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.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A New Journey-The Second Mile

After waking early this morning I listened again to the voice mail that Dr. Marek left for me last evening. The message was the same; the M.R.I. was good. There were no signs that the cancer had migrated to other areas. I felt energized! 

It is Saturday and suddenly this journey had positive mile markers to guide the way. A long list of things to do around the house, neglected lately, came to mind. My grandson, Logan, is spending time with his father, which is a good thing; although I will miss our Grandpa-Logan Saturday adventures. 

I awoke hungry. After allowing the doctor’s message to lift my spirits I lifted my butt out of the chair and headed to the kitchen. I made a bowl of Golden Grahams and two pieces of toast with Blue Bonnet on it. This may sound boring to you, but after weeks of oatmeal and one piece of dry toast as the staple, this breakfast was like a five star dinner to me.

It was a mistake.

Within minutes the pain associated with eating returned with a vengeance; a 6 on the pain scale.
Inside where thoughts are born lives another character I call The Naysayer. I could hear him stirring with each passing moment.

“The doctor’s message was just a spot of good news not the cure for the cancer that still sits in your bowels. You can’t eat just because you are feeling better…you idiot!”

I ignored his words while concentrating on the pain, wishing it away. Slowly the pain lessened; 6, 5, 4, then a 3 and finally landing on a 2.

I thought again about my list of things to do and decided I would mow the lawn before the heat of the day arrived. The Bermuda had gotten rather lengthy and needed to be cut. I hoped that this would be the last time this year; soon the grass would lay dormant for the short Texas winter.

I pulled the old Craftsman Q4.5 out of the shed and primed her to start. Always reliable she decided to be stubborn this morning. It required about dozen pulls on the rope before the engine sputtered to life. I pushed the mower about ten feet before she died, choking out under the thick-overgrown grass. It took only a couple of pulls on the rope to restart the Briggs but she only traveled two feet before succumbing to the Bermuda jungle once again.

I raised the deck two notches (higher than I prefer but obviously a requirement today), primed the engine and pulled the rope again. And again. And again. This time it took about eight pulls to wake the stalled engine. By the time she started I was covered in sweat and breathing hard. The pain I felt earlier was creeping up the scale and had reached the 3.5 mark. 

I don’t have a large yard but I knew it was going to take quite some time to finish this first task of the day. With the mower finally roaring at full speed I would push her just a few yards before feeling as if I had reached exhaustion. The perspiration and pain scale were increasing in harmony. I could only hold onto the handle and bend forward when the waves of pain came. I kept telling myself, sounding like the Watty Piper's Little Engine, “You can do this, you can do this.”

Then the voice of The Naysayer rose above the symphony of my own words of encouragement and the roar of the Briggs-

“You can’t do this! You still have cancer. You are still anemic, bleeding on the inside. Just give up, you are not who you used to be…idiot!”

I could see my shadow cast on the ground, a figure bent at the waist, holding onto a lawn mower to keep from falling face forward. It was hard to believe that just a few months ago I was going to Planet Fitness five times a week, working hard, obtaining body weights that I hadn’t seen in twenty years.

“That’s not you anymore. Face it! YOU HAVE CANCER!”

I ignored the voice of The Naysayer and continued slowly to push the mower over the long grass. It stalled two more times and required every ounce of energy and will-power to pull on the rope to bring it back to life. Each time I would measure how much more I had to go and with determination rising from an unknown source I continued.

“Idiot, you are making it worse.” The Naysayer whispered.

The mower sputtered and died once more. I looked up and saw a stretch of grass about two foot wide and fifteen feet long that still needed to be mowed. I pulled the rope…nothing. I pulled again and still nothing. 

This old reliable Craftsman mower had run out of gas. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how many times I yanked on the rope she was not going to start without gas.

I sat down on the freshly mowed grass, holding my midsection as if that may bring some relief and looked at the small patch yet to be mowed. “I’m not finished”, I whispered to myself.
“I am not finished!” I told The Naysayer.

