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.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Whose Battle Is This?

Whose Battle Is This?

I sit here today in the waiting room of the Cancer Care Center of South Texas, waiting for them to call my name. Today will be treatment number 10 of 12. The room is filled with people who are sick. People who are facing the same enemy I face. It is already twenty minutes past my appointed time to see the doctor before beginning the 3 day long treatment. I don’t blame the delay on the doctors or the staff. There was a time that I would have, but not anymore. I blame it on the enemy. I blame it on cancer.

So many are here today. Some of their faces I have come to know. But every week there are new faces. I hear their names being called yet I do not know them. I don’t know their story or their cancer. I just know they are in the same prison camp that I am in.

On the small table beside my chair are magazines. Some of them want to tell me about which movie star is rising, or perhaps has fallen. Other magazines have pictures of healthy food on the cover. I didn't see any sports magazines after traveling to the bottom of this mountain of periodicals.

I placed them back neatly; the cover of one small digest caught my eye. There was a picture of an attractive woman. Next to her, printed in over-sized Arial font were the words “My Battle with Cancer”. In the cover picture she looked very healthy…good for her. In contrast to the faces sitting in this room she looked very, very healthy. I didn't read her story; her picture was enough to know the familiar tale.

But her portrait and the title, “My Battle with Cancer” slowly began to form a picture in my own mind. I added to this cerebral canvas the faces of all the people who occupied this waiting room with me. As the image formed, comprised of swirling dark grays, brilliant whites, the borders tinged in amber, I saw red begin to appear. The red pixels ran together like children on a playground, forming the words—
Whose Battle is this?

My inner voice, the other Jim (also known as The Pragmatic One”) whispered—
“It is not yours.”

He was correct.

This battle with colon cancer began more than nine months ago with a call from my doctor confirming tests results. The battle began with his phone call. At that moment, when the trumpets blasted the apocalyptic battle cry, I was cuffed and became a prisoner of this battle. The chains would prevent me from fighting a battle that was being waged against my very soul.

What could I do? What did I do?

I obediently followed the doctors’ instructions. Instructions that included submitting my body to the surgeon’s knife, lying quietly as test after test probed my body, sitting for hours upon hours as the chemotherapy drugs raced through the veins of my inflicted body. And I prayed.

All of these actions were done from a prostrated, sitting or kneeling potion. Not the fighting stance of a warrior.

Whose Battle is this?

I have come to realize that this battle has been fought by you.

I have sat patiently as a prisoner of my captor…you have fought valiantly.

The” you” is plural.

My team of warriors is led by my daughter, Sara Rose and my son, Joseph Tyler. They have been by my side from the beginning. They have helped and supported me. They have endured with me the pain and moods that are a direct result of the chemo treatments. They have adjusted their own lives to deal with my loss of appetite caused by drugs and constant mouth sores. They have waited when I had not the strength to move. They have rejected the thought of a future without their Dad.

Included in this first but small platoon is my almost two year old grandson, Logan James. He doesn't understand the battle. He doesn't even know that one is raging. Yet he always seems to know when Grandpa needs a hug. He has also learned not to pull on the tubes that extrude from my chest. A young unknowing warrior.

The second platoon (2nd by numbers only) is the people that make up the “Hirtle Family”. My mother, my sisters, my brother, my son and his family, my daughters and their families, nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, cousins…they have all stood by me, supported me, prayed with me, fought for me. They are mighty warriors.

A third platoon is comprised of many friends and fellow workers who, from even great distances, have offered support in every conceivable manner. Their words, written and verbally, have offered encouragement, sentiments, love and kindness. They have reached into their own pockets and helped financially for something they have no claim or stake in. They are magnificent champions.

And I cannot forget the medical staff. Although it seems at times that they are aiding the enemy in their efforts as they pump the cancer killing chemicals into my system, I know better. It is not only their professional efforts that fight this battle, but it is also the care and concern they show every week. It is their motivational words of encouragement that are seamlessly delivered each and every time I see them. They are on the front line, providing the weapons, spending hours upon hours by my side as I crumble away, putting the pieces back together. They are super soldiers.

Whose Battle is this?

It has been yours. And I can only say “Thank you. “

I wish it was over. I wish I could send the warriors home.

Two more treatments. Two more skirmishes. I still need you.

