothing seems to be working for you, you get hurt, you fail at every turn, your marriage is suffering greatly, your relationship with your kids is struggling, you are in essence, being attacked by someone who wants you do be destroyed and turn away from the Father.  So that when you die, he can have you instead.  The devils worth can only be calculated by the souls he can attain from the Lord.

satan on a regular basis.  Christ endured that suffering, so how do we?  When we are approached from our blind side, which is our weaknesses, how do we avoid falling into a trap.  I would say, identify your weakness, not to expose it to the enemy, but to realize yourself how you may be tempted.  Is it money, ego, power, lust, or envy that consumes you?  We as humans make it too easy for him sometimes.  We must pray constantly that the Lord help us with our weakness, just like the alcoholic must avoid Jack Daniels, so must we avoid the things the enemy uses to control us.  Sex, drugs, and rock n roll are most commonly used to trap us, if these things make you turn away from God, you must turn away from them.  And before you say, well I am not into drugs or alcohol, consider this, envy and greed are easier sins used to control you, because we refuse to believe they are sins, or not as bad a sin as lust or addiction.

     But what else can we do?  Does Ephesians 6:10 ring a bell?  'Finally be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take a stand against the devil's schemes.'  And lets look at what the armor is, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  Have you ever taken a look at your armor.  Everything I just listed, save one, is a defensive shield, a protectorate.  The main weapon we have against the enemy is the word of God, prayer and study of the bible.  The rest, feet of readiness, be prepared at all times for the enemy to attack you.  The belt of truth, become aware of the deceptive ways of the one who hates you.  The breastplate of righteousness, protect your heart, the place where Jesus dwells within you.  The helmet of salvation, your head is where your mind is aware of your soul that seeks eternity, keep the enemy away from your thoughts.  And finally, the shield of faith, the stronger your faith, the more likely you can ward off the flaming arrows of the evil one.  You see, just like a predator in the wild, the enemy seeks the weakest ones from the herd, and every now and again, with a legion of evil they will take down a strong one, so all are vulnerable to the enemy.

     I have experienced this many times in my life.  Every time I make a mission trip, or do something positive in my church community I can feel the attacks coming.  A friend came to me one time and said some very positive things to me out of the blue.  She said, ' I have words for you from God, He is proud that your Faith is strong, but he needs you to stand up and fight.'  This person had no idea what I was going through, at the time, she wasn't even close enough to be called a friend.  But those words shared with me I share with you.  The battle between Good and evil is perpetual and constant, the war will never end or cease because we are too tired to fight, it will go on until the End time, and until that time, we better arm ourselves and stand up and fight.  JT



It is not our job to fully understand the difference between what is Good and what is evil, we are not capable of such complex thoughts, ours is to seek Faith, righteousness, and God so that evil does not stand a chance.





Sunday, October 23, 2011

How long could you watch.....

     It was brought to my attention at church this morning, it has been on my mind, for me therapy is letting it go in writing, so here it goes....

     We who believe know the story of Jesus, we have seen movies, read the Bible, and do Bible studies in helping us to learn more about our Saviour.  But here is something that we all missed, despite how much we think we have learned.  What about Mary Mother of Jesus?

     We know that a Virgin was consumed by the Holy Spirit and conceived a child out of wedlock, we know when was visited in a dream by Gabriel who told her whom she was carrying.  We know that her fiancee was going to let her go without disgrace until he was visited in a dream and told that she was carrying Emmanuel - God saves.  We know that Joseph stepfather to the Lord our God died several years prior to Jesus' ministry, and finally we know all too well the ministry itself, it is the basis of our faith and understanding of God as Christians.

     Here is what we don't know, what was it like for Mary the Mother of God to walk among the crowd of people, spitting on her son, as he carried the cross.  What was it like for the Mother of God to watch them hang her son, nailing him to the cross, and watching him die?  What was it like for her to have her son departed of this Earth placed into her arms when he was removed from the cross?  What is it like to watch your child die?

     For most of us, we may never know the answer to that question, because we will go through this life never having to experience the emotion of watching our children suffer and pass on.  It is easy for the masses to look up and sing in a church about death having no sting, when we have no experience in such matters, can we sing with such gusto in the company of death? 

     When Mary was told that she would give birth to the Son of Man, did she ever envision what that really meant?  When we decide to have children of our own, do we ever consider what we would do if we lose that child?  We all look upon the baby as it is born and think, yep, there is the next president of the United States, we never imagine that our children will be born to suffer to strengthen our faith. 

    Think of what the Saviour means to you.  The love and humility you feel towards Jesus for what he did for you so that you could have a chance at eternity.  Now look upon Jesus as Mary did, feeling the same humility, and at the same time confusion, because this is your child that you have known from birth that is suffering.  In that time I imagine that it is difficult to feel pride in His actions, when everytime he whences in pain, you feel it too. 

     Unfortunately, I have asked alot of questions, and the answers, I cannot provide.  I simply don't know.  You see, I know some people who have no idea what it is like to have imagine any of these things, they are living it.  From my point of view, they are living it well.  The example Mary set for us are some large shoes to fill.  It is Mary's example that we must find our Faith.  Her Faith was strong when she saw her Son in all of his Glory, but it was strongest when she watched Him die, from what I have read, she never looked away.




This is not for you, it isn't even for me, this is for Jasmine, never have I seen except in the days of Jesus a child who has brought together a community and a Family with its Church than I have in the short life of Jasmine Uhl, never in my life will I ever forget the time I held her and looked upon her looking back up at me.  I will be forever haunted by her gaze until such time when I can reach eternity and tell her what her life has meant to me.  A child that has never spoken a word has uttered volumes of Faith in her silence.  In my entire existence on this Earth will I ever have the impact on others this child has had.

'When Jesus saw his Mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his Mother, "Dear woman, here is your Son," and to the disciple, "Here is your Mother."  From that time on, this disciple took her into his Home. (Jn 19:26-27)

Thank you to the Uhl's for allowing us to travel this journey with you, I hope we have shown you what community really is, I hope we have shown you a Home.  My prayer is that when you become to weak to take another step in this journey, you will realize that we are still there to carry you, and our door will always be open to you.

Much love, JT


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Check your newsfeed and let me know when Jesus gets on Facebook

     I think I will have  a series of bloggables on here that all tie into the same theme.  Last week I wrote about telling the truth, and I think this week will be on being truthful to yourself, here goes....
    
     This has a lot to do with Facebook, lets face it, we are all on it, most of us anyway.  I see almost everyday a profession of faith, a verse, or a statement to God Himself as a status update.  But let me ask you this, is that what you TRULY believe, or is it what you want everyone to believe in you.  The internet is full of liars, myself included, that is the ultimate sin in us all, we all lie on the internet.  Now before you say, nay nay, not me JT.  Let me ask you, that picture you posted of yourself, is that what you really look like, or is that a five to ten year old picture of when you weren't quite so big.  Some people cannot even find a decent picture from five years ago, so they post their dog, cat, or children.  The point is, we portray ourselves on social media as what we want people to see us as, and on the internet, that is very easy.  The majority of our 'friends' don't live anywhere near us and can never disprove anything we say or show on the media.  So we spend a great deal of time and effort trying to deliver an image of ourselves that we want everyone to see, how we want to be seen, and isn't this a form of deception, i.e. a lie. 

     For the people who post prayers to God as a status update, have you not read your bible.  Now before you throw your bible at me, yes you can pray publicly if someone has asked for prayer, or you are in church.  But a random its just you and God type prayer, is that something to make a spectacle of, or is it something you want everyone to see you doing, the deception is, are you really praying to the Lord, or just want everyone to think you are praying to Him. 'But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.' Matthew 6:6.  Read about what Jesus did when he prayed, so few are there times in the bible where you see Jesus Christ praying publicly, most of the time, it says, Jesus went off to pray.  So I say, why the heck are you logging on to pray?  Be honest with yourself on that one.

