Veterans

On this day, we as a nation take a designated day to recognize and appreciate those who proudly wore a uniform to serve and protect their country.

The term “their country” is a vague description of all that we call American. Even with all that is wrong with this nation and the human experience, thousands still proudly stand ready to defend it. Truth be told, most of those who no longer wear the uniform, would tell you they would do it again if needed.

Two songs, The Star Spangled Banner and Taps, still bring a tear to my eye because they remind me of the sacrifice of my fathers and some friends. They also fill me with a sense of pride.

Today, I salute my fellow veterans and say thank you to you and your families for your service and support.

The Worst of Man, the Best of Man

With Hurricane Michael slamming into and ripping apart parts of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, there were plenty of opportunities. Opportunities for mankind to sink low and take advantage of his fellow man and for mankind to rise up and help. Stories abound of both.

A drunk driver swerved off the road and killed three linemen in Chipley, Florida. The National Guard was stationed in just about every town and hamlet to ward off vandalism and thievery. I saw a mobile vendor set up shop in Greenwood, Florida and sell food at prices one wouldn’t be asked to pay at fairs or amusement parks. I saw roofing contractors inflating the estimates on work so the owner could get more money. These are just a few examples of what I know. We could fill pages with how people were being scammed. However…

I saw more good than bad. Most of the people I encountered put their own needs on a back burner to help those around them. Many of them with damage to their own property felt “it can wait” and “others have it worse than we do.” These people formed a small army within their communities, working tirelessly helping others.

Friendship Baptist Church in Malone, Florida happened to be on the same electrical leg as the local prison, so when power was restored to the correctional facility the church also got power. Even before they received power, they opened their doors to be a major supplies distribution center to Malone and the surrounding areas. Men would load up supplies in their trucks and deliver goods to people out in rural areas who had no power and subsequently, no water. It complicated matters when vehicles were under trees or blocked in by trees covering driveways. The men, in their trucks, went around the debris to reach the people in need.

For several days, Friendship would feed anyone who came to their fellowship hall, including National Guard, linemen, first responders, and folks who hadn’t had a hot meal in days. When the area around Malone received power, the supplies were shipped to Marianna to help the people there.

Our little country church reached deep and out to those around us in southeast Alabama and even into Florida. A local gas station donated a pallet of water. We sent two small groups to Florida with supplies. Each time we discovered needs, we sent out the word, and the needs were met. We opened our pastorium to a displaced minister and his family from Florida until they could make other arrangements.

When in Florida, we made friends with an associate pastor and his family from Marianna who had been working so much to help their community that they had hardly touched their own yard. It was littered with huge oaks the wind had toppled. They had to drive on their lawn because their driveway was blocked. In short, with their help, we cleared out the driveway of the trees and limbs. We took a blower to it for good measure.

I personally reached out to the company where I work, both corporately and locally. The response was tremendous. Locally, my fellow workers gave supplies to our church to distribute in Florida. Supplies were shipped to us from Kansas, other parts of Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and even from colleagues in North Carolina who had just gone through Hurricane Florence.

I am not recounting any of this to sound our horn. I am offering these few stories as a reminder of the goodness of God that still resides in our land and in our neighbors. The stories are endless of the sacrifice whole communities and individuals have made. I am only privy to these. They are a testimony to the good that still exists and the good that still can be done in the world. God is good and he continues to work through human hands to heal human hurts even in the darkest of times.

A Guarded Inheritance

I Peter 1:3-5

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

As the Bible so often does, here is a nugget of truth on which volumes could be written. As I read this, I wondered why I have never heard this verse used at funerals. Funerals are those things that make us reflect on our own lives even when we don’t want to, especially when the departed is around our age or younger. I had the displeasure of experiencing this not too long ago.

Living and Dying

dandelion nature sunlight

This one statement tells us how we should live and die. As Jesus told Nicodemus in John, chapter three, you must be born again. Who causes this to happen? God, according to His great mercy and through the atoning life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Our rebirth is into a hope that is living. This hope is not the kind that one would use in wishing something is true, but rather is a trust in something real, yet to come. It is a surety not realized, just like in Hebrews 11:1. That trust is in an inheritance that we will one day receive. That inheritance will not perish, will never be defiled, and will not fade – ever.

Beyond Imagination

This inheritance if far beyond our imagination here on earth. It is waiting for us in the holiest home of heaven. It is such a treasure for us that it is even being guarded until such time as we arrive to receive it. We believe it not because we wish it to be, but because it truly is. Our faith can be steadfast in the power of God to reveal our inheritance to us at the right time and will be given only then.