I learned a new word today—thrombocytopenia. Learned it, can’t say it.
It means my blood platelets are decreasing. Last week my white blood cell count was also decreasing. 
What does all this mean? I don’t know.

 I don’t care.

I don’t care because I know that God and warriors are on my side. You are the warrior.
I love you and I thank you.

See you on V-day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Time to set aside your fear...almost.

An open letter to all minorities.

It is time to end your paranoia and set aside your fears...almost.

With your indulgence I will begin with the "almost".

There is no doubt in my mind that there is today a splinter group of race-haters. These wretched bodies have been around for hundreds of years (sadly and with shame I acknowledge they were not always small in number), I am sadden to admit that they are still upright breathing today.

These race haters are nothing more than cowards. Individually they hide their distorted beliefs. Collectively they meet in small, smoked-filled, darkened rooms congratulating each other on their hatred towards you. They exchange lies and off-color jokes. They are cowards.

They do not gain strength to momentarily escape their cowardice until a happening like that which occurred this week in Baltimore. But even then they can only penetrate their weakling's overcoat under guise. They are their among you, pretending to be on your side by coaxing you into destroying your own neighborhood. They shout slurs at the "white man" will encouraging you to devastate the innocent victims that yesterday were a part of your community.

They are race haters. They are cowards. They are the true minority.

It is time to end your paranoia and to set aside your fears. You see my friend, the majority of the white race does not hold prejudices against you. We recognize our past and embrace our future because we have learned from men like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. We listened when women like Harriet Tubman and Lena Horne spoke aloud. We watched as Rosa Parks showed the world what courage truly looks like.

We do not hold prejudices against any minority, because of a common bond that weaves it way through our own belief structure...a belief in God. A God who created all, white, black, brown, red or yellow. God did so with love, without separation and without prejudice. We follow God in our everyday life, striving each moment to be more like Him.

We see you as a people. We are not and never should be a color-blind society. Your skin color is a part of who you are, just as my own skin color is part of me. It is your heritage. It is mine. If we put blinders on to color then we will forget the past and will be doomed to repeat it. God forbid!

We do not hate, because we love. We love because God loves.

I will end this letter with the words of Martin Luther King. Words that should ring out in Baltimore and across our nation tonight-

"Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, Justice at it best is correcting everything that stands against love."

Cowards have no power. Cowards stand against love.

 Set aside your fears, end your paranoia.

You are us. We are you.

Praise God.

Monday, April 27, 2015

LGBT-It is non that simple.

I am compelled to take a brief respite from working on my novel and even dealing with the effects of going through chemotherapy. Admittedly the former is much easier than the latter.

The aspiration behind this brief respite is the attention that the LGBT community is getting and my own concerns about what all this will mean one day.

Very soon the Supreme Court of this great land we call home will perhaps change the very design of God.

The design I refer to is of course the marriage between one man and one woman. This was and is the design of the Creator, God.

Those that know me also know that I am a Bible believing, evangelical Christian. In the past, I guess recent past would be more accurate, I have been mostly silent on the subject of rights or equality for those who wear the tee-shirt of LGBT. And there has been a reason for my uncharacteristic silence.

I didn't know what to say.

Well, you know that is not completely true. I knew what I should say, but refrained from doing so out of compassion and love for the people I know that wear that tee-shirt. What I should say is grounded in my faith and complete belief in what God has taught us all through Scripture.

As it turns out...it is not that simple.

It would be simple for me to take this platform and quote scriptures that hide no truth about the perfect designs of God. I could quote scripture that tells us that God declares the lifestyle of homosexuality as sin. If I were to do so, I could add that all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God, but to continue is sin, with the knowledge that it is sin, is grounds to reconsider our faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ.

I could also move out of scripture and into the beginnings of this great nation. A nation whose founders recognized that marriage is of one man and one woman. Their recognition of this truth comes from their own belief in a Creator. Today, intertwined within all the scuttlebutt is still the strong belief that marriage is a sacred commitment between man and woman. Now you may read statistics that say differently, after all it is extremely easy to spin numbers into any court you would like, but you will find that a majority, greater than 50%, still believe that to redefine the essence of marriage is wrong.

I will pause here to ask you a question-

"Why do a great majority believe that polygamy is wrong. Wrong to the degree that laws of the land prohibit it?"