     This one is for the verse posters.  I do not particularly think there is anything wrong with posting a verse from the Bible that moves you.  But my statement on that is this, why are you posting a Biblical verse on a social media site to the select few 'friends' you have chosen to be able to read your posts.  In other words, you are preaching to the choir are you not?  Would you take that same verse that 'moved' you, stand on a street corner, stop a stranger and quote the same verse to him or her?  How strong is your Faith now?  It is easy to preach to people that want to hear it, no one walks into the church for the donuts, they are there for the lesson, they want to hear it.  The friends you have chosen are mostly people who agree with you, because we all delete the ones that don't.  Can you honestly tell me that you could be so moved by a verse that you would quote it to a stranger?  Or, do you just want to seem righteous on Facebook?  Be honest with yourself on that one.

     Finally, for the ones who profess their faith as a post.  Here recently I read a post about how someone wanted to be more consumed with the things of God and less consumed by worldly things.  Yet, the first thing they had to do in this Sunday transformation, was check their newsfeed.  So often are we moved on a Sunday, but how seldom does that translate into a changed person on a Monday.  Most commonly, we all act like good Christians when we are around other good Christians.  So if we are truly moved by a sermon, and the Lord tells us to spend more time in the Bible, why is the first thing we do before we do that, or limit our time reading, to check in on what people are saying in social media.  So often people will turn away from the media realizing that they are consumed with it, only to return a month or so later because they realize they can't live without it.  Shouldn't it be your Faith in Jesus Christ that you can't live without, and if the spirit has moved you to leave a network, why do we barter with the Lord and talk Him into letting us return a month or so later.  If you are so moved by a Sunday service, why are you not out in the actual world trying to make a difference in someones life, if even it is your own, why are you sitting and looking at social media.  Your heart lies where your habits form, do you reach for the Bible, or the laptop most often?  Be honest with yourself on that one.

Facebook?  It is time to stop with all the deception, it is time to stop all the lies, if someone asks you how you are doing whether it be literally or on social media and you don't feel good, then tell them you feel like crap, put your real picture up on your page, and don't tell me how you are changed and be offended when I hold you accountable for acting the same, AND I DEMAND YOU DO THE SAME TO ME.  I fully appreciate the hypocrisy of this post, and I include myself in everything I have written, remember, when you point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.  Lets keep it real folks, will you do it, repost this if you agree.


Could your faith be as strong as an Egyptian Christian?  When an armored vehicle comes barrelling down on you, would you jump out of the way, or die for your Faith?  Be honest with yourself on that one. 

    

Sunday, October 2, 2011

You can run kid, but you cannot hide

    That's a line from one of my favorite 80's movies, Top Gun.  After that movie came out everyone wanted to join the Navy, I didn't, what I wondered was why after they all took a shower with towels wrapped around their waists were they still wet? 

     But that is not the purpose of this bloggable.  It is just something that I can't help but think of when I think about who we are, and more directly, who we are in the church.  No matter what size church you go to whether it be big or small, there are a number of people you know intimately at that church if you have been going for any extended period of time.  The question I always ask everyone when I see them within my own church is, 'How are you?'.  Let me tell you, I am not sure about your church, but in mine, everyone all the time is perfectly fine, and everything is going their way, you couldn't find a healthier happier group.  Which of course, is a steaming load of crap.  I catch myself caught up in the same old lie, from time to time.  What bothers me about that, is we are doing that in church, as if we are looking up to the Lord God Himself and trying to convince Him that we are ok, as if he doesn't know the truth.  What is more spell bounding to me is the fact that we put on that church face, you know that face.  Its the face where we are grinning from ear to ear with squinty eyes, head slightly atilt telling everyone how greeeeeeaaaaaaaattt we are and how good it is to see them.  When the reality is, we are screaming inside of ourselves, we are broken and abused, in essence, we walk in there hurting but desperately trying to hide the limp.  Why do we do this?  Isn't our church the place we go for spiritual and mental healing, why do we deny ourselves a rekindling of our spirit when we always assure each other that is what God wants us to have.  Why do we think of healing in terms of someone else.  I told a guy today at church, that there were well over half of the church in a state of brokenness and disrepair, as if we were car windows that were still intact, but completely shattered.  The proof that I had was that I tend to be the hugger guy, sorry, that's who I am, and in my efforts to try to hug everyone I came in contact with, I noticed that my ribs started to hurt.  I was being embraced so hard that it was hurting my sides, yet everyone I asked, told me they were fine and doing well, and I would look at them very tenderly and tell them I love it when I am lied to, why not just kick me in the crotch and call me ugly?  Whom are we trying to convince of our perfection?  There is nowhere in the world you can go, the world that God created, that you can hide your sin or your flaws away from Him, so why do we?  Maybe we should let go of some of that foolish pride and ego, and let go of ourselves.  Maybe the next time you walk through the doors of your church and someone asks you how you are doing, you will be honest, for once, and tell them you need prayer, or an ear to listen, or maybe you just want to go somewhere and cry your eyes out.  I am willing to bet that there are some people you will meet at some of the church's that you go, who will have no idea what to do with your honesty.  For that, we should be ashamed.  Ashamed that we can walk through the doors of a church and be willing to tell a lie, and it become so comfortable, that we have no idea what to do with the truth.  Lets work on that together, what do you say?  Ask me how I am doing, and challenge me to tell you, give someone your heart's truth and see what they do, pray with someone you don't even know that well, and see how your life can change.  Be yourself, for once in your life, and I will try to do the same.


"I promise to pray for you every day, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same, and be your friend always." The Grace Card

Monday, September 12, 2011

Turn the page....

September 9, 2011

     It started as a routine day at work, business of station duties of things that seem now to be all routine.  One of the things we did that day was to be invited to go to one of the local High schools, there is a tremendous hall in this school, the length of over four football fields.  The school had every single child in attendance that day line the hall, and asked if we the first responders would walk down the middle of that line.  The uproars, claps and cheers filled the hall, not sure if they were clapping for us or just joyous that they weren't in class at that moment, but it made for an interesting moment in an otherwise routine day.  Later that afternoon my wife got ahold of me at the station, and asked if anyone had called me, I told her that I had been busy and asked what was going on.  My grandmother has been in a bad way for some time, so it was no surprise to get such a call, I have been expecting it.  Hospice has declared that this may be the final day in my grandmothers life, she has taken a serious turn for the worse.  I won't get into the lengthy details about how I was able to get someone to releive me and let me go spend a moment with her, but it was tedious and left me feeling very disappointed in the morality of certain people.  But I finally got someone to come in and I was able to spend about an hour with her that night.  Habit kicked in and I checked her vitals and was able to determine that if the end came, it would not be soon.  My prayer that night was that I get to be there in the final moments, not sure why, but I felt a pull to be there, but in the same prayer I told God that it would be ok if he called her home peacefully in the night, as it is His will.

