Just Faith

Faith is a gift from God. Faith can move mountains, even the mountain of addiction. Ending a life of self abuse caused by addiction will happen when you trust God to lead the way over, around and even through the mountain. God's "Twelve Step Program" begins with one easy step-believe in Him.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Restore Point

I was innocently walking through the parking lot of my local grocery store, minding my own business, pushing the aged wire cart with its proverbial crooked wheels back to my truck. I stopped for just a moment when two fresh oranges came rolling towards me, having escaped from another cart, this one overloaded and carrying much more than my meager purchase. I stooped, picking up the rolling fruit and returned them to their elderly owner. She smiled and thanked me.
As I continued on the path towards my destination I heard someone call out my name. An old co-worker/friend was on his way into the grocery store when he saw me. We spoke for just a few moments; friendly greetings and of trivial matters, before both continuing to our destinations.

Her car was parked across from mine. I heard the gravel crunch beneath the wheels of her over-priced coup just as I was arriving at my truck. I turned my head towards the sound, and saw her over-priced coup on a collision path with my aging wired cart with its crooked wheels. Through the driver-side window I could see the car’s owner yapping away on her cell phone, oblivious to the world around her.
I pulled the cart hard to the right, hoping to avoid the inevitable. I am neither strong enough nor fast enough anymore to accomplish this feat. The chrome bumper of her car slammed into the rusty front grill of my cart, spinning it around. The cart’s handle collided with my hip, knocking me to the asphalt. I stuck a perfect 10- point- landing right on my butt. But not before the cart’s crooked wheels ran over my shoe, leaving a mark and a small tear.

I sat there for just a moment. My hip was lamenting its participation in this unexpected skirmish. But more than that, I sat on the dirty asphalt, embarrassed and  totally amazed. As the driver climbed half way out of the car,  still on her cell phone with hand over the mouth piece, she asked me, bordering on what one could call a whisper, “Are you okay?”

In the few seconds that had passed since impact, I had already conjured up a number of things I wanted to say to her…instead I waved her off with a shake of my head and a smile on my face. And just like that she was back in her chariot and driving away. I took note of her license plate, but forgot it before I was back in my truck. However, I will never forget the "I -heart-Hillary" bumper sticker sneering at me as she exited the parking lot.

I managed to get both myself and my groceries into the truck. I just sat there, taking a quick inventory of bumps and bruises. Thankfully there seemed to be a minimum of both. Next, I replayed the bumper car incident over and over; reassuring myself that the Hillary fan was completely at fault. Not that it really mattered for I knew that things could have turned out much worse.

My mental replay began to rewind, going backwards to a point before the car-cart battle—I saw myself walking backwards, back across the asphalt lot, being hailed by an old buddy, stooping to fetch some runaway oranges, through the double glass doors. Backwards to the checkout lane. This cerebral cinema slowed its motion as I watched the ghostly vision of myself looking up at the sign above a check-out lane that read “15 Items or Less”. I watched as the previous me counted the items, 1,2,3…16. There was only one person in this speedy lane and I, (I reasoned) was only one item over the posted limit. But…I have a pet peeve about shoppers doing the very thing I was reasoning. So I didn’t jump in that line. Obediently I traveled to an adjacent lane, one with no limits.

Back in my truck. I thought, how cool it would be if we had a “Restore Point” in life’s CPU. What if we could just point to a time, a Point, click a button and go back.

What if I had ignored my vexation of too many items and checked out in the speedy lane. I would have been in my truck, maybe even gone from the lot before the Hillary fan had a chance to run me down.
What if I had not retrieved the wayward fruit of some lady I do not know and will likely never see again. I may have been past the Point of impact.
What if I had just waved to the coworker/friend, continuing on my way, never stopping to talk. I would have already loaded the few groceries and would be sitting in the comfort and safety of my truck. The Hillary fan would never have this story to tell. Life's moments, oh that we could change them!

Ah, but we don’t have a Restore Point.
Or maybe we do. We just might not recognize it for what it is.

You see, when God created you and me, before we took our first breath, we were perfect. Yet without form, we existed at a perfect point in time. And then we come screaming into this world...at that point, our deterioration from perfection begins.
I am not being overly critical; I love little babies. The way they smile and laugh and smell…their innocence. But that doesn’t last very long, does it?
We each deteriorate differently, some faster than others. It is all about the life style we choose, but in the end we all have moved further away from that perfect point in time.

But you see, God knew the choices we would make long before we did. So in all His Wisdom, He provided a Restore Point. We call this point, Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.  When we believe, when we have faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God moves His divine mouse over our Restore Point and clicks. Just like that, we are restored to our perfect state!

Now, the same as when we are forced to Restore our computers, when everything else has failed, we do not see all the changes the powerful Restore accomplishes. In fact, we usually only see the changes we were looking for. But so many other files, and programs and bits and bytes have also changed. But we don’t see that.
We don’t see our perfect state when we accept Jesus as the Lord of our life…but God does.

That is how He sees you. Perfect. Restored!
Amen!

It Takes a God-Four Stories of Faith

"It Takes a God" was my final story about the fictional Goode family. The Goode family has played a part in my Theater of Imagination for more than five years and together we wrote four stories. Recently I made the decision to bring these stories together in one book, I guess as a way to say good-by to all of the incredible characters that graced the Theater's stage.
On the right hand side of this page you can find a link to the Kindle addition, also available in paperback at the CreateSpace store. It Takes a God
If you are an Amazon junkie, the paperback will also be available there in about two weeks.
If you haven't had a chance to read any of the Goode stories of faith, below is an excerpt from one of my favorite stories, and the first in the series,  "The Wooden Box".
I hope you will take a journey with me, it is a journey of faith. Your guide on this journey is a family called The Goodes.