The polygamist stands under the same banner of freedom that you and I stand under. They are equal in every way that we are. They love, they live, they bleed, all in the same way we do.

And yet the majority ruled...marriage to more than one is wrong.

For that matter, why do we have laws that govern the legal age one can marry?

You see, it is not that simple.

For a moment I must return to the teachings of God.

Jesus Christ, our Savior, did not encounter a homosexual during His ministry; at least the Bible doesn't record such an incident. Nor did Jesus speak about homosexuality outside of the context of all sexually immoral behavior. But neither did He speak about rape, incest, child molestation or domestic abuse. And yet we find these deplorable and would never consider the perpetrator of such behavior as an equal with the same freedoms of noble seeking citizens.

But you see, Jesus is God. The same God that declared in the Old Testament that homosexuality is unlawful...a sin. When I hear people say that Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality, and that somehow negates this sin, they do not understand who Jesus was and is.

Not simple?

I don't know.

When I think of how Jesus would have behaved or reacted if He did cross paths with a homosexual, I can only imagine that He would have acted no differently than when He crossed paths with adulterers, thieves, betrayers...

It was always with love and truth.


"Follow me." 

Simple words written in red.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I can't

3:14 AM
I can’t sleep.
A night bird has taken up residence in a tree outside my bedroom window. The damn bird won’t shut up. She’s been there for a week. Every night it is the same…sing a song..sing a song…sing a song.
In the bathroom I looked in the mirror. My face is swollen again. My mouth hurts so badly from the sores.
I rinse my mouth with one of the five rinses I have been trying. None of them work for very long.
I can’t spit because my lips are too sore to have strength enough to push, so I just open my  mouth and let the rinse fall out.

I want to open my mouth, my body and just let the chemo drugs fall out.

Monday was treatment number 7 or 8, I can’t remember anymore.
It was the worse so far.
The mouth sores, the stomach pains. Cold sensitivity in my hands and on my lips. Neuralgia  in my feet that sends needles of pain with each morning step.
I can’t drink anything cold without pain. I want a ice cold Dr. Pepper more than anything I have wanted in a long time…but I can’t.

I can’t do so many things that I want.

I don’t know if I can go on.

I have asked God for some relief.
There has been none.
I don’t know why He is not listening.
I want to send the damn bird up to Heaven to wake God up!

But I won’t. I will continue to pray. I will finish the chemo-treatments. I will endure the suffering and hopefully beat the cancer.

It would be so easy to give up…but I can’t.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Walk with Him

The story began with two words-“Follow me.” And they would. For more than three years they walked with him wherever he went. They were there to celebrate with him when someone said “I believe.” They were with him when those that wouldn't believe tried to kill him.

Day after day they listened to his teachings. They didn't always understand, but they always listened. They didn't know their lives were being changed with each step of their journey. They stood with the crowds when Jesus performed miracles never before seen. They stood close by his side when they were afraid to go on.

For more than three years they walked with him. Did the time go by too fast for them? Suddenly their time together was no longer measured in years or months…or even days. Known only to Him there were only hours left before his journey would end.

After three years, late one night they gathered together. The broke bread and supped with him. He knelt before them and gently washed the dirt away that had stained their feet as they walked with him.

Hours passed, night became early morning. He asked them for the last time to follow him. In a garden he wept to his Father…while they slept…no words of prayer leaving their exhausted minds.

In the dark shadows of the night the one who would betray him lead a band of soldiers to the garden.

A kiss of treachery

Swords drawn

He was taken

The ones who had walked with him—ran off into the night

They beat him about his face

They laid stripes upon his back

They beat him again and placed a crown of thorns upon his brow

One who had followed him, who had loved him with unmeasurable passion sat in the courtyard close enough to see the blood run down the face of his Lord…then denied him, once, twice, three times

Their eyes met…one filled with love…the other filled with shame…he ran into the night—away from the one he had walked with

The crowds screamed—“Crucify him”

On a hill called Calvary the pierced him, hung, arms spread wide, nailed to a tree

It began with two words—“Follow Me.”

On that Friday it ended with three words—“It is finished.”

Today is Good Friday. “Good” because of God.

Do you hear Him?

“Follow Me.”