September 10, 2011

     I grabbed a nasty cup of FF coffee, gave the morning report, and out the door I went.  When I got there my uncle was up reading the paper, my aunt was resting, and my mom and dad were in the room with my grandmother.  Habit kicked in again, I checked her vitals, and could see that she had vastly deteriorated during the night, limited radial pulse, corotid pulse was weak and not as strong as the night before, and her breathing was very shallow.  I spent alot of thought and effort in trying to relay to my parents this information, my thought was that they knew what I was telling them, maybe they did, and were just in a state of disbeleif, as much as this old gal had been through, it was even hard for me to believe that this could be the end.  My father and I set up decent coffee for the day, nothing against my aunt and uncle, but what they consider coffee I call muddy water that tastes like feet, yes, I am a coffee snob.  Over about an hour, I kept checking her pulses, her breathing slowed to about five a minute extrememly shallow, agonal breaths.  Then I noticed that her radial pulses were absent, again, relaying this info in the hopes that what I was telling them would be understood.  Then it happened, about about 8:24 in the morning my aunt had gotten up and come in the room, behind her was my uncle, and their little dog, who suddenly began to bark.  I put my hand on my grandmothers chest and realized that the breathing had stopped.  There was some chatter in the room, but having experience in the arena, I spoke firmly and directly, to be silent, to be still, and to say goodbye, she was leaving us.  My hand on my grandmothers chest could still feel the slight heartbeat, and I felt it slowly ebb away, as if she was walking away.  In that moment I envisioned a glorious homecoming, with cheers and applause, a rekindling of two people that had not seen each other in over fifty years.  You see, my grandfather died when my mother was very young, and my grandmother never remarried, so this passing was a glorious time when what God made one so many years ago could be reunited.  I walked around the bed so that I could look at my grandmother in the face, I made the sign of three crossed on her forehead, and gently kissed those crosses.  My father had pulled out a sheet of paper with a final prayer that he had written for her, I knelt on the floor beside him, and we read it together.  In my mind, I was staring at the beautiful blue sky that blessed that day, and I thanked my God for giving me such a day, and I asked him kindly if he would take care of that great lady, whom I am proud to say I am akin to.  And in that moment for the first time in my life I felt the presence of my grandfather, whom I will only meet in Heaven, his name is James, and what I felt in that moment, was his pride in me, and his overjoy with being with her once again.




For my Family

Monday, September 5, 2011

Turn up the Radio!!!!!!!!!

Today I am going back to my roots, back to the good ole Myspace days of telling a story and placing a moral at the end of it.  I have to admit, though, this story is not mine, and was not my idea.  There is a guy who goes to my church, he knows me and I am ashamed to admit that I have no idea what his name is, but he stopped me before I could go into church and gave me this story, at which time, I told him I was going to steal it.  Which begs me to ask one question, if I tell you I am taking it, is it stealing?.....

     Most of us have a job where there is some light traveling involved, I myself even in the janitorial arts have found myself of the road from time to time.  So we all can relate to this experience.  When you are driving down the road, there are few of us who do not listen to the radio, whether it be some good ole driving rock n roll music, to like my wife listens to, talk radio, she thinks like an elderly woman sometimes, I don't get it, but love her anyway.  But we all have the dial, showing my age here, tuned into one station or another.  What happens as we go down the road, what happens to the station?  We begin to lose it, we have to re-tune and find another station.  What about when you are coming home, no matter how far away you go, at some point, you have to come home?  We all share the experience of getting the radio station back, its fuzzy at first, doesn't quite come in clearly, but you can hear it, and the closer you get to home, the clearer it becomes.

Moral-     So here is the obvious conclusion that I have come up with.  We have those times in our lives where even as Christians we tend to walk away from our faith, we tend to walk away from what God wants us to be.  We think we have it all figured out, like we can do all of this ourselves.  Like when we are driving, God in the form of the Holy Spirit is always our driving music in our lives, whether we be rocknrollers, country, jazz, or talk radioers.  God is always pulling our hearts in the direction we need to be in to fulfill His plan.  But as we get further away from God, the message He is delivering to us becomes fuzzy and unclear.  We seek other avenues of entertainment, to satiate the hole in our hearts that we created when we walked away from God.  But no matter how far we go, we always feel the pull towards home, we always are given the opportunity to go back to God.  The closer we get to Home, the more we can hear God in our hearts again, a little fuzzy at first, but it is there.  We have to remember that it is we who have left the Father, he is always there for us.  Proof of this, when returning home from your travels, and in that moment that you begin to pick up the frequency you call home again, and it doesn't quite sound clear.  Try stopping for a moment, and being still, and realize that if you just sit still for a moment, the words come in very clearly.

     We serve a God who never wants us to leave, but always seems to welcome us back when we are ready to come Home.  Be still, and know that He is God.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sing with me, 'that's why I'm Eeeeeeaaaasaaaaayyyyy, I'm easy like Sunday Morning!'

     So please don't get on to me about there being a lack of postings here, inspiration is not like perspiration, I don't just drip with this stuff just because I am hot.  I always feel that if I sit and force myself to come up with something spiritual and clever it will seem petty and forced, but enough about that.....
    
     There are times in our lives where we look upon ourselves and wonder how some have it so easy and some have it so difficult.  I myself asked the question at a forum at our church, how am I supposed to placate the naysayers when asked the biggest little question in life, why?  If there is a God above why is there suffering, why isn't there peace, why does he let little children be abused and die?  In religious circles we always can appease ourselves with, because it is the will of the Lord.  But for someone who does not know God or has a weakened Faith, this answer not only does not satisfy, it insults.  The answer I got in front of a large group of church goers was,  I dunno, its the will of the Lord, which is about as satisfying as a glass of water when you are hungry.

     So, in much thought and conversation about this subject, I have come to one conlcusion about the Why of the matter, and it is simple, I dunno.  But what I did come up with was this, and let me share it with you......

     There is  a scene in the chic flick A league of their own when Dotty is going to return home with her husband home from the war.  When the coach, Tom Hanks, asks her why she is quitting her explanation is that, 'it just got too hard'.  That is when he utters a classic line that I have based my life off of, he says, ' it's supposed to be hard, if it wasn't hard everyone would do it.........it's the Hard.....that makes it great'. 

     So is life supposed to be easy, look at the natural world, do you think the wild animals feel like life is easy.  And look at it this way, when you take a wild animal and place it in a zoo and give them the easy life, do they look happy?  So when we look at those supposed folks who have the easy life, look at them as if they are animals in a cage, are they really happy, or just on display for all to see? 

     From a biblical standpoint lets look at our Lord and Saviour.  When Jesus opted to die for us, did he do it right away, before you answer that, look at it like this.  When he was chastised, could he not have died right then and there?  Why didn't he?  There are people who die in fights from just one punch, yet he was beaten repeatedly, to the point of death, and he did not die.  He was then made to carry his ultimate torture device to the place of his demise, far away.  After being beaten, do you think that was an easy walk for Him?  How many of us would have just fell to the ground and died before we could get there.  Let us remember that Jesus spent most of His time during his Gospel period running for His life, this after growing up poor in a poor country.

     At any given time and at any given place Jesus Christ who was God in the flesh the two in one who became three in one, could have at any time, made His life very easy, couldn't He?  But he didn't, why, because if it was easy everyone would do it, and its the hard that makes Him Great.  JT




We live lives trying very hard not to rock the boat, during His life Jesus slept during the storms, and not only rocked the boat, he got out of the boat all together.

I am posting this unedited and as I typed it

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Promise Keeper

I had made a reference in the earlier installment called Moses talking about the Jews that I would explain how Joshua met Jesus Christ, so here it is, a promise is a promise...

