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.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Four Hundred Nights

Four Hundred Nights
by J Hirtle

Four hundred nights have fallen since I first prayed to you
Each night with knowledge of the cancerous centaur
Growing within my core

Four hundred nights listening for your answer
Searching the worn and thinning pages of scripture
On a quest to find your promises

“Do not fear”, you said,
“For I am with you”

I searched the darkness for you
I stretched my hands
Grasping for your promises

I opened my heart
Aware of your faithfulness
Desperately setting aside fear
But Fear would not let go

Four hundred nights have carried my prayers
I tried to believe you were listening

Four hundred nights displayed the prayers of others
That you brought into my life
I wanted to believe you heard each one

I longed to know your faithfulness was present
Even when mine vanished into the blackness

You said you would “strengthen” me
Yet I am so weak

I wanted to hear you whisper in my ear
Yet I only hear the raspy cries of the centaur
With each new pain
Small or vast
He declares misgivings

Anger rises up like the phoenix
The villainous chorus sings
“Where is your God now?”

In the confines of the night
I did not know if it was my voice
Or theirs that sang these words

Night gives way to morning
The world awakens
"He is God!"
The mountains cry
Four hundred nights have carried your words
From the twilight they called to me
“Do not be anxious,”
“For I am your God”

With each passing moment
Your words remained true
You guided the hands of the surgeon
As they violated the centaur

You guided the care givers that administered the elixir
Along the crimson highways
Attacking that which remained of the sprawling monster
Lulling it to sleep
Until the day you call me home

And yet you knew the “We Care People”
Are measured by the gold they seek
And you made ways to satisfy their hunger
When I could not

The scriptures sing your words
“The Lord is the one that goes before you”
Make way my Lord, I cried
Let me know your faithfulness

Four hundred nights have passed
All of me exhausted
Yet through your promises
Tonight a roof remains over my head
My cupboards testify of your ministry

Four hundred nights
You remained with me

I pray now
But my words have changed

I pray now
That my faith will be as yours
Pure and true

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Bucket List

I do not recall when I first wrote “My Bucket List” I do know that I wrote it more so to develop my writing skills than for the more traditional reasons someone may pen such an unflagging gazette. But for some time now a Bucket List has gained a practical application for me.

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer last year. And although the cancer settled in a good distance from my think tank it was able to propagate haunting thoughts of a real Bucket List.

I have finished the bastardly chemo-therapy and my cancer is in remission. Evidently I am not allowed to say “cancer free”; the day I can sing those wonderful lyrics is still more than four years away. I look forward to it, but I also understand the physician’s prudence in announcing such a statement.

You see for the cancer patient in remission there enters into our life a very mysterious companion. My companion is called Antog. This purple colored pixie resides in the imagination sector of my mind. Antog arrives during my most vulnerable moments…when I am in pain. Suffering a headache or sore muscles, maybe in the middle of the night when I suddenly awake, unable to breathe. Antog whispers quietly an unanswerable question-

Do you think the cancer has come back?”

I don’t. Most the time I don’t. I don’t like Antog.

His whispered words have stirred up thoughts of a Bucket List. Below is the original “Bucket List”, I haven’t changed the prose and try to remember each year around this time to share it with you. If I did construct a new list, after this journey I have been on, the list would only include two new items.

The first has been achieved-to see my children become adults, to know they love Christ, to strive for success as defined by their own goals. My youngest, Joseph, is a sophomore in high school, so technically not an adult. But over the last year, standing at my side, holding me up… he has become a man.

The second item on the list? To write the great American novel. You see, I do believe in that imagination sector where Antog lives there is also a great story to be told. I will keep looking for it. In the meantime, I share with you “My Bucket List”.

My Bucket List
I turned 54 years old today. I had a thought early this morning, what if this is the last birthday I will ever have? What if 54 is all I have?

So throughout the day I pondered over my Bucket List. There wasn’t much pondering, you see I have never had a Bucket List. So the task last year on my 53rd birthday, was to create my own Bucket List.

I scratched my head and put teeth marks in the proverbial pencil as I mused over what would be number 1 on my list. Minutes then hours passed with nothing rising to the surface. So I changed strategies, I thought about the things that I have already accomplished or have been blessed with, things that may have been on a bucket list if I hadn’t already experienced them.   

Family always comes first to mind. I was born into the most incredible family 54 years ago. I still see them every week, we still talk and hug, and we laugh and cry together. We grow old together.

I have lived in the Great Northwest, the South Pacific, the east coast and the great state of Texas. I have fished for rainbows in the Russian River and went snorkeling along the Coral Reef.

I have served my country and been called a U.S. Marine.

I went to school with Mark Twain and Thomas Edison and tasted college for a short while. I have read Tolstoy, Dickens, Stephen King and the Bible.

I have eaten at the Ritz Carlton and Taco Bell, both on the same day.

I have had money in the bank and I have sold Coke bottles so I could buy a pack of smokes.

I have been high and I have been so low that all I could see was the bottom.

I have run marathons.  I have crawled across the cold floor on hands and knees, unable to stand because of pain.

I have gone from a 34 waist to a 38 waist and back to a 34 waist. (it is okay to applaud here)

My favorite teams have won the Super Bowl, and the Stanley Cup. I have watched a perfect game and caught a foul ball.

I have listened to Vivaldi, Miles Davis and ZZ Top, all in the same afternoon.

I have tasted Opus One in Napa Valley and drank a Lone Star beer with Willie Nelson while sitting in the Recovery Room.

I have seen every episode of Seinfeld at least three times.

I have fallen in love and out of love. I have made love on a beach and on a mountain top.

I have had two wives, two ex-wives and six children. (Maximized the limit on both of these!)

I was with four of my children when they took their first breath.

I was with my father when he took his last.

I have done everything I want to do... almost. At the end of the day my Bucket List only had one thing written on it… you.

I figure if you are reading these words then you and I have at least met somewhere along the way. And I don’t know if I have ever told you the story about Jesus. You see, He is the reason I made it to 54, I know without Him I never would have.

So, on my Bucket List I wrote just one thing,
      Tell someone about Jesus.

I think that someone is you, so here goes-

God loves you and me so much; He has since the very beginning of time. God can see everything from the beginning to the end; everything, every day and everybody and everything in between.

God knew that we would never love Him as He loved us, and He knew that would mean separation forever and ever.

So God sent His son down from the heavens, down to earth. We called Him Jesus, teacher, King and Messiah, and then we killed Him.

And when He died He took all of your sin and all of my sins and He paid the price for them. He paid the price of admission to an eternity with God. He did it for you and me, and He said all you have to do is believe, He would do the rest.

If you were the only one in the entire world, He still would have died for you.

Do you believe?

Thanks for listening. Thanks for helping me finish my Bucket List

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.