I am very excited that “Going Numb” will be re-released this week in both e-book format and a new paperback edition. Both will be available through Amazon. This week I have edited, re-read, corrected and remembered. “Going Numb” was written in hopes that it would help someone that faces the darkness of drug addiction. If you know someone that is battling addiction or loves an addict so much that the pain is real, I hope you will consider sharing the story “Going Numb” with them.
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, February 19, 2015
Sara is nineteen, living in a world so different than the one I experienced at the same age. If I could choose to be any age I wanted today it would not include any of the arduous teenage years. These future navigators face many more challenges than we did in the 1960s and 70s. As a society we have practically forced them to grow up too fast. We don't let them be kids anymore. Perhaps they don't want to be and I guess that could be said of any past generation, but that doesn't excuse this drive to make them act like and be an adult...sometimes way to soon.
Sara has become an adult already. But that's not what I am bragging about. Nor am I lamenting. She did so by overcoming many obstacles and challenges she has faced during the last few years. It began the day her mother left this family. Almost immediately Sara took on the added responsibilities that were vacated by the abrupt departure of her mother.
But that's not what I am bragging about.
Sara navigated her way through Canyon High School, graduating last year with a good GPA. She did so facing numerous challenges and obstacles, some of those self-inflicted when she acted as a true teenager...staying out too late or hanging with the wrong crowd (on occasion). Yet she overcame each one, never allowing them to stand in the way of life and graduation.
But that's not what I am bragging about.
Around 18 months ago Sara became a mommy. Logan James entered the world, a needy little boy. Logan is a blessing to me, he invigorates this old man when I seem to need it the most. But Logan was born while Sara was still in high school and born with allergies to...well it seemed almost everything. Sara spent many nights holding Logan and administering breathing treatments, or calming his crying that if not calmed would lead to the need for a breathing treatment. She sacrificed the much needed sleep of a senior in high school, because she loves her son so much.
But that's not what I am bragging about.
Sara's tattoo reads "I am enough". She has recognized something in her short time here on earth that I still struggle with after more than 57 years. "I am enough" is not her way of bragging about her own ability as a single mom, or as a young woman in the real world. It's not bragging about facing challenges head on, often alone and into uncharted territories. It's not bragging that she will often choose to tackle the world by herself as if proving a point to the nay-Sayers In fact, "I am enough" is not tainted with gloat at all.
I AM, is God. Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. And what is it that he has provided Sara with? Many things, but it is not about the things. It is about what God is doing (providing) in her walk with Him. It is about what God does for those who believe and trust in Him, not about things that He provides. It is about God changing who we are from within. He does so with perfection, patience and love. Sara knows God. Sara knows that because I AM is enough, she can say "I am enough".
Sara, I am proud of you. You have learned something that I hope one day to understand. Until then I am only enough because of you.
I love you,
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
This Sunday I will be teaching from the 11th chapter of the Gospel According to John. Within the walls of this chapter is perhaps the greatest miracle to never be witnessed again. The story is filled with emotions that come when death enters into our lives. We even experience the emotions of our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of just two words, “Jesus wept.”
Normally I would reserve this space to share with you the Sunday’s Bible study after I had taught the study. But things change.
I went into this study with hesitation. I did not know if I could teach a class on dying without thinking about... dying. I try hard not to let my thoughts wander down such a dark path with all of its twists and turns, knowing as the end of the path nears there may be a mile-marker with my name carved into the wood.
But with determination I avoided a macabre approach to the subject and instead studied Death as believed or thought of by other cultures in other times. Some of it was quite fascinating and I will be sharing that in class this Sunday…but not here.
Instead I wanted to share a short story with you about what happened to me yesterday.
I was in San Antonio to meet with a customer that I had not seen in a couple of years. I arrived in San Antonio earlier than I expected so I took advantage of the surplus time to have my oil changed and drove to my favorite pit stop.
It was day two of my chemo-treatment, so hanging around my neck was Deloris. Deloris is my chemo-pump (model CAAD Legacy plus…I am still unsure of what the “plus” is), she hangs with me three days a week, every other week, pumping the lifesaving toxins into my bloodstream. I walked into the small waiting area that is so common in every oil change mill that lines the highways. Three old vinyl-backed chairs (all with their vinyl split in the exact same spot) is all the comfort that is offered to the consumer; two of the chairs were available.
In the third chair sat a woman that I would guess to be a few years younger than me. She was pleasant looking and bundled up in a coat and scarf. She had the appearance of someone who likes to spend time making meals for a large family, always making sure that everyone comer muchas!