Excerpt from "The Wooden Box"

Funny thing was, even when Old Jacob was wrong about the weather or the fishing, nobody seemed to remember, and the next time they happened to be walking down the dock, they would ask him another question, and wait for his reply, “Yep.”

When he asked me if I needed a hand getting up it was probably the most words I had ever heard from him. But something for Old Jacob must have been different that day, because for the next two hours he talked to me.

“You yanked on that line too damn hard. She barely had a chance to swallow your hook, so she gave it back to you”, he said with a chuckle.

“You were watching me?”

“I got nothing better to do today. I saw that school come in just before you did; you got a good water-eye. So I figured I would see how good you’ve gotten with that spey, Jimmy.”

“How do you know my name?”

“I know your Daddy, he brags about you quite often.”

My Dad brags about me! That was a surprise to hear. Another thought began to settle in. Old Jacob saw me yank the line too hard, which meant he probably saw me crying too. He knew my Dad. I didn’t know what he would be telling my Dad, but I was sure it wouldn’t lead to more bragging.

I guess my thoughts must have been written all over my face, because Old Jacob reached out his weathered hand and wiped it across my cheeks, 

“You got some sea spray on there; better get it off before we get that hook out, or it’s likely to burn.”

“Can you get it out? I think it sunk in pretty deep.”

“It did and I can. Hope it didn’t find bone. You need to sit still; it got pretty close to your eye. If you were a quarter inch shorter you’d be walking around like a patch-eyed pirate.”

“I guess I’m pretty lucky then.”

“It ain’t luck Jimmy. It’s grace. The problem with luck is it comes in two flavors, good and bad. Grace only comes one way, from God. Now sit still and let me work this hook back out into the daylight.”

I sat still just like Old Jacob told me to. I could feel his breath on my cheeks as he got close enough to see what he was doing. I could smell coffee and cigarettes. The tips of his fingers, hard and rough, lightly touched the skin around the puncture. Even with the care Jacob used the pain was pretty bad. Tears welled up almost right away, but Old Jacob didn’t say a thing, his fingers just kept moving around, looking for the pathway that the hook would follow out. I wondered how many hooks he had removed in his life.

“This is probably going hurt”, he said.

“I know.”

“You should turn your mind to something.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Do you know God?”

“Huh?”

“You just sit there and stay quiet, and don’t move. I don’t want to leave you with too big a scar; you Momma might be upset at me. I’ll tell you about God.”

For the next hour Old Jacob’s hands worked with a gentleness that only comes from years of experience, slowly removing the hook from my cheek. And the whole time, speaking in a voice that was just as gentle, he told this eight year old boy the story of Jesus.

He spoke about Abraham and Moses, about Joshua and the Promised Land. He told me about a boy named David who became a king. He said that God promised the people another king, a king even greater than David. He said that God made his promises through prophets, men like Isaiah and Jeremiah.

His soothing voice seemed to be numbing the pain in my cheek. I could feel him pulling and manipulating the hook, but the pain remained tempered by the story he told and the cadence of this old fisherman’s voice.

He continued, telling the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. When he talked about John the Baptist his voice changed, I think John the Baptist may have been his favorite. He told me that people followed Jesus everywhere he went and about the miracles he performed for them.

Old Jacob spoke about the Apostles; he told me many of them were fishermen! Peter was my favorite, especially when he jumped out of the boat right into the sea! He told me how much the disciples loved Jesus; that they knew he was the one promised by God.

Then he spoke about the men who hated Jesus. He said they arrested him, they spat on him and they beat him with their fists and with whips.

Old Jacob stopped talking for a few minutes. I looked up, trying not to move my head, like he had instructed me. I saw tears in this old man’s eyes, just starting to fall. He saw me looking at him and just said “hush.” He didn’t try to hide the tears or wipe them away. When he continued his voice had changed again, I had to strain to hear him tell me the rest of the story.

“They nailed Jesus to a tree shaped like a cross and then lifted him up between two thieves. Jesus hung there, looking down on his family and friends. His mom was there, watching her son die. There were soldiers and crowds that yelled and cursed at Jesus. Then Jesus asked God to forgive them. Can you believe that, forgive them?  It was the middle of the day but it got dark as Nome in the winter. I think it got dark ‘cause for just a short while God turned his back on mankind for what they were doing to his only son.”

Jacob paused, “The he died.”

I’ve been sitting in pews on Sunday mornings for more than seventy years. I’ve outlived a number of pastors and have seen quite a few others come and go. In all that time, with all those preachers, I never once heard the gospel story told the way Old Jacob told it to me that day.

Neither of us said anything for few minutes. The only sound was the wind and waves breaking on the rocks down below. My mind was still very young and I hadn’t understood everything the old fisherman had told me, but I wasn’t too young to know that he had told this story many times. 

Jacob said, “Hold out your hand.”

He placed the fly, that only moments before had been stuck in my cheek, in the palm of my small hand. I looked at it like I had never seen it before, but I had. I had tied it myself the night before. As a matter of fact I had watched it up close until Jacob had removed it with the care of a surgeon.

“Thank you.”

“Yep.”