“I am not finished!” I told God.


If you happen to drive by house and see this small patch of overgrown grass know that I am leaving it there as a reminder to myself-that I am not finished.

But I am tired. I sit here writing these words in this electronic journal so that I won’t forget.  But I am tired. It’s only 1:50 in the afternoon and I am done for the day. I think I will watch some football with my eyes closed…
To be continued….

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A New Journey

At 8:40 AM, on October 16, 2014, I answered my cell phone to hear the news that would mark the beginning of a new journey. The voice of my doctor delivered the words confirming the results of my biopsy. As suspected it is colon cancer.

I was navigating my vehicle through the traffic on US 281 south, just minutes away from Trinity Baptist Church when I received the doctor’s call, therefore a portion of my brain refused to think about his words in fear of accidentally driving the truck right off the road. 

This section of my brain is a den for pragmatism and immediately started making a list of the emotions and thoughts I was experiencing. This particular section is too clinical to actually feel the emotions; it is much more comfortable organizing them in a nice, neat list.

Another section, smaller than the area belonging to Mr. Pragmatic, listened carefully to the doctor’s words. He informed me that "staging" the cancer would come later, after the MRI. A treatment plan would be determined after we speak to the surgeon… and have more tests.

And while all this was going on there was one last small section of my thought factory waking up. This is the place I hide my emotions, keeping them in check as often as I can. But the doctor’s words stirred the occupants of this small brain-room into a whirl. While Mr. Pragmatic was listing all the things I need to do in order to prepare myself for this new journey, chaos and confusion was busy looking back over a lifetime at breakneck speed while asking the question-

“Will this be my final journey?”

Mr. Pragmatic answered, “Way too soon to consider that. We have nowhere near the information we need to ask such a sad question.”

Ignoring this interpretation Mr. Feelings looked for his own answers. He began to make a list of his own. Many questions (emotions?) will have to be explored-

“Where is God right now?”
“What about my children?”
“What about my family?”
“What about my plans?”

As I journeyed down US 281, Mr. Pragmatic took control before my emotions could become…out of control. The questions still linger, but quietly in the background; the same place the tears are hiding.

I am writing this for me and for you. Over the past few years this has become my most proficient way of communicating. (That’s almost as sad as the thought of this new journey.) 

Not to sound too cliche, but I will take this one day at a time…one word at a time. The emotions will only come out on paper, that's what I hope anyway.  I need to write, it helps me feel as if I have some control. My next book, hopefully not my last, is coming together and I don’t want to neglect it. But sharing my thoughts as I travel this new journey will be therapeutic (thank you Mr. Pragmatic for that thought). 

I have suspected for some time now that what I was having diagnosed at an incredibly slow 21st century pace was cancer. I think that may have weakened some of the emotions today. But during this waiting period I have read some blogs written by people that have or are going through a similar experience.  Quite often their words encouraged me. Sometimes they scared me. If my words help someone then I have accomplished the final item of my Bucket List. I hope to be able to start a new one at the end of this journey, but if not then I hope these words are meant for someone to read.
Now, it is time to cry…but just for a moment.

To be continued…

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Bucket List

I first wrote My Bucket List about three years ago and have made it a tradition to re-post it each year since. This year My Bucket List has taken on a new meaning for me...I considered making changes to the story but decided against it other than some minor updates. For the first time in my life I have had to consider the true meaning of a Bucket List. As I read through the original draft I realized that little has changed...most importantly the end. I hope you enjoy this short journey through my life.

I turned 57 years old today. I had a thought early this morning, what if this is the last birthday I will ever have? What if 58 is just a number divisible by 2?

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 57th 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 57 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 believe 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 57, I know without Him I never would have.