The owner of this establishment stood behind the small counter and asked me what type of cancer I was battling. He had already inquired about Deloris on the way into the shop. I have known John for a long time and didn’t mind sharing with him.
I answered “Colon-cancer.”
I saw how quickly the woman in the third chair sat up and knew that she had something to say.
“I too had colon cancer.” She told me.
“That was 25 years ago!”
She had my attention.
It takes less than fifteen minutes to have the oil changed in my truck; this stranger had all the minutes remaining to tell me her story.
Twenty-five years ago the doctors told her that she may die in surgery because of her health. Things were much different then, she told me. But she didn’t die. Then the doctors told her that she needed chemotherapy but that too had risks, including death. She told me again how different things were then; I believe she was trying to reassure me as she glanced at Deloris hanging around my neck.
She told me she elected not to have the chemo treatments. Instead she chose prayer. After a short time she suffered further complications and was told that she would need a blood transfusion. She told the doctors no. She continued to pray.
She smiled, “That was twenty-five years ago, and I am still here, because of God.”
And then she told me that she is a Jehovah’s Witness.
I looked at her and I thanked her for sharing her story with me. Her car was ready, she waved at me and left.
This woman believes in a different God than I do. But there is no doubt in my mind that it was God that brought us together in that small waiting area of a lube shop. Just as there is no doubt in my mind and my heart that the God she doesn’t know, knows her. He loves her in the same way that he loves me…without conditions.
This is not a story about theologies or beliefs and so I will not go there tonight. Other than to say that if our paths ever cross again I would thank her again and then tell her my story about Jesus.
In the 11th chapter of John’s Gospel there are three main characters and Jesus Christ. The story is about Martha, Mary and Lazarus. But at the end of this great story as Jesus prepares to call forth from the grave his friend, we see a crowd of mourners gathering. We don’t know much about them at all. I believe that the miracle that our Lord was about to perform was for their sake. You see Martha and Mary already loved Jesus. Their words tell us that they already believed that Jesus could have saved their brother. Martha believed that He could resurrect Lazarus; her understanding of the Resurrection was not yet clear.
I believe that there was someone among that crowd that didn’t belong, they were different. I believe that someone that didn’t believe in the same Lord as Mary and Martha, yet that someone had felt the pain of losing one that they love. I believe this person stood there waiting to see. I believe they stood there wanting. I believe that this person’s life was changed when Jesus cried out, ‘Lazarus come out.”
I believe that Jesus knew this person needed to see the true God glorified. Because God loved them first and will love them forever.
I believe that God loves the little Jehovah Witness that for a short moment in time gave me hope. I pray that she will one day come to know Him too.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
So what do I want now? I have sat here on this gloomy afternoon, riding my favorite chair, watching the Dallas Cowboys kick butt. But the enthusiasm of a life long fan was lacking. Because dancing before my eyes were the thoughts of more doctors, more tests, more treatments. I can look at my body and see the changes that are happening. I can feel them inside my gut, they are there as a constant reminder. Are these changes coincidence or is the cancer setting a course of destruction?
Don't let my thoughts bring you down, I am determined not to let them do so to me. I wish I could simply swipe them away but I can't. But their mere presence is not fatal and I know that. So I buttress these unwanted thoughts with happy thoughts of Christmas.
So what do I want now?
If you don't know Jesus Christ as your Savior...you need to.
If you do know Jesus Christ as your Savior...then you need to tell someone about Him soon.
I never did get those robots for Christmas, you can make this one different.
Rock em, sock em. Merry Christmas.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Occasionally circumstances in our lives will stymie our inescapable need to think about the future and what it might bring. Sometimes making plans, marking calendars and even refining hope may hold little attraction and therefore these thoughts are put aside.
Quite often when we experience this crimp in our muse we will replace forward thinking with a trip down memory lane, our revamped thoughts carrying us back to The Good Ol’ Days. Because of recent circumstances I have found myself walking down this memory lane more often than I am accustomed to. Whether this is avoidance or nostalgia does not matter; that is a question for the counselor’s couch, a place I will not tread.
And sometimes our journey back to The Good Ol’ Days is enhanced by a real life confluence of the past and the present. For me that happened today when I was able to spend time with and old friend in a place that was once my stomping ground. Brian Prince has been a friend for more than forty years (it is hard for me to even admit that forty years have actually passed), and has always had impeccable timing when inserting himself back into my life. Our small reunion took place at Jim’s Coffee Shop, on the corner of Hildebrand San Pedro, where it has stood for more than four decades. The coffee shop has changed in appearance, its menu has been updated and the atmosphere leans more towards that of a meeting place than the old neighborhood diner it once was.
