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.

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?”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Last One



Have you ever said, “That person is the last one that I would have ever thought....?” Fill in the blank, it really doesn’t matter. I think we all have known that person that did or said something that was totally unexpected, catching us off guard. Their action surprises us because of our own preconceived notions of who they are. People who knew Saul of Tarsus may have said exactly that, perhaps even harmonizing like a heavenly choir;
“Saul’s the last one that Jesus would hand pick to tell the world about the gospel!”  
And yet he did.
Ananias was one who had heard of Saul of Tarsus and knew of the threat that Saul posed to all who followed Christ. The Lord came to Ananias in a vision and gave him detailed instructions of what he was to do concerning Saul. Ananias purporting to tell God something he didn’t already know said, “Do you know how evil this man is? I’ve heard about what he has done to your children in Jerusalem!” Ananias was a disciple of Christ; he knew that Saul had the authority to treat him as he had all other followers. Saul could pull him from his home and throw him in prison! Saul of Tarsus was a man that Ananias would be wise to avoid. Yet God had come to Ananias in a vision telling him to go to Straight Street, to the house of Judas and fetch this man Saul. Surely God had told Ananias to do something that he did not want to do.
And yet he did.
The story of Saul’s Road to Damascus experience can be found in the 9th chapter of the book of Acts. If you would like to follow along I will be discussing the many great treasures we can find in this story and how those treasures apply to our lives today.
But for now I contemplate the first question asked, have you ever said “He’s the last person…?” I think back over the years of my own life, to the time before I knew Christ as my Savior. I see the person that I was and wonder how I ever survived. I grew up in a Christian family, with a mother who loves Christ more than I will ever be able. Yet one day I chose to walk down my own road to destruction. I was too ignorant to recognize this dangerous path for what it was, so I hipped hopped along without a care and without a god. I look back on that person now and see someone that I would be ashamed of today, he (I) was so self-centered and self-absorbed that he (I) didn’t have time for nonsense such as God. God has so many others that love him, follow him, obey him, and are a much better person than I. Why would this loving God spend even a second of his eternity to consider someone such as me?
And yet he did.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Do you understand what you are reading?"


The Thanksgiving week is nearing its end, it was a good week. I learned that the words “abnormal growth”, as frightening as they sound is much better than the word “cancer”. My latest novel, “Broken Crosses” went live on Thanksgiving Day. There is a link on the right side of this page if you would like to check it out. (Please do!)
The good news from the doctor combined with the completion of ‘Broken Crosses” has lightened the burden I bear considerably. I have been slack in my blogging, using the previously unknown diagnosis and the around the clock occupation of my thoughts along with the final edits of the book as excuses not to write. So now I have exhausted all excuses and reentered the blogosphere.
My granddaughter asked me “Why are you always writing Grandpa?” I don’t recall the answer I gave this inquisitive six year old, but her question did make me ask my own—“Why do I write?” The answer is complex; first I enjoy writing. I have been writing for many years now, it was only in the last six or seven that I gained the courage to share my thoughts with a reader. Second, because of my faith in God; I believe that when Christ said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” he was not just speaking to the disciples that sat around the table. His words were recorded for every believer to read and obey.
Now not all believers will “preach”, but all believers must be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks about the hope that is within. The hope that is within is the gospel. Not all believers will or can “go into all the world”, but the written word of the believer certainly can with 21st century technology. I find it incredible that the words I write tonight can be read anywhere in the world with just the click of a mouse. Now that’s not saying they will be, but I do know this; if I do not write about my faith then no one will ever read about my faith!
I am blessed to be able to teach from the Bible each Sunday at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. Consider this an invitation, if you are ever compelled to fill your Sunday mornings with good company and scripture then come join Thee Class at Trinity. My intentions are to combine the time I spend studying and preparing to teach with the demanding time needed to update this blog. There may be some redundancy if you happen to read the blog and sit in the class, but I promise to try and never bore you. It is a simple promise to keep; God’s word is never boring!
Currently we are studying the Book of Acts from the perspective of being an effective witness for Christ. Our study today centered on Phillip and an Ethiopian eunuch. If you would like to read the story you will find it in chapter 8 of Acts. Every week the Lord seems to place a certain verse or passage on my heart even though the study may span an entire chapter. Today was no different. As I studied last week I kept returning to Phillip’s question to the Ethiopian man, “Do you understand what you are reading?” [Acts 8:30] In this case the man was reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, the greatest place to begin an understanding of who Christ is. As I thought about Philip’s question I began to apply it to all scripture. The Ethiopian could have been reading almost any verse(s) in the Bible and concluded with the same question, “Who is the Christ?” The entire Bible is written about Jesus, by either pointing to Him or telling about Him.
But it is Phillip’s question that began to convict. “Do I understand what I am reading?” Not brain-understanding, but heart-understanding. Let me try to explain. I read the Bible a lot; I receive great enjoyment from reading the Bible and then studying the historians and commentators, men and women much smarter than I, and developing a better understanding of the scriptures and biblical times. Hopefully that leads to brain-understanding.
Heart-understanding on the other hand only comes when I open my life to His word. It is one thing to know scripture, to be able to quote chapter and verse; it is an entirely different thing to live scripture. Satan can quote scripture; I dare say he knows it better than you or I. But his brain-understanding is temporal, one day it will be useless. Brain-understanding makes us smarter; heart-understanding changes our life.
“Do I understand what I am reading?” Phillip had gone first into Samaria and then into the desert of Gaza. He did so because he was following his heart. Phillip’s love for Jesus Christ was so great that he shared the gospel in a land whose people had rejected Jesus and with an Ethiopian man, a foreigner, a man whose race and ethnicity as different from his own. “Do I understand what I am reading?”
Do I possess the boldness, courage and impartiality towards any man or woman to act as a witness for Christ, an ambassador of the gospel? Regardless of race, ethnic background, religious beliefs, social choices of that person?
I do not.
One day I hope to shed the old layers of prejudices that were a part of my old self. I do not struggle with the immaturity of racism, but I am still too quick to judge someone based on their behavior or beliefs. Today there are people that I know and love to whom I cannot witness because of who they are. That is simply wrong.
Thank God that he didn’t judge me first.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It Didn't Happen