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

I think that someone is you, so here goes-
God loves you so much, and has since the very beginning of time. God can see everything from the beginning to the end; everything, every day and everybody 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 sin;  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 then 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.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The American Evolution

Two hundred and thirty eight years ago a group of men declared a new nation to be independent. I try to imagine what it must have been like for these men to take this stance at at time when freedom was a still a commodity to be cherished. Two centuries later freedom is too often presumed to be unceasing, blemishing the value of this equity. These men we once called "Founding Fathers" were people of great character. It was in this character that their hope for the future was rooted. They were courageous men, men of dreams, men of faith and family men. They knew that to surrender to the tyrannical government from which they had taken flight was cowardice. Surrender would demolish dreams, cause faith to falter and dismantle families. Oh, what it must have been like to be with this group of men in the sitting room as strategies were discussed, consequences considered and hopes abounded.

Today, July 4, 2014, freedom still stands because of men like these who sat behind closed doors in collective thought and prayer. But so much has changed, evolved if you will.

Family, fireworks and frankfurters are the order for today. Little thought will be given to freedom or the cost to preserve it. We will dream of the perfect rib eye or potato salad without much effort expended on thoughts of the future for this great land. Common faith is no longer common; we are now taught to have faith in faith and to each his own.

Families are fractured. Scattered by design, the family structure has evolved and continues to do so at a rapid and unhealthy pace. I fear that the day will come when like individual faith we will have but individual families. Children calling out to their father, "Wow!" as the scan the heavens for colorful fireworks will be just an echo of the past.

This American Evolution is applauded by many and feared by few. Today tell your children the story of America before it is faded beyond recognition, beyond memory.

Today my own family is scattered. It saddens me greatly not to be with those that are miles away or just a few blocks down the street. Yet I will thank God for what He has provided, for without that I would be alone. And on this Independence Day not a single soul should be left alone.

Happy 4th of July to you, my friends and family.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A time to read

I found a rock to hide under. It wasn't pleasant but it kept me from facing life which has become unbearably complicated since the beginning of the New Year. The details of that which enticed me to seek refuge under the rock is not important nor what I sat out to write about tonight. What happened when I was hiding from the world is what I want to share with you.

I rediscovered a passion that dates back to my youth...reading. My book shelves are filled with books that I have read over the years. Most of them I have read once, some even twice before.The vary in genre, length and author. But theses books all have one thing in common, they are indeed books. Real books with pages, words written in ink, bindings and glue. They have an aroma to them that only a book reader would recognize. Pages dog-eared over the years mark past reading habits; I found they have changed very little.

In 1953 Ray Bradbury published the book "Fahrenheit 451", a futuristic tale about the burning of books, all books. As a side note, if you have never read "Fahrenheit 451" you should. From under my rock I considered that today we are burning books in a different way...we simply don't print them. The popularity of e-books has created a multimillion dollar industry. I have e-published my last few books without making them available in print; it is cheaper and easier.

I am guilty!

Books were meant to be held close when the words move you to tears. They were made to be tucked under your pillow when your eyes became to heavy to continue the adventure. Books were made to share and to pass down to our children and grandchildren. Books were made to line otherwise empty shelves.

You can't do that with your e-book.

So I had an idea, actually a number of ideas. I have decided that the book I am currently working on, the third and final story about the lives of the Goode family (due out late this year), will be available in both formats, the e-book and the hold it your hands and cherish it book. The second part of my idea, and the one that I am excited about (it is good to be excited about something again) is a website that I am building that will be dedicated exclusively to real, paper-bound books. There is still much work to do in the planning of the website, flippinpages. I hope to have the site up by weeks end.

The last idea was to solicit your help in promoting this idea. http://teespring.com/flippinpages features a t-shirt designed by me with help of my son, Joseph Tyler.