Be Encouraged

blur close up focus gavel

As the bible says, it is appointed for man to die and that there will be a judgment.  No one wants to think about this reality of living. You must die one day. You must stand before a righteous God in judgment on how you lived this life. Every work, word, and deed will be revealed at that time. For Christians, the vault will be opened, and that guarded inheritance will be revealed and bestowed. This is what we should be looking forward to when times are tough when we feel lonely, and when we feel fear. Don’t feel beaten down, but encouraged that God takes note of all you are going through here and will reward you there with a guarded inheritance, specifically for you, with your name on it. That is great and wonderful news.

No One Escapes

Audio Podcast Version

Christians Are Not Exempt

No one escapes this earthly death. No one escapes the pain. Somehow people seem to think that Christians get a bye on the whole earth experience thing. Even some Christians are shocked when they suffer. Christians don’t escape the natural and moral evil of this world. We are not supposed to. Just because we become believers in Christ doesn’t mean all life from here after (down here anyway) will be without pain or heartache. Christians die too, sometimes very horribly.

“But doesn’t God love us? Why would he let such things happen to us if we are his children and we trust in him?” This presumes that we should get preferential treatment from God. He lets us live life with all the heartache, wonder, pleasure, and tragedy. It wouldn’t be life if we didn’t. We all go through this life together in a broken world. Though our spirits have been born again, our bodies still age and die because they are still under the curse of sin, as is all creation.

We Are No Accident

Christians know they are going to die, and when they die, they do spend eternity with God in heaven. So, why does he leave us here? He created us to fulfill a purpose that he had in mind. He had a purpose first and then created us. He didn’t say, “Hmmm. There is going to be this little baby boy named T.J. born, and I wonder what I should have him do?” No. He said, “I have a purpose, and I am going to create this person named T.J. (or fill in your name) to fulfill it.” When my purpose is done, then so am I.

QuoteChristians should take the view that they are the leading character in their own action movie. Just like any good story, the protagonist will face obstacles and challenges as he or she navigates their way through the story. I see my life as an adventure and have many times told people “the hard times are just part of this adventure I call my life.” There are many dangers, toils, and snares, not to mention that villain. You are the leading character, but not the hero, Jesus is, but like any good main character, you will triumph in the end.

The good thing is, you get reviews as you go, by the Holy Spirit who is the protagonist’s mentor. Jesus is the author and finisher of the movie, who also should have a starring role. God is working in the backdrop to weave your story into the series that he has created.

greyscale photo of woman between two man

You, my friend have to decide how good of an actor you want to be. Do you follow the script, realizing that everything is working for your good because you love God and are called according to his purpose? Or do you try to change the script to fulfill how you think it should be directed? That will get you bad reviews for sure.

Remember, no one escapes death, not at least the first death. If you are a Christian, you like everyone else will suffer the first death (unless Jesus comes to get us first). You die once, live twice. But, if you have never accepted Christ as your Savior, then you will die twice and live once.

It’s A Choice

What is your choice? Do you accept the role that God has written for you to receive great acclaim in his name or do you play your own part and suffer the severe consequences? Will your life be a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” or will you be famous in your Father’s eyes? Me? I want a standing ovation from Jesus with a “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” He leaves the choice up to all of us. Life is not a dress rehearsal. You don’t get a second chance once the credits roll.

Everyone Has a Story

Everyone has a story. I am no different. There is a significant part of my story that I rarely tell. I guess because it is so far in my past, but it really has defined my present and future. In Christian circles, it’s called “your testimony” or your “witness.” The thing is, our lives (current tense) should be our testimony and witness, so I don’t usually tell this part.

action aim ancient architecture

I was in the fifth grade, the second son of a single mother and the middle child of three. I loved history, and I loved knowledge. On this particular day in spring, I was playing “army” which means I was staging a battle somewhere in the dirt between several armies. In this particular scenario, I was creating my own invasion of the Greeks by the Persians. Forget the fact that the Greeks were green plastic army men with a splattering of anything I could find to represent fighting men. I.e., shotgun shells, plastic firemen, etc. The invading army was usually blue army men and their contingents. The only thing separating these two was the body of water that flowed between. In reality, it was the dirty washing machine water that drained out to soak the ground. Flood stage came along with the spin cycle.

On this Saturday morning, a kind old gentleman named Mr. Juneau stopped in our yard to talk with this dirty kid playing in the muddy water. He first asked if my mother was home. I told him she was gone and would be back soon. He asked if we went to church anywhere. I told him no. He asked me what I was doing and patiently listened as I explained the invasion. He then asked if I would like to go roller skating next week. I told I would be glad to. He said he would stop by during the week and talk to my mom about it and he left.