First let me explain what started this revelation within my spirit.  I am a person who is a 'wear sandals and flip flop kind of guy', as much as I love the winter time it is difficult because in an effort to keep all ten toes, I have to put on shoes.  I was browsing through the ole bible one day, which I highly recommend you do in your spare time.  To help you with that endeavor, and you may think me crazy, because I thought it was crazy when it was mentioned to me, but put a bible in each of your bathrooms, that way you absolutely have no excuse for not spending at least ten minutes a day with the word of God.  But when I was browsing through it one thing caught my attention.  I was looking in Exodus when Moses climbed the mountain and talked with God.  Most theologians will tell you that man himself cannot possibly handle the voice of God, not a living man, so for God to be talking to Moses, Moses had to be actually talking to Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.  What struck me was this, the first thing that was said, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.  It seemed like an unusual request, and it seemed unusual that that was the first thing said, so unusual that I could not forget it.  In the back of most bibles there is a reference section, so like any curious Christian I referenced the word sandal in my copy of NIV.  It referred me to the book of Joshua 5:15 and it says,


13Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lordd have for his servant?”

15The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
What I learned from this passage is that a soldier of God's army with sword drawn is guess who, thats right, Jesus Christ.  Most people reference the nice happy Jesus from the first coming, but most don't realize that he was nice because he was preaching the gospel, setting the groundwork, and died on the cross for us.  But in the second coming as we read in Matthew 10:34, Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. But it is also in Revelations, 11I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”a He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:king of kings and lord of lords. Or in lamens terms, Jesus with a sword.

So what does any of this mean, let me tell you what it has meant to me.  It means just this what I read in Matthew, 19“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” So if we pray together, or congregate in church together in prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, doesn't that mean He is among us?  And if He is among us, what is the first and sometimes the only thing the Lord our God requests from us within his presence. 

So I did it, when I am in church or in my bible study group I remove my shoes.  I have done this for a couple of years now.  At first, there were sneers, jeers, and many who had the efrontery to ask me why I wasn't wearing shoes.  I would look at them with a smile on my face and ask in reply, Why ARE you wearing shoe?  Now there were some who genuinely came up and wanted to know why I have chosen to remove my shoes in church, feeling that there must be a religious purpose for it, and I would share my shoeless testimony with them.  Most upon hearing the testimony would remove their shoes as well.  The biggest difference in them and me is this, removing your shoes is not seasonal, it is annual.  Now the Lord our God does not bear fools, so don't go barefoot outside in an artic environment, wear your warm and fuzzies into the church, but once on Holy ground, remove thy sandals from thy feet, for the place that you are standing is Holy.  Don't believe me, read your bible.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Awww it can't hurt that bad, so shut up!!!!

What is suffering to you?  Suffering is defined as this
1. To feel pain or distress; sustain loss, injury, harm, or punishment.

2. To tolerate or endure evil, injury, pain, or death.

3. To appear at a disadvantage
 
So what is it to you?  For some, it is having cancer, for others it is watching our loved ones die of cancer.  One of the few things that everyone on this earth has in common is suffering.  No man nor woman will make it from birth to their death without suffering in some fashion.  So knowing this, why is it, at a time when we are suffering, do we feel all alone?  Why is it that we wrap ourselves up in our suffering blanket and actually seek comfort in our solice?  Are you the only one in the world who has not had a child, or are you the only one in the world who has had a child die, or maybe you are the only one who has ever had a heart attack?  No, this is foolish.  But it does not take away from the reality of our loneliness within our suffering.  There are exceptions to the sufferers of this world, there are some who no matter how ill or how crippled they become they always have a smile for you, as if they are in on some big secret the rest of us are not privileged to know.  If a child is born with a terminal disease and is in pain most of his or her childhood because of that disease, and pain is all they have ever known, do you think that child is aware that they are suffering, or do you see them still with the urge to play, and live.
 
The real bitter pill about suffering is this, no matter how big or how little the suffering we all must face, there is no answer as to why we must go through it.  In the book of Job, it was never fully explained to him why he was made to suffer, and Job only gets everything back in the Disney version of the story, in the old text he never gets his family or his wealth back.  There is little comfort, but then again, there is, in the statement that we are all part of a bigger plan, and that sometimes accepting Jesus and the blessings we were promised means we will be blessed with suffering and pain.  The long short of it is this, someone, somewhere in this world will learn and become closer to God because of your pain, if not you.  Your faith or someone you may have never met or will ever know will get closer to Christ in your suffering.
 
Because the reality is this, we are all closer to God and Jesus because of His suffering.  Lets look at it a little closer.  Jesus always knew his fate, he accepted it, I am not sure he looked forward to it, but he knew it was coming.  He was beaten, chastised, spit upon, nailed to a cross by his hands and feet, and was hung until he died.  In all biblical text, in all versions of the bible, and in all languages, it never refers to what Jesus did for us as suffering, it was we that labeled it that.  Here is what I learned from this, just as Jesus knew he was born to suffer in order for us to receive His Glory, so must we suffer even just a little to achieve that Glory, the ends justify the means.  And after all is said and done, after all is written about you, will you look back upon your life no matter what you go through, and not want to do it all over again if it means just one more person can go to Heaven because of you.  Because we can all go to Heaven because of Him.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What am I to do with these People? - Moses talking to God about the Jews

     We went to a Men's Retreat this weekend.  Despite my being sick I went on faith with the hopes that the weekend would not be the end of me, but help to invigorate my spirit.  It is a yearly event and we can usually get about twenty or thirty of the guys to go, its quite an experience in a very beautiful setting.  This year we were plagued by foul weather, but I believed it was the will of God to keep us inside talking to each other instead of separating and doing our outdoor activities, simply put, God wanted us to be fisher's of men, not so much fisher's of fish.  Our days were split up between meals and free time with lectures throughout the day.  Our Pastor gave one of the lectures on Moses and the book of Exodus.  I give the credit for this bloggable to him because it was his idea and I am simply expanding on that idea, and here it is....

     There is a little story with what could be considered a big impact in the book of Exodus.  This particular story is about the Israelites fighting the Amelikites, lets call them the big A's versus the little J's.(Exodus 17:8-16)  The big A's had a large army, and should have easily defeated the little J's.  But there was one thing that the little J's had on their side, the Big G.  The indepth story of Exodus is that the Jew's were freed from slavery by the adopted prince of the Pharoah, Moses, who took them to the promised land, where they waffled about what they wanted to do at every turn.  They wandered around the desert for forty years, waffling, until the army of Amalek came upon them.  These were a large people, who greatly outnumbered the jews.  It truly is a great underdog story, because the big A's should have wiped up the dessert with these people.  But before the battle began, Moses said to Joseph, who would eventually be the one who took the jews to the promised land, and who actually met Jesus, thats right, Jesus, more on that in another blog, 'Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites.  Tomorrow I will stand on top of a hill with the staff of God in my hands.'  Joshua did as he was commanded, but Moses was a great leader, he was taught leadership by the Pharoah's of Egypt after all, he was a Prince for a while.  Moses went atop the hill to watch the battle and hold high the staff of God, the same staff that broke the stone and made water, the same staff that turned into a serpent in front of Pharoah, the very same staff that parted the Red Sea.  But Moses was an old man, he was about eighty at the time, so being wise, he took Aaron and Hur with him atop the hill.  Everytime that Moses grew weary and lowered the staff the big A's would start winning, and when he held it high, the little J's would win.  So Aaron and Hur seeing Moses grow tired placed a rock under him so he could sit, and they held his hands up on either side until sunset.  By doing this Joshua was able to defeat the much larger army.  So what does all this mean in modern terms, how can we relate to this......

