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.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

One More Time

“One more time…please!”
It has been more than a decade since I heard these words from any of my children. The sun had left the sky and most of the lights in the house were turned down low. Their tiny heads rested in the arms of a pillow. The soft blankets pulled up their chins.

“One more time, Daddy, please read the story just one more time.”

I could hear fatigue in their small voice. I could see the brightness in their eyes dimming. Hiding behind their plea was a yawn waiting to escape. And yet they longed to hear the story again.

The stories were of Jack and the magical beans, or a hooded girl and her adventure to grandma’s house. Sometimes the story was about the city under the sea or a girl with golden locks. And certainly Dr. Seuss was a constant bedtime companion. So many stories demanding to be told “one more time”.

To be read.

Once upon a time we read books. Today we read posts, blogs, comments…or nothing at all. Words have been replaced by emoticons or pictures. Pages of a book…oh how I loved the smell of a brand new book…have been replaced by electronic screens. We no longer experience the crispness of new pages being turned for the first time; we no longer mark our spot with a turned dog ear or a well-worn book marker.

In the not too distant past (about six months ago now), my grandson, Logan, brought back to me the joy of reading a book to a loved one. Less than two years old, the book shelf could barely contain all the books his mother had gifted to him. The end of many hard days was eased for me when Logan would toddle over to my chair, holding a book in his tiny hands, asking in baby talk to invade my space and read him a story. An invasion I welcomed with love and joy in my heart.

But that too has all but become a memory. Logan has discovered the electronic world we now live in. A tablet has replaced the books. Videos of Choo- Choo trains or dinosaurs are now the prize he cries for. He only needs me to push the right button…something he will no doubt soon learn to do himself.
His books remain still and silent, stacked one upon another, all but forgotten.

Once upon a time we read books. Real books. Books with hard or soft covers. Books with pages containing the words of the storyteller. When the last page had been read the book earned a special place on the shelf, waiting to be read again and again.  Other books I read demanded I share them with someone else because the story was so alive that it would be sinful to place it upon a shelf.

I don’t consider myself a storyteller…not yet. It is my life’s goal to reach this level of authorship. If you look to the right you will see links that will lead you to a place where you could purchase any of my books. I promote my books through social media. Between Facebook and Twitter I have a few hundred friends. And each of you have hundreds more. So exposure to my books, although not grand, should be sufficient to reach hundreds if not thousands of readers. And yet sales of my books, combined, remains sadly in double digits.

This bothered me for some time on a personal level.  But then I began to wonder if this lack of interest extended beyond my collection. Do people read books anymore?  The possibility that the answer to this simple question was “No” bothered me even more.

Ray Bradbury, one of the best storytellers ever, told the story of a society without books, Fahrenheit 451. In his story ownership of books was outlawed; possession of a book was met by “firemen”. And although we do not live in his dystopian society, if we are not careful the end results may be the same…a world without books.

I hope you will consider reading one of my stories. If not, that is okay. But I encourage you to take trip to your local book store (before they are gone too) and hold a book in your hands. Open the pages and hear their song, inhale and enjoy the aroma. Travel to a new world, even for just a short time.

Once upon a time…

Oh to read those words….One more time.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Raised Arms

There is a short and often forgotten story found in the 17th chapter of Exodus. The people of Israel had been released from captivity after 400 years. They had crossed the Red Sea and were now wandering in the wilderness. God was not only leading them to the land of milk and honey but he was providing for them...each time they grumbled.

In the 17th chapter we see the first true adversity faced by God's chosen when they are attacked by Amalekites. Now these were bad people, no other way to describe them. In fact throughout the Bible the name Amalek is associated with sins of the flesh, our old self that seems to never go away. As an army they were cowards in their strategies. They attacked the Israelites when they were famished and weary, which may same like a sound strategy, but they revealed their cowardice ways by attacking from behind, violating the elderly and the sick. The Amalekites were an army with no backbone!

Moses called a young man called Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.

Now here is the really amazing part of this story-

As the battle raged below Moses stood on the hill with his arms raised, lifting his staff towards the heavens. In this position the makeshift Israelite army successfully raised their swords against this well trained army of milksops. But Moses was an old man, and as his tired limbs lost their strength. His arms would tremble under the great strain and slowly begin their decent. The opposing army would claim the lost strength of Moses and begin again their barbaric destruction of God's children until Moses could find the strength to once again raise his arms in victory.