I hope this is just the beginning of an idea that will develop into something I can tell the world "I did". If you do nothing else, read a book...before they are all gone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just More Words

Over the last few years I have discovered that writing is addictive. And if one has to be addicted then writing is my choice of drug. “Broken Crosses” has been available on Amazon for just a couple of weeks. I do have an edited version that I am slowly working on after my dear daughter pointed out several typos that I overlooked on the final walk-thru. And I believe I have also finally found a cover that I like (see upper left hand corner), your opinions are valued so please let me know what you think.
I finished “Broken Crosses” very early on Thanksgiving morning. Surprisingly writing can be exhausting and crossing the finish line can have the same physical outcome as accomplishing the same in a road race. With completion comes exhilaration and anticipation of rest and relaxation. I slept better those few hours before Thanksgiving morning than I had in months. What surprises me now is how quickly the desire to write more returned. I told you it is addicting. For me there is a rush in creating with words. I do remind myself that they are just more words until someone reads them.
When the idea for “Broken Crosses” first bubbled up in my overly crowded cranium I was working (actually struggling is a better description) on the second book in a series about the Goode Family. The characters in “Broken Crosses”, Scott Kelso, his son and daughter, the nurse Anna, all began to grow almost before a single word was put on paper, so it was with little hesitation or regret that I set aside the series book.
But now the Goode Family is calling me again and I have started dusting off the words and breathing life back into the characters. “The Wooden Box” first introduced the world to the Goode family, below is an excerpt for your entertainment...enjoy
I was eight years old when Momma first allowed me to go to the Spit by myself. The unnamed fishing hole soon became my favorite hangout, even when there were no fish to be found. An eight year old can always find something to do even when there is nothing to do it with. That spring I had decided that I wanted to try fly fishing in the inlet. I had watched my father fly fish on the Russian River the prior spring. He had let me try it a few times that day, but the hours for fishing were short and he didn’t want to lose them while teaching me. He surprised me about a week later after we had returned to Homer by giving me my own fly rod. When he found time he would teach me to cast and how to tie my own flies. I practiced a lot by myself because Daddy worked so much. Before long I could perform a pretty decent two-handed spey cast. I was swinging my own flies before summer went away that year. Daddy spotted me one day practicing at the small pond on our property. He told me he believed I may have better a two-hand cast than he had, but the real test would come when I was fishing waters that actually had fish in it.

I sat out early that morning to head down to the fishing hole. The sun had just come up and it was still cold enough to see your own breath. There was still snow on the untraveled grounds. To get from the road down to the fishing spot you had to descend a pretty steep bank. That morning there was still snow and ice on the steep bank so I sat down on my butt and slid down, digging my heals in the dirt as I approached the water. Explaining to Momma how I got wet if I happened to end up in the freezing water was not something I wanted to do.

Fishing was slow that morning. It gave me plenty of opportunity to practice my casting. As the morning wore on I wanted to practice my catching. My young arms were starting to get pretty tired. I was never very big growing up and my fly rod was twice as long as I was tall. Casting over and over put strain on the muscles in my arms and my back. I was just about to take a break when I saw the backs of what must have been a million salmon as they crested the water. I jumped back up and grabbed my pole, and then with all the strength I had left in those scrawny eight year old arms I swept the line just above the water and watched as my fly landed with perfect presentation.

The spawning salmon are not really looking for a meal. But if you can irritate them with a fly in their face they are likely to bite at it. Well I made one really mad! I saw her mouth open and then close with lightning speed around my fly. The tip of my rod dove straight down towards the cold water almost bending the pole in half as the salmon turned, heading back out into the inlet. My fly reel began to sing like a fat opera lady as the salmon reeled off the line. The rate of my heart increased to about a million beats per minute. (A million fish and a million beats per minute, when I was eight years old there was only a “few” or a “million”, not much in between).

Then I made the biggest fishing mistake of my young life. I knew that I was supposed to let her play out the line, let her fight for a while.  “She’ll get tired”, my Dad would have said, “Don’t you get tired first. You’ll make mistakes if you do.”