     Moral-  Pastor John used this message to tie in with the male aspect of how we need each other, how we need to support one another.  You see, in life and in all things, we cannot accomplish anything alone.  God never intended Man to be alone, he first gave him a woman, we see how that worked out, settle down ladies.  But God has always intended His people to be relational, to be in community.  You see, we all strive to live a life like Jesus, but Christ being God is an unobtainable goal, we should strive to be more like Moses, just a very smart man.  Moses was not perfect, he was alot like us in some ways, flawed, and in no way wanted to accept the things God wanted him to do, ring a bell with any of you.  But being a smart man Moses learned that the will of God is more powerful than our own will, and indeed our own strength.  But not if we remain in community with one another, we can hold each other up, rest up, and in community, could hold that staff up high as long as we wanted to if it was the will of God.  In community is the only time we can fully accomplish the will of the Lord.  We must be willing like Moses was to realize that we cannot handle a task like holding up a stick all day by ourselves, and that sometimes in our lives, even the simplest of chores may require us to humble ourselves to ask for help.  But here is our ultimate flaw.  How many of us want to be Aaron or Hur?  It is not within the true male spirit to sit atop a hill and watch the battle from afar holding up an old mans arms, WE WANT TO BE THE WARRIORS, we want to be Joshua.  That will be the hardest part of this lesson, we can't all be Joshua, we can't all be the warriors, even though God filled us with a warriors spirit.  Sometimes we can't be the lead actor on the stage, we must accept that we are the guy who pulls the chord to let the curtain up and down.  What this really means is, not only do we need to be able to ask for help from our brothers, but we must be willing to be helpers too.  How many of us can say we are always there for or Christian brothers 24/7?  The harsh reality is, we are seldom there enough for our wife and kids, let alone or church family.  We are far too involved in our own things, and in those things, doing it by ourselves.  Learning to be accountable and learning to accept help from others is the only way we can ever win any of these life battles.  How long will you stand and hold that staff until you are so tired you can no longer do so?  A battle can never be won when fought by one.  How long will you wander in the dessert, waffling about?  I write these things to lift your spirits, who among you will even admit to reading it, I have a community of anonymous, I am not Moses, I am Aaron or Hur, who are you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Only Thing We have to Fear is........Fear of that zombie hidden in our closet that wants to kill us at night while we sleep alone in an empty house!!!

Fear.  That's it.  Fear

Fear is defined as an aversion to a person, place, activity, event, or object that causes emotional distress and often avoidance behavior.


     Ok, so what is it.  In the purest of viewpoints it is what drives our everyday lives.  It dictates our schedules, our relationships, and even our love itself.  Fear can put us in such a state that we cannot function otherwise without first considering our fear.  It is amazing sometimes that we can even function at all with each other based on our collections of fears in our communities.  Fear is what makes you lock your doors, hide your money, keep your kids indoors, limit driving, limit interactions with others, and even limit the love we have for others.  

     And lets look at that a little closer.  We limit our feelings towards our fellow men and women based on our fears, whatever they may be.  If we limit our feelings towards them, do we not also limit our feelings towards God himself.  Are we the type of people that say I Love God completely, knowing full well that we do not mean it, knowing that our all knowing Lord knows we don't mean it completely.  So if that is true, why do we even say it, are we afraid of what anyone would think of us if we said that yes I limit my feelings toward Christ based on my fear.  Truth is, no one would ever say that, and sadder is the truth that most of us feel like this.  Imagine when you walk into a social setting, church for example, and someone asks 'how are you?', what is usually your response.  You lie, you and I always lie.  What are we afraid of?  How is it that we are less afraid of the judgment of the Lord than we are the judgment of our brothers and sisters.  Why do we care so much what other people seem to think of us, and so little about what our God thinks of us, shouldn't it be the other way around?  

     Are you afraid of snakes?  Why?  Are you afraid of heights?  Why?  Are you afraid of cats? Why?  Are you afraid of society?  WHY?  

     Here is the ultimate conclusion in my eyes.  Let me see if this can help you with your everyday fear.  It 'IS' the fear of the Lord that drives all of our other fears.  It is the fear of death itself that is the foundation of all our other fears, no matter how big or little they are.  It is ultimately our fear of dying and facing the judgment of God, and God alone.  So considering that, do these other fears even exist?  Your faith in fear is not unlike your faith in the foundation of your governments monetary system.  Money is just paper, you trust your government, and that trust puts a value on the money itself.  A one hundred dollar bill is just a piece of cotton with the numbers 100 printed on them, it has no value, it has no meaning except the value you place on it, if you believe it, it is so.  The same can be assumed of our fear.  We place all of our emphasis on our fears.  We let our fears tell us what we can and cannot do, where we can and cannot go, every aspect of our lives is based on whether or not we have the courage to do it.  So if we place a value on our fear, doesn't it become that much greater, do we not empower it with qualities it does not have?  If we were to put a whole bunch of counterfeit bills in the world would that not devalue money itself, you would not know what was real or fake, the system would collapse.  Can't we do that with our fear, realize that fear is an emotion, it is not real, it has no value.  You feel happy, you feel sad, and you feel afraid.  Why do we live lives based on the negative aspects of our emotions, should not the want and desire to be happy be what dictates our schedule?  But it isn't.  We are a collection of addictions and fears.  

     And here is the final thought.  We claim to be Christians.  We claim to love our God and believe in his son Jesus Christ.  We believe in the trinity and the resurrection do we not?  If we truly believe that, if that is the life we are trying to achieve, what is there to be afraid of anyway?

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I am not freakin Lion

     This is one that has been roaming around the empty skull for quite a while trying to find a proper moral.  Due to recent events it got me to thinking about it.

     Have you ever watched Animal Planet or Discovery and watched a pride of lions.  It is a very interesting social system.  From whether the pride is ruled by one male or by three teaming together, all the work is done by the female lions, all the males really do is make sure no other males come into the territory.  But specifically, have you ever watched lions at a kill.  Most channels will not show you the horror of a lion kill.  The brutality is too aweful to watch sometimes, the fact that the animal is basically still alive when the lions begin to consume it, how they go after the high nutrient items in the body first, namely the organs, horrifically the first thing consumed is the sexual organs.  But I am not here to gross you out with this, what I am trying to do is give you the appropriate visual.  Imagine a group of lions at a kill, what is it they usually do, not even really usually, it is like this at every kill.  They fight.  The scratch, bite, claw, and do everything you can imagine to hurt each other so that the best portions of the kill can go into their stomachs.  The weaker and smaller lions have to wait in the outskirts because it is not uncommon to be killed themselves if they try to interfere.  The icing on the cake is if the males that rule the pride come along, they will kill any female or young that even attempts to keep him from taking the entire meal for himself.  How can we relate such a gruesome spectacle of nature into our everyday lives, like this...