And now we meet two incredible men. Two warriors. But no better description can be given than to call the two men...friends of Moses. For only true friends could offer such a sacrifice.

"When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset." Exodus 17:12

Until sunset! Can you imagine this incredible sight as the two stood next to Moses, transferring their own waning strength into the arms of their friend.

The battle was one by Joshua and his clan of wanderers through the help of three men on a hill and God.

Ten months ago I began my own battle against cancer. And although cancer can certainly be a scandalous and cowardly enemy it wasn't my Amalekite. As I mentioned earlier, in the Bible the Amalekites became representative of the flesh and the ongoing battle we all face against the desires of the flesh. Most often we think of this as sin, but I believe the battle can also be plagued by our own doubts. Doubt is not a sin, even when we are doubting God. Doubt is as much a part of who we are as any other emotion or flaw.

I have tried to stand like Moses with my arms lifted towards the heavens as I fought a long battle against doubt. There were days when I felt incredible inward strength and battling doubt came easily. Yet there were many other days (and late nights) when my arms began to tremble and I felt the strength depart from them like water over great fall. Doubt would line up like a battalion and begin their slaughter of my hope.

But so many of you became my Aaron and Hur. It was your prayers, your support and words of encouragement that lifted my weakened arms, restoring to them the strength called Hope. I needed to stop and thank you all for being at my side for so long now. Thank you.

But I also needed to ask you to remain at my side for a short while longer.

Last week I had a biopsy done of two growths inside my throat. That was Thursday, and today I still have not been provided with the results of the biopsy. And Amalek has returned with his soldiers of doubt.

I have no strength left to raise my arms. The battle has been long, I am tired.

God Bless you my friends.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Shadow of Faith (cont.)

Very excited about an interview I had today with the Herald Zeitung for a featured article about my latest book-"Shadow of Faith"

Below is another excerpt-I hope you enjoy it, share it and of course buy it!

“I woke up and could hear a firefight all around me, but it sounded like it was far away. I felt something on my chest. I tried to lift my head off the ground but when I did the white started to come back. I felt dizzy and sick to my belly. I think I may have passed out again. I opened my eyes and the white was gone, but not the firefight. It sounded like thousands of rounds being spent all at the same time. I heard another explosion, another grenade. It sounded far way too but I knew it wasn’t. I finally lifted my head trying to see what was sitting on my chest. I saw a combat boot. I yelled ‘Get off me!” But the boot didn’t move.  I yelled again…nothing. I pushed him off. That’s when I found out that no one was on me…it was my leg.”
Now it was tears rolling down his cheeks but he didn’t stop talking.
“I yelled for a medic. I didn’t think anyone could hear me. The firefight was so damn loud.”
He looked at Timmy apologetically.
“Then I heard footsteps and saw 1st Sergeant Goode kneeling next to me. He was holding his helmet on with one hand and digging into my pack with the other. He grabbed a large bandage and placed it on my leg. Then he had two hands on me, holding back the blood. He looked at me and told me I was going to be okay. I didn’t believe him; I thought I was going to die right there on the ground. I told him I was afraid to die. He told me that I wasn’t going to die. The he asked me if I knew Jesus Christ. I told him yes. I’ve known Jesus for a long time. My mother told me about Him when I was just little boy. When I was fourteen I was baptized after accepting Him as my Savior. But I couldn’t think about that. I kept seeing the boot on my chest, knowing that it wasn’t supposed to be there. I saw the blood on your husband’s hands, too much blood, and knew it was mine. He told me to follow my faith, to know that God was going to protect me.”

He paused a long time, wiping the tears away with back of his hand....

Shadow of Faith to get your copy now.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Day that Marriage Died

In the beginning God’s hand held the brush that painted upon His canvas a beautiful creation called marriage. Since the foundation of this place we call earth God’s design for marriage was that of one man and one woman. In the time that Jesus Christ walked upon this earth He said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning , made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Today the Supreme Court of our land threw their caustic paint, derived from their words, upon the canvas of God. The corrosion of their collective thoughts brought death to the Creator’s design. These men of justice pounded at this sacred union until all of her breath was exhausted. Death came upon marriage in a way that is cruel and unjustified. May she forever rest in peace.