I pulled up with all my might. Just as I did I felt the hook let go. I don’t know if she spit it out or if I just pulled to hard, but either way the sharp hook on that hand tied spey- fly flew right back the way it had come. I wasn’t fast enough to avoid the barbed hooked entering my cheek just below my left eye. The air was cold that day, even more so down by the water where the wind never stops blowing, and the freezing cold air had numbed my face. At first I thought the fly had just smacked me in the face. It hurt like the dickens. If you have never had your near frozen skin smacked then you can’t know the burning pain that is experienced, so take my word, it hurts! As my vision came back into focus I could see the fine strands of the rabbit hair I had used when tying the fly sticking up in my lower vision. I reached up and lightly touched the soft area below my eye, feeling for the hilt of the fly. My fingers found the fly and lightly pulled. The pain was incredible and I knew then that the hook had sunk in deep. Up to that moment I hadn’t cried, but then the tears came on full force. I probably would have sat there on my butt crying until someone came along if my own imagination hadn’t snapped me out of it. I began to wonder if the tears were pouring out of the new hole in my face made by the sharp hook. As my mind’s eye developed this picture I started to laugh, first quietly then out loud.

My laughter didn’t make the pain go away but the tears stopped as quickly as they had started. I wondered what my Dad would have said about me crying like a bumbling baby. I can’t remember Dad ever shedding a tear. His often-stated opinion was, “If you can grow face whiskers then you’re not built to cry.” Never mind that the faces of most boys my age were still as smooth as a skippin’ rock. But he wasn’t there to see my tears and I never told him about the crying part of this story. As far as I know, neither did Old Jacob.

You can own this e-book by following the link on this page.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Here I am...

After Saul’s life changing experience on the road to Damascus God knew that his outward appearance as witnessed by others did not change with the inward miracle of accepting Christ as his savior. In other words, those that knew Saul would not believe that this most unlikely man had been chosen by God to bring the message of hope entire world. Saul was a persecutor of those that followed Christ, those that belonged to the Way. Saul destroyed hope, he didn’t provide it! With zealous authority Saul entered the homes of Christians, placing them under arrest and locking them behind the bars of prison. If they died on the way to prison or died in prison it made no difference to this hardened Pharisee.
But God’s perfect plan included Saul of Tarsus. Why? Surely of all the believers in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, thousands by the time Saul walked down the Damascus Road, there was someone better fitted for the job as evangelist than Saul. Yet God chose him. Thousands of believers or Saul?
Maybe it is because of all the Christians whose path Saul crossed, not one of them witnessed to him. No one said to Saul. “Let me tell you about this man named Jesus.” None invited him into their home or their circle or their church and said, “Welcome brother, sit down and eat. After we eat I will tell you how a man named Jesus saved my life.” None said this because they feared Saul of Tarsus. Afraid they would be thrown in prison at the very name of Jesus. They feared for their lives, so they said not a word.
On the road to Damascus when a great light shone, a light like the Shekinah Glory, blinding Saul, causing him to fall to his knees, and then the voice that belonged to Jesus Christ filled his head, do you think Saul was afraid? Do you think for maybe just a moment he feared for his life? If he did, when that moment passed he said to the Christ, “What shall I do, Lord?”
How different history would be if just one early follower of Jesus had prayed, “About this man Saul, What shall I do, Lord?
As sightless Saul was lead down the road to Damascus another man waited. His name was Ananias. Now Ananias had heard of the stories of Saul’s terror. He had also heard that this Pharisee who hated Christians was in route to Damascus, granted the authority to deliver followers of Christ to Jerusalem to be placed in prison. And then God’s plan for Ananias began to unfold when the Lord called his name.
And he said, “Hear I am. Lord.”
Do you know a “Saul” today, someone so unlikely to come to Christ? Have you thought, “Maybe one day he or she will change, and then maybe they will listen to the good news of salvation...it’s free!” But until then if you see them walking down the street you cross over to the other side. Maybe you say a little prayer for them, or maybe not. Perhaps you think there is no room in heaven for such a person as this.
Dear friend next time I see that person I hope not to cross the street. I hope to say “Hear I am, Lord. What shall I do?”