So many hours were spent inside this coffee shop back in the Good Ol’ Days. My memories of the 70’s would not be complete without the visions of the red oxhide booths, the perpetually sticky table tops, the watered-down tea and waitresses with names like Pepper and Corky. Jim’s Coffee Shop did not have a gourmet menu and quite often used a microwave instead of a grill; fresh was a word of relativity and not an expectation and the sanitation was often only in competition with a frat-house…but it was our place.
Inside those booths friendships were formed, relationships launched, off-colored jokes told and laughed at, broken hearts formed and then healed. It was a place where we could be judgmental or be judged. It was our place. We didn’t know that memories were being forged, or maybe we did, but we were too busy being teenagers to consider such sentiments.
So who is “we”? Seven young men from Thomas Edison High School formed this pack, which one day would be christened The Magnificent Seven. (Some may argue that in fact there were nine, but that argument should only take place with all seven present, perhaps sitting around a table in Jim’s). The thing that amazes me is that after forty years these seven not so young men are still good friends.
We have all lived our separate lives, sometimes miles apart. Some married high school sweethearts…some divorced the same. We have become parents and then grandparents. We have gained weight and lost hair (some laying claim to both). And we have remained friends.
I struggle to remember what brought this group together; I just know that one day we were all there, crammed into a booth at Jim’s Coffee Shop, drinking tea (free-refills) and solving the problems of the world, or at least talking about girls. We had something special…we have something special. I don’t know what it is that has allowed this bond to remain strong after so many years. Brian once suggested that I write a story, a memoir, about the Magnificent Seven. I considered it and even started to, but there was no Stand By Me moment in our lives that could explain this everlasting bond.
If I could tell you what the something special is, I would. I would package and patent it then share it with the world because everyone needs friends like these.
After forty years I know I can still call any of them and say “Meet me at Jim’s” and they will be there. They will be there to listen to my woes and tell me to keep the faith. They will be there to talk about saving the world... or girls. They will be there because they have my back, because they know I have theirs. They will be there because there is something special about this gang, this Magnificent Seven.
Brian, thanks for the pie, see you in the future!
Saturday, November 22, 2014
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…”
David set the bar high when he penned the words “I shall not want”. Particularly when we consider the words which would follow-“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” David was a child of God, a king and a warrior; he would face the shadow of death many times during his life. If you read many of the other psalms that David wrote you will discover that the young king would cry out to the Lord each time the dark shadow of death stretched out its long tentacles, brushing the life of David just enough to bring fear to the warrior, yet the full power of Death deprived.
Facing Fear and Death (disguised as the enemies of Israel), David would sing out to his Lord asking for strength, asking for his enemies to be scattered. Singing, he would ask for rest and for wisdom, he would ask that the days of his life be extended.
And yet in this most acclaimed psalm David declares, “I shall not want!” Oh, if I could sit with David and ask him how, and then I would ask him why. Why would he set this bar so high for all who would come after him, all who would follow the Lord? “I shall not want??” Really!
Four weeks ago my own valley was formed, excavated by the discovery of uninvited cancer cells. With scalpel in hand the surgeon removed the forward battalion of this most formidable enemy. But this undesirable invader had already begun to spread its own tentacles. An overreaching shadow cast its darkness upon me as I faced chemotherapy and the late night thoughts of death.
I knew I was surrounded by my own battalion of prayer warriors; friends and family that offered words of encouragement and prayers of hope. But late at night when you are not there... the Shadow of Death whispers quietly to me.
This morning I sat in my favorite chair and read the 23rd Psalm, pondering on David’s declaration-“I shall not want.” I told my Lord there are things that I do want!
Last week my daughter celebrated her 19th birthday…I want to see her 29th.
This year my youngest son began his own journey through the hallways of Canyon High School…I want to see him walk across the stage with the celebrated diploma in hand.
Soon I will be blessed with my 10th grandchild, Kennedy Lucille…I want to get to know her.
I want a Cheddar Cheezy Burger from Chris Madrids. This is a burger that should come with a Surgeon General’s Warning.
I want to see the Dallas Cowboys hoist another championship trophy.
I want to see you have the same peace that I have, a peace that comes from knowing Jesus Christ.
Someday, I am certain, all of these things will happen whether I am here to witness them or not (except the Cheddar Cheezy Burger from Chris Madrids, that will most certainly require my presence). I am at peace with my Lord and the thought of death does not cause me fear…but I still want.
David, please tell me how to sing the words I shall not want!
There is a greater shadow that David sang about…
Psalm 36:7-9 (paraphrased by me and for me)
How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
I take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
I feast on the abundance of your house;
You gave me drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
In your light I see light…
there is nothing else to want for.