I thought I had written the last entry for this blog. I began fresh with a new blog, “Is God in My Pajamas?” a few months back. It is on the lighter side when compared to this one. I did so to try and put behind me the constant darkness that surrounds writing about addictions. But I can’t seem to get completely away.

A few days ago a thought wandered into my mind from nowhere. Once inside it began rolling around, changing and growing constantly. With effort I would push it aside. But it just kept coming back, kicking other thoughts away like a bully on the playground.

The thought- what would be different today if you hadn’t become an addict.
I went back in time, trying to remember the way things were and the way I had hoped things would be.

Georgetown, Texas-

We were back in Texas after our adventures in Alaska. I didn’t know then that the addiction that would destroy everything in its path like a F5 tornado had its roots in Alaska.
Our children were growing up too fast. Jennifer and Elizabeth were enjoying the life of young girls. There were boyfriends, choir and dance teams. James was just a little boy who played baseball with his Dad and brought home the occasional frog. My hopes for the future of our children included thoughts of proms and high school graduations, college, careers and families of their own. I pictured grandchildren who would love the Lord, like eating cake with grandpa and hrowing our family tree. Things were good.

Almost.

Your addiction was taking on new forms. Your secret life was starting to reveal. Trust was eroding. With each lie you told my trust in you suffered further corrosion. I had always been a man who believed, who trusted, always willing to give the benefit of doubt. To this day I no longer know how to trust.
Lies and lack of trust turned into perpetual arguments. The fighting was non-stop. Our problems stormed down the hill to our children. I started taking it out on them. My lack of trust was no longer limited to you; I didn’t trust my own children.
An opportunity for change came. We made the decision to relocate to Georgia. I thought that new surroundings, new beginnings would make you stop.

It didn’t happen.

Atlanta, Georgia-
A new home in Georgia. But our daughters, Jennifer and Elizabeth did not come. The tension was too much for them and they looked for peace with their real father’s family. I knew I had lost them. I knew I had lost them because of what you were doing to me, to our family.

Our baby, Sara Rose was the newest member of our family. Even at such a young age she was excited about moving to Georgia. I was never able to let go of the thought that she spent her first days of life in  intensive care at Seton Hospital because of the pills you abused so often. On my knees I asked God to let her live, that the sins of the parents would not pass down.

When you became pregnant with Joseph the same fear haunted me every day for nine months. Would he suffer the way Sara had?

I believe it was the grace of God that allowed our life to have some semblance of normalcy during those years in Georgia. I poured myself into my career, partly to avoid spending time with you. The abuse of painkillers had changed you so much I could no longer recognize the woman I had fallen in love with.

Then you chose to admit to your addiction to me at a time that could only interfere. My career was moving in the direction I had hoped for. In less than a year I would have been promoted to the C.O.O. of one of the fastest growing companies in Georgia,

It didn’t happen.

You wanted to move back to Texas. You wanted a fresh start. Running away was the real motive; I just didn’t recognize it then. Our son James made the same decision that Jennifer and Elizabeth had made, he wanted to stay in Georgia, not with family but with friends. That day, that very moment he told me his decision, may be the saddest I have experienced in a life that has been riddled with sorrow.
You said that if we moved back Texas you would get the professional help you needed.

It didn’t happen.

Texas-
Nothing changed. You found new ways to obtain the painkillers. You honed your deceit like an expert. I prayed that you would seek help.

It didn’t happen.

I prayed that you would hit rock bottom. I thought you did.

It didn’t happen.

I thought you would be with me forever. I stayed with you through everything; I thought you would surely do the same.

It didn’t happen.

I thought I would love you forever.

It didn’t happen.

I apologize to you dear readers if you stayed till the end. I know it was depressing to read about the sadness of my life. My purpose in writing this is twofold-
I hope that no one ever has to go through what I did. If you are an addict then you must know that the pain you cause others is immense. Those others love you, they deserve better. If you live with an addict then I hope that you can learn from my mistakes, do not enable. No matter how much you love them, saying “no” hurts for a time but the pain of loss suffers long.
Second, I thought that writing this would provide closure-
It didn’t happen.