Today is Good Friday…a good day to begin a walk with Him.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Religious Freedom???Part 2

In my circle of life I have friends and family that have an alternate lifestyle. They have a different sexual orientation than I do. But I love them. I will walk with them, talk with them and dine with them, without hesitation…because I love them.

I respect their decisions and honor their choices, but I cannot participate in, endorse or profit from their lifestyle. I cannot do so because of my own beliefs. For me to do so would be the epitome of hypocrisy. I could no more do this than knowingly participate, endorse or profit in someone’s blatant lie.  A lie deigned to cause harm, bring profit or even just a little white lie; it is still a lie, an untruth.

Scripture is crystal clear on what God deems as sin. Two of God’s first commandments could be applied to the telling of a lie, especially one that is concocted to gain profit-
8th Commandment-You shall not steal.
9th Commandment-You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Because of my beliefs I honor these commandments of God. 

So what does scripture say about homosexuality?

In the 7th chapter of Mark’s Gospel Jesus lumped sexual immorality with murder, greed, deceit and even arrogance. He called them “evil” and warned that these evils will defile us.

Does His statement answer the question of whether homosexuality is sexually immoral?

The Apostle Paul more directly addresses the subject in the first chapter of Romans-

Romans 1:24-27;"Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was deserved.”

This clearly states that homosexuality is against nature, a sin. Not separated, elevated above or isolated from any other sin…it is just simply a sin.

I believe that Scripture is the Word of God…the Truth. If I am to claim my faith then I must also claim the truth.

Now the day may come when one of my friends or family that has this alternate life style may commit to marriage. Because of my beliefs I would not participate in the ceremony. I would wish them the best…but from afar. Attending the ceremony would constitute endorsement of or acceptance of something that I do not believe is right.

I am aware that my decision could come at a great cost. Relationships will be damaged or even severed. Wounds will be slow to heal, some may never heal or leave scar that cannot be hidden. The cost will be tremendous.

Yet when I consider the cost that Jesus Christ paid so that I may live, the cost I will likely pay for standing strong on my own commitment pales.

Let us now consider the laws of man that are currently causing great debates.

If you are a business owner I would like to point out something to you. Your business is made up of assets and paperwork, profits and losses. Your business may have a Mission Statement, but your business or corporation does not have a moral compass. It is not a living thing. It cannot form beliefs or ethics.

If you make a conscious choice to apply your own beliefs to your business, which you certainly could, then you must accept the consequences of decisions you, not the business, has made.
Last week the company I work for sent out a letter to over 35,000 customers announcing a price increase in the services we offer. The letter that went out explained the reason for this increase. An attempt at transparency was detailed in this letter. The price increase was warranted, it had been more than three years since the last increase. The cost of doing business today has increased substantially. The company has absorbed many of the increased costs during the past few years. We felt the timing was appropriate and that resistance from our customers would be minimal.

Boy, were we wrong.

It wasn't the small increase (less than $4 a month in most cases) that caused such uproar. It was the attempt to justify and be transparent that rocked the boat. The letter placed direct blame on Obama-care.

Austin, Texas (our largest market) is boiling over with liberals who staunchly support anything that comes from the current administration; including the Affordable Care Act.

I am the Director of Quality Assurance for this company. My last three days have been filled responding in a true mea culpa fashion to these very vocal customers. But the damage has been done; we cannot unsend the letter. The losses could surpass the small increase in revenues that would have been generated by the price increase.

In the words of Scooby Doo-“ruh roh!”

I do want to acknowledge that a political view exposed is not the same as a religious view exposed. It will not carry the pain and heartbreak that religious views can bring. Yet it is still very powerful…and should not be part of any business or corporation. But if a business decides to use its political views as part of daily business routine, it must be prepared to pay the consequences of this decision.

If you are a business owner who stands by his or her faith are you prepared to pay the consequences of whatever decision you make? If you choose not to provide products or services to someone who has a belief that is counter to yours are you prepared for the possible uproar and loss of future revenue that your stance could likely cause? If you answered “yes”, I applaud you.

If you are a business owner that makes the decision to separate your own beliefs from the business you run and provide services to everyone, regardless of their own beliefs or lifestyles, are you also prepared to face the consequences of this stance?

What consequences, you ask.

They are harder to describe-but you will know them… you will feel them, every time you make a bank deposit. Or every time you look in the mirror and see a Child of God.