Except maybe a Cheddar Cheezy Burger.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Tomorrow, November 3, 2014, the complete story will be available to purchase from the Kindle Store for just 99 cents. I will provide the link as soon as it is ready, but you can also find it by going to Amazon and searching for "The Prayer Jar" by J Hirtle.
The Prayer Jar (excerpts)
Joey Goode sat at the small kitchen table savoring the aromas of fresh baked bread and watching his grandmother prepare his sandwich. The flesh on her arms jiggled as the little woman first cut two slices of homemade bread and then carefully spread the peanut butter over the warm slices. He thought her jiggling arms were quite funny but he never laughed. His mother had warned him about always being polite and how sometimes laughter could be taken the wrong way. Besides Joey loved his grandmother too much to ever laugh at her; unless she was being funny, which she was quite often.
Joey knew exactly what would come next. After all he had been in his grandmother’s kitchen every Saturday since he was just seven years old; that was two years ago, when he was just a little boy.
Grandma had moved from her home in Fairbanks to Soldotna after Grandpa had died. She hated leaving her home and friends on Badger Road. She and Grandpa had built that house the same year Alaska had become a state. But she knew and was reminded by her daughter (Joey’s mother) that winters in Fairbanks were extreme; at her age battling the Alaska elements alone would not be a wise decision. Soon after the homestead sold Joey and his parents rented a U-Haul and drove to Fairbanks to fetch Grandma.
She stayed with her daughter’s family for the first two months and then quickly found the house that was now her “new home”. The small two room cabin was on four acres of land and just a mile in one direction from her daughter’s home and a half mile in the other direction from Joey’s school. Neither the land nor the cabin required much maintenance; the sidewalk that leads to the front door was only about thirty feet long and Joey could shovel the snow away in no time at all. His grandmother no longer drove so the driveway stayed covered in snow all winter long; becoming the perfect place for Joey and his school friends to build snow forts and battle the enemies that come from the imaginations of young boys.
As a reward for shoveling the snow from the sidewalk Joey received two crisp dollar bills, a cup of hot chocolate and a sandwich made from freshly baked bread. The bread was the delicious but it wasn't his favorite part of the sandwich.
Joey waited…he saw his small and round grandmother turn around and ask the question she had asked so many times,
“Now, which jelly for the belly?” She would chuckle.
It was okay for Joey to laugh now, even though he had heard this simple rhyme many times and knew it by heart. Joey Goode was the best rhymer in all of Soldotna, Alaska. He had won first place in the Redoubt Elementary inaugural Rhyming Contest, even beating out fifth graders! Some twenty years later he would be known as JT Goode and win a Grammy for the country hit “She Rhymes with Love”.
Now, not only did his Grandma bake homemade bread but she also made her own jams and jellies, even apple butter! Her old neighbors on Badger Road missed her cooking as much as they missed her. The traditional and anticipated Christmas gifts of unique jars filled with delicious jams would still be given each Christmas to her longtime friends, but now it was the UPS man who delivered them door to door instead of the plump granny.
Joey looked at the counter top where his grandmother had lined up the many jars of jams and jellies. Her son-in-law had built a three tiered stand about four feet long just so his mother-in-law could display her many condiments. There was orange marmalade, apple cinnamon jelly (Joey’s favorite), apricot, peach and blackberry jams. Sassafras jelly, (Joey’s least favorite) rhubarb jam, gooseberry, bumble-berry and boysenberry also filled the jars that lined the counter. Countless others of both common and uncommon varieties stood on the shelf. (His grandmother had challenged him once to find a word that rhymes with boysenberry…he is still working on that one.)
Joey’s eyes started on one end of the jars lined up like soldiers and slowly moved up and down each row, inspecting each hand written label like a Marine captain. It was the same ritual each Saturday, taking great care in making his decision (skipping the sassafras of course). Joey knew that most nine year old boys are told what to eat not asked what jelly for the belly; so he felt that he must take his time in making such an important decision.
As his stomach rumbled in anticipation of the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich the boy’s eagle like vision spied a jar he was quite certain he had never seen before. It was standing on the top row slightly askant and a bit taller than all the other jars. The late morning sun delivered its rays through the kitchen window, landing on the green glass of this most unusual jar. The jar had no label with his grandmother’s crooked writing stuck to the glass; instead raised letters near the top announced “Mason’s”. Below that the embossed letters spelled out “Patent” and then “Nov 30th” and close to the bottom the numbers “57”.
“Grandma, what’s in that jar?” Joey asked, taking a step closer to the counter.....