In the course of things, Mr. Juneau started picking up us kids to go to Sunday school and church along with other children on the church bus. Through that experience, a man listening to the voice of God to go and seek the lost, several of us were found for eternity. It didn’t stop there. God moved in my life and has blessed me immeasurably. I think of how far Jesus has brought me, from that dirty kid playing in dirty soapy, washing machine water to where I am today. He could have left me there in my dirt and in my sad estate or could he? I think not. His love for me wouldn’t allow it. If I were to die today, it would be well with my soul, because the keeper of my soul has let me live a life that I have not earned nor deserved. Truly, far blessed than I deserved. Cory Asbury (and everyone else who has picked up this song) has it right when he sings of the “reckless love of God.” I couldn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. Still, Jesus gave himself away.

sunset hands love woman

I tell this part of my life to say this: Jesus is faithful, and he loves you. If you do not know him, you can. If you do not know him, you should. It will cost you nothing, and you will gain everything. I am not talking material possessions. For some to be blessed materially is actually a curse that will keep them from God. So, don’t come to Jesus to see what you can get materially. Come to Jesus to see what you can get spiritually and eternally. Trust him above all things. He truly loves you and is faithful in all things. This is my testimony: let my life and words bear witness to the gracious love of God.

A Little Honesty

Audio Version

I have read many times for one to be a writer, you must write. Write something every day. It doesn’t matter what you write, just write. Uh, right. What about when you are not inspired to write or when you draw a blank? Are you still a writer. I mean, after all, you are not writing. You are just sitting there looking at a blank screen. Your eyes are staring at the blinking cursor and your brain is doing the same. Just blinking like it is buffering while you have the haunting feeling that you have written everything out that you had within you and there is nothing left.

To say the least, it is depressing. But I also find that I am in this state when I am depressed. Yes, depression and I are well acquainted. I could just dismiss it as the moods and minds of creatives. Yet, I know me enough to know that it goes deeper than that. It even goes deeper than just being unchallenged. I know it revolves around significance.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe if God had nothing else left for me to do on this earth, He would take me home. I look back on how God has moved in my life and has used me. When I mean significance, I mean, am I making a difference with what I have left; am I on target for what I am supposed to be doing or am I way off track? The depression is a signal that I am off track and have let myself become distracted.

I was cleaning my office recently when I came across a piece of paper where I had written what I believed was success in my life. It read, “Success to me means leading my family to a point of faith in God and helping them know Him intimately. Leading by example, my legacy would be one of wisdom, love, and encouragement.”

My biggest obstacle in life is that I allow myself to become overextended and allow myself to be entangled with the worries of the world. Then, I take my eyes off Jesus and look at my circumstances instead of Him. A big mistake every time. Yes, it is true. Relationships take work, even when that relationship is with the creator, sustainer, and savior of the world.

My greatest depression comes when I live my life apart from Him. Because when I don’t stay focused on Him, the rejections for auditions hurt more, the unanswered texts slight more; the unfinished projects pull more; and the seemingly insurmountable obligations scream more. But when they are examined in light of a right eternity and in the Master’s hand, they are shown for what they really are: fuel for my success.

Bottom line:

  • Depression is real, for a number of reasons.
  • You can’t trust your emotions.
  • You only see one side of your circumstances.
  • God is faithful even when you are not.
  • Valleys are always between two mountains. Keep moving.
  • God loves you and has not given up on you. Don’t give up on Him.

Do. Create. Achieve.

A poem of encouragement for my daughters and any other woman who faces the doubts of worthiness. God loves you and you are worthy of His love and what He has called you to. Go in His strength.

She placed her wager, she placed her bid,

She thought she could and so she did.

Then fears and doubts raised their ugly head,

They filled her with anxiety, panic, worry, dread.

What if she faltered, perhaps even failed?

What if she worked so hard, but to no avail?

She was born for this, this she knew,

This was her destiny God called her to.

She felt her heart tug again, as a little girl,

“Follow me, my child, and change the world.

I have not called you this far to leave you alone,

You don’t have to change the world on your own.”

She dug deep, resolved to fight her way through.

With the strength of God, her belief renewed.

“I won’t give up!” she cried through her tears.

“I refuse to waste all this work, all these years.”

She checked her plans, she wrote her lists,

With inner strength and with clenched fists,

She faced her fears, she faced her doubt,

And punched them both in the mouth.

She knew she could, she still believed,

Now it was time to do, create, achieve.