I was reminded today the Jesus Christ dined with thieves and prostitutes. I was also reminded that He died for all…unconditionally. But I also know that Jesus told these thieves and prostitutes to “go and sin no more”, and He loved them.

I believe there is a more important lesson from the Teacher-He never wavered from the Truth.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is in the news causing much confusion for people of faith and those that have taken a different route. I am not surprised by the confusion stirred up in the wake of Indiana’s decision to proclaim a “Religious Freedom” law.
 I’m confused.
Freedom of religion was guaranteed by our founding fathers when they penned the First Amendment to our Constitution. More recently US Code 2000bb-1 “Free exercise of religion protected” states-
” Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.”
Now you can go on to read subsection (b) if you desire to accomplish two goals, a) more confusion and b) a headache.
Our religious freedom is the most precious freedom that we have as citizens of the United States of America. It should never be taken lightly. It should be fought for without abandonment.  It should be cherished amounts our greatest possessions. It should be recognized as a gift from a loving God; the same God that allowed mankind to make choices, even when those choices exclude the Gift Giver.
I love this nation and the principles that serve as its foundation. I love that I can worship the God that I want to without fear of persecution. I love that I can tell others about my God without fear of incarceration or even death.
I love that in the wake of Indiana’s passing of an unneeded law people are again thinking about this incredible freedom.
Which brings me to what I really wanted to write about—
If you are a person of faith…do you understand what declaring your faith really means?
By way of a hypothetical I will venture further into this question in the light of the uproar over this unneeded law.
You are the owner of an Event Planning Service. You are a person of faith, a person that believes in God. You celebrate your faith by worshiping God, not only at Easter and Christmas, but every day of your life. You have committed your life and your work to honor God.
Now you know who you are.
One Monday morning two people enter into your humble shop. Upon greeting them you discover that they are there to solicit your services for an upcoming wedding. Your experienced eye tells you that these will be good customers. The garments they wear aren't off the rack. They are groomed impeccably. You glance out the large window of your shop and see only one car parked in front; an automobile that costs more than your own annual income.
Yes, these will be great customers.
After exchanging names and handshakes you hand them a clipboard that holds a questionnaire designed to gather general information. You tell them that while they are filling out the paperwork you will retrieve albums that will aid them in their decision making.
When you return the gentleman on the right hands you back the clipboard, smiling, ready to get on with business.
 You glance at the names written down-
The word “Bride” has been crossed out. Neatly penned above the crossed out word your customer has written “Groom-2”
In the space provided he has written his name.
In the space below provided for the “Groom” is written the other man’s name.
One space has been left blank-“Budget $________”
An unsettling feeling overcomes you as your realize that standing before you is a gay couple!
An express train of thoughts speeds through your mind—
“They are gay. This is wrong. I cannot help them do something that I know is wrong. I don’t know what to say to them. They need to go somewhere else. Some place that doesn't recognize that what they are doing is a sin. What do I say to them? Dear God, please give me the words and courage to send them away.”
“I am sorry,” you begin, “I don’t think I can help you with your…plans.”
The man on the left glances at the man on the right, “You neglected to fill in the budget again! Help this man. He needs to know how much we are going to spend before he can help us.”
The man on the right looks at you, “Is that it? You need to know our budget before you can help. Well that is refreshing. We have been to three other event planners that refused to help because we are not…traditional.”
“It’s not that…” you begin.
“Our budget is set between $90,000 and $100,000. If we go over a little I will be okay. But I trust that with the early revealing of our budget, you will be able to accommodate us.”
The express train ramps up again-
“A hundred thousand dollars! That is more than I made last year. That is life changing money. What do I do? I don’t believe in what they are doing. With that kind of money we could finally start a college fund for Joey. God, please give me guidance! What we could do with that kind of money! What will my wife think when I tell her I said no? God, please bless my decision…”
You look at the two men. The silence, your silence, fills the room.
You tell them, “I think…”
What do you tell them? Is there a price on your faith? Where is the line, if there is one, drawn?
A life changing decision?
We, as people of faith, must look at the whole truth. If our truth has “holes” in it, are we prepared to mend those holes with or own freedom? Or do we say “What’s just one hole? What does one compromise mean to God?
I wonder…did God ever compromise?