     Moral- We most commonly see this in the workplace, but it can be applied to any social setting where there is a hierarchy involved.  We encounter people in our jobs who behave just like the lions, the will do anything they can to get ahead.  That promotion, that raise, the better office, the company car, the best office location, there is nothing they will not do to achieve these things.  These are the people who are all about the here and now, the brass ring.  They want what they think is the good life, and they want it when they are young.  The enemy among us convinces us that these are the things that we want in life, and we are actually looked at in society as failures if we do kick and scratch like a bunch of lions at the kill.  Often times it even seems as if the people that we work for look for the lions when it comes to promotion time, they want that aggressiveness, killers mean profits, profits satisfy the here and now for them.  So what are we to do as the meek and mild turn the other cheek Christians, is this the life God wants for us, is this who He wants us to be?  How is a humble Christian supposed to get ahead in this world?  The answer- we can't.  I wish that I had a better answer for you, but the reality is, we can't get ahead unless we become a lion.  Clearly, from scripture we know that this is not the life Christ had in mind for us, it is not the life He wants us to lead.  "You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers (Matt. 24:9).  I highly recommend reading in Matthew 20 the parable of the vineyard workers.  Do not be jealous that sometimes the world is kind to those we don't think are worthy of it, Jesus said 'So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.' (Matt 20:16)  There is no comfort is the bloggable, it is not written to give you that warm fuzzy feeling, its the truth.  We have to live lives not seeking the things that society claim as valuable, but seek those things that God deems valuable, and God will give us what we need.  The harder you strive to swim against the current of the river you will find the more you either stay in place and go nowhere, or, you will eventually see that you are moving backwards.  God wants us to swim with the current, His current, and when we do, we find that there is little effort actually involved in order to get where He wants us to be.  No amount of amassing wealth or posessions of this earth will we be able to take with us.  At your funeral they will not read your bank statement.  Your wealth is in the Kingdom of Heaven, your reward is there for your faithful service.  Try to imagine this, every strike that Jesus took for you will be the bad times you will have in your life, and like Him, we must sometimes endure pain to achieve glory.  No one talks about how many promotions you got in your Eulogy.  No one really cares how much money you will leave behind either, and the one's that do, are lion through their teeth.  JT

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giving up is for Quitters

     It is that time of year again folks.  Fat Tuesday followed immediately by the sobering and hungover Ash Wednesday.  In many religions across the globe most Christian beings will observe a time of Lent.  The meaning of Lent is quite simple, you give up something that you really like or enjoy for forty days and nights.  The cheaters quit something that they seldom do, because our Lord loves it when we take the easy road.  But the true meaning of this time is to reflect on what Jesus did in the desert.  Before He went forth with the Gospel Jesus spent forty day and nights in the desert to be tempted by the devil.  I cannot imagine all that the devil did during that time, but I am sure it was quite vivid and would take a Saviour to not eat or drink and resist the enemy for that long of a time.  We as simple humans find it difficult to give up coffee for that amount of time.  The beauty of Lent is that at the end of it most, I said most, people go back to the habit they gave up.  They have grown accustomed to not having it in their lives and realize they don't need it anymore.  The harsh reality is that it only takes half of the time of Lent to completely break a habit. 

     Then there are the two schools of thought on sharing about Lent.  I am not one to say which is right or wrong, but from the way I explain it you will surmise my point of view.  There are those who enter the time of Lent in secret, not letting anyone know what it is they are giving up.  The theory is, Jesus was alone, and so must we suffer alone.  They follow the scripture of Matthew 6 very closely, But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  Then there are the others, the ones who tell you what they are giving up.  These are the ones who need you to know they are suffering for Christ, and just how much they are suffering, as if a public flogging will earn them a better place.  I for one am one of those people who choose to suffer alone as Jesus did, it should be apparent that it is the season of Lent, and it should also be apparent that if you are a Christian then you are observing the season and have therefore given something up.  As Christians, we must pray for the ones who give up big for God, and even pray for the ones who publicly give up for God.

     So here is the big question, will I tell you what I am giving up for Lent?  Of course I will.  Without being a hypocrite as well.  You see, I have already practiced my season, it is over for me.  Me, I gave up church, for forty days, and forty nights.  But for me the result is different, I have found that I still need church, I still need that sense of community and companionship.  I broke the habit of being involved in my church community.  But unlike smoking or drinking coffee, I have actually found that it is the only habit you can have, that is more addictive than drugs, and no one considers me a failure because I could not break that habit.  In fact, upon my return, it was quite a homecoming.  Like our Saviour, during your time of reflection and loss, pray earnestly to the Father to protect you from the enemy, he will be there, and he hates you, because nothing angers the enemy quite like the strength you achieve from fasting.  Jesus did it, and so shall we, what will you give up for the Father?

p.s.- if you don't make it, or if you feel a moment of weakness, ask yourself this, whom do you serve?  Have faith, a coke zero is nothing but pure poison anyway.




    

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Hawk and the Dove

†     This is a true story about what happened at work many years ago.  It was around six or seven o'clock in the evening.  I was upstairs on the computer diligently studying for my LT exam that I took, I passed by the way, when the call came out over the intercom to come to the kitchen so we could decide about supper.  As I walked out onto the catwalk from the day-room I looked down and there at my feet was a dove.  There were feathers all over the place.  Now keep in mind that birds of all type come into our large bay at headquarters, so this was not an uncommon sight.  I wondered what happened to it, it was laying there on its back surrounded by its own feathers.  I figured that he had gotten in as many birds do and flew into the wall to its doom.  As I looked a little closer I could see that it was still breathing, well I'll be, its still alive.  While I was looking at him, or her to be politically correct, I heard a ruckus down in the bay.  We have a six door bay, three in the front and three in the back, only one of the doors was down.  At this door was an very large hawk, banging itself onto the door trying to get out.  I realized that this hawk had chased this dove into our bay, and what happened from there I will leave to your imagination, but you know the result as I have already told you.  So I step over the injured dove and immediately go downstairs to tell the rest of the crew that there is a hawk in the bay,as they would not want to miss something so cool.  One of the guys, lets call him Waterhead, because that is what we call him, went over to the door and opened it releasing the trapped hawk.  The closer he got to him the larger the bird looked, he was enormous, I believe he was a red shoulder hawk, a very beautiful bird of prey.  So we meander upstairs for me to show them the injured dove.  I am funny about birds so one of the other guys, lets call him Rookie, picked the bird up.  Now instead of twisting his neck and putting him in the trash I directed Rookie outside to see if the dove would sit in a tree, having not know the extent of its injuries.  Well,he wouldn't stay in the tree, so he set him on the ground.  We waited patiently by the bird having a meaningless conversation, probably about the exam we would be taking in two days, which I passed by the way, waiting on something to occur with this bird.  After about fifteen minutes the little dove stood up, bobbed his head, and took off flying doing that whistle that mourning doves do when they fly.  In that moment we felt really good about what we had done.  We agreed that if the hawk had gotten him that that is natures way, but it didn't, so we gave this bird another chance at life, maybe a little wiser from his, or her, experience.

Moral-  We are the dove, the hawk is the devilish sin that is always stalking us.  It can get close to us but it doesn't quite catch us.  And because we run away from sin and do whatever it takes to live a good clean life, God gives us another chance at life, a little wiser from our experience.  Everyday of your life God offers a lesson to be learned, here ends yours.    JT

The story of Twitch

This was an actual event that took place a couple of years ago, it was about this time of year....