Some may say that marriage was already corroding due to an embarrassing divorce rate. And to you I would agree to a degree. The Bible has much to say concerning divorce. Even our Savior, Jesus Christ spoke on this matter; “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”  God made this provision for divorce because He knew that if sin (adultery) was to penetrate the bond of marriage that darkness would set in. And further sin would be born out of this first sin. Trust would be challenged. Retaliation would be considered. Hatred would be revealed in words that should never be spoken inside the circle of marriage.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And from this union families would be born. Babies would come into this world with a mother and a father. Two women, united can never provide that which a father provides. Two men together can never provide that which a mother provides.
We look at the single parent families today and concern for the children is a natural response. We often witness the degradation of our children that are raised by one parent. Sadness prevails when we witness the efforts of one to try to accomplish a task that was designed for two. Two women together will always be absent of a fundamental need. Two men together will suffer likewise. Ultimately this suffering will be experienced unnecessarily by innocent children.

Those that today celebrate the high court’s decision may never understand the implications that will be born out of this travesty. Instead they will rush to stand in line to receive their own license to marry. And all the while they are still a small minority. Today the minority has ruled, and yet you are still a minority. A position made by your own choice. When you choice to go against the norm, to step away from what the majority considers moral, consequences will accompany your decision. Because you live in this once great nation you can make those choices. The needle of our moral compass should not be broken by a minority of citizens. Go the way you want to go but live with the consequence. The definition of marriage before today was that of one man and one woman, could you not honor our belief in the same way that we believed you have the right to choose?

Marriage died today. May she forever rest in peace.

God did not die today…nor will He ever.

I believe God looked down from the heavens today and saw the inhumanity of his creation in all its glory. There was a time when God would take vengeance on mankind for destroying His creation. But He doesn’t do that today.

No, today He looked down upon what was once a great nation, and through His tears He said,

“I love you still.”

I wonder who will wipe His tears?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Shadow of Faith

Below is an excerpt from "Shadow of Faith". I hope it raises your curiosity to a level where you will want more. I have included a link to the e-book at the bottom of this post. Please consider purchasing a copy and sharing this post with your friends. A review from you on Amazon will be icing on the cake! Thank you for reading my thoughts...
“You know I thought I saw an angel once. I was so frickin high that the angel began to change. You know like a Transformer. And then I thought it was God’s face I was seeing. It scared me, man. I was more scared than I had ever been in my life. I thought God was going to kill me right there in the alley. He was going to kill me because I was stealing and getting annihilated all the time. I was ate up man, God’s face was right there. I could have reached out and touched it, but I thought my hand would frickin burn off or something. I knew I was bent bad, somewhere inside my head I heard my own voice telling me that it ain’t real man, you’re just screwed up. But I was scared, seeing God’s face was freaky, man. I started crying like a little baby. And then I started to scream. I squeezed my eyes shut, screaming for the face of God to go away. When I opened my eyes again the face was gone. But in its place was the face of Trapper Jack. He was so close I could feel his hot breath on my cheeks. It smelled like butterscotch. I looked into his eyes and knew that he was coked up. I also knew that he was pissed. I owed him a lot of jack for some of the crap I had bought from him. But I had been hiding from him because I blew the profits on buying more shit for me. Man, I couldn’t help it, I need to be high, I needed to go numb. Trapper Jack stood up and I saw his foot heading right for my man parts. He kicked me hard over and over. I thought I was going to die again right there in the alley. I was crying again. Suddenly the kicking stopped. I looked up and Trapper Jack was gone. From out of the darkness appeared three of his boys. They picked up where Trapper left off. I didn’t know I could sober up that fast. I started counting the hits. I was hoping that by counting I wouldn’t feel them. It didn’t work. I blacked out. When I woke up I was in the County Hospital emergency room. That was cool…I knew they had drugs.”
I sat there looking at Michael. I didn’t know what to say.

Chelsea was crying.

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.