It was one of those great weeks. I was commenting to everyone before church who dared to ask how my week had been, my reply was ' it has been a fantastic week'. I have gained the reputation at church as one of those people who answers the question 'how are you?' with very honest answers. If you didn't want to know you shouldn't have asked, right. Because of what happened later that day, I still cannot recall what the sermon was about. But I remember, because it happens alot, I got a case of the Jimmy legs towards the end and began to move around the church. I have this quiet little corner beside the sound guy where I am out of the way and usually go unnoticed. As I stood there, an overwhelming need to begin to cry came over me. I fell to my knee's and asked God who I was supposed to be crying for. Usually at that point, I can look around the church and see someone in need of prayer or just someone who needs a loving hand placed on them. But this time, there was no one. The service ended and we were all glad handing like we usually do, telling each other to have a good week and what not. Thats when a girl from the pre-k room grabs my attention and motions to me, she is in a state of panic. My first thought was someone was in trouble and I needed to go help, I usually rip open my shirt exposing the giant S and prance off singing 'here I come to save the day', figuratively of course. The girl grabbed me by the arm and said 'she is having a seizure'. So I start formulating my game plan on what to do, I have done that before a thousand times over. When I enter the pre-k room I look down and see a small child on the floor flat on her back, no one else is in the room except the pastor, his mom, me, and the girl who brought me. I looked a little closer and recognized the little dress the little girl was wearing, I knew it becaue I had put it on her, it was Cameron. That is when God took over, I did not panic, my thoughts were not my own, I became like a robot. I layed down on the floor beside her, I gently turned her on her side, her tongue had rolled back and she was choking on her spit. She was having a full blown seizure, head to toe. I placed my chest on her legs to keep them still, put my hand under her head so she would stop banging the floor. I don't blame those already in the room for not doing anything, they had no idea what to do. The girl who came and got me confessed that she came to me because it was my child, she had no idea I am an EMT. I kept my voice down and asked for an ambulance, and this is what impresses me the most. The ladies of our church when called to action respond in a second, because it wasn't but a second later that I heard cell phone buttons being pushed to 911. After about a minute Cameron stopped seizing, and began to come to. I said aloud that I need something for her to throw up in and in half a second there was a garbage can lid right there, which she immediately filled. I said very quietly that I need something to wipe her mouth and face off with, and in half a second I had wet paper towels in my hand. I asked if someone in the church could see to my other two children, you see, Heateher came to the early service and was already back at work. That is when they told me that that was already taken care of, by those blessed beautiful church women. I asked if someone could please notify my wife, and was told that someone was already on the way to get her. Once the ambulance got there I was relieved to see the two guys get off of it, I knew both of them. I gave a brief patient report to the paramedic, he quickly told me to scoop her up and lets go. Cameron at this point was what we call post-ictal, that is the state of confusion after a seizure, what was bad was she kept passing out. Here is where it got tough on me. We get in the ambulance and I sit down on the stretcher, I have Cameron in my lap laying on her back on my chest. I tell the paramedic fully what I had seen and done and do whatever I can to help him get an IV and all the other equipment on her, all the while trying to keep her awake, she was what we call, unresponsive. Not completely, she would respond sometimes to verbal and all times to painful stimuli. We get going down the road, the paramedic calls the hospital and gives a report, and thats when it happened. I looked down at my youngest, and from the position I was in, all I saw was the 'pretty' purple bow that I had placed in her ponytail that morning. She just had to have that pretty little bow to go with her pretty purple polka-dotted dress. I looked down at my baby and saw the pretty outfit that she had on, that I had helped her put on, and realized that here my pretty little baby was laying lifeless in my arms. I prayed, I cryed, I still cry when I think about it. That was the moment that God told me that I had done all I can do for her, and that He would handle it from there on. We got to the hospital and when the Dr's realized I was an EMT and 'should' listen to me I gave her to them and started making phone calls. It turned out to be a long day. She stayed in the post-ictal state for more than three hours. So Heather and I spent all that time trying to coax Cameron back to life. Heather knew that something wasn't right, she said she could tell by the way I was acting that this wasn't normal. Some folks from the church came down and we made a circle around her and prayed, and prayed and prayed. Suddenly, my little girl looks up, realized that she is holding a crayon that I had placed in her lifeless hand, and began to color. She colored Belle from Beauty and the Beast. We played UNO with her, and not long after that, we were taking her home. It was determined that the seizure was caused by a fever, not just a high grade fever, but a fever that kept going up and down, which is why no one knew she was even sick.

Since that day I have gotten a lot of praise from those who witnessed what I did. I remind them that no matter what they saw, or how they think it went, do not praise me, give all the glory to God. Because he was with us that day. You see, I remember very vividly that when I carried my child out to the ambulance, there were many gathered around. Most never knew I was carrying my own child. But what I heard from several voices as I walked past was, thank God James has her. I said quietly to myself as I say it to you all now, No, Just Thank God.


Her drawing of Belle still hangs on my refirgerator to this day. JT

Midnight at the Oasis

There once was a man who found himself in the desert. He looked upon the baron openness of the endless sea of sand. He saw the rolling dunes that have taken their shape from years of blowing sand. The little ripples within them that make them look like waves of water flowing to the horizon. No matter where the man looked, all he saw was the vast open desert around him, how was he to survive. In his pocket, he found a bag full of seeds, he had no idea how the seeds got there, but there they were. The man found a flat patch within the rolling dunes and he put his seeds into the ground. He could have eaten the seeds, and satisfied his hunger for the day, but what about tomorrow, or the next day, how could he survive? Would eating that bag of seeds all in one sitting give him the energy to make it out of the desert, he did not know, so he did what was in his heart and he planted them. It took some time, but eventually, it rained, not a lot, but just enough. The man awoke one morning to find that the seeds had started to grow. Before he knew it, he had enough food to last him a long time, and from that crop, came more seeds, to plant again and again. It wasn't long that the man realized, he no longer wanted to escape the desert, he was quite content living there. It did not rain often, but it did rain enough to keep him from being thirsty, and his crops were bountiful enough to keep him fed. All he had to do, was make one decision, eat the seeds, or plant them. What would you have done?



Moral- The vast desert is our lives. Sometimes we muddle through life and find ourselves in a place where we feel very empty and alone. We look upon our lives and think of them as endless sea's of dispair, where we cannot find an oasis. We want all our needs to be satisfied for us. When we feel alone, we blame God, we ask, if there was a God why would he put me in this desert, why doesn't he give me an oasis. The fact is, he didn't put us in the desert, we put ourselves there, we seldom credit God when things go good for us, but boy do we blame him when times are bad. We are given a choice, you can satisfy your earthly needs right here and now, live for the moment, or for the day. But in reality, how long will that feeling last, how long before we are hungry again, and we think back to that bag of seeds that we ate greedily in one sitting. The other choice is seeking God, and accepting Christ in our hearts. By being wise, and doing what we know is right, we take Gods word and we give it to others. We accept the word of the Lord and then we plant that seed into someone else. It is our task as good Christians to witness and spread the word. God will provide the water, trust in the Lord, and the seed that you have planted will grow and bear good fruit, and within that fruit, is more seeds. Before you know it, you are standing in a forest, it is no longer the empty desert you once thought it was. If you do not think this can happen, just wait. If you are reading this, it is because I too was once in a desert. But I followed the word of the Lord. I started planting seeds. If you have read this blog or any before it, a seed has been planted in you. It is not up to me or you when God will provide the water, just trust that someday it will rain. The water that pours on you is your baptism. And when you get to a point where you are planting seeds to feed others, you realize, as I have, the life that you save, is your own. JT





*A sign I read at a church- A hypocrite is not himself on Sunday's*

Is that........hair gel?

† If you go into any pharmacy today or any health and wellness store, the majority of what you find in them is beauty products. These stores carry a wide variety of things for your skin, makeup, hair spray's and gels, hair dye, lotions and all other sorts of anti aging products.

If you think about it for a moment, there are few who read this who haven't used one or all of these products. Even the guy's use hair gels and some of you uses the lotions and the Just for Men products. If you are going to work or going on a date with your spouse or significant other, we try to look our best, don't we? We get all gussied up, that's what we say in the south. We put on perfumes and colognes, deodorants and antiperspirants, and yes, we all do our hair. It is important to us to look our best for our partners, isn't it? Try to imagine how much time you spend in a day just getting ready to present yourself to the world. Statistically speaking, it is said that we spend more time in the bathroom using all of its facilities and prepping ourselves than we do engaging in sex. To me, that's a sad fact of life, because if you think about it, those times when you are getting all gussied up, your kind of hoping it will lead to sex, and you spend more time prepping for sex than actually having it. Now before you stop reading and thinking that I am going all hippy on you, I am not saying that we should not do these things. My point is this, is all that make up, all that deodorant, all that perfume or cologne, and all that hair gel really you? Is that how you really look? Is that how you look when you wake up in the morning?



Moral- One of the things that I have seen most couple's, including my own marriage is scarred or damaged by lust. Lust is an overwhelming emotion that overtakes us. It makes us believe that it is more important than anything else we have in our lives. We crave so strongly the things that we lust after that we are willing to sacrifice the "real" things that we have, including the most important, our relationship with our spouse. I speak mostly for men on this one, but it can pertain to the women too. Lust in our hearts is a powerful addiction. But listen to this, it is an addiction that can never be satiated. It can never be satisfied. The only thing you accomplish in living a lustful life is you wind up wanting more. It is like putting a band-ade on a broken leg. It is because of this never ending hole within us that destroys our relationships. The solution, as I see it, is to find a way to live in love and try your darndest to avoid lust. Lust is not real, it is not who we are, it will never make you happy. Think about happiness in the long term. Is it better to chase down your lust and satisfy it for the moment, or to work on love? Which one do you think will last longer. Love is permanent, it requires maintenance, but if you are in love, you don't have to keep falling in love every week, or every day. But if you live in lust, you will find yourself like a drug addict chasing down that pusher and selling your soul to fulfill that desire. Lust is like hair gel. You can put it in your hair, but it won't last, it will wash out, it is not who your really are. It is hair dye, it will only fade, and who your really are will eventually resurface. Lust is a tool of the enemy. He uses it to keep us from staying in love with our partners. It is the enemies greatest fear for a couple to maintain a loving relationship under God. The love we have for God transcends to the love we have for our mates. The more you love Christ will lead to a greater love for your spouse. Take a good look at yourself, before you think this pertains to someone else, what do you lust after, what is your greatest sinful wish? Has having that sinful desire in your heart ever helped you, or has it taken away everything your really need.

A good example would be what I told someone the other day. Do you think if you ever needed a shoulder to cry on, or a true friend to talk to, could that person be someone you are cheating with? Do they even really care about you? Or do you turn to someone you love? And if that person that you turn to isn't your spouse or significant other, then you have a serious problem. I also told another guy this, the person who you have in your life that is supposed to satisfy your lust should be your spouse. Couples quite frankly should be there to satisfy the needs of each other. And if you do not satisfy those needs, its like depriving someone in the dessert of something to drink, how long will they thirst before they go and get a drink elsewhere?

So ultimately I say this, wash that crap out of your hair, let your hair fall is it would naturally. Get that lust out of your heart, and learn to live in love. Love is the only thing in the world that you cannot touch, taste, hear, or smell, and it is the only thing that is ever truly worth calling real. Because real love lasts forever, just like the Love God has for you. JT

The last thing you say....

This is another one of my all time favorite things that I wrote, the graphic imagery always reminds me of not only my own mortality, but the reality that every day when I awake could be my last...

    As Christians we are obligated to be a forgiving being, and I am amazed at how often we are not, myself included. To bring my point home I told a story to my bible study group, their minds were wandering as people do when they are hearing something very personal that they are not willing to change, so I told them a tale to let them know how serious I was and how much I believed in what I was saying.

I was at work several spring's ago, it was about lunchtime and we were getting ready to sit down and have our meal when the tones went out for a vehicle collision with injuries. It was right up the road so it did not take us long to get there, we had to shut down the road as the two vehicles were completely blocking the two lane road. This particular collision was a head on crash, a bad one. We immediately proceed to the car that is the worst off, my captain who is a paramedic reaches into the vehicle to check on the patient, he turns and looks to me and gives me the look and the shaking of the head that lets me know that there is no helping this woman, and to move on to the next vehicle. The particulars about the wreck are neither here nor there, what is significant is how God was speaking to me during this moment. Once the save-able patient was loaded and the police finished their investigation, they have to be very thorough in a collision that involves a homicide, I looked into the car with the lady who had just been called home. She was dressed for work, and it was obvious to me that she was on a lunch break. I say that because in the middle of the car on the hump was her bag of Taco Bell. Several things about this rang my senses. I could still smell the food that was in the bag, above the smell of the collision. When cars get in a crash, if you have ever been in a collision you can testify to this, there is a particular smell. The smell of antifreeze, airbag dust, and oil make a very peculiar aroma. But above all that was the smell of her lunch. She was going about her day as she normally would, thinking about what she had to do for the rest of the day, not knowing that her day was about to end right then and there. This is where I made the point to the group that most of us will never see our end coming, or our beginning depending on how strong your faith is. This lady never knew she was about to die, she never saw it coming, her demise was quick and painless, a flash of light and then Jesus. The other sense of mine that got tapped was my sight. You see, the bag of food was filled with this lady's blood. She was slumped over the steering wheel right above the bag. God spoke to me in a way that to this day I still see that image. Here was this lady's intent on continuing the rest of her day, and in the same image, the end of the day. The thought that went through my mind then and still to this day was....What was the last thing this person said to the one in this world she loves the most. Do you think she left a petty argument unresolved, bitter at the thought of the argument, or did she tell that person that she loved them. I live my life like this, arguments have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end of the argument must come in the same day the argument took place. I do not want the last thing I say to the one I love be a stupid insult that I will always regret.



Moral- Forgiveness is an obligation amongst Christians. Forgiveness in marriage means that one person must be truly sorry and the other must truly forgive, regardless of the situation or severity of the sin cast against one another. Christ asked God to forgive those who were killing him, in a way to show that he had already forgiven them. Would you be able to do that? We most commonly live in grudges most of our lives. All who read this probably have at least one person on this earth that we hold a grudge against. But if you read Proverbs you will see it is chock a block full of why you should forgive, and that is Old Testament. The New Testament is full of how Christ lived a very forgiving life. An example of that would be Mary Magdalene, Christ never condoned what she did, never said it wasn't wrong, but he was able to forgive her anyway, as it is our duty as children of God. The other point is forgiving those whom you don't care about. Someone you don't know or know that well may severely wrong you, it is still your obligation to forgive that person, and ask God to forgive them as well. The difference with a person who you don't care about and a person you do is there is little chance of reconciliation with a person you don't care about. But if you pray for forgiveness and live that life, you will find that Christ offers your heart peace about how you have been wronged. The choice is ultimately yours, you can live in peace, or suffer with the bitterness that will fill your heart. By praying for forgiveness you find that you are living the Kingdom Life, you are offering your aches and troubles up to God. By living in bitterness you are trying to handle the situation by yourself, and you will find that you cannot find that peace on your own. Remember this, if you find yourself arguing with your loved one an argument that you have already prayed for forgiveness for, or have said you are sorry whichever the case may be, then you are a liar. Because you never truly forgave that person, and are not living in forgiveness, or you were not truly sorry, and feel that you have done no wrong. Arguments that are settled turn into conversations where each side is willing to listen and be heard.



If you expect to be forgiven in the Kingdom of Heaven, you must be willing to forgive. One of the things the Bible teaches us is that you will be judged on your ability to forgive. You can live a selfish life here and now, but in all reality you should treat everyone you know with the same consideration you expect when you reach the Pearly Gates. Remember, your ability to act and live as much like Christ as you can will dictate whether or not you get to meet him in the end. If you woke up this morning then God has granted you another day, but there is no guarantee that you will make it all the way to tomorrow, or even get a tomorrow. So if there are those in this world whom you still have not forgiven, I suggest you start praying, and living a life of forgiveness. If you are living in bitterness, you are not living, and you may never know a happy life until you have prayed for peace. And it truly is a very wonderful life. JT



Mathew 6: 7-13

Mathew 18: 21-35

John 8:1-11

01Peter 3: 8-12